Thursday, October 31, 2013

Another Point of View

Way back when we decided to go cruising, we went to Boston for a weekend, and instead of staying in a traditional hotel or B&B, we stayed on someone's boat. I never knew you could do that, but I should have. Anywhere anyone lives, people have been known to rent. That was the first time I think I spent a night on anything that was smaller than a cruise ship (and even that was only once). I grew up on the coast around boats, but they were power boats, used on the weekends. It was nice.

We spent time walking the docks, looking at all of the boats around, there was every kind. One in particular was about 35 feet, a sailboat with a very friendly couple living aboard. They invited us onboard to chat. We talked about living aboard, and our newly hatched plans. We traded information, and have kept in touch some since then.

From that conversation, I was introduced to the National Women's Sailing Association, a group based in Marblehead, MA of women who are passionate about the sport, and cruising. For each of the last 4 years, I have attended their annual conference in Marblehead in June, and met some amazing people there: women who have raced sailboats, singlehanded across the Pacific Ocean; who have circumnavigated the globe; who race in their local yachting club; as well as those who live aboard. I have met women working in every facet of sailing: instruction, reporting, competing, and the all important installation, maintenance, and repairs of the countless systems onboard boats. These are women who love the sport of sailing, and want to share it with as many others as they can. They are a great resource, and have been some of the first people I call when figuring out what I need to do next.

In Marblehead last June, I ended up meeting Elaine Lembo, with Cruising World Magazine. She gets to report on all the big races, as well as what is going on in the world of cruisers. We talked for a while. I told her about our plans to set sail, and confided how frustratingly slow our preparations were going at the time. I had remembered some of the articles she had written. We stayed in touch, and agreed to meet up again at the Annapolis Boat show, this time we would be there on FORTUITOUS.

Elaine had said she might like to write something about what we were doing: how we had prepared, managing all of the transitions, adjusting to boating life, so when we met in Annapolis, and I told her how our plans had changed, she was clearly surprised, but she still wanted to write about us. She asked Thia and I about what we were doing, and what led us to where we are. The following link is her take on our story: Cruising World: A Dream On Hold?

I think she got there in the end.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Working for Her Supper

We're getting the boat ready for winter storage, and fixing up some of the woodwork. I think some of it hasn't been touched in 30 years. When Thia saw me heating and scraping, she asked if she could take a turn. Sure!

Turns out, after the first 10 minutes, the job loses its luster. She's hanging in there, though.

Friday, October 18, 2013


 I always thought it the best thing to have the washer and dryer in my home, wherever it was. I felt like I had reached a point that it was important to be able to start a load of laundry at a moment’s notice, and that it was a convenience that I really just did not want to live without. I was nervous about the prospect of laundering while living on a boat, me and my family of 4. Turns out, it may be better to not have the washer and dryer at my immediate disposal. 
    When I had laundry in my home, it was a never-ending cycle. The laundry always need to be done. Every day, there was the consideration: do I do a load or two today, or let it be a little longer? Inevitably, when I let it go a little longer, there was more to do. With just one washer and one dryer at my disposal, there was only so much laundry I could do at once, and thus it would just drag on. I never did decide whether it was better to do a little each day, or let it pile up and spend an entire day loading, unloading, folding, loading, repeat, all the while, trying to either have fun or be productive during the waiting time (if ever I were to develop attention deficit tendencies, this could be a reason). Either way, it was always on my mind.
                Now: doing laundry every day is not an option. In fact, just doing one load at a time is a very inefficient use of time, so we generally make sure everything is dirty before we decide to wash anything. In preparation, we pull out all of the dirties, sort, and bag everything. Then we are ready to take the bags to the local laundromat, everyone carrying their part, including the detergent, etc. and the all-important quarters. Once there, we begin loading as many machines necessary (weekday mornings are great for this), get them going, and if the Laundromat is in a neat place (like here in Annapolis), one person stays with the laundry, and we disperse, perhaps to the bookshop down the street, to the coffee shop, a nearby museum, antique store, whatever is around. We return periodically to switch up the launderer, and in a couple of hours, all of our laundry is clean and dried, and folded, ready to be carried back to the dinghy, then to the boat, and put away.
Sure, it takes half the day to accomplish this, but there is a lot of exploring we can do at the same time, and once it is done, I know I am not doing it again for at least another week, I don’t even think about it. I have a small hand washer I can use on the boat, and hang things to dry, that is good for when we are in a pinch, and can bridge the gap from one laundry day to the next.
                When it is done, it is done, and I don’t even think about it for at least the next 4-5 days. That’s when I start considering where we are, and when we will next be in a place to do the laundry. I have found that having no laundry machines in my home, equals no constant thoughts about laundry. I like that! The hardest part about doing it this way, is all the carrying to and from, but with all four of us, we get it done with minimal pain, or complaining, and maybe the added bonus of an ice cream treat.
Sorted, and ready to go!

