Friday, January 31, 2014

SunRay: Movie Maven’s Quirky Haven

cruiser destinations on the ics

Inside Jacksonville Florida's SunRay Theater.

As you pass under the marquee entrance through SunRay’s front door, you’re instantly enveloped by the swirling, otherworldly work of talented local multi-media muralist Shaun Thurston (click to see more of Shaun’s work).  You’ve entered another zone, where art becomes more real than life, and anything can happen.  SunRay’s touchable, 4-foot fuzzy moth unfailingly triggers my flight into fantasyland.

What could be more fitting for an indy house?  Rather than a Regal or AMC replete with the latest audio-visual experience, SunRay is a throwback, a retro renegade, an indoor version of a drive-in, complete with vintage commercial and cartoon clip kickoffs. 

sunray theater jacksonville fl
Kombucha, beer, and popcorn in a stainless steel bowl at SunRay.
I’m always a sucker for mini-movie theaters, scrappy resistors of franchise fever.  They remind me of home, and quintessentially Portland’s McMenamin microbrew moviehouses (click here to see my favorite of the bunch, the Bagdad).  We sought these funky flimhouses out in a variety of places (click on each locale to explore each), including Kiggins in our hometown Vancouver Washington, Concrete, Port Townsend, and St. Helens.

For Wayne and me, the most memorable travel experiences are not the big “must sees” guidebooks and glitzy websites tell you about.  The hidden little neighborhood gems charm us most.  The “Cheers” before there was “Cheers” (click here if you don’t remember “Cheers”) kinda places, except, since we’re just passing through, we don’t expect anyone to know our name.  These are the places locals love; sweet unique escapes, that at the same time reinforce why they chose to call this particular place “home.” 

cruiser destinations on the icw
SunRay's appropriately retro logo.
That lack of indy theaters is part of why Everett WA didn’t touch our heartstrings, though I did watch an environmental documentary at the sometimes-showing one in town, which normally showed Casablanca-like classics and old fashioned horror flicks, neither of which are my thing.  Largely Everett’s lack is what propelled us to go vagabond, so in a way I’m grateful to it.

Back to SunRay…. What makes it special?

Settle in with a beer, a wine or even some locally brewed kombucha (click here if you want to know what the heck kombucha is), alongside your stainless steel bowl of buttered popcorn.  Or, eating in movie theater darkness, instead you might attempt to not wear the nachos you ordered from SunRay’s diverse concession stand nummies.  Our nocturnal eating finesse was decidedly lacking in that department.

cruiser destinations on the icw
Don't you want to touch this cool moth at SunRay Cinema?
We saw several flicks at SunRay, mostly indies, concluding, appropriately enough as cruisers, with the more mainstream “Captain Phillips.”  Yeah, Mom, we are not planning on making Somalia modern-day piratesville one of our cruising destinations.

“Captain Phillips” was probably the last flick we’ll see on anything larger than Wayne’s 15” laptop screen until we return to the States in June.  No wonder I no longer recognize the magazine cover celebrities at the grocery store anymore.

Even though we’re in Nassau now, “the big city” of the Bahamas, it’s not a safe place to toodle after dark.  Our next big film will be re-watching “Trading Places” again on Wayne’s little laptop from his hard drive stash of 200+ movies. 

We challenge you to set your guidebooks aside, ask the locals what they do for cheap thrills, seek out and share the small surprises you find!

As they say in Trading Places’ conclusion, on their sailboat, “Looking good!”

Location, Location
Jan 31th 2014. BAHAMAS. By the time this posts, we'll be in Nassau.  (This was pre-scheduled to run from the Berries).

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Avocados for the Arts

cruising life, marathon florida incredible fruit stand

Today's passage snack:  Fresh mango with plain,
unsweetened Greek yogurt; our favorite mango dish.
Wayne licked his bowl clean.  Wayne doesn’t lick his bowl clean; I do.

We weren’t even hungry.  Its glistening orange goodness got us, and besides, who can trim a mango without sucking the pit clean, only to be dripping with sweet sticky mango nectar?  From there….

“Oh man.  That was the best mango I’ve eaten since Dominica,” Wayne declared, with obvious satisfaction.

Do you buy the old adage “You are what you eat”? 

