Melody & Jessica 2

Jessie & Melody Went Down to the Beach (to play one day)

Sunday May 17, 2015

Melody at West Palm Beach

I love girl time.  It’s so rare that I’ve been able to have any lately.  Sure, the Virgin Islands was full of that for me where I was able to hang out with my cruising girls Genevieve, Kim, Jody, and Felica….but those days are long gone and while they’re all still out on the water having the time of their lives, I’ve been stuck in a boatyard in the middle of Florida.

Luckily for me, another cruising lady I became close friends with last year is currently on her boat in Fort Lauderdale.  Even better, we just purchased a set of wheels (in the form of a 2004 Kia Sedona) so now I actually travel by land to see her!  Since neither of us wanted to put the other one out by a full 90 minute drive up or down, we broke it up and decided to split the difference by having lunch in West Palm Beach.  Ever as much the frugal cruiser as I am, Melody found us a cheap authentic Mexican restaurant by the name of El Paso, and after getting lost only twice and parking in the wrong lot, where I was sure I was going to get towed but left the van there anyway, met my dear friend after just over a year apart.

Melody and I got to know each other last year when Matt and I spent a month in Fort Lauderdale.  It was kind of happenstance, where we met somewhat by chance and somewhat by Six Degrees of Other Cruisers, but the bond was instant and we’ve still been keeping in good touch even after we parted ways.  Sliding up to the bar we dove right into conversation as if we’d just seen each other last week.  After a really, really long hug of course.

I let her in on my woes of what to do in the situation of Serendipity vs Daze Off.  Having put her own boat on the market last fall without any serious bids, until they took it back off the market of course, she told me what a pain it is to go through the process of selling a boat, which still leaves me just as confused as ever.  The reasons for staying or going can be so random and odd as well.  ‘Leave on Serendipity…this may be the last time I ever see Melody again.  Sell Serendipity and work on Daze Off…weekend visits to Fort Lauderdale and more time with Melody’.  The puzzlement never ends.

When I wasn’t playing the ‘What do I do with my life?’ game we spent a great couple hours catching up, drinking ice cold beers, and enjoying some very good (and cheap!) Mexican food.  Always being the ones to give little gifts to each other, I surprised her with a shirt she had seen me wearing in a photo in Maderia that she loved and Matt coincidentally hated.  So much so that he almost ripped it so I couldn’t wear it anymore.  I think it will be better off in her hands than a trash bin…  And, Melody surprised me with one of my favorite things in the world: new nautical shackle bracelets which she designs and makes.  There was even a new one in there for me (and added to her line), based on the outfit I was wearing the very first time we met.  A white bracelet with light brown whipping, perfectly complimenting the white top and light brown llama skirt I had purchased in Peru.  Is that an amazing friend, or what?

For those of you who don’t know or haven’t clicked the affiliate link on my sidebar, Melody sells her bracelets through Maggie & Milly in an array of colors and sizes.  I love them SO MUCH.  They are the perfect accessory for me no matter what I am wearing, so to be stocked up with a few new colors completely made my day.  Well, aside from the fact that I was able to spend it with one of my best girlfriends. Plus since neither of us had any place we needed to be for a few hours, we decided to head down to the beach at West Palm so we could capture some photos of me wearing my new goods.  I’m not lying when I say I wear her bracelets everywhere, and I usually try and snap a few photos in my more beautiful locations for her to be able to advertise on her website.  Does anyone in that sidebar photo look familiar?

Melody & Jessica at El Paso

present of Maggie & Milly bracelet

Maggie & Milly multi colors

Arriving at the beach it was a beautiful afternoon and the area wasn’t too bad either.  A little more swanky that most beaches I’ve been to.  Strolling through the sand and the water we talked about what a crazy 12 months it’s been for the both of us and how much the cruising and boating lifestyle can change a person.  That we’ve only met three times in person previously but both consider each other one of our closest friends.  How things in our life can be completely crazy and most people will have no idea what we’re going through, but we can always count on and lean on each other.

There’s something about the water and a life on the ocean that has bonded our friendship forever. I guess Maggie and Milly’s namesake does have a point.  “For whatever we lose (like a you or a me), it’s always ourselves we find in the sea.”

West Palm Beach

Jessica for Maggie & Milly

West Palm Beach

Melody & Jessica 2



maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

~e.e. cummings

with parents at Las Olas Beach

The Rents are Back in Town!

