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, April 28, 2012

Comfort food

Well, I went for the comfort food as I lost a few things overboard today. While we approached the mooring ball in Marathons City Marina my favorite purple and teal earphones plopped into the water followed closely by my trader joes mint spf lippy. Oh boy did a pity party ensue! I was so mad at myself. Plus, we realized a few moments later that Jeff and I had reveresed our rolls. I drive up to the mooring and he threads the pendant. No wonder I was so discombobulated.
So, for dinner. Pizza and salad with chocolate chip cookies for dessert. We don't eat dessert too often but today was a good day for the sweetness.
I broiled the boboli crust, it was too windy to use the grill and turned it over and smothered it with sauce, fresh mozzarella and veggies. I broiled it to cook the veggies and melt the cheese. Next time I will add some fresh herbs if available and parm on top. It was tasty though. Just what the doctor ordered!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Tarpon Belly Keys to Boot Key Harbor

Typically I am the first to rise in the morning.  My ritual on C’est la Vie is to start the coffee and check weather forecasts.  Unfortunately Friday morning’s weather reports predicted deteriorating conditions over the next 24 hours with Thunderstorms and 20+ knot east to southeast winds through the weekend. 

Boot Key Harbor was already a planned stop; the forecast only sped up our timetable.  I pulled our charts to assess our route to Boot Key Harbor.  For folks unfamiliar with the Florida Keys here is a quick geography lesson: Boot Key Harbor is a lagoon between Boot Key and Vaca Key.  The town on Marathon is on Vaca Key and surrounds Boot Key Harbor. Therefore going to Boot Key Harbor is synonymous with going to the town of Marathon.  Marathon is the Annapolis of the Keys – a place where sailboats outnumber the motor vessels and if there is a part desired or repair required it can be had in town.  The city also operates a first class mooring field / marina - Boot Key Harbor Marina.  The mooring field  is where I began to plan a route.

Via the Big Spanish Channel Boot Key Harbor is 36 NM from Tarpon Belly Keys.  The depth of Big Spanish Channel at mean low water is 4  feet with the width only slightly greater.  Fortunately C’est la Vie draws 3’8”.  Some quick math and we have 4” to spare.  IF we departed Tarpon Belly Keys ASAP the tides would be favorable.  Well the current from the flooding tide would be on our bow thus slowing C’est la Vie, but if we were to go aground the rising tide would life us free (wise mariner once said, “always go exploring new areas on a rising tide.”) 

Exiting Cudjoe Channel we discovered much larger seas, 3’ to 5’, and higher winds than expected.  We motored sailed close hauled under a double reefed main for over two hours before gaining Big Spanish Channel and the ability to turn off the wind and into more sheltered waters.  The morning watch belonged to me so Anne took the helm for our transit through the shallow waters.

Anne piloted the narrow channel deftly.  We passed through the shallowest area Between Big Spanish Key and Cudjoe Key approximately 2 hours after low tide.  The minimum depth we observed was 4’4”.  Here is a look over our stern at the channel marks…

The channel is so narrow the marks appear to form a straight line.  Transiting Spanish cut 10+ NM of continued motor sailing close hauled in the Gulf off of our approach to Boot Key Harbor. 

We fell in behind a trawler as we passed under US1 in Moser Channel.  Turning east towards the entrance to Boot Key Harbor we noticed two other sailboats off our stern.  It seems we are not alone in our plans to ride out this weekend’s foul weather on a mooring ball. 

