anchored off Key Biscayne

by sarah hair Email

Yesterday we made a marathon trip into the heart of Coconut Grove in Miami. We needed to get some supplies, post some orders, buy new food stores for those which we had used up during the past week at anchor, and get Madison's violin new strings.

Everything went swimmingly well, despite the ghetto nature of the dinghy docks and the extremely sketchy neighborhood and surrounding hangers-about. We met a dozen or so sneaky looking characters who eyed our newly built dinghy amid the couple dozen dinghys there which were left over since the last hurricane. They sported every possible injury from gaping holes, stripped paint, exposed fiberglass, cracked fiberglass, and my favorite condition of having been recently anointed with several gallons of exposed and yellowing epoxy in a vain attempt to fill the cracks and holes.

We did meet one person who informed us of "The biggest sailboat regatta in the keys" which was happening this weekend. This was very unfortunate news for us, since we were hoping to go relatively undisturbed this weekend so we could put together our lazy jacks while at anchor before our trip to Bahamas next week.

Well, today has been like a toilet bowl. We have been knocked down and swished every which way all day long as the kids have tried to catch up on schoolwork and John has put together the lazy jacks. THis required two death-defying trips to the masthead while motorboats buzzed several yards away at 20 knots. The whole day has left us all with a renewed frustration for anchoring near motor-boaters, but mostly we are all just nauseated.

We will try to get a spot in the harbor in Biscayne in a few minutes. This means no more internet, but maybe we will get some peace and be a little safer from the drunken screamers flying past us with no regard.


by sarah hair Email

We anchored last night just off Key Biscayne after having spent the previous night in no-name harbor.

We dropped the anchor just as the sun set, which was a little later than we had hoped, but earlier than we feared. Everyone set about with their chores, anxious to get to the business of lazing about on deck in the evening breeze which had been the first time we were out of the hundred plus degree heat all day.

Within minutes of being at anchor, Malia spotted a glowing green light in the water just several feet off our beam. We all looked, but saw nothing. We wondered if she were really just more tired than we all thought since spending the day working in the hot sun. Undaunted by our disbelief, she yelled it out again, and again, it was unseen by the rest of us. Determined to show us her glowing fish, she stared at the same point and declared that it turns off and on!

We all stared off the beam and there it was! A bright fluorescent green color fishy shape glow, then there it wasn't, as it turned itself off again after just a few seconds. We were all lured over and hypnotized by its bright glowy light. It looked just like a glow-light that someone might carry around on Halloween, if the glow-light were shrunken down to the size of an earring. In fact, it was just about the size of a fishing lure one might use to catch a fish of about 10 pounds.

We sat and watched the amazing glowy fish as we mused as to the possible benefits and risks of its green light. Why would nature evolve a fish to glow so brightly, in blinking intervals? Would this not be an alert to predators to "come and get it?" As we guessed as to the possible benefits, we noticed another just off the bow! And another right near it! Was it possible they were calling to one another with their blinking lights?

We ran to the bow to find the others and to search for more. We were able to get right on top of one! The angle was entirely different, and allowed us a very different view from the fishy shape we noticed previously. It glowed green, and the green light chased itself in a pattern, like a string of christmas lights in the shape of a flower with three or maybe four petals. It was about 4 inches across, bright glowing green. It was the shape we had seen earlier on several large jellyfish we found in no-name harbor!

In the daylight the large jellies we saw had hot pink or bright purple flower shapes on the top of them. They looked like a neon cord sewn onto the top of the squishy animals. Now it appeared these shapes were glowing green and they moved as if they had electricity shooting them starting at one end of the flower and tracing the shape!

Malia ran down below to grab a flashlight and illuminate the little illumination. She went as fast as she could, so as to return before they got away. She emerged from the cabin promptly, excited to finally reveal our visitors in full direct light. A quick spot search on the water revealed nothing but a bunch of sticks floating atop the water. We turned the light off, and waited for the little critter to turn on again. It did not disappoint! The glowing light returned after a few tense moments. We all breathed a sigh of relief that our critter had not left us yet. Again, the flashlight searched the area where he was, looking for a large jelly of probably 12-18 inches across.

