Florida Cottage

09/14/2013

So here we are again.

Putting all of our efforts into another house. We bought this sixty year old house for little money. Didn’t pay much for it so didn’t think buying insurance for it was necessary.

Our plan in buying the property was having a place to use as studio space. We weren’t planning on living here. Within a year of buying the property our plans took a turn. We were thank full that we had this place. I looked into what insurance would cost after we decided we’d be staying here.  The Insurance company informed me that we were considered a risk since we didn’t purchase insurance when we bought the house.  I explained the situation but it didn’t matter to them.  They wanted to charge us several thousand dollars a year to insure a sixty year old house.  After that we decided to continue to fix the house up and then put it on the market.

The house had sat empty for at least six years. The owners used it for storage. It had spiders and webs and empty insect eggs everywhere. It gave everyone the creeps that looked at it. But to me it had potential; old Florida Style House, property loaded with cabbage palms, single washington palm, royal palm, coconut palm and fox tail palms. It also had an old mango tree that produces some of the best mangos each summer. The house floor plan was a reverse floor plan. Living areas upstairs, garage and studio/great room and full bath down.
Within the first three months of buying the house we had an exterminator treat the house and kill every living thing in it. It was amazing how well it worked. I coaxed a friend into helping me use shop vacs and suck up all the spiders, webs and dead carcasses. That was the creepiest part. She was more brave than I. We demolished the existing kitchen. Smashed up the tile counters. Using rubber hammers we laughed hysterically as we hit the counters and watched the tile rise in the air, freeze in space and then fall in back onto the counter.
The house had a long line of windows across the front. As you entered the upstairs you entered onto a porch first, then through another door, the living room was straight ahead and a galley kitchen on the left. There was one bedroom on this upper floor along with one bath that consisted of only one sink and commode. So to let more light in we knocked out the wall between the porch and the rest of the house. We also purchased new cabinets and appliances and built an island in the center of the kitchen. Turned it into the most efficient kitchen I’ve ever worked in.

We built a wall in the middle of the living room to make a second bedroom along with a built-in closet inside the room. Michael installed new water pipes and electrical wiring where needed. He installed a tub in the upper bathroom. Ran the plumbing for it and replaced the drywall. While I ran hundreds of square feet of paint all over the house inside and out. She has no insulation between the floors. So keeping it warm or cold during the seasons take a little more effort.
Every morning it is a real treat to walk into the living room, open the shades on all the windows and look outside at the beautiful outdoors. It gives the real feeling of living in a tree house.

Living Space

Upper Level
Upper Level
New Bathroom
New Bathroom
Master Bedroom
Master Bedroom

Studio

Life Goes On

04/25/2013

Hello Friends!  As you can tell last year took my wind away.  It has been a long time since I have been able to do any blogging.

Life Goes On!

Since I am dirt bound I have decided to make the best of it. Last January I took a Master Gardener Class with a friend of mine.This week in April is our last class.   I have very little experience in growing things. Amazingly enough I have learned of so many beautiful plants and trees that are growing right outside my door.

I have also have been exposed to the world of Volunteering.  The basis of this class is each Master Gardener must dedicate 50-60 hours a year volunteering in our communities. The Master Gardeners are good people. They are self less and work hard. We all share a common interest and aim to educate  the public about conserving water and not fertilizing during the rainy season.

If you ever see a Master Gardener Program being taught in your area you should check it out. It’s another way of opening your eyes to the world around you.

Here are couple pics of some of the plant life I have fallen in love with.

This is a Dutchmans Pipe. Previously labled this wrong. Sorry.                                                                                                                                                           Banana Plant

Banana

Trumpet Vine

Spam. Really?

04/25/2013

FYI. If you are running your business online and are desperate enough to surf blogs for attention, do me a favor and Don’t Stop Here. I’m not interested in what you have to sell. 

Zihuatanejo Morning

11/23/2012

I found these words I had written while staying on the boat.  After reading them I decided to post them. Somehow they felt therapeutic.

Clouds of pink and light blue randomly spaced across the sky.  The sea gently rolls  toward the shore reflecting the colors.

A light sweet chatter of  birds  fly all around. Fish  feed on their morning breakfast.  Mostly small ones on the surface dart back and forth to get out-of-the-way of the big ones below. Sea birds fly above doing  gentle passes while soaring on the light cool breeze, looking for a school of fish to dive into.

The air is a comfortable 70 degrees while a light breeze adds to the peaceful feeling.

Fisherman quietly approach my boat,  tossing a hand-line over to the fish hiding underneath. “Buenos Dias” is exchanged back and forth in a whisper, so to not wake those sleeping on deck.

From town faint sounds of traffic off in the distance.  Lights on-shore begin to fade.

