Back in the USA!

So…. we’re back in the good old US-of-A.  Ft Lauderdale, actually.  And the feeling is…. EHH. Sorta anti-climatic.

Not gonna lie… We’re split between being super happy and super sad.  The Bahamas we nothing short of ah-mazing, but man, did we miss the amenities of home.  Seeing family & friends again?  Can’t wait!  Free water that’s not reverse osmosis (and tasting a little funky)?  Yes!  Grocery stores that stock everything under the sun and where we can find a can of Pringles for under $5?  Sold!!  McDonalds? I’m Lovin’ It!  The shitty brown water here at the marina?  The hectic pace of life?  The feeling that you always need to be somewhere.  Doing something.  UGH.  Welcome back to the states.

The sail back to the states was pretty nice.  The wind was directly on our nose almost the entire time and we didn’t get to do much actual sailing until pretty close to Florida, but it was nice and calm, and we’ll take those conditions any day. MUCH different than our crossing to the Bahamas just two months ago.  Was it really TWO months?  Damn.  Feels like just yesterday.

As Matt lowered the Bahamas courtesy flag I almost teared up.  Wow.  Our trip is over.  That can’t be.  We just got here!  I was definitely singing a different tune when we were tethered to that marina in Emerald Bay for 18 days.  I couldn’t wait to get home.  Oh well, guess I’m damned if I do, and damned if I don’t.

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Speaking of our flag, look how tattered it is!  It seems to have shrunk a bit during our trip.  We’re plan to frame it and hang it up so we can always remember what a great time we had.

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Somewhere around hour four or five of the trip, I remembered that we had a coconut onboard still.  Matt found this on the golf course trail by the marina and picked it up because of it’s size… it’s huge!  We were going to break it open and enjoy the water, but never got around to doing it (which is OK…. fresh coconut water has a weird after taste that I don’t particularly care for anyway).  I grabbed a Sharpie and wrote a little message on it before tossing it overboard.  Seems fitting that we set sail in October with a pumpkin onboard and we finish up with a coconut.  I wonder where it’ll float to?  Ah, who am I kidding?  That marker has probably already washed off and it’s just another random coconut floating in the Gulf Stream.  It was fun while it lasted.

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As we approached the coast, we could start to make out faint buildings on the horizon.  At first they looked like a mirage.  Could that be the Motherland?  Are we home already?  As we got closer, the images took shape and the city of Ft. Lauderdale appeared clear as day before us.

Skyscrapers as far as you could see.  Six cruise ships all lined up in port.  Huge jet planes roaring overhead en route to the airport.  It was sensory overload.  We haven’t seen life like this since we left Miami in November.  Certainly nothing like this in the Keys and the Bahamas where the buildings we were used to were two levels at best, and the planes usually had pontoons on the bottom.  It was a shock to the system for sure.

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As we approached the Inlet, our anxiety levels began to skyrocket.  Not just because we were home and our trip was over, but because there were boats everywhere.  It was a Sunday, and it seemed like absolutely everyone in Ft. Lauderdale who had a boat was out and about.  And being complete assholes in their tiny little day cruisers circling around us like a swarm of bees.  Some had drunken spring breakers passed out on their bow.  Most had their rap/latino/classic rock music turned up at full volume for the rest of us to enjoy along with them.  Yeah, we know you have a good sound system onboard.  Thanks for sharing.

Just past the inlet was one of the many bridges we had to pass under as we made our way up the New River to the marina.  It had a fixed opening schedule (only on the hour and half hour), so we had to do a complicated little dance of holding the boat still amidst all of this chaos until the next opening.  Those little day cruisers just buzzed right by us and the few other sailboats who couldn’t clear the closed bridge.  Guess they had the last laugh.

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Finally made it thru “The Gauntlet” and had a pretty trip up the river via the narrow canals that cut through downtown Ft. Lauderdale.

We made it to the marina, and are tethered to a dock once again.  Instead of having two world class resorts nearby like we did in Emerald Bay, we have I-95 as our backdrop.  Most of the time the noise drowns out any sort of conversation we’re trying to have, but hey, at least we have air conditioning again.

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One Month In!

Well, we’ve officially been “cruisers” for one month now!  Hard to believe.  In some ways it feels like we just left Annapolis yesterday, and in other ways it feels like we’ve been gone six months already.