Still in Annapolis, Having Some Fun

Though our plans have drastically changed, what we are doing at the moment has not. We have found a broker, who has listed our boat, and we are figuring out what to do with the rest of our vacation. This is a harder concept than it seems to put into practice, because for the last five years, we have been working toward this dream of sailing to the Caribbean and having fun with our girls. Now we have changed our minds, and there is a world of opportunity out there. It is daunting to try and choose one path, but while we are here, figuring things out, we are going to have some fun.
I will backtrack here, as I haven’t written anything about our trip since Thia’s birthday, where we started running toward Annapolis, after that crazy, graham-crackery, waxy, rainbow bread.
Since we were so low on groceries, before we would head through the C&D Canal to the Chesapeake, we went north of the C&D, almost to Philadelphia. In fact, we anchored right at the end of one of the approach runways for the Philadelphia airport. It was loud, but at least the planes stopped flying after about midnight, and didn’t get started again until after 7 AM.
We stayed there three nights, and two days. One day was devoted to provisioning. Fowler stayed on the boat, to run the motor and charge the batteries. The girls and I took the dinghy to a dock, where we got a cab into town, and the grocery. We spent quite a while there, making sure we got everything we needed, and that we could pack it in such a way that we could get it all back to the boat. This took some thinking, and some arranging, and negotiating, regarding what was really necessary (we have discovered the beauty of powdered drink mixes vs. cans and bottles). I spent more on that grocery trip than I think I have ever spent in groceries for just our family, and it still fit into one cart. We were serious about not running out of food again!
We took the cab back to the dock, and that is where the fun began. I was not entirely sure we could get all three of us, and all the groceries in the dinghy at one time. I considered whether to leave one or both of the girls at the dock, while I took the first load of groceries to the boat, then go back for the rest. Fortunately, we all fit, but we sure sat low in the water on that trip. Bonus! We did find a key lime pie mix (in a box) at the grocery there, so that night, Thia had her belated (faux) key lime birthday pie, with candles, of course. As far as key lime pies go, it was not bad, but we will definitely do better when we find real key lime juice!
So that was day one, in Essington, PA. We needed to stay another day, as bad weather was coming, and we didn’t want to attempt the canal in that. Also, we discovered a charging issue that meant as soon as the weather passed, we wanted to get to Annapolis as soon as we could, for a fix.  Since I knew we would leave quickly the next morning, I wanted to go into Philadelphia. I had never been, and I decided I would be really annoyed if we had gotten so close without seeing the city! So the next day Fowler decided to stay on the boat and chase down the charging problem, and the girls and I went into Philly.
I was very impressed with Philadelphia’s public transit system. We were able to buy a family day pass, and we could go all over town on the busses and trains for one fee. I got an app on my phone that tracked everything, and it was a snap to figure out the route, and when we should be at which stop. We concentrated our time in the historical area, seeing Independence Hall, the Portrait Gallery, and spending a lot of time in the Ben Franklin Museum. Fun, and history!
We returned that night to the boat, and unfortunately the battery charging situation had not improved. So early the next morning we said goodbye to the airport runway, and made our way to the C&D Canal. For all the planning we did, checking for tides, currents, winds, etc. our journey into and through the canal was completely uneventful. We saw no shipping traffic, and the foul weather had passed, it was a beautiful day, and there was no problem with the navigation.
We emerged into the Chesapeake Bay, and headed to our first anchorage, in the Sassafrass River. Just as we left the channel, we had to navigate what seemed like a mine field of crab/lobster pots! We stumbled right in the middle of them, and had to take it v…..e…….r……y…… slowly, not wanting to run over any, and get them caught in our prop. There was no way I was jumping into the waters of the Chesapeake to cut our propeller free, and I would have felt kind of bad making Fowler do it.
