Accidental Birthday Party

April 15, 2014: I expected my next post would be from Cape Town, South Africa as we started our rally, but this was just too good not to share, so spare me the diversion.

home-2014 006We were in Daytona Beach, spending a few days on our sailboat. We went to dinner at our of our favoriate restaurants, Martinis. It wasn’t busy except for a table of 8 women of a certain age. We would learn they ranged from 74 to 84. It was one woman’s birthday. When the restaurant serve a special birthday cake, (not this one actually but you need some visuals.) cake

we joined in for a round of Happy Birthday.

However, this was not the highlight. Following this, the women pulled out the lyrics for another song which I am posting. This is even better whenJulie Andrews-musical you at least sing the familiar tune in your head as you read.



My Favorite Things

Maalox and nose drops and needles for knitting,

Walkers and handrails and new dental fittings,

Bundles of magazines tied up with string,

These are a few of my favorite things.


Cadillacs and cataracts, and hearing aids and glasses,

Polident and Fixodent and false teeth in glasses,

Pacemakers, golf carts and porches with swings,

These are a few of my favorite things,


When the pipes leak, when the bones creak,

When the knees go bad.

I simply remember my favorite things,

And then I don’t feel so bad.


Hot tea and crumpets and corn pads for bunions,

No spicy food or food cooked with onions,

Bathrobes and heating pads and hot meals they bring,

These are a few of my favorite things.


Back pain, confused brains and no need for sinnin’,

Thin bones and fractures and hair that is thinin’,

And we won’t mention our short shrunken frames,

When we remember our favorite things.


When the joints ache, when the hips break,

When the eyes grow dim,

Then I remember the great life I’ve had,

And then I don’t feel so bad!

Julie Andrew-micTo commemorate her birthday, ( I don’t know which one. I was told her 60th but that seems unlikely.) Julie Andrews made a special appearance at Manhattan’s Radio City Music Hall and sang t his version of My Favorite Things from the legendary movie Sound of Music. For a benefit of the AARP. She received a standing ovation from the crowd that lasted over 4 minutes.

Just wanted to share her humor and wit with all of you. Please feel free to repost or share as you wish.

If this is the future, all the more reason to go to Africa now!


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Preparing to Rally-Jan’s Perspective

April  6, 2014. If you read Ed’s blog on car preparation, you  need to know there is a lot more to getting ready for an endurance rally than just prepping the car. Here is the list of  equally important items (not in any particular order) I manage in preparation.

1. Cleaning and accessorizing: Stewball is really beginning to look like a road hog, but this is not a time for dressing up-the car or us. After the World Race in 2011 and then the Trans-American Challenge in 2012, I really wanted to have the car repainted. But after we received the information on the Safari Challenge, and the road conditions in many parts of Africa, I decided the paint is just going to get more nicks on the miles of gravel roads. So, I have to be content with a good wash job.NY to Alaska 451

 …and my ceramic flower vase on the dashboard. As I have on past rallies, I will have a f036resh flower to start each day. My flowers have come from VW enthusiasts we met along the way, snitched from hotel gardens or breakfast tables, or picked from wildflowers we see along the route. Snitching is one activity Ed doesn’t approve of, but I’m not quite as honest as he is and I make sure he doesn’t see me so he cannot be an accessory to a crime.


After washing, it is my job to put the rally numbers on the car. This time we will be Car 14, I don’t know how that is decided, but Stewball has had many different numbers and doesn’t seem to have an identity problem.

Africa rally-2014 001



 2. Navigator’s materials: This may be my most significant contribution. On a rally we are called co-drivers. But honestly, Ed does more of the driving and I do more of the navigating so I am in charge of getting the navigating materials together. Now if you don’t know what it is to navigate on a rally here is a brief description. While rallies differ,  on this one we will receive a spiral bound Route Book with the entire route illustrated in tulip diagrams. (On some rallies we only receive the day’s route each morning twenty minutes before the start time, adding to the tension. ) I’ve been told that this system was first used in a rally in the Netherlands, hence tulip diagram. A tulip is a stick figure, more or less. The ball end is where you are and the arrow is the direction you will go at this point in the rally. What you see in the example below is a left turn at a 4-way intersection (with a traffic light) that has a curve to by-pass the light. In case you forget what the symbols mean, there are pages in the front of your rally book which illustrate and describe them all. Most are obvious.