We’re really enjoying the trip so far, but it’s been a lot colder than we imagined!  In fact, there’ve only been a handful of days where the weather reached the mid-sixties.  I know, much better than the Arctic temps back home, but still cooler than what we had expected (especially in Florida!).  Coldgear and sweatshirts have been in the wardrobe rotation way more than shorts and t-shirts.  We’re trying to make Key West for Thanksgiving, and have been doing 10 hour days inching down the ICW.  Not much of a casual, relaxing trip so far.  Looking forward to being in a place with warm weather and clear waters so we can hang out for a few days (maybe a week?) and finally relax before crossing over to the Bahamas.  Hoping we’ll find this soon in the Florida Keys. 

With thirty days of cruising experience under our belts, what have we learned so far?

Water goes fast

We have a 100 gallon fresh water tank, which we used to think was huge.  It’s not.  Some cruising boats have 150-200 gallon tanks.  When you think of all the things you use water for – cooking, dishes, showers, flushing the toilet, washing your hands – you can see how 100 gallons doesn’t get too far.  And we haven’t even been showering that much!  (Please don’t judge).  We top off our water tank each time we stop at a marina for fuel and so far, the lowest we’ve ever been is a quarter tank after about 7 days (this averages out to about 10 gallons used per day).  There are definitely ways that we can reduce our water consumption when we’re in the Bahamas, such as washing our dishes (and even ourselves!) in salt water then doing a fresh water rinse.  We can change up our heads so that we flush with sea water instead of fresh water as well.  We also have a water maker that we will play around with once we get to Key West.  It’s been winterized for about two years now, so we’re not sure how well it will work until we’re able to get to cleaner water and try it out.  Supposedly, it will produce around 15 gallons of desalinated water per hour.  This is at the top of the list to look at once we’re in Key West.

Anchoring has gotten much easier

It’s no secret that perhaps my biggest fear of cruising is dragging anchor.  The (very) few times we had anchored while in the Bay didn’t always go so well, causing me to sleep with one eye open and checking our GPS throughout the night to make sure we were still hooked.  I was still doing this well into our trip.  However, like all things, the more you do it, the better you get.  Maybe the sand down here is better holding than the mud in the Bay.  Maybe we’ve perfected our technique.  Whatever the reason, we’re sleeping like babies at night, confident that we’ll be where we’re supposed to come the morning.

Money goes fast

Especially when you don’t have an income to replenish what’s spent!  Marinas, fuel, groceries, restaurants… they all cost money.  Some places more so than others.  In all fairness, we knew our first month would be expensive since we mostly stayed at marinas and had a weeklong stop in Charleston.  Now we’re back to our original cruising budget and have cut back our expenses dramatically.  Dinners?  Whatever we have on board.  Fuel? Back down the engines and do more sailing.  Marinas?  Don’t need ‘em now that we’ve perfected our anchoring technique.  Every dollar we can save means that we get to extend the burn that much more.  Hoping that no major boat repairs need to be done this trip, but if it happens, we’ll deal with it.  It just means that we may have to end our trip sooner.  But what a trip it’ll be, even if it is cut short by a few months!

Logistics have been the hardest part so far

Where to get groceries?  Stamps for postcards to our family? Where to have mail sent? These are some of the logistical puzzles we’ve had to figure out on our trip so far.  For food, sometimes a grocery store is just a short bike ride away (this severely limits your purchases to what you can fit into your backpack, BTW), or not convenient at all, so we scavenge what we can find at a local convenience store or CVS.  This is actually sort of fun though, and I can’t wait to do it in a foreign port here soon.  Mail has been tricky too, since we’re not too sure where we’ll be at any given day.  We’re at the mercy of the weather, the wind, and the infamous Florida bridge schedules.  Luckily, we have a few friends down the coast that have lent us their mailboxes for important mail and, even better, care packages from friends and family to be sent.  Usually marinas will hold your mail for you too, you just call to notify them that you will be expecting mail.  Not at all difficult, just a little more involved than life on land.

