Saturday, April 28, 2012

Big News!

Okay, this is way, way overdue.  There is actually a fair bit of news to share.  We'll go in chronological order.

I think it was about a month ago, when we had a rare weekend free, when we brought our boat back home.  Earendil has been up at Sale Creek Marina for, I think, about 6 months now.  We did some work on it, then they did some work on it.  Finally, they got the motor running, the weather cleared up, and we had our chance to bring our baby home.  It was one of those very uneventful trips, so I won't bore you with the details.  As we learned from our cruising days, uneventful = good!  The weather was gorgeous.  The current was with us.  And we made it home in less than 4 hours.  Pretty good!  Pulling into the marina was a little surreal.  It had been nearly a year and a half since we'd left Gold Point on a chilly November morning.  Jeff was awake to welcome us home with a wave (he was asleep when we'd left).  I managed to back the boat into our new slip on the first try.  Since it had been over 6 months since I'd driven the boat, I felt really good about it.  This captain's still got it!

It's great to have the boat home, a full-circle trip (some of it over ground, yes, but a hell of a trip nonetheless).  We've been too busy to take it out for a sail, but we're hoping to be able to take up fun sailing again now that things have calmed down a little.

In other wonderful news, Trevor has a new job!  He'll actually be starting in another week.  So exciting!  When we came back, he took the first job that came along in order to take some of the job-hunt pressure off of me.  Once I found a job, he started looking for a more permanent position, but the search took some time.  But finally something came through for him.  He'll be working for Chattanooga CARES, a non-profit HIV outreach organization, doing educational programs and community outreach stuff.  I'm not sure exactly what he does, but it's actually a benefit-the-world kind of job.  Go Trevor!

And the biggest news?  We're married!  Yep, it finally happened.  Six months of planning, uncountable headaches and stress-induced meltdowns, and it went off beautifully.  The weather was questionable last Saturday.  It rained in the morning (but it's good luck! they told me).  When I came out of the mall after getting my makeup done, it was sprinkling rain again.  Crap, I thought it was finished!  But by the time I made it to the venue, the sun was peeking through the clouds.  The wind picked up.  Oh my, it was a breezy wedding (in more ways than one).  But we started on time.  Dad managed to fight back the tears and walked me down the aisle.  And there was Trevor.  I have never seen so many teeth in his head!  His smile was so huge and adorable!
He's so cute!
Our ceremony was very short and sweet.  Our friend Sharyl did an excellent job and sped things right along.  The ceremony was over before we knew it!  
Mr. and Capt. Wilson!
And then it was party time!  Food, drinks, cake, the usual awesomeness.  We felt very loved and were happy so many people came.  We ate. We drank.  We danced.

Dad did eventually cry, as we all knew he would.  Though he lasted considerably longer than anyone expected.  When they played "We've Only Just Begun", he finally lost it; it was Mom and Dad's wedding song over 40 years ago.  So when they danced, he cried like the big ole softy that he is. (Don't worry, Dad, I'm not posting a picture of that.)

At the end of the night, we headed off to the Chattanooga Choo Choo.  I got a great deal on a room, but when we got there (still in our wedding finery), the upgraded us to a train car.  For free!  So we slept in a train car on our wedding night.  We had room service the next morning (I think it was our most expensive meal of the honeymoon, actually), then headed home to clean up and pack for the trip.  We stopped and grabbed some leftovers from the wedding food (couldn't let it go to waste!), and then we were off to Gatlinburg!  We got to our cute little cabin and settled in.  Hot tub time!  (No pictures of that either.)  We ate leftovers that night (so great!).

It was a most relaxing trip.  We saw a movie one day.  We went to the aquarium another.  And that was about it.  We enjoyed the hot tub.  And the jacuzzi.  We had a little charcoal grill outside, so we had steak one night and lobster the next.  We ate very well at our little cabin.  And we felt so refreshed when we came home on Thursday.

Now it's back to the real world.  The name change process has started (I'm taking his name, not the other way around).  I think it will take me forever to remember everywhere I have to change my name.  Bank accounts, credit cards, insurance, IRAs, car title.  (That last one just came to me.)  But we'll get through it.  Life has settled down a little bit.  At least it's less stressful.  No more wedding to plan!  No more job searching!  Now all we have to do is find a house.  (I know it's no small thing, but it's less daunting without everything else piled on top of it.)

Life is good.  We're happy.  The Wilsons. :)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Settling In and Settling Down

Two months since the last update; I'm such a slacker.

Alright, what's happened since early December?  The holidays.  Lots of them.  We spent the weekend before Christmas with Trevor's family, the weekend of Christmas with mine, and New Years with Trevor's again.  From the weekend before Thanksgiving until the weekend of New Years, we traveled 5 out of 7 weekends to one of our families' homes.  It was a lot of road-tripping, and we were exhausted.  So we took some time in January to relax.  Not a lot of time, but enough.

