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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 7, 2013 | 1 comment

Look It Up

Don't know what kind of moth this is? We didn't either so we looked it up!

Don’t know what kind of moth this is? We didn’t either until we looked it up!

Dan and I like to be thoroughly well prepared for big changes and new possibilities in life. When we have a problem, we search Google and figure out how to fix it. When I was pregnant with Carter, I spent hours researching online exactly what to expect and prepare for multiple different outcomes to the point that my doctors were always surprised that I knew exactly what they were talking about and had almost no questions at any of my appointments. Dan visited countless websites and forums along with talking to other landlords before we were confident that we could make well informed decisions about buying rental properties. What can I say? We like to be educated.

Recently, we realized that we had been somewhat slacking in the cruising education division. Sure, we read a lot of other people’s blogs and had spent a lot of time reading cruisersforum and other boating sites when we were first making up our plans, but we hadn’t done a lot of in depth training because we were so focused on the financials of making sure we could get going. That mindset has been able to shift over the last few weeks… We have now reached the point where our rental reserves (six months of expenses per house) and the initial cruising kitty (10k to start, but it will be replenished each month from our various income sources while cruising… think of it as working cash) are established. Now we move into the boat savings stage. It is exhilarating to know that every dollar saved will be building towards a new home. That might not seem like a big deal, but for us it has been a major eye opener. Now we need to make sure that we are ready when the money is!

To start things out right we purchased the full pack of NauticEd* Captain’s courses and have both been working through them together. These courses cover a huge range of topics from diesel engine maintenance and proper sail trim to safety at sea and storm tactics. We have been very impressed with the quality of instruction and depth of information provided from these courses and both of us feel a lot more confident that we will be able to sail our boat safely when the time comes. They even have nice PDF graphs and quick reference guides to laminate and keep on your boat with you as well as practical exercises that we’ll be able to work on together once we get our real boat.

Another course that we are planning to take is the Mahina Expedition seminar that is given at Strictly Sail every year. This seminar is highly rated and addresses a lot of the logistical issues of living on a sailboat. Provisioning, safety, clearing in and out of countries, and having pets on-board are just a few of the topics covered in the all day seminar. The Blue Water Boats list that we’ve been referencing in many of our posts is also created by the Mahina team. These people have a lot of experience under their belts and we’re hoping to take some of that and put it to use on our own journey.

Two other big areas of focus for our studies will be first aid skills and Dan’s SCUBA instructor course. We feel that Dan getting his instructor certification could be a major benefit to us in the future and could potentially give us some additional income throughout the year. The first aid classes we are a little less sure about where to start. Dan is currently EFR/CPR certified as part of his rescue diver certification last year and plans to get his EFR instructor certification at the same time he finishes the PADI instructor certification, which would make it easy for me to get EFR certified as well (which we plan to do.) However as anyone who has taken EFR or the Red Cross first aid class will know, these classes are designed to stabilize a patient until an ambulance or other trained medical staff can reach the patient which usually only takes a short time in comparison to the days it could take if someone was seriously injured at sea. We are currently trying to find other options that would give us a more thorough training, but are having a hard time finding something reasonably priced that we could both be trained in. The most promising so far has been the Wilderness First Response program but that is about $800/person and requires a week of hands-on training so we aren’t sure if we want to jump into that without more … research.

Do you know of any other classes we should consider taking in the next year of preparation? We’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment or shoot us an email from the Contact Us page.

*Use our coupon code followthehorizon at NauticEd to get $15 off any classes! (Full disclosure: we get a very small credit to our NauticEd account when you use this code)

We’ve also done some major updates to our To-Do List page! Click on over to check it out.

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Posted on Jun 24, 2012 | 0 comments

Lesson Learned

As we’ve mentioned in the last couple of weeks, Dan and I have been taking a sailing class through our local yacht club. It was a 3 week/9 session class that was surprisingly simple. We had no idea what to expect going in to the class, but I don’t think either of us expected almost no instruction at all. Our  first day, we  learned how to tie a bowline knot (which we had already learned in scuba class), were shown a model boat to demonstrate points of sail, and learned how to rig a Laser. The other 8 sessions were all sailing, all the time.

