A Night of Luxury in Miami

Tonight we were able get away from the boat and and all the work that comes with it, but not only that, we were able to experience a night at the complete other end of the spectrum from what our lives have been lately. From our normal routine of stepping over power cords every time I walk through my ‘home’, and washing dishes from a nearby spicket (we’re working on the galley counters at the moment); to staying in a suite overlooking Biscayne Bay and dining on refined cuisine on the waterfront overlooking downtown Miami, our 80 mile drive gave us a 180 degree change in lifestyle.

How did opportunity fall in our laps you might ask?  (Because you know there is no way we would treat ourselves to this.) That may just be the best part of it all.  Because if we thought our night tonight was incredible, the motive leading us here is pretty epic.  The entire reason we’ve been pulled away from the boat to come to Miami is to participate in a photo shoot for Vineyard Vines.  They’re a preppy clothing company that originated in Martha’s Vineyard, and it turns out that they’ve been following us for a few months after finding our Daily Mail article  and thought we would be a great fit for their summer catalog with a theme of ‘Every sailor has their story’.  Along with a few other athletes (cyclists, surfers, swimmers), they’ve gathered a few sailors to feature in their summer line of clothing, and we happened to be two of them!

This line of clothing, as well as the photos of us modeling a few of the pieces, won’t be out until mid-May, and since there’s a strict ‘no personal photos on set’ rule, I won’t be able to share the details of that part of our experience for a few more weeks, but I can tell you about the 5 star treatment we received during our time in Miami prior to the shoot.

Knowing that the prep for the shoot would begin around 7 am and we’d have a good 2 hour drive ahead of us (not considering traffic that may pop up), the company offered to let us stay the night prior in the Mandarin Oriental Miami, a 5 star hotel on Brickell Key, overlooking both Biscayne Bay and the downtown area.  Not only that, but just like the crew that flew down from CT to work the shoot, we were given the opportunity to eat at any of the fine dining restaurants inside the hotel for our meal while we were there.  To say that we were stoked even for these amenities alone, beside the added excitement of the shoot the day after, would be a bit of an understatement. As soon as check-in time arrived, we were going to be there to take full advantage of our night of luxury.

Since we’re still not high profile enough to have a car sent for us, that meant we needed to take the Kia minivan down.  Although she did have her (major) issues this past fall, we knew that this time she should get us there without a problem.  Except one.  We still had to show up in her.  To a hotel that only offers valet parking. Oh, and did we mention that Georgie was along for the shoot too?  So imagine us pulling up in our faded jalopy, dents in a few areas, and even a door handle missing from one side; to hand the keys over to someone whom I’m sure thought we mistook the employee entrance.  Either way, they were extremely nice to us and contained any puzzlement they may have had of why we thought we belonged there as we grabbed our overnight bags, Georgie, and her litter box.  A feat which kept our minds so occupied that we actually forgot to tip the guy.

Upon check in at the front desk, not only did my lacy dress and new sail bag help me feel a little bit more in place, but everyone was so enamoured with our cat on a leash that I’m not quite sure they ever noticed us.  A few minutes later we had our room keys in had and were told that they’d upgraded us to a larger room so Georgie could have more space to wander.  In this pet friendly hotel, it looks as if they really do take care of their guests needs. Taking the elevator up to the 14th floor and walking down the hallway to our room, we were greeted with a gorgeous suite which housed stunning views from our wraparound balcony.  Directly in front of us was downtown Miami and the bridge leading over to Brickell Key, and to our left was the beginning of Biscayne Bay.

Once we had picked our jaws up off the floor we took full advantage of the in-room espresso machine and walked around with tiny little drinks in our hands to fully take in the magnitude of this room. The bathroom, I’m not joking, was bigger than our boat.  The room itself had a king size bed, a large couch, and a desk and tv separating the two.  The best feature though was of course the outside, and since our little espressos only lasted us about 5 minutes, we stopped to make another round before enjoying the view out there and the cool breeze passing by.  Since we had unfortunately arrived late in the afternoon, it wasn’t possible to fill up our evening with too many activities, especially since we needed to save most of our energy for the next day.

Throwing on our swimsuits and retrieving Georgie after she had somehow magically managed to find a way inside the couch, we took a stroll by the pool and the large man made beach they had created at the breakwater to Biscayne Bay.  The clock was nearly striking 5 by this time though, and not only was the sun beginning it’s decent behind the skyscrapers of the city, but we had dinner reservations at 6:30.  Something I planned to get into full girly mode for.  Laying out on some beach chairs for about 20 minutes just to say that we soaked up a little sun, we were soon back in our suite and, you guessed it, enjoying more espresso.

Georgie at hotel

Matt at Madarin Oriental Miami

 room - Mandarin Oriental Miami

Mandarin Oriental pool

When dinner time did roll around I exited our room in a full Miami style crazy print maxi dress.  Our destination for the evening was La Mar, a Peruvian inspired restaurant that gazed out on the same waterfront view we had from our room, only 12 floors lower.  Opening up the drink menu it took me about two seconds to zero in on the Pisco Sour, a traditional drink in Peru which I only experienced once during our entire trip there while backpacking a few years ago.  The menu was a much tougher call, since many of the names were the familiar street vendor food we were used to consuming for $1/person.  Deciding on the Chaufa Aeropuerto, a cheap Chinese meal we were used to filling up on, I was not disappointed when La Mar’s version came out.  Fried rice, succulent shrimp, and spiced sausage all mixed together with a perfectly seasoned soy sauce, this meal made me feel like I could subside on nothing else for the rest of my life.

Enjoying a second Pisco Sour and the cool evening breezes rolling through, we wanted to stay out and enjoy the night as long as possible, but it seemed that all the espressos in the world weren’t enough to keep us alert and awake after the exhausting weeks we’ve spent working on the boat.  Signing the tab to the room, we made our way back upstairs where it was time for a little pampering session.  I enjoyed my first bath in years, and even Georgie received a shower since her new hobby seems to be rolling around in the dirt of the boatyard.  By 10:30 I was passed out in bed, a huge smile on my face, and butterflies in my stomach about our upcoming photo shoot.

