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27 March 2017

We're Breezy | Changing Our Bahamas Cruising Plans

Making our way from Indiantown Marina to the St Lucie Lock

“Yeah, we won’t cross over to the Bahamas tomorrow. It’s no big deal. After all, we’re breezy,” Scott said to me the other day as we were sitting in the cockpit of our boat in Lake Worth sipping on sundowners.

I almost snorted my gin and tonic out of my nose when he used the phrase “we’re breezy.” After all, this is a rather stoic guy from North Dakota we're taking about who isn’t known for using flowery phrases like “we’re breezy.” He tends to go with more ordinary phrases like “yes,” “no,” and “it’s okay.” Except when he’s trying to make me laugh. Then he says silly things. Sometimes, he makes silly faces. When he says silly things while making a silly face, that’s even better.

He knew I needed a good laugh because after weeks working on boat projects at Indiantown Marina, we were both really eager to cross over from Lake Worth to the Abacos Islands in the Bahamas. We had been watching the weather and thought we would have a window to make the crossing the next day. And, we probably could have done it. The winds would have been coming from the right direction and the waves would have been manageable. But there were some serious winds due to come in after we made it to the Abacos and we could have been caught out in them without a good, sheltered anchorage to hide out in.

“Silly girl,” I hear you saying. “Why didn’t you just cross to the West End, book a slip in a marina, clear customs and immigration there and hang out until the weather got better before you headed onwards in the Abacos?”

That’s a really easy question to answer:

We’re cheap. Why pay for a marina when you can anchor for free?

We toyed with the idea of making the crossing, skipping Mangrove Cay (because it doesn’t provide much protection) and heading to Great Sale Cay where we could get protection from northerly winds. It sounded great in theory, but we worried that the anchorage would be full and we’d be out of luck as there’s no bailout option nearby.

We also toyed with the idea of trying to outrun the weather and keep going past Great Sale Cay and trying to make it to another anchorage further along the Abacos. But trying to outrun weather on very little sleep wasn’t really appealing. (Last time we crossed, it took us 21 hours to reach Mangrove Cay and getting to Great Sale Cay and beyond would have added on many more hours to our passage.)

After talking that all through, we decided to “be breezy” and change our plans. As much as we both wanted to get over to the Bahamas as soon as possible, we opted to skip the Abacos and head further south to the Miami/Key Biscayne area to wait for the next weather window and cross over to Bimini instead.

It’s actually a clever phrase he used – “we’re breezy” – because it actually all comes down to the wind. Too much wind from the wrong direction is a bad thing. That’s the thing about cruising – you’re not really in control, nature is.

As we continued to sip on our sundowners that night, we talked about how much this reminded us of our cruising days in New Zealand. There were many, many days when we were stuck in anchorages or had to change where we were headed to because of the weather.

So that’s where things are at with us. After leaving Indiantown Marina, we spent our first night anchored west of the St Lucie Lock (having missed the last lock of the day), then made our way the next day down to Lake Worth and hung out for a couple of days waiting to cross to the Abacos. It will be interesting to see where we end up next. Will we make our way down to Miami/Key Biscayne and cross to Bimini? Or will we do something completely different? All I know is that no matter what we end up doing, we’ll try to be breezy about it.

Derelict boat seen on the way to the St Lucie Lock.

Our first night at anchor at the St Lucie Lock.

Macshack - a boat we know from Indiantown Marina, tied up at the campground across from the St Lucie Lock.

Tickety Boo with her headsail up.

Cruising Log | Thursday, 9 March 2017 – Sunday, 12 March 2017

9 MARCH
Left Indiantown Marina at 2:10 PM with a fabulous sendoff from our friends. Anchored at St Lucie Locks at 5:20 PM. Stuff broke. Nautical Miles = 12. Engine = 3 hrs 30 mins

10 MARCH
Anchor up at 7:15 AM, went through locks at 7:30 AM. Easy peasy. Put up headsail on St Lucie River and turned off the engine. Yay, Tickety Boo remembers how to sail. Can’t say as much for me. Thought about anchoring at Peck Lake, but too crowded. Lots of bridges between Stuart and Lake Worth. Bridges are annoying, especially when you miss the opening by minutes. Anchor down in Lake Worth (south of Peanut Island) at 6:00 PM. More stuff broke. Nautical Miles = 41. Engine =  9 hrs 45 mins. Spending = Nil.