Somewhere in there, the boat went back in the water.  Yay!  And it's floating!  Double yay!  One of those warm weekends in January, we went up there with the intention of starting the motor and bringing Earendil home.  Alas, the motor wouldn't start.  Not surprising, considering the engine hadn't run since we hauled the boat out the first of July.  Sitting for six months is not good for an old, grouchy engine.  We figured we had air in the fuel lines, so we bled them.  In the process, we discovered another part that needed to be replaced.  Where fuel first goes into the engine, the threads were stripped out around the bleed nut.  It wasn't like this when we left the boat, so we'll chalk it up to another charming gift from Brunswick Landing Marina.  Thanks, guys.  Fortunately, it was a relatively easy part to replace.  With a 35-year-old engine, it can be tricky to find parts.  We've been very lucky so far.  Hopefully, nothing else will ever break ever again.  Right?  Trevor installed the new parts, but there was an issue with a bleed bolt.  The old one was too long for the new part.  The new bolt was too short.  Yikes!  Today, Trevor cut off a little bit of the old bolt, so hopefully we can install it and be good to go.  Maybe next weekend?  We would love to have our boat back soon.  I miss it!  And the weather has been crazy warm for this time of year.  It's been in the 60s all week.  Gorgeous!  Daffodils are blooming.  Not right for February.  Have we skipped winter this year?  Or are we going to get a cold-weather bitch-slap before it's over?  We'll see.  But for now we'll enjoy the warm weather while we can.

For me, work has been pretty good.  We moved from the old location on Main St. (7 minutes away) to a new place on Amnicola (15 minutes to get there, 20 minutes to get home).  We have so much more room in the new building!  It's pretty awesome.  And the commute still isn't bad.  My coworker also moved down to Florida.  Is it wrong to say I'm super happy about it?  Might be wrong, but I'm not one to lie.  It's fantastic!  I am finally doing all of the testing on my own.  Things are running much more smoothly.  There are less errors.  I have measures in place to double-check myself all the time.  Life is good.  And I should be finding less and less of his missteps as time goes on and they come out of the system.  Dare I say it?  Yep, I'm awesome!  I actually love my job now that I'm on my own.

A really great bonus to the new location?  I'm ridiculously close to the Urban Rocks climbing gym.  AND work will reimburse me $25 a month if I go at least 8 times each month.  Sweet!  So now it's affordable and really, really convenient.  Thaddeus and I went yesterday and climbed to our little hearts' content.  I'm already feeling the soreness in my arms and shoulders.  Yowza!  But it's a good pain, right?  We'll go with that.  So I'll be doing that at least a couple of times a week.  In no time, I'll have arms like I had on the trip.  Buffness!

Trevor is still in the process of finding a permanent job.  The cafe is starting to drive him crazy.  He works really hard for much less pay than he deserves.  He's searching and applying.  Something is bound to come up soon.  He deserves it!

We've started the process of house shopping.  Last week, we turned in our paperwork to one bank to start the mortgage pre-approval process, and we'll do the same for another bank this week.  Hopefully, we'll hear something soon.  I didn't think getting a loan would be any problem, but the gap in our employment is a little scary to some lenders.  So we'll just wait and see what happens. We're hopeful!  And we look forward to having a house.  (I so badly want to grow a garden this summer.)

The wedding is less than 3 months away now.  Holy crap!  We've taken care of a lot of the planning, but there's always something more to do.  It'll be here in no time.  I can't wait.  It's going to be an awesome party!  I bought my shoes yesterday.  Yay, shoes!  (Yep, I get girly sometimes.)

I think I pretty much covered the latest and greatest developments.  Life is grand.  Sometime, I read the blogs of the folks still traveling, and I get a little jealous.  But then I think about hot running water and all the electricity we can use, and I feel a little better.  I still like the idea of going back out there one day, but not yet.  We've got some boring old settling down to do, and we are so looking forward to it.  Bring on that picket fence!

Sunday, December 4, 2011


I've neglected the blog.  It's been almost three months since I wrote anything.  Life on shore doesn't seem too exciting, and I hate to bore people.  But things have happened, so it's time for an update.

The boat is mostly fixed.  We repaired the blisters as wells as we knew how.  Hopefully, it'll be good for a few more years.  We might haul the boat out in another five years, and only then will we know if our repairs were good.  So we have a while before we have to worry about it.  After the blisters were filled, we painted the bottom.  It's now a lovely green!  So cute!  And we raised the water line so we don't get barnacles again.  Oh wait, no barnacles in fresh water.  Well, at least we won't get river slime up on the side.  Right?  Since we painted right over the boot stripe, we had to put new ones on.  We bought striping tape to do it.  Getting the lines straight was a little tricky, especially on a curvy hull.  But we managed.  It looks good from 10 feet away, at least.  And it's definitely pretty good for an amateur job.  Go us!  Now the boat is ready to go back in the water.  We'll have to get the prop shaft reattached to the motor so we can actually move the boat.  And some adjustment on the stuffing box will probably be necessary since the stuffing is new.  But then it'll be river-trip ready!  We're hoping to bring the boat back down the river.  Right now it's at Sale Creek, which is a 45-minute drive away, and we'll never use the boat that far away.  I want to bring it back to the marina where I lived before: Gold Point.  Unfortunately, the dock with the bigger slips is full, and the other dock is for 25-foot boats.  We're waiting to hear if they'll take us anyway.  I know there are other 27-footers there, so I'm hopeful we can put the boat there again.  *fingers crossed*

Wedding plans are coming along.  Most of the big stuff has been ordered: food, flowers, cake.  Sending out save-the-dates needs to happen soon.  Very soon.  But we're making progress.