Again, we saw only sticks floating on or near the water's surface. Disappointed, we looked more closely. One of the sticks wiggled in a circle, then something like a flower pattern! We had found our critter! A glowing, bright green, worm of about 2-3 inches long!

Again we mused as to this adaptation and wondered why nature had evolved a creature to glow in the dark, when it would so clearly attract predators. We eventually came to one fairly solid hypothesis. It was a parasite, near the end of its life-cycle. The green glowing goo would ooze off its body into the sea around it, while it would wiggle in a flower pattern to attract a predator which would swallow the worm with its tiny offspring beginning a new life-cycle for the tiny parasite offspring.

I searched around a bit for information on this kind of parasite in the ocean, but so far have not found anything. If you know of this worm or have any better ideas as to why it would have such an amazing adaptation, let me know!

Off to Bahamas!

by sarah hair Email

We spent last night in Lake Sylvia as we got everything ready for a long trip through and around the Caribbean.

We are now thoroughly packed and have stores for about 60 days at sea.

Expect to hear more from me only if we can find internet access while sailing island t island!

Magnificent Boys

by sarah hair Email

Madison made this amazing painting of Tokyo and Sendai, our boys. Both girls have taken on several recent school projects where they choose a topic to paint or write of and Tokyo and Sendai have been making regular appearances in the girls' schoolwork.

This beautiful painting reminds me of The Dance by Henri Matisse. It is even more stunning in real life, and has the a strikingly similar color scheme as well as the same playful feeling.
Our rats in a beautiful painting

Lake Sylvia in Fort Lauderdale

by sarah hair Email

We spent a few days in Lake Sylvia last week as we prepared our rigging for our mast removal on Friday. It went mostly as expected, but for one small incident of the mizzen mast falling backward while John was dangling from the top(!) but, we know better for next time, and hopefully there will be no next time anyway.

All in all it was very relaxing and we were able to hang on our anchor in relative silence for two nights. We did experience a little wake from a group of knee-boarders who politely visited one afternoon, but hardly the kind of action we experience every minute while on the turbulent New River.

There were magnificent lightening storms both days and nights conveniently placed between dangerous projects. I tried to photograph them, but aired on the timid side since I love my camera and the thought of it having a run-in with a downpour is more terrifying than the thought of being up the mast. I did manage to catch this image on the bleeding edge of a downpour which was conveniently timed with the setting sun to happen just after I lost enough sun light to stop the motion blur. It did however mean that I could get all those lovely city lights just becoming prominent enough to draw beautiful shapes along the shoreline.

Lake Sylvia

Bahia Honda in the Florida Keys

by sarah hair Email

We spent a lovely vacation in the keys this week while picking up the school supplies for the kids. The supplies were sent to our mail drop box, which is in Islamorada, Florida.

While down there, we decided to make our way back to Bahia Honda, which I think is our favorite place in the Keys. It was very lovely, and we went swimming and bumming around the beach. John and the girls went snorkeling, though there is little to see in such a highly trafficked area without a close reef.

I left my camera in the car, in favor of just enjoying myself, but did briefly get it out when I was waiting in the car for the rest of the crew to shower!!

Here is Bahia Honda, as of last week.

going to the spa

by sarah hair Email

We needed to use a gift certificate which was expired several months ago, else we probably would not have been able to afford to go to the spa today.

It was oh so very amazing. John and I have both been going to this spa for several years, though we have not been in since he was laid off from his job some 9 months ago. We began going there because it was close to our house when we lived in Victoria Park. You can find it here

Not the best name and the web site is not so amazing either, but the spa itself is so welcoming and unassuming! It is hidden behind some trees on the main drag through town - Broward Blvd. It is in what appears to have been an apartment building, though we did spend a decent part of our time there trying to figure out how it would have worked, where the kitchen would have been and how this room could have functioned as anything other than a waiting / meditation room.

It is so quiet and relaxing, everyone is wearing slippers as they sneak down the hall, and there are various water fixtures trickling and ambient music playing. They do not have any loud services, such as hair. No awful odors from perms or straightening treatments or chemical pollution from hair dye or bleach.

