Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Simple Life Christmas in Vero Beach

A view of Simple Life's electrical nightmare
at the navigation station.
     All I want for Christmas is AIS...and a hand held fiberglass buffer. No diamond baubles needed for a sailor woman. You're probably wondering what The heck I'm talking about. AIS is the abbreviation of Automatic Identification System. A tracking device which is installed with "great difficulty by the captain (Joe)" and must be hard wired on the boat. It is a wonderful invention in that it allows other both commercial & pleasure boats that have the system to identify Simple Life and it allows us to "see" them on a laptop and identify their vessel as well.

     Joe and I sail offshore as often as possible when weather cooperates. Every time we're offshore during overnight passages it seems ships come out of nowhere. That's when it becomes stressful. It seems we never spot a ship during daylight. Curses! We have radar aboard Simple Life which gives us blips pertaining to objects (hopefully ships) nearby. It does not provide names of ships, their size nor whether we may be on a collision course with the vessel. AIS does provide this information and more making travel offshore at night much safer and less nerve-wracking. Those are the key words, LESS STRESSFUL. Imagine yourself driving at night with no headlights on the car, no streetlights, no road and just for kicks and giggles throw in some fog. Suddenly, off in the distance maybe for or five miles away lights are spotted...or were they?

     Fast forward to sailing Simple Life offshore. We spot a blip on radar. Something four miles to starboard. Opps, it's gone...oh there it is again. "Joe! call the ship! Ask if they see us." No response from the ship (we give a Lat Lon position over VHF radio, but receive no response from the ship. It keeps coming! Let's change course, we'll take its stern. Still no response." Last spring during a 36 hour passage from the Bahamas while returning to the States we spotted over 15 cargo ships and three giant cruise ships. One passed so close astern of Simple Life that we could hear the music and watch TV on the giant screen on the top deck all while under sail in 20 knots of wind!

The AIS transponder installed & working!
The VHF antenna splitter for the AIS 
Christmas 2015: Michele gets AIS! Christmas 2015: Joe gets to install AIS! With fingers crossed we both suffer through a few days of numerous phone calls with the AIS manufacture with Simple Life's electrical system torn apart along with lots of heated cursing. Joe's favorite being, "Come on you bastard!" I chuckle every time I hear it, swearing is so out of character for him. Captain calm. Although, I feel his pain. I must admit I don't care what the Ten Commandments say I swear often and rather enjoy it! I'm Irish.


Relaxing after a successful job well done.
     On Christmas Eve...a bright full moon lit the harbor and all was still. Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. We killed that little bugger last September. The good news? AIS is up and running! Simple Life is transmitting and receiving. The captain, Joe, felt quite pleased with himself and settled in for a long winters...sail, admiring the nearly full moon with a cigar and noggin of rum. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

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Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Holidays in Vero Beach

Robin Clay, Joe Boulay & Bob Clay
Kiwi friends we met cruising 12 years ago
in the Bahamas have returned for another season.

     The official onset of the holiday season for the crew of Simple Life and more than two hundred other boaters kicked off with the annual Thanksgiving celebration at the Vero Beach City Marina where a high energy sensation of revelry was in the air.

Bentley Smith & Michele Boulay
Photo by Hayden Cocoran

Celebrating Thanksgiving with friends

     At this time of year which is for many the start of the migration season it's not so much about what is happening at the moment, but more about possibilities for the upcoming season in both south Florida and the Bahamas. It's about reuniting with old friends whom we haven't seen in awhile as well as meeting new people. 
Michele with a new fan of the Bodhran
Photo by Joe Boulay
It's about the excitement and thrill of catching the first Mahi of the season along with unanticipated events that are already in the stars, but to us are unfathomable at this time. 
The Salty Paws performing with friends
Photo by Joe Boulay



Bentley Smith, Michele Boulay & Jim Austin
performed after Thanksgiving dinner in Vero Beach
Photo by Hayden Cocoran
     In some manner I think we who sail oceans are excitement junkies. We relish the unknown and sometimes uncomfortable situations in which we sometimes find ourselves. I don't know all the reasons why we have chosen this particular lifestyle, but I do know that the close camaraderie among boaters is what unifies us all as good friends.

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