C'est la Vie is a 1966 Charlie Morgan 34.

Her home port is Everglades City, FL. Our typical cruising area is Southwest Florida, the Florida Keys, the Southeastern Atlantic Seaboard, and the Bahamas. We are C'est la Vie's third owners and purchased her in 2005. We continue to maintain and update this classic vessel. Please post any questions or comments about C'est la Vie or our travels via the comment links below.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Above and below the moat

Thunder storms and winds continue to linger in the area.  We walked the moat surrounding the fort in the morning.  Why does a fort surrounded by water need a moat?  Well the low wall and moat were designed to protect the fort from attack from barges loaded with explosives.  They also provide protection from waves during tropical storms. 

Later in the day we snorkeled around the moat.  Coral, fans, and parrot fish along the low wall were delightful, but the highlight was sighting a 4’ tarpon.  

We met Wes Pratt on SV Eos around midday.  Wes has spent the past three weeks at Fort Jefferson studying the mating behavior of nurse sharks.  Wes has studied the sharks in the area for 19 years.  More information on his research can be found at…Mote Marine.   Prior to 2001 Wes camped at the park; in 2001 he purchased a Morgan 41 and now resides in the anchorage.  

Friday, July 2, 2010


With renewed energy we awoke, assembled Origami, and headed to Garden Key to explore Fort Jefferson.   The Fort’s, an effort by the US to control navigation in the Gulf of Mexico, construction began in 1846.  The hexagonal structure is constructed primarily of bricks that were imported to the island.  The masonry work, including spiral stairs and multitudes of archways is impressive.  Despite 30 years of efforts the Fort was never fully completed.  During the Civil War the fort served as a Union prison.  The US Army abandon the facility in 1874.   The US Navy adopted the facility for refueling steam ships.  They dredged the harbor to 30+ feet and added to large fueling docks.  At the time fuel consisted of coal and fresh water.  In 1935 the area became a national monument and finally in 1992 it became the Dry Tortugas National Park.  Currently there appears to be a significant restoration project underway.  I can only imagine the pounding this area takes in hurricanes.  In addition some of the reinforcing used in the original construction was iron.  This iron has now rusted and expanded causing the walls to crumble. 

There are many more photos of the Fort and our adventures via the Summer 2010 photos link.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Fort Ho!

Sunrise on July 1 dawned to blue water to horizon for 360 degrees.  Our plot had us 30NM out from the Tortugas.  The lumpy seas of the previous night that robbed us of any satisfactory sleep were residing.   Both eager to drop the hook and nap we kept a keen watch out for signs of land.  The first hint of arrival came as a line of commercial trawlers anchored off the Tortugas Bank.  By 11:00 be began to catch glimpses of Fort Jefferson and the light on Loggerhead Key.  

13:22 the sails are stowed, the motor is silent, and after covering 116NM in 21H10m we are ready for a nap.

Lacking the energy to assemble Origami, our dinghy, we napped, swam, and relaxed the afternoon away.   The winds were fresh with occasional showers that served to keep temperatures comfortable aboard C’est la Vie.

Dancing with cells...

In the rain and with squall line threatening to overtake us, we pulled free of Sunset Island at 16:20. In the image above, Anne pilots us across Chokoloskee Bay.  My last glimpse at the NOAA radar convinced me that all the thunderstorm formation was occurring overland.  The accompanying forecast called for clear skies and 15kt SE breezes once we cleared the 20NM mark on our 100NM passage to the Dry Tortugas.   We agreed to two hour watches through the night and Anne took the first watch. 

It was 18:30 when the first line of thunder storms appeared on the horizon.  We were changing watches on a broad reach making 5.2 kts when the thunder cells appeared like a picket fence against the setting sun.  Taking the helm I set my sights on an opening between the cells that lie just a few degrees south of our course and Anne began cooking dinner that would remain untouched until July.  Within 30 minutes it became apparent that the cells were moving northward and that we would be overtaken.  We stowed the genny, placed a single reef in the main, and cranked the motor.  Unsure what heading we were bound to sail while attempting to weave our way through the line of storms it seemed prudent to forego a headsail.  As the first storm engulfed us the night turned black except for the school of comb jellies glowing in the water around C’est la Vie like lightening bugs covering an Appalachian hollow in early summer.   For the next four hours we bounced and surfed an angry sea.  Our course towards the Tortugas became secondary to our attempt to maintain a broad reach through the storm cells.  Fortunately the lightening was primarily cloud to cloud. 

Twinkling stars above announced our exit from the maze of storms.  At 23:30 we silenced the motor and returned to our original heading bouncing about on residual seas while making 4.5 knots under a full genny.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


At long last it looks like we will cast off in the next hour. 