If so, if you’re ever in Marathon’s Florida Keys on a Saturday, load up with fresh fruit and veg from Marathon’s Saturday morning Incredible Fruit Stand.  All volunteer staffed, the Incredible Fruit Stand is fund-raiser for the Educational Coalition for Monroe County (ECMC).  Supporter of dance lessons, a skateboard park, culinary cooking classes, when you’re buying from ECMC you’re investing in community vibrancy as well as your health.  “We provide what the schools don’t pay for any more,” explained one of the volunteers.

cruising life, cruising planning in marathon florida

Marathon’s Incredible Fruit Stand volunteers.  Thanks!
For me, the Incredible Fruit Stand is first and foremost a great place to buy fresh, fairly priced produce, locally sourced unofficially organically grown when possible.  Their delicious avocados are the size of a child’s football, with small pits and perfect, creamy insides that cooperate well with a knife.   For flavor, I’d still prefer a Haas, but these smooth skinned sisters are pretty darn tasty, too.

I found out firsthand the volunteers care not only about their community and their produce, they have a soft spot for their customers, too. Seeing me laden with a full load of produce and two new pillows from Kmart, “I’m giving this woman a ride,” insisted  MaryAnn to her colleagues.  “Pray for my Mom,” she asked, dropping me off at Boot Key Marina.  “I’m going to Michigan to see her.”  I will, and told MaryAnn, “She has a nice daughter.

cruising life florida keys
My purchase was but a small sampling
of Incredible Fruit Stand’s selection.
The fruit stand is across the street from Marathon’s Kmart / Winn Dixie shopping center.  You can spot it by the cluster of regulars who know a good thing when they see it.  In case you’re feeling a swell of appreciation for their efforts, feel free to learn more, and donate to their cause through their website,  Or support the scholarship fund for Mikee Jones, a regular fruit stand fixture staffed by a grieving Mom, finding a way to give back after the loss of her son when he was only 23 years young.  Learn more about him, hear his music and maybe even pay for a song or two,

Location, Location
Jan 29th 2014. BAHAMAS. (N25.43.456  W.79.17.887).  Left Alice Town North Bimini Bahamas 11:45 am Tuesday Jan. 28th over the Bahamas Banks, anchoring at 6:15 pm (N25.31.721  W.78.47.370), 38 nm, anchored in 15’.  Resumed at 6 am over the Bahamas Banks, 56 nm arriving 4:15 pm at  Frazer, Hog Cay in the Berries (N25..24.25 W77.50.80).  Next stop: Nassau.
He showed up with a couple other dolphins
around suppertime with a little
audio prompting.
cruising life bahamas
Us, on our Pearson, on the Grand Bahamas Banks.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Burnt Dinosaurs to Bimini & Bahamas Bucks

sailing in the bahamas
Entering the Bahamas via Alice Town's harbor, Bimini.
We love the sound of silence, sailing smoothly along without running our engine.  Besides, we’re cheap; we’d rather use our Bahamas bucks on something other than diesel fuel, even if we sip more than slug it as we motor along. 

In that respect our sail – or rather – motor -- from Boot Key Harbor Marathon Florida to Alice Town, Bimini, Bahamas yesterday wasn’t ideal.  Other than “burning dinosaurs” (using diesel fuel from our motor) our sail was pretty awesome given all the nasty Northerlies we ducked that would’ve made the trip untenable.  Instead, it was warm, and relatively calm. 

sunset in alice town bimini bahamas
Happy feet in Bimini, Bahamas.
Morning delivered the inevitable discovery of another Darwinian dropout passage visitor, a flying fish on deck, well past rigor mortis.  The vivid purple-finned Portuguese man-o-war and a 4-foot nurse shark who greeted us as we entered Bimini’s Blue Water Marina, were more compelling.  Sorry, no photos; focus was required to negotiate the tricky marina tie-off (watch for that in a future post) and I was too embarrassed at our boat's chrome rust stains in my the flying fish photo.

cruising life in alice town bimini bahamas
Thanks, Gunnel!  This one's from you!
We arrived early enough to enjoy the day, even after customs and immigration check-in, getting a Bahamas phone sim chip, taking a much needed shower and mechanical wonderkind Wayne fixing the head, unpickling and restarting our watermaker as even the marina water is clean enough to redeploy it.  At 40/cents gallon, we’re happy to make our own gallon-an-hour water. 