The sun shows signs of peaking over the eastern mountains on the horizon.  Rays of pink, yellow and blue light jet straight up as if announcing the start of a new day.

Sailing Vessel Halcyon

11/19/2012

This is one story that has been hard to tell.

We left Mexico last June, 2012. We had a mooring made by an individual name Fernando who was “known” for making moorings. He put it in the water and secured it with chain without allowing Michael to inspect it. Michael had mentioned to him many times that he needed to inspect it before splashing it. But Fernando “blew him off”. That should have been our first warning.

We also hired someone to keep watch over the boat while we were gone. Jimmy was a local who agreed to watch over the boat and maintain it if anything went wrong.

Our Mexican Visas were about to expire last May and we had to leave the country. We weren’t allowed to renew the visas since we were at the expiration date and would have to leave Mexico until January 2013. Although Michael was able to pay extra money and obtain a yearly visa.  We had planned to be as far south as El Salvador by the time our visas expired, but that didn’t happen. The motor mounts had needed replacing and the boat was going to have to be hauled before we continued south. We didn’t have the money for the repairs at that time and had to go back to the states. We were aware there were risks but had no choice. Since we had hired Jimmy to watch the boat and an alarm installed, we hoped that would be enough to keep it safe.

On Aug. 13th, 2012, we received a phone call from Jimmy, our boat had broke loose of its mooring one night during a storm from the east. It drifted over a reef and pounded on top of the rocks for some time, putting a large hole the size of a human hand in the side and cracking the keel length wise and the boat sank.

About 8 locals and ponga taxi drivers worked to move the boat, patch the leaks, and made runs to shore for supplies for 3 days. Our helper Jimmy, was on the phone with us daily asking for more money to patch the leaks. After sending off funds by way of Western Union several times, it was evident that Michael was going to have to get down there to assess the damage. We were working hard to get the money together for airfare and more repairs.

We were at the Miami airport the next morning by 5 a.m., for Michael to take the first flight to Mexico City then on to Zihuatanejo. We had understood that we might not see each other for a month or more due to the amount of work that he would have to do to get the boat in order. We hoped that he would have enough money to pay the locals and start repairs.

When Michael arrived he was inundated with people. He began paying people for the work they had done while more and more people on boats approached him demanding $2,000 to $3,000, not pesos. He was told it would cost over $6,000 just to tow the boat to a marina to a nearby town. The leader of the group, requesting the largest amount of money, told Michael to meet the Port Captain the next day at 10 a.m. When Michael asked if he needed to check with the Port Captain to confirm the time, the guy told him the Port Captain worked for him. Michael told me “They think we are just rich Americans, they are demanding money that we don’t have”.

The boat was back on the mooring when Michael got there. He inspected the chain and found saw marks all over the chain. The boat was moored close to shore a few hundred yards from the beach in 40′ of water. The boat was too close to land to “break loose” of the mooring due to wind or waves. The entire situation was suspicious.

After Michael’s call to update me, I was concerned that the Mexican Government would arrest Michael and detain him indefinitely. I called a lawyer friend who was also a cruiser. He consulted with several other individuals that were knowledgeable of International Maritime Law. He highly recommended that Michael leave the country immediately and handle affairs long distance. Claims would be made against the boat. He said “Take a bus out-of-town if you have to, just GET OUT”. The urgency in his voice made me more aware of the potential danger that Michael was in.

Michael’s first phone call to me was at 5p.m. on Friday. At 5:45 p.m., I instructed him to take the next flight out-of-town which was at 6:35pm. He had about an hour to get to the airport.  He was to take a water taxi a mile and half back to shore, hire a street taxi to the airport 20 minutes away and hope there was room on the next flight out to Mexico City.

We worried that he would be detained at the airport. He was able to purchase the last seat on the plane 10 minutes before take off. I made reservations for him out of Mexico City one hour after his arrival, only for him to be detained in customs. The next flight to the United States left at 4 a.m. Saturday morning.

Michael said he sat in the airport in Mexico City, out-of-the-way, hoping not to be noticed. Which I found to be funny, a Gringo in Mexico stands out like a sore thumb. The next 24 hours were hell while trying to arrange last-minute flights back to the U.S.   At 7:30AM Saturday he called to say he had arrived in the United States safely. The following 12 hours were spent calling and texting him to keep him awake for his connecting flights, in order to get him on his next flight home.

I met Michael at the airport at 7:30 pm Saturday night. A little over 24 hours from the time he called me from the boat. It felt  a month had passed by.  As he walked around the corner with all of the other passengers at the arrival gate I noticed that he had my violin across his shoulder. When I grabbed him and hugged him he said “The last thing I grabbed was your violin and my moms ashes”. (His moms ashes were going to be scattered at sea with the rest of the family once the boat was back on the east coast.) Michael looked defeated and exhausted, it was all I could do to fight back the tears.