Dawn brought the rumble of growing thunderstorms in the gulf.  C'est la Vie, dressed for expedition, rested silently, as my pre-trip anxiety billowed like the crowns of the offshore storms.
   The severe thunderstorms of the morning gave way to an afternoon drizzle that damped the gear headed out to the boat along with my spirits.  We have worked so long and hard on boat projects and professional responsibilities shouldn't our departure be all sun and favorable breezes with loving throngs of admirers to cheer us out of port?  Well ok, I know that is a bit over the top, but I'm rationalizing my dour mood on the day we have work so hard to achieve.

I'm anticipate my spirits will rally when we look out upon the Gulf, set our heading to the Tortugas, and raise some canvas.  

We plan to make to make an overnight crossing to the Dry Tortugas and spend a few days exploring.  From there we will likely head over to Key West by early next week.  We will not have cell or internet connection until we arrive in the Keys.

fair winds.... 

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

time for one last project

A couple of years ago we added some shelves to C'est la Vie's main cabin - photos from shelf project.  During the installation, I had visions of adding a wooden bar across the front of the shelves to keep the contents from evacuating during rough conditions.  Since the installation the bars have never materialized and fortunately we have met with only a couple of evacuations. Dings on the cabin sole from large dry boxes flying off the starboard top shelf serve as evidence of the danger of flying dry boxes.

The solution came to me while sewing straps for the foredeck awning.  The most time consuming aspect of the solution was running to town for the supplies...
Rather than the wooden bars envisioned, we can use webbing.  We will be giving up that traditional nautical look, but the creation & installation is much less time consuming and the straps can be easily stored out of sight when not underway.

I sewed the buckles to the webbing to create a more clean look.
On the opposite ends I used a slider buckle rather than sewing.  The slider buckles will allow the straps to be easily removed for cleaning or aesthetics.  Next step was to install the stainless steel footman's loop (does anyone out there know the origins of the name?).
A bit of measuring and a visit to the hot knife completed the installation....
now back to loading the boat and closing down the basecamp.

Monday, June 28, 2010

good use of the rain delay

The rain delay did afford me the time to complete another sewing project.  We continue to rely on hank on foresails and two years ago we ordered a sail bag that would allow us to store the current foresail hanked on.

The bag we ordered, pictured above, is too small.  We can stuff the sail in, but when we hoist the aft end off the deck with the halyard (necessary to operate our manual windlass) the zipper will blow out along the forward edge.  I replaced the zipper the dot twist fasteners and they too blew out.

So I copied the design and added some volume to the bag.
I used the old bag as a pattern with 8" added to the depth of the bag.  Hopefully this will provide the additional volume necessary to avoid future blowouts.
The image above displays the finished product.  Adding the 8" made a significant difference in size.  Possibly too much?  Time will tell.  I installed a #10 a zipper along the top edge and dot twist fasteners along the forward edge.  I believe the forward edge is under more stress and the twist fasteners are better able to handle the forces.

As for our departure... The day started off with hazy clouds, but the sun has now broken through and I'm off to work with Anne on closing up the basecamp so that we can cast off tomorrow.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Rain Delays...

We completed our last minute shopping and laundry; the winds between Indian Key Pass and the Dry Tortugas are favorable; Alex is visiting Mexico; and we are still tied to the dock.  Our departure is being pushed back due to rain delays.  C'est la Vie and her crew can handle a bit of rain, but ticking off the to-do list for closing the Outward Bound School's Sunset Island Base is tough to do in the rain.
Above is a photo of the property from winter of 2007.  Anne and I love this place, but it is time to go cruising.  Mowing grass, removing A/C units; boarding up windows, pulling the final gangway, etc. is tough to get done amidst all the recent thunderstorms.  The local synopsis is calling for a few days of high pressure and lower chance of precipitation for Monday through midweek.  With today washed out we are now shooting for a Tuesday afternoon departure.

The crossing from Indian Key Pass to the Dry Tortugas is approximately 120NM. If we depart Sunset Island in the late afternoon, then we should arrive at the Tortugas with daylight to navigate our way into the anchorage.  The waning, but nearly full moon will be a nice compliment to an overnight crossing.

Checking in on our blog this afternoon I was pleased to find two new comments and surprised to see a significant jump in visitors.  With a sense of pride and a bit of blushing I discovered that Small Boat Projects , a blog that I follow, has posted one of our recent projects.  Thanks to Bob & Jane, the publishers of the Small Boat Project blog for the compliments on our work and for maintaining an excellent site.