And I have a job!  I was offered a job in Nashville, but I turned it down.  The hours were weird, they didn't do holidays, and I just wasn't prepared to move to Nashville for a job that wasn't awesome.  Rejecting a job was hard.  The search had been slow and discouraging.  But the job wasn't right.  A week later, I was offered a job here.  I got a long really well with the people in the interview, and the job seemed interesting.  And it was a 5-minute drive from home!  Unfortunately, the pay was terrible.  So I had to turn it down.  Apparently, they really liked me.  The offered me more money.  It's still not a great salary, but it's livable for now.  And once Trevor finds a salary-type job, our joint income will be fine.  So what's the job?  I do stability testing for fragrance and cosmetic samplers for a marketing company.  You know those smelly pages with perfume ads in magazines?  Yep, we make those.  And those little samples of shampoo you might get in the mail?  We make those, too.  And my job is to test them.  We do accelerated stability.  Basically, we stick some in an oven for a week (or month, or a few months)  and then compare it to the room temperature sample.  I smell things.  That's my job.  I have a professional nose.

I always managed to land the quirky jobs.  It's a knack.

We're still living with Thaddeus.  Our plan is to buy a house in the next few months.  We hope to be in a house around the time we get married.  We'll see how it goes!  We haven't even started looking at homes yet.  There's so much going on with holidays, wedding planning, job searching, it's hard to even conceive of shopping for a house.  But we'll get around to it.  Meanwhile, our living situation is great.  I live 7 minutes from work.  Because our expenses are low, we're saving up for a down payment when we find a house.  And we get to hang out with Thaddeus!

Life is good.  We're moving forward.  Acting like adults, with actual long-term plans.  And the weather no longer dictates our every move.  I'll admit, that part is kind of nice.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Moving Forward

The last blog was about the big mess of getting our boat almost-fixed at Brunswick Landing Marina, spending all our money, and being very unhappy.  Now that whole ordeal is over.  Tears were shed, money was spent, but now we have our boat back!

We had Eärendil shipped back to Sale Creek, and now the ole boat is up on blocks.  It's a redneck sailboat!  There's something sad about a sailboat out of the water, with the mast taken down.  It just looks wrong.  But once we finish the bottom work, we'll get it back in the water, where it belongs.  Speaking of doing the bottom work, we were on top of things for a little while.  We unloaded tons of personal belongings and started getting the bottom ready for repairs.  After buying a cheapo rotary tool (thank you for your cheap Chinese knock-offs, Harbor Freight), I went to work grinding out blisters (and formerly repaired blisters that did not hold up).  We thought we only had a few, but once I got going, I kept finding more and more.  Oh my.  Fortunately, most of them are small and won't require new fiberglass, just some new epoxy to fill in the pocket.  There are a few larger ones that will need more extensive work.  But even though it was worse than we thought, it's not horrible.  And it will be so much cheaper for us to fix it ourselves!  I spent less than $200 on supplies (including epoxy, fiberglass, and paint).  I hate to think how much it would cost to pay someone for the work. 

Prep work was started, supplies were ordered.  And then you know what happened?  Tropical Storm Lee, that's what happened.  It rained.  And rained and rained.  In one day, 8 inches of water dropped on Chattanooga.  So all these blisters that have to be super dry before they're patched?  Yep, soggy again.  So now we're hoping for another long dry spell.  At least until the end of next week. Things should be dry again by then if we don't get anymore rain.  Yep, I'll get to work next week.  (I really mean it this time.) 

Blister repairs, bottom paint, put the mast back on, and get the boat back in the water!  That's the plan.

Other things have happened, too.  We've been planning the wedding.  Yay, wedding!  The date is set for April 21, 2012 here in Chattanooga.  We found an amazing venue right on the river.  So gorgeous!  If the weather is right, we'll get to have an outdoor wedding.  If it's rainy (it will be April, after all), we can easily move indoors.  But it'll still be on the river.  So pretty!

So we have a date and a venue.  And I have a dress!!!  I'd post a link or picture, but Trevor hasn't seen the dress.  And we intend to keep it that way.  Maybe cheesy and old-fashioned, but we're both excited about him seeing me in the dress for the first time as I stroll down the aisle.  Trevor's eyes will pop out of his head, my dad will sob uncontrollably, the rest of our immediate families will get a little weepy.  Tissues all around!  (Maybe I should use tissues for pretty-yet-practical decorations, hmm?)  After a ridiculously short ceremony, we'll have a rockin' party!  There will be snacks, booze, and silly beach-themed decorations.  (Keeping my eye out for an inflatable palm tree.)  Good times!

Progress!  The wedding plans are coming along.  I'm a little slow, but I'm getting the hang of it.  Ordered save-the-date magnets yesterday.  Called a florist today.  And going to the beach this weekend!  Oh wait, that's not wedding-helpful at all.  But it's the beach!  Maybe I'll bring some sand back or something.  For decorations.

Even more slow-moving is the job search.  Trevor has found something!  He's working at a cafe, so now we have actual money coming in.  And I'm still up to my eyeballs in career-hunting.  I've had 2 interviews with a company in Nashville, with a 3rd phone interview scheduled for Friday.  Things are looking pretty positive there, as far as I can tell.  Of course, that would require us to move to Nashville (any Nashville residents are welcome to chime in on how much they love/hate living there).  And it's a 3rd shift position.  Not ideal, but I'd much rather work an overnight shift than an evening shift.  So we'll see what comes of it.

I've put in quite a few applications.  I'm at an awkward in-between stage of my career.  I'm over-qualified for entry-level work, but underqualified for the next step up.  So it seems I might have to start toward the bottom and work my way back up.  But that's okay.  It looks like I can make about the same money as I made before I left the job market.  So that's good.  I was, of course, hoping for more since I'm an accomplished captain now.  But being a sailboat captain does not translate to running a chemistry lab.  Yet.

