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Posted on Sep 26, 2014 | 0 comments

Dream vs. Reality

This boat was recently dismasted in an accident involving a drawbridge. I'm sure that's not exactly the dream that the captain imagined.

This boat was recently dismasted in an accident involving a drawbridge. I’m sure that’s not exactly the dream that the captain imagined.

Dan and I are not cut out to be live-aboards. And by that I mean living on a boat in a metro area while working full time. Over the last few months, both of us started to become increasingly disillusioned with our dream of cruising and even started discussing what we might do after cruising was over (something that is decidedly not on a set time-line).  We are living in a small tiny space with 2 and a half people and 2 dogs, fighting crazy traffic every time we try to go anywhere, Dan working worse hours than anytime in his career, 2,000 miles away from close friends and family, and our marina rent is the same price that we were paying for our mortgage, taxes, and insurance on our pre-downsized house! Conclusion: live-aboard city life is definitely not for us.

It’s easy to see why we might be slightly disappointed. However, when we recently purchased a cruising guide for the Bahamas and started planning the beginnings of our trip for this winter, suddenly a huge light bulb turned on. The reason why both of us had been feeling so discouraged was because we had subconsciously equated our current living arrangements with the dream we had been working and saving towards for the last three years, when the goal was still just around the corner! We want to get away from big cities and stressed out, high-speed life, so it makes perfect sense why we weren’t exactly feeling like we’d found ourselves in Paradise yet.

Now that we’ve realized what was causing some of our uncertainty about cruising, we’re able to move forward with our plans for this winter. The more that we read about and plan for actual cruising, the more energized we’re becoming again. A lot of our biggest projects stopping us from leaving are getting wrapped up and the official hurricane season will soon be over. Let’s just say that we’re getting to the point where the To-Do list is partially getting smaller due to completion and partially due to us making strategic decisions like “new cushions or leaving sooner…screw the cushions they’re fine.” Hopefully sometime soon we’ll be rounding that corner into the final stretch before heading out!

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Posted on Aug 27, 2014 | 0 comments

Downsizing for the Boat: Part 2

Some games come in more travel friendly shapes and sizes. This is our Battleship game.

Some games come in more travel friendly shapes and sizes. This is our Battleship game.

In Downsizing for the Boat: Part 1, I talked about how we downsized our big ticket items. Today, I’ll show you something even more critical to living on a boat…entertainment! Board games, DVDs, CDs, and books all have the challenge of taking up a lot of space. I know some people with personal libraries at home that almost require half of their house in shelving (or have to be stored away in boxes)! How do you bring along plenty of entertainment for long days on the water without overwhelming your space requirements?

Most of the books we decided to bring were reference guides of some type.

Most of the books we decided to bring were reference guides of some type.

First, let’s talk about books. I am a total book lover, bordering at times on serious addiction. Someone on an online forum recently asked the question, “Could someone recommend a good short book that can be read in about 2 days?” I couldn’t help but laugh, as I had just devoured an entire series in the past two days. The problem with that habit is buying books is expensive and they take up a lot of space. Luckily, with the advent of the ebook (and libraries renting them) my appetite can be sated without breaking the bank or sinking the boat. Most libraries now have the ability to rent a large collection of ebooks at no charge to members, just make sure you have your account set up before leaving and your library card is not going to expire soon.

Before moving aboard, we went through each book in our physical library and asked the tough question, “Are we going to use this while cruising, or not?” If the answer was no, we attempted to sell it on Amazon and eBay. Most got bought up within a month or so and the rest we donated to our local library. (With the exception of our Harry Potter series. Too big for the boat, but no way we could get rid of a collection we grew up on…it’s now taking up precious space in our 2 trunks left behind.) We have 2-Nexus 7 tablets on board as well as a ink-reader Kindle for reading in bright sun. Ebooks are definitely the way to go whether you pay for them or not, as buying and storing books just doesn’t make sense even on a large boat.

Fitting all of our movies into one case...Inconceivable!

Fitting all of our movies into one case…Inconceivable!

