Our Vacation to Stuart

Wednesday October 14, 2015

Boardwalk of Stuart Florida

This week we’re very excited and very lucky, because Matt’s family is visiting us from Michigan.  Since we had never made it back there this past summer, although we totally should have, they came down to us instead.  A perfect little treat and also a much needed break away from boat work.  Having rented a two bedroom house for all of us to occupy in Stuart, just so we could go back to the boat and do some work during their visit if we wanted, we quickly realized that the boat was the last thing we wanted to see and packed our bags for the full week assuming there would be no reason to come back.

Giving them the grand tour of Daze Off (get your own personalized video tour here) we then had lunch at what is quickly becoming my favorite restaurant in Indiantown, and told them that after grabbing a few last minute thing from the boat we’d forgotten, that we’d meet them in Stuart.  All seemed well and good as we turned east on 76 with a week full of carefree fun on our minds.  Our Kia had other plans for us.

I’m not sure if it’s just deciding to test Matt and his statement of “We can just ditch this cheap van on the side of the road if it gives us too many problems”, and wanted to see how many times it could break down on us before he stayed true to his word. Just two minutes down the road the temperature levels were spiking and there was smoke pouring out of our hood.  Quickly pulling over we tightened a few hose clamps from where we’d just finished replacing the alternator and called it good.  We’d inspect it more once we arrived in Stuart.  All we had to do was get there first.

Our Kia was not so optimistic.  Another five minutes down the road the temperature levels were through the roof and just as I was looking for a side street to pull over on the engine cut out on me.  I had just enough acceleration left to use the manual steering and brakes to pull us into the driveway of a local Thoroughbred Park.  Putting a message in to Matt’s brother Travis over FB since we didn’t have anyone’s # (hey, we work through emails) we let them know they’d have to come back for us, and then went about calling a tow truck to get the van back to the marina.  First calling a guy and then cancelling because we didn’t know if he was covered by our roadside assistance, we got in touch with our insurance company who told us the closest truck was still 90 minutes away.

This is how the timeline went for the rest of the day.

4:30  Placed message to Matt’s family and called initial tow truck.

4:45 Cancel first tow truck and call insurance company

5:00 Matt’s family shows up and we begin to wait.

5:30  Insurance company calls and tells us tow truck driver has cancelled on them and they need to find us a new one.

6:00 Receive a call from insurance company.  They have found a new driver, although he is 90 minutes away.

6:30 Those two beers I had at lunch are really getting at me.  Talk Matt’s stepdad into driving me back to the marina so I can pee and also grab my camera battery charger which I’d left behind.  Also make a stop at Circle K for beer.  We’ll be needing it soon enough.

7:15 Get back to the broken down Kia with no sign of the tow truck showing up.

8:00 Get an automated call from our insurance company stating our help should have arrived by now.  Has it?

8:30 I’ve had enough of this s%*t.  We’re getting eaten alive and so the 5 of us sit smooshed in Matt’s family’s Cadillac along with all their luggage.  Just as I’m putting in a call to our insurance company I get a call from the tow truck driver stating he’s five minutes away.  Finally.

8:45 Tow truck arrives and puts the Kia on his bed.  We follow him back to the marina where he drops it off next to the boat.  We lock her up and don’t look back as we pile back in the Cadillac.  This can wait until our vacation is over.

10:00 Arrive at the Walmart in Stuart.  We’re all famished and need food stat.  Grabbing a few of the reduced price rotisserie chickens, some sides, and more beer.

11:00 Pull into the very cute rental home and claim our bedroom.  Luggage is tossed on the floor and I dive into a much needed beer.  We flip on the tv and drown our troubles in alcohol and greasy food.  Welcome to vacation.

Kia broken down

checking under hood

waiting for tow

Kia getting towed

The next day ended up being much better.  I think the universe felt bad for how our vacation began and wanted to make up for it.

For anyone who has visited the Stuart Florida area, you’ll know that it has a ton to offer and will probably be surprised that in the 7 months we’ve been living in Indiantown, we’ve never been off US-1 on our visits in.  I know.  Shame on us.  There *was* that one time I wanted to seek out a beach when Matt let me off on my own to run errands for an afternoon, but then the meet up for a Craig’s List purchased in a neighboring town was moved up about an hour and I ran out of time.  Because if I had actually made it out to the shore that day you can be damn sure I would have dragged Matt back out with me at some point.

Getting in the Cadillac in the late morning just for a drive to see what was around, sans a fishing pole jutting out next to my head this time, we kept following the signs for Beaches until we crossed a few bridges and found ourselves on Hutchinson Island. Picking one of the random and numerous signs with an umbrella and an arrow on it, we pulled into a mostly empty parking lot and followed the sandy trail out to the water.  Wow.  It was breathtaking.  I had no idea these colors of water existed on Florida’s Treasure Coast.

Since this was only supposed to be an exploration day we had not brought our swim suits, towels, or really any essentials for a day at the beach.  So instead Travis hiked his shorts up Steve Urkel style to wade in the water while I ran to and fro across the sand yelling “This is sooooo gorgeous!!!”.  Really though, you can’t blame me.  Wouldn’t you be doing the same thing if you’d just spent the past five weeks working daily on a boat and then being greeted with a view like this?

trail to Hutchinson Island Beach

Hutchinson Island Beach, FL

Jessica & Travis, Hutchinson Island Beach

Travis & Matt at Hutchinson Island Beach

Since we had let ourselves fully enjoy our morning with about three cups of coffee and lounging, just this one stop had already put us past lunch time.  Matt’s mom having read wonderful things about the downtown Stuart area and it’s restaurants, we made our way there to see if we could rustle up some grub.  It turn out that yes, there are in fact a lot of nice restaurants to choose from.  You’ll just pay out of your a$$ to eat there.  If it were dinner we probably wouldn’t have minded the splurge but all we were looking for was to make our stomachs stop growling and we didn’t want to pay $12 a burger to do so.