La Mar at Madarin Oriental Miami

Miami at night

Matt and Georgie

As if I needed any more perks, this trip also gave me an excellent excuse to pack up my new sail bag from North37 Designs, as it made the perfect overnight bag for me.  Although this French company offers a wide variety of different sized and purposed luxury purses, bags, and duffels, my Sam Bag fit right into the category of easily and stylishly fitting every thing I could need for 36 hours away from the boat.

I haven’t owned it for long, but I’m already head over heels for it and I can tell that this will be a main staple in my outings when we’re once again out sailing.  Listed on their site as a ‘shopping bag’, I could see it coming in very handy for this purpose when we find ourselves in spots like the Azores where I would run out every couple of days to grab fresh bread, cheeses, and crisp fruits and veggies.  Not to mention how handy it will also come in for beach outings as it will perfectly fit a large towel, sunscreen, e-readers, and snacks and drinks for the day.

A few of the features I adore about my new sail bag is how sturdy and well built it is, as well as it’s exquisite architecture.  Each item is is a one of a kind product designed from previously flown sails.  And they genuinely mean it when they say one of a kind.  Once my bag shipped to me it disappeared from the website  since it was literally the only one they owned in that specific mix of sail, colors, and number. As a testimony that your item is unique, each product also comes with an authenticity label on the inside, with a backstory of your sail, including what type of sail the items was made from, where it has traveled, and even who the skipper of the vessel was.

Because I knew my bag was meant for a slightly rougher life than most landlubbers who may purchase them, I opted to go for a mylar sail which has a laminated coating and will let sand or other debris easily wipe or wash off.  The top is zippered to keep all my belongings where they’re supposed to be as I board our dinghy and boat, and the shoulder straps are extra thick, which means I won’t be cursing a non backpack style bag if I am walking around with it for a few hours.  All in all I think this North37 Design bag makes a great fit with our lifestyle and honestly, it feels kinda good to own something so pretty again.*

North 37 Design - Sam Bag - shot 1

North 37 Design - Sam Bag - shot 2

North 37 Design - Sam Bag - shot 3

North 37 Design - Sam Bag - shot 4

*My Sam Bag was a sponsored gift from North37 Design, although all views and opinions are my own.

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Adventures of Ani

Ani riding bike

We absolutely love when we’re able to get a rare chance to meet up with old cruising friends again.  Something about reminiscing of days past when, not only were we cruising, but when we were still total newbies and figuring it all out.  We have a small and tight knit group of cruisers that we were lucky enough to call our close friends our first season out back in 2013, and on this evening we were lucky enough to meet up with two of them again.  Only…their crew had now grown to three.

Back when we had just gotten into the Bahamas and started exploring them in March ’13, we made a stop at Long Island and partook in some of the Easter festivities, including a fish fry being hosted by the water on Good Friday.  We were still clinging to our friends Brian and Stephanie that we had just been reunited with a few days earlier, but lo and behold, there appeared to be other young cruisers at this get together.  Shyly walking up and introducing ourselves, we made quick friends with this new couple, Ren and Ashley.  Through a few drinks we found out that they frequently visited Long Island for it’s proximity to Dean’s Blue Hole, one of the deepest in the world.  This happened to be very important to them as they are both freedivers and also make their living by not only competing professionally, but giving lessons through their company Evolve Freedving.

Through the next few months we spent a lot of time with Ren and Ashley, traveling the Bahamas and even sailing over to Jamaica together where we parted ways, for who knew how long.  Turns out three years was how long it took to bring us all back together as they were just outside Indiantown with their new boat, a trimaran named Jade.  Going out to see them as well as their new boat, we were also able to meet the newest crew member, Ani.  A bright a cheery two year old that was just a bump in Ashley’s stomach the last time we were all together.

It was a great reunion as we pulled into the marina and saw our long lost friends.  There was so much to catch up on and a new boat to take a tour of.  Having done a pretty good refit themselves, they knew exactly how we’re feeling right now and gave lots of encouragement as well as tips.

Then it was time to wake Ani up from her afternoon nap so she could meet mommy and daddy’s old friends.

Ren and Jamal

Sandpiper Marina

Matt on s/v Jade

Ani Chapman

When she came out to be introduced to us she was still a little tired and understandably shy.  As the adults sat around with wine and snacks though, she wandered the boat and became more talkative and bubbly as the evening went on.  Instead of hiding her face in Ashely’s lap she was now running around the deck and showing off her toys including a tricycle that she desperately wanted to take for a ride.

With Ren rustling up Ani and her bike, I grabbed my camera and followed along. Having gotten her very own camera for Christmas, she knew what to do and was more than happy to take my Sony NEX 5T off my hands ans snap a few shots with it.  I tried to take a moment to explain the auto focus properties to her, but as soon as she found the shutter button she was off and snapping.

For a two year old she was doing a very good job of keeping both her fingers out of view of the lens and cropping the photos she wanted to take.  Here’s a few examples of her work.

Ani's photo of Jessica

Ani's photo of Ren

Then it was time to get down to the real business of riding her bike around the parking lot.  With white blonde curls poking out of her helmet it was all I could do not to scoop her up and make a run for the van so I could keep this cuteness with me all the time.  I refrained though.  I don’t think I’d be very hard to track down and I am in no way equipped to handle a screaming two year old when it comes to bed time.  The nightmares from my babysitting days still haunt me.

Ani riding a bicycle  As the sun was already setting on us, it was a short bike ride and, after a few tears, we were back at the boat once more.  From then on Ani occupied herself with dolls and books and we were able to squeeze in a little more adult time with Ren and Ashley and their friends Tania and Jamal that were in the same marina (whom we’d also briefly met in Indiantown).

Before we knew it, dinner time had come and gone, Jade was filling up with new overnight guests, and Matt and I were far behind schedule to make stops at Harbor Freight and Home Depot before they closed.  Sadly we had to say goodbye as well as plan and wish for the next times our paths may cross again.  Our visit with the Jade crew was short, but it also warmed our hearts to see old friends as well as get the encouragement to keep pushing on and the motivation to get out sailing again.

