The first of many wipe-outs as he got used to wearing shorts and flip-flops
We’ve now survived our first month on the water! Things are starting to feel more like home around the boat and we are slowly uncovering all of the mini-projects that will be keeping us busy over the next few months. All of us are adjusting fairly well, but it feels like we’re all toddlers learning how to walk again on the boat.
My knee-eye coordination is somewhat lacking
Living on a moving object tends to be more dangerous than you’d think…especially for the less coordinated like myself. Going on and off the dock seems to be my most precarious for me, as I tend to misjudge the height of the stanchions and give my knees a solid beating. The first week on board I was sure that Dan or I were going to give ourselves a concussion with the number of times we both hit our heads on various areas of the boat. We didn’t end up with one, but Dan did procure our first boat-related broken toe as he slipped while getting into the cockpit. Chock that one up to getting our sea legs, I guess.
Judging by the nasty color of Dan’s toe, we’re pretty sure it broke.
Carter’s had his own injuries from our new life. He is still adjusting to losing the extra protection of always wearing pants. His knees were in pretty rough shape after his first few high speed wipe-outs in shorts. He’s started to get more cautious about his running speed on uneven surfaces, but not without learning the lesson the hard way a few times.
Battle wounds from the kamikaze fire ants
Last weekend, we went out to Indiantown to get another few boxes off of the trailer (almost done unpacking!). As we were walking back to our car, Carter suddenly let out a panicked cry “Mommy! Ants!” He had stomped his way right into a fire ant hill and the ants were on a mission to get him off. And they didn’t say please. Dan grabbed Carter and started swatting off any ant he could see as Carter was crying “get them off, get them off!” Those little guys really held on tight too. We finally got all of them off and Carter’s clothes thoroughly checked before I was able to talk to Carter about it.
“Carter, did you know you were stepping in an ant hill, honey?”
“Yea, I did.”
“Why did you step on it? Those ants didn’t like that very much.”
“I just wanted to help them make their hole bigger, Mommy. It was too small.”
My poor, sweet little boy.
Dan going up the mast for the first time after borrowing a neighbor’s block and tackle.
Over the last 3 years of planning, Dan and I have talked with multiple cruisers in person and through email, getting A Little Help from our Friends. Everyone we talked to was more than willing to help us in whatever way they could. It’s only logical that we would see the same kind of spirit in the community once we started living aboard, but to be honest we have been awed by the help we’ve received in these first few weeks aboard. It’s amazing how magnanimous people can be towards complete strangers simply because we are now part of the boating community.
As I mentioned in The First Move, Dan and I received our first taste of the friendliness of boaters as we were entering the marina in Stuart. Since we were coming in after hours, there were no marina employees available to help us pull in but we got expert help from other boaters instead. I honestly don’t know if we would’ve made it into our slip safely without the help of Jim and Sandra on Alpha Lady and Gary and Georgette on Two G’s. As we all started introducing ourselves, Georgette brought her cats out and Sandra mentioned that she had been looking for a new cat since their last one had passed a year before. We instantly brought out our cat, Nala, who we had been looking to find a new home for since we had accepted Dan’s new job. She was a good cat, but 2 dogs, a cat, and a 3 year old on a boat was just too much for me to handle. Sandra and Jim instantly fell in love with her and told us that if we were really serious, to bring her over to their boat later that night with whatever cat paraphernalia we wanted to get rid of.
We were serious and after grabbing dinner and talking to Carter about the situation, brought Nala over to Alpha Lady (a beautiful 61 foot 1981 Hatteras). Nala would certainly be living in luxury here. Jim and Sandra invited us to stay for drinks and I’m glad they did. After the stress of the day, we were nearing the end of our rope. In fact, if it weren’t for the ability to relax with them and laugh off the crazy events of our car that morning and our difficult parking I believe that we may have thrown in the towel that night. Luckily, we’re still moving and were treated to even more kindness by others through out the next week that we stayed in Stuart.
