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Posted on Dec 6, 2014 | 0 comments

Far From Home for the Holidays

 

Carter still got plenty of presents from home, the start of a Lego collection!

Carter still got plenty of presents from home, the start of a Lego collection!

Being away from home is one of the biggest costs of this lifestyle and one that we took very seriously before making the decision to move away from a close family. Never has the distance been felt more acutely than going into this holiday season. Not only do we celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas, but this Thanksgiving also marked Carter’s fourth birthday and the first one not celebrated surrounded by extended family.

A veggie tray fit for a boat!

A veggie tray fit for a boat!

Luckily, we were able to spend Thanksgiving in boat style with our friends and boat kids on Viatori as well as a full fledged birthday party. Leah and I made the executive decision to allow Publix to do most of the Thanksgiving cooking for us, since a microwave and small boat oven collectively would have been quite the challenge/hassle to provide a full turkey dinner for 8, but it still turned out fantastic! Leah also saved the day by making brownies for Carter’s birthday since we had a surprise visit from a host of ant friends who decided they would like a taste of the Spiderman cake that we purchased for the occasion.

The boys had a lot of fun playing together.

The boys had a lot of fun playing together.

On Friday, we all went to a fun place called Cool-de-sac in Hallandale Beach. The kids all got to play for a few hours doing crafts, tumbling on gym equipment and playing video games while Leah, Richard, Dan and I were able to enjoy a nice adult dinner. Kid free dinners are a pretty hot commodity when babysitting on a boat is a logistical issue we haven’t quite been brave enough to face yet. Needless to say, we all had a great time and Carter had a fantastic birthday!

Christmas doesn't quite feel normal without the cold weather, but we'll survive somehow...

Christmas doesn’t quite feel normal without the cold weather, but we’ll survive somehow…

With the Viatori crew getting ready to head back to Canada before Christmas however, we’ll be on our own for the big day. Carter and I have taken up the banner of proper Christmas decorating on a boat: cheap, small, and fire-hazard free! We spent a whole day making construction paper garland, snowflakes for the ports and a homemade glitter Christmas tree. I even picked up a plug-in scented like spruce for a little extra cozy effect. Being away from family on Christmas won’t be easy, but we’re working on making it ours.

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Posted on Sep 26, 2014 | 2 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 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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