With so many amazing memories with these two in our past, we can’t wait to make new ones in the future, with Ani running around and keeping us entertained as well.  It wouldn’t hurt if we could go back to starry nights and sandy beaches in the tropics instead of passing by each other in the States, so we’ll have to hurry our butts up so we can join them during parts of their Caribbean travels.

Ani swinging from companionway

 Make sure to follow more adventures of Ani through Instagram @evolvefreediving.

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A Visit From the Skelton Crew, and the Champagne that Went Bad

Jessica opening champagne

It’s not every day, I would assume, that you meet someone whose interests can be so aligned with your own.  Throw in the fact that this person found you via, the internet,  happens to be the same age as you, shares the same exact random thoughts as you, and even live within 30 miles of you to boot, is nothing short of astounding.  Yet this is how I met one of my best friends Jackie just over three years ago.

She happened to be a Lake Michigan sailor, just like me, who had plans to leave her life behind to cruise the Caribbean with her husband who has some obsessive compulsive tendencies, just like Matt.  From the very first time we met in person, participating in a Wednesday night race on Muskegon Lake, we instantly connected to the point we could finish each other’s sentences. Ever since that night we’ve had dreams of cruising the Caribbean together in our boats. Afternoons snorkeling, evening sundowners and dinners together, and night time bonfires. Fate appears to have something against our plans though, and for some reason keeps trying to squash our dream to sail together.

From the time Jackie and Ron were scheduled to come spend a week on our boat in the Bahamas, and we were delayed in Florida and stuck on the hard due to an accident; to our plans taking us to Europe when they were ready to begin their cruising, it was starting to look as if we’d never get our time together on the water.  Although this was disheartening, I had begun to think fate may have changed it’s mind when we purchased Daze Off, and had hoped to have her cruise ready just in time to intercept them at the end of the ICW.  That obviously has not happened.  As it turns out though, we will not be cruising with them for other reasons.

When Jackie and Ron left Muskegon Lake on the 4th of July, I began monitoring their progress south toward us, stood by to give advice when asked (and sometimes when not), and also lent a sympathetic ear when some of the not so glamorous realities of this lifestyle set in.  Admittedly I sometimes became a bit distracted with work on my own boat, but I always made sure to go back and read their blog posts to see what kind of adventures they were getting themselves into, and trying to catch them to chat on the occasions they had internet.

As their arrival date to south Florida approached I had the mixed feelings of being incredibly excited to see them, and also incredibly sad that we were not in cruise ready condition. For so long I had wanted nothing more than to throw off our lines and join them on a Gulf Stream crossing to the Bahamas.  As it turned out, this second part did not matter.  For as much as I wanted the four of us to be official boat buddies, the universe did not have it in store for us.

Since it has now been announced on their own blog and I am not putting out any spoiler alerts, is they have realized the cruising lifestyle is not for them.  An unforgettable experience, that’s for sure, but after many discussions on their part they realized that their joy lies in the purpose the daily routine that work brings, with the benefit of weekend pleasure cruising.  I can remember the slog that is putting on miles just to get south, sitting behind a wheel for hours on end with no real enjoyment, only making sure you didn’t stray off the magenta line, and I can’t say I blame them.  That part of cruising was not enjoyable for us either.  Matt was missing work, just like them, but luckily for both of us I was so determined not to go back to work that I made him stay the course until he fell into the routine of having no daily plan.

I kind of want to cry about the fact that we’re losing our first boat buddies, but I can’t.  This is what is right for them, and if anything, at least the world brought us together through cruising.  They’ll be lifelong friends that we’ll always cherish, and just because we may not be sharing the same anchorage does not mean we won’t stay in contact.

So when Hullabaloo pulled into Indiantown Marina where she’d be hauled the following day to be put into storage until she’ll be shipped north in the spring, it was still a reunion for the books. Full of hugs that went on for ages and diving right into a case of beer as we caught up with each other.  Taking up residence at one of the tables at the patio, we sat and talked for so long that it wasn’t until I realized my stomach’s growls were taking over the conversation and Matt and I had never had lunch.  Except it was almost time for dinner already!  Taking a short break, we agreed to shower, I was going to shove a few slices of peanut butter bread in my mouth, and we would reconvene for dinner an hour later on Hulabaloo.

As a special treat for this occasion, I had been saving a bottle of champagne for the past few months for their arrival.  A bottle I had swiped off the Free Table at the marina, but that is neither here nor there.  Although I should have realized that one should be very weary of free champagne.  As Ron stood on deck taking down sails, and Matt chatted away with him about boat projects, Jackie and I went on the offense in the cockpit trying to get this bottle of champagne open.  That plastic top was in there damn good.  Passing it back and forth to one another and breaking out towels and rags, we finally passed it on to one of the guys to loosen, and handed back to Jackie for the honor of popping it open.

Pouring it into one of the 8 gazillion Tervis tumblers that sit on their boat, we noticed right away that something seemed odd about this particular bottle.  It’s contents were along an amber line of coloring.  Not to be deterred from free champagne though, I tilted my glass back to drink up.  And in doing so, learned there was probably a reason of why it was on the free table.  It tasted like a bad batch of fermented apple juice.  Both Matt and Ron dumped their glasses overboard after we did the initial toast, (Cheers!, I got you rotten champagne! So glad you’re here!’), and Jackie was polite enough to finish what was in her glass before passing the remainder of the bottle to me.

champagne that went bad

Jackie opening champagne

Jessica opening champagne

Jessica & Jackie

I asked Ron to take a photo of Jackie and I.  This is what I got.

 

It was determined that this gift was not a success, but also that none of us had enough beer to get us through the rest of the night.  So while Jackie got to work starting on the meat for a taco dinner, Ron and I made the run up to the local IGA to pick up a couple cold cases of beer.

Through the next few hours we went through nearly both cases of beer, and even Matt was getting into throwing a few back.  Ron brought out his guitar, and even though I had been promising for the past few years that I’d be ready to play with him when we got to Florida, all I could conger up was the ability to sing along to a few tunes.

