New Beginnings

Only a few days left back here in Maryland before we return to Florida and begin our next adventure…. one that involves a certain salty piece of land that we absolutely fell in love with early on in our travels.

Yep, we’re moving to Key West to settle down for a few years until we decide to throw it all in the blender and mix it up again.

Why Key West?  Why not?  It’s absolutely fabulous there!  We love the quirky people and the tight knit community.  We love that every street is lined with palm trees and that chickens roam everywhere.  We love that it’s the USA but doesn’t feel like the USA (like, not at all).  We love that we’ll have amazing reefs to snorkel and still have (two!) well stocked Publix grocery stores to shop from.  It’s the best of the best.  Our Bee’s Knee’s.  And if we really, really want to go someplace “more exotic”, the Bahamas and Cuba are still closer than the Florida mainland.

We’ve gotten some comments asking us why we didn’t cruise longer.  We were gone for a total of six months, only two of which were spent in the Bahamas.  Much shorter than our original plan to cruise for a year plus, and to cover more ground – water? – deeper into the Caribbean.  Truth is, we sorta ruined ourselves by going to Key West first.  The time we spent there over the holidays were completely amazing… and we ended up falling in love with it.  The Bahamas were beautiful – the water was the best I’ve ever seen in all my travels; the hundreds of islands provided literally something for everyone; the people were kind and welcoming – but in the end, all we could do was compare it to Key West.  It’s like finding the perfect dress but trying on a few more just to say you did, all the while knowing your heart was already set on that first one.

While we knew we wanted to return to the Keys, we didn’t know exactly when.  Two factors worked together to make the decision for us: our cruising budget was running low and we knew the time was approaching where we needed to get jobs again, and Matt’s uncle surprised us by buying a house in Key West and needed someone to live in it.  The stars can’t align much better than that, so we took the leap and committed.  And we can’t be more excited for the next step.  True, we didn’t sail around the world for several years, but we did have the guts to dream up something crazy and actually GO DO IT, and that alone is farther than most people get in their entire life.  Boom.

So, that means that we’ve put Foxfire on the market (view the listing here).  That’s the part that really makes us sad.  We’ve put so much love and pride into making her our own, it’s strange to think that she won’t be ours anymore.  Selling Foxy is so much harder than it ever was selling a house…. she made it possible for us to have an amazing adventure, possible for us to find ourselves in the process, and possible for us to start this new chapter in our lives, one that we have no doubt is going to be pretty f-ing fantastic.  It’s been a great two years, Foxfire.  Here’s hoping that we’re able to find you your next set of owners that will love you as much as we do.

 

Livin’ Large on the 52

After our shall we say, adventurous, first night on the Bay, we decided to spend Friday in Deltaville, VA to let the winds die down before we headed offshore.  We were all a little edgy and needed some downtime to recover from the night before. And to triple check the weather to make sure we were staying clear of any more of that crap. Just getting into the marina in Deltaville was an adventure, with a narrow corkscrew channel that had us just a few feet away from a sandbar on one side and the beach on the other. Not a big deal for a little fishing boat to navigate, but a giant catamaran that’s 52′ long and nearly 30′ wide? Adventurous. We all held our breath and silently hoped we wouldn’t run aground. We spent the day de-icing the boat and managed to find a pizza shop in town that was actually open. Winning.

The forecast was looking good, so we headed out early the next morning. We all were thankful that the weather had improved and we settled into our roles aboard with ease. Chris navigated, Mischelle painted, I read, and Matt…. Well, unfortunately Matt wasn’t feeling too well. Must have been the extreme change in temps coming from FL to MD. Or the Deltaville pizza.

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We stayed within 2 miles of the shoreline so we could get cell service to stream the Ravens playoff game on Chris’s phone. I’ll be honest, it was pretty cool hanging back, eating spaghetti and watching the game all while sailing a boat out in the Atlantic. Too bad they lost in the final seconds of the game. This trip is definitely providing us with some pretty cool moments so far. In fact, we even have a theme song for the trip: ‘I’m on a Boat’  by Lonely Island. Give it a Google on YouTube. It’s pretty fitting.

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The reason for all of the tape and table coverings is to protect the boat. God forbid that a $1.4M yacht get dinged up by the lowly delivery crew.  However, we did tear up the microwave making bacon bowls one morning.  Probably the best As Seen on TV product ever.  Because, let’s be honest here,  EVERYTHING’S better in a bacon bowl. I think Chris is their unofficial spokesperson, seeing that he had at least four of them. Don’t worry, after a little Windex and some light scrubbing, the microwave is good as new again. It’ll be our little secret.

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Sunday was a beautiful day on the water, and the temps finally started to warm up as we headed south for Charleston where we would spend Monday night.