So that just about sums up the last month or so.  Other minor accomplishments:  I've gotten really good at baking bread.  I beat the video game Portal 2 (once Trevor beats it, we can play co-op mode together!).  And somehow, I've lost 5 pounds in the last week.  Now I'm back in my good weight range.  Couch surfing is good for me!  (I don't think that's true at all, but I guess kneading bread is good exercise?)

I'll try to keep this blog more updated.  There's no cruising news anymore.  It's just updates on our daily lives.  We'll try to keep it interesting.  Is making lasagna for dinner blog-worthy?  No?  It'll have Italian sausage and spinach in it!  Still no.  *sigh*  Land life.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The End of the Whole Affair

Okay, it's been almost 2 months since the last post.  I've been psyching myself up for this one.  And things keep happening, so I keep thinking that when the dust settles, I'll finally update.  The dust hasn't settled yet, but it should soon.

When last you heard about our intrepid adventures, we were hatin' on the ole Florida ICW.  Because it was awful.  Anyone who has cruised that section in a slow boat will agree.  The rude boaters, the muddy water, and the current that was inexplicably working against us most of the time.  We stopped in Fernandina on a mooring ball.  We raced a storm and just barely tied up to the ball before it hit.  (We're awesome!)  It was exciting.  And wet.  The town of Fernandina is really cute.  Little shops and restaurants on the scenic little main street.  I'll admit, though, I was a little put-off by the $7 loaf of bread at the bakery.  That's more than in the Bahamas!  I don't care how "artisan" it is, that's just silly.  But we enjoyed walking along the street.  So cute!  But with a factory spewing out some serious funk, it was a smelly night out in the mooring field, and we were happy to leave the next day.

Then we crossed into Georgia!  And you know what?  It's prettier there.  The trees are green.  There are less boaters.  And we heard a marina bash someone on the radio because they didn't obey the no-wake zone.  Yep, they yell at people for being douchebags.  Go Georgia!  As it had for the last week, the afternoon brought rain and thunderstorms.  We anchored next to a water park.  Due to the storm, it was quieter than usual.  And we discovered the joys of a bimini bath.  The rain had made little puddles in the bimini top, and instead of hopping in the dirty salty water to bathe, we just used the bimini water to splash on and lather up.  Soap works better in fresh water, too, so it was a really refreshing (if slightly chilly) way to clean up.  And then we warmed up by using the last of our solar shower water.  Delightful. 

The next day (I think we made it into Brunswick on June 30), we made it in to the Brunswick Landing Marina.  Huzzah, floating concrete docks!  Those are the best.  And we learned later that they have 8-foot tides there, so floating docks are very important.  The showers were huge and awesome, and they even had free laundry.  Free laundry, people!  We were psyched.  Almost wanted to hang out there instead of going home for a month.  Nah, we were ready to go home.  Take a break from the boat, see family and friends, and enjoy air conditioning and other amenities of non-boat life. 

In the three weeks we had been on the ICW, we had a crazy amount of growth and barnacles on the bottom of our boat.  We thought it might be worth it to haul the boat out and repaint the bottom while we were gone.  If we left the boat in the water the whole time, we would have a whole coral reef down there by the time we got back.  With a good quote on bottom painting, we decided to go ahead and haul the boat.  It's always nerve-wracking to see your boat (and home) pulled up by a couple of straps, swinging in the breeze, looking very out of place.  Then they scraped the barnacles off (unreal how many there were) and gave it a pressure wash.  We knew we needed to raise the water line.  We thought it was because we had so much weight on the boat.  Nope, some idiot who owned the boat before had the water line lowered.  Lowered?  Why in the world would you do that?  So we'll get that taken care of.  So we think.  Then the boat yard guys start looking things over. 

They found that our prop shaft (and engine) were out of alignment.  So the prop shaft was really worn and could fail at any time.  Holy smokes!  We were pretty mad that the guys at Sale Creek Marina didn't notice it (or if they did, they didn't mention it) when we had the boat out before the big trip.  We noticed it, but assumed that since they didn't mention it, it wasn't a big deal.  Crappity crap.  How could they let us go on a long trip with this huge potential for propulsion failure?  And now we were going to have to shell out money to have it fixed.  New prop shaft, engine alignment, fixing the strut that holds it in place, replace the cutlass bearing.  We just wanted to paint the bottom.

So we left to go back to Tennessee.  They would send us an estimate for the work that needed to be done.  Two weeks later, after many phone calls and a lot of nagging, we finally got our estimate.  $4500!  What?!?!  And that doesn't even include paint and blister repair.  We study the estimate.  $2000 for rudder repair.  The rudder is fine (good enough anyway), so we'll knock that off.  That still leaves us with $2500, but we can manage that if we have to.  And it has to be done, right?  So we tell them to go ahead, starting with engine alignment and then seeing what else needs to be done.  (Take note, starting with engine alignment is important.)

So they order the parts and start to work.  The initial work ends up only slightly more than the estimate.  But wait, the engine isn't aligned yet.  They did a mock-up so they could work on the shaft support strut, but the motor is not in place yet.  Hrm.  Then we get a call that one of our motor mounts is toast, and they can only order them in pairs.  Crap.  But necessary.  Add another $500, that's just part of boat repairs. 

Another week or so goes by, and we get another call.  Once the new motor mounts were installed and they were going in for the final alignment, the bolts kept spinning.  The wood underneath must be rotten, and they'll have to replace it or the engine can't be aligned.  This means moving the motor, ripping up fiberglass, replacing the wood, reglassing, and finally putting the motor back in place.  Seriously?  You guys know we're working on a budget, right?  Yep, they know.  But what can we do?  If this isn't fixed, none of the previous repairs matter.  And here was our biggest mistake: we didn't get an estimate for this work.  There was no warning about it being expensive, even though they knew we were running out of money.  There was no indication about how much it would cost.  Communication break-down.