I sampled a few of the alcohols they picked up at the St. Augustine Distillery, and Jackie forced around a bottle of cherry soaked rum.  Like that would have been hard to turn down anyway.  We only had one night together, and we were going to do it up right.  It may not have been what we’d all originally imagined a year ago, or even six months ago, when I’m sure all four of us thought we’d be on our way to the Bahamas together.  It doesn’t mean that can never happen though.  By this time next year we might actually have a boat in the water and ready for company.  And I can think of no one else we’d rather save our quarter berth for as our first guests.

Jackie cooking dinner

Ron on computer

Ron playing guitar

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Styling while Sailing

styling while sailing

A strange thing has been happening to Matt and I lately, and it’s that we’ve been receiving a lot of emails lately from companies wanting us to review their products.  Strangely, they rarely boat related as I would have expected, considering that’s what our lives vastly revolve around.  Instead, the majority of requests have been coming from clothing companies.  I might have attributed this to the fact we both recently made the list for Sexiest Male and Female travelers of 2015 (thanks again Megan!) and were now on a list for top models (kidding!), although we’d been contacted by these companies long before those lists were ever published.

Although I personally get much more excited about fashion over boat parts, we still do not say yes to every company that contacts us, as we feel that we only like to stand behind companies that we believe in their products. Two of the companies that we did say yes to produce items are clothing based, but I believe they do have a good functionality in a sailors life, and that is why I agreed to give them a try.

The first company is Mizzen + Main, who produces high quality, yet very functional clothing for men.  Using advanced performance fabrics, you receive all the style of a regular dress shirt that has the added behavior of your favorite athletic gear. Let me list a few of it’s benefits for you:

  • Moisture wicking
  • Four way stretch
  • Wrinkle free
  • Machine washable

For a guy like Matt who leads the life that we do, this shirt is absolutely perfect for him. We’re usually in such warm and humid climates that he prefers to wear no top at all when possible, and quickly sweats through any cotton shirt he puts on when we need or want to run to town. It’s a breeze to keep clean and does not even need to go in a dryer.  Slip it on to a hanger and it’s dry and good to go in 16 minutes.

The shirt Matt received is from the Leeward collection of Mizzen + Main. This style comes with a structured fit and has remarkable quick dry properties, which will be fantastic for when we are back on the water (or when we get caught in Florida’s rainy season again).  Matt loves this shirt for it’s fit and comfort, and I love it for it’s style and wrinkle free properties.  We do have an iron on board, but it’s rare that it ever comes out. This shirt can be stuffed in the back of a cabinet and still come out completely wrinkle free. Trust me, I’ve watched it happen.

This shirt has definitely become a staple in Matt’s wardrobe and I can easily see why it’s received so many great reviews. I know we think highly of it’s but it’s also quickly raising as a favorite with glowing reviews from Men’s Fitness, The New York Times, and Esquire as well.  And I have to believe they have a lot more access to men’s clothing than we do, so if they love it too, you know it’s good.

M+M Homepage

Mizzen + Main

Mizzen + Main Leeward collection

Mizzen + Main

The other company we agreed to work with is a brand new venture out of Melbourne Australia, specializing in leggings. There are many things to love about Pins to Kill, but the number one thing that enticed me is you are able to create your own custom leggings!  How cool is that? Although there are a number of fascinating established designs on the site to choose from, the site encourages their customers to create their own custom patterns by uploading photos or artwork.

I wanted something that would easily get the point across of what my lifestyle is all about, and had the text ‘Sail the World’ printed down the leg.  There are so many other options running through my head though….anchors on a blue background, wave type patterns, or boats with palm trees.  The option are literally endless! It was hard to come up with only one. And whatever you can come up with, they’ll make them for you.

I love them because they are just so smart and efficient for boat life.  Another wrinkle free option of clothing for my life, full of comfort and flexibility. They take up very little space in my already small cabinet, and can easily transition from passages, to lounging, to exploring.  After getting several wears out of them already, I’ve noticed they don’t pinch or strain like other leggings I own, and still keep me very warm when the temperatures begin to drop at night. Plus they’re another quick drying item where I don’t have to worry too much about dinghy butt (the splashed of water that come over the dinghy and soak your behind) like I do when I’m wearing cotton or denim. A big plus in my book.

The founder of Pins to Kill, Linda, is making sure that her products are making it to the far reaches of the universe in every form of activity possible.  They’ve been featured on dancers, mountain hikers, fitness professionals, and now sailors.  There is a fantastic collections of her leggings featured on all these women on her Instagram account, @pinstokill.  Take a look at some of her fantastic creations, and then make sure to create something of your own!

Pins to Kill

Pins 2 Kill

Pins2Kill

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Our Own Private Champage Cruise

sunset cruise in Ft. Lauderdale

Weeks before my parents arrived, I received an email from my mom asking if we would be interested in taking a sunset cruise during our time in Fort Lauderdale. I was ecstatic to hear this, but also a little surprised as it can be hard to get my parents out for boat rides sometimes.  Especially ones that lead to the ocean. Maybe it was because they knew we could book it the day of, making sure to watch weather conditions; maybe it was because they knew a company that caters to tourist probably wouldn’t go out in some of the conditions Matt and I have been forced to endure; or maybe it was because they must have known how much we’re missing our time on the water and wanted to give us a little piece of that back.  Because my parents are awesome like that.

For awhile during our vacation it looked like we may not actually be able to get out on this excursion that I’d now been looking forward to for weeks.  When we first arrived to Fort Lauderdale the winds were extremely strong, the seas were high enough to be bouncy, and even if the cruises were still running the ride would most likely be very uncomfortable.  Once the winds died down the rain started up, and every day was a guess of when the showers would be in and for how long.  This was not the November we were expecting in Florida, and it seemed we were stuck in summer-like weather patterns.

It took until almost our last day before leaving for us to make this happen.  The morning and afternoon had all been off and on rain showers, although the evening looked promising. Visiting in the mid afternoon, just to get a feel for the area so we didn’t rush ourselves later, we purchased tickets and took a look at the boat.  This part of the day was still sunny and they’d just come in from taking a group snorkeling and swimming the reefs just outside the inlet.  Who knew those even existed in Fort Lauderdale? The office mentioned they go out rain or shine, and if we showed up to go, they would take us.