Tuesday April 28, 2015

parents overlooking Ft. Lauderdale

My parents are in Fort Lauderdale visiting us, and this is the first time I have seen them in nearly two and a half years.  Sure, there was that time in March ’13 where they had bought plane tickets to meet us in Panama where we never showed up (still in Florida!!) or when they were just about to pin down a condo in Turkey this past fall when we had to phone them and say “Guess what?  We bought a boat in Florida, so we’re not actually going to make it to the Med!”, but this is the first time they’ve been able to catch us in a place we said we’d actually be.  Cause let’s be honest.  The middle of Florida beats out all those places anyway, why wouldn’t we want to spend the next 9 months of our lives here?

With all of those previous mis-plans however, a two bedroom suite was booked in Fort Lauderdale and plane tickets were purchased with the hope we’d still be around when they arrived.  Luckily for them, we were.  Since we’re still vehicle-less at the moment they took a night to settle in before making the run out to Indiantown to pick us up and wrap us in extremely long bear hugs that had been postponed for way too long.  A tour of Serendipity wasn’t necessary since they’d been on her a few times in Michigan but we did get to show them the newest project on our hands.

Finding the most stable ladder we could find, we guided them up to the mess that is currently Daze Off to show them what kind of trouble we had gotten ourselves into.  My mom was quite optimistic and kept commenting on all those house flipping shows you see on tv and said, “You can do the same thing to this boat.”.  Let’s hope she’s right.  My dad, who has built four of our houses himself, could easily see the long road we have ahead of us.

Loading all our belongings plus Georgie into the rental car, we made our way out of the marina only to head further into the center of Florida.  My grandparents (on my dad’s side) happen to live only 90 minutes from where we are staying and since the whole fam happened to be here (well, enough of us anyway) we couldn’t miss out on a trip to see them.  A few hours were spent in their house catching up on the past year of our lives, and also watching how Georgie interacted with their two cats.  For once she actually wasn’t the dominating one chasing others down, but instead cowering behind curtains and pretending she was invisible.

When it was time for an early dinner the six of us piled into our cars and made our way out to a nice restaurant where Matt and I excitedly chowed down on the first steaks we’d had in probably over a year.  Extra bloody for me….mmmmm.  When the plates were clean and we’d stuffed enough biscuits and cinnamon butter into a doggy bag to last us all week, we took the long road back to Fort Lauderdale.  Traveling through the one road that leads through the Everglades going east, we found ourselves in a traffic jam due to a terrible accident. Unfortunately, areas like this are definitely prone to car and truck accidents.

Directly in front of us was a biker gang and their supply vehicle.  Since no one was making any progress forward we’d see plenty of people stepping out of their vehicles or off their bikes and wandering around.  Lots of the bikers were meandering back to the support vehicle which was directly in front of us to grab bottles of water…but then a few of them looked like they were reaching into a cooler to snatch a jell-o shot and throw it back.  The first time we were confused, but then we watched it happen again and again.  Just before traffic began inching forward I was tempted to go up and ask for one myself.

Once at the condo we were greeted with all the luxuries we’d been missing for so long.  Air conditioning, storage space for all our belongings, television, and a bed we could actually spread out in and let our feet dangle off the side.  Come to think of it, the AC might have been the best part of it all since the boat has been getting upwards of 95 degrees every afternoon lately. It didn’t take us long to settle in and even Georgie had fun exploring all these new and unknown spaces.

parents on Daze Off

Georgie at grandparent's house

Jessica with parents and grandparents

4.28.15 (3)

 Since Matt and I had spent a good month in Fort Lauderdale with Serendipity last year, we decided to tak my parents to our old stomping grounds including Pier 66, the marina where we luckily had a friend that let us tie our dinghy to his boat since there are little to no dinghy landings around here.  Driving toward the shore we had them park the rental car just past one of the main lift bridges that we always used to have to traverse to get to the grocery store, and took a stroll up to the center to give them an idea of what kind of yachts were kept in this area.  Spoiler alert: not small ones!

