Discomfort is an Effective Teacher

…but not a very pleasant one….

Ask me how I know this!  Experience.  I seem to continue to torture us with upwind sailing.  Some of this is due to our destination being in a direction that is not entirely cooperative with the weather, but it’s primarily due to my inexperience with marine weather and navigation.  Ed (and I guess me as well) is certainly a sport in letting me learn the hard way.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Albert Einstein? AA? NA? Sound advice regardless of who said it first.
Ed at the helm on our way to Little Harbour Cay.

We started our week at Great Harbour Cay waiting for a gnarly cold front to pass.  Tuesday came with favorable sailing weather, and after a lot of back and forth on routing decisions and discussion with Ed, I finally decided our best course was to sail up and around the north end of the Berry Island chain, and anchor at Little Harbour Cay on the east side.  That leg went fairly well, but it was close hauled (up wind) most of the way which is always a less comfortable sail than downwind.  We had also planned for me to be at the helm while dropping anchor so I could get some practice with that.  While I have gotten more comfortable with maneuvering the boat under motor, having to make more complex decisions while doing so still eludes me. Our anchorage for the night was not exactly beginner conditions…lots of shallow areas in random spots, and a west wind shifting to east throughout the night meant we had to have adequate depth around us while still having good shelter. Ed started seeing some decision making on my part that he was concerned about.  I insisted quite quickly that he just needed to take over (I usually run the front end of anchoring and am comfortable with it at this point), and he was hoping I would try to press through it.  The experience left me frustrated, yet again, that I still have great difficulty with close-quarter maneuvering in non-simple situations, and Ed frustrated that his teaching isn’t yielding quicker results. 

We got the anchor down easy enough once we unkinked the “where” part, and instead of diving into the same argument that we’ve had a number of times before about how I learn versus how he likes to teach, we just took some time and space to cool off (not always easy on a boat).  This apprentice/craftsman dynamic that we are having to navigate through in our relationship has been a difficult process for both of us.  For me, because I’m used to picking things up quickly, and a currently that’s not happening with a couple of aspects of boat handling; for Ed, because he is not used to having to adjust his M.O. to meet his “student’s” learning style.  Teaching typically requires a person to know how to convey information in a variety of ways, and to pick a way that makes most sense to the student, not the teacher.  Teaching is hard work, part psychology, and does not come naturally to a lot of people.  I tend to do ok, as I’ve had a lot of practice, Ed is not as fluid with teaching.  However, he is getting better with practice.  Despite this snag, we had a good evening at anchor, with some other boats that followed us in, and got an early start for our next leg early in the morning.

I knew leg number two was going to require some motor sailing once we got past Nassau, because the wind direction was forecast to be generally ENE and lighter in the afternoon.  I figured, based on forecast, that we would have a nice close reach to sail with for Little Harbour to Nassau.  I was wrong, and we ended up motor-sailing the whole way to Highbourne Cay.  Even though we had to cheat with the engines, it was a generally pleasurable sail.  We anchored without a hitch, this time with Ed at the helm, and settled in for the evening. 

The next day was lovely, we took the dinghy into the marina and had lunch there.  It was really yummy, and the restaurant had a beautiful view.

Scenic pano from our table.

We also took the afternoon to swim around a bit, and also make some fresh water.  We attracted a barracuda while we made water which was fun to watch.

Later in the evening a cruising couple we have become acquainted with, Nick and Megan O’Kelly, sailed up to meet us as we had some supplies to deliver to them.  We had dinner on their boat, which was DELICIOUS, and some good conversation.  After seeing their boat, and having Megan’s awesome homecooked meal, it left me thinking, “jeeze, if I could even get my crap together even half as well as they have, we’d be doing great!”  I also had to remind myself that they have been doing this for many years, and it’s an unrealistic expectation for me (or us) to be at their level right now.

Clarity, sister ship to Serenity, coming in to anchor.
Megan’s delicious pizza.

They left early in the morning to head back south down the Exuma chain, and Ed and I sat in a (now) rolly anchorage bummed with the lack of flat water.  As I looked at the weather forecast (I do this every day…especially important when anchored), I decided we should follow suit and take the day to work our way south as it looked most favorable of any day in the coming week.  Once again, the wind was forecast ENE at about 15kts, and we had, roughly, about a 150 course to get to our next stop at Compass Cay.  After some discussion with Ed, we also settled on an anchorage west of Pipe Cay (next to Compass Cay) which we thought would be good considering the easterly wind for the next few days.

Despite my thought that we would have a nice close reach to sail with, we were close hauled and having to correct our course by tacking.  As we ran shy of daylight, we motored for the last 12 miles.

Why, oh why, do I keep looking at forecast wind direction that looks workable, only to see a wind direction underway that really isn’t?!?  Duh, we alter the apparent wind direction by virtue of our motion.  As a pilot, I feel ashamed that I didn’t figure this out sooner.  Soooo….I have learned that if we are to sail with ANY upwind component, I have to peel about 20-30 degrees off the forecast direction, otherwise we tack to correct (which adds a lot of time to cover our intended distance) or fire up the engines.  Given that catamarans do not point upwind as well as a monohull (whole separate conversation on the mechanics of why), we really have to have a forecast that shows a true beam reach for intended course or wind behind.  Ooohhhhh…this is why they say catamarans don’t sail upwind!  I only had to give us three different trips with a total of 10 days to figure this out.  A smarter person than I could have given me a lesson in less than an hour that I would have fully understood.

Discomfort is an effective teacher, but not a very expeditious one.

We arrived at our anchorage with about 30 minutes of daylight to spare, and despite some weird current (hint number one that we should have anchored elsewhere) and some brisk east wind, we got the hook down pretty efficiently.  AAAANNNDDD the evening was miserable with sea swell from the south rocking us back and forth…ugh.  Morning came, and I insisted that we needed to go dock at the marina nearby to hit the reset button, and regroup a little bit. 

Discomfort is an effective teacher, but a student who has found herself at step one of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is not able to learn anymore.

Docking at marinas is not cheap, but we had reached a point where physiological needs trumped bank account wishes.  Bailouts as we learn were budgeted in.  My advice to anyone starting off on cruising is to do the same.

Although this has been a trying week, it’s had its moments of awesomeness as well.  I will follow up in a few days as we enjoy accommodations at Compass Cay Marina and take some time to explore the area.

A preview of what we get to enjoy here:


Great Harbour Cay

We made it to sunny and warm Great Harbour Cay in the Berry Islands!  Our sail over was not the most fabulous, but compared to earlier sails not that bad either.

Crossing the Gulf Stream

Based on the weather forecast, we elected to set sail last Friday night around 10pm.  The sail across the gulf stream was actually quite pleasant until we got almost to the other side, and then it was back to bashing into a head wind…ugh.  The wind ended up being more SE than S which limited our ability to correct our drift north in the stream.  We ultimately found ourselves about 15nm north of our intended course because we just couldn’t point upwind any more than what we had.  Once we cleared the stream, we had to fire up the engines, bring in the genoa, and motor sail with the main the rest of the way.  The wind also picked up a bit more by this time, so it was kind of miserable to bash through the waves for the final 12 hours.  The sea state at least wasn’t completely awful, but it is tiresome to get bounced around for that long.