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Coming into Charleston was pretty neat because the whole city was enclosed in a big thick blanket of fog. I guess this is pretty typical for Charleston in the wintertime. It was a little unnerving not being able to see more than a quarter mile in front of you… Thank God for AIS and radar.

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First thing on the “to-do” list after we docked and refueled was to dry out the bilges so the damn alarm would stop going off every time the slightest splash of water would hit the sensor. It seemed like that thing was going off every 10 minutes the night before, and it was getting really annoying, really quickly. Bilge = Blue Job = Boys.

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Another Blue Job? Adjusting the rigging for the mainsail. He looks pretty comfy up there, no?

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In Charleston, we met up with Jack and Tyler, who are with Annapolis Yacht Sales as well, and happened to be en route delivering a boat from Annapolis to FL too. It was a mini AYS rendezvous!  I must admit, our ride is much nicer than theirs. Maybe I’m partial because ours is a catamaran. A magnificent 52′ catamaran that’s well stocked with delicious food and a fun crew. Sorry, guys. You’re missing out.

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We headed out early this morning for another two days offshore, with Jack and Tyler following us down the coast. The fog is still pretty thick, but we’re hoping to get at least another nice day on the water before we land in Ft. Lauderdale on Thursday.  This trip has been so much fun, I almost hate to see it end. It’s been great for us to not only connect with some good friends that we’ve really been missing, but also to get us excited for the next leg of our journey – Bahamas, baby! However, I’m thinking it may be a bit hard going back to our boat after livin’ large on a boat this grand for the past week. I could totally get used to this!

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And the art that Mischelle was working on earlier in the week? She used the picture of Chris adjusting the rigging as inspiration for her latest watercolor.  Wow.  I swear, she has more talent in her little finger than the rest of us combined.

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Lagoon 52 delivery

So we’re back in Maryland, sailing someone else’s catamaran down the Bay in below freezing temperatures and gale force winds. I guess we were getting a little too soft in Key West and needed the kind of ass kicking only the Chesapeake in the wintertime can give you.

Wait. What?

Let me rewind to just two short days ago: it was a beautiful sunny afternoon and Matt and I were frolicking down Duval Street, celebrating one of our last days in Key West. We’d been analyzing the weather and decided that the end of the week would be the perfect window for us to leave for the Bahamas. Somewhere between the Whistle Bar and Sloppy Joe’s, he got a call from his old company asking if we would want to help deliver their brand new 52′ Lagoon catamaran from Annapolis to Ft. Lauderdale.  It took us all of 3.2 seconds to agree to do it. Sailing a million dollar yacht with two of our good friends from back home? Sounded like a pretty good time to us!  We managed to book ourselves on the first flight out the next morning and less than 24 hours later, we’re baaaack!!

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Woah. Talk about what a shock to the system it was getting off that plane. I can’t believe how cold it is here. Going from 80 to 8 degrees in a matter of hours, sucks.  We’ve asked each other ‘What the hell are we doing?’ about two dozen times already. The bitter wind hit us and took our breath away and froze our hands so much they burned, and again we thought, ‘Are we crazy?’ The irony that we were back in Annapolis on a boat – a place I swore I’d never be after last winter – was not lost on us.

But what a beauty she is. Even covered in ice and snow.

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Even though we were only home for about 24 hours, it was great to see some familiar faces, especially my family who met us in Annapolis for dinner. But as quickly as we arrived, it was time to leave again. By high noon the following day, Matt, Mischelle, Chris and I were off the dock and headed south down the bay in a luxury sailing yacht that we would be calling home for the next week. Awesome.

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The sunset pretty much summed up the first leg of our trip: serene, peaceful, comforting…one if those ‘this is so awesome right now’ moments.  We never in our wildest dreams thought this is where we’d be earlier in the week, that’s for sure.

Unfortunately, the moment didn’t last.  Over the course of the night the wind picked up to a howling 25-30mph that transformed the Bay into an icy version of Dante’s Inferno. 6′ waves and strong gusts made even this huge 52′ boat feel like a bath toy. We were getting slammed from all over. All.Night.Long.

At one point the MD State Police had a spotlight on our boat from the air because they thought we were a boat they received a distress signal from. It took us nearly 20 minutes of reassuring them that all persons onboard were accounted for and that we were not in distress. They must have thought we were crazy as all hell for being our there (voluntarily) in the first place and wanted to triple check that we’re were all sane.

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It was such a long, crazy, sleepless night, we all huddled in the galley the next morning feeling like a bunch of PTSD survivors. Check out what the boat looked like…

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It took us nearly 20 hours to get to Deltaville, VA which is still about 5 hours north of Norfolk. Were hanging out here thru the night to let the water calm down before we head offshore tomorrow. Here’s hoping the rest of the trip goes a little smoother than our first night!

We’re really missing Key West right now! Ha!

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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