The late afternoon was quite questionable, but my favorite site of Passage Weather showed that precipitation would be gone, waves would be non existent, and winds would be very little.  That sounded just fine to me.  I didn’t need a thrill ride of a sunset tour, I just needed a good sunset and a full glass of champagne.  And if the clouds indeed clear up, I’d be promised 2 out of 2. Luckily the universe did take a little pity on me and the clouds did part just in time for our departure from the condo.

Arriving at the Spirit of Fort Lauderdale, we found another surprise.  We were the only ones to sign up for that evenings cruise.  We had the whole catamaran to ourselves! I was hoping that meant each person on board each received their own bottle of champagne, but that request was quickly smashed down.  (It’s ok, there was still Dos XX in the fridge for when I got back…)  We had Captain Mike and Jason on duty that night, and as soon as they finished with the required safety speech, the dock lines where thrown off and we had the music pumping out of the speakers to whatever station we wanted.  Since we had full run of the place.

The crew members quickly became our talking buddies, and we turned the cruise into a big hangout session instead of us by ourselves and them by themselves. Gliding down the ICW and closer to the inlet the sun was already dipping and the sky was radiating different colors of yellow and pink. As we passed by mega yachts and mega mansions, Mike and Jason were able to give us the history or some background on a lot of these boats and homes

my family at a sunset cruise

ICW Ft. Lauderdale

waterfront house in Ft. Lauderdale

One of the best parts of the trip for me, how lame is this, was coming up to the 17th St. Causeway and not having to lift a finger to get under it.  No hailing the bridge tender, no controlling the boat so I could time our approach just perfectly, and no watching for oncoming traffic to avoid.  I was able to just sit back and watch the waterfront restaurants begin to light up their decks, or finally get a good look at all these ridiculously large yachts we were passing by.

On the other side of the bridge we found ourselves right upon the inlet to the Atlantic and it was time to raise the sails.  Another thing I did not have to lift a finger for.  By this time the sun was fully down and we were surrounded by a soft pink lighting behind us, and a deepening blue as we made our way out into open waters.  A slight chop was coming through, and I joined my parents on the trampoline up by the bow, and rode the small waves like a ride until a few began splashing up underneath us and trying to soak our pants.

going under 17th St. bridge

dad under bridge

raising the mainsail

sunset cruise Fort Lauderdale

Spirit of Fort Lauderdale

It turned out that the little wind I had been watching earlier turned out to be much too small to fill our sails. Getting out into open water, we sailed close hauled for a bit as we slightly bobbed around in the small swells.  The sail that didn’t want to stay full was smacking back and forth a bit, and very much reminded me of our sail from Miami to Bermuda.

Once the sky began to turn black, the consensus on board was that without much sailing happening there wasn’t a lot of reason to stay out in the Atlantic just to run up the clock.  There could still be touring done inside the canals.  Turning the boat around we had a slightly more comfortable and half a knot faster sail back inside the waterway. As soon as we were inside and the sails were lowered it was time for the champagne to come out.

Giving a big toast between ourselves and to our crew, we had a fantastic run for the last little bit of our cruise.  With my full glass of champagne, we all stood out on deck and watched the bright lights of the city shining down on us.  As a special treat, and since we had a little extra time, we made a run down a side canal to take a look at a few of the waterfront homes and took a little shock in realizing that most people did not put blinds into their living rooms or kitchens.  And I have to say, a few of the meals I was able to see prepared looked really delicious.

Before we knew it we were sliding back into our slip at the marina and it was time to trade in our sailing hat for a land based one.  Cruisers living on dirt once again.  It was a great experience to get there once again, and if anything it’s going to give me more drive to work even harder on our boat to get here back out as soon as possible.  But of course this night would not have been as special without my wonderful parents, for taking us on this cruise and enjoying their company while we were out.  We were also blessed with a fantastic crew that made the experience incredibly enjoyable and made it feel as if we were out on the water with any number of new cruising friends we make along the way.  The perfect way to wrap up another fantastic visit from my family.

Ft. Lauderdale inlet

17th St. bridge at night

champagne cruise Spirit of Fort Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale canals

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The Hidden Gem that is Crandon Park, Key Biscayne

Crandon Park, Key Biscayne

The condo we’re staying at with my parents in Fort Lauderdale happens to be about one block from the Bonnet House.  While brainstorming up things to do with our time there, it obviously came up as a contender.  It’s supposed to be a beautiful house full of history, and lavish grounds to wander. I’m sure many visitors have spent long afternoons there doing just this.  We were almost some of them.  Until I took a look at their website and found that tours cost $20/person.  Even if you only wanted to walk the grounds you had to hand over $10.  A quick tram ride could get you through for $2.

As soon as we saw these prices though, Matt and I did not want to participate in any of it.  Not that my parents couldn’t or didn’t want to hand over this money for us all to have an afternoon out, they were more than happy to have this as a possibility for ‘Things to Do’ during our time here.  The thing was…I knew of a much better place for us to spend an afternoon.  One that happened to be completely free.

Last May when Matt and I had about a month to kill in Miami waiting on specific paperwork for the cat before we could make our Atlantic crossing to Europe, we spent a lot of time with our cruising friends Alfredo and Ana Bianca, and family of theirs that lived on Key Biscayne. One afternoon while visiting, where we had a little more time on our hands than they did, they sent us off on a pair of bicycles to check out a nice local beach called Crandon Park. With the exception of having a house to tour (and based on the photos, I’m not sure it would have been my style), these grounds were much more appealing.

Here is one thing I can not understand about this park.  Every time we have summer here; summer; winter; weekday; weekend; it is always empty.  A complete ghost town, which is surprising considering how beautiful it is. As we parked our car in the vacant lot, we walked the sidewalk leading up to the beach, making sure to stop for just a moment to take in one of my favorite perks of this park.  Situated on the south side of the beach is a bird sanctuary, with it’s own trails and sitting areas, this area used to be one of the leading zoos in the country back in the 1960’s.  Having previously hosted over 1,000 animals of over 380 species, it’s open air animal exhibits now sit empty, and the birds which currently reside there are allowed to roam free.