11 MARCH
Lazed about. Tried to fix the stuff that broke. More stuff broke. Got organized for the crossing. Nautical Miles = 0. Engine = 0 hrs. Spending = Nil.

12 MARCH
Dragged anchor at 10:15 AM. Reset anchor at 10:30 AM. This was the first time that we’ve ever dragged anchor. Not a whole lot of fun. Crazy winds and current at Lake Worth. The windlass decided to start working again. Then it decided to stop working again. Stupid windlass. Decided not to cross to the Abacos. Nautical  Miles = 0 NM. Engine = 0 hrs. Spending = Nil.

Do you like it when your plans change due to things outside of your control (like the weather)? Are you breezy about it?

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24 March 2017

Cost Of Living Aboard Tickety Boo | February 2017


It’s time for our regular cost of living update, which I've been doing every two months. We've been tracking how much it costs to live aboard our Moody 346 sailboat, S/V Tickety Boo, at Indiantown Marina in southern Florida, where we were initially laid up during last hurricane season and where we're currently living while we finish up some boat projects before we head off to the Bahamas for the season.

Because we headed off cruising in March, I'm closing out this series of posts with our expenses from February. I'll then do a round-up of our cost of cruising in Florida and the Bahamas once we're back in the States for hurricane season.

You can find links to other cost updates from ourselves and others on this page, as well as on The Monkey's Fist. If you want to know the details of how much we spent over the past two months, have a look below.

Cost of Living Aboard | February 2017

Overall, we spent $3,653 during February which is a lot of money, but isn't all that surprising given our long list of boat projects.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty details of what we spent, here are a few things to note:

1 - All costs are in US dollars.

2 - Not all expenses are included - here's what we've left out:

(a) We don't report how much we spend on alcohol. I remember reading some horrible, judgy comments in a blog post a few years back about how much someone spent on booze, so I left it out when we first started tracking our cruising costs back in New Zealand. For consistency's sake, I've continued to leave it out when tracking our cruising and RV costs.
(b) We haven't included costs related to storing our Scamp travel trailer ($21 per month) because we track the cost of our RV and cruising adventures separately.
(c) We've also left out our costs for medical insurance. We didn't think it made sense to include insurance costs as they can vary so widely depending upon your nationality, where you cruise, what level of coverage you want and can afford etc. In case you are curious, while we're back in the States, we do have insurance through the health insurance marketplace (aka ACA/Obamacare), primarily to protect our assets and cover us in case of a catastrophic medical condition. We renewed our policy for 2017, but as things are up in the air following the election, we'll have to wait and see what happens with coverage this year.
 3 - I've included any shipping and taxes we've paid in what we report. Florida has a 6% sales tax. Boo.


GROCERIES | Total = $763

This category includes everything we put in our bodies in terms of food and drink (excluding booze) that we prepare ourselves. It doesn't include things like paper towels and ziploc bags, which I know some people would classify as groceries. Sure, you could probably eat them, but they wouldn't taste very good.

This is a lot more than we usually spend each month, but we did a final provisioning run before heading to the Bahamas. We found groceries to be really expensive last time we were there, so we're trying to stock up on as much as we can.


PERSONAL & HOUSEHOLD | Total = $75

This is the category where we include household things (like paper towels and ziploc bags) and personal hygiene items (like soap and shampoo). We also capture items for the "home" here - like bug spray.


ENTERTAINMENT | Total = $122

In terms of drinks and eating out, this includes everything we don't prepare ourselves, even if we get something to go and eat it back on the boat. We also track how much we spend on books, magazines, DVD rentals and going to the movies in this category, as well as the occasional lottery ticket.


One of the great things about hanging out in Indiantown is that there really isn't all that much to spend your entertainment dollars on. But since Scott has been back, we have been going out to eat a bit more. Plus there have been a couple of times that we've been so tired from working on boat projects that we've gotten a pizza instead of making dinner ourselves.