Movies and CDs are a lot easier to downsize, as the main goal is to eliminate the overly large plastic jewel cases and consolidate the discs to a case. Another option is to eliminate the disks all together by transferring all of the movies and songs onto portable hard-drives that you can plug into a computer. We chose to just store our discs in a case since it really didn’t lose a lot of space overall to keep them, plus updating our music collection on our phones (default mp3 player!). One large case and a full recycling bin later and we’ve downsized without actually getting rid of anything. Once again, we couldn’t quite get rid of our collector’s edition Avatar case, because well…its Avatar. So yea.

From all of those boxes into the bags. Saving space has never been easier!

From all of those boxes into the bags. Saving space has never been easier!

Finally, we wanted to bring some board games along, but knew that we didn’t want to store huge game boxes. Luckily, most board games take up very little space once taken out of their original packaging. A few Ziploc bags of varying sizes changed a huge stack of game boxes into one tote bag of fun! Now we have all of our favorite games, i.e. Settlers of Catan, easily available with using up precious space on the boat. All part of the art of downsizing without dumping!

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Posted on Aug 22, 2014 | 0 comments

Downsizing for the Boat: Part 1

Even this set had been paired down by a few pieces before we moved aboard.

Even this set had been paired down by a few pieces before we moved aboard.

One of the biggest challenges when moving into a small space is trying to decide what to get rid of and what to keep. Over the course of our preparations, each time we moved we would slowly eliminate a few more items. Once we moved onto the boat however, we realized that even some necessary items were too big and bulky for storing on the boat. The top storage issues on the boat currently center around cooking and tools. Over the years together, we have gotten into the habit of purchasing high quality tools when needed and have accumulated quite a collection that is hard to downsize due to the amount of money we spent and the fact that we still need some just not all of them.

From sprawling to compact!

From sprawling to compact!

The biggest space consumer was our cookware. Full sized pots and pans just do not work well in tight spaces, regardless of how much you paid for them! We decided pretty quickly that we needed a better solution and decided on a nesting, nonstick cookware set from Magma. Suddenly, we went from filling up a huge cabinet to having all of the pieces in one small package. After a few months of using them, I am still impressed with the quality and the ease of cleaning. At first I thought that having the pieces nested would get annoying, but it really hasn’t been a problem in use.

 

We received this set as a wedding present. Great for a house, not so for the boat.

We received this set as a wedding present. Great for a house, not so for the boat.

This set is perfectly sized for our cabinets...small!

This set is perfectly sized for our cabinets…small!

We also found that our traditional dining dishes were too bulky and heavy, not to mention glass! When we first moved onto the boat we figured that the no glass rule was a little too harsh, but fragile things just don’t survive a moving environment. And so, we have officially replaced the dining set we got as a wedding present with a 4 person camping set from Bass Pro. Because they are designed for campers in mind, the entire set of plates, cups, mugs, and bowls all nest well and fit into our kitchen cabinets much better. We’ve only used them a few times so far so the durability is still unknown, but we like the turned up sides for the plates and the sip-top lids for the mugs for sailing.

The throw pillow in the picture gives you an idea of the size of these babies. Small but mighty!

The throw pillow in the picture gives you an idea of the size of these babies. Small but mighty!

Dan got some new compact tools as well. We decided to replace his large 18-volt set with a new 12-volt set from Milwaukee. The tools and batteries are much more compact and easier to store. While Dan has noticed the reduction in power from his drill, it hasn’t been a big detriment to the jobs he’s been doing. Unlike the kitchen items that we are in process of selling though, we’ve decided to keep his old power tools, but down into deeper storage. That way, if we need one of them in a pinch, we aren’t stuck without a way to fix the boat.

In Part 2, I’ll talk about how we downsized our entertainment items without actually eliminating them.

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Posted on Aug 4, 2014 | 0 comments

Learning the Meaning of Transience

Enjoying an evening with friends.

Enjoying an evening with friends.

Even though Dan and I have moved a lot in the last few years, our trip down the ICW was the first time that we moved our whole “house” with us. It was surreal to climb down onto a different dock and find ourselves in a place that we didn’t know. New neighborhood, new dock-mates, new stores and restaurants to find. We knew coming into cruising that moving frequently was going to become part of our lives, but I’m not sure that we really had understood what that would mean until this move.