I also fared much better on this trip because I had a magic little sea sickness patch that worked wonderfully!  I had a couple of moments of getting a little queasy, but I was able to either lay down for a nap, or sit at the helm and have it quickly pass.  At least I was a more functional crew member this time.

If we had it to do over again, I think we would have picked a different and closer port to clear customs in.  The wind direction also made it a battle to get to a more southerly port.  We really should have gone to Freeport or West End.  We have also figured out that jumping to the Exumas from Great Harbour Cay is kind of a navigational challenge.  There just doesn’t really seem to be a good way to do it.  We kind of boxed ourselves in a little bit by parking ourselves at Great Harbour Cay (GHC), but Ed and I have settled on a plan to work our way over. It’ll just take a little more time.

Next time, I think we will be a little better versed in picking ports to make our way around a little better.  We kind of fouled it up on this round.

Finding Balance

Before we embarked on our sail, Ed and I made the decision we would stay at GHC for at least five days so we could get our second Covid test done before sailing to our next point.  As the week went on, we saw that the pesky cold front that’s been causing so much winter weather in the U.S. would finally make its way here tonight.  We then made the decision to just wait for that to pass as well (too windy for a nice sail).  Next Tuesday looks like our next good weather window to work our way south, but as I’ve been scouring over charts and cruising guides, I’ve discovered there is just no simple way to get our boat from point A to point B.  Many of the areas we have to navigate through require day light because of shallow depths.  The deeper areas are also relatively short which makes overnighting in those spots untenable unless we poke along or heave to for some of the trip.  Finding good anchorages along the way has also been problematic.  When the wind is good for us to sail, the wind is wrong to anchor where we’d need to, and vis a versa.

Ed and I finally had to take a step back and pull our brains out of “destination mode” and “real sailors don’t go to marinas mode.”  We are doing this to have FUN, and racking my brain on an unnecessary navigation/weather problem wasn’t fun.  Rushing through a few small repairs before the next sail also wasn’t fun.  We don’t have to rough it for the purpose of getting bragging rights.  We don’t need bragging rights.  We bought our boat through our hard work and we will do as we please with it.  We can afford to make the more “comfortable” decision really anytime we want, so we don’t need stress ourselves out about being in marinas too much. Our next planned hop is to Chub Cay at the south end of the Berry’s, which appears to have a nice marina!  We will stay there until the mood moves us, and weather allows us, to move onto the next stop which we will figure out after we get there!

Seeing the Sights at Great Harbour Cay

We mostly just hung out on the boat for the first couple of days and also got ourselves wrapped up in boat work perhaps a little more than we should have.  We have since decided that most days we shouldn’t work on the boat more than half the day, unless there is some pressing need to go longer.  Our first field trip involved a dinghy ride to the south end of the cay where there was reported to be a dinghy channel short cut to the east side called shark creek.  We got down to the entrance, and it just looked too shallow…even for the dinghy.  Well, maybe the dinghy channel is meant for a smaller dinghy with no motor.  Oh well.  Later that night we had happy hour with some of our boat neighbors, and some of them said they had traversed shark creek.  They had dinghies just like ours…I guess it could be done!  We tried a second time a couple of days later, but the chop leaving the harbor was so awful we bagged it.  Attempt two: fail.

We decided to do some more land-based exploration instead.  The marina has old, rusty beach cruiser bicycles that we can just take to get around.  It’s super nice that we have free transportation, but any amount of uphill is almost impossible to do (no gear shift).  My legs have definitely been getting a workout.  Our first order of business was getting some local sim cards so we can access the cell network here for data.  The marina has Wifi, but it is not very reliable and painfully slow.  That errand took up the better part of the afternoon as we went searching around for where to get sim cards.  Unlike most developed countries where one can buy sim cards in a variety of stores, here, you have to actually go to the phone company office (BaTelCo)…which is like two miles out of town (by road).

I also found an old abandoned building while on a walk when we first arrived.  Ed and I went back to go explore it and we found out it used to be this huge club and resort called the Sugar Beach Hotel.  Apparently, it was built in the 1960s and was a favorite hangout of the Rat Pack.  It was abandoned in the late ‘70s after many problems with drug trafficking.  I did not have my camera with me, but I plan to circle back in the next couple days to take some pictures. Wednesday, we got our second Covid test done here at the marina.  A nurse from the local clinic comes here every morning and administers tests to whoever needs them.  It’s really quite an efficient setup.  While we waited, Walter, the manatee, came by to say hi.  Some of the kids immediately grabbed a wash-water (non-potable fresh water) hose and sprinkled it on Walter. He immediately turned around, they gave him the hose, and he drank his fill of fresh water.  I had no idea manatees were such connoisseurs of water!

Walter, the manatee, having a drink of water.

We also found a nice little lunch joint and bar called the Beach Club on the east side of the island.  We’ve made it over there a couple of times, and the view is just so amazing.

This is the kind of beach on thinks of when talking about the Caribbean.  We also ate out at a local restaurant in town called Coolie Mays.  It’s a really charming restaurant and they had good food.  Unfortunately, with Covid, we were their only guests that night. 

Last night the marina hosted a “grill and chill” for guests.  I got out of cooking duty twice in a row!!  It was nice to congregate with some of the other boats.  The subject of Shark Creek came up again.  Two more boats got through there!  There must be a way!  They were just raving about how fun it was to do and how cool it was to see all the sea turtles.  As I had never seen one in the wild, it got added to our “must do” list.

Chill and grill with some of our boat neighbors
Shark Creek, Round Three

Today found Ed and me determined to figure out this Shark Creek business.  We left about three hours before high tide, knowing that we would not be able to do it near low tide.  We got to what we were sure was the mouth, and ran into depth problems again.  We pushed a little harder, and actually hit bottom.  After backing the dinghy out with the oars, we returned back to the marina to make double sure we were in the right place.  We figured out that the mouth was where we thought it was, and we would just have to do it really close to high tide.  We topped off the dinghy with gas and went back.

We FINALLY successfully made it through and back again…although it was pretty dicey in spots.

It was a fun little adventure, and I got to see my fill of sea turtles.  Unfortunately, they swam away too quickly for me to take their picture!

We are Bahamas Bound!

Hello friends and family from Fort Lauderdale, FL! We have been hard at work getting our boat and ourselves ready to sail to the Bahamas. At least the weather has generally been sunny and warm. I’ve found myself thoroughly enjoying wearing shorts and sandals in February!! It is such a delightful treat after living in the Pacific Northwest for so long. I wish we had a little more down time (okay…any down time) to enjoy it some, but we have been pushing hard to get boat projects done, closing the sale of our house, establishing residency in Florida, stocking up supplies/food/parts, and just general organizing and cleaning.

Boat Projects:

Our first priority in setting sail overseas involves seaworthiness and what I would call mission essential upgrades. Our boat started out its life as a bareboat charter vessel in the Caribbean. Bareboat chartering is essentially renting a boat without a captain. At least one person in the group needs to have some basic knowledge of sailboat handling, but I honestly have no idea how much sailing expertise one must have…it doesn’t seem like a lot. Charter companies expect “renters” won’t really sail the boat much (or at all), but rather motor around in the islands for a week or two. Our boat is structurally well-designed to blue water sail, but the sails, lines, and winches really weren’t set up to handle blue water sailing effectively.