COMMUNICATIONS | Total = $120

Our cell phone is actually one of our biggest non-boat related expenses. We have a $60 monthly GoPhone plan with AT&T which includes 8GB of data and unlimited calls and texts.


BOAT FUEL | Total = $68


We spent $28 on diesel for our inboard engine and $40 on gas for our outboard engine and our generator.


LPG | Total = $14

We use LPG (or propane) for cooking while we're out cruising. We filled up both of our tanks before heading out.


MARINA COSTS | Total = $593

Keeping Tickety Boo in a slip is one of our biggest expenses. The monthly cost of a slip with electricity at Indiantown Marina for a 34.5' boat is $572.40. The guys at the marina will also come pump out our holding tank on demand - $5.30 for each visit.


BOAT STUFF | Total = $1,791

This category is for all the stuff we've been buying for the boat and repairs and maintenance costs. During February we continued with our spending spree and bought a freshwater hand pump, a new bilge pump switch, some 3-strand nylon line, an auto pilot drive clamp kit, an auto pilot belt, an impeller for our outboard and lots of other bits and bobs.


TRANSPORT | Total = $62

This category is for costs related to our vehicle, mostly for gas to keep it going and drive into the nearby "big city" of Stuart for errands.


MEDICAL EXPENSES | Total = Nil

This category includes medical expenses outside of our monthly insurance premium (which aren't included here - see section on exclusions above), like over the counter medications, prescriptions and things for our medical kit. It also includes the costs of doctors visits and medical tests which aren't covered by our insurance.


OTHER | Total = $102

In this category, we break out how much we spend on clothes and travel expenses. We also include a catch-all miscellaneous group for stuff that doesn't fit neatly anywhere else - things like laundry ($3.25 for a wash and dry at Indiantown Marina). One of the things I bought last month was a new hat with a string on it to keep it on my head when the wind is blowing.


Are you surprised by how much we spent last month? Is it more or less than what you would have expected? Do you track your expenses?

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22 March 2017

Wordless Wednesday | Lines On A Sailboat




Wordless Wednesday is supposed to be about posting a photo(s) without any words. But, I'm a rule breaker, so here are a few words:

1 - People give me disparaging looks when I call these things ropes. We have a lot of them on our boat.

2 - The proper term is "lines." There's an expression that there's only one rope on a boat and that's the one attached to the dinner bell.

3 - Just to make things more complicated, sometimes ropes are called "sheets."

4 - Don't even get me started on all of the other nautical terms I've had to learn. It makes my brain hurt.
   
What words does this picture(s) bring to your mind when you look at it?

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here

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20 March 2017

Morning Coffee | Random Thoughts & Oddities

Image via The Graphics Fairy



Paul at Lat43 does these hysterical Morning Tea blog posts which are a brain dump of whatever pops into his head while he's writing them. I decided to steal his idea. Except, I'm drinking coffee while I write this and he drinks tea, so it isn't really stealing, is it?

So, here we go - all of the random nonsense floating through my head while I sip on my morning coffee.