The good new was, just as we were about to jump back in the car and make our way out to a Burger King or McDonalds, we found a really nice pizza joint with some great prices.  Sold by the slice the servings were huge and we added some garlic knots on top for the perfect lunch.  It was so big that half of us couldn’t even finish our one slice and may have groaned that we’re ‘never eating again’.

downtown Stuart Florida

Boardwalk, Stuart Florida

Our day of investigating what Stuart had to offer was long from over though.  Wanting to check out another beach we made a quick pit stop back at the rental house for all our beach gear since it was on the way.  Then it was back over the bridges and over the ICW until we were on Hutchinson Island once more.  This time on our way to Bathtub Reef Beach though.

Something I had actually researched before and found highly reviewed on Trip Advisor, I had originally brushed it aside because the photos were horrible and it did not look like anything special.  If only I had done a Google search in addition.  Fortunately Matt’s mom had also taken a look and probably had seen more to it than I had a my first glance.  She mentioned it was a place she wanted to take a look at and we’re so happy she did.

The beach itself was not as secluded as our little area closer to Jensen Beach, but the reef part was perfect.  It left a few sandbars and other areas that went as deep as 6 ft before shoaling again near the reef a few hundred feet out from shore.  Basically it was a big protected swimming pool.  Except for the jellyfish we were sharing the water with that day, but we just kept a close eye out for them. Oh yes, and one shark feeding on a school of fish that caused the lifeguard to blow his whistle and order everyone out of the water.  Luckily we had already gotten our swimming in for the day by that point.

For the rest of the afternoon we sat on our towels soaking up the sun or walking the shore line and hunting shells.  We found that if you walked further north up the beach you could find secluded areas in front of the private homes and also some beautiful rock formations along the water.  Even though it was only the beginning of our trip we all knew we’d be back here at least one more time.  It was a little slice of heaven that’s been hiding right under our eyes this whole time we’ve living here.  How could we not know about it?

Oh, and did I mention they let you bring alcohol on the beach? Now we know where we’ll be bringing all of our cruising friends for a day at the beach once they get down to Florida.

Bathtub Reef Beach, Hutchinson Island, Stuart Florida

Bathtub Reef Beach, Hutchinson Island, Stuart Florida

Jessica on Bathtub Reef Beach, Hutchinson Island, Stuart Florida

 

Siesta Beach – The Best in the US

Thursday September 4, 2015

Siesta Beach Siesta Key

There was no way we could visit Siesta Key with out visiting it’s beach.  The #1 beach in the USA in 2011 actually.  Even on our overcast skies and windy day walks on there we could see why.  Going with the sun beating down on us the next day though upped it’s beauty even more.

The house we’re staying at made it super easy to get to the beach with everything you needed.  Deciding against stocking the giant cooler that was sitting in the closet, we did fill up the plastic beach wagon with an umbrella, beach mats, and some swim noodles.  There was an option for lounge chairs but we left those behind as well. Walking the two blocks to the shore entrance we passed by a few of the town’s cute little shops and restaurants as well as the Daiquiri Deck across the street.  A place I am still trying to drag Matt to so I can sample one of it’s 25 different kinds of daiquiris.  Things would be so much easier if I were married to someone that liked to drink.

We were both quite agreed about a day of sand, sun, and sea though, so it was a good thing we were headed to a beach that was just rated on Trip Advisor as 2015’s Most Beautiful Beach in the US. (Also ranked #1 in 2011 by Dr. Beach). After having spent 8 hours a day, 6-7 days a week for the past month sitting in our hot and sticky boat yard in Indiantown we were so desperate to feel a sea breeze across our faces again that we would have taken almost anything with a water view, but luckily fate dropped this gorgeous beach in our laps instead.

The remnants of Hurricane Erika were kicking up some large waves rolling into the shore, something I could not wait to dive into, but it also meant she was giving us a hell of a time trying to anchor our beach umbrella.  There were a few cases of it almost turning into a Benni Hill chase scene with the umbrella constantly trying to outsmart our moves as the wind took it from one direction to another, but eventually we found a position that work and threw our mats under it’s shade.

A little bit of our time was spent doing a little people watching from under our newly established cover.  It’s so rare now that we see anyone new in our days, it seems like the gawking police are called if a transient boat ever makes it way into the marina, so this non thrilling pasttime of ours suddenly turned into an Olympic event of being able to spot the smallest trace of moment on the sand and zeroing in on it with hawk-like intensity.  Once we got over the initial amazement of ‘Wow, when did all the women in the US begin wearing Brazilian or thong bikinis?’ it was time to try out the water.

Due to the recent number of shark attacks on humans this summer we were a little hesitant to wade into the water since these waves were kicking up enough sand that we couldn’t see anything through it.  Was that a stick that just bumped into my ankle or am I about to become the turf part of a shark’s surf n’ turf lunch?  Getting over my initial fear I jumped into the next wave that rolled past me and just had to remind myself that I’ve had a good run so far.  If a shark were about to take me out?  Well…what a way to go.

The water was sitting at a heated 87° and although I hadn’t been looking for anything ‘refreshing’ this was the perfect wave pool for me to play around in.  I had so much fun jumping in and out of the waves that when I tired myself out I went back to shore to grab my water noodle so I could hang out in it and let the waves to all the work of pushing me around.  After seeing that I was still in one piece after all this time, Matt joined me for a bit of wave surfing and we forgot all about that hunk of metal back in Indiantown as we enjoyed this perfect afternoon.

When I was too tired for even the noodle to keep me afloat any longer we both made our way back to shore and passed out on beach, breath heavy and utterly exhausted in the best way.  With our heads only able to rest on our arms for support we watched all the shore birds prance through the perfectly white sand that the beach is famous for.  I contemplated coming back later with a few pails and a shovel to make sandcastles but my brain was nearly on off mode and it was just a fleeting idea that left as soon as it had come.

Trying to rally for a second round in the water, we instead began to show our age as the comfort of a bed and an afternoon nap were calling just a little louder.  The extended swimming and sandcastles would have to wait for another day.  With just enough energy we packed our belongings back up and headed back to the house.

Siesta Beach Siesta Key Florida

Matt at Siesta Beach

Siesta Beach Siesta Key Florida

Siesta Beach Siesta Key Florida

Jessica at Siesta Beach

 In true ‘me’ form, I crawled into bed completely spent but could not fall asleep.  Tossing and turning for 20 minutes I decided my time might be better spent by the pool with a good book and a cold beer.  Pulling out the Heady Topper I was gifted for my birthday and my World Beer Tour out of the fridge, I sprawled out on one of the lounge chairs in our private pool area.