We worry about different things now

No more worrying about the day to day stresses of life on land.  Traffic.  Meetings.  What’s for dinner? Spending weekends running errands.  Home improvement projects.  Slow drivers.  Depressing doomsday-esque news broadcasts.  No.Time.For.Anything.  These were some of the things that used to stress us out back on land.  It seems almost strange that we don’t have to worry about worrying about any of those things anymore (well, besides what’s for dinner, but soup has become an accepted and simple option).  Now the things we worry about are weather, running aground in the sometimes shallow waters of the ICW, finding a secure anchorage, avoiding freighters and other boats, the Gulf Stream.  These worries are much more life or death/imminent damage to your boat, and thus more relevant to us now than stressing out about say, the neighbor’s dog barking. Not to say those things won’t creep back onto our radar at some point in life, but so far this life has definitely put things into perspective for us.

We are seriously grateful for the following:

  1. Autopilot.  Because hand steering just sucks.
  2. The iPad.  Doubles as a secondary GPS for when our chart plotter goes all wonky (it’s actually shown us on land on a few occasions), and for the Kindle.  Because paper books are bulky and take up precious room onboard.
  3. XM Radio.  Any kind of music or news you could want on demand.  And the signal stays loud and clear even when we’re 40 miles off shore.  Totally worth the $11/month subscription.
  4. Coldgear.  Because it’s been freakin’ freezing here, especially when you’re stuck outside in the wind all day.
  5. Celestial Teas.  See above.  Tea time comes about six times per day on this boat.   It’s like we’re English.

So there you have it, our random musings after a month cruising.  It’ll be interesting to see what we add or delete after we’ve been at it for a bit longer. We’re so excited to experience it all!

Cheers!

Farewell and Thank You!

Saying goodbye is so hard to do.  Seems like we’ve been doing a lot of that this past week. It never really sinks in until after you’ve left and you think “Damn, I’m not sure when I’ll see them again”.  Sort of surreal. Amid all of the excitement of us preparing for our trip, there’s that undercurrent of sadness of having to say goodbye to the people that mean the most to you. Trust me, it’s a real buzzkill.

Our friends and family threw us a big farewell party at our old neighborhood beach last weekend, which was awesome! We were surprised and totally flattered to see how many people showed up.  Friends, family, and old neighbors that we hadn’t seen in quite sometime all came to wish us well and give us a proper send off. It melted my heart to see how many people truly cared about us and were so supportive of our adventure.

We brought the boat up and docked it at the end of the pier so everyone could see our “house” and dispel any ideas that we would be sailing to the islands in nothing more than a canoe with a bed sheet as a sail. Seriously.  I think a lot of people were blown away with the boat… I have to admit, it does look pretty awesome now with the new sails and cushions. Plus all of our shit was neatly hidden away, giving the facade of ‘this is how it looks all the time‘. Ha. If only they could see it now.  Disaster.

As nice as it was to see everyone, it was a little weird having people from all different circles coming together in one place. It was sort of like a wedding… We tried to talk to everyone, but felt like we didn’t really have a good conversation with anyone.  Goodbyes are pretty awkward anyway, so instead of standing there not too sure on what to say, we just decided to wrap it up with a big hug and a “Hey, I’ll see you later”.  And I hope we will.

So, in wrapping up our farewells, we have a few short shout outs to some people who have played a huge part in helping us get to where we’re at:

To our family and friends: thank you for keeping it (and us) real.  We are beyond fortunate to have such amazing people in our lives who helped shape who we’ve become today.  Sure, there were plenty of times when you thought we were absolutely fucking nuts, but hey…. It’s US! Do you really think we would ever just settle down and be normal? (I swear, we tried!) Come on, you know us better than that!  Despite what you may think, we’re not sailing off into the sunset forever… we will be back.  Until then, we’re only a phone call / plane ride away.  And we promise to never attempt to beat the weather and to always wear sunscreen.  We love you more than you could ever imagine and thank you for everything.

To the team at Annapolis Yacht Sales:  we are so humbled and forever in your debt to everything you’ve given us over the past two years.  Thank you for taking a chance on Matt when he walked through your doors asking for a job with absolutely NO experience working on boats. Your support has absolutely helped us get to where we’re at now – from helping us to find the perfect boat, to teaching us how to fix it up and learn to sail it, to providing an overwhelming net of support and encouragement to help us actually leave the dock.  You are our cheerleaders, our friends, and by all means our family.  If you ever want to open an office in the way, way South, let us know!