  • Today, we burn down the boat.
  • You think I'm kidding, don't you?
  • Maybe I am, maybe I'm not. It all depends how this morning goes. We're going to run the final experiment on our solar array (or disarray, as we like to call it). If it goes well, Tickety Boo lives to see another day. If it doesn't, well then you'll know why there's a dark cloud of smoke over Indiantown today. You know, there's dark clouds of smoke everyday here from the sugar cane field burning. No one will probably notice if we add one more dark cloud to the sky.
  • Paul actually started drinking coffee. Nescafe of all things. Melissa from Little Cunning Plan has managed to draw another person into her mysterious cult of instant coffee. 
  • What do you think we should drink at our boat burning party? Beer, wine, gin or all three?
  • We'll have to remember to get the important stuff off of our boat before we burn it, like our passports and the secret stashes of cash I have squirreled around the boat.
  • I hide cash in very clever places so that if anyone tries to rob us, they won't be able to find our cash and have to be content with the $20 and expired credit cards we have in our fake-out-the-robbers wallet which we leave on our chart table.
  • The problem with secret stashes of cash is that sometimes I forget where they are. I found $300 hidden away months after we came back from the Bahamas last time. It was a nice surprise.
  • The Bahamian dollar and the US dollar are on par. You can use the two currencies interchangeably. That's very handy for us Americanos.
  • The Canadian dollar has been really weak against the American dollar. That makes the Canadians at Indiantown Marina sad. 
  • The Canadian government is phasing out pennies. They don't have pennies in New Zealand. Pennies are annoying. We should get rid of pennies here. That would make America great again. 
  • My mother taught me that pennies with their heads up were good luck and that you should pick them up. If it's tails up, you should turn it over and leave it so that the next person that comes by can pick it up and have good luck.
  • I put all of the pennies I get in change into an old plastic jar. I think I'll leave them on the boat when we burn it down. 
  • We could use some good luck with our solar array. Maybe I should empty my penny jar out and turn them all heads up.
  • Scott has the headlights on our vehicle on to partially drain our car battery. It's all part of the Last & Best Hope for Our Solar (Dis-)Array Experiment. 
  • We did this before and someone helpfully turned off our car lights. They felt bad later when they realized we had done it on purpose. I told them not to worry and that it was a very thoughtful and good Samaritan thing to do.
  • I hear Scott making more coffee. I've already had enough coffee this morning. I've switched over to water. Later, at our boat burning party, I'll switch to beer, wine or gin. Or all three.
  • I should probably go and witness the Last & Best Hope for Our Solar (Dis-)Array Experiment. Scott is so hopeful that this is going to be the answer. It's either this or our boat is haunted. 
  • Maybe our boat is haunted. That would explain why the chocolate chip cookies keep disappearing.

I wrote this post a week or so before you're reading it. I wonder if the experiment worked. I wish Simon the Time Traveling Cat was around. He could take me forward in time to find out. That way I'd know whether to go to the store and buy streamers and balloons for our boat burning party or if I should start to do a final provisioning run before we head off to the Bahamas.

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17 March 2017

Afraid Of Heights? Mud Dauber Wasps Are The Cure

Do you remember this picture of Indiantown Marina from the top of our mast I posted last week? Let me tell you a little more about this crazy adventure.


The top of our mast is about 46' above the water. Just think about that for a moment. If you fall, it's 46' to the water. That's a long, long way down. You're probably thinking that at least the water would cushion your fall, but remember, these are alligator infested swamps we're talking about. And the water isn't all that deep, so you'd probably smack into the bottom and then get eaten by the gators. Sounds like a fun way to go, doesn't it.

Chances are you'd probably land on top of the deck anyway, crunching a few bones in the process. A marginally better outcome.

You're probably asking yourself, "Why would anyone in their right mind go to the top of a mast? I can think of better ways to spend the day, like spending a peaceful afternoon planting petunias in the garden."

You'd be right. It's an incredibly insane thing to do. Unfortunately, sometimes it has to be done, either to install something (like an antenna), fix something (like an antenna) or check the rigging, which is why I went up.

Now you're probably asking yourself, "How'd you get drafted into this?"

Here's the answer:

"I didn't eat enough cookies!"

While I'm sure my doctor would be happy with that answer, I really wish I had had more cookies in the past few months and put on a lot of weight.

You see, you usually send the smallest person up the mast because someone down below has to crank you up by hand. Scott is 6' tall and I'm 5' tall, with a corresponding difference in weight. That meant I drew the short straw. Yipee.

Here's how it works (you know, just in case you want to try this yourself at home). You sit in a bosun's chair, which is basically a board which you strap yourself onto. It has rings through the front which you tie a line to. I also wore a harness which we tied a safety line to. The idea is that if the line attached to your bosun's chair breaks, your safety line will save you. Such a comforting thought.

Here's what it looks like in action. That's our boat neighbor, Dave, standing at the bow of the boat. Our friend Bruce helped out too (he's hidden behind the mast). And that's Scott on the right hand side. He's camera shy, hence the cute cat head superimposed on him.

Cute cat head via The Graphics Fairy.

Have I mentioned I'm afraid of heights? Fortunately, I found the perfect cure for my feelings of anxiety as I made my way up the mast - mud dauber wasps.

We had had a mud dauber nest on one of our spreaders, but Scott had knocked it down a while back. Turns out he didn't get them all. When I got up to the spreaders (the things that stick out halfway up the mast), I found two mud daubers eying me suspiciously. I think I may have screamed a little at that point.