Our friend Bill invited us to go fishing with him on many occasions.

Our friend Bill invited us to go fishing with him on many occasions.

The part that I think was the most surprising to us was how sad we where at leaving our old neighbors in Lantana. Though it was a realtively small marina, the community there was very tight-knit. You could find live-aboards enjoying drinks together on each other’s boats almost any night of the week in addition to group gatherings at the marina clubhouse many weekends. Invitations to go out on the water together were common place and always made for a good time.

The ladies of the marina were in love with Carter.

The ladies of the marina were in love with Carter.

We had always read that the cruising life made for fast friends and faster goodbyes, but I think we underestimated what that meant. We’ve quickly learned that everyone has a story to tell and when you share such a large part of your lives in common, the friendships that form defy traditional time lines. The only consolation to leaving so soon is the knowledge that in mobile community of so few individuals, we’re likely to run into our friends again in the future. We look forward to meeting new friends and reuniting with old ones in the future, but also know that leaving will always be a little bitter sweet.

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Posted on Jul 25, 2014 | 0 comments

Traveling the ICW

Horizon docked for the night at Sands Harbor Marina in Pompano

Horizon docked for the night at Sands Harbor Marina in Pompano

Sorry for the long delay in blog posts. No we haven’t sunk, but a lot has been happening around here that was taking up our attention. Foremost among our recent changes is that Dan has taken a new job in Sunrise, Florida which he started Wednesday morning. Subsequently, we decided to move our boat from Lantana to Hollywood. While that only takes about an hour in a car traveling the interstate, the ICW is another story all together.

We finally got into Ft. Lauderdale on the second day.

We finally got into Ft. Lauderdale on the second day.

For anyone who has ever traveled on the ICW by boat, you will remember the number of bridges that cross your path. Unfortunately for us, of the 21 bridges between Lantana and Hollywood exactly 1 of them is tall enough for us to fit under. That meant waiting for 20 drawbridges to open, almost all of them on a set schedule of every half hour. We estimated that in actual travel time at 5 knots (5 nautical miles per hour or approximately 6 miles per hour) it would take us around 6 hours to go the entire distance. In reality, with the bridge openings included our planned total time on the water was closer to around 11 hours.

To help us stay on track, we made a complete list of opening times and approximate speeds. Times on the right were the estimates, times on the left were actual.

To help us stay on track, we made a complete list of opening times and approximate speeds. Times on the right were the estimates, times on the left were actual.

To help us with our planning, we utilized Dozier’s Waterway Guides for the Southern ICW. It was the most highly rated guide by Practical Sailor reviewers and also had good reviews online. The guide proved to be very helpful with bridge schedules and phone numbers (though we were able to contact all of them by VHF radio channel 09), along with additional navigational suggestions and good listings for dockage and anchoring down the entire path. Our original plan was to head out by 6 am on Monday morning and hopefully make it to our new marina between 3:30 and 4:30 in the afternoon. However, when we woke up on Sunday morning and looked at the forecast for Monday, we were concerned about the potential for serious storms on Monday afternoon so we decided to head out Sunday and split the trip into two days instead.

We were able to keep mostly to schedule with one minor exception, we missed our first bridge entirely in the planning, putting us behind a full hour! While the road directly to the South of our marina in Lantana was called Ocean Ave, the actual bridge was called the Lantana Bridge… unfortunately, the very next bridge (an hour drive to the South) was actually called Ocean Ave. While this certainly was disappointing to us, at least it didn’t negatively affect our trip since we were no longer fighting the clock to get in on time the first day. Even our cruising guide was confused, calling both bridges Ocean Ave.

 

It was a little nerve-wracking sharing the water with huge cargo and cruise ships in Port Everglades!

It was a little nerve-wracking sharing the water with huge cargo and cruise ships in Port Everglades!

At least the scenery was beautiful. The houses on the ICW are extravagant displays of wealth and status.

At least the scenery was beautiful. The houses on the ICW are extravagant displays of wealth and status.

Our next boat...

Our next boat…

Overall, our progress was blessedly uneventful…no storms, no engine failure, and no problems docking. A good trip in our book.

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