Such is the case of the ostentation of peacocks we found lining the fence as we arrived.  Very accustomed to visitors and handouts of food, they are not shy of people and it’s quite easy to get a close up view of them.  Saving a more thorough stroll of those grounds for just a little later, we instead made our way to the palm trees and shoreline. Passing by shaded picnic areas and charcoal grills, we left the pavement and slid off our shoes as we entered the warm mid day sand.

One thing Matt and I agreed of why we love this beach so much is that other than it’s magnificent turquoise colored waters and tall sprouting palm trees, for some reason it looks as if it would fit much better into the coast of North Carolina than Southern Florida. With the exception of a few high rises at the very far end of the beach, the area appears very secluded and not at all flashy.  Although I do love a good afternoon of people watching and viewing all the vibrantly colored life guard stations on South Beach…this area just seems cleaner and more uniform.  But in a good way.

The light yellow lifeguard stands pop out perfectly from the vivid waters behind them and the palm trees lining each side. It’s a quiet area, very peaceful.  Just a short drive from the major metropolis of Miami, yet you still have the sense of solitude.  At low tide there are shallow pools to wade in, and any time is perfect for diving into a novel without surrounding distractions.  I don’t know, I can’t describe it. Just a little slice of perfection in Southern Florida that we never seem to get enough time to spend in.

Such was the case this afternoon as we had no suits on us for swimming or umbrellas to shade us from the sweltering sun. We did make a quick run of the sanctuary where most of the birds seemed to be hiding on this particular day, but the iguanas were have the run of the grounds. Once we realized that we were approaching late afternoon we did make our way up to bustling South Beach to find a nice outdoor cafe for some lunch and people watching. Since we couldn’t make the most of Crandon Park, it did seem only the logical thing to do.

peacocks at Crandon Park

picnic area, Crandon Park

Crandon Park, Key Biscayne

my parents at Crandon Park

Matt & Jessica at Crandon Park

Crandon Park, Key Biscayne

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Off to the Coast!

Fort Lauderdale Beach

It’s vacation time again!  Just five weeks after returning from a week long escape in Stuart with Matt’s family, my parents have just flown in to take us away for a week to Fort Lauderdale. The rents are back for the second time this year and we couldn’t be happier to see them! And I’m sorry, but I do have to take a quick second and poke a little fun at them, as when I called them by this slang term in a post during their previous visit, they had no idea what it meant.  Funny.  I thought I was dating myself by using it.

Anyway….they arrived at the marina on Thanksgiving, but unfortunately a few hours later than all the festivities being held here that day.  We did manage to save them a few plates of turkey, green beans, mashed potatoes with gravy, and even the keg hadn’t been tapped yet so there was still free cold beer to enjoy with our late lunch/early dinner. Having them stay at the only hotel Indiantown has to offer, we all met back up the next morning for breakfast and drove out to see my grandparents in Sebring.

Hopping back in the rental car after a nice afternoon and lunch spent with them (no way we were going to chance the van breaking down driving across the state), we set off for Fort Lauderdale and only had to make one stop at a questionable gas station in Clewston before pulling into our hotel just after the sun set. A little bit different than when we had all taken off to Fort Lauderdale in April, this time we were only a block from the beach, staying in a high rise with the Atlantic on one side and the ICW on the other. It was a balmy yet very windy night, although it was not stop us from taking a stroll down Beach Blvd.  Even in the dark and across the street we could see giant waves crashing against the shore, and before we even left I knew it would be necessary to change from my dress into jeans.  Not because of dropping temperatures, but because if I hadn’t I would have ended up with it over in my head. Trust me, it was doing a good job of trying in the parking lot upon our arrival.

Since I had underestimated the size of the city blocks here (or had only read street names with bridges), I had vastly misjudged our distance from Sunrise down to Las Olas Blvd, where all the happening bars and restaurants were, so instead of making it down there to possibly grab a drink we turned around and took the back roads back to the hotel where we were slightly blocked from the strong east winds. Not to let that hold us back from enjoying that beer together, we got in the car once more to do a little necessary grocery shopping at the Publix up the road and stocked ourselves up on some Dos XX and limes to get us through the next few days.  Ending the night in front of the tv, we were all exhausted after our recent traveling over the past few days, barley keeping our eyes open through an interesting reenactment of the Donner party.  You may joke, but I honestly would have been in bed an hour earlier if we hadn’t been watching it.

In the morning we took our sweet time getting ready, with really no place to be.  Sitting over coffee and each person person playing on their computer or tablet for bit (I may be a little ashamed to admit that I’ve been spending a bit too much time with our Instagram account lately, getting it going) we did force ourselves out for a daylight walk before lunch, walking across the draw bridge to watch the sailboats going south, and then out to the beach to stick our toes in the water.

Jessica and parents

Jessica & parents

Matt at draw bridge

sail boats under draw bridge

Fort Lauderdale

day at beach

We’ve been spending a few days just relaxing around the condo, getting the use of a full kitchen again, and even running some errands around town.  It’s never a bad day when your parents want to take you shopping at Bed Bath & Beyond to help you stock up your galley with gadgets and provide you with new bath towels since the ones you have are six years old.  Ick.  We also took an afternoon to go to the movie theater and see the newest Hunger Games.  We even ended up at one of those fancy movie theaters where they serve food and drinks during the show.  A literal dinner & a movie date.  We skipped on the food, but most of us did partake in an adult beverage.  Watching a movie on the big screen with an ice cold Sam Adams in my hand?  A pretty cool way to spend an afternoon.

Speaking of going out for a beer, we also somewhat ran into some cruising friends here!  For the past two years we’ve been talking to and trying to meet up with Rebecca and Brian of Summertime Rolls.  There’s even been more than one occasion where we’ve missed each other by only a day or to.  Us getting to the Bahamas a day or two after they left; or them arriving to the Virgin Islands only a few days after we left. When they had seen on our Facebook page that we were in Ft. Lauderdale they let us know they happened to be just up the road!