Taking in a luxury that none of us will ever be acquainted with, we walked back down the bridge and into Pier 66 so they could get a look at some of these yachts up close.  Matt and I told them a story of how we had been here just a year ago with his mom and step-dad and had seen Steven Spielberg’s mega yacht parked right up on the side with it’s 30 or so full time crew members taking a break in the galley, and how we’d thought it would be the largest thing we’d ever see…until we arrived in Sint Maarten a few months earlier and saw yachts that doubled the size of his.

yachts at 17th St. Causeway

Matt & dad at 17th St. Causeway

mom & dad at Pier 66

Next item of the day was lunch and Las Olas Beach. Even though the sky was overcast and rain was threatening to pour down at any moment and there was no way we’d spent our afternoon sunning ourselves in the sand, it was still worth checking out.  Before we could get there though we ran them up to the highest floor we could reach to give them a glimpse of Lake Sylvia and where we had Serendipity anchored for a month last year.  The perfect little protected area just off the ICW where we even felt fine leaving her on her own for a 2 day run down to Miami.

It wasn’t quite as impressive as when the sun is shining and everything is bright, so after just a few glances back and forth we went back to the car and Las Olas.  Just like Ocean Drive in South Beach, there is a huge strip of restaurants that advertise their drink specials more than what is on their menu.  And while a few of those beer buckets did look tempting, we had plenty of those back at the condo and good food is what we were really after.  When we’d passed by the happy hour hot spots, I remembered that when we were here last year a friend had recommended a little place called Lulu’s Bait Shack as a good place on the beach to grab a bite to eat.

Situated right between Hooters and Fat Tuesday, Lulu’s wasn’t quite the authentic fish shack that it’s name might suggest, but it looked quirky and fun and was certainly different than most of the other restaurants around. Perusing the menu, both my mom and I ordered a Lulu’s exclusive ale while the boys went for the bigger domestics on special, and I thought gator bites would be a nice little lunch, especially since I didn’t like the way the ones we encountered on the St. Lucie River were looking at Georgie on our way into Indiantown.

When lunch was over we took a quick stroll through the sand and realized the rain we’d been seeing off the in distance was probably going to hit us sooner rather than later, so we packed it in for the afternoon.

Two years has been much too long since my last visit with my parents, but I’m so overjoyed that not only are they here now, but we’ve been able to squeeze so much into our time together already, plus all of our time has been spent together.  Sightseeing in the afternoon, dinners back at the condo, and finishing off our nights with a movie and ice cream.  I an tell the rest of this week is going to go by way too fast!

overlooking Ft. Lauderdale

lunch at Lulu's

with parents at Las Olas Beach

Las Olas Beach, Ft. Lauderdale

Sailing Conductors - Hannes & Ben

Photo Caption Week: Life with the Sailing Conductors

Wednesday March 25, 2015

Hannes, Ben & Matt get Marianne's engine back in

What can I say?, there’s been nothing interesting to report on the progress of Serendipity because general cleaning work is pretty ho-hum.  Unless you’re interested in knowing things like Matt was all ready to polish the side when he realized we didn’t have pads for the polisher, so we had to wait three days to get a ride into Stuart to buy a few…only to realize they were the wrong size and had to wait another five days before we could get back into town to replace them.

The good news is our nights have been incredibly busy and incredibly fun as we get together with Ben and Hannes almost every single night.  From sushi making to smores, hot wings and pool at the local saloon to watching the sun set between our boats with a cold one in hand, these guys have been great company for us during our time here and I can only hope that we do the same for them.

Life may not be very productive when you have such new yet good friends just mere feet away from you…but it sure is a lot more fun!

Hannes records Ben making sushi

Hannes records Ben as he slices the fillings for sushi.  Think it will make it onto an episode of Soundwave2Berlin?

Matt and Alex at Indiantown

Matt hangs out with the local hooligans, Alex and Adam.

Hannes inspects wasabi sauce

Is it still considered wasabi sauce if it comes in a squeeze bottle that came from Walmart?

Sailing Conductors - Hannes & Ben

Are they saying they love Moosehead Lager or they love each other?  We’ll let these special friends* decide for themselves.

Ben making sushi

Ben adds some smoked salmon to drown out the flavor of imitation crab.

homemade sushi

Although it came out pretty pitiful looking, trust me, it tasted fantastic.  Look, it even had sliced ginger!

bringing up the engine

Marianne’s engine is finally rebuilt and being brought back on board.

cheers for Marianne's engine

Hannes & Ben cheer while Matt tries to forget  that one of them is in their underwear.

bonfire at Indiantown Marina

The guys prepare to enjoy their first smore ever.  The anticipation is killing them.