Africa rally-blog 003Like this photo shows, each instruction is set up in 5 columns. the total distance, the interval distance-from one maneuver to the next- the tulip, critical symbols to look for, such as a stop sign, traffic light, or sometimes even a street name. We have pages and pages of these. The navigator tells the drive what to do and when to do it. A great combination for a husband/wife team, if she navigates. It takes constant attention and since the navigator has to also watch the road and the rally computer, it is important to have some way to mark off each direction as it is completed. So, LOTS of colored markers are required. I’ve been known to wear out a marker in a day or two. This is just one page!Africa rally-blog 005

So, my preparations include assembling a clipboard, paper for notes and calculations (some times we have to calculate average speed based on distance and time.) pencils and pens and the required stop-watch  which I set at the beginning of the day or at a restart after a break or lunch. A second stop watch is used to time intervals on a timed trial during which you are given an average speed to drive. Then of course there are snacks and water to collect since stops are few and far between.

3. Visas : This time we needed visas in advance only for Zimbabwe. Our passports are really getting filled up since we already have visas for China, Russia and Kazakhstan.  Fortunately Zimbabwe has an embassy in Washington D.C. and were very prompt on returning our passports. Ed hates to be without one. It is the only time he becomes claustrophobic.

4. Medical prepartion: Lots of vaccinations were “suggested” . We succumbed to those for hepatitis A, tetanus and typhoid. Perhaps the most important thing is medicine to prevent malaria, since all these countires are considered high-risk destinations. We added appropriate repelent with DEET to ward off mosquitoes and other biting things. Apparently there is no prevention for elephant , rhino or lion attacks-just common sense.  Our personal first aid kit-not the standard issue- medical kit

will contain all the OTC meds for yucky stuff that can come with change in diet and exposure to other travelers’ woes.  Nuff said.

5. Clothing:in Paris.jpg We have limited space in the car and we must be able to carry everything with us, so clothes that can be washed and dried quickly are essential. Here we are still in rally clothes when the World Race ended in Paris, 2011.

I’ve learned the bathtub shuffle. It goes like this. Put the stopper in the tub before you shower. Add clothes, and detergent and while naked-you’ll have to use your imagination here- shimmy in a figure 8 while visualizing a washing machine agitator. Wring out in a towel-after you dry off. Hang on the shower rod. Dry by morning.  

I think this just about covers it. More from the road,

Stewball in water


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Preparing for Africa Rally-Ed’s perspective

Classic safariOn April 26, we begin our trip to Cape Town for the Classic Safari Challenge organized by Endurance Rally Association ( in England. We will drive approximately 5,000 miles (on the British side of the road) through South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia. We shipped Stewball, our 67 Beetle, from Port Wentworth, Georgia on Feb. 28. It’s been more than a month but we haven’t heard that it has yet arrived in Cape Town. The rally doesn’t start until May 1, but it takes us two days to fly to Cape Town and then we attempt to get over our jet lag and pick up the cars from the dock on April 30. We are often asked what do you do to prepare for a rally? So, here is my perspective.

All rallies have somewhat different rules, but to enter in the classic category in this event, the car had to 1967 to 1947. Cars earlier than 1947 enter the vintageant category. There is a 1925 Hupmobile and a 1926 Bentley. We had already driven our 1967 VW Beetle in three other rallies, the Great Race in 2007, the World Race in 2011,( from NY west to Paris-14,000 miles) and the Trans-American Rally (NY to Alaska) in 2012. This car has proven to be a reliable and inexpensive car to service and drive. (As long as you don’t add in the cost of shipping to South Africa, which costs more than our two round-trip flights.)Africa rally-2014 006

