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Posted on Apr 28, 2012 | 0 comments

Meet the Crew: Carter

So why can't I go in again?

Carter is our smallest-in-stature, biggest-in-attitude crew member. I’ll refrain from any 2-going-on-20 cliches, but this kid definitely thinks he is running the show around here (and he might be right!) He loves all things “boy”- trucks, cars, trains, and of course boats a.k.a “buhts” to him. Since he was only about 2 months old, the best way to get Carter to relax has been to take him outside. He will be in a terrible tantrum mood, but as soon as you get him outside he will play peacefully for literally hours.

Carter not only has the love of the outdoors going for him, he is completely obsessed with water. Talk about a boy meant for the ocean. He’ll splash in anything he can find: pools, ponds, dog dishes, and (as a mother I am ashamed to admit) the occasional open toilet. Yuck. He will even pour out drops of juice on the floor just to rub them around on his hands. He LOVES water.

One of our biggest motivations for wanting to live on a sailboat and travel is to give our son the opportunity to grow up with an open mind. To experience humanity instead of being just a passive member of it. To learn by touch and feel instead of by being told. Carter may not want to live on a boat for the rest of his life, and maybe we won’t either, but that’s not our ultimate goal for him. We want him to know that anything is possible, no matter what his horizon is.

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Posted on Apr 25, 2012 | 0 comments

This Isn’t Going to be Easy

After our second time sailing on the MacGregor, Michele and I decided to invite my youngest brother Alex, his girlfriend Stephanie, and my parents along for the ride. It was a bad idea. I guess after our second voyage I was pretty confident and felt that while I had not mastered sailing (if one can even “master” sailing) but I had at least established a foundation upon which to build. The wind was a steady 10-15 knots and gusting above 20… again a bad idea for trip number three. We had learned from our previous experiences when the river drops enough to lower the keel, when it was best to raise the main, etc. All in around 5-10 knots of wind. Not 10-15.

We raised the main too early. By “too early” I mean we weren’t yet in the channel and we couldn’t yet fully lower the keel… again a bad idea. This left us with two choices #1 sail with the keel not lowered far enough or sail with the keel dragging. We decided on not lowered far enough. This allowed us to at least move the boat into the channel at which point we would be able to lower the keel and point to wind. However, perhaps a little to leery of repeating my first sailing adventure, I did not want to go with the wind past the marina as we did in the first voyage. Again, a bad idea. Forcing the boat into the wind with the keel not in the correct position caused the high (for me) wind to push the boat down wind even though we were pointed around 60 degrees off wind. So at this point I have my parents, younger brother and girlfriend, wife, and baby on a boat that is pointed one way yet going another. Enough is enough, I am not too prideful to admit that I am not yet experienced enough to attempt the current circumstances. I decided to cut my losses and return to the marina.

We lower the mainsail and begin (electric) motoring back to the marina. At this point the wind begins blowing at a steady 20 knots. At least I made the decision prior to the wind picking up, right? Now all I have to deal with is a light boat that drafts 11 inches bobbing in 3 feet of water (can’t lower the keel) that is broadside to 20 knots of wind. With a trolling motor. Needless to say direction the bow was pointed had much less to do with the direction of travel than the force of the wind on the side of the boat. Even though we were motoring significantly windward of the marina entrance we ended up 500 or so feet down wind of the entrance. The little motor, while perfect once we are in the marina, was not capable of making headway against the wind. Dismayed, I turned the boat down wind and stopped at the free city boat launches about a quarter mile down river from our marina. The free boat launch lacks most things you would think are necessary at a boat launch… like a dock to stop at so you can disembark and retrieve the trailer. It fell to myself to jump in the water and walk the boat to a safe spot while I walked back to the marina. While I was moving the boat to a safe spot I kicked an underwater rock and broke a toe on my left foot. So let me recap my situation at this point for you, just in case you have lost track of the dismal events… I am standing in three feet of cold, murky water with only a coat, life preserver, and boxer shorts on pulling a boat that is being pushed by the wind, and just broke my toe with my family watching on. Extremely embarrassing. And now I am sharing this story with you… also embarrassing.

This pretty much sums up how I was feeling

I do not share this simply to embarrass myself. I share this story because it truly reminded me how different the cruising life will be from what I am used to. A more experienced sailor would have had no problems whatsoever in 10-15 knots of wind. Matter of fact we saw three other similarly sized boats sailing around. At the low point of the voyage (standing in the muck in my boxers) I couldn’t help but have a moment of introspection… What the hell was I doing?

No one but Michele and I are going to make our dream of cruising become a reality for us. I am acutely aware that there will be times when things won’t work out the way we expect, people will (and already do) think we are crazy, but we are following our dream. The purpose of buying a sailboat now was to learn to sail… and that’s what we’re doing. It’s not always going to be easy.

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Posted on Apr 20, 2012 | 0 comments

Familiar Waters

Sailing right were we are

Recently, Tillerman of Proper Course issued a “writing project” to complete his Top 10 list of best places to sail with one of your own. The challenge was open ended, the destination could be a favorite vacation spot, local secret, or anything in between. When I first read it, I thought “we haven’t really sailed anywhere too exciting” (though our first attempt was fairly exciting in itself even without an exotic destination.) But then I realized that I did have the answer to his question. What is the best sailing destination? It’s wherever your boat is floating right now.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m sure that there are much preferable places to sail a boat than the Illinois River, or some little lake by where you live. But isn’t the point of sailing to just be on the water? Anywhere? To throw off the lines and feel the wind in your face, even if it isn’t tinged with sea salt? Is the joy of the water dependent on the type of sand beneath it? I certainly don’t think so.