After being so stubborn about not taking a vacation or any time away from boat work for so many months, I have no idea why we didn’t pull ourselves away sooner.  This week has been so relaxing and exactly what we needed to regroup ourselves for what will be many more months of boat work to come.  Thank you again so much Bill and Lindsay for the stay at Sunnyside Properties, there’s not a better place we could have gone to get away from it all.

Jessica by pool

Picturesque Siesta Beach

Wednesday September 2, 2015

Trail head Siesta Beach

Although Matt and I did take our 3 mile walk around Siesta Beach yesterday afternoon, it wasn’t enough for me.  Not enough beach time, and not nearly enough camera time.  Mostly because, due to my own oversight, I had stuffed my camera in my purse next to an ice cold can of Pepsi, so when I broke it out to snap a few photos the lens was completely fogged up and I was able to shoot a whole lotta nadda.  Plus, there are only so many times I can say to Matt, “Hold up a second, I want to get a photo”.

That’s why when all of our daily activity had tuckered Matt out and he needed a nap in the afternoon, I decided to take the five minute walk back with my camera, and no cold sodas to ruin my shots this time.  The day was still overcast and gusty with large waves rolling into the shore.  Normally this beach looks to be quite calm (from all the photos I researched online) with almost Bahamian pristine waters, but hurricane Erika was doing her best to stir them up a little.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes love this kind of weather though.  With all the sun and heat we’ve been enduring back at the boat yard it was nice to get a little shade and a fresh breeze.  Plus I was just hoping that the sky would grow black at any moment and I could watch a thunderstorm roll in over the water.  No such luck though.  What I did end up with was a wonderful 20 minute stroll through the sand, and five minutes of waiting for one of my flip flops to wash up back to me on shore after I neglected to keep an eye on them from waves as I strolled down one of the sandbars barefoot.  And since I’m on my last pair of Havaianas, that would have been a real shame.

Trail to Siesta Beach

homes on Siesta Beach

Siesta Beach, Siesta Key

big waves on Siesta Beach

sand bar on Siesta Beach

Siesta Beach, Siesta Key Florida

overcast skies on Siesta Beach

Siesta Beach, Siesta Key Florida

birds on Siesta Beach

Vacation Time at Siesta Key

Monday August 31, 2015

villa Sunnyside Properties Siesta Key
I’m sure I’ve said it before, but it needs to be repeated again.  I have the best blog followers ever.  You guys rule!, and because of you I’ve been having an amazing birthday week in Florida.

If you remember back to a few weeks before my birthday, I put a post up about my World Beer Tour and mentioned I was trying to grow my US portion if anyone wanted to send a bottle for my birthday.  It didn’t take long to start getting some amazing brews as well as gift cards with suggestions in the mail, and I was busy typing up thank you letters to those who had sent me something special to try. Getting an email back from one of the people who’d sent me three pairs of enticing drinks to try, they offered Matt and I even more than just beer and the best birthday present anyone could ask for (although I am reminded by my friend Ana Bianca that we did get a romantic couples massage for my birthday two years ago in Antigua).

Long story short, we found they owned a few condos through Sunnyside Properties on Siesta Key, just next to Sarasota, and since it was the low season, would we fancy a week stay in one of their available units as long as no one rented it last minute?  Ummmm…heck yes!!  Browsing through their 1, 2, & 3 bedroom units, we had originally chosen the 2 bedroom that sits right on the Gulf down on Turtle Beach, but it did happen to fill up with renters last minute so we settled on a 3 bedroom at Seaside Villa, only two blocks from Siesta Beach.  Like settling would really be the word for it. Instead of going for the 1 bedroom at the same location we asked for the multiple bedroom because we assumed someone would be able to join us between local friends or family members that had been talking about coming down for a visit.  Sadly everyone was booked up and we had to take on this huge villa ourselves.  With it’s large kitchen and jacuzzi in the master suite.  Such a shame we had to end up here….

Siesta Key condo front

Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Properties.

kitchen in villa, Siesta Key

After leaving Indiantown late yesterday morning during a torrential downpour, some kind of side effect from Hurricane Erika I’m sure, we arrived at the property around 3 in the afternoon, having made sure to hit up a Publix on our way to stock ourselves up on a few days of food. As well as a 6 pk of Lagunitas IPA, a World Tour beer gift that did not take us more than 20 minutes to break into once we arrived.

Matt drinking beer

Since it was later in the afternoon and we had not had a real day off of work since our friends Scott and Kim came to visit us, we were happy to just lounge around the villa our first day there.  A little tv watching and some time by the pool, which I totally would have been in had we wandered down there just a little earlier.  And yes, that is my computer in front of me, but I only had an hour before it was time to start dinner and that is in no way enough time to get into a really good book. At least I made the effort to put my swim suit on in the hopes of catching a few afternoon rays.

Jessica with wine

Matt watching tv

pool at Sunnyside Villa Siesta Key

Jessica on computer

For dinner our first night there I at last had access to a full kitchen again and used it accordingly.  Is it sad that part of the reason I wanted this villa was just so I could use it’s expansive kitchen space?  Don’t hate.  I’ve been cooking solely grilled meals for the past two and a half months now.  Having multiple burners at my disposal I whipped up one of mine and Matt’s favorite pastas which has chicken, bacon, broccoli, and onions in a garlic alfredo sauce.  So bad for you, but oh so tasty.  Then our first night was ended with a few glasses of wine, a soak in the jacuzzi, and a marathon of shows on the History Channel, watched comfortably from our bed.

cooking dinner

 Late this morning we walked the entire length of Siesta Beach, about a mile and a half down and then back up. Not something we were planning to do, but once we passed the main beach access we couldn’t find an exit to the main road and didn’t come up to one again until we were literally at the end of the beach and it dead ended into private property.  It seemed like everything was condos and private property and only had beach access for it’s guests.

We had wanted to take a nice stroll through town on our way back to get a feel for the island, but should have realized immediately that if condos were lining the beach front, that’s all that would be lining the road on the other side of them.  Plus, duh, we drove down that road the day before.  At least it was a good work out and a chance to wade our feet in the refreshing salt water for half the walk.  Looming thunderclouds kept us from coming back with all our gear after lunch, but it turns out the rain never came.