Shrimp and potatoes

Last nights dinner of sauteed shrimp, arugula and peppers was a healthy alternative to a scampi that I am fond of. I drank the wine instead of cooking with it and I still had a light yummy sauce with the meal. I found that cooking the shrimp with the shells still intact really added so much to the flavor of the dish. It made for a messy meal but I feel it was worth it. I had a zucchini that begged to be part of the dish. Good thing as it added a bitterness that complemented the spice of the arugula. I usually think of arugula as having a bitterness and spice but the baby arugula really was more of a pepper taste. When sauteed it took on more of a spinach texture. I was quite happy!
So, here is what I did. First, cut up fingerling potatoes drizzle some olive oil in a pan. Place the potatoes in the pan and sprinkle with kosher salt. Heat the pan on high until you can smell the oil. Turn the heat down to medium and put a lid on the pan. I had a timer on for 8 minutes. I stired the potatoes at 5 minutes and then again when the timer went off. I transfered the potoates to a sheet of foil that a wrapped around them to continue the cooking process while I prepped the rest of dinner.
I placed the minced garlic, sliced peppers and sliced zucchini in the hot pan with a swirl of olive oil. I put a lid on it but did not have any heat on it. This was at 5:30. We didn't eat till 7 and the potatoes were still hot! So, at 6:45 I turned on the stove to medium high sauteed the veggies till they were soft. I added the shrimp and the juice of a lemon and cooked them till they were pink about 3 minutes and then added the arugula till it was wilted another 3 minutes. Voila dinner was served and really enjoyed!
We did add some more lemon, salt and red pepper flakes to dinner while at the table.
I will make this again!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Beautiful Day for Maintenance

After working for weeks to get everything ready for departure, we devoted the day to sitting at anchor.  Time to slow down.  For Anne this meant naps, a toe in the water to test the temp, reading a couple magazines, and cooking.  For me it meant time to check off a few long overdue maintenance tasks on C’est la Vie. 

I started the day by polishing the stainless steel around the cockpit and transom.  By the time polishing was complete the day was warm enough hit the water.  With Anne’s on deck support, I cleaned the hull, cleaned the prop, and tightened down the loose zinc on our prop shaft.  I speculate that the loose zinc is the source of some new, undesirable engine noise and vibration.  We will test this theory when we depart Tarpon Belly Keys. 

I concluded my maintenance by tending to Segundo’s cracked gunwales.  I’m a bit embarrassed to admit, but it appears that I used too short of a screw to mount the oar locks on the dinghy.  It could also be that the yellow pine used in the gunwales is not up to the task of supporting oar locks.

Whatever the cause, the result was cracked gunwales the first time I attempted to row Segundo.  My solution is to through bolt the horizontal fasteners with #10 machine screws and use longer #10 screws on the vertical fasteners.

The foredeck while anchored in the Keys made for a beautiful workshop and I was surprised to discover all the necessary fasteners in my collection aboard.  

I wrapped up the projects in time to join Anne for a wonderful sunset off our stern.  She is prepared a shrimp and fingerling potatoes dish for dinner, I'll let her share the details with you all.  Ok a little hint - YUM!

Not a fail

Last evenings dinner was not a total hit. The black bean salsa I had in my mind to be more of a salad but the flavor was not sharp enough. Not enough garlic is my thought. We had it today for lunch with chips and it was better but still there was a flavor layer missing. 

I used some of my homemade yogurt for a subsitute for cream in the mushroom sauce. That was a hit. It has a really nice buttery flavor. I made it using boxed whole milk and plain greek yogurt for a starter. It has thickened up as it has "aged" in the fridge. I will be making more aboard soon and I will be attempting some oat scones.

Tonight on the menu is sauteed shrimp with peppers tomatoes and arugula and fingerling potatoes. I have an abundance of potatoes, mushrooms and peppers aboard. Not sure why I purchased so many.  I am really thankful we have had cooler temperatures so that these items have survived the pantry!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Whats for dinner?