Now, I know that some of you are going to say that mud daubers are sweet and gentle and wouldn't hurt a fly. But, they're wasps. Wasps! Things that sting and possibly make you have to go to the emergency room because you're allergic to them. Wasps!

 
No wonder I screamed. While I was screaming, I completely forgot about how high up I was. I tried to shoo them away, but they kept coming back. So, I got out my scissors from my pouch and knocked their nest off and then I screamed some more. This time, for Scott to hoist me further up in the air in case they came back for vengeance.

See, mud daubers totally cured me of my fear of heights. I actually demanded to go higher up the mast. Crazy.

Here I am at the very tippy-top.


While I was up there, I tried to take pictures with my phone, but it was all sweaty and I was afraid I was going to drop it. Here's one I managed to take. You can see our boat neighbors, Dave and Anne, along with my finger. We could have sold tickets and popcorn. We put on quite a show for everyone.

That's Scott down there taking pictures of me and having a cup of coffee. Sure is nice being able to chill out and relax while your wife is hanging out on top of the mast keeping an eye out for mud daubers.


And this is me coming back down. I look much happier. Going down is always a better feeling, especially when there aren't any more mud daubers to torment you.

I rarely have pictures of myself on the blog, but I figured my mom is probably beside herself now that she's just read about how I was 46' above the water so I thought I'd throw in a close-up to kind of make it up to her. 


Thanks heaps to Bruce and Michele from Sailing Wind Spirit for taking some of the pictures.

Are you afraid of heights? Have you ever been up a mast? Have you ever been stung by a wasp?

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15 March 2017

Wordless Wednesday | Church In Indiantown, Florida

 
Wordless Wednesday is supposed to be about posting a photo(s) without any words. But, I'm a rule breaker, so here are a few words:

1 - There is a church near the local grocery store in Indiantown, Florida which sometimes has services in a tent outside.

2 - All the signs are in Spanish, so I don't have a clue what they say.

3 - You hear Spanish everywhere you go in town. 

4 - I wonder what they're saying when I'm waiting in line at the store. 

5 - I really should learn Spanish. 
   
What words does this picture(s) bring to your mind when you look at it?

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here

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13 March 2017

Even More Of What The Heck Have You Been Up To? Boat Project Roundup, Pt3

It's time for the final installment of our boat project roundup. I can hear you cheering there in the background. Oh, maybe that's me cheering. I get a little tired of thinking and writing about boat projects. But it's good to get it all down for the record.

If you haven't read our earlier posts and you're dying to know what else we've done to Tickety Boo, check out Part 1 and Part 2 or our boat project roundup.

So here we go, a recap of some of the stuff we've been doing over a nine-week period as we got our Moody 346 sailboat ready to head off to the Bahamas.


Sails & Rigging

You can't get very far in a sailboat if your sails and rigging aren't ship-shape. Unless you like to run your engine all the time, which we don't because it's noisy and uses up diesel. Sailing is quiet and wind is free.

We're sloop rigged, which means we have two sails - a headsail (on the bow of the boat) and a mainsail (which is attached to the mast and flies behind it). We started with getting our headsail setup in shape by tuning up our Furlex furling and reefing system. That involved figuring out what model it is (Type B, Mk I), tracking down a manual, then checking that the Type B, Mk II manual we were sent actually applied to our system (it does, the differences between Mk I and Mk II are minor) and then sourcing the appropriate lubricant (Selden Furlex bearing grease).

Next, we laid out our headsail on the grassy area near our boat to inspect it. We knew it was a rather tired sail when we had stored it, but I kind of forgot how tired it was. There was a lot of restitching to do, as well as repairing the head. We'll likely get a new headsail before next season. Who knows, I might even sew it myself.

We also inspected our mainsail (relatively new and in good shape), along with two other old sails on board (a staysail and a trisail).


Laying out our headsail on the grass to inspect it.

After the headsail was sorted, we put it up. Then we put up our mainsail. It's amazing what a difference it makes when you put your sails back on your boat. Suddenly, you feel like a proper sailboat.

In addition to putting our sails back on, we also put our US flag back up.