Finding an Irish Pub one block up from us that had a very good happy hour, the four of us finally met and spent a good few hours talking about our past few years sailing.  Not only have we cruised so many of the same grounds, but our social circles consist of basically all the same people, so the conversations were endless. Definitely a bit of fun and unexpected serendipity thrown into our schedule.  I can’t wait to see what the rest of our time here holds for us.

drinks w. Summertime Rolls

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A Saturday Sail with s/v Selah

If there was one thing that kept me going during those torturous days of sanding and other painfully dull jobs that I had been complaining about not to long ago, it’s that our friends Bo and Allison had promised us a day out on their boat as soon as they arrived back to Stuart after finishing up jobs and other odd and end things. Back on Daze Off while my arm were growing numb and dust kept seeping into the corners of my mask, I could usually keep myself happy in my head with daydreams about a fresh breeze blowing through my hair while having a good conversation with my friends, and most importantly, a cold cocktail in my hands.  Don’t get me wrong, I love hanging out with these guys, but the promise of booze makes any outing infinitely better.

There were a few times that plans were made and then cancelled due to last minute things with work and family, but eventually they made it down to Florida, as as soon as their boat had it’s owners back for a few days to get it in ship shape, we were on our way. All of the 90 degree weather that had been bothering us for so much of the month had now decided to replace itself with off and on showers for the past few days, but we were not going to let that keep us from getting out on the water and having a good time. Walking down the dock in my new rain jacket and a set of Keds that had not yet been broken in and were tearing at the flesh of my heels, I quickly kicked them off and made myself at home as soon as we stepped aboard their 42 ft Brewer, Selah.

There were of course hugs to go around, as well as a tour of their boat to see how the layout differentiated from all the other Brewers we seem to have been spending time on in the last year.  They showed us their new fridge and freezer with pull out drawers as we stood there drooling over it, since we had found something very similar we almost purchased, only it wouldn’t fit in our space.  Time for 5-foot-itis to set in already. A few more spaces to tour, and we were ready to get this party underway.  Before we could head out to the open waters of the St. Lucie River though, we needed to swing by and pick up a few other boaters in the mooring yard.

New friends to Bo and Allison, Cameron and Dani are another set of young cruisers that are looking into the lifestyle of setting off into the sunset, and are currently living in Florida while trying out a new boat for them (long story).  We quickly rafted up to their 41′ Morgan with painted blue handrails and took a moment to tour it as well as play with their adorable cat and dog. Soon the 6 of us were piled on to Selah and were off again.  During the ride we had a nice presentation of fresh veggies and dip places in front of us, and after I returned to the cockpit after a quick trip below, I found a mimosa waiting for me as well.  Even with threatening clouds in the background, this day was off to a great start.

The sails may not have been attached to the boat yet, and no one felt like catching a bridge opening to get to a wider bay of water, so we just moved ourselves a mile up the river and dropped anchor off the side of the channel.  A better way to spend the day anyway, so this way no one had to watch out for other boats or shoaling, and we were able to just sit in the cockpit and enjoy each others company.

Bo

Jessica in Vineyard Vines

Bo grilling burgers

After having a fun little photoshoot on deck where I was able to show off some of the new gear we just received from Vineyard Vines, the grill was fired up and lunch was turning into a fancy affair with burgers made from grass fed beef and placed on a buttered bun. The mimosas had been finished off and we were moving on to ice cold beers as all of us talked about our sailing experiences in Florida and how thankfully this whole boat realized how overrated Marathon is. I told myself I would never bring it up again after our quick visit there, but yes, it is a floating trailer park.

As Bo and Allison get ready to depart for the Bahamas, we gave them our ‘not to miss’ list of places that we really liked while we were there, and they promised to make a list for us of their favorite places in the Abacos.  An area we have yet to hit in that island group. Dani and Cam are planning on sitting tight in Florida for just a little longer while they cruise while having the ability to work from their computers.  Lucky bastards.  Just joking, they’re a great couple and we may have been just a teensy bit jealous that they still have a paycheck coming in.  It does suck to watch your bank account dwindle down, and rebuilding a boat does not help.

We were lucky that the storms appeared to be passing all around us, but never over us.  And although we could have stayed out all night, (Which was my original hope.  Slumber party!) Matt and I had to get back to Indiantown for a Saturday BBQ they put on and we had signed ourselves up for as well as promised our presence to a few people.  While we were busy trying to get all our friends to come back with us, they were busy trying to get us to stay for the rest of the night.  With the promise of cold beer and a Hot’n’Ready pizza, it was a tough coin to flip.

Indiantown eventually won out, with only two of us attendees, and so it was time to drop Cam and Dani back off at their boat and bring Selah to her slip. We didn’t have the sun or even any sails for our day out, but it was exactly what we needed. I will say that I’m disappointed that this is the only time we’ll be able to get out and do this again because everyone but us will be moving on, although maybe that just means we’ll have to hunt Bo and Allison down somewhere in the Bahamas or Caribbean when we’re ready for a good long break from boat work.

Cam and Allison

Matt in Vineyard Vines

Jessica on St. Lucie River

rain on St. Lucie River

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Update on the Stray Cats of Indiantown Marina

Wednesday October 28, 2015

Cairo, calico cat

In case you’ve been curious about what has become of the stray cats of the marina that we’ve kind of been looking after…well, they’re still here!  And we’re still looking after them.

We’ve actually developed a bit of a routine with these three cats lately and it always starts with them waiting at the bottom of our stairs for us every morning.  I run to the van and unlock their container of food, where they follow me right to the door and wind between my ankles as Georgie watches curiously on her leash a few feet away.  Even shy and timid Bandit will come right up to me when it’s time for food, but still goes running five feet away when I reach out my hand to see if she’ll sniff it.  Then us three (me, Matt & Georgie) head off to breakfast at the patio while the cats eat theirs under the boat, and they’re always gone by the time we return 30 minutes later.

