Sunday, August 17, 2014

Hetta Coffey Mysteries - A Book Review

Jinx Schwartz (origin of Pic)
Dagnabbit!  There's ANOTHER one!...  But my faux consternation turned instantly to delight, followed by a couple of clicks on Amazon.com... and it's ALL MINE!  I can't WAIT to get started reading Just Needs Killin' - the SIXTH book in the Hetta Coffey Series by Jinx Schwartz.  Before I went looking for links to write this post, I didn't know that the sixth book in the series was out!!  (LOVE!)

I love reading books by Cruisers - about cruising... but even more so when it's Fiction, because then it can get REALLY wild!  You can tell when a book is written by someone who KNOWS what they're talking about.  I mean, when someone writes a book or makes a movie about sailing, and they really have no idea what it's like... it rings false in a most annoying way.  This is not the case with this writer.  She has cruised the Sea of Cortez for years and writes of it in such a way that I feel, after reading her books, that I've been there as well...

I found Hetta innocently enough, by downloading one, then another of the series FREE on Amazon.com. (Thanks Jinx).  You know, sometimes authors will offer their books free for a limited time so that you can try them out...  Well, I'm such a cheapskate that I don't usually BUY books... BUT!... for these, I've been compelled to make several exceptions.  At the time of writing, there were no free books available but there was one really good deal to get you started!  And ALL of these books are priced so reasonably, that even I have purchased several outright!

I had books one through four on my Kindle before I began reading them, luckily for me...  Once I finished the first one, I was hot onto the second... and so on until I started the fourth.  It was at that point that I put the halt on it.  I didn't know there would be others, and I was so enamored with the main characters,  Hetta and Jan, I couldn't stand the thought of finishing this book!  I would miss them.  I had to stretch it out... prolong the reading of this book so that I didn't have to say goodbye!

Why did I feel this way about these books?  The characters were so real to me because in some ways, Jinx writes like I do... like she's (Hetta is) talking to the reader, sharing her real and innermost thoughts.  That casual style is one I can identify with and it's not just that... The characters themselves are "people" with whom I can personally identify.

I'm from Texas (and I like to think that I can be sassy)!  I totally get the "Texas mentality" that oozes from Hetta's pores and awakens my own Inner-Texan.  It felt nice to bring that out and let it run.  I hadn't realized that since leaving home, there hasn't been much opportunity for appreciation of my Texas self.

The more compelling reason for not wanting it to end, was the relationship between Hetta and Jan.  They reminded me so much of my own relationship with my best friend Mimi.  She passed away some three years ago and I have missed her so.  This book allowed me to feel that connection once again in a way that I hadn't thought possible.  Jan and Hetta are just so comfortable with one another.  The goodnatured ribbing, with the underlying feeling of having a history and of being there for one another through thick and thin... was just so familiar, I couldn't let it end.

On a more broad level, and the reason that I can whole-heartedly recommend these books to my friends... are the descriptions of the Sea of Cortez, the weather, the Mexico-ness of it... all so very real and like I said, I feel like I've now been there.

The fact that the stories were written by a power boater... (out of respect I will refrain from using some of the more colorful names)...was not even off-putting!  There are some similarities between power-boating and sailing which have me drawing parallels between my life and the day to day lives of the characters.  The things that they must do to keep the boat going, along with trying to stay alive... added a level of reality that have me wondering HOW this could be fiction at all... until the stories unfold of course...

Then it's all zany plots and hyper-reality at its finest.  Stories just close enough to what COULD happen, but a tiny bit over the line so that you aren't just reading about the ho-hum lives of others... I won't go into the stories as they are just too fun and complicated to even describe... you'll just have to read them for yourself.  But after reading them myself, I can say that although the Sea of Cortez isn't on our Cruising Plate at any time in the near future... reading these books has made it feel like it could be.... even if HALF of this stuff is true!

If you are into reading books about boating, light hearted little-bit-of-danger-while-I'm-safe-in-my-own-cockpit kind of stuff... then you MUST have these books!  I can, without reservation, say that my women readers will enjoy them, and I can even say that with Hetta's personality, many of my men readers will love the stories as well.  They have an element of romance in that Hetta is looking for love and has found it in Jenks Jenkins... (They even end up together, married and cruising the Sea of Cortez in Schwartz's non-series book Troubled Sea), but the books are not love stories.  These books quite simply have it ALL!  Don't be a cheapskate like me... get them. Read them.  ENJOY!