When we got home, Mike our Son was eagerly waiting to see his Dad walk in the door. The guys hugged each other tight then Michael stepped back, looked at us and said ” I’m sorry, I couldn’t save the boat”. The days following revealed the Zihuatanejo Port Captain paid the locals by dividing up the equipment located on the Sailing Vessel Halcyon. Halcyon had been set up to be self-sufficient. The only thing we needed to cruise was fuel and food (and now we know “deep pockets”) to go where ever we wanted to go. All of our savings, heart and soul had gone into this boat.

What matters most is that we are together and safe. We are thankful that we weren’t on the boat when someone decided that they wanted it. Living without one of our family members would have been the hardest thing to live with. Our hearts are broken due to the loss of our home and sanctuary.

Winding Down

08/27/2012

We continued on until we came to Zihuatanejo.  Our approach there wasn’t until sunrise the next morning.  I had just finished my watch when Michael came up on deck and took the wheel.  I told him about the dolphin playing around the boat for the last 4 hours and how they seem to know when they startled me. They kept me awake the last two hours from 2am to 4am.  I also told Michael that the boat had seemed to take on an extra rumbling and vibration sound.  We weren’t able to really look at it until we were in the bay at Zihuatanejo.  It was there that Michael determined the shaft was loose and the motor mounts needed replacing. We were thank full that something worse didn’t happen with that situation while we were offshore, such as taking on water.

Our son Mike was getting “itchy” to get back to the states to get up with his friends that were graduating from high school.   It was decided that with the mechanical problem and it being the start of hurricane season, that we would secure the boat and head back to the states to save some money for the repair and return after hurricane season. Then the  boat would be fixed and continue on.

We stayed in Zihuatanejo another month while we talked with the Port Captain and the locals as to where the best place would be to moor the boat. The Locals recommended putting the mooring close to town, the Port Captain insisted we put it in a remote area between La Roppa Beach and Los Gatos.

We removed the sails and winches and anything else that might attract someone to go aboard. We had an alarm system installed that would go off if the locks were broken and someone entered the boat thru the companion ways or hatches.

It was hot at night.  We put up a screened covering that covered the deck and dropped down on the sides.  Pulled the cushions from down below up on deck and slept under the stars.  It was a wonderful feeling sleeping outside.  We watched the first thunderstorm of the season go thru late one night.  As the rain swept across the mountains and into the city, explosions from the transformers lit up the town in all directions.  It was quite the light show.

Manzanillo

08/27/2012

As we continued down the west coast of Mexico we stopped for the night in Manzanillo.  It was a pretty city on the coast and the buildings that climbed the hillsides were impressive.  Flowers were in bloom in brilliant reds and pinks while most of the buildings were painted white.  The contrast of the two along with the bright sun almost hurt your eyes to look at. The boat was anchored directly outside the local marina.  The tourist book stated that the marina offered amenaties that we were looking forward to using, only to find the marina had “seen better days”.  The impressive buildings that climbed the hillside were actually falling apart.  As you walked around the area it was a maze of pathways and alley ways.  Cinderblocks pilled up in areas, along with  barbwire dangeling and dirt pathways.  Many of the condominums appeared to be nice and were being used as a resort area. It was just the structure underneath that was falling apart.

When the guys returned to the boat and reported what they saw, it was disapointing.  We went back later to find the dock master to see if there was a shipstore nearby.  He charged us $200 pesos to park the dingy at the marina that offered nothing other than a tie up and told us there was a shipstore down the row from him.  Only to find that there was a sign “closed” on the door.  It looked as tho this place was a thriving resort at one time…just not now. It was full of shops on the lower leavel that were mostly vacant. We wandered around until we found a restaurant on the ocean side and had a nice lunch of baked, whole red snapper.  The following morning we pulled up anchor and continued down the coast.

Heading East South East

08/27/2012

The day we left La Barra De Navidad was a bit sad for me.  We had spent some time with the crew on S/V Third Day and they were fun.  We go thru life and meet lots of people but few do we actually connect with.  As life on the water goes, we wished each other safe passages and hoped to see each other again.

Then we were continued on our journey Manzanillo our next port of call.

Heading Down the Pacific Coast of Mexico

07/30/2012

 After waiting 3 days for a weather window we left Chamela, our next stop was La Barra De Navidad. It was 137 nautical miles and it took us overnight to arrive in the afternoon.  La Barra De Navidad has a lagoon where boaters anchor and locals fish.  It was very shallow going in at low tide and we ran aground.  First Mate Mike was sent up forward to “watch” as we went forward.  But he was preoccupied checking out all the boats in the anchorage, scanning for familiar boats that might contain friends from La Paz.