To Bumfuzzle and Windtraveler:  two blogs that inspired us to go from Suburbs to Sailing. Thanks for sharing your stories and planting the seed to our dream! Here’s hoping that our adventure will turn out half as awesome as yours have been. If we ever cross paths in the future, drinks are on us!

To all of the vendors who have helped us make the boat ours. Charlie Saville at Warrior Yachting, Christopher Ford Yacht Canvas, Annapolis Rigging, the awesome staff at West Marine and Fawcett Boat Supplies in Annapolis, Ian at PYI for help with the auto pilot, Kate Chaney at AYS for the gel coat work, the staff at the Smokehouse Tavern and Bay Ridge Wine & Liquors for giving us sustenance (and liquid courage) to keep going, Annapolis Landing Marina for giving us a great slip with an amazing view, Pleasure Cove Marina & Staff…. The list goes on. It truly does take a village, and we thank you for all of your technical know how and support to get us on our way.

THANK YOU!  We’ll catch you on the flip side!

One Week to Go!

Were in the home stretch now, baby!  Woo Hoo!  And thank GOD, because our nerves are shot and our heads are about to explode thinking about all of the last minute stuff we need to do.  Definitely not the state of mind we’d thought we’d be in the week before we left, but I suppose it’s par for the course.  We’re about to embark on an epic adventure that we’ve been dreaming of for years and honestly, we’re having a hard time trying to wrap our heads around it all.  Being big planners, we’re finding ourselves constantly bogged down in the minutia, and forgetting to look at the bigger picture of it all.  We’re freakin’ about to embark on the journey of a lifetime!  Our lives are going to be forever changed and we’re hoping to come back better people with a hell of a story to tell.  We need to just get off the dock first!

Good thing is, that we’ve checked off nearly all of the items on our to-do list and then some!

Medical / Safety

  • schedule final doctor/dentist/eye exams while we still have health insurance
  • Complete our nautical medical kit
  • Complete our ditch bag

Still working on this.  We bought a great dry bag at boat show this week and will put this together while underway.

Boat Equipment

  • Install a new auto pilot
  • Re-Install sails and test the new rigging

DONE!  And they are P-I-M-P just like our sail guy said they’d be!

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The guys at Quantum Sails, here in Annapolis, did such a great job, and really helped us out by accommodating our tight turnaround time.  Plus, they were the coolest guys ever to work with, so there’s that too.  I really can’t say enough about how awesome they were.  Check ’em out if you need any sails or canvas work done!

Here’s a before and after of the boat.  Looks about 15 years newer without all of that faded teal, no?

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  • Make new cockpit cushions and reupholster the helm seat

Just got these in a few days ago and they seriously blow my mind!  I really think this was the most dramatic before and after we’ve done to the boat thus far. I’m sure Matt would completely disagree.

Our friend Mischelle and I did a solid 75% of the work ourselves, patterning the new cushions, cutting the new foam, measuring and cutting the fabric… It was seriously a labor of love! We had set up shop in her huge basement and were working on these cushions little by little for weeks on end. When it came time to finally get to the sewing, tragedy struck when we realized that our little Singer model wasn’t tough enough to punch through the multiple layers of marine canvas.  Whomp Whomp.  What a let down!  We were scrambling to find a heavy duty machine to complete the project when our friends at Quantum came thru for us again (these guys are like freakin’ knights in shining armor for us!) and hooked us up with a seamstress who could turn all three cushions, the helm seat and a table cover around in 2 days.  Crisis averted.  Sanity (slightly) saved.

Another before and after shot for y’all:

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  • Troubleshoot generator

So glad we got this working again because we just got an ice maker as a gift form our friends Tim & Mischelle!  Our little table top model can make up to 10lbs per hour!  We’re going to be the coolest (pun intended) people in the Caribbean! Ha!

  • Make a spares list for all major systems

Engines are being serviced by Matt and our Australian friend, Aaron on Saturday!