Another week or so goes by.  We call and call to see where things are with the boat repairs.  By this time, we've decided to ship the boat back to Tennessee.  We can't afford to cruise it back, and hurricane season is in full swing.  Wrong time of year to cruise around Florida.  So we're just ready to be done with the whole mess and get our boat back.  We've decided the blister repairs and bottom paint are something we'll have to do ourselves once we get it back.  Can't afford to pay them to do it.

And then we get another phone call.  When they took the mast down for transport, the boat settled.  The hull flexed.  They say it's a structural issue that Hunter knows about.  What?  Is our boat on the verge of death?  Have we spent all this money for a boat that's suffering hull failure?  You've got to be kidding me!  The next day we talk to the boat yard manager.  Trevor tries to understand what's going on, and Robert gets combative.  "No, Jeff never said that!"  You need to watch your attitude, mister.  We're just trying to understand what's going on so we know what next steps to take.  Turns out it's not as bad as we thought.  The hull settled a little bit, 1/2", but without the stays giving support, this isn't so surprising.  But you know what?  Now they can't align the engine.  Can't align the bloody engine!  That's the first, very first, number one on the list of things we  told them to do.  And they can't do it. 

And then we get the bill.  Another $3500, on top of what we already paid.  $3500!  Where in the world did this number come from?  That's more than the first round of repairs.   This brings the grand total to over $6500.  Not including haulout, not including dockage.  Yep, they're charging us to keep our boat there while they're working on it.  I've never heard of any boat yard that charges you to keep the boat there while they're working on it.  If we're doing the work ourselves, sure, they'll charge us.  But this is the only place that charges dockage while they work.  And you know how much I paid for the boat?  The boat cost $6000.  The repairs (that aren't finished) have cost me more than the boat is worth.  It's a nightmare!  If we'd known how much it was going to be, we never would have let them touch the boat in the first place.  Hindsight is 20/20, of course.  But this is just wrong.  The repairs are at almost triple the original estimate. 

We are very unhappy.  There's an understatement.  We're going down tomorrow to check the repairs, go over the bill, and pay them what we owe (our souls, first born, etc.).  Monday, we have a truck coming to ship the boat back here.  Remember the reason we wanted to haul the boat in the first place?  Bottom paint, that's right.  We'll do that ourselves when it gets here.  All this money, and we didn't even get done what we wanted.

The cruising kitty is empty.  The boat isn't finished.  Our trip is completely over.

It was a great trip, we wouldn't trade it for anything.  Amazing experiences, great new friends, more good times than bad.  We just hate that it had to end so bitterly.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Back in Florida and the ICW: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

It's been a week and a half since the last blog.  We've been anchoring out constantly, so internet is hit-or-miss.  But we also just don't have much to report. Reader beware: rants will follow, peppered with sailor-quality vocabulary.  Just so the Wilsons are warned.  :)

The Good: Communication!  Now that we're back stateside, we can talk to people again.  I've talked to my parents almost every day since we've been back.  Trevor can finally call his BFF and start catching up on what he's missed.  And even though we don't have it every day, we do have access to internet.  So we can check our email every once in a while.  Though I'm a slacker friend and keep not calling people (I'm sorry; I promise I'll try to call sometime!), I do like knowing that I can call when I finally get the inkling. 

The Bad: Traffic!  Florida is full of boaters.  Fast boaters.  Inconsiderate boaters.  There are a few nice ones, but they are the exception (and usually are cruisers and therefore not Floridians).  I don't know what the deal is.  The bigger the boat, the bigger the douchebag driving it.  Compensating for something?  I think so.  Compensate with a shiny car, and get out of my way, you jerk!  And the weekends are the worst!  The douchebaggiest boaters come out on the weekends, in hoards.  They rush by in their big (why so big???), fast boats, sending huge wakes to knock us sideways and spill our coffee.  We've taken to finishing coffee before we get underway.  And now I have a sippy cup to prevent spills (it's a "straw bottle", but sippy cup is more fun to say), and the sippy cup makes one-handed drinking easier when at the tiller (unscrewing a bottle cap is hard with one hand!).  Right, we were talking about inconsiderate morons, not sippy cups.  They're inconsiderate morons!  (Now we're back on track.)  Do they ever look behind to see the effects of their wake?  Do they?  Of course not.  They're too busy spying out the next boat to dodge, or ogling a bikini-clad chicky.  Yesterday, we were passed by a speed boat driven by a guy with bigger boobs than me (I'm no Baywatch girl, or anything, but still).  This guy works way too hard to look good driving his boat around.  Spend less time at the gym and more time learning to drive your boat without being an ass!

The Ugly: Muddy Water!   Remember those pictures of the Bahamas, with their gorgeous, crystal-clear water?  Remember that?  It was a long freakin' time ago.  We're back in the ICW, and that means murky water.  Muddy grossness all the time.  Back in Tennessee, we swam in muddy water all the time.  Though dirty, it was fresh water.  Now we have muddy and salty.  No fair!  It's hard to wrap our heads around jumping in that water to take a bath.  How can we be cleaner after going in there?  Thank goodness for the solar shower!