The Beetle with its rear engine and rear-wheel drive seemed like a good choice for the road and weather conditions we might face. In truth, we don’t know what we will face. It is the beginning of winter in the southern hemisphere and we know we will cross several mountain passes and the Kalahari desert in Botswana. The ‘67 has a 12 volt electrical system and we have a 1600 cc engine. I have owned three Type 1 VWs and two Karmann Ghias. During the competition, I have to do most repairs and service myself. There is a support crew along, but each team is expected to take care of normal maintenance. For me, that most likely means at least one oil change and valve adjustment. A fast car is not the goal, a reliable one is. This is a rally, an endurance time and distance precision event, with surprise check points, not a race. But the Beetle is too slow to win anything.

From previous rallies I knew that preparation is the key to endurance driving. I had every system gone over by my VW guru, Bob Hicks of Hick’s VEd and BobW Service in Durham, North Carolina who only services and repairs air-cooled VWs.

I  made several modifications which were allowed. Previously I had replaced the engine with a 2005 new 1600 cc South American engine and added the required fire extinguisher, tow rope, warning triangle, first aid kit, medical kit (okay, so this isn’t the standard one) and mat to catch any drips from the car when parked. I took out the back seat, made boards to cover the floor and batteries and with Bob’s input assembled the spare parts I thought I might need. In the U.S. these parts are available new (which is one reason the Beetle is inexpensive to drive. No need to fabricate parts). I felt this was good money spent. My list includes; carburetor, fuel pump, distributor, generator, plugs, fan belt, control cables, jacks, and two tires. Each car had to carry a driver and navigator and everything we need for the trip.

I made four other modifications. Great Race Inc. required a super accurate (expensive) NY to Alaska 001rally speedometer.  Fortunately it fit exactly in the space where my standard VW speedometer fit. I have maintained it for all events since then. The preferred place for the magnetic pick-up is on the drive shaft but since the Beetle doesn’t have a drive shaft, I cemented it on one of the rear wheel rims. We are required to have two spare tires so I mounted a second pick-up on one of the spare rims so that if I had to change this tire, I will still have working speedometer. (Worth noting: I never have had to change a tire on any of our events so far. Cross your fingers that my luck holds.)

Endurorally requires all cars to have a rally computer. I bought and installed a Terratrip NY to Alaska 008computer that is calibrated for time, and total and interval distance. The instrument is mounted on the dashboard. I didn’t have a lot of choice for the location since my dashboard is small. I placed it as much as possible in the line of sight for the navigator. The probe senses from the left rear wheel and it was complicated trying to figure out how to mount it. I finally chose to attach it with JB Wells glue but it came loose on the Trans-American Rally and the mechanics had to reattach it in a more permanent way.

photo 3Mud flaps for all four wheels are required. I chose to install these myself. This turned out to be a much bigger job than I anticipated. The mud flaps were designed only for the back wheels so I had to fabricate a bracket to hold them on the front wheels. I only later discovered the mud flaps on the back make it much harder to adjust the engine valves. World Race 2011 988

Endurorally also requires harnesses for driver and navigator. photo 4How to attach them also presented a challenge. There is just so much room in a Beetle. I’m not convinced how much safer these make us as we do not intend to drive at speeds or in a style that make them necessary. But we meet the requirements.

The next modification was for fuel. Because of the remoteness of some of the route, I need to pay attention to the possibility of water and other contaminants in the fuel. (On one stop, in far west China, on the World Race, 2011, the attendant had to start his generator to pump fuel. I visualized the sludge stirring up from the bottom.) I purchased a funnel that separates gas from water and particles. We need to carry a spare gas can since there may be as much as 300 mile intervals between fuel stops. I am not sure what octane we will find, but I know from previous events in rural China and Kazakhstan our car was very forgiving. We know that road conditions will vary and many are gravel. While it is recommended but not required, I did not add a skid pan or raise the car for additional road clearance. In past events, I regretted this only once when we encountered the worst road conditions imaginable in China. Along with the other cars, I negotiated this 140 miles slowly and with a great deal of anxiety.