Thanks to some two person navigation, with help from the kids as well, we made it through without catching one, and headed to the anchorage, right off a state park. It was a beautiful area, and would have been nice to spend more than one night there, but we had issues that needed attending, so pulled up the anchor the next morning, bound for Annapolis.
Another uneventful day of motoring (not even traps), and we arrived in Annapolis, anchoring right outside the city yacht basin, at Spa Creek. After getting settled, we were able to call around, and get references and leads on who might be able to help us with our electrical issues. We found a boatyard, and the next day, they came to the boat to see what was up. Andy spent close to 5 hours on our boat, chasing down leads, and eventually figured out that we had a bad selector switch on the sail drive. He would have to order us a new one, but could get it within a day or two. It was so nice to know what the problem was!
After that night, our diesel tanks were getting low, and we decided while we were at the fuel dock, we thought we’d check out a mooring ball for the night. When we went in, there was an empty ball right by the fuel dock, so we took it. We checked with the harbormaster, it turned out this was one of two mooring balls that could hold our size boat, and wasn’t being vacated for the boat show. Score! We decided we were going to be here through the boat shows, and possibly a bit longer, so it would be good to be close, and not worry about the crowded anchorage.
The next day Andy came back with the new switch, hooked it up, and we were set! It felt good to be able to charge to full capacity and have some amount of confidence in our abilities to power our systems. Woo hoo!
We were feeling good, making other fixes we would need, planning our visits to the boat shows, and even enjoying the luxury of air conditioning. Also, we connected with other Nauticat owners, in hopes of getting tips on repairs, additions, and just ways to use the space. The boating community is generous, and very helpful. We had people offering rides, and to come help us with the minor repairs we were making. Some even visited and gave us insights about preparations for the Caribbean. They were most generous. I really do love the boating community!
Fowler and Thia attended the power boat show, and left, having purchased a paddleboard that would prove to be great fun, even in yucky, cold, kind of rainy weather. We have had fun exploring this town, which has a lot of neat little shops and museums, and restaurants easily walkable from the dinghy dock. Unfortunately, what have moved out of the downtown area, are the everyday useful stores: there is no longer a grocery here, or a hardware or a marine supply store. As I understand it from conversations with locals, they have all been priced out of the area, and now it takes 2 bus rides (unfortunately, not like Philadelphia’s system) to get to any of these. That makes provisioning and getting parts more difficult, and for this city, where the US Naval Academy is based, for which boating is such a huge part of its economy, I am surprised it is not more easily navigated by those without a car, coming in off their boats.
Yet here we are, enjoying our time. Just yesterday we had a visit from friends who were on their way to Cape Henlopen. One of Thia’s good friends from Albany and her brother and mom came to visit us for the afternoon. Thia was beside herself with excitement, and had a wonderful time visiting with BJ. In all of the adventure and fun that we are attempting with this trip, missing our friends is always a presence in our minds. Phone calls, emails and texting help, but there is nothing so wonderful as seeing someone in person that you care about, and haven’t seen in so long.
As for our future plans, we’re still working on that. As we do, we’re going to try and have as much fun together as we can, and though it has been raining and yuck for the last three days, I know the sun will come out soon, and that will be fantastic!

Near Philadelphia, our first attempt at rigging for water collection. Needs Improvement.

This is how we keep track of our water use.