We wandered nearly all North Bimini’s coastline and watched the sun set in the West.  A most excellent beginning for our Bahamas adventures!
alicetown beach bimini bahamas
Mom - you wanted my photo.
Here 'tis on Bimini's beach
 Continuing this blog post’s money theme, Gunnel will be pleased to know we used the $10 Bahamas buck from you for a sunset toast here.  You were here in spirit;).

Cheers to you all, whatever your adventure may be! 

cruising life in alicetown bimini bahamas
We'll judiciously us charts, weather reports and cruiser's intel
 to avoid this fate.  This was one of many wrecks
we saw in Bimini, Bahamas.
Note – New Blog Post Addition
Galley Wench Tales is not a daily diary; it’s more a collection of stories, lessons and observations.  Blog subject matter does not necessarily reflect the most recent events.  Given that, for the curious and the concerned, there will be a closing note giving brief specifics on where we are.  It will be an addendum in blue at the end of each blog post subtitled “Location, Location.
cruising life in the bahamas
Bimini Bahamas Alicetown harbor entrance seen from the beach.

Location, Location

Jan 27th 2014.  We just arrived in the Bahamas!  Left Marathon Florida (N24.42.315 W81.05.635) Sunday Jan. 26th at 12:30 am. Sailed 125 nm overnight arriving the next day at 11:45 am at Alice Town North Bimini Bahamas, Blue Water Marina (N25.43.456  W.79.17.887).  Gorgeous day, sunny and 80s.  Next stop:  Bahamas Banks, followed by Frazier, Hog Cay, then Nassau.

Monday, January 27, 2014

No! No! Land

beach sign
"No fun allowed" sign (not really, but may as well be) at Del Ray Beach Florida.
“The sunshine state” is Florida’s moniker. Yet, when surrounded by an overwhelming plethora of “NO” signs… the rebel in me makes me instinctively want to respond “stick it where the sun don’t shine.”

Possessing no dog, no kids, no car, no desire to place my dinghy where there’s no accommodating tie-offs, and feeling a bit too lazy to vault a fence, reluctantly, I comply by inertia. 

Delray Beach?  Well, we just didn’t stick around long enough nor were we properly equipped to illegally enjoy any of the manner of prohibited fun.

cruising destinations florida keys
Boot Key Harbor marina sign.
cruising destinations florida keys
Boot Key Harbor marina sign.
Yes, we’re heard common sense is uncommon.  But sheesh…. Couldn’t we behave in a civilized manner without all these signs telling us what all we can’t do? 
live aboard sign in marathon florida marina
Boot Key Harbor marina sign.
Do you believe they’re truly necessary?

What signs would you like to see? 

How about…
Eat, drink and be merry!  Enjoy this little slice of paradise. We trust you do your part to keep it that way.

This is why we itch to move out across the big blue, where the birds and the bees far outnumber the people, the water is clear, and the signs are conspicuously absent.
cruising destinations florida keys
Sign ending Sombrero Beach walk in Marathon.
cruising destinations florida keys
Marathon marina sign at
dinghy dock.
cruising destinations boot key harbor florida keys
Boot Key harbor sign near bike racks.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Lap of Luxury, Breifly

ft meyers marriott near sanibel island
Bed before… at Marriott in Ft. Meyers near Sanibel Island.
Since June 30, 2012, Wayne and I have not enjoyed a normal queen-sized bed together.  Not due to sleeping preferences or marital issues, simply circumstances. 

In our case, in choosing the cruising life, we’ve also chosen to still live within our means – no loans – any bills paid off in full monthly.  Making sacrifices comes with that; we chose a smaller, older (1977) boat (Pearson 365 ketch), known primarily for its seaworthiness.  Safety and storage (for food, diesel, water, propane, gear) trumped a roomy living space, though we do enjoy a separate shower, a rarity on boats our size.

