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Posted on Jun 13, 2014 | 0 comments

Our Bout with Davy Jones

Don't let that innocent smile fool you, this is the face of a master of destruction

Don’t let that innocent smile fool you, this is the face of a master of destruction

Living on the water comes with the inherent risk of losing items to the drink. I just didn’t realize that it was more an inevitability than risk until we moved on board with a three year old and two dogs. Never mind my natural capacity for not paying enough attention to my surroundings (see Getting Our Sea Legs).

Can you tell he's excited about searching the mud for my keys?

Can you tell he’s excited about searching the mud for my keys?

One of the first rules that Dan instituted was “Never have your keys in your hand when getting on and off of the boat.” Alas, he knew me too well. One morning while Dan was at work, I was in the process of getting myself, Carter, and a large bag of laundry off of the boat. As I swung the bag of laundry onto the dock, I released the bag safely…and my car keys right into the water. I was honestly in shock and just stared at the ripples for a few moments before I could even think about anything. Our dock neighbor Gary, who I mentioned in the First Taste of the Cruising Community, graciously attempted to find my keys in the near zero visibility water but wasn’t able to locate them. Now I had to wait for Dan to get home and tell him that I had, in fact, done what he always told me not to do and that now he would have to dive in the disgusting water to find my keys. He only gave me a small “I told you so” and was able to find my keys, along with those of another unfortunate boater from the past.

Oops...

Oops…

On our first day in Lantana, the water and I had a rough time together. It was a beautiful day and so I allowed Carter and the dogs to stay out in the cockpit while I made lunch for us down below. I regularly checked on Carter and would find him looking out and the water or petting the dogs. All was well…or so I thought. What Carter was actually doing was taking every loose item in the cockpit and throwing them overboard one by one to see if they would float. This included our hose nozzle, the dogs’ 2 leashes and water dish.

Gavin after his little "swim" and bath. He had a rough day.

Gavin after his little “swim” and bath. He had a rough day.

I was so angry I could hardly see straight, so I sent Carter to his room before I overreacted and went back to making lunch. That’s when I heard a very strange noise from outside. I went into the cockpit to investigate and found only Winston topside looking straight down off of the transom at the water. Gavin had attempted to jump onto the dock to catch some landing ducks and, as his coordination is about as advanced as mine, fell straight into the water. I quickly climbed down the dock ladder and called him over to me as he sloppily dog-paddled his way around the boat. I’m sure the two of us would have been quite the sight to see as I had to get in waist deep to hoist him out as he flailed desperately trying to get out of the water, which he hates. He was none too happy with me as I had to spray him down with fresh water again.

At least I was able to rescue my shoe!

At least I was able to rescue my shoe!

Our current tally is as follows:

Lost
1 bottle of lemon juice (thrown by Carter)
1 dog dish (thrown by Carter)
2 dog leashes (thrown by Carter)
1 hose nozzle (thrown by Carter)
1 small toy car (accidently driven in by Carter)

Dropped and Recovered
1 fishing net (bumped in by a friend)
1 car key (dropped by Michele)
1 wet dog (jumped/fell in)
1 shoe (knocked off by Michele)

Found
1 car key

I think that makes the score Davey Jones 6: Us 1: Tie 4. We’re hoping to even the score with some fishing and lobster diving in the near future.

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Posted on May 29, 2014 | 0 comments

First Taste of the Cruising Community

Dan going up the mast for the first time after borrowing a neighbor's block and tackle.

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.

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.

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Posted on May 11, 2014 | 2 comments

Our First Week Aboard

Our two cars and trailer in the driveway

Ready to head out on Saturday morning.

Dan, Carter, and I have now officially survived our first week as liveaboards. After 20 grueling hours in the car (plus a nice day-long pit stop in LaGrange, Georgia with Dan’s brother Kyle), we were ready to get onto the boat and start making it our home. Easier said than done we soon realized. In Peoria, we loaded a 5×8 cargo trailer plus our two vehicles with all of our stuff and once we started unpacking quickly figured out that not everything was going to fit on the boat. (This is the point where Dan can say I told you so!) About 60% of what we brought is currently on the boat with us, 20% is still in our cars and trailer, and 20% is now in the Indiantown dump.

Carter standing in front of Horizon

In the heat, we are in a constant struggle with Carter to keep his clothes on!

Indiantown Marina is a great place to store a boat over hurricane season and we met quite a few people preparing their boats for summer storage. It is not, however, a place where we would want to live on any extended basis, as there are almost no amenities in town and the nearest area of interest is a significant drive. Not to mention the friendly neighborhood alligator that liked to hang around our boat waiting for our dogs, cat, or toddler to fall in the water. As you might imagine, we were ready to move on as soon as possible since Dan’s job officially starts on Monday.

Loggerhead Marina

This is where we will be staying once we get our boat moved

To help break up the monotony of unpacking, each day we made sure to get off the boat and enjoy ourselves. Carter had been asking to go to the beach since he first found out we were moving to Florida, so we spent one evening touring our future marina home and heading over to the beach and dinner. The marina is part of the Loggerhead family of marinas that are up and down the east coast of Florida and we have been very impressed with their friendliness and beautiful facilities. Because the same group owns multiple marinas we will be able to stay at the Stuart marina for free on our way to our home base. Here are our top impressions of living aboard after our first week:

  • Organization will be very important for our sanity. We have a lot of storage on this boat compared to others we’ve seen, but it’s still a major adjustment for us.
  • Even after only a few days, going on land makes us all sway a little. After the first night on-board, as we got off the boat Carter stopped and started turning his head in a circle saying “Whoa! Everything is moving Mommy!”
  • Little boys skin their knees a lot more when they don’t have the protection of long pants.
  • Systems on a boat are more different than house systems than we had anticipated. Dan is very handy, but we’re feeling at this point that the learning curve is steeper than we’d hoped. We’re seriously considering hiring an instructor to help us learn our boat better.