Tonight I also did an interview for a morning radio show in Sydney.  It’s on 96.1 The Edge with Mike E + Emma, and they spent about five minutes asking general questions about what made us leave our 9-5 life behind as well as the places we’ve visited.  Then before I knew it the interview was over and I was left with a dial tone on the other end of the line.  I have no idea when it’s supposed to air, but if I get any kind of link to it I’ll make sure to share it with you.

So, yup.  That’s been about it for us so far.  A little bit of beach time and a lot of relaxing on the couch.  I know that may be a little detrimental to actually visiting a new place, but we’ve definitely earned ourselves a little downtime.  Plus with a few more days here there’s still plenty of time left to explore.

And it has to be said again, Thank You SO MUCH Bill and Lindsay for this wonderful gift.  Your kindness goes further than you know, and we needed this break from the boat desperately before it did end up in a heap of ashes due to our frustration.  Your gift could not have come at a better time and we only wish we had some kind of way to repay you.

Random Happenings in the Boat Yard

Monday July 27, 2015

George looking for food

Sometimes, a lot of the time now actually, I’m finding that we’re so all over the place with our boat work and every day life that it’s hard to keep track of it all.  Lots of things that don’t warrant a blog post of their own, ether because the event itself is too small to worth noting, or even because there’s a lack of good photos.

Take for example our last night with our Young Bloods group.  The six of us, including Mark and Hanna of s/v Cara, and Meike and Sebastian of s/v Meise, had a great night out at JR’s Saloon as a final farewell before Mark and Hanna left to go West and Meike and Sebastian left to go East.  But I only had 2 photos of our night out. 2!!  Hardly worth encompassing a post on, even though we all did have a really good time.

Looking through some of my photos as I’ve been prepping other blog posts I found a few other cases of the same thing.  I don’t want to leave them out necessarily, but I can feature a whole post on them either.  So instead I’ll give you a quick rundown of the random things that have been happening here over the past few weeks.

  • I’ve been spending a lot of my time doing epoxy coatings.

Glamorous right?  Not exactly, but a necessary evil. We want to be so absolutely sure that no wood on our boat rots that we’re taking every precaution to keep it from happening.  Since condensation is most likely to form against the inside of our metal hull, anything we put up that is near this metal needs a water blocking epoxy coat.  The furring strips that attach to the aluminum frames running horizontally though the boat and every piece of wood that gets attached to these furring strips.

So every piece of Eurolite that is being turned into ceiling, or overhead, or floor, gets a coat of epoxy to it’s back side.  The fronts will be coated with primer and paint (except the floor).  I’m still debating on if I like doing only 2-3 pieces at a time to quickly get the job done and over with, or if I like them to pile up after a few days of measuring and cutting, then spending a good half day out in the blazing sun but without worries of having to do it again for another week.  One great part about finishing each time though means we get to install them and there is visual proof that we are making progress on this boat!

epoxy coating boards

epoxy coated boards

  • The people that previously wired this boat are idiots.

No, I’m serious.  It’s a wonder no one has died on here yet from electrocution or the boat hasn’t gone up in flames.  We found some of their stupidity when we first arrived to Indiantown while looking into compartments in the pilot house and found out that some of the wiring was done with an orange extension cord. That was pretty bad, only it doesn’t end there. When we were ripping out the overhead in the forward salon we noticed that they used an extension cord for their wiring in the mast as well.  WTF? So now, because of whomever these idiots were and thought they could take such a stupid shortcut on wiring, we’re going to have to drop the mast so we can fix it.  Another unexpected chunk of change out of our pockets.  Yippee!!

bad mast wiring

bad mast wiring

  • We made some new friends!

Unfortunately this is not a case of someone new at the marina to hang out with on a near daily basis, but we were contacted by the super fun Bo and Allison of Sailing B+A because they were shortly in town. Another young couple just like us, but these two are not just only new cruisers but newlyweds as well!  Having just tied the knot in May, they left Orange Beach Alabama just a few days after the wedding and have recently pulled into Stuart to keep their boat in a slip for hurricane season.  Realizing they were a mere 20 minute drive away from us they shot over an email to see if we’d be up for a dinner out sometime.  Of course we would!

Wanting to give Bo and Allison the full taste of what Indiantown has to offer, we suggested we meet up at JR’s Saloon for Taco Tuesday.  Along with us for the fun was our mutual friend Ellen (online to them, and in person to us). It’s too bad that we were only able to meet up for a few hours because these two are a hoot and the five of us could have stayed and closed the place down.  The good news is they’ll be back in Stuart in a few months, between odd jobs to keep the kitty full during hurricane season, and we’ve already made plans to meet up as soon as their back in town.  In fact, us girls aren’t even going to wait that long.  As soon as Allison is able to make it back to South Florida we’re going to have a girl’s night on her boat in Stuart full of wine drinking, talk about hair and make-up, and possibly a chance for me to wear my crazy print leggings without getting an eye roll from Matt.

(Again, I only took two photos while we were out.  What is wrong with me?)

Matt and Bo

Sailing B+A & MJ Sailing

 

It’s All About Money: Sail Loot Podcast

Monday July 13, 2015

I’d have to say that about 70% of the emails we get in our inbox have something to do with money.  It may not be the sole subject of the email, but it usually comes up one way or another.  “How do you afford this; What did you do to save; What does it cost to maintain this lifestyle”.  We don’t mind these questions, in fact we usually openly talk about our money.  Through our Cost of Cruising pages you can find out what we spend each month and year and where all of our money goes.

To take it one step further though and find out everything there is to know about us and money; starting from the beginning and going up until now, we were contacted by Teddy at Sail Loot to participate in a podcast talking about this subject. We talked about absolutely everything from when we bought our first boat, how we outfitted Serendipity to cruise, what gets covered in our monthly expenses, and how we try to save where we can.  If you’ve ever had a money related question for us, chances are it’s been answered in this interview.

Keep reading to see how our interview appeared on the Sail Loot website, including the podcast.  If you’d like to see the full thing on their site as well as check out more links relating to the discussion, make sure to check out the original post here. For even more podcast from other great cruisers talking about their finances, make sure to check out Sail Loot’s home page.

Thank you so much Teddy for taking the time to interview us, it was a pleasure talking with you!