cruising life time out hotel room

Bed after… at Marriott in Ft. Meyers near Sanibel Island.
Maybe we’ve just forgotten how they work!
Normally, Wayne’s and my four feet share less than two feet when it comes to our sailboat’s v-berth bed (click here to see our v-berth bed).  We haven’t rented hotel rooms (another living within our means tradeoff), and when when we’ve overnighted at friends or relatives, we’ve shared a sofa bed or slept on an inflatable mattress.  At least then, when we’ve sat up in bed, we haven’t had to worry about clipping our eye with a wing nut, nor did we need to rely on minor acrobatics to elevate our torsos through a narrow slot, carefully avoiding inflicting damage to each other navigating in and out of bed.

cruising life time out in florida hotel
Photo“borrowed” from Marrott’s website; a nicer view shot
than the one I took at the Sanibel Island/ Ft. Meyers Marriott.

marriott hotel ft meyers near sanibel island
Photo“borrowed” from Marrott’s website; a nicer view shot
than the one I took at the Sanibel Island/ Ft. Meyers Marriott.
There were, however, with two recent and memorable exceptions…

After a stressful, exhausting week and a half of care-taking and health advocacy for my 89-year-old Dad (click here to read about that), Wayne drove 325 miles from Marathon to Sarasota to pick me up.  My brother generously treated Wayne and me to a night at the Ft. Meyer’s Marriott. We needed to rest before making the long return drive. Posh hotel, fabulous view, spacious room with an excellent shower and a blissfully comfy bed.  It was the perfect setting for some much-needed TLC; which Wayne lovingly administered.  Thanks, Mark.  Feels like I won on the sibling and spouse lottery; my brother husband are both awesome!

A week ago, our cruising friend, Jose Pagan of Atlantica, warmly welcomed us as guests in “his [and wife Char’s] humble abode.”  Jose showed us “his” neighboring Naval Marina, Boca Chica, a place we’d love to stay.  Boca Chica, however, and pretty much anyplace else will have a tough time topping the sensational sunrise we enjoyed at Jose’s.  That’s saying a lot; we are connoisseurs of sunrises and sunsets.* Thank you, Jose.  You are a wonderful host, sailor, cruiser and chef, and…. Oh, and, ahem, did we mention how grateful we were to share a normal queen-sized bed?  Yes!  Yes!  Yes!  Thank you! Jose and Char, we look forward to connecting up somewhere in the Bahamas again this year.

cruising life and what to do in the florida keys
Breathtaking Florida Keys sunrise from our friend's
Jose and Char's, near Key West.
We wistfully bid a fond adieu to those sumptuous beds.  For now, the lure of the great beyond beckons much more compellingly.  Tomorrow, January 26th, weather permitting, we are Bahamas bound, for new adventures and at long last the ability to find our own private space out in the open.

* One of the few sunrises we’ve seen more spectacular than “Jose’s” Keys sunrise, was over the River Salee, through the spine of Guadeloupe (click here to see that one).

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Slice O Americana for Breakfast

galley wench meals
Anna, enjoying her first Waffle House experience.
“Waffle House!” Wayne exclaimed, pointing out the first of many distinctive yellow with black-letter signs.

It was August 2010.  We landed in Atlanta Georgia, and hit the road, heading off to where Wayne was considering our future home, in Charleston South Carolina.  With 1700 Waffle House restaurants there seemed to be one at every freeway exit on our road trip. 

“Have you ever eaten at one?” my honey inquired.

Ahhh, no.  Turns out I was a Waffle House virgin.  Wayne happily provided initiation rites. 

cruising destination in florida where to eat
Grouper pecan, another fabulous meal
with Anna; this one at Neptune Beach.
When my best friend Anna arrived for a visit while we were moored in Jacksonville, it was time to WaffleHouse it forward.  Smithfield ham, grits, WaffleHouse-branded waffle, eggs-over-easy… Anna broke her normally rigorous diet for a full-meal family style taste-test.  She heartily approved.

cruising destinations in the northwest
Waffle House signs are nearly everywhere in the Southwest.

Cheap, fast, friendly and filling; not a bad way to feed the world.