I am going to attempt to take photos of our dinner menu as we go along. A way to talk about what works aboard and what fails. So far we are on day 2 and day one was left over beans and rice with an red pepper quesadilla. That was a great come into anchor and super quick meal. Tonight, I made at lunch and let marinate all day a canned black bean and frozen corn salsa for an appetizer with tortilla chips then for dinner, the photo, is sauteed chicken breasts with a mushroom sauce and a green salad with green onions and strawberries.  I will let you know tomorrow if it was a hit or a fail

Ten Thousand Islands to Tarpon Belly Keys

Last night we were treated to a rare, cool late April night in the Ten Thousand Islands - no bugs and blankets required.  Our new plan - sail from Indian Key Pass to Tarpon Belly Keys, 65NM of open water across the South East corner of the Gulf of Mexico (does the Gulf have corners?), required us to depart at dawn if we were to have any hope of arriving before sunset.   We have made this crossing multiple times before and prefer the single long day crossing to the standard cruiser’s route of breaking the jump to the keys into a two day affair by spending one night in the Shark River.
We were underway by 07:00.  The forecast called north winds at 12 knots in the morning to clock around to east winds and diminish in the afternoon.  We expected to sail a broad reach on the northern winds and by the end the day be motor sailing a beam reach in light airs.  Maintaining an average of 5 knots would allow us to arrive in the day light. 
The day began and concluded on the same port tack.  We did arrive at Tarpon Belly Keys with day light to spare (almost exactly 12 hours of travel time.)  We did not expect to arrive in the keys on a close reach under a double reefed main and small working jib, but that is jumping ahead a bit…
The morning seas off the coast of FL, remained agitated from the previous frontal passage and were far lumpier than anticipated.  Sailing on a port tack under a full main and genny negated much of the sea state aboard C’est la Vie.  We were fairing much better than a group trawlers we heard conversing on the VHF about how badly they were getting “beat up”.   We experimented with the new whisker pole for about half an hour until the winds shifted east  and brought the winds too far a beam.  We spend most of the remaining morning hours on the beam reach as the seas and winds diminished around us.   Once our speed reduce to below 5 knots and our estimated time of arrival crep into darkness, we caved in and started the engine.  By using a vang to limit the motion of the boom we were able to continue to carry both sails on port reach.  Approximately 30 minutes into Anne’s 14 – 16 watch the east winds came alive.  We quickly went from motor sailing under full sails to a reef in the main to a second reef in the main to reducing the foresail to less than a #2 working jib and silencing the engine.  By the time I completed stowing the lines from the change in sail plan we were heeled over toe rail slicing through the emerald water at 6 to 7 knots.  The east winds had increased to 20 knots.  C’est la Vie loves a stiff breeze and for the remainder of the afternoon she sprinted towards the Keys.

The conditions in the Gulf were more of a test of Segundo’s lashings than I had anticipated, but she rode well on the bow.

Now we are tucked along the western shore of Tarpon Belly Keys with a beer in hand, dinner plated, and awaiting the sunset.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sunset Island, FL to Beaufort, NC - Departure!

Early on the 25th we aborted our plans to visit the Dry Tortugas due to unfavorable forecasts over the next week.  The window for sailing to the Tortugas exists, but the extended forecast did not offer a viable window for returning.  With only 4 weeks to travel north to Beaufort, NC we could not afford to sit out the weather in the Tortugas. 
Late in the afternoon on the 25th, we departed Sunset Island on the ebbing tide.  Our destination, Russell Pass, is only 5NM from Sunset Island, but symbolically is a giant leap as we are now underway.  Anchoring in Russell Pass also sets us up well for an early departure the next morning.
Still experimenting with our new dinghy, Segundo, we chose to tow her out to Russell Pass.  15 knot west winds were stirring up whitecaps across Chokoloskee Bay.  Segundo tracked well behind C’est la Vie.  Unfortunately she did take on a significant amount of water from spray off her blunt bow.  She will require a short leash when towing in choppy waters.
After setting the anchor we entertained the next hard dinghy experiment - hoisting and stowing, Segundo, on deck.  The hoist went smoothly despite the stiff west winds.  We did learn a painful lesson when Segundo disgorged a couple gallons of sea water on deck.  While we had closed the forward hatches, the middle ports remained open.  Our wardrobe and head were treated to an unwelcome salt water rinse.
Our plan was to store Segundo bow forward with her transom resting on the mast step. Enough room then remained on the side decks to allow comfortable access the bow and windlass.  Keeping the dinghy’s center seat from resting on the forward hatch proved challenging.   Our simple and creative solution (the author is not adverse to a bit of self-flattery) was to use two boat fenders to elevate the stern and a square floatation cushion at the bow.  Once the correct clearance was obtained we made her fast to the toe rail, grab rails, and mast with rope.