We got there and had time to eat our burrito we brought to share. We did arrive on empty tummies! They put us at a table for two and we shoveled the food in our mouths as if we had not eaten in weeks. We had in fact eaten the previous night, but this was some 16 hours prior, which under normal circumstances is not such a big deal, but today was our gluttony day.

We enjoyed alternating manicures and body scrubs. Mine was a french manicure and a pear and green apple scrub. John's was a pomegranate cranberry scrub and a regular manicure. His nails were so shiny, he could see his reflection when it was finished.

We had a couples' massage and a couples' whirlpool lavender bath as well. Completely amazing.

We need to do this more often. It is such a wonderful way to rejuvenate our bodies and minds. We will need a lot more money though. Please find a link to donate. I don't know where, but there should be one somewhere.

back to school, aikido, and yoga

by sarah hair Email

Back to school has been a big event this week. Really, it has been a big part of our lives for three weeks now. Broward school district just decided a full three business days before the beginning of the school year, that they would approve the k12 school for the requisite online schooling option mandated by the state some 9 months earlier. Wow, is that an amazing run-on sentence, or what?

After our scurrying around for several days and getting together the documents and whatnot, the girls were registered, and we were able to begin schooling, only one day late! I understand from the women at the office that we were the very first people to sign up! THis was a very exciting day!

We don't yet have the books and materials, so the girls have been working on things for which we already have the required materials. THey have read novels and worked mostly on spelling assignments. The school gives them assignments, but I really liked the good old fashioned way I had to learn it in school, so I make them write out definitions, put everything in alphabetical order, use the words in context in a sentence, (I had to add that 'in context' part after Madison made one single sentence listing all of her words - clever girl) write the words in a list three times each, AND do the worksheets, word searches, fill-in-the blanks, etc. from the school. I guess I am just mean that way.

Well, with all this activity (5 hours a day for kids doing work and another 1-2 hours for me to prepare plus 2-3 hours of researching and learning the software, school system, etc.) for school, I am surprised that I found time for anything else whatsoever.

I began to learn Italian, after several years of messing around and not learning it even though I knew I really wanted to. We bought the Rosetta Stone software to learn, even though we have several textbooks and learning CDs etc. The software has been a big hit, and everyone in our family has been wandering around naming objects or blurting out completely irrelevant sentences in Italian. This would not be so odd, but we all know what they mean now, which makes it rather funny.

Amidst the random Italian sentences and the home-schooling commitments, I actually was able to get out of the boat and go to Aikido this morning! THis would have been much more impressive had I actually taken the class and not just sat on my butt watching everyone else, but at least I went! John did take the class, and I sat it out for my sore back and lack of confidence in my physical state after so many months of no exercise at all.

I did manage to crawl into Yoga class after Aikido was over, and John joined me for his first ever yoga experience. And what an experience it was! My back loosened up for the first time in months and I was able to bicycle home in relative peace but for the sting in my muscles from having finally worked after so long.

John had a little harder critique of yoga, mostly that he would prefer a yogi who was also an astrophysicist. I suppose that would be interesting. His idea was that if you have to listen to your yogi explain body movement and the connection of the mind to the physical plane, he wanted someone who possessed what he considered more authority. I told him that yoga is taught almost the same way now as it was taught before there even was astrophysics, but he did not see how that was relevant. Ho hum. I still like yoga, even if the topics discussed in class have some pretty gaping holes from that of reality. Mostly I just stretch out and listen to the music. What more could I ask for? Well, we know what John could ask for, so there it is.

Online School

by sarah hair Email

I realize that we have been saying that we would home-school the girls for quite a while now. WHile this is not entirely untrue, it may turn out to be not entirely true either.

Last year the State of Florida mandated that all Florida districts had to offer online schooling as an option for their students. We signed up to be on the online schooling waiting list in hopes of getting approved when our local district settled on choosing an online school model.