Now... I'm off to start that last book...

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Our Month Is Half Over...


We're enjoying the SSCA perks, better fly the flag!
And what do we have to show for it?  It's difficult to remember as time has passed in a blur.  I can't explain the transition from the thought processes that occur during "travel mode" and this new development... "home mode".

When we're traveling day after day, things are different.  We don't do much housekeeping other than the maintenance types of things, cleaning out the cat box, bagging up the trash, wiping up messes as they occur...  We don't even try to do any type of deep cleaning or projects.  Those things are put on the back burner, seemingly forgotten... but not really.  They're just waiting there... for their turn.

Well, the floodgates have been opened with our arrival at this SSCA Cruising Station.  All of the forgotten projects have come rushing to our minds in a spinning mass.  The list is growing daily and with each addition, three more things are created as spinoffs...  That's the way it is with boat projects.

How many of these things can we get done in a month?  That remains to be seen, but I think we have made reasonable progress... hey, we're on permanent vacation!  We can't be expected to work ALL the time!

First on my agenda (which luckily coincides with BRUCE's agenda) was to clean house!!!  After weeks of travel... our little home is (in my mind) a mess!  I needed the luxury of copious amounts of water to thoroughly clean the heads from top to bottom...  vacuum and wet mop the floors, wipe down the walls and ceilings and dust everything!







Yes, I clean with a toothbrush!
I took up floors and cleaned out cubbies...

We've recently had some  roach sightings and I've declared war upon them...  I cleaned and put out roach poison and threw away bad cans that had sprung a leak... Ick!  It was a mess!

Once all of that was done, we got to work on a project that has been on my mind for some weeks but the opportunity was lacking until now...  With the generous offer of a truck to use, we rented an upholstery cleaner!

I don't know how old the upholstery in our boat is... it was there when we bought the boat, but I don't think it was the original material.  The boat sat for a year before we bought her, and since then, it has been sat upon, spilled on, sweated on, barfed on...and who know what other evils have befallen this fabric...

We dragged out every cushion and every backrest onto the dock and went to work cleaning them all.  I worked for hours, until I could hardly move my arms... and then Bruce went to work to finish it off.

We used my home made laundry soap that contains Tea Tree Oil for the job.  In my mind at least, this magic elixir imparts an acceptable level of cleanliness that soothes my soul...







Jezabelle kept an eye on our progress...
I know those of you who don't live with pets would be appalled... we aren't dirty people, but our recent offshore travel has been hard on our feline crew mates.  The rolly seas had even the stalwart Jetsam hugging the cat box and there may have been some times she didn't quite make it.  But that's all behind us now...So CATS... bring on your worst!  I'm ready for you!

This was a hard job, but well worth it in my mind.  Maybe we'll do it annually from here on out!


While the project list keeps growing and growing... we haven't worked non-stop.  We have enjoyed some pleasant sundowners sitting in the boathouse with Jezabelle...

It's always nice there in the shade no matter what the weather is...  And we've had some HOT days, as well as some relatively cool ones.






Jezabelle practicing for a life with the circus...
The cats were suspicious at first about this new development.  They are normally not allowed onto the dock and I'm wondering if letting them come ashore is a mistake... I'm sure we'll regret letting them have this freedom when we get to the next public marina and they still want to go ashore.

Jetsam is not so adventurous.  She has remained onboard until the last few days.  She's just more stealthy and prefers to leave the boat when we aren't looking...


The Butlers have been gracious enough to lend us their truck to run errands and do our shopping.  The first week we were here, I think we used the vehicle several days in a row to do our laundry, provisioning, hunting for parts and refilling our propane tank.  Beaufort and the surrounding area is very beautiful with tall trees and lots of marshes.


We also had a nice lunch with a couple of Facebook friends and visited the little Farmer's Market where we found some yummy goodies like veggies, home made cheeses, breads and we even splurged on a home made bread pudding made with local peaches!  Delish!


But then, the fun was over and it was back to work on boat projects... We have developed several leaking ports and one in particular needed the gasket replaced.  This is not as easy as it may sound... We spent literally HOURS digging out the old sealant so that the new gasket would go into a small groove.  Then we pulled it back out and applied new sealant and then had to coax the gasket BACK into the groove...







Doesn't look any different, but it IS!
It took both of us working over two days and our backs and fingers are sore from the exertion...  But, when it rained again, that port did not leak!  Eureka!