TNY to Alaska 281he final major modification was to upgrade the cooling system. I installed a Doghouse type oil cooler that did not blow on #3 cylinder and a larger cooling fan. Everyone seems to have a different opinion on air-cooled VWs and overheating. But I have had problems with overheating in very hot weather or under conditions that stressed the engine-such as climbing to 10,000 feet. I found that opening the engine compartment each time we stopped helped a great deal.

No matter how well we prepare, problems occur for which I do not have repair or replacement parts. Here are a couple of examples from previous events that required inventive solutions. I had windshield wiper problems on two previous events and I had to stop and tighten the screws several times, usually during a downpour and finally on the Trans-American Challenge, 2012, the wiper shaft with the crank on the driver’s side broke. With some inventive help from our support crew we designed a temporary repair by hooking the two wipers blades together so that the wiper on the passenger side could drive the driver’s side. photo 6   I had parts shipped to our hotel in Memphis, Tennessee and spent the greater part of our day off replacing this. This time I have windshield wiper parts along.

The second problem was a broken headlight. This happened in Russia on The World Race in 2011. In Russia, by law every car must have two working headlights which you are required to burn day and night. With help from our Russian translator, we found a restoration shop outside of Kazan, and our gracious hosts took a headlight off another vehicle and replaced our broken one with one labeled “Made in the USSR”. World Race 2011 1227

Like all car buffs around the world, they would take no money for their effort and in fact served us tea and cookies while we waited.  Again, this time I have a replacement headlight. But of course neither of these problems will happen a second time, it will be something else.

The last things I had to do were to attach the rally plates front and back. Again, on the Beetle, the problem is space. I finally decided to attach the back one with industrial strength Velcro. Let’s hope it stays in place. The front one is attached to the front bumper as I have done previously.Africa rally-2014 016

Finally we were ready to tow the car to Port Wentworth just north of Savannah, Georgia. Africa rally towingThis went without incident and I actually drove the car into the 027container and supervised the tie down. I had requested this since when the car was shipped back from Alaska in 2012, someone had placed the tie down over the brake line and when it was off-loaded, I had no brakes. We will pick up the car from the port in Cape Town and I don’t want this to happen there.

Tomorrow, Jan will write her vision of preparing for a rally. It won’t have the personal details.


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Fog and more fog


G Dock  Feb. 16, 2014. We’re back and Sable is in her new slip at Halifax Harbor, Daytona Beach, Fl.  Now I know you northeast cruisers are used to fog, but it is rare in the south and we don’t have radar, or much experience with it.

023We had crossed from Bimini to Ft. Lauderdale on Jan. 28 under nearly ideal conditions-except no wind. However, we’d rather motor with flat seas than challenge the Gulf Stream banging in to waves and wind. So motor it was. 002

Our crossing was fast and smooth and the following day we did the run up to N. Palm Beach on the outside, avoiding the ICW and some 18 bridges. The weather only got bad-rain and fog-as we got into Lake Worth.

For some reason we still think entering Lake Worth from the ocean is a good idea. The entrance is straight forward, jetties on both sides, but I actually can’t remember a good entry. Last year we entered in the dark and encountered a huge dredging operation without lights and no warning on the radio. That was a challenge. This year, it was rain and fog, making for poor visibility. The chartplotter is a wonderful help, but with all the boats at anchor around Peanut Island, you still need to be able to see.

Our real delays with fog didn’t start really until we reached Melbourne, just two days away from our home port. We woke up on Feb. 2 intending to leave at 7:00 but we had fog so dense we couldn’t see the first set of markers in the channel going out of the marina. There was no wind so the fog stayed.We finally were able to leave the dock at 9:50. Fortunately we had a short day.

Then Titusville. This would be our last day and we were eager to leave at first light so we would have time to begin to off-load the boat to start home by car early the next day. We had an email saying we needed to have our 67 Beetle in Savannah to load for his trip to Cape Town, S. Africa sometime around Feb. 17. As much as we didn’t want the sailing to end, we were excited about this next adventure. 