We had a surprisingly good range of wind speeds to learn on the Lasers/JY15/Capri 22 that we got to sail. On our first day of sailing, there was about 1-3 knots of wind the entire evening, a.k.a. not fun at all. Our last day of sailing was somewhat more exciting at a breezy 20-25 knots on our instructor’s Capri 22. During most of our classes, the instructors were all in chase boats just watching us and yelling at anyone they thought needed an extra boost. There were some students who definitely needed more help than others, but luckily Dan and I weren’t in that category.

Even though we are both extremely happy with the results of this little class, it’s hard to describe exactly what we learned how to do. Sure, we picked up a few pointers on how to rig the boat easier and how to hike out of a Laser/Laser radial, but that doesn’t really encompass what we walked away with. The real benefit of the class was training ourselves in what a sailboat is supposed to feel like and how it is going to react. The small boats that we were sailing are much more reactive than our MacGregor, and certainly more reactive than any cruiser that we would be living on in the future. We left the class with considerably more confidence than we started with, which was worth the cost of the class and then some to us.

It also taught us that sailing Lasers is really fun.

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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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Posted on Jun 13, 2012 | 0 comments

Laser Sailing

Lightwind Dinghy Sailing

Michele and I have our fifth sailing lesson tonight… the lessons have definitely been worth it! We went in to the lessons not expecting to learn much in the way of “book” knowledge about sailing, our goal was to gain confidence by putting our book knowledge to the test. In someone else’s boat. By no means am I saying that we know even half of everything there is to learn about sailing, but reading every sailing book between here and the library has put our brains beyond beginner sailing classes. Our confidence and experience just needed to catch up.

Our first lesson consisted entirely of tying bowlines and explaining that you cannot sail into the wind… so far that has been the most “instructing” that has been offered in our class. One of the instructors put it best, “You don’t learn sailing by sitting there looking at a picture of a boat, you learn sailing by sitting on a boat.” Makes sense.

Almost the same thing. Almost.

We haven’t been disappointed. Every class since we have simply sailed the dinghies around while the instructors motor around and try to make sure the students don’t kill themselves. Several other students have said they are overwhelmed by the trial by fire method of learning to sail, but its exactly how I started. We have a choice of three types of dinghies in our class: the JY15, the Zuma, and the Laser. Obviously I chose the Laser. The Laser is a reactive, fast, and fun boat that will allow me to get the most out of the sailing class.

Unfortunately the wind was nearly non-existent during our first two lessons. We are talking 1-2 knot gusts. My Laser still moved in the water, but just. Michele’s Zuma didn’t stand a chance, however. She’s since seen the light and moved on to a Laser Radial.

The real fun started this past Monday when the wind was a consistent 8 knots with gusts up to 13 knots. Fully expecting to capsize within the first five minutes, I cast off in my miniature boat (No offence professional dinghy sailors… you just don’t go cruising in a Laser). Once I got out of the shallows the boat caught the wind and shot off like, well, a laser. I had read about hiking, watched videos, and listened to first hand stories from saltier sailors than I… let’s just say they don’t do it justice. Hanging entirely outside of a boat with your head below the deck (but above the waterline, hopefully), with the knowledge that your weight is the only thing stopping you from tasting the river is exhilarating. It’s also highly conducive to learning fast.

To be honest, up to this point I have viewed sailing as a means to an end. If I wanted to be able to live on a boat in the tropics, visiting new places and diving the best sites in the world, I needed to know how to sail. Sure you can motor between ports, but we don’t want to have to deal with multi-hundred dollar fuel ups at each stop. Sailing my Laser has been the first time that sailing has been fun simply for the sake of sailing. With the experience and confidence gained through these lessons, I’m sure our MacGregor will be able to live up to its full potential.

Follow your Dreams. Follow the Horizon.

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