Sailing conductors first smores

They may have been all smiles for this photo, but they were choking those smores down.  Too.Much.Sugar.

hanging between Marianne and Serendipity

After going out for happy hour and hot wings we gather between our boats for a few more beers.

Matt & Hannes

O.M.G.  I don’t even know what to say…

Captain Ben Bart

Hannes captures a close up of Ben while playing with my camera lenses.

Hannes smutche

Hannes contemplates life…music….or perhaps what all of us are going to do tomorrow night.

Sailing Conductors - Marianne

Marianne….best boat yard buddy anyone could ask for.



*Inside joke.  They’re not actually a couple.

Serendipity on the hard

Work Time on Serendipity

Saturday March 21, 2015

Hannes & Ben working on Marianne

I will be honest.  The first two full days we had Serendipity on the hard, we were working machines.  Getting to work by 9 am, scrubbing and cleaning until after 6.  The days flew by and we hardly knew where the time went.  Then…Ben and Hannes got back from Tampa and as we mentioned, our crews became distractions for each other when it came to getting work done.

That’s not to say that it hasn’t been happening on both ends.  Just not as gung-ho as before we all met.

So what’s been getting done to Serendipity?, you might ask.  In short, we are trying to make her immaculate for her next owners, whomever they may be.  There really aren’t any big projects or fixes we need to worry about, just little touch ups and a bit of TLC.

One of the areas that had been neglected for awhile and needed to be addressed was the teak on Serendipity’s deck.  We hadn’t done this since last May/June because of all our passages and we knew that the salt water hitting the deck would help destroy any time we put into it so we put that project on hold until we were in Florida.  Because we know that varnishing is a pain-in-the-butt, the last few times we’ve taken on this project we’ve opted to use Starbrite Tropical Teak Oil .  Just clean the teak, easily paint to coats of this on, and you’re good to go.  I think taping off the areas took me 3x longer than the application process.

After that was the start of some serious scrubbing and cleaning.  For two days I spent my time in the aft lazerette with a bucket, and sponge, and a toothbrush; trying to wipe off every speck of dirt from every wall, nook, and cranny.  Some areas were a little harder than others and I would have to exercise my contortionist skills just to get to them.  Other areas I scrubbed for a good ten minutes not realizing it was a shadow being cast in front of me and not in fact a very stubborn section of dirt.

We also now have one area of the boat that is completely cleaned and needs no more attention, and that is the v-berth.  Surprisingly that one only took one day as we scrubbed every surface, bleached it to prevent future mold, and emptied and organized the storage spaces under the cushions.  I have to say, it’s so nice having a second boat to drop off extra junk at as we spruce this one up.  So far Daze Off is holding our life raft, guide books, and spare electronics.

Serendipity on the hard

cleaned out v-berth

storage in v-berth

Serendipity on the hard


My project de la semaine this week has been to replace the zippers on the dodger.  Some of the teeth have begun to fall out and they don’t do the best job of going up and down anymore, so I’d hate to leave that hassle for the next owner.

At first I was incredibly happy to get outside of the boat where temperatures are already beginning to skyrocket toward 90 degrees so that I could sit in the fresh breeze outside.  placing myself under Serendipity’s hull I’ve been shaded by the sun, and as long as I have my x-boom next to me, I’m a happy little girl.  With the exception of ants….

A few of the yard workers had come by early on to warn me about red ants in the area, but since I didn’t see them at all I paid their warnings no need.  That was a bit of a mistake.  The reason I didn’t see them running around is because they are so incredibly tiny…but that doesn’t mean they don’t pack a huge punch with their bite.  They’ve gotten me a few times now and the painful and itchy bumps they leave behind torment me for days after.  We’ve sprayed around the boat a few times now which I think is finally starting to keep them at bay.

There have been a few times though that a rogue ant or two will still get through the barrier and take me by surprise.  Unfortunately they usually do this by crawling up my shorts.  There have been multiple times now where I’ve been sitting there sewing or chatting with the guys next door while they work and I shoot up like a bullet and begin shaking my legs around because I literally have ants in my pants.  Not very fun.  I make sure to keep double cushions between me and the ground now.

working on dodger

Photo courtesy of Hannes.