We woke to a bit of light fog in the distance, but no problem leaving the marina.  We threw off the lines at 7:10. it was a different story in the ICW. As soon as we cleared the marina harbor and turned north, the boats at anchor made a beautiful eerie photos in the fog. photos 313


photos 316But soon this was all we could see off the bow.

Again, the chartplotter showed the markers, but we could hardly see them until we were on top of them. No good. This stretch takes you across a wide section of the Indian River and through the Haulover canal. There are rocky jetties both entering and exiting the Haulover canal and a bridge that opens on demand in the middle of the canal. The Indian river is wide but very shallow and only a couple of spots to safely anchor on either side out of the channel. I phoned the bridge tender to see if the fog was better or worse in the canal. She told me how little viability she had and at 8:12 we dropped anchor near a small island just off the ICW where the channel turns 317

 I fixed another cup of coffee for each of us and we sat in the cockpit in silent fog, air horn in hand in case there were other over-eager boaters who had come out in this fog. Not surprising, there was no one. Finally at 9:30, we pulled up anchor. It was still foggy, but not quite so much and we needed to move on to make Daytona. By the time we hit the canal, the fog had completely lifted which was a good thing, because this is a favorite fishing spot for small  boats and even on a clear day, they do not watch for boats navigating this canal.

All’s well that ends well and we were tied up in our new slip at 3:30. We didn’t do much except go out to dinner. Fatigue from the tension of the day had set in and we both were quite willing to wait until the next morning to begin to off-load.

photos 290This ends our blogs about Bahama sailing until next season. We intend to blog our trip to Africa and of course the next steps in our writing.

Jan and Ed on Sable.


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Anchoring out on the Grand Bahama Bank

Jan. 27, 2014: This post will mean more to those who have read the first chapter of Night Watch. I posted a draft of it on this blog some time ago. Hopefully, I can find it in the archives and direct you to it.

023We arrived in Bimini after a night out on the Grand Bahama Bank which Carter describes in Night Watch,as a magical and mysterious expanse of water, never more than twenty feet deep. A night when the wind dies and the seas calm are rare. Too often the wind comes up and the seas bounce the boat around, causing the cruisers to pull up anchor and head for Chub Cay or Bimini on too little sleep.

For us, it started just this way. The sea was flat. 002We left Nassau for Chub Cay but as the day progressed it seemed possible to do the run straight to Bimini, anchoring on the Bank for the night.  Part of  our decision to do this was because we have a weather window on Tuesday to cross to the U.S. and we didn’t want to miss it.

Just as Carter did, we stopped short of the Mackie Shoal light, and went off course a safe distance from the shipping channel to Nassau, thus avoiding a collision with a freighter while we slept.

008Like Carter, we watched the red ball sink on the horizon and the stars come out, absorbing the silence and remoteness. There was not another boat as far as we could see. It’s a bit of an eerie feeling. Very alone.

As we dropped anchor and turned on our anchor light, we talked about Kat and what she must have felt when she was swimming for her life. She kicked off her shoes and oriented herself toward what she had to believe was the light of a sailboat and not a bright star near the horizon. It was her only chance. Trying to calm the panic rising in her chest choking off her breath, she repeated; It is a sailboat, it is a sailboat, matching her chant to her strokes.

Our only disruption in the night, was the noise of the water slapping the hull as the wind and seas came up. Ed was up three times checking the anchor and our position on the chartplotter. Finally at 4:45 we gave up, made coffee, pulled up the anchor and were under way by 5:20.

This ends our cruise for this winter. We have very mixed feelings, but we have a new travel adventure to look forward to and we need to get back to ship our car to Africa for the rally. We will be back next sailing season. We know, we’ve seen the rainbow, ask any Bahamian, it means you will return. 003

Jan and Ed on Sable

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Nassau and Points South

Jan. 11, 2014. Cruisers either seem to love Nassau or hate it. We’re in the  “love it” group.008 We dock at Nassau Harbor Club and enjoy seeing Peter, manager,dockmaster and friend. Right across the street is East Bay Shopping Center with a Starbucks, Fresh Market, video store (where you can buy most any new release for $5.00. Copyright laws are non-existent.) Mailbox, Radio Shack, and pharmacy. Within walking distance are three marine supply stores and the Poop Deck poop deck outside.jpgrestaurant. What’s not to like-other than the traffic and taxi drivers.  So before departing for the Exumas, we enjoy good dining and can provision with most anything we want.

