Saturday, February 27, 2010

Red Sky at Night...

As the sun sets into the western horizon, the sky turned ablaze in deep reds. The sounds of amateur conch shell players applauded the color and the 300+ boats started turning on their anchor lights creating a new, low-in-the-sky constellation.

The first words spoken to me when we arrived on our mooring were, "welcome to paradise".  Who's to argue with that?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Postcard from Miami Beach...

Two-thirds of these dogs are ours. Can you tell which ones?

Thanks Ivan (Dewy's dad) for sending the pictures from the Miami Beach dog park!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Dog Collar Relay

Having two water dogs on a boat is great. They love swimming, dinghy rides, and just watching the water. But sometimes they love the water too much. Both kids have taken unplanned entries into the water from the dinghy. As anyone who has tried can tell you, lifting a wet dog out of the water can be a challenge.

For years we've kept our canine crew in a harness whenever the boat is underway – be it the Whaler, the dinghy, or aCappella. That way we have a handle to grab should one go over. The problem is a harness is about the worst thing to use when walking a dog, especially big dogs. The strap across their powerful chests gives them too much pulling force.

So whenever we take the dogs to shore we have a routine – on the boat the harnesses go on, on shore the harnesses come off and the collars go on, before getting back in the dinghy the collars come off and the harnesses go back on. We've done it hundreds of times.

Apparently when we made our last trip to the dog park in Vero Beach something went awry. Maybe someone was chatting with us, maybe the dogs were misbehaving, maybe Jeff was singing me a love song – it could happen. We left one of the dog collars on shore. Now this wasn't just any dog collar. These are beautiful, matching nautical collars we purchased at a small marina in Maine during my birthday cruise two years ago.

We discovered our mistake on our first dinghy ride into Stuart. Our hope was that it might still be there when we came back through on our way north.

The day before we left Stuart for Miami Beach we received a call from David Allen. He was on his boat in Vero and had found our dog collar, could we meet? Unfortunately, they were heading west through the Okeechobee, not south. No problem, he had a buddy, Don Perkin, heading to the Keys and he'd give him the collar. About a week later while we were anchored in Miami Beach Don called. He was heading in the Miami inlet, could we meet him on our dinghy? Jeff had the dinghy at the boat show. I told him we'd catch up with him in Marathon.

This week we talked to Don again, he was in Marathon but heading out the next day to Key West. A quick call to our friend Bill Corbett aboard Spray, also in Marathon, and another hand off of the collar was made. Finally, we joined Bill in Marathon today and the collar is back on Dylan's neck.

The return of a dog collar is no big deal – we have spares. It's just a small example of the wonderful boating community we belong to. The stories are endless. Medical situations, needed spare parts, help with emergency repairs, assistance in a family crisis, advice of any kind, a potluck or a party and this community of boaters is always there for you. There are no strangers, only friends, just some you haven't met yet.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Who knew? I mean, we could have guessed that Dylan would like ripping into a coconut just for the joy of shredding it. But Dyna too?

The drama onboard aCappella has increased significantly since Dylan realized that puncturing the top of a coconut inner shell releases a great-tasting liquid and coconut meat to eat. How many toys actually turn into treats?

Dyna hasn't missed out. She'll let Dylan have his fun. But as soon as there's something to eat, she usually takes it away from him. It's not the size of the dog in the fight; it's the size of the fight in the dog...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Swamped (digitally)...

No, we're not sinking - in the water at least. We've sure been swamped with aftermath from the Miami Boat Show. OceanLines ran a nice story about our new MaxSea/Furuno integration. That's two of the 12 writers on BoaterMouth who have blogged about us. For those of you who aren't aware, BoaterMouth is a nice aggregate place to get the latest boating news from 12 accomplished bloggers. If you want one place to watch manually or through RSS for the latest in boating news and info, that would be the one to choose.

Karen and I have been going through the hundreds of emails we received. We saw more people join ActiveCaptain in the last 2 days than in the last 2 months. Marinas have started updating their own information in bulk. We've prepared 3+ years for this. Bring it on!

As marinas have started looking critically at their own reviews, one interesting thing stood out. The state of North Carolina wrote to me because someone put in a review that there was a rattlesnake on their dock. It's important to note that this facility has a 5-star rating with an exceptional following. They admitted that they do have rattlesnakes but would prefer if I'd change the word "rattlesnake" to just "snake" in the review. Well, we've never changed a single word in any review ever. But I wrote to the captain and asked if he really meant, "rattlesnake". Turns out, he's an expert with snakes - it was a rattler.

So here's the thing. The facility is still excellent. And the review will stand as is. Now cruisers like us with dogs will still go there, but we'll be warned and be a little more careful. To their credit, the state responded back accepting this and will work to warn people better too so they're not surprised.