After a number of emails to Lewmar to get information on the winches (it's amazing how much time email and internet research takes up when it comes to boat projects), we serviced them. While Scott has serviced winches before, it was my first time. Basically, you strip the thing apart, clean it up, lubricate it and reassemble it. They were so gunky with old grease, it took quite a while to clean them and it was no wonder that they were so stiff.


The insides of one of our winches. That's a box from Defender behind it which we used to put all of the parts in so we wouldn't lose them. We seem to get boxes in from Defender almost on a daily basis.

Last, but not least (especially from my perspective), was inspecting the rigging, including going up the mast. I lost the coin toss. More on this in a future post. They're were mud dauber wasps involved. Not good. Not good at all.

Steering & Navigation

Another one of the what should be routine maintenance tasks was to service the steering system. I say "should be" because we're not sure that this was routinely done by the previous owners. We weren't sure how to access the steering system, so we put a call out to our fellow members of the Moody Owners' Association. The folks there were super helpful, even posting pictures of how to access it through the steering pedestal.


Accessing the steering system chain through the pedestal.

This was a bear of a project. Four of the six bolts holding the plate on top had to be ground off, then drilled out with cobalt bits. Next up was retapping four holes for new screws, followed by servicing the chain, sprocket and wire at the quadrant and the steering shaft. The words I just wrote don't even do this project justice. I could use some other words to describe it, but they would be naughty words and we try to keep things G rated around here.

One of the things I love about Tickety Boo is that she has an autohelm. We had to hand steer our old boat and it could be a drag at times. So much better to set a course, press some buttons and let a machine do the driving for you.

However, the wheel pilot that came with our boat wasn't the greatest, so we bought a new-to-us one. Another one of those projects where you can delude yourself into thinking it's going to be simple. "It'll just drop straight in," we said. Oh, how wrong we were.

We had to realign the stopper shaft on the steering pedestal and put a new shim on it so it would reach. Then the rubber gaskets on the brackets for the wheel had to be drilled so that they'd fit our wheel. Of course, the belt broke during it all. We also had to put on and remove the wheel a gazillion times which takes time as you have to center it. And of course the piece de resistance was dropping a screw that took a half an hour to find.

I don't know why I keep saying "we." Let's be honest, this was all Scott, assisted by some wonderful Canadian boat neighbors. I am good at pouring beer for Scott at the end of the day though. So, see, I helped.

We also got and installed a new compass (there's that "we" again). That was a bit of a palaver in terms of getting it shipped over from the UK in a timely fashion. {Lucy - if you're reading this, I threw in that "palaver" just for you.}

Our old Plastimo compass, desperately in need of replacing

Other Bits & Bobs

There were also lots of other bits and bobs we took care of, some of which were simple and straightforward projects (like removing a trash bag holder from a cupboard so we could store cans in there instead), while other involved hours on the phone or the computer doing internet research (like changing our Boat US insurance policy to a Geico one), and then there were the ones that went like most boat projects do - they take longer than you think (like installing two new Caframo fans - one in our aft cabin and one in our saloon).

We also had some "Duh, how stupid can you be!" moments - like when we couldn't start our outboard after it had been serviced. Turns out that the kill switch keys for outboard motors are different depending on the model. The previous owner of our boat had two different kill switch keys - we used the wrong one.

There's tons of other things we've done, many of which I'm sure I've forgotten. My subconscious probably erased the memories because they were so unpleasant and involve grease, grime and wedging my hand into small spaces with a screwdriver.

Please, tell me I don't have to read anymore of these boring posts

No worries, you don't have to read anymore of these boring boat project posts because I don't want to write any more of them. I don't want to do any more boat projects either. All I want to do is sit in the cockpit of our boat in some quiet anchorage doing crossword puzzles and reading books. And eating cookies too. That goes without saying, I guess.

But we live on a boat and that means three things:

1 - There will always be boat projects.

2 - Your bank account balance will always look depressing.

3 - You'll always have grease and grime under your fingernails.

I bet if you don't own a boat, you can't wait to rush out and get one of your own.

Have you been to the Bahamas or the Caribbean? What did you like the most? Do you enjoy crossword puzzles? How do your fingernails look today - neat and tidy or covered in grease and grime?

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