While the Waffle House experience is unfamiliar to most West Coasters, they first opened in 1955, as a 24-hour restaurant.  For trivia fans, here’s a few fun-facts (from WaffleHouse’s website, -- serving stats spouting from the bumblebee-colored-sign

Waffles                        877+           million
Cups of coffee            1.2+             billion cups
Grits                            1.3+             billion servings
Hash browns               1.6+             billion bacon strips
Eggs                            2.5+             billion*

*Almost enough for 2 eggs for every man, woman and child in China (based on US Census data).

galley wench tales meal shrimp grits
Another Southern comfort meal with Anna, shrimp grits
at the Greek Restaurant in St. Mary’s, Southern Georgia.
Not sure what breakfasts await us as we prepare to push off into international waters, but expect someday to rejoice over a homecoming meal at a Waffle House somewhere. Just not sure when, or where.

Wherever you are, may your day start sunny side up, and end over easy.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Key West’s Delightfully Decrepit Transportation

truck seen sightseeing in florida keys

This corroded, stickered truck forms the cornerstone
of a Key West bar.

Exuberantly offbeat Key West transportation.   It’s about more making a statement than marking miles. 
truck seen sightseeing in florida keys
It's clear this truck near Key West's Duval square's arrived
at its final destination.
salvage boat replica seen sightseeing in florida keys
This crusty salvage boat replica pays homage to the business
that made Key West once one of the wealthiest cities in the nation.

key west cruising destination
"Land yacht" side view as seen in Key West.
The corregated metal roof is an especially classy touch
on this self-proclaimed “land yacht.”

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Dethanol for Cruisers

bad gasoline
Nasty stuff drained from our carburetor.
Aka - Sad Tale of a Water-Clogged Carburetor.

My husband once ended a relationship in part because his girlfriend didn’t recycle.  There was a limit to too laissez faire.

Yet I drove him a bit batty when I went perhaps a bit overboard spending time finding homes for my “stuff” other than the dumpster when we radically downsized from a 1500 square foot apartment with a 1.5 car garage to a boat with maybe 250 square feet of living space.  For us, despite the challenges, there is a strong philosophical appeal to our minimalist environmental footprint, living aboard.  Bottom line:  We are avowed environmentalists in many reduce-reuse-recycle ways.
maintenance and repair in boot key harbor workshop
Wayne mounts our dinghy outboard motor
in Boot Key Harbor Marina workshop.

What does that have to do with “dethanol for cruisers”?

Ethanol is purportedly good for the environment because it’s locally produced fuel, its corn or soy origins supporting the domestic farming community than extracting from a limited petroleum supply.  We won’t enter the debate here whether or not ethanol is better for the environment….

Ethanol is what’s most readily available for gasoline.  It’s generally what we pick up at the local gas station pump. It’s also typically a $1+ cheaper than the gas from a marina, and we’re cheap.

cruising life fixing dinghy outboard motor
Ron Claus and Wayne determine what to do next.
We’re learning, however, the hard way, that buying ethanol for our outboard is seriously penny-wise but pound-foolish.  Ultimately, ethanol’s tendency towards absorbing water from the atmosphere is worthless in our dinghy outboard.  Eventually, our motor just won’t run. 

Once again our friend Ron from Ursa Minor came to our rescue. He brought a Baja filter, which allowed Wayne to determine the $7 worth of gas we had in our portable jug was better recycled rather than reused by our motor.  Ron then graciously towed us to Boot Key Marina’s handy workshop where he and Wayne mounted our outboard engine, pulled out out the carburetor and filter and drained all the water and unclogged it.  Left it its own devices, the carburetor replacement would’ve ultimately become a $250+ repair.
device for filtering water from bad gasoline
Baja filter for separating
gas from other stuff.

cruising life boat maintenance and repair tool for dinghy outboard
Other side of Baja filter -- a now
indispensable tool for our dinghy outboard.

The local Home Depot unwittingly offered a free preventative fix for future gas tank water penetration….  The transport cap for plumbing pipes fit our gas can nozzle spout perfectly.

tool for preventing bad gas for our dinghy outboard
Thank you Home Depot for this complimentary red gas nozzle cap
to prevent water from getting into our gas can in the future.
In the future, our outboard motor will stick to an ethanol-free diet, to heck with the extra cost.  When we have no choice, that’s when our new Baja filter will save the day, weaning out the life-sucking water from our outboard gas prior to its ingestion.

Meanwhile, our sad tale of a water-clogged carburetor has a happy ending.  Whew!  Thanks, Ron. Vrooom, vroom and away we go!