Each day still ends the same, and that’s with me and eventually Matt wandering off to Marianne to see how progress went that day for Hannes and Ben.  I inevitably end up there first with the lure of shade and the promise of cold beer.  Today they just fixed their fridge and had a champagne of beers already waiting for me, so it was perfect.  I also like to get over there in time to see them record their daily progress to send back to their production company for the documentary series they have back in Germany, Soundwave2Berlin.  I rarely understand a word of what’s being spoken, but it’s fun to watch Ben or Hannes step in front of the camera and become animated as they speak of what they were or were not able to fix that day.

So, slowly and surely we are getting there.  Before we know it (we hope), Serendipity will be in the water and on the market and we can begin tearing apart Daze Off.  Although if our work so far on boat #1 is any indication of what’s to come, we could be here a very, very long time.

Ben & Hannes working on fridge

Hannes recording Ben

jam session at Indiantown Marina

Who Needs Work When You’re Having Fun?

Wednesday March 18, 2015

St. Patrick's Day with the Sailing Conductors

A little over a week now in the work yard and we have spent about…hmm two of them working.  Ok, ok, there have been some projects happening (and I’ll get to those in one of my next posts), but the truth is, we’ve just been having lots of fun instead. Those Germans we talked about, Ben and Hannes, have a way of distracting us from our work with fun.  Although they’re telling us the same thing, so I guess it works both ways.

Matt and I still have not gotten over our habit of sleeping in and by the time we get to ‘work’ after 10 am, we usually only get about a good 2 hours in before it’s time for lunch and a little socializing.  Which is extremely easy when you’re friends are less than 50 feet from you and you just wander over to say hi or “Whatcha working on?” and it turns into an hour conversation.  Then beer-thirty comes just a few hours after that and it’s relaxing in the space between our two boats with a cold Miller High Life in hand. Monday night we had another late night at the patio with these guys, but yesterday was even better when we introduced them to an American St. Patrick’s Day.

We’d heard through the marina grapevine that a group of people were headed up to the local watering hole, JR’s Saloon, for $1 tacos and $1 drafts, their Tuesday night special.  When we thought there might be green beer involved as well we jumped at the chance to join and found out the guys were doing the same. As a huge treat for us, Hannes and Ben agreed to drive us out their in the school bus they just purchased and are renovating into a type of RV for a road trip across the US in a few weeks.  As we stepped on it for the mile long journey, we could see that they’d taken out all but one row of seats and thrown their cockpit cushions on the floor as well as most of their other belongings.  I have no idea what it will be like to road trip in this vehicle for six weeks, but it will be interesting to see what they do with it.

Getting to JR’s and locking up the bus with a good ol’ fashioned chain and padlock, we entered to find we had come fashionably late and almost everyone was already done eating.  I guess that’s what happens when you show up 30 minutes before happy hour ends.  We spent a little time meeting new cruisers from the marina, but personally I was having much more fun with Ben and Hannes, noting the differences between our cultures and making light jabs at each other.  Like when I handed the guys a Shock Top and told them it was a delicious wheat beer, they about spit it out and said that it was extremely watered down and if we wanted a real wheat beer we needed to come to Germany.  (All in teasing though, I mean, they do drink nothing but Miller High Life at the marina).  Then it was my turn to make a few jabs at Ben as he told me a little bit about his family.

“My cousin just got a baby”

“Really?  Where did she get it, Amazon?”

“You don’t say ‘got’ here?  What do you say?”

“Have.  One has a baby.  Usually you would only say ‘got’ if it was something you were given or was purchased”.

“Oh, ok.  Well, she ‘got’ hers on clearance, very cheap.  It was a German model.”

Without skipping a beat.  I love it.  And it was like that with them all night long.

Jessica & Ben, St. Patrick's Day

 When we’d finished our meals and the crowds had thinned out, it turned out the four of us weren’t ready to go home yet.  Plus Matt and I wanted to make sure we forced some more terrible American beer down their throats so we purchased a pitcher of Shock Top and made our way over to the pool tables.  One pitcher turned into two, and two games turned into four.  Before we knew it the sky had grown dark and it was time to go home. Ben racking for pool. Hannes breaking for pool. Jessica & Ben playing pool Ben shooting pool Matt & Ben Hannes & Ben on the bus

We thought the night was going to be over once we got back to the marina but it turns out that all our fellow dinner patrons that left us at JR’s were just bringing the party back to the patio.  Music was already being played between acoustic guitars and even a fiddle.  We were already tired and knew we needed to at least try and get up early the next morning to get some work done, but when there was a bottle of rum placed on the table along with some fruity mixers that one of the cruisers was trying to get rid of, there was no way we could say no.