Gary and Georgette on Two G’s were incredibly helpful to us as well. They were parked in the slip directly next door and generously offered their help on multiple occasions. We decided after Friday night on Alpha Lady that we would stay in the Stuart marina until we could hire a captain to help us move the rest of the way to Lantana. However, that left us with the problem that we had no car to get Dan to work on Monday. We had spent Thursday night dropping off our Jeep in Lantana since we believed we would only be in Stuart for one night and we left our Scion in Indiantown. Gary and Georgette graciously offered us the use of their car to go pick up our Scion so that we didn’t have to rent a car for the day. Multiple times during the week Gary helped me to load and unload Carter and the dogs while Dan was at work and even went snorkeling to help me find my keys that I dropped next to the dock! That’s way above the typical neighborly friendliness that I’ve been accustomed to in the past!
Dan was able to help our neighbor in Lantana park his boat as others had done for us in Stuart.
We are very happy to be a part of a community that looks out for each other and was so quick to include us. We hope to be able to “pay it forward” to others in the future.
Carter is quickly becoming climatized, it was 85 degrees in this picture!
Even with our bad luck on a Friday, Dan and I still decided to leave for Stuart after lunch that day. We really wanted to be able to reach Lantana before Monday when Dan’s new job would start, especially since we had already dropped off one of our cars there on Thursday night. We prepared ourselves (again) to leave and shoved off with some help from the marina worker. As the boat started reversing, however, Dan quickly realized that he had underestimated the power of prop-walk when reversing a large boat. While we had read about it before, we had never experienced the effects ourselves and so were not really prepared for how to deal with it properly. Dan quickly adjusted his plan for getting out of the marina safely and got us into the canal, but we realized that we were going to have problems at the end of the day getting the boat stern-to the dock.
The water really starts pouring in quickly
Before we could worry about that we had the locks to transit. As we got within approximately a mile from the locks, we radioed in to let them know we were coming. We were somewhat surprised when the reply was a sarcastic “I can’t see you yet.” Apparently, at the St. Lucie Locks they won’t even respond to information until you are within sight of the operator. Luckily, everything still went quite smooth once we got into the locks as we had hoped when watching the previous day. The only negative about going through the locks was the dramatic decrease in wind when you are inside. The drop in wind and requirement that everyone be wearing life-jackets made for a very hot crew, as we haven’t yet purchased the inflatable PFD’s. After that experience, we certainly can understand why the inflatable kind are so much more desirable.
The view coming up to the Roosevelt bridge
The next obstacle we had was the Roosevelt drawbridge that we had to go through. According to bridge schedules online, the bridge opened every half hour on Monday-Friday. As we were getting close to the bridge, we thought we would have about a 20 minute wait until the next opening, so Dan slowed us down quite a bit in order to come to the bridge right at the opening time. About the time that we were coming into full slight of the bridge, we could hear over the VHF radio another boat requesting the bridge to be opened. The operator responded that he could open it but that a train would be coming through soon and he didn’t have control of when the secondary train bridge would close. We had no idea we could’ve just requested the bridge to be opened and we definitely didn’t want to wait for the train, so Dan threw the throttle down to try to beat the clock. We radioed the operator to let him know we were coming and he assured us he would keep his bridge open for us but again warned that he had no control over the train bridge, but it “wasn’t moving yet”.
Let me just say that you should never be in a hurry on a sailboat. Even going as fast as our engine would push us, we were definitely moving at less than 10 miles an hour. Some people joke that taking a sailboat around the world would be faster if you just walked and I can see that they weren’t entirely kidding. In any case, we got past as the lights started to flash announcing the imminent closing of the train bridge. We could now see our home for the evening but still had to figure out how to come into it safely. We had to pass the marina by a fair amount before turning back towards it to stay in the channel; we definitely didn’t want to bottom out after a long day.
As we came around the corner of the docks to get to our assigned slip, we had a moment of panic. The time had come to park the boat, and we were in the inside corner with boats all around…no room to maneuver at all. Amazingly, there were people walking down the docks near our slip who asked if we needed help docking and we accepted. With their help and the help of our new next-door (next-slip?) neighbors, we were able to wrangle the boat into the slip and get her all tied down. Our first journey had come to an end with no damage to life or property. I’d call that a success.