We discovered on our first trip from West Florida to Fort Lauderdale that our sail handling set up was not going to work for us. We battled with the main sail on the first day and gave up after that. It was just too cumbersome for the two of us to handle safely.

For my non-sailing friends, lines (rope) that do certain functions have certain names. The line that hoists and holds the sail up is called a halyard. Our boat’s halyard had to be winched up manually at the mast. This doesn’t work well with a two-person crew for two main reasons: first, being up on the fore deck during rough weather is just asking for an injury or worse; and second, we have a BIG main sail and that thing is HEAVY. It takes a lot of muscle and time for one person to manually winch it up (ask me why I know this). We realized really quickly that we needed to run the main halyard back to the helm and install at least one electric winch. We also decided we should run our reefing lines (lines that take in some of the sail when it’s windier) back to the helm as well. This would remove the need for anyone to handle sails or line on the fore deck unless something has gone awry.

Ed managed to get one electric winch installed earlier, but we still had the issue of reconfiguring some of our running rigging. We FINALLY got it done yesterday and we will give the new set up its first test drive on our gulf stream crossing in a couple of days. We also have the parts to install a second electric winch, but we have some additional modification we have to make in order for the motor to fit. We will tackle this at a later date.

We also had a small tear in our genoa that had to be repaired. We finally got it back yesterday and mounted back on our furler (that was a work out!). See hoisting halyards on manual winches, supra. Sorry…lawyer nerd joke.

Another aspect of bareboat charter boats is the only way the house batteries get charged is with a diesel generator, main engines, or if you’re plugged into shore power. Our generator has certainly been used a lot. It has about 8,800 hours on it, and they generally reach the end of their life at around 10,000 hours. Most owners who purchase a sailboat out of charter have to add solar panels or some other way to generate power as relying on diesel isn’t a long-term or viable way to live off-grid. Lucky for us, the previous owners did most of this work. We have a decent house battery bank, inverter, charge controller, and whatever else is needed to make our system work (sorry…I’m not an electrician). That said, the solar array was a bit anemic in its wattage, and we also had a wind generator to make up for the rest. After listening to that wind generator make a ridiculous amount of noise in wind speeds above 25 knots, we ripped that f-er right off the boat almost as soon as we got it docked in Fort Lauderdale. This, of course, meant we had to make up the difference with more solar, but not enough room on the bimini to fit more panels.

Enter the new solar arch with new davit system:

You can sort of see what the old davits looked like in this picture, and the wind generator that went bye-bye.

Jon, our fabulous welding guru, did a beautiful job. The man is an artist. You can check out his business here:


We HIGHLY recommend him and his team. This has been our most expensive upgrade so far, but we are REALLY happy with the result.

We also had the boat hauled out while we were on our cross country trek to take care of a few minor repairs: rudder bearings, sail drive service, bottom job (not as dirty as it sounds…lol), mini keel repair, and new feathering propellers!

Lastly, our refrigeration and A/C was acting up, so we had that serviced. We still have some work to be done with A/C units, but we can defer it for a later date. The only thing left to do is connect the new solar panels and move the stern light onto the arch so it’s visible. The electrician will be out tomorrow to take care of this.

Serenity is just about all patched up and ready to sail! Other than regular maintenance (or when things decide to break), any other work we have planned is mostly living space and aesthetic related.

House sale is in its final stretch

We did hit a small hiccup in our house sale. The first buyers backed out after they did their home inspection. It seemed like it was a case of the husband made the offer before the wife saw the house, and once she saw it, they decided it was a no-go. This wasn’t a huge problem for us because we had a back-up offer for about the same price and also cash. That said, it did delay our closing, and meant more trips to have paperwork notarized. It wasn’t ideal to have this bit of extra work tacked on, but these things happen and have to be dealt with. In any case, we are now smooth sailing ahead (pun intended) and the house closes next week.

Cutting “official” ties with Oregon

Ed and I are Oregonians at heart, but we don’t love paying state income tax there. As we are not living there anymore, it was time for us to become Florida residents. Oddly enough, getting a mailing address in Florida was more difficult than getting a driver’s license and registering to vote. We don’t even have a residential address here (although our mailing address is a “physical address”), and that was not a problem. I remember I had to jump through way more hoops when I moved from California to Oregon. Perhaps because there are so many yachties here, they just decided to not make the process a pain in the butt for us. I’m ok with this.


Provisioning the boat has been quite the learning curve, and I still don’t know if I did it quite right. I’m sure I’ll get better at it as I continue to do it. My first order of business was to get a Dometic portable freezer for extra meat storage. I had to order this and have it shipped since I wasn’t finding it in any of the marine stores around. Ed and I found out after the fact, however, that West Marine does carry them in-store. Some West Marine employee just cost his company a $900 sale because I guess it “wasn’t his department.” Side note: I have found customer service in a variety of stores around here to suck. Imagine the laziest employee at Home Depot…that’s like the norm here…ugh. Get it together, Florida.

Other than my portable freezer snag, the rest of the process has been fairly manageable, albeit time consuming. I can break down some general steps involved, because ultimately what a person likes to eat is a personal decision.

Step 1: Figure out your usual recipes (this may be a challenge if you eat out a lot or don’t really cook). Most people have a surprisingly small number of dishes they tend to make regularly. Stick with those to start with. Also, how many mouths are you feeding?

Step 1.5: When will you be in a port next? This will inform decisions on the remaining steps.

Step 2: What goods are procurable at your next port? Can you get them at all? Are they really expensive? Is quality or food safety oversight a concern? Or is it a good that is readily available for about the same cost as your current port (like rice)? This involves a little understanding of the goods commonly produced in the country you’re in, and also a basic understanding of how produce (and meat) grows in the first place? For example, what kind of climate do berries need to be productive? Garlic? Greens? this will help you understand what may be readily available at your next port. Even though I am a seldom consumer of maple syrup, I have included a small jar because it’s virtually unobtainable anywhere else.

Step 3: Understand that space is limited. One must triage when provisioning. Give first priority to those ingredients which you eat regularly AND which are difficult to obtain elsewhere: These two elements work on a sliding scale. Hard to come by safe beef, but you are a vegetarian? Obviously you don’t need to stock up on beef. Your next port is tropical but you really don’t eat berries? Probably don’t need to take up space with berries. Things like flour, beans, and common canned goods can be found really anywhere…don’t pack a year’s supply of that stuff. Only provision what you need for the next crossing plus a bit extra just in case.

Step 4: ANYTHING that has a non-refrigerated version…get that. Sure, fresh or frozen tends to be a bit tastier than canned. However, wrapping back around to the triage point…reserve freezer and fridge space for those items where there is no shelf stable alternative. I’d say the one exception to this rule is frozen meats versus canned. Right now that is a personal preference on my part…say no to spam. Blech.

Step 5: Provision in steps. I hate having to slog through grocery shopping. I did the first round with shelf stable items, round two was meat to be frozen, and round three will be perishables: items which must go to the refrigerator, not freezer, fresh produce, and those last minute items that come up. I’ve left the “perishable” category errand for the day before departure.