We ended up spending another couple of great hours sitting out at the patio, enjoying live music, and sipping on a few green cocktails.  The guy that had brought the green food coloring to the bar to give us a hand there with our beers since they apparently were not serving it, made sure to leave it in the kitchen at the marina so we could keep with the St. Patrick’s Day theme all night long.

Hannes and Ben grabbed their instruments to join in on the fun and I was even given a quick lesson on how to play the cello.  I think that for only having two strings at the moment, I did pretty well.  So, now you can see why we haven’t been getting much work done on Serendipity so far.  All these impromptu events keep coming up and we don’t want to turn them down.  Life is too short, and hey, the work can wait.

Jessica with a green cocktail

jam session at Indiantown Marina

Jessica playing cello

lighthouse in Jupiter Florida

Welcome back to ‘Merica!

Saturday March 7, 2015

lighthouse in Jupiter

Even though I knew this day has been coming for about the past six months now, I still can not believe that we are all the way back in Florida, making our way up the ICW to see our new boat.  Part of me is extremely excited to finally see her in person and get started on working on her.  The other part of me….kind of wants to turn around and high tail it back to the Caribbean. Not because I don’t want this new project of fixing up a boat, mind you, it’s because we’re now back in Florida doing it.  The place we can never seem to escape.

I had been soooo looking forward to getting back to the land of convenience for awhile now that I forgot everything that comes along with it.  For so long I had been eager to pick up a radio station once more that didn’t soley deal out tunes based on sailing or drinking or anything to do with the water (the only station we could clearly get in the Virgin Islands), but as soon as I picked one up outside of West Palm Beach I promptly regretted it. My ears were immediately assaulted with advertisements for personal injury lawyers or lawyers helping with wrongful death cases, annoying auto insurance commercials, and purchases you absolutely must have to make your life better, because we all know that just by buying into it that’s exactly what will happen.  Objects bring happiness, right?

I instantly wanted to scream to all these people, “What are you listening to this waste for?!  Don’t you know that in the grand scheme of things, none of it matters?  That there is so much more to life than finding a way to blame someone else for your problem or watching some unknown’s musical performance on whatever reality tv show!”.  They are distractions, I know.  But trust me, there are much better ways to distract yourself.

I kid you not, I literally had to keep myself from turning the wheel 180 degrees and heading right back where we came from.  Life was pure and authentic in the Caribbean.  People knew what was really important.  And now we’re back in the land of superficiality for a bulk of the population.  Which, to be fair, could have been the same in some of the Atlantic islands we visited but since I wasn’t fluent in the language I was blissfully ignorant of it.

Well, that’s my rant for the day.  You might hear me complain a little bit but I did have a ball at Publix the other day having whatever my heart desired right at my fingertips.  So maybe convenience isn’t all bad.  I’ll just have to learn to tune out the rest of the crap.  Plus, it is nice to be back in a land of friendliness between strangers, even if it is fake and superficial. One thing that was beginning to drive us absolutely insane in the Atlantic islands was how no one would smile or say hi, and if you went into a shop you were greeted by someone who treated you like you just ruined their day by asking for help with something.  And don’t even get me started on common courtesy of making room for someone to pass on the sidewalks. Ugh!  Ok, rant really done this time, I promise.

So…we’re back on the ICW now!  Traveling north from the same area we departed to the Bahamas from back in March of 2013.  Yesterday was a day spent trekking a somewhat familiar route as we backtracked our way up to Stuart.  Leaving at the crack of dawn we put Serendipity’s engine to good use for the first time in a long time and logged endless miles through the narrow (to us now) canal system and under countless lift bridges.  After a good 9 hours on the water we dropped the hook in a nice little bay just across from Sunset Bay Marina.  It was so strange to slip back into our old routine of traveling during the day, relaxing in the evening, and prepping yourself to do it again the next day. Now we’re so used to ‘go go go, rest rest rest’.