I would not trust the current set up for bluewater travel.  As a temporary solution while we test out the pros & cons of traveling with a hard dinghy we are pleased.  If we decide a hard dinghy is preferable then we will install proper chocks for mounting the vessel.

bye, bye Sunset Island & Everglades City

We are moments from casting off on our migration to North Carolina.  We plan to be on the water for the next four to five weeks.  Due to weather we are not headed directly to the Dry Tortugas.  Our current plan is to ride the tide out to Russell Pass and anchor out tonight.  This will give us time to get the boat settled prior to making a crossing.  On Wednesday we plan to get an early start and sail directly down an anchorage off the Gulf side of Big Pine Key.  From there...?

Be well and keep checking back here for updates.   We will post updates as internet connections allow.

T minus 6 hours to departure

Sunset Island is nearly buttoned up for the summer.  The dinghy restoration is complete.  We conducted an inspection of the standing rigging including a trip to the mast head.  C'est la Vie's water line is rising towards the boot strip as we load on provisions and possessions.

T minus six hours to departure.

The only uncertainty is our next destination. Our hope is to leave here in the afternoon and make a 110NM overnight crossing to the Tortugas.  Making the crossing overnight will allow us to approach the Tortugas in the daylight rather than arrive at a often crowed anchorage ringed by reefs & shoals at night.

Unfortunately a small craft advisory remains in effect between SW FL and the Dry Tortugas.  The rain and winds associated with the weekend's frontal passage have abated, but the swells linger.  We anticipate the small craft advisory will be dropped this morning, but the seas will be lumpy.  The primary factor now is the winds.  The wind direction is good - the predicted north winds will place us on a broad reach.  The issue is the wind speed.  The past couple forecasts the wind speeds are trending downward.  This morning's forecast for waters beyond 20NM offshore is for winds 10 knots or less.  If the seas are lumpy then a bit more wind would aid in smoothing out the ride.  Light winds and lumpy seas are not a comforting combination.

We will post an update on our plans prior to casting off the dock.  Now back to packing.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Dinghy Restoration Complete

After the christening, initial launch, and puttering about in the river on Saturday, we identified the appropriate locations for Segundo's oar locks.  Next we experimented with how to best stow her on C'est la Vie's foredeck.  This process resulted in the realization of some of the compromises required when carrying a hard dinghy on deck.  We anticipated the loss of working deck space and a limited opening of the vee berth hatch.   Occluding the dorade vents if the wind is on our bow and shortening the arc of the windlass handle were two unanticipated compromises.   I walked away from the test fitting feeling frustrated and questioning if we should return to the Porta-Boat.  But, alas fitting cleanly on deck is the Porta-Boat's forte.  I'll give Segundo the summer to display her finer qualities before dismissing her.

We installed two sets of oar locks one set aft to balance Segundo when two people are aboard and a second set further forward when rowing alone.

Next we addressed oar storage.  Using a hole saw we notched the amidships bulkhead (see image above.)  This allows the oars to  rest smartly in the hull while stored on deck our while in use.  The cleat & line are used to secure the oars.

The Honda Outboard gouged into the finish on the exterior transom so we added a star board pad to limit further damage.

During the test fitting on C'est la Vie we discovered that the steel eye bolts on Segundo's stern would scratch the decks and had the possibility of cracking the glass in foreward hatches.  We removed the eyes and replaced them with line of a similar diameter.

Segundo is a boat so being true to her nature the projects will never cease, but this now concludes the restoration.  Here is a link to the photo album documenting the process - Dinghy Rebuild - 2012

Now it is time to go play for awhile.