Step 6: (some of which happens before step 5) Organize and get rid of as much packaging as possible…especially paper and cardboard (wet paper=pest problems). Understand what items that are shelf stable may be a little more temperature sensitive than others. Make sure they are given priority spaces which are darker, drier, and/or cooler. Some items may not be moisture sensitive but will be temperature sensitive. The bilge might be the place for those items. Canned goods can kind of go anywhere…remove labels (or lacquer over) if in a moist area. Goods packaged in paper need to find their way to a plastic container…I.e. flour. Don’t bring a crap ton of it either…this is a good found anywhere.

Again these are just some general points to consider when provisioning. I, like any other new sailor, will be learning through the school of hard knocks along the way.

Understanding Weather and Crossing the Gulf Stream

I have done A LOT of reading on this topic…partly motivated by our…ahem…christening into wind opposite of current on the ocean. See my previous post titled “Get-there-itis” for my write-up.

Getting to the Bahamas involves crossing the gulf stream. Perhaps the most famous ocean current, it is basically a river imbedded within the Atlantic Ocean. Between Florida and the Bahamas it moves at about 2-4 kts in a northerly direction. Waves in the gulf stream can quickly become unsafe when the wind has ANY northerly component to it. The opposite direction wind will amplify the wave to a certain degree, but the really challenging aspect comes with the shortening of wave period and also a “confused” sea state (read: washing machine). I’ve learned that a good rule of thumb to follow is wave period should ALWAYS be a larger number than wave height (in feet…not meters).

The short version of understanding the interaction of wind with ocean is crossing the gulf stream to the Bahamas means one must have wind in a generally southerly direction. Ideally, the prevailing wind is southwesterly at about 15 kts. This is not a combination that shows itself often. A south or even SSE wind is workable too, even up to 20 kts (with occasional gusts), but much more than that is going to be a challenge to sail. As wind starts prevailing from an easterly direction, one must either tack through it, or fire up the iron genoa (engine). I take at least 15 minutes every morning to look at various weather models to see when a “weather window” will present itself for a good crossing. I saw the first glimmers of hope on Monday (four days ago), but even that is a bit long range to really commit to a day to cross. Wednesday (yesterday) was the first day I really settled on a stable weather pattern presenting itself for the weekend with some wiggle room in departure time. As of this evening, Saturday is still showing as our most promising day, although with winds a bit higher than would be ideal. More importantly, a northerly cold front that could have mucked things up is losing strength, and is very unlikely to present a problem for us.

With a good weather window in hand, that brings us to our last challenge: what’s involved with sailing internationally during a pandemic??

Oh COVID-19…how we loathe ye.

The Bahamas actually has a fairly workable and straight forward entry process. The details can be viewed here: https://www.bahamas.com/tourism-reopening

The Cliff’s Notes (or Spark Notes for the kids) version is:

  1. Get a negative COVID PCR test. The clock also starts when you get the test, not the results. Test day is day zero.
  2. Once you have a negative test result in hand, you can apply for a travel visa (gone, for now, are the days of showing up randomly with a US passport). I will be doing this tomorrow as soon as we get our test results back (we were tested this morning with a guaranteed 24-hour turn around).
  3. With an approved travel visa, one must ARRIVE to a “public dock” in the Bahamas within five days of COVID testing to be allowed entry. When traveling by sailboat, you easily chew up one day alone for the transit. Never mind trying to time a weather window just right….
  4. Upon entry, one must then get a rapid antigen test five days later. Then, you are free to move about the country. We also have to pay for “COVID insurance” as part of our visa which largely covers the cost of test number two.

Between knowing you have an adequate weather window, and getting the COVID test and travel visa squared away before setting sail, it’s a bit of a threading the needle type operation. Luckily, I am not a total hack at sewing…haha.

My apologies for a lengthy post, but I had a lot to cover! This wasn’t even all of it either. Unless we run into some major snags, the next post will be from warm, tropical Bahamas. Enjoy the snow, Portland, and we are thinking warm thoughts for you!!

Home Sweet Boat!

We have finally made our trek across the USA, and we have moved onto our boat for good!  We arrived early evening two days ago, and so far, the days have been packed with unpacking (pun intended).  We are not yet done, but getting there.

Ed and I certainly learned a lot on our drive from Portland, OR, to Fort Lauderdale, FL.

  1. The United States is huge.  We all know this on paper, and for some of us of a certain age, because of the Oregon Trail game.  Thankfully, we did not die of dysentery.
  2. So is Texas. Why on God’s green earth do we have a state that big?  Yes, I know Alaska is way bigger, but they at least have enough dang sense to not build a bunch of roads and, instead, rely on aviation.  Everything is bigger in Texas, including your fuel bill.
  3. Hybrid vehicles have crappy fuel efficiency when towing.  I’m starting to suspect that it would have been cheaper to just get rid of everything we towed, fly here, and buy new.  But…most of what we brought was not exactly replaceable.  We were pretty selective that way.
  4. Eating fast food multiple days in a row and spending all day in a car for a week is a good way to make your body angry at you.  It was pretty much the only option because with Covid, stopping and doing indoor dining was not happening.
  5. We did at least break up the trip and have a rest day with our friends in Palm Springs.  I think we’d have gone super crazy if we had not done that.  Long road trips should be done with lots of stops and at a slower pace if possible.

Our friends were gracious enough to get us on our feet and show us some of Palm Springs’ nature.

The photos do not do this place justice.  The palms and scenery are truly breathtaking.

We also appreciated having a homecooked meal for a couple of evenings.  I really think we would have made ourselves ill if we didn’t get the opportunity to break up the eating out.

After a brief respite it was time to hit the road.  Our next leg got us to El Paso, TX.  I wish I had more to share, but it’s a whole lotta nothin’ other than Phoenix, Tuscon, and Las Cruces. The next leg got us a bit east of San Antonio, TX.  Yes, we could not make it across Texas in one day.  West Texas is some of the most desolate country I’ve seen, and that’s saying something considering I’ve been to Eastern Oregon and Alaska.

The following leg finally got us out of Texas and we managed to make Tallahassee, FL.  We had originally planned to stop in Pensacola, but we decided to push through the extra two hours to get a little further down the road.  If I had to do it over again, I would not have made that choice.  I think I pretty well went into crazy mode that night from poor sleep and poor diet while traveling.  I really needed the break, and pushing further turned out to be a mistake on my part. The last leg finally brought us to our boat, and we were sooooo thankful to have made it.

We did about 3,500 miles in seven days.  When one stops to think about it, what an amazing feat of human invention that we can do that (and better via airplane!!)  It was only 150 or so years ago that the same trip would have taken many, many months.

Although we were quite worn out from our travels, the work must continue on.  We spent the weekend unpacking and organizing our stuff, and also making many errands to get a few more items that need to be bought anew.  Today (Monday) brought the first of our “top” work to be completed, with the “bottom” work already done.  Two months ago, we had a welder fabricate a solar arch and davit system and they finally got to begin installation today.  Tomorrow they will finish up. 

It was quite the process to get the array up onto the bimini. Luckily, we have a built-in crane system via a mast and halyard!  We are really excited to have the extra solar wattage which should allow us to live truly off-grid, and hopefully we will not have to run the generator to run our electric devices.

I also have a satellite phone type thing called an Iridium Go on its way here.  It will allow me to upload Grib files (for weather forecasting) anywhere on earth, and also give us satellite data…albeit at dial up modem speed.  Good for text, not much more though.  I will also be able to link our position via a weather prediction app called Predict Wind.  Stay tuned, because our website will display this soon, and you all be able to see where we are in the world at any time!