Wednesday, a full two business days before the first day of school, the Broward school district approved k12 as the online school. THis was not a surprise, since every other district in Florida had already approved them some 3-6 months prior, and there really is not any other company doing the same level of online schooling as k12, so it was not as if they would choose a competing company. The lucky part was that they approved it two whole days before the first day of school, so we had plenty of time to attend the k12 meeting, gather their old records from their old school, gather our living records, dock rent receipts, rental agreements, birth certificates, passports, identifications, etc. and drive them to the registrar's office, fill out paperwork, and purchase the necessary schooling materials.

Since it is online school, we did not have to go school clothes shopping. This saved us a lot of time.

$180.00 for a car rental seemed like a bargain after $50.00 for a cab ride to the first meeting, since all of these required meetings, paperwork drop-offs, and such require us to spit in the face of the entire concept of online schooling and drive out of town for 40 minutes to be physically in someone's office. Of course, why they put the offices of every single thing in the county out in the middle of nowhere is a complete mystery to me. I guess they figure everyone drives, and everyone who lives out in those suburbs should drive back out of the city to go to the meetings and whatnot on their lunch break or something.

We used our car rental wisely and went to the used bookstore. We bought tons of books! About 12-15 books per person, though we will all have read them all by the time we are through, so we should have enough for a couple months.

Oh, I was talking about online school. RIght. So, the girls are now signed up to go to online school in Florida. We will still be able to travel, but as long as we live in Florida, they can continue to do this program.

They have a required number of hours they need to log for the school work every day, but other than that, I just coach them along. They have a real teacher, who lives in the computer. They can log on to their classroom and interface with her and get assignments. They have other students in the class with whom they can pass notes and giggle and generally be disruptive and do all of the requisite elementary student activities, just that they do it through chat or email, or in the privacy of their stateroom.

The first day of school began yesterday, though yesterday we did not attend and instead were in the registrar's office for over an hour and found out that we were the very first students to sign up in Broward County. No one else was there even, and it was already a little after 2:00pm, so I do wonder how many other students will be in the virtual classroom with the girls when they log in for the first time.

If they get the teacher all to themselves, I think the classes might move through a lot more quickly though. Both girls tested a full grade above their actual grade level on the placement tests, so Montessori for the past two years seems to have done well for them.

shipping orders

by sarah hair Email

We arrived at Cooley's Landing in Fort Lauderdale, FLorida on Sunday.

I had my packages all ready to ship, and we had a bunch of orders over the weekend which kept me rather busy. In the morning, we were unable to figure out the shipping box here, which has a clip and only room for one envelope of outgoing mail. Someone else had a letter in there already, so I just waited to see what would happen.

We ended up sending the packages today, when we were able to flag down the mail carrier and give her the packages personally.

It made my shipping schedule one day off, but all-in-all, it worked out.

I am already behind again though! I guess when we are trying to earn a living, these are the kind of problems I want to have! I will be able to get the new orders out on Friday though, since I have now figured out the rhythm of the post here.

I did have another customer who wanted to buy just the pendant and use her own necklace. More and more I am hearing this from customers, so I am thinking of offering this as an option. It is really not any different for me, since we make the pendants and the necklaces by hand, but I hate to think of people getting stuck buying more than they wanted and then getting rid of the excess necklace.

I am still thinking of how this would work out on the web site, but once I figure it out, I will make it an option for people to place the order for just the pendant.

leaving the dock!!!!

by sarah hair Email

We are leaving the dock tomorrow morning!

Today was the last remaining move-on and clean up from the apartment bedroom we had been sleeping in while preparing the boat for cruising. We emptied the room and prepared everything to come onto the boat. We laundered everything we ever owned again before bringing it on and even managed to schedule one last round of lice treatments for everyone just in case. Of course, since we only laundered all our belongings and treated everyone for lice four times so far this month, we all had eggs and lice when I did a head check today. I seriously can not believe it. We all think it is coming from the floor, where the girls had been sleeping in the room, since we share it with neighbors and can easily blame the rest of the people in the apartment building instead of getting frustrated about the $20.00+ laundry and $40-50.00 treatments each time. Just my hair is $20.00 each treatment. Man, we were going broke living there! The boat was bombed last night, so there should be nothing alive other than us.