Into the late morning and early afternoon they’re still off hiding wherever they go to get their privacy.  Maybe they’re cat napping after getting up at sunrise and waiting for us to come down and feed them, but they should know our schedule now and be well aware of the fact that we like to sleep in.  No rising before 8:30 am. Just after lunch we might see a little movement from them, but not all the time.  It’s strange though because either we see absolutely no sign or they’re boarding our boat and looking for new places to settle in.  I get extremely giddy about this, but Matt thinks they’re becoming just a little too comfortable. I suppose I shouldn’t let myself get too attached since I know they’ll be out of our lives in about 6 months.

In the late afternoon just a few hours before sunset they become super active.  At least the kittens are.  Lynx kind of lays back and watches and Cairo and Bandit play around.  They love to bat at pebbles and pounce on pieces of grass.  They also wrestle with each other which is one of the most adorable things I’ve ever seen.  Partially because Bandit makes this face while she’s trying to bite her sister, and somehow becomes even uglier than she already is.  Not in the way that it’s so ugly it’s cute like her normal face, but a This is going to haunt my dreams kind of ugly.  Poor thing.  It’s what makes me want her the most of the three.

On the subject of finding homes for these kitties, I have had a few inquires, but the prospects were unfortunately not close enough to come get them.  Anywhere from a 2 hour drive but no access to a car, to being half way around the world.  One day though, we’ll find something that works out.  The big issue now is trying to make sure no more litters of kitties come around that need adopting.

I’ve called the local humane society and found out that for $40 per cat I can get a spay, microchip and vaccinations.  Not a bad price!, really.  The only issue is catching the cats to bring them in for an appointment.  I doubt Lynx would be an issue as she is incredibly affectionate and often seeks me out each afternoon for scratching her chin and rubbing her belly.  I can’t *guarantee* that I’d be able to get her on any given day though, and the appointments are non-refundable.  Catching the other 2? Fuggedaboutit.  Bandit won’t come anywhere near me and Cairo will sometimes fall into a dead sleep nap under our boat, but that is the only time I’ve been able to touch her.  (But I did give her a belly rub the one time she did and it was fantastic!)

I did hear from the Humane Society that Animal Control sometimes goes around once a month to trap stray cats and spay them.  They’re next on my list to call, but I just keep hoping there’s no reason for them to come back and ‘take care’ of these cats later for any reason.  Like getting AC involved will somehow end up in their demise.

So that is where we are at now.  Still trying to get them spayed and still trying to find them homes.  I did just hear from someone that the office hear might have a cat trap.  So if I can learn how to set up the trap, get one of the kittens in there, and have this miraculously happen on a day I have an appointment at the Humane Society, we’ll be all set.  At least in preventing new litters.  Anyone have some tips for me?

cats in cockpit

Lynx nursing Cairo

manx cat, Bandit

Cairo

Lynx and Bandit

Lynx sleeping

Guess what we just found out the other day?  The litter that Lynx had back in September that she seemed to have abandoned after 2 days so we assumed they were dead?  Well, they’re not.  4 healthy and adorable kittens are now roaming around with their big sisters.  Only one manx of the bunch, a spitting image of it’s mother.  Click on the link below to see them playing in their safe haven behind our boat.

kittens

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Bathtub Reef Beach

Saturday October 17, 2015

Bathtub Reef

There must be something about the water that keeps drawing us back in.  I have to remind myself of this every time (previously) that I’d had it up to my neck with cruising and living on a boat and would long for nothing more than an apartment in the high rise of a big city with my feet firmly planted on the ground.  Yet the water always drags me back and anytime I’m away for too long I find myself needing to dip my toes in and stare off into the horizon.

Which is likely why we found ourselves with Matt’s family spending another whole day at the shore as part of a vacation for all of us.  Luckily they must have the same draw to the water as we do and is probably why Matt and I were so lucky to grow up by the shores of Lake Michigan. So when yesterday came and there was the question of ‘What do we do with our day?’, all of us were ready to hit the beach.

Packing a cooler and all of Travis’ fishing gear since he had been getting a lot of good tips on shoreline fishing, we made our way to the Jensen Beach area to lay out our towels and relax in the sun.  Once again we were nearly the only people on this slice of sand.  It could have been nice and relaxing, but most of us had forgotten to bring any other forms of entertainment such as books, magazines, or music; and people watching was out as well.  Cracking open a pre-lunch beer, Matt and I split it while watching Travis’ fishing pole clunk down into the sand every time he tried walking away from it.  It was pretty soon agreed, we needed to go back to Bathtub Reef Beach.

Jensen Beach

Jensen Beach 2

After visiting a local diner for lunch while still carrying around salt in our hair and sand on our legs, we traveled back out to Hutchinson Island and turned into the now familiar drive at the Marriott to follow the road to our destination. Just as before, we pulled into the parking lot to find it nearly full.  There would be plenty of people watching here today.

Now don’t laugh at me when I say this, but none of us had been ready to do anything more than wade into the water until we got to this protected little tub. There have been a multitude of shark attacks in the area lately and we at least wanted to make it a little harder for them if they wanted to target us.  Not only having to get past the reef and into the tub, but now choosing our ankles among many instead of few.  Without now being the only option of human food around though, we were ready to go crazy in the water.

Walking out to the reef to do a little fishing we were awed to see schools of hundreds of fish riding each cresting wave toward us.  We were sure there would be fresh snapper on the grill that night until the lifeguard blew the whistle at us and said we needed to move further down the beach and away from people.  A possible blessing in disguise.

Down the point and around a corner were all these beautiful rocks that ran along the waters edge.  Grabbing our soft cooler and all the fishing gear we walked over the thousands of seashells strewn in front of us and took shelter in front of one of these large boulders.  Submerged under high tide, we were able to sneak in once it had fallen and situated ourselves on the still wet and worn away edges along the water.  With the waves crashing up and only just touching our toes, it was an excellent little spot to loose yourself to the day.  The perfect way to spend vacation time.  Away from the city, away from the high rises, but instead just sitting at the waters edge. With the water lapping at my toes as I stared off into the horizon.

Fishing at Bathtub Reef beach

Bathtub Reef Beach

Bathtub Reef Beach

(Above photos courtesy of Matt’s mom)

Bathtub Reef Beach Florida

Bathtub Reef Beach Stuart

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