We think we will be on our way to the Bahamas in about two weeks! Stay tuned for updates!!

On the Road!

Happy Tuesday! Ed and I are on day three of our trek across the U.S. to move onto our boat for good! We have elected to take a day off while we stay with our friends and former neighbors (gosh, that seems weird to say) at their awesome house in Palm Springs, CA. Although we are only two states in out of a total of nine we must traverse, we have already found ourselves changing routes and plans because of winter weather on the west coast.

We left Portland two days ahead of schedule because the Siskiyou Pass (along with most of the West in higher elevations) was forecast to get snow. Snow usually means road closures in the pass, and I-5 is really the only viable option to get into California from Oregon during winter…especially when towing a trailer. We got an afternoon start because we still had quite a bit to wrap up in the house, but we did get on the road with plenty of daylight to spare.

Last view of our home in Portland.

Leaving for the last time was a bitter-sweet moment and also a bit of a relief. Ed and I spent a good portion of our drive that day sharing memories and processing how big of a change this really is! I think because we have been so busy these last months we really hadn’t had a chance to think about it much.

We made it to Ashland, OR, and spent the night a cool, old hotel called the Ashland Springs Hotel.

I always find it really fun to stay in unique places when traveling rather than the usual chain hotel if possible.

We got a fairly early start on Sunday morning just as snow flurries were starting to fall. We made it over the pass without any problems and continued to Vacaville which was originally supposed to be our first stop. Nick was able to meet us there so we could have a quick visit, and give him a few pieces that go to tools Ed gave him a few months ago. It was nice that he could meet us there because there is NO way we could have driven in San Francisco (where he lives) with that trailer. We then picked up Ian at his Dad’s house, dropped off a couple of items there for him, and had a nice little sleep-over pizza party. I’m bummed our visit had to be short, but we enjoyed every minute of it.

With weather coming in on Monday, I spent some of the evening looking at weather forecasts for getting into Tehachapi so we could have a quick visit with my brother and family. Unfortunately, it was showing 4-8″ of snow. There was no way we’d be able to haul the trailer up the mountain to get there. I let my family know we wouldn’t be able to make it which was a bummer. The grapevine was also showing weather, although less than going through Tehachapi. I figured our best, and now only, bet was to get south via U.S. 101. It’s a longer drive, but it was either that or stop in Bakersfield and wait for the weather and roads to clear. This also meant we had to get an early start on the day since it would be a long drive to Palm Springs.

We woke up early to start getting everything packed and Ian back to his Dad’s house. We also saw that the uphill lanes for both I-5 and highway 58 were closed. Hmmmm…how many other people are going to be on 101 now? We had some concerns that we’d hit some heavy traffic with others having to reroute so we hustled to get on the road. I had also planned to drop off a few items to my niece which now wasn’t possible. Luckily, our new route took us through Santa Barbara where my mother has a duplex, and I was able to drop the box off there. My niece will have to wait a bit for her delivery, but sometimes weather throws a wrench in things.

After many hours on the road, and having to drive through the entire width of the Los Angeles basin during rush hour, we arrived tired and hungry at our friends’ house. They had the yummiest dinner of chicken tacos which I had been craving ALL DAY. Man it hit the spot to have a home cooked meal on the road!

We are looking forward to our down day, and then the journey continues tomorrow!

T minus (roughly) 18 hours

We are counting down the hours before we leave our house forever and take our first steps into our new sailing life! Our house is nearly empty except for a last few items that are coming with us and the furnishings that were sold with the house. It has been a crazy busy week since we listed the house for sale around this time last week. Below is a timeline of events plus a little, funny last celebration story!

Friday, Jan 15: The day before, we had a couple of early viewers of the house before formal listing. One couple are friends of our neighbors, and the other couple had been clued into our property coming for sale a couple of months previously. The house wasn’t quite right for one couple and the others eventually would make an offer. They viewed the house again today, and we started filling out all those fun forms one gets to do when transacting real estate. We’ve been at a bit of a crawl with packing because of needing to keep the house looking ship-shape and staged. We also heard from our real estate broker that they would wait a day to list, thinking an offer would come from one or both couples who got an early viewing. We insisted that they proceed ahead with listing…we wanted a bid war and not listing was not going to accomplish that. The “For Sale” sign has made its way to our front yard.

Saturday, Jan 16: This was a bit of a down day. The real estate folks were busy getting materials published for listing, but ultimately did not go live today. However, there has been a continuous parade in front of our house of folks stopping to write down the number on the for sale sign. Even without a listing, there’s already a ton of interest. Real estate brokers were at least notified via their list serves and our broker was fielding calls all day. Sunday is already fully booked with multiple showings. Monday is starting to fill up.

Sunday, Jan 17: Happy 11th birthday to my son Ian! My how time flies. Ed and I did some rounds of having a last visit with some of our family and friends as we had to stay out of the house all day. First offer came in around 4pm…full price and cash! We also got word that two more were on their way!

Monday, Jan 18: Happy birthday to my stepson Nick! Lots more appointments for showing, and we have run out of ideas for things to do while out of the house. I guess driving aimlessly around town is fun? Selling a house during a pandemic kinda sucks…. I also got a text from our boat dock neighbor that the owner of the house where we rent our dock is in foreclosure and his house is getting auctioned tomorrow!! WTF?! Thanks for the notice?? Ed and I spent our entire morning feverishly making phone calls trying to figure out exactly what the heck was going on, why our landlord failed to notify us, and trying to secure a new dock on short notice. At least our boat is getting moved to be hauled out in two days, so that gives some time to find a new dock. That dock has been a comedy of errors from day one…but that’s a discussion for another time. Last showing was at 4pm, and then we sat down with the real estate broker to review offers. We received the other two, one of which was also cash with an escalation clause. Sweet! Bid war! After a bit of back and forth, we finally settled on the cash offer that went over asking price. Yay!

Tuesday, January 19: Now that the house is effectively sold, we can really dig in on the final stretch of packing. We made numerous runs to the storage unit, good will, and the dump. We are still planning a January 25 departure which gives us six days to clear out the house.

Wednesday, January 20: Early phone call from the captain who is supposed to move our boat to the marina. Apparently the folks that were supposed to make the haul out appointment forgot to do that. *Facepalm* Is anything going to go right with this boat this week?? Waiting to hear back when they can haul. More packing, more trips. I also decided to start looking at the weather forecast for driving south. The Siskiyou Pass gets snow fairly regularly this time of year, and we’d rather avoid that if possible. It appears snow is forecast starting midday on Sunday and continuing for the foreseeable future. Monday is starting to look like too late of a departure. We are now going to attempt to get out of here as soon as we can on Saturday. We also got a request from the buyers to come see the house again on Friday because the wife and son can’t stay for the inspection. Grumble. We okay-ed it, but with explanation that we will try to time an errand around that time, no promises, but will be packing and the house will look like that. I scheduled with U-haul to pick up a trailer on Friday at the time they are supposed to be at the house.