Matt & Jessica The Baths

“Matt and Jessica decided that it was time to get off the couch and start experiencing life. How they would experience life was the first question. When they decided that sailing was the answer, all they had to do was learn how to sail, find a boat, and figure out how to find their sailing money. Easy enough, right?

They ended up taking some sailing lessons, and getting some sailing practice for about 2 years on Muskegon Lake and Lake Michigan. Their sailing money came with a lot of hard work, some downsizing (of their possessions and their activities), and some budgeting to make sure that they wouldn’t blow through their cruising kitty while sailing across oceans.

Matt and Jessica started with a little bit of money saved up, “normal” jobs, and a dream. They took off with enough sailing money in the bank to cruise for about 4 to 5 years if they stuck to their budget. Enjoy listening to this episode of the Sail Loot Podcast for all of the details!”

A Few Things You’ll Learn About Matt and Jessica, MJ Sailing, and their Sailing Money In This Episode:

  • Their Hunter 240, their first trailerable sailboat.
  • Their jobs on land prior to taking off cruising.
  • How much they paid for all of their sailboats.
  • Their cruising budget.
  • How big their crusing kitty was before they left. You know, this directly relates to how long they planned on cruisng.
  • Where they’ve sailed so far.
  • Crossing the Atlantic…twice within the span of a year.
  • The Re-fit of their new sailboat, Daze Off (the current name).
  • Matt’s hobby.
  • Where they’re living while they re-fit Daze Off
  • How Matt and Jessica keep a low-cost lifestyle.
  • Going the “wrong way” around the Caribbean.
  • Jessica’s sailing money and frugal cruising tips.
  • And Much More!

Kimberly Joy lifestyle photo

Serendipity 3

Daze Off 2

Delivering the ‘Dip – Part II

Sunday June 7, 2015

Jessica, Georgie, & Matt

Yesterday morning we were out of LaBelle almost with the sunrise in hopes that we may actually make it to the delivery point by nightfall. It was a measly 40 miles from where we stood until the Gulf, but the extra run up the coast to Punta Gorda had us a little unsure.  Once we passed the Franklin Lock at mile 121 there was nothing keeping us back other than the setting sun.  The only issue is without guided mile markers from that point on and doubts of the actual miles from Cape Coral to Punta Gorda, we didn’t know if we could beat it.

Matt had woken up feeling a little under the weather and as soon as we had backed out of our space at the free docks and had all lines back inside, I sent him off to bed.  I didn’t mind having to handle the boat myself for a few hours though, since shame on me, I didn’t want to share the last Donut Stick with him anyway.  Having him down below slumbering ensured I would have it to myself, and trust me, I took full advantage of the sugary situation.  Activating the autopilot on a straightaway I ran below to fix myself a blueberry crumble latte using my AeroPress (can not rave enough about this thing) and once again set the stereo up to play some Florence and the Machine while I enjoyed a quiet morning to myself on the water.

I knew I had a few hours before we came up on our first lift bridge and thought maybe Matt would be up and about by that time. As we came within a half mile though and he was still dead to the world under a heap of blankets I began to stress just a little as holding the boat in place under current has never been my strong suit and I normally hand the wheel over to Matt while I handle the radio.  But…maybe it was possible to do it all on my own.  Getting within a half mile I put the autopilot back on to quickly run below deck and radio ahead that I would need passage in about 5 minutes.  Getting the all clear that they would lift the bridge as I came up to it, I went back behind the wheel to slow our speed and time it just right with the opening. It turns out I may have slowed us just a little too much as they ended up waiting for me after closing the road to thru traffic, but hey, at least I didn’t end up with our mast smashed into any thing.  That is always a success in my book.

With another one coming up five more miles down the river, I hoped Matt would be sleeping still so I could once again prove myself and maybe not hold up the bridge tender and impatient motorist so much this time.  Through the next three bridges I did get better each time and I happily waved to each tender as I passed through and radioed my thanks every time I was clear, each time wondering if they thought to themselves ‘This girl is on a boat by herself?  Good for her’.

Little did they know I just had an apparently very ill husband below deck. Although I could totally handle this boat by myself now.  Except in the locks…that one area I did wake Matt up to give me a hand since even though I am proud of my new confidence behind the wheel while approaching immobile objects, I did not want to show up to deliver the boat with scratched all down the side because I misjudged the speed or my depth perception was off, or any number of things that could cause me to harshly bump against the concrete side.

Okeechobee Waterway

Okeechobee Waterway

Georgie on Serendipity

coming up to a lift bridge

With that task done Matt was back in bed and I was only an hour away from entering the city of Fort Meyers.  Making my second blueberry crumble latte of the day I settled back behind the wheel while Matt settled back into bed with what he was afraid might be the flu.  Not a fun time for him to get sick, but at least this was just easy ICW days with rest stops at night and not like when he had the flu on our Azores to Maderia passage where he was forced to go on shift every 4 hours for 9 days and could barely keep himself awake. I was completely ok taking on a full day of travel myself though and had no qualms with him staying in bed as long as he needed to in order to feel better.

Just as we began to pass the skyscrapers of the city and enter larger bodies of water, it was very evident that some very strong storms were on their way toward us. It was one of those situations where you’re under bright blue skies but just off to your side it’s as dark as night and rumbles of thunder echo through the air.  For the longest time I was thinking we might get by unscathed, everything passing just to the side of us, but unfortunately it kept coming closer.  Just as I was able to get all the hatches and ports closed the wind jumped up from 10 knots to 25.

This obviously wasn’t a bother as we had no sail up and were in a protected waterway.  We would not be left completely untouched though.  Minutes later the winds jumped up into the 40’s and along with it came the driving rain.  The kind that is so bad you can barely see 50 feet in front of you.  All of a sudden my worried turned into oncoming traffic on the water or missing a buoy and finding myself outside of the channel and in the 3 feet of water surrounding us.  My only hopes were that other boaters could make out our nav lights if I couldn’t see theirs, and that our charts were spot on with the markers out there.

And then came Murphy’s Law.  A large motor catamaran came up behind us trying to outrun the storm and threw up a huge wake which in collaboration with the waves, left us rocking very violently side to side.  Truly not a big deal on it’s own, but we were quite low on fuel at the time and this little trick will sometimes kick up sediment from the bottom and cause the engine to cut out until everything has settled back down.  Which of course it did to me right now.  With gale force winds blowing us into the shallows immediately outside the channel.