  It wasn’t long before a small boat was headed our way.  In the boat was indeed friends we had met in La Paz from the boat Third Day. They had seen us come up the channel and had come to say hello and lend a hand.  We welcomed them aboard while Mike and Jason went up to the bow and caught up on past events. We adults went back in the wheelhouse out of the sun and passed around “cold ones” while waiting for the tide to rise.

This was probably one of Mikes favorite stops.  His friend Jason was taking surfing lessons the following day and invited Mike to come along.  Mike was able to hang out with J and surf with him a good part of the day. The two of them did great and got a real workout.  The seas were a bit rough and the waves were just right for practicing.

We anchored the boat in the lagoon there and the trip back and forth to shore was a long one.  Coming back  to the boat at night was the most exciting with the brightest phosphorus I had ever seen.  A flashlight wasn’t needed due to the light reflecting off of the transom and the outboard.  The sea life was ever so active jumping and darting in all directions. The outline of sea snakes would come to the surface and move their heads back and forth looking around, while everything was a bright flourescent green.  It was down right eerie.

Our friends from Third Day have a boat made by the same designer as ours, a William Garden.  It was nice to see the two boats anchored together.  We had a nice visit and just wished we had more time to play.

Spring Season

07/30/2012

It is July and much has transpired. It looks as tho my last entry featured Bandares Bay on the west side of the mainland of Mexico. We cruised over to the far south end of the Bay to stay the night in Yelappa (http://www.yelapa.info/). Such a unique place.  Very small fishing village that looks like a picture you’d see of Switzerland.  We were told by locals that we would be helping to support the small village if we paid to use their moorings instead of using our own anchor.  The bottom was close to 100′ deep very close to the beach.  Unfortunately the moorings were very close together and I spent the night “on watch” due to “fending off” with the boats around us.

Yellapa has an interesting history that is worth checking out. The morning we exited the Bay we got an early start so to get around the point at Cabo Correntes before the afternoon winds picked up and made cruising rough.  As we passed the point we spotted as many as nine different whales heading north.  The seas were a bit bouncy but with Michael at the wheel I was able to wrap my arm around a “stay” and hold the camera as steady as possible. One whale in particular took a large leap out of the water far enough away for me to get the shot of a lifetime.  It was one of the most spectacular events I had ever witnessed and I got a picture of it too.

Wind and seas were perfect for a while.  We actually did some sailing.  But as the afternoon wore on the seas picked up and it got a bit rough. Michael was at the wheel and instructed Mike, the First Mate to go forward and take down the sails.

As he turned into the wind, the direction of the seas were on our nose. The boat was heaving up and down in the tall seas with white water crashing across the bow.  He was working on a sheet that had gotten tangled due to the wind and was focused on freeing it up. Holding on with one arm wrapped around the mast while the other hand worked on the knot. I remember vividly the grin on Mikes face as he returned to the wheel house.  He enjoyed the excitement of the energy of the wind and the seas.

Michael was on the wheel way passed his shift.  Somedays we felt like steering longer than our set schedules.  That day was one of them for Michael.  I went below and took advantage of the free time to catch up on some sleep. Around midnight Mike woke me up and told me to go on deck for look out, we were pulling into an anchorage.  Mike had gone up forward with the new night vision scope scanning the area for boats, rocks and beach and was reporting back to Michael at the wheel.  It was pitch black dark. I kept trying to clear my eyes to see but wasn’t having much luck.  The air was cool and the smell of salt was heavy in the air.

As the boat moved forward I could hear a school of fish swimming to get out-of-the-way.  As they swam a large circle of phosphorus lit up their way giving me a little light to see around the boat.  We could hear the surf but it was difficult to determine just how close it was to the beach.  While Michael watched the depth finder he decided to drop the anchor in 30′ of water.  He gave Mike the “go ahead” to drop the anchor and let out the chain slowly as he backed the engine down in reverse.  A tug on the bow with a swing to right was indicative that the anchor had grabbed.

Michael shut off the engine and once again our ears rang with the sound of silence.  We sat on deck awhile to take in our bearings, making sure the anchor didn’t drag and that it was a safe place to stop for the night. Caelin our labrador got in her bed in the wheel house while we went down below and got in our bunks. Being exhausted, Michael went right to sleep.  As usual I lay there for some time listening and re-assuring myself that we were in a safe place to rest.  Caelin was our alarm should anyone or anything come close to the boat.  Unfortunately dolphins and birds were no exception.

When we awoke the next morning we grabbed a cup of coffee and out onto the deck to take in the unfamiliar surroundings.  We were amazed to see that we had crossed over a long span of nets entering the channel the previous night. Our boat doesn’t have a fin keel so luckily we didn’t disturb the nets….that we know of.

Chamela was were we had landed the night before.  It was another gorgeous beach.  The place where we anchored was in the top part of the picture (north end) on the other side of the last island.


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