Thursday, January 21: More packing, more trips. We already cleared out so much stuff! How can we still have so much to go??? AAAAAHHHHH! It’s never ending! Good news though. They can haul the boat tomorrow! Thank goodness. We are now committed to leaving Saturday. We don’t want to get held up with snow. Ed’s sister is taking many of our kitchen items that we aren’t keeping so we’ve implored her to come quite early on Saturday. I decided to cook one last, albeit simple, meal in my beloved kitchen. We also packed up all our wine today, and found a bottle of cabernet from 1984 that was gifted to Ed many years ago. Cabs keep a long time, but 37 years is probably pushing it. We decided to crack it open and enjoy with my “macaroni surprise” (literally a hodge-podge of whatever I had left). Mmmmm, nice wine pairing, hahaha! The wine was definitely at the end of its life, but drinkable…not great.

Ed, on a whim decided to look up the price of this vintage just out of curiosity and found this:

Holy shnikes!! We managed to have the cheapest expensive meal on one of our last nights in our house. We got a pretty good laugh out of that. The wine was past its prime though. These prices must have been from earlier years. Anyone who would pay that now is crazy.

Friday, January 22: We woke up to good news that our boat actually, for real, no kidding, made it to the marina. We asked for photo evidence just to make sure:

Our baby is looking mighty fine, and getting much needed work done!

It’s definitely Serenity and not a decoy! Big sigh of relief on that one!

More packing, packing, packing…ugh, I sound like a broken record. I can taste freedom from this never ending chore. It’s sooooo clooooose! We picked up the trailer and the buyers made it over for their visit with their agent. Despite multiple notes and emails to agents showing the house to NOT LOCK OUR DEADBOLT, he locked the G– d— deadbolt! We have a good reason for this, but I won’t bore you with details. I have now resorted to taping over the deadbolt with a big fat “NO” written on it. We started loading up the trailer with the stuff that’s coming with us to the boat. I thought we’d have a lot more stuff coming with us than we do. The trailer will only be about half full. I guess it just feels like so much more because of the time involved with getting the house emptied out. I guess we did pretty good with not keeping too much stuff. Yay!

It still seems like we have so much to do tomorrow, but perhaps we are just starting to feel the stress of this week. I can’t wait to get on the road. There is something calming and liberating of simply getting moving. Ed and I have felt like we’ve been in a holding pattern for so many months now, and we are FINALLY going to get clearance to our next fix! Sorry, pilot nerd joke.

We will miss our Portland family and friends dearly, and we can’t wait to have them visit us on the boat. We are also ready to start our next chapter, and Day One starts tomorrow.

Farewell, until we meet again!

We are rounding third and headed for home!

Happy New Year to all! Although 2021 has started with a bang, I have the sense that most folks are starting the year with great hope for the future. Ed and I are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel of our hard work, and we are ready to embrace our new chapter with open arms! We have finished our house, and it is going on the market tomorrow! Below are some pictures of our home which has been a labor of love for the past few years:

We love our beautiful home, but it is time to close this chapter and move on to the next!

We have set our move out date for January 25th, which is a week and a half from now. We have been busy packing up the rest of our belongings which get designated in five different categories:

  1. Items that stay with the house–we have elected to sell our house furnished since many of the furniture items that are left were chosen specifically for the space, where ever we live next will be smaller, and it may be a long time before we live back on land. It’s just not worth the cost to store furniture, most of which we likely would not be able to use in the future anyway.
  2. Items that come with us to the boat–this category is fairly small since we have most of what we need on the boat already. This is mostly health/hygiene items, personal documents, clothing, shelf stable food/ingredients, some tools, and some of my kitchen wares.
  3. Items we are keeping in storage–we have done a really good job of keeping this category small as well. These mostly include photographs, sentimental items, documents and paperwork we need to keep, dishes and a few other kitchen items I want to keep for later, and a couple of small furniture items that have sentimental value to me. We may find that some of our sentimental items are not as sentimental as time passes on, but we are all human and doing a 100% clean sweep of unnecessaries is a level of harshness that not even I can stomach.
  4. Items for donate–this has been our biggest category by far. We have lots of little things that have found their way into our house, and I’ve put most of it to good use over the years. Without a house, they are now unnecessary for us and need a new home. This category runs the gamut from certain winter clothes to various home décor items to specialty kitchen tools to gardening supplies. I’ve become a frequent flier at the goodwill donation center.
  5. Items to throw out–ultimately not everything can be donated, so it goes into the trash. We are trying to keep this category as small as we can, but everything that doesn’t fit into the categories above goes to the landfill.

This is actually a really good method to periodically declutter your home, and even the kids can help. Ian actually enjoys the exercise on occasion. Getting clutter out of your life and living with only those items you find useful is a great stress reducer. Sometimes joy comes in realizing how little you can live with.

At sea, I learned how little a person needs, not how much.

Robin Lee Graham

With the house soon to be wrapped up, we have also arranged for our boat to be hauled out next week with some repairs accomplished. We’ve already got standing rigging replaced last month, but here’s what we have left to do before our next sail:

  1. Install new solar panel arch with incorporated davits. We’ve already had it fabricated, but we can’t get the old davits off and new arch installed until we haul out.
  2. Replace rudder bearings. Ours have a little too much play in them, and that is one part you do not want fail.
  3. Replace existing fixed pitch props with feathering props. Less drag, more speed. Sign me up.
  4. Service sail drives (the thingy between the engine and props). They need oil changes too, and these guys are due. We suspect one of them has a small leak so we need to get that addressed too.
  5. Finish up installing electric winch conversion kits. Only one kit made it with us to the boat last time. Ed got one installed, but we need to do the second one and get the electrical squared away.
  6. Redo some of the running rigging and get everything back to the helm. We rapidly realized that with just having the two of us on board most of the time, the more we can eliminate the need for someone to be on deck while underway, the safer.
  7. Have a new helm enclosure made. The one that came with the boat has pretty well fallen apart, and we like staying dry while sailing if possible. Sometimes waves do find their way up to the helm.
  8. Bottom job (no, not like that…get your mind out of the gutter). The bottom paint is chipping in a lot of places, so we are going to have it sanded down and new paint applied.

We think the work will take 2-3 weeks and then hopefully we will be on our way to our first stop: The Bahamas! I have to start looking at the logistics of getting there as it’s a little complicated with Covid.

Before we leave we will be taking some time to say farewell to family and friends in a Covid-conscious manner, and then we hit the road to drive to Florida to begin our new life on the sea! We will miss everyone here, but also looking forward to making new friends and having new experiences.

Bon Voyage!

Travelers’ Tales

We began as wanderers, and we are wanderers still.

Carl Sagan, Cosmos

Hello family and friends on this most unusual Christmas Eve! First, let me offer my apologies for not writing in quite some time. Ed and I have been extraordinarily busy finishing up the house remodel and boat projects. Neither of us has had a day off since perhaps Thanksgiving. I’ll share what we’ve been up to in a couple of weeks, and hopefully resume regular blogging as our schedule frees up a bit.

I wanted to take the time to share some thoughts and offer some perspective as we wrap up an incredible year…not necessarily incredibly great, but certainly one that will be memorable. Many of us are perhaps bummed that we did not get to gather all of the family together, or take that winter vacation to somewhere sunny and warm. Nearly all of us humans are explorers and travelers at heart. We are one of a very few mammal species that can be found on nearly every corner of the Earth. We all love a good adventure that always leaves us with great stories to tell. Our stories shape how we think, how we experience life, and connect with one another. Story telling is one of the few common activities shared across all cultures on Earth. Traveling and meeting new people allows us to collect new stories. It is certainly a valuable commodity.