I had a few minutes to work with the engine before we were too far from saving or before I had to go through the trouble of trying to unfurl the genoa just the right amount to sail ourselves out if need be.  I’ve worked with it in those force winds on our Atlantic crossing though and it takes a very strong arm to keep the wind from grabbing onto the sail and unfurling the full thing, forcing you to round up into the wind just to get it back in.  With already impeded speed and being forced sideways, rounding up was not looking like a good option if need be.  Instead I would most likely find myself running and straight into a sandbar. Luckily the 6th time is a charm and just as I was about to give up, the engine roared to life and stayed on.  I no longer cared about the pounding rain coming down on me, and even had Matt make me a glass of hot chocolate to raise my spirits as I continued to steer through the finally dying storm.

Fort Meyers, FL

storm over Fort Meyers

Jessica behind wheel

 After another hour or two the storm left us completely and left us with overcast skies in it’s wake.  By this point I was now fully exhausted as well and it was only 3 in the afternoon.  We were just coming up on Coral Gables and I was in no mood to push myself all night just to make it to the marina.  All I wanted was a place to anchor and fall deeply asleep.  Consulting our Waterway Guide Southern we looked for a place to drop hook within the next 10 miles.  It was so lucky we had this or else we would have been completely for a loss of possible anchorages along the way.  Also getting the down low on Pine Island Sound we were able to find out that the inside channel was mostly meant for small boats or those with local knowledge.  It looked as if we would be taking the long way around.

Treating myself to one of my last Costa Rican beers I put the ‘Dip on autopilot as as soon as we hit the sound and counted down the minutes until we could drop hook.  Some dolphins kept me company along the way and just before 6 we were once again still and I was right next to Matt in bed, not caring if dinner didn’t get served until 9, because I absolutely had to have a nap.

floating shop on Pine Island Sound

anchored in Pine Island Sound

This morning we woke to beautiful sunny skies and what should have been a very pleasurable and relaxing last few hours on Serendipity, but it was anything but. Yesterday was supposed to be our full clean down of the boat so we could hand her off in tip top shape, but as Matt was sick in bed and I was behind the wheel, there had been no time during the day and both of us were too tired in the evening.

Since Matt was still feeling a little under the weather it was decided that he would stay out in the cockpit since we could still keep the boat on autopilot now that we had a larger body of water to travel through, and I would go through packing up all of our remaining items as well as give everything one last scrub down.  There was still surprisingly 20 miles to go which left me about 4 hours to get everything sparkling once more.  It still amazes me how fast one can get a place dirty just by occupying it.

Amidst all the cleaning I would try and take small breaks to let myself not only enjoy all the stupendous beauty of Charlotte Harbor, but to treat myself to all the last little items in the fridge that I had been saving for our trip.  The last bit of Amish cheese, a small glass of red wine, and real brand name Pepsi.  Not that $0.84 Sam’s Cola that we’ve been living on for the last three months now.  But the work was more than I imagined and snack times were few and far between. Now that I look back at it I’m not even upset that I didn’t get to enjoy all my treats.  I’m just sad I didn’t get to sit out in the cockpit of the ‘Dip one last time and enjoy all the sights around me.  This place truly seemed to be a sailor’s dream inside the US.

Pulling up to the marina just after noon we had all of our belongings packed up and every surface shining. Meeting up with the new owner we gave him a full run down of Serendipity and her systems before moving all our things off and signing the final paperwork.  And just like that, she wasn’t ours anymore. Ready for a new keeper and new adventures. For as many wonderful times and adventures we had ourselves, I was prepared to let her go.  She’d done her job and served us well. But that part of our lives is now done and we have our own new adventures to start without her.  Not that we won’t always hold a special place for her in our hearts though. Nothing can replace your first boat love.

Serendipity at Burnt Store Marina

Delivering the ‘Dip – Part I

Friday June 5, 2015

Matt on Serendipity
At the moment we are sitting at the free town docks in LaBelle, Florida, on the second day of what is to be a 3-4 day delivery of Serendipity to her new home of Charlotte Harbor on the Gulf Coast of Florida.  It’s been a short day, mostly due to lock schedules. Which kind of sucks because we’re just about at the longest day of the year and now we’re stopped at 3pm because the locks shut at 4:30, but I guess that’s neither here nor there.

Our delivery began yesterday morning with a hopeful departure out of Indiantown Marina within an hour or two of sunrise.  Of course things still don’t always work out as you hope though and our schedule was now at the mercy of a boat tipper that could only fit us in during his lunch break around noon.>
Boat tipping?

Yup.  Just before entering Lake Okeechobee there’s a railway bridge with a clearance of only 49′.  Since our mast is 52′ you can do the math and figure out that we wouldn’t fit under it without delivering a slightly damaged boat.  In comes Billy the boat tipper to the rescue.  For a fee of $200 he will come out to you in a little skiff of his, filled with 55 gallon barrels and one big water pump.  Fastening the empty barrels on to your deck he’ll then fill them with water from the river until the added weight on the side they’re attached begins to tip closer to the water, thus putting your boat and your mast at an angle. With about 5 barrels full of water on our starboard side our mast was deemed low enough to safely make it under the bridge.

I won’t pretend to know a whole lot about what was going on since my job was to stay behind the wheel and keep us from drifting into the bridge before we had enough room to go under it, while Matt was the one on deck helping Billy and another guy.  All I did catch is there was a stick dangling from a piece of string attached to our mast, and when it touched the water it meant we were tipped far enough.  Only 17 degrees in the end actually, I thought it would have required much more of a heel than that.  Give us a good breeze and we could have done it ourselves!

Jessica in front of railroad bridgefilling water barrels boat tipping

boat tipping into Lake Okeechobee

Okeechobee Locks

entering Lake Okeechobee

 Out in to Lake Okeechobee we were met with something much nicer than we had originally been expecting.  Having looked at photos online before to see if it was a place we wanted to ‘weekend’ with Serendipity on our days off from boat work (before knowing about the railway bridge just before it), I had only been met with images of swamps and fishing boats and crowds that I assume watch Duck Dynasty on marathon.  But as we exited the lock onto the lake we were greeted with a wide expanse of open water and puffy white clouds in a bright blue sky.  Too bad for the fact of that railway bridge (and that after this we will no longer have the ‘Dip) or else I think it would have been a wonderful way to escape the work yard and all issues that I’m sure will arise, to enjoy a life as a freelance cruiser at least a few days a month.