Random Other Stuff

  • Install new stereo and re wire our cockpit speakers  
  • Figure out how to get Internet aboard

We broke down and bought a satellite phone with a hotspot and wi-fi antenna booster at the boat show this weekend.  It was a HUGE purchase that we mulled over for a few days, but one that we’re happy we made.  We’ll have a working phone onboard, and have the ability to use the satellite signal to turn our boat into a mobile hotspot so we can talk, text, email, use our electronic charts and post (pictureless) blogs all while out in the middle of the ocean.  All at the connection speed similar to 1997 AOL dial up. Total cost was about $2500, which includes the phone, hotspot, antenna and the yearly plan for the year which includes unlimited talk and data so we don’t have to worry about running over each month. We’ll get the $500 for the phone refunded via a mail in rebate (sometime in the next 16 weeks. Geeze. That’s about as fast as our Data connection). With the satellite phone, we’ll have the ability to stay in contact the entire time, which makes our family feel better and Matt & I feel safer. Definitely worth the splurge in our minds.  We’ll keep our AT&T plan as we head down the East coast, then get two pre paid wireless phones before we leave to keep our regular phone numbers active for a year until we return. We won’t be using the prepaid phones during our trip (that’s what the satellite phone is for), but really didn’t want to loose the cell phone numbers we’ve had for the past 15 years just because we took a year sabbatical. It totally makes sense in our heads.  I told you… Planners think of everything.

  • Organize. Organize. Organize

The boat is a hot mess right now and there’s no relief in sight for at least the next few days.  We just did a large provisioning run at Sams Club, and as we were pulling into the marina parking lot, the skies open up and it began to POUR.  So, there’s us running down the dock to our boat with two full carts loaded up with super sized versions of all of our favorite things, getting soaked.

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When we got everything on board, we realized that our freezer had been turned off since Sunday and nearly everything was defrosted.  Ugh.  So, now Matt is working on the freezer and we have everything that’s supposed to be in the freezer in a cooler out in our cockpit, and everything that was in our cockpit in our cabin since it’s a monsoon outside.  Look how cool I am blogging behind my own little fort.  You’d be shocked at the level of skill required to climb back to where I’m at.  And yes, those are three huge boxes of acid reducer in the front of the picture…. we’ve been popping those like candy the past two weeks. Ah, life on a boat.  Never a dull moment.

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  • Price out insurance for the Caribbean
  • Sell our cars!

After a few failed attempts to sell our cars to friends and random people on Craigslist, we broke down and took them to Carmax to have them appraised.  They both did pretty well, but we decided to try out a cash for cars place directly across the street called – and I’m not making this up – Cash Money Cars.  The whole time we were there, all I could think of was the Jay Z song Cash Money Hoes.  I was half expecting to see the Fly Girls from In Living Color dancing in the parking lot (hey, this is where JLo got her start!). Turns out they gave us a better offer than Carmax, so I guess we’ll be selling our cars there.  We’ll take their Cash Money and they’ll take our Cars. Done.

We’re really trying to see the forrest thru the trees here, and stay positive even though our minds are running at the speed of light.  Soon enough we’ll be off the dock and under way, where we’re hoping the stress we’ve been feeling dissipates as quickly as the wind can take us.

Funny story.  We stopped in for a final meal at our favorite Chinese place the other day.  At the end of the meal we got our fortune cookies and I told Matt that I hoped to get a good fortune and not one of those random Chinese proverbs that always seem to make no sense at all.  This is what I got:

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Great.  A random Chinese proverb that seems to make no sense at all.  At least Matt got a good one.

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Spinsheet Spectacular!

O.M.G.  We’ve made it….

Into Spinsheet, one of the leading publications about boating on the Chesapeake Bay.

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Let me tell you how crazy it is to see your name in print.  Mind = Blown.  And even crazier to think that people actually find our story interesting enough to write an article about it.  Too freakin’ cool.

Well I suppose if you’re reading this right now, you also find our story interesting enough to follow.  Noted.

So, if there’s anyone who’s been directed to our blog because of the article: Well, Hello!  We hope to entertain and inspire you enough to maybe do the same some day.  Maybe you’re just interested to see if we’ll fall flat on our faces once we pull away from the dock.  Fair enough.  Either way, Welcome!

Check out our article here (it starts on page 84), or pick up your very own copy at any boating store / sailing facility today!

If the pdf takes forever to load, you can try going to the Spinsheet website to read the latest issue online here.

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