The chance to experience new cultures, meet new people with experiences quite unique from my own is almost the sole reason I’ve chosen to embark on this crazy sailing adventure of ours. My wanting to do this really has very little to do with the actual sailing. It is just a means to an end.

Although this year has found us quite restricted in our ability to travel through the space around us, we must not forget that we are also travelers through time. I have found myself reflecting on many of my previous life choices and circumstances that have led me to where I am now on December 24, 2020. So many things could have led me to a very different life had I picked the other path when faced with a fork in the road. Other moments in my life I have stumbled on through dumb luck that later snowballed into other opportunities. And some others yet, I am only just secondarily or tertiarily associated with, but they made such an impression on me that it ended up having such a large impact on the course of my life.

Although the details of my life are unique in many ways, everyone’s life is, in general terms, the same. We all have those moments in time that were critical junctures in the course of one’s life. Sometimes we regret decisions, sometimes we wish we could go back. Other times we are grateful for the luck that has come our way. We can become haunted by those two words that can drive a person to madness–

What if?

The simple, cold, objective, and unsatisfying answer is life would be different. If it weren’t for the pandemic, we’d all be having different conversations and would have made different choices. The pandemic is an event that has changed the course of everyone’s lives in some manner or another. We all will have our stories to tell, much in the same way we can ask nearly every American adult, “where were you on 9/11” and nearly every person will answer with more than just a location.

I encourage you all to find joy this Christmas, even though you’re missing family and friends. You are all travelers in this moment, and we will soon get to share the stories that shaped us this year!

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all.

With love from the Aaron Family

So. Much. Cleaning.

And repairs. So many, many repairs.

Boats have many nooks and crannies, and they all collect dirt, grime, salt, and whatever else finds its way onto a boat. Our final week on the boat was spent cleaning, inventorying, and arranging the first round of repairs before returning to Portland. I think we took half a day during that time to knock off and enjoy a walk on the beach, but otherwise it was a grind every day, the whole day.

The previous owners did not exactly leave us with a neat and tidy boat. Ed and I have learned through our years on this Earth that we tend to be more particular about cleanliness than your average person, and we do take a certain level of messiness in stride with that in mind. Sometimes, however, I run into cleaning issues that just make my head implode…it is truly beyond my understanding how some people leave certain things uncleaned for many years–especially in kitchens and galleys. Yes, it’s hard work to take certain things apart and get them well cleaned, but it has to get done.

We also encountered a lot of deferred maintenance items. Lots of little things like light bulbs, fans, oil, filters, pumps, basic electrical and plumbing issues, etc. These things need regular upkeep, and by all appearances, this had not been done. We found a lot of stuff left on the boat that was serving no other purpose than to take up space. I’m starting to get the idea that a lot of folks who end up trying this lifestyle out for a bit (and don’t last long) think it’s all vacation and no work. Boat maintenance is, at a minimum, a part time job. On average, 20 or so hours out of a week, minimum, should be spent on maintaining the boat. Some weeks will be more, some less. Those of you out in the world who do not appreciate or enjoy caring for and maintaining a boat should just charter one when you want a vacation. Boat ownership will not bring you happiness unless you enjoy the work that comes with it on some level.

The oven was by far the nastiest cleaning job Ed and I tackled on this trip. I think in the 11 years this boat has been in existence, we were the first people to pull the oven off and scrub it. Although we broke up the work, the both of us easily spent an entire day getting it cleaned. The sad thing is that it’s not difficult to separate the oven from the cabinetry. It took us two minutes, and it’s not super heavy. You can see from the pictures how unsanitary it was. YUCK!

We also spent a few days going through every cabinet and storage locker and determining which items were serviceable or not, and what was needed or not. We found about 20 life jackets, most of which were mildewed due to lack of proper care, and had to get tossed. The galley had a number of kitchen wares that were duplicates, and were taking up too much space, so they got donated. More of it will get donated after we move on permanently and my own kitchen wares replace what’s there. We found windsurfing gear, cool! We also found a bunch of scuba gear. Neither one of us dives, but we can learn later. Unfortunately, much of the equipment had not been stored properly, so we took it all to a shop to get refurbished so that it’s serviceable. A few cabinets had spare parts (awesome), which we inventoried and stored in a more orderly manner. We will later add some more spares of critical items such as various pumps, engine parts, and the like. We also found lots of various cleaning supplies, some of which I can’t even figure out why they were on the boat, such as teak oil (our boat has zero teak on it). Many containers were empty, and some of it was stored improperly. We found a can of MEK that was almost corroded through…that would have been quite bad if that would have leaked and mixed with other chemicals.

Another fun job that Ed got to do was clean out the shower drains that were utterly clogged with hair. Ladies, we shed hair, especially when it’s longer, and it has to get regularly cleaned out. The bilges were also quite nasty. Bilges get water in them, through holes leak, A/C units produce condensation, etc. Bilge pumps do their job of getting the water out, but all the little bits of detritus get left behind. We suspect that the bilges had never actually been cleaned before…gross. Ed also found rat traps and poison in the bilges. Folks, keeping the boat clean will keep the pests out! Luckily we did not find rats or rat carcasses. It appears that issue got sorted out at some point in the past…thankfully.

We also met with contractors who will be doing the first round of major work of the boat. We are set for work to begin in early December, with hopes of it getting done by January. It’s going to be a busy couple of months for us as we have both the house and the boat getting lots of work done. Ed and I will be doing a bit of dividing and conquering. He is in charge of boat projects, and I am in charge of getting the house wrapped up and ready to sell! Yikes! We have also been on a part ordering frenzy. My next post will lay out in more detail the repairs that are set to start soon!

In the meantime, as we are on the topic of regular cleaning and maintenance, y’all need to replace your furnace filters, and clean the screens on your range hood!


The determination to reach a destination, combined with hazardous weather[.]

https://www.aopa.org/training-and-safety/air-safety-institute/accident-analysis/featured-accidents/epilot-asf-accident-reports-get-there-itis, retrieved November 9, 2020.

Get-there-itis is a term well known in the aviation community. I’m unsure on whether it is a term sailors use. If not, it is a term the sailing (boating or yachting) community should include in its lexicon. Ed and I certainly succumbed, albeit somewhat unwittingly, to some get-there-itis on our week-long trek from Punta Gorda, FL, to Fort Lauderdale, FL. We did not insert ourselves into hazardous weather per se, but we certainly set off with some “sporty” weather and seas. It wasn’t until we reached Key West, FL, and back into cell range, that we found ourselves having to outrun a hurricane.

I’ll start from the beginning.

My last post was before we set off for Florida to take possession of our new (to us) boat and get her to her new slip near Fort Lauderdale. Serenity (formerly Woven) was in a slip at a marina near Punta Gorda, FL. After we had her surveyed late in September, Ed and I took a little field trip to see the marina where the boat was. We spoke to a gentleman who seemed to be in charge at the harbor master’s office, and quickly discovered the only way we were going to be able to keep that slip was to sign a one-year lease. The monthly cost was going to be fairly close to what our mortgage on the house is…pass. We also discovered the previous owners had a one-year lease that was to run until April of 2021. The marina was going to charge them for the full year of the lease, they could not assign or sublet the lease to us for its remainder, and the marina also had a wait list of close to 20 boats. After many, many phone calls to many, many marinas in Florida, we pretty much found the same thing everywhere. One-year lease, no assignments or sublets, and if you break it early, you’re on the hook for the full amount even if the marina leases your slip the very next day.