Raising the sails for what may be our last time on Serendipity, we fought the wind left and right to try and get them to fill in 8 knots of wind as we traveled close hauled, and eventually had to accept that we would be motoring across the lake.  True to all of our passages before, given the first opportunity Matt was down below deck for a nap and I happily shut up the companionway to belt out some Lana Del Rey and Taylor Swift.  No alone time and fairly public showers does not give one much opportunty to sing at the top of their lungs as they please.  Just another reason to miss the Sailing Conductors and our music nights at the patio.  Sniff….

Enjoying the sun I stripped down to a bikini for the first time in three months and enjoyed the scenery from the bow along with one of the Costa Rican beers I made sure to pack. Rain storms threatened off to the side but never made it close enough to worry. Winds did begin picking up for us as we rounded the maze of channel markers that would eventually lead us out of the lake and as one towering cloud looked to be coming especially close, I had to wake Matt to help me get the main sail down.

When it was tied up we also noticed it was time to anchor.  As the depths before us raised suddenly from 10 feet to just 3 outside the channel we knew we had to take the opportunity to get our anchor down in the lake while we still had the option.  Only 5:30 in the afternoon with plenty of daylight still ahead of us but we didn’t know of another place to drop hook for the night for miles.  It was all fine by me though as I forgot how utterly exhausting a day of travel can be.  Forget working days in a stifling hot boat yard with about 30 trips a day up and down a ladder.  Stick me in the cockpit of a moving boat for over 6 hours and I will be zonked out in minutes.

Throwing leftover pizza in the oven and enjoying the bouncing motion of being on a lee shore, we tried to keep ourselves awake until a reasonable hour of the night.  We did take in an absolutely stunning sunset from the cockpit before moving ourselves below deck again to watch a movie before bed.  All of our little traditions that are about to be sacked, for a time being, until we can gain some kind of semblance of our old life back on a boat.  Which will be months and months from now I’m sure.  But, it’s all part of the adventure.  I can’t say we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into.

last sail on Serendipity

Lake Okeechobee

sunset on Lake Okeechobee

sunset on Serendipity

sunset on Lake Okeechobee

 

Everything is Changing

Tuesday June 2, 2015

The Sailing Conductors & Jessica

That seems to be my motto lately.  Serendipity is sold.  Big change.  We have at least moved her to a slip after sitting on the hard for the past 7 weeks.  Change.  Our boat yard buddies the Sailing Conductors are leaving us to begin their sail back to Germany and there’s a good chance we’ll never see them again.  Big change (for me….I love those guys!).  Our other friends Hanna and Mark will be out of here soon enough as well to begin their lives as cruisers and spend the season in Guatemala.  A change that I can thankfully at least put off for a few weeks.

And while all our friend’s lives are changing for the better and I am so happy for them, I have to look at our upcoming future, and honestly it makes me a little melancholy.  And a bit apprehensive.  Trust me, I am all for the renovation of Daze Off, I’m the one that pushed for it more when Matt was unsure.  I know it will be a great boat for us once it’s finished and we’re traveling again.  The only problem is, that is a long time from now and we have a very hard road ahead of us.

I want the new (to us) boat that we know every nut, bolt, and screw; and have also tailored it to exactly our taste, the only problem is I don’t want it 6-12 months from now….I want it tomorrow.  But as Scarlet O’Hare would say ‘I can’t think about that right now.  If I do, I’ll go crazy.  I’ll think about that tomorrow’..  Right now we do still have our good friends with us and I’d like to enjoy every moment of it possible.

Sunday we brought our whole group together at the marina for one more German night.  Now that we have one more addition from that country (Hanna), and we had been enforcing so many American things on them (with the exception of the cheap Costa Rican beer we’ve all been turned on to, thanks to Mark) I wanted to sample another treat from Deutschland.  The Königsberger Klopse Hannes made before was so good that I couldn’t wait for another delicious sample of something I had never tried before.

Gathering for the night and being told to bring nothing other than ourselves, I found out the meal of the night was to be stuffed peppers.  Something I never knew had German origins, but apparently they do.  (Or maybe Hungarian.  Close enough.)  Unlike last time, we had two new sets of hands which meant all I had to do was sit back and enjoy a few cold Becks.  Just after the sun had gone down, I think we tend to get distracted when all of us are together and meals take 2 hours to cook, we pushed two tables together and chowed down on appetizing German (Hungarian) stuffed peppers.

When the plates were cleaned away we brought out the wine and guitars.  Since Hannes now had 2 with him after having his grandfather’s refurbished in Nashville, one was handed over to me and I lamely tried to strum along even though I’ve now had almost three months to practice yet can not play the A chord Ben tried to teach me the first night we all hung out.  Eventually my duties turned into ‘flashlight holder’ and I sat perched at the end of my seat, making sure to illuminate the pages of whatever tune the guys were playing.

Mark, Hanna, & Ben

dinners on the patio

Matt & Jessica - MJ Sailing

stuffed pepper dinner

Captain Ben Bart

Jessica, Ben & Hannes

Tonight we said our final farewells to Ben & Hannes, which was incredibly hard to do.

This morning they left Indiantown bright and early with a newly decorated Marianne (thanks to Jack), with plans of anchoring in Stuart for the night before pushing on toward Fort Pierce where they’d do last minute provisions and wait for a weather window to head out into the Atlantic.  Plans were for Matt and I to head out and treat them to a nice dinner, a thank you for letting us take their place as sailing instructors to the Bahamas back in April when the original request had been for them.

Imagine my surprise when I received an email from Ben that afternoon that they were making it all the way out to Fort Pierce in one day and would in fit in our schedule to have dinner that night instead?  Well…we’re in the middle of packing up Serendipity to get everything that isn’t being sold with her onto Daze Off, which is still in storage at the moment.  Not to mention that I still wanted to turn this into a Fancy night out since I’d been promised one by Matt ever since we reached American soil again in March and so far had not happened.

