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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 Aug 14, 2013 | 0 comments

Good Things Happen at Night

Though we didn't take this picture, we did see this meteor ourselves. It was stunning!

Though we didn’t take this picture, we did see this meteor ourselves. It was stunning!

As a teenager I remember hearing a statement by well-meaning adults that went something like “Nothing good ever happens after 10:00 PM.” Well, no offense to those people but this last weekend was yet another example of how there are always exceptions to every rule. (I’ve never really understood why adults feel the need to impart statements that only serve to elicit eye rolls and intentional contradictions from teenagers but that’s another issue entirely.) Last Friday and Saturday night were late ones for us but very rewarding in that we were able to spend some real quality time with Dan’s brother Kyle and his wife Becca.

Partially due to our influence Kyle and Becca have been putting a lot of thought into moving somewhere warmer with a better quality of life. Kyle has recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in engineering and has quickly come to the realization that the promises made by college recruiters a few years ago weren’t all that they were cracked up to be. Friday night at around 10, he called us up and they came over to get some advice on budgeting and planning for their future goals. (After we got out of bed… yes we are the 20-something, old people who are in bed on Friday night at 9:30.) We talked with them at our kitchen table until 1:30 in the morning about dreams and goals that they have and how to figure out where to start. They left with plans to come back the next night and start by finding their baseline…where are they now? where do they want to be? and what to they need to do to get there?

After dinner together on Saturday night of the fabulous grouper that Kyle speared in Panama City (remember the Most Beautiful Beaches?) we jumped right in and started sorting through the last six months of bills, bank statements, and credit card purchases to find a complete understanding of their current spending and to build a good budget that will let them save the kind of money that they hope will get them where they want to go. For anyone who has never done this before, you should because it can be eye opening to see how just rearranging your spending a bit can significantly impact your goals. I have no doubts that if Dan and I hadn’t done the exact same thing 2 years ago at the start of all of this that we would be nowhere close to the financial situation we are now in. It was immensely gratifying for both of us to see Kyle and Becca getting that same kind of focus and understanding together that we have shared.

After working hard and getting to a good stopping point, we decided to reward ourselves with a night of spectacular star gazing. Every year at the beginning of August is the Perseids meteor shower, the most active one of the year. We bundled up the sleeping baby into the car with the four of us and plenty of blankets to lay on and headed out of town to a camp about half an hour away. The sky was free of so much light pollution and with no moon to hide them, the stars were out in force. We trekked down to a small valley with just the five of us in the large prairie and spread our blankets out to watch the show. Nothing can compare to watching shooting stars with people you love.

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Posted on Jun 12, 2013 | 0 comments

The Most Beautiful Beaches

Tom and Laura were the best hosts ever!

Tom and Laura were the best hosts ever!

For the week before Memorial Day this year, Dan, Carter and I went on a family vacation to Panama City Beach (“Home of the World’s Most Beautiful Beaches”) with Dan’s whole immediate family. Starting out at a bleary 2:00AM we had a 14 hour drive with a 2 year old ahead and wanted to maximize our “sleeping baby time”. Luckily, we made the drive with no problems, baby or car related, but we did eat dinner at an interesting little BBQ place in Montgomery, Alabama. Considering the looks we got when we pulled in and the handwritten sign on the door reading “No Masks, No Hoods, No Weapons”, we may have been the first white customers to come in quite some time. That was okay with us though because man they had some good barbecue.

Our evil plan seemed to work

Our evil plan seemed to work on the ride down to PCB

Don't judge a book by its cover...or a restaurant by the sign out front!

Don’t judge a book by its cover…or a restaurant by the sign out front!

When we got to PCB, we were immediately amazed at how beautiful the house and community was that our hosts, Dan’s second cousin Tom (or is it first cousin once removed?) and his wife Laura, lived in. They had renovated a burned out shell of a house that they nursed back to health in spectacular fashion and lovingly renamed “Creme Brule”. It was definitely nicer than any hotel we’ve ever stayed at, with much better company! Tom and Laura wasted no time in getting us down to the beautiful beach only a few blocks from the house and taking us on a tour of some of the famous 30A beach communities nearby. The most famous of which, Seaside, is where the Jim Carey movie The Truman Show was filmed.

Our introduction that first night was a preview of what most of our vacation would be, time on the beach followed by some fun sight seeing. In addition, we were able to do diving twice while we were there and had a great time! Dan and Kyle brought along their new pole-spears for the trip as spear fishing is fairly popular in the PCB community and we were not disappointed with their great catch that we brought home. (Anyone have a good recipe for grouper?)