Our next project was to do something about the broken pull on our freezer compartment.  The old push button mechanism just came out one day several weeks ago... you might remember that we used a plunger to open the freezer door and I worried that it would be the permanent solution.  Well, it has taken us some weeks to get back to work on this.  We ordered a replacement from Catalina, but it was cheaply made and didn't fit the hole.  Nor would it lock the door down... so we're returning it and had to figure out a Plan B.

We came up with a different type of pull found on many boats, but we had to alter the hole in the countertop to make the piece sit flush.  This involved some time with the dremmel tool and a lot of fear.

The two salad dressing bottles are being used as weights to keep the door from springing open.  We had to use a 30 lb. gas shock to replace the old broken 20 lb. one because they evidently don't make the 20 lb. model anymore.  So now, we will need to figure out how to keep the door down, but that is a project for another day...

We were able to carve out enough countertop to allow for a flush fit of the new door pull without making any huge mistakes... so we're calling this a success!


We drilled holes in the countertop to mount the pull and luckily we had some stainless steel bolts with nuts to affix to the underside with washers so that there is ample support for opening the door.

It isn't perfect but it works.  I've had to let go of a lot of my compulsions for perfection since moving onto this boat...  Sometimes, "perfect" just isn't possible...

Now we just need to find some kind of mechanism for keeping the top from popping up... (other than weighting it with salad dressings).  We are leaning towards mounting a barrel bolt if we can find screws that will work on this countertop material without cracking it...  Wish us luck!

The shelf is oddly shaped to fit the compartment.
Our OTHER freezer project ended in success!  We have been using a basket inside to hold some of the smaller items like cheeses and such, that don't require freezing.  The upper hullside isn't cold enough to freeze things solid, but keeps them super cold.  The basket is what broke our old 20 lb. gas shock, so in order for that to not happen again, we decided to build a shelf to store those items on.  It took us a while, but we got it done and now we are enjoying the extra space that replacing the basket with a shelf has opened up inside the freezer.





Before...
The next few days are a blur.  We had been enjoying some cooler weather but now it's just HOT!  We need to clean up our filthy dinghy and patch some new leaks that have been sneaking up on us for weeks...
Dramatic difference!

Bottom is done, now for the tubes...

Waxing the hull for speed!

It took us two days to get the bottom scraped and free of shell growth, cleaned, waxed.  Then we flipped it over and cleaned some more.
Left side dirty, right side clean...

Finally we had the tubes cleaned and prepared for the patchwork.  The bubbles seemed to be coming from beneath previous patches... so...

We decided to remove all of the old leaking patches upon patches and go back to the beginning.

But we had to wait for a new supply of hypalon patch materials to arrive in the mail...

So, with that project on hold, we went for a swim!  That's the only thing one can do on a HOT day like this!





Hey! We've gotta have SOME fun!

Our next few days called for rain!  We still have plenty of things to do inside however...

Bruce sharpened his knife collection. This caused me a wee bit of concern... I had no IDEA we were carrying around so MANY knives... What does a guy need with all of those knives?  GULP!  I guess I'd better straighten up!

Bruce has wanted a new computer for some time.  He is resistant to using our Mac and wanted to return to the Windows environment.  We finally found something that we thought would work on the boat... It is the Dell Venue 8 Pro.  It's a small tablet that works like a touch screen, but has real Windows.  Now Bruce can do his spread sheets on Excel AND check his sports scores... all on this tiny little computer.

I'm sure once he figures it all out, we will love it...  But for now, it's back to hours of fighting with the computer for Bruce...

We finally ran out of excuses for putting off this one unpleasant project...  It's a nasty job, as are all jobs that involve the waste system.  Shortly after buying DL, we replaced the waste hose that leads from the tank to the pump out access on the deck.  We thought that would stop the evil and persistent smell... It did not.  We then determined that the odor was coming from the vent hose which leads from the tank to an outlet high up on the hull... that was unreachable without removing our forward air conditioner (not an option).

After living with that smell for all of these months... we decided to try replacing the hose we could reach, in hopes that it knocked the odor out at least enough to make it livable...  So, we took all of the stuff out of the hanging locker, cut the hose as high up as we could reach, which involved lots of sweating and grunting...  And we spliced a new hose onto it leading back through a small hole in the floor of the locker and onto the tank's vent outlet.  It was a dirty job but once the old portion of hose was removed... the smell disappeared!