The Good: US Prices!  Food, fuel, and water were crazy expensive over in the Bahamas.  Okay, water wasn't expensive, but we did have to pay for it.  I'm sure those of you who haven't left the States are thinking fuel is expensive here.  I saw $3.47 for gas today.  We were paying $6 over there.  I'm sure I'll grumble over the prices when I start driving a car again, but for now I'm happy to be back!  We fueled up about a week ago, and it cost us $25 for 5 gallons of diesel, a block of ice, and a bag of ice.  And water was free!  We were super happy about it.  We went to the grocery store and spent $25.  We got so much food!  Produce, meats, bread!  And that was a Publix.  Imagine how much food we would get at Aldi.  (Oh, we can't wait to shop at Aldi when we get to Chattanooga.)  We're afraid of packing on the pounds since we can afford food again.  But we're able to buy more produce (Bahamians are not really into the whole vegetable thing), so maybe we'll eat healthier.  Maybe.  Oh, and we have ice!  All the time!  Because it's only $2-3 for a bag (or block - they have blocks here, too!).  Oh the joys of having a cooler that's actually cold and not just "kinda cool-ish".  And Trevor gets cold beer now.  Happy Trevor!

The Bad: Jerkwad boaters going fast and rocking us with their wakes.  Oh wait, I already covered that one.  But they're really obnoxious. 
The Bad: Weather.  It's hot here!  And humid!  I guess that's normal for June, but I gotta whine about something, right?  It seemed like the wind blew all the time over in the Bahamas.  So while it was warm, it was usually not too hot.  And we could always go for a swim in that gorgeous water.  (Oh, how I miss it!)  But when the wind doesn't blow here, it's miserable!  The first week we were traveling, the wind was dead until the afternoon.  Once the breeze picked up it wasn't so bad, and sleeping was very comfortable with a nice wind.  The last few days have been a little better.  It's been breezy right from the get-go.  Ah, not so sweltering.  It also lets us fly a sail (usually), so we pick up a little bit of speed.  Until the current turns against us.  Blast you, unfavorable current!  We hate those currents when they're against us, but love them when they work for us.  But I guess with breezy mornings, we get crazy afternoons.  Thunderstorms.  We've been fortunate so far and haven't been smacked down like we were outside of Palm Beach.  Yesterday, we drove for about 2 hours in the rain.  Then anchored in the rain.  But the boat was cleaner!  Until we pulled up anchor this morning.  But that's back to the muddy water rant, and we've already covered that one.  (Did I mention it's salty and muddy? Ick!)

The Ugly:  Scenery.  Up until a couple of days ago, the scenery was craptastic.  Nothing but big buildings, lots of development, and HUGE houses.  Why does anyone need a house that big?  Don't you have something better to spend your money on?  Like, I don't know, a boat to go on that half-mile long dock you have?  And do these people have solar panels on these giant McMansions?  Nope.  As we've moved north, we've seen a few more solar panels.  And they make me happy.  A couple of houses have had entire roofs covered with solar panels.  Way to go, rich people!  That's how you lead the way to greener living!  If the rich people don't do it, how do they expect the rest of us to do it?  Solar panels are pricey!  (Trevor and I are determined to have at least a few on our house, when we get a house, one of these days, in the future.)  Right, I was talking about scenery (or lack thereof), not ranting about rich people.  They're probably very nice.  Even though they don't like us anchoring near their houses.  Scenery.  Yes.  It was bad.  Hotels, businesses, giant houses (not even pretty, they all looked the same, and boring).  Then we hit Mosquito Lagoon.  It's not exactly scenic, but at least there were no buildings.  But when we got north of the lagoon, oh yes, here are some people with their priorities straight.  I don't know what the town/neighborhood/whatever was called, but it was awesome.  Quite a few double-wide trailers (and a few singles), some small houses, all of them immaculately kept and with a nice dock.  The houses weren't big, but these people obviously took pride in them and loved them.  They were in good repair, nice paint, a little landscaping to make it look homey.  A beautiful area.  And people used their docks!  Even on a weekday, we saw many people on their docks.  Fishing, snuggling, or just enjoying the day.  It was a nice change to see.  And the scenery has been better ever since.  There have been a few cities (Daytona isn't so scenic from the ICW side), but there's been much more wildlife.  Yay for wildlife!  Except mosquitoes - I hate those blood-sucking bastards!  Oh, yesterday, we saw huge jellyfish.  They were probably 12 inches in diameter, just drifting along with the current.  It's weird to see jellyfish in muddy water.

The Good: Dolphins!  Maybe two or three times in the Bahamas, we saw dolphins.  Here, we see them all the time!  Sometimes just one or two swimming off in the distance.  But occasionally, we'll see a whole pod!  As we were coming into New Smyrna Beach, we saw a bunch of them.  When they swam over a shoal, it was too shallow for them to get underwater, so we saw their dorsal fins wiggling as they scooted across the shallows. So cute!  Even after a big (or not) doofus speeds past us and knocks us around, a dolphin always cheers me up.  They're just so happy.  This morning, we had a double rainbow, and dolphins swimming under it.  So happy it was ridiculous!  Like and '80s cartoon or something.

We miss the beauty of the Bahamas, no doubt about that.  But we are happy to be back in the States.  We've missed family and friends.  We've even seen people!  We got to see my cousins Dee, Jim, and Jon while we were in Palm Beach.  It was awesome!  And two days ago, I saw Tammy (wife of my old dock buddy JD) while she was on vacation with her family.  We played miniature golf (excuse me, Adventure Golf!) and had a great time.  If our luck holds, we might get to see David and Alice from Alice Mae while we're in St. Augustine.  They've got other things to worry about right now, but if we don't get to see them this time, we'll see them when we come back down.  And St. Augustine is gorgeous!  Lots of tourists, but the city itself is pretty.  And we had pizza for lunch!  Our first pizza since we got back, and it was delicious!