To me, that is the true benefit of ActiveCaptain. There is just no other place where you can get this type of real, user-written information, critically important to having adventures of the non-emergency type.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Miami Boat Show

After three busy days, the Miami Boat Show is over. It was an exceptional showing for ActiveCaptain and moved us into the second phase of our business - the place where other companies start using our data. MaxSea/Furuno's use of ActiveCaptain for their point-of-interest data is a big step for us. And it came out great.

We posted a newsletter to all of our captains this morning describing the news. Tomorrow an email goes out to every marina describing the new reach of our data and what is means to them.

At the show we met with a variety of other companies. There is a lot of interest for other companies and other products to integrate with our data. This will all help to fulfill the vision of an interactive cruising guidebook capable of assisting boaters with planning for their own adventures.

Today the top marine electronics blog gave a recap of the Miami Boat Show.  The first thing Ben mentioned was the use of ActiveCaptain data by MaxSea/Furuno. It's a big deal and these are really fun times as we watch our baby grow into adolescence.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Why I like overnights...

A few weeks ago, Karen made a posting about her experience with overnight passages. A couple of days later she said, "why don't you make a posting about overnights too." You and I both know that there's something else she was after with this, and I think it's the F-word: feelings.

There was a time when we didn't ever do an overnight crossing. Much of that was due to lack of experience but it was also about wanting to see everything. We wanted to slowly pass by ever port and see all of the sites. The ICW was new to us and there was something different around every bend. By the second time back and forth along the ICW, the bends were becoming familiar. From then on, I didn't feel like I really needed to walk the streets of Beaufort, NC or meander through the shops of Beaufort, SC. Our cruising turned into going somewhere and enjoying a single area for a longer period of time. Cruising between the ports is somewhat mechanical. Overnights allowed us to put miles on quickly and get to our destinations.

But there's more to it than that. In the fifteen or so overnights that we've completed (including 2 double-overnights), I've grown to love an element about them that can be described in just one word: trust.

When you head off through an inlet and into an ocean, there are a variety of types of trust you need to have as you watch the sun setting along the horizon. First, you have to trust your equipment. You have to know it and have experience with it and believe how it's going to work for you. You have to have trust in your backup equipment and safety gear. Given the coastal cruising we do, our dinghy is most probably our safety vessel if the mother ship ever sinks but we also carry a full survival liferaft with provisions along with a fully stocked ditch bag with safety, medical, and other emergency provisions. We have an EPIRB that will send a transponding signal to the Coast Guard if we're ever in serious trouble and we now have a SPOT Messenger that will also alert an organization if we press the 9-1-1 button.

Trust in the equipment and experience with it are easy to obtain.  There's another type of trust that isn't easy to obtain - trust in your crew. Some of that comes with experience too but some is just the crew itself. I know that Karen is extremely capable and safe. I know that we work together well as a team and I know I can rely on her in any situation under any circumstance. That's trust.

When we were doing our last overnight between Fernandina Beach and Cape Canaveral, Karen took over the watch at 3 am and I went to sleep. Sleeping after a watch is some of the most enjoyable sleeping you'll ever do because you're tired and you know that you've done your part and can just sleep. At 4:30 am, Karen woke me up because there was something on the radar that she didn't like. The first rule about getting woken up is "wake up happy." I knew that Karen wouldn't get me up unless there was something going on that she needed help with. I wasn't upset about being woken up. I was glad that she did it. That's trust.

And of course you need to have trust with the rest of your crew. I know that Dyna and Dylan are healthy, stable dogs, able to handle a variety of different situations. During an overnight, they are quieter and stay together, often sleeping together. I'm sure it's more comforting for them because it can't be easy for them either. When we pull out of a harbor, they don't know if we're staying out for an hour or multiple days. And yet I know that they'll be OK. After all, they trust us too.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Windy Saturday, Super Sunday...

Saturday was incredibly windy - 25 knot sustained winds with gusts to 40. We stayed on the boat all day and watched the antics in the harbor. With the Superbowl being played here in Miami, there are more megayachts cruising these waters than normal. They'd anchor for a minute to allow their parties to go off jetskiing around the area. It had to be uncomfortable with the wind. But it appears to be the "in" thing to do.

Another sailboat came in and anchored, immediately lowered the dinghy, and left. "Karen, this is a recipe for disaster," I told her. An hour later, their boat was taking a walkabout through the harbor, thankfully away from our boat, and ended up snagging another boat's anchor line in its rudder and banging against it for the next hour. What a mess.