A change in plans meant rushing a few more loads of goods to Daze Off as well as jumping into the shower and furiously towel drying my hair in time to still straighten it before we hopped in the van to head to Fort Pierce.  But….there was no way we could turn these guys down.  They’ve done so much for us in all our time together (and have given me so many free beers) that it was time for when they said “jump”, we said “how high?”.  Getting my hair and make-up done and throwing on a new dress, I was able to get in the Kia with just enough time to meet them at 7.

Getting lost in the vast rows of slips at the city’s marina, we eventually found the brightly painted Marianne and the guys.  True to his word, Hannes even wore his ‘sailor’s outfit’ for our last good-bye, something I’ve been asking him to put on ever since we were first placed next to each other in the work yard and I had been internet stalking them based on their website printed on the hull of their boat.

Walking up the short distance to Cobb’s Landing, a nice little restaurant on the waterfront, we sat down in time to hear not only live music coming from inside, but also that we came on a particular beer special night where all beers start at $0.50 at 7:00 and go up $0.50 on the half hour until they are full price.  With a huge selection in front of us we all ordered something different and followed it by a taste test where we’d pass our glasses around the table so we’d each get a sample of something new.

The food was heavenly and even though I had originally been weary of my choice of lobster & shrimp macaroni and cheese, it is now something I would drive all the way back up here just to enjoy. The four of us continued to sit outside and enjoy the music and cheap premium beer until the sun was going down and it was time for us to get on the road.  Luckily we didn’t have to say a teary goodbye at the restaurant since we were bringing the guys back to Indiantown with us so they could retrieve the magic bus. Of course the whole ride back was filled with jokes that Matt and I would chuck any plans of fixing up Daze Off and instead fly to the Netherlands where of course Matt has already found another ‘perfect boat’.  Placing us right next to Germany there’s no way we couldn’t be sailing buddies again in the future.

Dropping the guys off in front of the magic bus we gave them the biggest of hugs and wished them well on the rest of their journey as well as any future ventures.  I know we’ll still keep in close touch, but with them headed back to a land based life it’s much harder to say ‘Maybe we’ll bump into each other again on the water someday’.  Something I’ve been able to do with so many of my new friends and that I am so grateful for.  But in this case I don’t see it happening and that is incredibly saddening.  As I’ve told myself earlier.  “I can’t think about that right now. I’ll think about it tomorrow.”

Ben & Matt

Jessica, Ben & Hannes on Marianne

Ben, Hannes & Matt at Cobbs Landing

Cobb's Landing

Sailing Conductors & MJ Sailing

Serendipity is Sold!

Friday May 29, 2015

Serendipity Sold

Wow, that has to be one of the shortest boat sales in history.  But Serendipity is now sold!  Six days from the time we first put her on the market to when we accepted an offer.  Ten days until payment was made and papers have been signed.

The amount of interest we’ve had on her ever since we listed her (even a little bit before, really) has been nothing short of baffling. When we published the post on the blog that she was now available and also linked to it on Facebook, emails with inquiries began flooding through our mailbox within hours and even the following day there were a few people that had started booking plane tickets down to Florida to come see her in person.

Much of Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday were spent solely on our computers, responding to to the many request for information, answering detailed questions about the boat, and snapping a few more photos of specific areas in question (i.e. thing that may have to be replaced in the next few years).  I have to admit, not only was it such a sense of accomplishment that we finally had Serendipity listed and it therefore meant that we had finished all our projects on her, but being given access to sit on my computer all day in our air conditioned boat (did I mention we broke down and bought a window A/C unit?) was soooo nice after this last push of work.  It’s funny though how we always want what we can’t have.  Two solid days in front of my computer and I was begging for boat work again.

It did take a few days to get things rolling on showing the boat in person, but this week was supposed to be full of visitors to take a gander at the ‘Dip to see if they wanted to take her off our hands.  We did have a few cases of ‘I’ll be out to look at her tomorrow’ followed by a message at 10 pm of ‘Ooops, I’m going to have to reschedule’, which means we’d spend a good part of the afternoon getting her in ‘show shape’ only to have nothing come of it.  Which was ok, I guess, since it meant less spot cleaning the next day as long as we could the areas mostly polished.

On Memorial Day we did two back to back showings. As usual the morning was a bit crazy with the both of us running around as if we were presenting our boat to the queen, and taking away any unsightly reminders that this boat was lived in and sometimes we could not find the picture perfect place for everything.

“What do I do with the bread? Normally we keep it out on the shelf next to the microwave, but we can’t show the boat with our bread sitting out!!”

“Throw it in the van!”

“What about Mazzii?  Do you think it will put anyone off that we keep the cremated remains of our dog in the vanity?”

“Throw it in the van!”

And so it went for a solid three hours.  The showings were great though, both parties looked to be interested and asked a lot of questions.  The first person we knew was looking at multiple boats in the area and that Serendipity would probably be at the top of their price range if they were seriously interested.  The second person however lived just on the other side of Florida near Fort Meyers, and at the moment we were the only boat on his list.  He came, he looked, we chatted about everything under the sun, and he told us he would be putting down an offer, which we requested be in writing.

Well the next day we did get an offer, along with the request that we deliver the boat to Charlotte Harbor (a free delivery being one of the bargaining chips we were using to try and sell her quickly), and after a few emails back and forth we accepted.  The money was wired today and now Serendipity is sold.

I still can’t believe how quickly it has all gone by. One minute we were getting ready to sell her, with doubts in our mind if it was the right thing to do, and the next minute she’s already on her way out.  I guess the fates have decided, and it’s that they want us to move onto a new boat.  We’re very excited for our new adventure but at the same time we’ll be incredibly sad to see Serendipity go.  For the last three years now she has been our home, our crusader, and our one sense of stability no matter where we go.

But, what’s done is done.  On to bigger and better things.  Not that we won’t always have the fondest place for the ‘Dip in our hearts.  We’ll always have the memories of her, and even though there were times we’d curse her and threaten to burn her down, that was just our adjusting to an unfamiliar life.  She really is the best boat anyone could ever ask for and I know her new owner will love her just as much as we do.

 

(* I dedicate this post to Ric, whom I know is so very excited to read that we have sold Serendipity)