We're making our way north at a pretty decent pace.  We expect to be in Brunswick, GA by next weekend.  It'll probably take us a day or two to get the boat ready to sit for a month.  A solar panel to install to keep the batteries topped up, removing all perishable food, general cleaning.  But then we'll rent a car and head back to Tennessee!  We're excited about seeing family and friends.  We can tell our stories to a new, appreciative audience.  We'll sleep in beds.  We'll do laundry until absolutely everything is clean.  We're even getting a 7-months-later Thanksgiving dinner with my family, since we all missed Thanksgiving last year.  (Traditional Thanksgiving anyway - my dad still raves about the arepas London's husband made us last Thanksgiving in Mobile.)

Being back in Florida is a huge change.  But we'll take it.  The good outweighs the bad and ugly.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

High-Seas Excitement! Adventures in Returning Stateside.

So we were anchored at Chub Cay, right?  The wind had been blowing pretty much out of the east.  Then Friday afternoon, the wind shifted.  It started howling out of the north.  We weren't very well protected from the north, so it got a bit bumpy in the anchorage.  Fortunately, the water to the north is pretty shallow, so the waves didn't have a chance to build up too much.  But it was still a little exciting.  Then the sailboat anchored behind us started to drag, Isle Escape.  And the little broken-down sailboat that had 3 anchors out, remember them?  With the wind shift, they were now behind the boat that was dragging.  Luckily, there was no collision.  But Isle Escape's anchor did catch one of the 3 that the little boat had down.  Anchor tangle! No good!  They managed to get untangled, but then started dragging again.  Oh no, there's a catamaran in the way!  But they started their engine, hauled up anchor, and moved to a new spot.  A couple of times, they dropped anchor but then started dragging.  So eventually, they gave up on that anchoring business and went into the marina.  We were all relieved.

At some point in the night, the wind shifted the opposite way.  South winds, what the what?  And yep, they were howling.  It made us uncomfortable to have a 180-degree wind shift.  Would the anchor hold?  If it were deep sand under us, we would have no worries.  But it was grassy sand.  Not such good holding.  Fortunately, our totally awesome Delta anchor held through it all!  Best investment ever!  Neither of us slept very well that night.  It was uncomfortably wavy, and we worried about the anchor.

The next morning, the wind was still out of the south.  We were up at the crack of dawn, sipping coffee and waiting for Chris Parker to come on the radio and tell us about the day's weather.  Around 7:00, we headed out right behind Amata Marie.  We would have 13 miles of deep, open water before we hit the banks.  Would this south wind make it horrible?  Nope!  It was actually pretty nice.  There was a big roll that rocked us back and forth, but not as bad as when we left the Exumas, or when we left West Bay.  Alright, this banks crossing is looking good!  Once we made it through the northwest channel onto the Great Bahama Banks, the waves calmed considerably.  And the wind shifted again.  West.  Right in our faces.  Rats!  We managed to use the main sail for a little while, but eventually we were going straight into the wind.  So it was pure motoring.  Slow and noisy.  But we were making progress.

It's 70 miles or so from Chub Cay to Bimini.  With a good wind we could make it in a day.  We did not have a good wind.  It was apparent by mid-day that we were not going to make it by sundown.  We could either go through the night and get to land while it was dark, or we could anchor on the banks.  We opted for the latter.  It's exciting to anchor 25 miles from the nearest land.  We caught up with Amata Marie just before sunset and dropped anchor in 15 feet of water.  Did I mention the wind shifted again?  Northwest this time.  It managed to chop up the water a little more.  So we were not comfortable, the boat rocked and rolled all night.  We weren't worried about the boat or anything.  The deep sand made for excellent anchor-holding.  And even if the anchor did drag, where were we going to go?  We were in the middle of nowhere!  So it was discomfort, not stress, that made it the second restless night in a row.

And then the sun came up on Sunday.  We had about 5 minutes of amazing sunrise, and then the clouds obscured our sun.
Sunrise on the banks
We had coffee and breakfast and headed west.  We made it into South Bimini mid-afternoon.  Hello, Bimini Sands Marina!  This was our first time in a marina in 2 months.  It was so weird to pull the boat into a dock!  But we managed and got tied up and fendered.  Then we helped Amata Marie in.  Holy crap, it's hard to dock a 44-foot, 20-ton sailboat!  I thought mine was tricky.  Makes me happy for little bitty Earendil.  It didn't take us long to don our swimsuits and take advantage of the swimming pool.  Our first time in fresh water since who knows when.  It was nice to get out and not feel the desperate need for a shower.  But it was also weird to sink in the water and not float on top.  Changes!  We all went out to dinner down at Bimini Beach Club.  Our last dinner in the Bahamas.

And then came our last sunset in the Bahamas.  I'll admit, it was a little sad.  We've had some amazing sunsets, even a green flash once.  And this would be the last time for a long time that we'll get a sunset over the water.
Our last sunset in the Bahamas
After showers and laundry, we enjoyed our last night of hanging out with Jim, Nancy, and Tim on Amata Marie.  We've been traveling with them a long time, and we're going to miss them terribly.  Our little Bahamas family is finally broken up.