Happy 13th birthday, Thia, with key lime pie! It was faux, but it was still yummy.

In front of Independence Hall, Philadelphia.

In the Ben Franklin Museum, Philadelphia.

Attempting to catch fish in the Sassafrass River. It was quite windy, and they weren't biting.

Thia and Fowler having fun in the evening. He is really good at making her laugh!

Working hard, giving the hull a good scrub down!

Now it is cold, so we bake!

It is wonderful when friends can visit.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Today was another day of errands via mass transit here in Annapolis: Goodwill; Bacon's Marine Supply; several places in a ginormous mall that didn't have a bookstore; American Glass; Sears; Home Depot; Target; there might be a few more. We got most everything we needed, but there was a lot of hoofing it as well, and again, we are all pooped. Looking forward to staying on the boat and having a school day tomorrow.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Finally, The Sun!

After the last three days of dreary wind, cold, and rain, the girls wanted to take full advantage of the emerging sunshine. We have designated today for Phys. Ed.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Change of Plans, Surprised?

There are many other titles I thought of for this, but I will keep those to myself. The meat of the matter, is that we have changed our plans drastically. Again. This time, we are selling the boat and moving back to land, somewhere.

The purpose of this trip has always been to change the way we live, and focus more of our energy on our family, and less on working, and keeping up what we have. Keep that in mind.

For more than 5 years we planned, researched, and prepared in every way we know how, and some we learned about, to make this dream a reality: to buy a boat and spend a year with our girls, sailing to the Caribbean and back, learning everything we can along the way. Actually, first it was the Mediterranean, but along the way we had to adjust our sights to the Caribbean. Not a bad consolation.

Keeping in mind the goal of The Plan, we have decided put FORTUITOUS up for sale, and move onto land, finishing our year the best we can, hopefully someplace warmer, educating and exploring as a family.

Why?  FORTUITOUS was not the right boat after all.

In short, we spent all our time and money fixing up the boat.

We have done our best to involve the girls in the boat upgrades, but they have happened so fast, it is hard to involve them while just trying to keep our heads above water, so to speak. The boat may be ready, but we are out of resources.

I can only imagine how it sounds, but whatever. Since we made the decision to move off the boat, there is a weight lifted that I was not aware was on my (and Fowler’s) shoulders. Of course there are disappointments, but we are by no means walking away from this empty handed. For myself, I have learned a great deal about myself, Fowler, Thia and Janele, and how we work together and communicate, not to mention we all know WAY more about diesel engines, winches, and old boats than we ever thought we could.

So, onward…

Saturday, October 5, 2013


After a few days of chasing down "fixable" problems with not a lot of success, today we tackled the problem of the air conditioning, now that we can generate power. I am not sure how many years it had been since the filter had been cleaned, but it is clean now, and I must say, it feels fantastic!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Running Toward Another Birthday

Atlantic City was nice, but the anchorage was not too protected, and there was some stormy weather approaching, so we had to get a move on. We lifted anchor early one morning, and headed south, toward Cape May, New Jersey. I figured we would have a couple of days there, resting and seeing the sights. In anticipation, I had asked if anyone had ideas of things to do in Cape May. I got a lot of responses, apparently a lot of people from Albany like to visit Cape May. Unfortunately, we did exactly none of them. We didn’t go to the zoo, or the great beaches around. We didn’t even get to the grocery store in town.

We arrived to find an already crowded anchorage. It is well protected, and it was apparent we were not the only ones thinking this would be a good place to wait out the approaching high winds and small craft advisory. We found a spot, near a boat from Montreal that had left Atlantic City the day before we did. After getting the anchor down and set, it looked like it was holding, but we were cautious, so didn’t leave the boat that evening. If we needed to reset it, FORTUITOUS requires both of us.

The winds started picking up. Our anchor held, mostly, all of the boats swinging in unison with the tide shifts and increasing winds. The next day, we seemed to be a bit too close to one of our neighbors. Being extra cautious, we lifted the anchor, I drove us in a big circle, and reset it. Everyone was out on their bow to watch, it was a bit unnerving. The winds were pretty high, so I didn’t feel comfortable taking the dinghy in to provision, we had enough food for a few more days.