Even though there is still a portion of the old hose high up in that closet, I CAN'T SMELL IT!  And Bruce says that my nose can smell a mouse fart, so I'm calling this one a success!

After all of this hard work, we took a break and joined our hosts Rick and Carol for a nice drive out to Dataw Island where we visited a marina and had a very nice dinner.

There is a lovely small marina and a boatyard where you can do the work yourself.  We will file this information away for when we're looking to do a bottom job...  We enjoyed a walk down the docks and a beautiful sunset, although the sunsets back at the house are better...


About a week after we arrived here, a small sailboat showed up and tied off to a mooring ball off of one of the neighboring properties.  the owner left and we haven't seen him since.  We've had daily rain showers lately and one day we noticed that the little boat seemed to be sitting lower in the water.  Upon closer inspection, we realized that the forward hatch was left wide open.


Bruce and Rick talked about it and Rick was going to try to find and contact the owner, but by the next morning, the little boat was on the bottom of the creek!

I felt really badly about it... But everything you read says that it is unlawful to board a boat without the permission of the owner.  There is controversy about this, as many owners would say that if someone noticed that THEIR boat was in peril and nobody did a thing... it would be bad...  However, there are plenty of scenarios in which the owner would NOT like someone boarding their boat, even if it was to help...


Rick in the kayak looking for identification.
I guess we could have called the Coast Guard, but Rick did contact someone and a Sheriff's boat came out to take a look.  They were here for about five minutes and haven't been back.  It's been days and nobody has showed up to do anything with this boat.  Finally, Rick went out there in his kayak to see if he could get the numbers off the hull, but it was sitting too low to read anything.  I guess we'll just have to wait...

On one of our rain free days, Bruce and I geared up to do some bottom scraping.  The waters here are so nutrient rich that we're growing a very healthy garden on our bottom... It isn't just the green stuff that we're worried about however... There are also a lot of barnacles that have been growing ever since we were in Marathon.  We just can't seem to stay ahead and the murky waters we've been traveling in have been no help.


It has become imperative that we do this now, no matter what the visibility!  So, we waited for slack tide and we got after it.  I floated in my life jacket seat and scraped the waterline and as far below the surface as I could reach.  It really wasn't bad... actually it was kind of fun.  And it was nice and cool in the water...

Bruce put on his snorkel gear and dove down to get the deeper parts that I can't reach.  We worked until the tide turned and it became too difficult to keep from being swept away.


Then we discovered the creepy part!  Just as I had feared, we were both covered in creepy-crawlers.  Bruce was worse since he was down under the boat scraping these little guys off onto himself.  When he came up he was spitting them out!  They had crawled into his mustache and tangled themselves in his HAIR!


I was thankfully only half as covered with the squirming little things as Bruce was but, in my book... ANY is too MANY!

I don't know for sure, but I think they're some kind of krill...

Since we didn't finish, I guess this job is going back on the to-do list for later in the week... Oh Joy!


Ever since we arrived, we've been slowly going through cubbies and cabinets and cleaning things out. We have donated quite a few things to Habitat for Humanity, that we started this journey thinking we could not live without.

Bruce reclaimed some storage compartments beneath our salon floor where we had kept canned goods.  We've eaten enough of those original provisions that the remaining few could be consolidated into another storage bin, allowing Bruce to move back into these lesser accessible spaces with some of his lesser used garage stuff.  We were both happy with our newfound feeling of tidiness!

Thank you RICK!
Being the guest of an SSCA Cruising Station Host has a major perk previously unknown to us...  We will be making our way to the Bahamas in the fall and were happy to accept a "chart talk" when Rick offered it to us.  OMG are we ever glad we did.  Rick is actually a content contributor to the most trusted cruising chart books around, Explorer Charts.  What an honor it was for us to have a private review with him of the best way to get to and from the Bahamas, where to go and what to do when we get there, and even better... personal advice for what we should do when we need to fly home for our daughter's graduation next May...  Personalized information from an expert!  Awesome!  We both feel much more prepared to go and it has allayed all of our lingering fears and doubts.

Super Moon High Tide
It has been a great couple of weeks for taking care of those things we just never find the time for when we're under way.  We are slowly working out our systems and figuring out what's important to us and it has been VERY nice to have the luxury of air conditioning.  We have had some time to consider what's next for us and have a plan...  But we've learned that lesson.  We'll let you know when it actually happens!

Super Moon LOW tide!

LOW Low!
HIGH High Craziness!