We are just beginning our journey to start our lives as cruisers and we still have a long way to go. We’re never going to learn to sail unless we go sailing, and if that means getting our feet wet in the muddy river with a channel hardly wide enough for decent tacking so be it. Sure we’re looking forward to the white sand beaches and trade winds in the future, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t have some amazing days of sailing right where we are, enjoying the same sun setting below the distant horizon.

Those far off destinations might be fantastic, but you have to start wherever your boat is right now… you certainly won’t get there by sitting in front of a computer screen thinking about how nice it would be to be staring down at crystal clear waters in the Bahamas. White sand beaches, crystal clear water, and the trandwinds at your back beat a muddy river any day… just don’t forget that sailing in a muddy river beats sitting at home any day. Where’s the best place to go sailing? Right where you are.

Follow your dreams. Follow the Horizon.

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Posted on Apr 18, 2012 | 0 comments

Mid-Week Musings: High Maintenance

I’ve never been the girl who spends hours in the bathroom or at the mall. In fact, most days I can be ready to leave within about 20 minutes of waking up (or at least I could before I had to prepare a miniature person too.) If I’m really being honest, I have nursed a certain pride about how much time and money I’ve saved by not getting my hair and nails done, foregoing makeup most mornings, and wearing the same dry-clean only outfit multiple times before finally giving it away.

This year for my birthday, most of my gifts were money/gift cards to clothing stores. Was my family trying to drop a hint? Possibly. Anyway, I went on a general shopping spree for some new summer clothes, including a shirt that I didn’t realize was “hand wash only” until I had taken the tags off and worn it. Ugh. Rule #1 of clothes shopping: don’t buy anything high maintenance!

And then it hit me: my whole life is about to become high maintenance! Every article of clothing will suddenly become one of two options: hand-wash or no-wash. Not only that, but all those “maintenance” chores that I hate so much are about to become much more plentiful. If I think laundry,* dishes, and mopping the floor are a pain, what about checking the bilge every morning, varnishing teak, and yearly haul-outs on top of making my old chores harder? Just a reminder that we aren’t planning on going on a permanent vacation, but living a new life, complete with all the chores!

Of course, if I’m gonna do chores, I’d rather do them in a tropical breeze.


*I hate laundry. To me it is the least efficient of all chores: unless you are naked, you will never complete it.

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Posted on Apr 14, 2012 | 0 comments

My Car and I Went Diving

So last weekend I thought it’d be a good idea to put my new SCUBA gear through its paces and acclimate myself to the new underwater goodies… I think God is testing me,  making sure I have enough perseverance to succeed in the cruising life. My first sailing experience on the MacGregor wasn’t exactly encouraging. This diving experience wasn’t either. Let me add a disclaimer that absolutely nothing went wrong with the actual diving, gear, dive safety, anything like that. A lot else went wrong, however.

Some family friends were gracious enough to let Kyle (my middle brother) and I use their backyard rock quarry lake for our shakedown dive. Kyle and I met at my house and laid out our gear, dry tested it, etc before heading to the lake. Once we got to the lake we found out the wet winter had now made parts of the dirt road leading to the lake resemble the Bad Lands of the American west (think canyons, big ones). It’d be a walk. A long one. With SCUBA gear and tanks. We eventually got to the lake and suited up in our shiny new wet suits when Kyle says “Oh shit.” Now, some of you may remember from my first sailing experience that “Oh Shit” seems to follow my preparations for the cruising life. It continued. Kyle had forgotten the bag with his fins at my house. No biggie, our parents were getting ready to leave our family ice cream store down the road. They said they’d be able to drop his fins off for us. What they didn’t say was that it was going to be another 45 minutes. If you’ve never been SCUBA diving just know that you can’t really move without fins on. We finished gearing up and jumped in the water. We figured we could at least try out the regulators (part you breathe from) and the wet suits while we waited. And waited. And waited. You can see me towing finless Kyle in the third picture above. Well after about 30 minutes in 60 degree water we decided to take a break and warm up on the shore (see our sexy photos above or our flickr photostream for more. You might also notice Carter is wearing different pants and shoes in some pictures. He wanted to go swimming too.).

Kyle eventually got his fins and we were able to begin the dive in earnest. We expected cold water and 60 degrees definitely qualifies as cold, but it isn’t too bad with a wet suit on. We didn’t expect to encounter a thermocline at 15 feet down with Antarctica waiting to freeze us out below. For those that don’t know, a thermocline is a steep temperature gradient in a body of water such as a lake, marked by a layer above and below which the water is at different temperatures. WAY different temperatures in this case. I didn’t stay below the thermocline long enough for my computer to register the temperature but I’m guessing low 40’s. It was a bummer, but it was still possible to test out our gear and do some minor exploring in the lake above 15 ft.

My car after trying to wedge some logs under the tire (click to enlarge)

We finished the dive and began drying off. That’s when I realized Kyle wasn’t the only one to forget something at my house before we left for the lake. I had forgotten the bag with my change of clothes and extra towels. My parents were gracious enough to make the hike back to the car and go pick up the bag for me.

Dried off, with new clothes on we head out. Backwards, because there wasn’t enough room to turn around on the road between the cliff and the forest. Then we abruptly stopped. It turns out that I had forgotten to swerve around a 3 foot deep model of the grand canyon and now had my rear passenger wheel hanging in the gap. Glorious. We tried and failed to push, pull, drive, rock, lift, beg, plead the car out of the abyss with no luck. A quick call to my dad and a bruised ego later he had pulled my car out with his truck. Thankfully, European cars have this cool little door on the front bumper that you can hook up a tow hook to. We had fun, we wrecked a car, we froze, etc… what more could you want on a Friday night.

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