Monday morning, we were up at 5:00 getting the boat (and ourselves) ready for a 6 am departure.  We managed to get out pretty much on time.  The seas were calm, the wind was light.  It was shaping up to be an amazing Gulf Stream crossing!  We had a slight west wind in our faces for several hours.  It wasn't enough to slow us down, just enough to keep it from getting unbearably hot under the sun.  So we motored.
Sunrise over Bimini

Reflection of the clouds in the calm, glassy water
In the afternoon, the wind died completely.  And it was hot out there!  I mean, really hot!  We were terribly tempted to turn off the engine and jump in for a swim.  But out in the middle of the Gulf Stream is probably not the safest place to swim.  So we sweltered.  I went inside and had a nap.  When I came back up, the wind had picked up out of the south.  Just enough to cool things off, not yet enough to put up a sail.  It gradually picked up.  Trevor suggested raising the main sail.  Good idea!  So we hoisted the main and gained a half knot.  Then a whole knot.  Yeah, buddy!  Cruising on.

We had "land ho" around 1:00, but we were still far from our destination.  Once we saw the Palm Beach skyline, we knew we were only a few hours away.  And the wind continued to build out of the south.
And they kept building.  And the waves grew with the wind.
It was a following sea, so it just pushed our back end around a little bit.  But it wasn't scary.  Yet.

When we were about 10 miles out of the Lake Worth inlet, the clouds started building up, too.  Hmm.  We had the full main sail up, and I knew if the wind picked up too much, we would have to reduce sail.  But we also needed the sail up to keep our speed up.  The sooner we get into land, the better.  It also gave us much-needed stability in a 5-to-6-foot chop.  So we left it up.

When we were a mile from shore, we knew we wouldn't make it in before the storm hit. I decided life jackets were in order.  When the wind hit about 20 knots, it was past time to take the sail down.  I noticed the sail already had a little tear up at the top.  This is when things got exciting.  The wind picked up fast.  Trevor was up on deck taking the sail down, and the wind kept getting stronger.  He managed to get it lashed down to the boom when a big wave came at us from the side.  "Hold on!"  I didn't see it, but Trevor said our gunwale went underwater.  Yikes.

We were 1/2 mile from shore, just getting into the channel to take us inland.

And then all hell broke loose.  The wind roared out of the south, bringing a couple of waves at least 10 feet high.  Fortunately, they were swells, not chop, so we just rode up and down them.  Whoa!  Then came the rain.  Heavy, blinding rain blowing straight into our eyes.  We couldn't see more than 10 feet in any direction.  The wind howled like I've never seen before.  I guessed it had to be 50 knots.  Holy shit!  Thank goodness we took the sail down.  It would have been completely shredded in those winds.  We had to put on sunglasses just to keep the rain out of our eyes.  I don't know if you've ever had rain blown into your eyes at 50 knots, but it hurts.  The wind howled, the boat rocked, and we held on!

We had the SeaClear navigation software pulled up on the computer, so I had Trevor keep an eye on it to make sure we stayed in the channel.  With the wind and rain, we couldn't see where we were.  Every once in a while, I could pick out the blinking lights on the channel markers.  With that poor little 8-horsepower motor fighting against the wind and waves, we weren't going much of anywhere.  My only goal was to keep us upright and out of the shallows.  There was nothing to do but keep going as long as we could.  If the worst happened, we were wearing life jackets and would swim to shore once the storm let up.  But we just had to keep going.  And it's a good boat.

I have no idea how long the storm lasted.  20 minutes?  30?  It seemed like forever.  I just drove and hoped for the storm to go away.  It started to slack just enough for us to see shore.  We had made maybe 50 yards progress while the storm blew at its fiercest.  Trevor said something about us making it in to the shelter of the channel soon.  I told him the storm would blow over by the time we made it to shore.  And I was right.  As we motored past the jetty into the inlet, the wind eased off and the rain slowed to a drizzle.  Thank goodness!

As we made our way inland, a Coast Guard boat zoomed out past us to go save someone.  We heard on the radio that a catamaran with 4 people on it had capsized in the storm.  We were passed by two towboats bringing people in.  I thought those guys were going to be busy for a while.  I remembered a little fishing boat going out past us as we were trying to beat the storm in, thinking they were idiots for going out in that mess.  I'd say we were idiots for getting caught out in it.  But we did all that we could.  That little sailboat only goes so fast, and we tried so hard to get in.

But we survived the storm!  With no damage except a small tear in the sail, we came out better than we could have hoped.  It was, by far, the worst weather I've ever been in.  That estimation of 50-knot winds?  I was right on.  Reports came in later of 55-mph winds on land.  And we made it through!  All thanks to an excellent first mate, a solid little boat, and an awesome captain (screw modesty, I kicked ass that day)!

Two and a half months in the Bahamas.  75 miles across from Bimini.  And a half mile from being back stateside, we get pummeled by a wicked thunderstorm.  Thanks for the warm welcome, Florida! 

After the storm was over, we made our way into the ICW.  On our way in, we were awarded with a double rainbow (not full-on all the way across the sky, but double rainbow nonetheless).  We earned that rainbow, I say.  Then we anchored, put on dry clothes, called families, and enjoyed some nerve-calming sangria.  What a day.

Tons of boats and big, tall buildings. Welcome back to Florida and the ICW.

Yesterday, we moved to a marina.  Docked like a couple of pros.  In the afternoon, my cousins came and picked us up.  Now we're hanging out with Dee, Jim-Bob, and Jon.  Sleeping in a big, king-sized bed that doesn't rock.  Enjoying a noontime Bloody Mary.  Yep, life has gotten pretty sweet.  We're enjoying a little bit of down time.