We are off to hang out with friends this evening, and will stow everything that is still out tomorrow before we head over to Cooley's Landing. We will be in Fort Lauderdale for another week yet before we intend to head to Cape Hatteras.

Oh, I forgot to mention the big news! We got rid of our phones! email only form here on!

Glass Sushi bracelet

by sarah hair Email

I made this sushi bracelet last week and posted it on Etsy. It sold within a couple minutes! I had thought it would be a nice piece to have in my Etsy shop so that people could see it and may buy something. I have a few items like this that people find and it brings them to the rest of the shop. Well, you can see how well that worked out!

glass sushi bracelet

I spent the rest of the week sneaking away time to make a new one. I put it up for sale in my Etsy shop as well today. So far it has been seen by 5 people and has one "heart" already. Hopefully it will sell quickly so I can just keep making more of them!

Here is the new listing, if the link does not work, it may be sold already too!

Glass Sushi Bracelet

update on cruising preparedness

by sarah hair Email

We have been making so much progress on the boat, that I am feeling very guilty for not posting about it on the blog.

This past week or so, we have, among other things...

- Put the binnacle back together, including varnishing everything, attaching the remote mic for the vhf, attaching the fold-up table, attaching the compass

- Attached the spray dodger, which was newly made by our wonderful friend, Carlos. Carlos also took measurements for the bimini he is building for us.

- Put up the awning (which will need to come down before we go, of course, but makes it at least not reach 100 degrees in the boat until around noon now, instead of 9:00 am! Big difference there!

- Put a shelf in the rats' cage compartment.

- Put together the wifi for the boat, with some help from our neighbor.

- Wired up the knot log and depth sounder.

- put the solar panels on the boat. This sounds like such a little thing, but each of four solar panels required special fabrication of different mountings, two of which were made as adjustable mountings on stainless steel.

- Stowed all the food and alcohol, and organized it into categories. This actually took me several hours, even though it sounds so lame.

Cleaned out the standing locker in the v-berth and began planning for building shelves in there.

- Put the shelves into the jewelry locker. These rock! I can now take out a tool kit without removing four other boxes of glue, wooden tiles, cord, findings, etc. first.

- Built storage for the sextant. With any luck, it will never, ever, be removed from its precious perch under the chart-table. The sextant is a back-up in case our GPS breaks. Really, it is a back up in case our primary GPS breaks, then our secondary GPS breaks, then our tertiary GPS breaks, then our primary sextant (the one which is cheap and plastic) also breaks. This fifth line of defense may also be employed if all of humanity is exterminated and the GPS no longer works, then we break our primary sextant. We bought it because it was very shiny and beautiful. It was second hand, in excellent condition, and worth a lot more than we paid for it. Still, having a rather expensive instrument that you intend, nay, hope, to never use is somewhat odd for us.

- Stowed massive amounts of personal and business items. It does not sound like the accomplishment that it really is, but it was a big deal at the time. Basically, take everything you own, organize it into shoe boxes, carry them onto the boat and find places to put them. Every load of boxes requires one person to take the boxes to the dock and the other person to receive them over the water. We did not lose too many things into the drink, but the tools we lost were picked up by our trusty giant magnet, which worked much better for the screwdriver than it would for John's shoe. The shoe we just had to wait until morning and I found it floating one slip down in the canal.

- Made a bunch of necklaces, earrings, hair sticks, and other jewelry as we sold a lot of items this week! I was sanding and epoxy coating tiles for many hours while John did fiberglass repairs in the cockpit, wired our electronic systems, built storage solutions, and did many other necessary tasks to get us on our way.

It looks like we will be moving out of this slip around the first or second week of August. I know, I have said it before, but we are really close now. We are nearly all moved on, and even the business stuff is organized so it can be used.