That night was awful, when the tide went slack, and the winds were high, every boat in the anchorage swung in a different direction. We were so closely packed in, that there was danger of boats swinging into each other. We spent quite a while in the cockpit, watching, with a long pole, ready to push another boat away when needed, which was more than once. So we checked the tide times, and set our alarms, two more times that night the tide would change, going slack and leaving us to swing wherever the wind caught us. Fowler and I each took a turn, and we made it through the night. By morning, the wind had subsided, but we knew we did not want to spend another night there, so close to all those other boats. Also, it was cold!

We headed into the South Jersey Marina there to fuel up, fill the water tanks, and get whatever food we could at the WaWa convenience mart (which was not much, think gas station with food, but this was just a mart, no gas). We wanted to head out as soon as we could, because it was a full day to get to the next stop, Augustine Beach, Delaware, just south of the C&D Canal. A trip to the grocery was not in our cards though, so we made due.

Heading south from Cape May, the plan was to go around the tip of the Cape, into the Delaware Bay, and north, toward the Canal. We had a bit of trouble there at the end of the Cape, nothing we couldn’t handle, but the nerves were up, and we made a decision that rushing to the Canal maybe wasn’t the best idea. Fowler found an anchorage at Cape Henlopen, on the south side of the entrance to the Delaware Bay, so we headed that direction. We got there around 3 PM, and after getting settled, and sure that the anchor was good, the girls and I dinghied into shore, looking to get to a grocery store.
We had no luck finding a way to a grocery, but we did stop at a Dairy Queen on the way back to the dinghy on the beach, where we played in the sand, watching the sun go down as the tide came up to meet the dinghy, so we could shove off back toward the boat. Not a bad evening, and the next day was Thia’s birthday, for which she asked a key lime pie, and a day at the beach. Beach, check! Key lime pie…not so much. It is nice she is flexible.
The next morning, we lifted anchor again (do you see a pattern here?), there was a storm predicted, and though this anchorage was nice, it was not someplace we wanted to be in heavy winds and rain, if we could help it. So north we headed, to Augustine Beach, Delaware. It was an uneventful day of motoring (we haven’t had opportunity to sail much, and that is a pain), the anchorage was a bit tricky to get into because of a low rock wall that is sometimes submerged, depending on the tides. It was nerve wracking going in, but we had no trouble, and set our anchor. This place was in the middle of nowhere! There were two other boats in the anchorage that night, but when you looked to land, there were a few houses, and that was all. Looking at the Google Maps on my phone confirmed, groceries were unlikely here. This was becoming a problem, because we were getting really low, and it was Thia’s birthday. The key lime pie would have to wait.
Instead of the pie, or even cake, we made bread, with the last of the flour we had. In fact, we didn’t have quite enough, so we improvised, by adding crushed graham crackers. Yum! The bread didn’t rise much, but it cooked wonderfully, and was delicious. Thia wanted her candles, so we put them in the loaf of graham cracker bread, and the wax promptly melted off the wicks, immediately! Oops, should have let it cool first.

So we all sang Happy Birthday as Thia turned 13, and had rainbow colored, waxy, graham cracker bread with melting butter and cinnamon sugar. It was a fun and delicious, even without the pie.
No groceries, but Dairy Queen in hand is not a bad way to wait for the tide to come in.

Janele wanted to be buried in the sand at Cape Henlopen. Thia obliged, making her a mermaid.
Pre-birthday beach fun with the girls, at Cape Henlopen.

Happy Birthday, on the run. What better way to celebrate than throwing a line out the back, waiting for the fish to catch it? They didn't, but we did see some dolphin.

Birthday evening family fun. Janele, Thia and Fowler, with what was a great moon in the background. All week we were treated to amazing views of the harvest moon rising each evening.

I didn't even get to light the candles in the bread, they melted so fast! Happy thirteenth birthday, Thia!