Windfinder said Monday (Jan. 6)would be the best day for the 6 hour run to Highbourne, but Sunday morning looked better than forecasted so we shoved off. Those who patiently waited were wise.

We now have a new criteria for judging waves and wind. No traditional sea heights and wind speed, we use the cabin-top slammer scale.  We discovered last year that the companionway hatch cover slams back and forth in rough seas. Ed put a stop on it, but it still can move about 3 inches, slamming forward and back. It takes a few additional slams after a wave particularly steep hits us. Just let me say, this was a 6- slammer day.  That’s a 6 out of 6-so far.

We headed for Highbourne Cay with its famous Spring. They assigned us a slip that required some tricky maneuvering-sort of a 90 degree turn to port which sailboats don’t do too well. Sailboats move in arcs, not angles. Getting out was just as tight but Ed managed fine. One night and  we were on to Staniel Cay.

More later,

Jan and Ed on Sable


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The End of Everywhere

Jan. 10, 2014. My sister’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Jill!

013The last blog I wrote we were still in the Abacos. Most of the problem has been poor internet connections. Now we are in the southern Exumas, at Farmers Cay, our turn-around point. This really isn’t the end of everywhere, but it is a very remote cay and settlement.  017I have a pretty good internet connection and a couple of days while waiting on weather. I’ll pick a few highlights along the way and hopefully  I can post photos as well.

Little Harbor, Abaco to Spanish Wells. Dec. 30:  We wanted to make this run in daylight. We’re too old for overnights. This time of year we only have 10 hours of daylight and the run to Spanish Wells on Russell Island just north of Eleuthera, takes just that long. 007We were in Hope Town, Abaco, a lovely stop, waiting for a 2 day window. One day run to Little Harbor, an anchorage just inside the most southern passage from the Sea of Abaco to the Atlantic ocean. We had a fair forecast for the first day, then a good one for our ocean passage to Spanish Wells the second day. We cannot get into Little Harbor except half-tide on a rising tide. This day the tides were with us to go in about 4:00 pm and out the next morning at day-break. We had read and heard lots of great things about Little Harbor, but for us it was underwhelming. 001Most likely because of our short stay on a mooring. We didn’t go to Pete’s Pub where everyone seems to gather based on the number of dinghies at the dinghy dock. We didn’t want to inflate our dinghy since we would have to deflate it for our next day ocean crossing.

The worst part of the stay was trying to pick up a mooring ball. It was not all my fault. The anchorage was choppy and we had wind to contend with. The first one I tried to hook  I couldn’t find the line and hooked the eye at the top of the mooring with our already bent boat hook. Try as I did, even Ed left the helm to try, we couldn’t get it off and finally left the book hook attached. Seemed a proper sea burial for it. No photos here. Too busy.

The second one, the line came off and after a third try, I admitted this was not going to happen. By now I was standing on the deck shouting at a guy passing in a dingy who took pity on this grey-haired sailor and came by and handed me the line for the mooring ball. Piece of cake when you have help. I haven’t done this in years and won’t do it again. We are skilled at docking but not at picking up a mooring line.

The morning we left, we listened to the Cruiser’s Net. For those of you who don’t know, many areas (Abacos, Exumas, Nassau, etc.)report weather, sea conditions and social events on VHS radio at a given time each morning. Anyone can call in and make comments at the end of a broadcast.  Well, this day made the news! The Abaco Net asks each morning for conditions of all the passages from the Sea of Abaco to the Atlantic. When they came to the Little Harbor passage, the reporter said. “One sailboat went out and it looked like they were pretty well powered out.” That would be us on Sable powered up and battling the waves in the inlet. We did the run to 020Spanish Wells in good time, wind on the nose and moderates seas.

Jan and Ed on Sable


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