It is hot and it will be August, so I am not sure how far we will make it this summer heading North. I think we may just try to get up to Cape Hatteras and re-evaluate from there. Perhaps we can spend a little time around the Chesapeake Bay area, but I think we will want to be heading South again around the end of September! We were hoping to not even have to find our Winter clothes, since we all like to stay warm... I really wanted to see Boston by sailboat though.

getting rid of lice

by sarah hair Email

We spent the day today getting rid of lice. Malia woke up complaining of an itchy head, and since we spent the day at the beach yesterday, naturally I sent her to the bath again.

Madison and Malia were together preparing to bathe, and after a few minutes of them goofing off, Madison yelled for me to come in. She said that Malia has lice and she found several of the critters crawling around on Malia's head!

I took a look, and as it turned out, there were several buggers crawling around in there!

The next hour was spent riding my bike to the drugstore to buy the shampoo for lice and treating everyone in our family as a preventative measure. It seemed to take forever, since there are four of us, and we had to each wait 10 minutes with the treatment on our heads.

We spent the rest of the day - and as of now still have at least 3 hours longer before we can finish - doing laundry. Everything had to be cleaned just to be certain, including our pillows and blankets.

We had to wait for our turn to use the laundry, and since there is only one machine and at least 15 people living in our building, this took a while. We will be up well past midnight waiting for each of us to have one pillow, one sheet, and one pillow case.

ug. the tired is catching up fast.

Tokyo Rat surgery scare - tumor turns out to be an abscess

by sarah hair Email

After our initial scare with waking to find a huge lump on Tokyo's abdomen, we had been anxiously awaiting Monday morning when the veterinarian could come out for a home visit and give us a plan for his further health.

We measured the growth two times daily, which had swollen to the size of his head overnight on its arrival. Since then, no notable change over the 5 days we waited for the vet to schedule us in. He did not enjoy being held belly up and having calipers wrapped around the ouchie on his tummy, but he tolerated it without too much complaint.

Tokyo rat before seeing the vet shows off his swollen belly with the huge abscess.

The vet arrived and we set up a make-shift exam and surgery table outside the apartment building on some lawn furniture. After a quick look, she announced that we were very fortunate to not have the tumor we had originally feared. This enormous lump, as evidenced by its extremely rapid growth, was an abscess formed by bacteria invading an open wound.

Since the procedure to remove this abscess is fairly minor, it can be performed here on the lawn furniture. Tokyo is none too excited about the idea of being handed to the doctor and held by the scruff of his neck with his muzzle shoved in a plastic gas chamber, but he is not really one to complain too loudly.

rat gets anesthesia before surgery on abscess

When he is safely sleeping on the table, we can see rather clearly the size and shape of the growth on his tummy. He is typically very squirmy when we try to examine it, so this is the first chance we have had to really take a good look.

rat on operating table unconscious

The doctor lanced the abscess with two small incisions. These are the same incisions that we are to spend the next two weeks opening up and squirting cleansing solution through. As they scab over, we are to remove the scabs and re-open the wounds twice daily for cleaning.

vet lances rat abscess lump

Once opened, the abscess is drained of about an ounce of bright green puss. This was the worst part, with the horrible smell, but it was also a big relief that the doctor was immediately able to identify the particular bacteria because of its look and smell. Because of this identification, she was able to prescribe the exact antibiotics that would target this bacteria.

rat abscess is drained of green fluid

The incisions are large enough to put a small syringe into, so we can leave the wounds open and flush iodine solution through the abscess twice daily for the next two weeks. The vet shows us how we are to do this as she flushes the wound.

rat abscess wound is flushed with iodine solution

Tokyo seems to have survived the surgery, and his heart is still beating away as he lays on the operating table getting cleaned up. He is given pure oxygen to help bring him to and wake him up. It looks a little messy, but it is such a relief to see the abscess deflated.

rat on operating table after surgery

After everything, the procedure took only about 10 minutes. We were very relieved to find that the supposed tumor was only an abscess. It has been successfully drained and he has survived the procedure. Everything went well.

He was a little groggy as he came to, but he was very happy to get off the table and onto John's shoulder to relax in a safe place. Later he went back to his room to relax and hang with his brother, Sendai, who immediately tried to groom that area to death.

Tokyo with John after his surgery to remove the abscess

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