Holy racketeering batman. Can I sue for a RICO claim on this??

Ed finally found a month to month rental on a private dock near Fort Lauderdale, and for about half the cost. After a lot of conversation back and forth with brokers, we were given permission to keep the boat at its marina until the end of October, and then we had to vacate.

Our boat has her new name!

We arrived to the boat on the morning of the 27th, which gave us five days to make sure the boat was ready to sail. I made intermediate arrangements at fisherman’s village in Punta Gorda which gave us a few extra days to work with a skipper to familiarize Ed and me with sailing a Leopard 46. I had been diligently watching the weather for quite a while, and the weather had been consistently showing that we would have a decent weather window leaving on the morning of November 2. I knew we’d be dealing with some higher winds, but not so high as to be dangerous. I also had been watching hurricane Eta, and when we left, it was still projected to, and actually proceeding westbound over Central America and was projected to eventually rain itself out. Heading into November, it was statistically very likely this was the last hurricane for the season and it wasn’t anywhere near us. No other frontal waves were forming in the Atlantic either.

The time was up on dock rental…time to go.

First lesson learned(ish) on this trip: don’t go by boat unless you have time to float! I’ve borrowed this from an aviation phrase: don’t go by air unless you have time to spare.

Serenity framed by a beautiful rainbow at Fisherman’s Marina in Punta Gorda, FL, on the evening before we left.

I’ve taken on the tasks of weather forecasting and navigation since it is a skill that comes to me a little easier than it does Ed. It’s also something I enjoy and have a little more practice with by virtue of my many years of flying and work in aviation. While navigation and weather forecasting for aviation does translate fairly well to sailing, it does not translate directly. I certainly made quite a few rookie mistakes on this passage because I was looking through an aviation lens rather than a sailing lens. Temporally speaking, sailing and flying are worlds apart. 50 nautical miles in general aviation is an errand, on a sailboat, it is an all day trip. I certainly need to do a little more reading up on marine weather. Technology has made navigating very accessible to the lay person, so I had no problems with that aspect. Even if our chart plotter had gone caput, I am handy enough with dead reckoning, paper charts, and basic time/speed/distance calculations that we still would have found our way. We were also going to always be close enough to land in this case where navigation by landmarks would have worked just fine.

Where I really misjudged things was how debilitating seasickness can be. I get motion sick fairly easily, but in the flying context, I’ve learned to manage it very well. Being on a boat in the open water is whole different ball of wax that I underestimated. I knew I’d have to deal with seasickness, I did not know it would totally shut me down. I was able to lend my hands on the first day for short tasks where I was needed, but no more. Ed was left with helm duty for almost the entire day on our first leg. The first day also ended up being longer than we anticipated for a few reasons, and we did not reach our first anchorage until about 10 pm. We also ultimately anchored quite a ways south of where I had planned, Marco Island, and dropped anchor at Pavillion Key.

Another lesson I learned is pick out a couple of anchorages for each stop in case things come up that slow you down. After the first night, I got much better with having a few anchorage spots scoped out on the chart that accounted for a variety of speeds and time lines.

We originally had planned to sail to Key West on the second day, but after the first day, Ed and I needed to recover a bit. We slept in and got a midmorning start, and decided to break up the Key West leg into two days. We motored along the shore in Everglades National Park since we were both too wiped to deal with the sails. We arrived at Sandy Key, which is just south of mainland Florida, late afternoon and dropped the anchor. Sandy Key is quite remote but an idyllic looking island. We also had dolphins hunting around our boat which was fun to watch. I also finally got some reprieve from sea sickness and made us a nice pasta salad dinner.

Sandy Key, FL

Day three saw us pulling up anchor at about 4am to ensure we made Key West with plenty of daylight to spare. We mostly had the wind behind us so we motor-sailed with the genoa (we unfortunately do not have a spinnaker yet). We made good time, especially becuase of surfing the following seas, and anchored next to Wisteria Island at Key West. Ed and I decided it would be nice to stay at Key West for a day or two since we still had a week and a half before we had to catch our flight back to Portland. We had also gotten quite worn out from dealing with consistent 25kt+ wind, and we figured it would be nice to wait for calmer wind since we would have to mostly motor into the wind along the Keys. This was also the first cell signal we had since leaving on Monday, so my first task was to get an updated weather forecast. It was at this time I realized hurricane Eta would likely be arriving to our location within five days. Oh sh–.

I began feverishly plotting out the rest of our trip. We had four days to get the boat to Fort Lauderdale before it really started to hit the fan. I figured we *might* be able to make it in two days, but I knew that would be pushing it. I plotted a route/anchorage for two days, and I also plotted one for three days which I suspected would be the likelier scenario…and it was the scenario that ultimately played out.

On day four we motored to Indian Key because we had wind almost directly on the nose. On day five we motored until Key Largo, and then motor-sailed with the genoa until arriving at Key Biscayne. If we had just had a couple more hours of daylight, and didn’t need to refuel, we could have made it to the dock that day. There was no way it would have been safe for us to attempt to dock in the dark. We enjoyed an afternoon at Key Biscayne and also had our first little break from gusty wind. I again updated our weather status and discovered our last leg, though relatively short at about 35nm, was going to suck.

Our last leg was going to put us into close proximity to the gulf stream and we were going to be dealing with a 25kt+ wind out of the ENE. Having any kind of northerly component of wind on the gulf stream equals nasty sea state because the wind is basically blowing opposite direction from the ocean current. The wave forecast also showed 1.5m swells growing to 2.2m swells by noon with a wave period of seven seconds. We were also going to be mostly against the waves, but at least quartering rather than directly. Day six ended up being a wet and bouncy ride. Our sailboat can handle quite a lot of wave because she has a wide beam (width), but short period, 8-10 foot seas are scary as crap…especially for a new sailor. We also motored this leg because getting out on deck to handle sails was not a safe option for us. At one point, I even got a radio call from the Coast Guard because they thought we might be having some difficulty when we had to do some…*ahem*…creative maneuvering to cross behind a container ship exiting the Port of Miami. They no doubt thought we had lost our steering for a moment.

We finally pulled into the channel that leads to our dock around 11am on November 7, and had it docked (that was another adventure) by noon. I have NEVER been so relieved to arrive at my destination than I was that day. We had ourselves one hell of a shake down cruise! Hurricane Eta arrived the next day, but the boat did just fine. Luckily, we were quite a bit north of the eye. At least we got the boat washed by the torrential rain.

I appreciate the education on what the boat is capable of handling, and even what we are capable of handling, but I think this is a lesson we only need to have once. This is the first and last time we will have ourselves in a situation where we are having to adhere to a tight timeline. It almost seems inevitable that bad weather accompanies a sailor when she must get the boat somewhere by a certain date. Get-there-itis…so tempting, never fun. We were never in danger or in truly hazardous weather, but our mission does not necessitate our making this the bar for making go/no-go decisions. Enjoyment and comfort will now be given much more consideration. This is a journey for us, not a race.