We’ve been running pretty much in high stress mode over the last few days but we know that everything will normalize soon once we get settled into our new marina and Dan starts working. Thanks to everyone for your help and encouragement through this stressful process. Let us know what questions you have or share your first week stories in the comments below.

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Posted on Feb 27, 2014 | 0 comments

Review: Mahina Expeditions Seminar

Sunrise on Lake Michigan

We got to the seminar a little earlier than we planned…

 

For the last couple of years, Dan and I had been planning to attend a Mahina Expeditions Offshore Cruising Seminar at Strictly Sail Chicago. We believed that the information we would obtain would be exceptionally helpful to us in preparing for our time cruising, however we wanted to wait until the year that we intended to start so that the information would stay as fresh in our minds as possible. This year we finally decided to pony up our $300, arrange for a babysitter, and spend the whole day in the company of John and Amanda Neal.

So, was it worth the price? I’d say “yes” with a few caveats. First of all, the seminar was extremely well done. The Neals have had more experience on the water than most couples in the world and the do an excellent job of imparting their knowledge to others. On the flip side, one day is not enough…period. We knew that it would be a lot of information in a short amount of time, but by the end of the day I literally left with a headache, feeling partially brain dead. For anyone who might be slightly (or more than slightly) on the A.D.D. side, this may not be the best way to process the information for you.

Luckily, they’ve written the companion manual (included in the course) to have all of the information and much more so we have been able to reference it and process everything slowly over the last few weeks. They sell the Offshore Cruising Companion on their website www.mahina.com*. I can unequivocally recommend this book, even at the $50 price point. An unbelievable amount of useful information is contained in the book, everything from recommended equipment lists (with specific brands and prices) to how to clear into a country properly to dealing with fears and uncertainty about cruising. I believe that it is one of the best resources available in sheer volume of topics covered, and they’re covered well.

An unexpected benefit of the seminar was the number of field experts we were able to meet and talk with during the breaks throughout the day. John and Amanda were readily available to answer individual questions and their colleague Pete McGonagle was very informative about the current boat market as a broker and fellow cruiser. George Day of Blue Water Sailing, Nigel Calder (highly respected mechanical and diesel engine author), and Paul and Sheryl Shard of the Distant Shores TV show also stopped by to add their expertise.

IMGP1510

We won a West Marine gift card for being the nearest to leaving on our cruise…or maybe just because we were the surprise “youngsters” in the room!

If I were to say one thing about this course, it would be that I wish we wouldn’t have waited so long to take it. Because we have already spent so many hours researching a good portion of the topics ourselves, a lot of the information was no longer new to us. Especially because the manual so thoroughly covers the topics, we could have taken the seminar a year or two ago and then used the manual as review once we actually got closer to “go time”. We recommend the same for others who want to get the highest value from the course.

 *We are not currently affiliated with Mahina Expeditions in any way. We just think their book is worth sharing!

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Posted on Jan 2, 2014 | 0 comments

Start Your Engines

Toy cars on the coffee table

Cars, trucks, and motorcycles. What more could a little boy want?

The new year has begun and we are hitting the ground running. We’ve made some huge progress towards our cruising goals in only a few days and the realization has finally sunk in. Things just got serious, folks. All of a sudden Dan and I have become somewhat overwhelmed by the amount of work that must be done in a relatively short time.

Let’s back up a bit. A few weeks ago, we were working on our financial plans trying to figure out what exactly still needed to be done before we could attain our preferred amount of savings (i.e. $10,000 kitty; $3,000 per house rental reserves; and $40-50,000 in total boat purchase/refit allowance.) Our goal was to purchase at least 1 more rental house so our total could be 5 houses producing around $1,500 a month in total profit. To do that, we would either need to buy a 5th house out of our current boat savings (boo!) or sell our owner occupied house for enough to pay for 2 house down payments (yay!) 

We decided to talk to the realtor who sold our last house as well as showing our house to a coworker of Dan’s who said she might be interested. The realtor quoted us a very healthy number that would far outweigh the cost of purchasing 2 additional houses, but it turns out that listing it wasn’t even necessary. Dan’s coworker loved our house so much that she made an offer one day after seeing it and our tentative scheduled closing date is February 3rd! Talk about a quick sale from thinking about selling to sold in a week! The only downside is now we have to get another house purchased ASAP or we might be out on the street in a month. Packing and house shopping is on the menu for sure!

In addition to working out our housing issues we also decided now would be a good time to start actively searching for our boat. We want to have plenty of time to find the best boat for us for the right price. I’ll go into more detail on that search in another post coming soon, but the important thing is there has been a major shift in mindset occurring in our plans. We are no longer looking at boats as prototypes or theoretical options, now every boat we look at has the potential to be the one. Serious scrutiny of each boat and the options available takes a lot of time and effort to get right, but it’s crucial that we make good choices in the beginning to allow ourselves to stay on track for cruising this year.

That’s right, I said it: WE’RE CRUISING THIS YEAR! Happy 2014!

 

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