By today, Sunday, the kids were itching to get off the boat. Karen and I took a nice walk to the convention center where the boat show will be held and then had an excellent breakfast before buying 60 pounds of our special Innova dog food for our hold. Looks like we'll be keeping the dogs for a little while longer.

At 5:00, we all headed out to the dog park. Dyna was incredibly playful and Dylan played and chased the other dogs. Then we came across something new: Coconuts.

We knew coconuts would be a "Dylan" thing but we didn't expect that Dyna would be into them also.

Needless to say, a lot of coconut shredding took place by both dogs.

Football game or not, today was a real super Sunday for our team.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Miami Beach - just another dog park...

With our antenna woes behind us and the antenna all fixed and looking great, we took off early en route to Miami Beach along the ICW. This route would take us along another ActiveCaptain hazard - an area of severe shoaling off Bakers Haulover inlet. I have to admit that I'm loving these hazards.  Not that I want them in my way.  But I love being able to find the few that are in my travel and prepare for them.  I knew about this low water area a few days ago.  Having some time to prepare allowed me to plan our arrival to the area near high tide.  The extra 2 feet of water we had were plenty to get through.  There would have been another "blog entry of woe" otherwise.

But instead, today was a wonderful day.  We arrived behind Belle Isle right off Miami Beach around noon.  It's a nice anchorage with about 20 other boats (mostly sailboats).  Right next to us is Compass Rose, a boat with a dog we met at Vero Beach.  We lowered the dinghy to explore and learn about the area.  Our team of dogs was very excited to be going for a dinghy ride.

We tied up the dinghy at the Miami Beach police station - kind of makes you feel good about leaving the dinghy!  We visited the park next door and found out that 5:00 pm is the time when everyone brings their dogs.  After walking around a little, we got back in the dinghy and explored Collins Canal to the Publix grocery store.  This is Miami Beach and the place is teaming with stores, shops, restaurants, and things to do.

At 5:00 pm we were all back at the park where we met a variety of dogs.  Dylan's new friend Dewie is a good match for our high-spirited pup.  Dyna spent the entire hour looking for a place to jump into Biscayne Bay to go swimming.  The 4 foot drop off the sea wall was enough to stop her, at least for today.

Among the other dogs was Victor.  The unique thing about Victor is that when he's thirsty, he stands against the water fountain and waits for his mom to press the faucet.  Dewie has enough experience here to know that he can get a drink too from Victor's droppings.

Needless to say, all dogs are fast asleep.  At least until tomorrow at 5:00 pm.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Mom Said There'd Be Days Like This

Last night we anchored in Palm Beach, a common jumping off place for the Bahamas. Unfortunately, we aren't Bahamas bound but are making our way to the Miami Boat Show. In the past we've gone offshore here to avoid the many ICW bridges but the weather was too rough so we decided to go inside. There were 18 bridges we needed to go under, most required an opening and most had restricted schedules -- opening on the hour and half hour, or quarter hours.  It's a tedious process trying to time each opening.

Fortunately, with our antennas down there are several bridges we can slip under without an opening. So this morning we put them down, pulled anchor, and headed to the first bridge. Coming out of the anchorage and onto the ICW we encountered Kathleen Windridge, a large 142 foot yacht with a professional captain who was heading home to Ft. Lauderdale. He suggested we slide in behind him as he had each bridge timed from his many trips through. We did just that and spent a much less tedious day speeding up and slowing down along with Kathleen Windridge and hitting each opening perfectly.

We had picked out an new anchorage from ActiveCaptain, Sunrise Bay, which looked interesting but small so we also made a reservation for Las Olas Docks in case the anchorage didn't work out.

Kathleen Windridge turned into her homeport just before we approached our last bridge before the anchorage. We thanked the captain and headed on our way. The anchorage was empty but a bit more shallow than we thought so we decided to just go ahead to Las Olas and enjoy a night at the dock. There was one last bridge which we could pass under with the antennas down and we were there. We received our slip assignment and almost forgot to put the antennas back up which might have hit a piling or boat as they stick out somewhat when down.

As we made our approach Jeff felt the wind and current weren't right. "It just doesn't feel right," he said, "I'd rather go back to the anchorage."  Rule number one, if it doesn't feel right we don't do it. So we turned back to the anchorage. As we passed back under the Sunrise Boulevard Bridge I heard an awful noise. Jeff looked at me quizzically. What the --- was that?  Then it dawned on me. The antennas! We'd forgotten to put them back down!

We pulled into the anchorage and went up to assess the damage. The shorter one was fine while the longer one broke clean at the highest joint. Some fiberglass cleaner to get the bridge paint off the top antenna piece and Jeff's fiberglass skills on the joint and you'd never know. Now what to use to fix our damaged pride.....