It’s amazing what one week on the beach has done to our perspective. Thanks to our gracious hosts we had an amazing time in (and on!) Panama City Beach. We got a serious taste of what early retirement could look like outside of and in conjunction with our cruising plans and let me tell you, it tasted pretty darn delicious. We certainly were sad to leave and had some major cognitive dissonance going on as we drove north away from the warm weather and beautiful ocean.

On the Beach Black silhouettes

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Posted on Oct 24, 2012 | 0 comments

Divemaster!

No, it isn’t a shark. It’s a spoonbill from Mermet Springs.

You might have noticed a new check on our To-do List… With a second trip to Mermet Springs in three weeks, I’ve finally earned my PADI Divemaster certification. It was quite a relief to finally be finished, to be honest. Kyle and I had been working nearly every weekend since May… taking tests, completing practical exams, assisting pool classes, grading quizzes and tests, guiding tours, assisting with student training dives, and anything else a dutiful dive shop slave does.

We will definitely still be doing most of those things, but at least the rush is over. We didn’t want to say no to any opportunity to complete a part of our certification requirements due to the fast approaching winter (and no diving for the warm blooded… water so cold your head wants to explode isn’t fun). Each time I assist with new students I am amazed at how far I have come in such a short time. From worrying about not banging into the coral/rocks to flawlessly floating through a submerged Boeing 727, I’m a much better diver than I was a year ago when I was in the Caribbean. I love being able to help students discover diving and improve their own skills.

I still have much to learn about diving and teaching diving, especially as I hone my skills for the instructor class, but it feels great to have attained professional diver ranking.

So where do I go from here? The eventual goal is for scuba to be able to provide some supplemental income while we are cruising. The best way to earn money in scuba is instructing and leading dive tours. As a divemaster I can already lead dive tours, but I am severely limited in the independent instructing I can do. Next up are the Instructor Development Course and the Instructor Exam.

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Posted on Jun 20, 2012 | 0 comments

It was a breeze

We had the opportunity to sail our MacGregor 25 on Saturday with Michele’s sister Melissa, Kyle, and Kyle’s wife Becca. In 13 knots of wind. Thanks to our sailing classes, we had a great time. The confidence that Michele and I have gained from our classes is what made the difference between a great sail and another misfire. We launched out of Detweiller Marina and were quickly underway thanks to our new-to-us 7.5HP outboard. Our trolling motor just isn’t cut out for more than 7 or so knots of wind and waves. Then the outboard decided to take a break. Sound familiar?

No worries, however. We were in an area of the marina that is very protected from the wind… namely the narrow mouth of the harbor. We quickly let out the mainsheet to allow the boom to point to wind (we were only 20° or so off the wind) and begain raising the mainsail. That is the time that we realized someone (me) hadn’t been paying attention and tied the mainsail to the wrong end of the halyard. Normally there wouldn’t be a “wrong” end of the halyard on a MacGregor… but there was this time because it was tied off to the wrong cleat on the mast. This shouldn’t have been an issue because the fix is as simple as quickly lowering the main, untying the halyard and properly retying the halyard. This was the point in our voyage, however, when the divide between those who have taken a sailing class and those who have not became evident.

A suggestion was made to lower the bow anchor, forcing the boat to point to wind, prior to fixing the halyard mishap. Lowering the anchor would have definitely pointed us to wind and allowed us to easily avoid crashing into the rock seawall we were beginning to drift towards. There were a few problems with this suggestion, however. We were nearly completely blocking the mouth of the busiest marina in Peoria, the rocks were getting quite close, the jib was fully rigged and lying on top of the bow cleat that we would attach the anchor to, Oh, and the anchor was in the stern locker. Without an anchor line attached, mind you.

Michele quickly lowered the main and retied the halyard while the others were debating the anchor suggestion. Good idea!

The rest of the voyage was uneventful (unusual for us, I know), but we were able to practice a few maneuvers that we hadn’t done before in our large-to-us boat. I admit that gybing in our MacGregor 25 would have been a non-starter if I hadn’t practiced multiple times in a laser beforehand. We have gone from chickening out in 15 knots of wind to having a great time in it… all thanks to the confidence gained from our dinghy sailing class.

Follow your dreams. Follow the Horizon.

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