Today was the trip up the St. Lucie River to our new home for who knows long at the Indiantown Marina.  The morning started out extremely foggy and actually delayed our departure for a few hours, and I can’t say that I was upset to crawl back under the warm covers and wait it out.  Just after 9 we got our butts in gear though and sipped on warm coffee while wearing our foulies out in the cockpit.

This journey only took 5 hours in which time we saw our very first alligator poking it’s eyes out of the water and transited one lock.  By late morning the fog began to lift and we felt rays of sun sneaking through the clouds here and there.  This to us was a good omen since arriving at Indiantown was going to give us our first glances at our new aluminum boat that we purchased sight unseen six months before.

Well, we’re here now, safely tied up to a dock at the marina, and yes, we did get our first glances at the new boat.  But to find out if the good omen of the sun or the bad omen of the fog won out as to what we found waiting for us, well, you’ll just have to tune in tomorrow to find out.

lift bridge on ICW

lift bridge on ICW

lighthouse in Jupiter Florida

Hobe Sound

plane over Serendipity

shelf cloud on Atlantic

Atlantic Crossing Days 2 & 3: Be Careful what You Wish For

Friday 6/13/14

It turns out Matt was right when he said a few hours sleep would bring about a bit of perspective. Not only were last night’s events more distant and a little less terrifying in my mind when I woke up, but it also came with the realization of how much I do want to get to Europe and what comforts I’m willing to sacrifice to get there. It did not mean that my wishes would give us an expedient arrival though. Even though I told him to turn the bow north again as I went to bed (Europe if I changed my mind or New York if I still felt the same) we should have been getting pushed along by the Gulf Stream all night, we somehow must have wandered out if it for we had only gone a distance of about 12 miles in the 4 hours I had been sleeping. The rest of the morning and early afternoon was spent pointing the bow NE and and trying to find our ticket back into a speedy ride north.

Later in the afternoon we were convinced that we may have found the outer edges of it as our speed jumped to a whopping 4.5 knots as a gentle breeze of 7 knots came from behind. When both of us were actually up for the afternoon after trading hours of sleep shifts and naps, we turned to something that’s hopefully going to keep us entertained every few days for the remainder of the trip. Back in Miami I had drafted Matt’s mom to put together a series of small gifts to be opened by us during the passage. She had come through with flying colors and sent us a bag full of wrapped presents to be opened every five days, beginning on day two, for the next thirty-seven days. Just as excited as if it were Christmas morning, I tore open the first gift to find two books of puzzles and a little bag of treats containing things like mini candy bars, gumballs, and single serve instant coffee. I set about right away on the puzzles while Matt decided that he had been awake entirely too long and needed another nap.

Compared to what our other passages had been, and with the exception of the storm last night, we’ve had nothing but light winds and calm waters. By late afternoon I was praying for some kind of wind to pick up and speed us along, but as the saying goes, ‘Be careful what you wish for, it just might come true’. No sooner had I started to lament our lack of wind power when a set of dark clouds formed off to our northeast. Winds were still steady out of the south and I assumed this dark mass would be coming nowhere near us, until 20 minutes later when the winds shifted to the north. Again.

Now these are the kind of situations I hate. Everything was still calm…for the moment. Do I bother waking Matt and telling him that something might be coming our way?, or wait until that ‘oh shit’ moment where it’s too late and I can no longer handle it on my own? Luckily I didn’t have to worry, for two reasons. Matt had just roused himself out of bed as I was contemplating what actions I should take, and the dark mass of clouds moved just enough to our east that we only caught the very tail of the storm, winds only jumping into the high teens and nothing more.

The late afternoon and evening remained calm, and once again we were able to enjoy a nice dinner out in the cockpit.  One I would have been fully capable of making from scratch since the water around us was so calm that it was like being at anchor and my seasickness would have in no way been aggravated, but since we now had six days of meals already prepared I just threw a few slices of our remaining Domino’s pizza in the over and filled our glasses with Coke.  Everything was pointing toward us continuing to have a calm night where I could actually sleep through my entire shift without storms blowing our way, but once again, that was not the case.  Just as the sky was growing dark and I was finishing up the dishes before I hopped into bed, the sky in front of us was alight with lightning.  F*@k.  Just after that, our VHF began it’s loud siren alerting us to bad weather, and after last night’s episode we were glued to each word, listening to the county names and trying to find them on our charts to see what was coming our way.

Since I was caught so off guard last night with our storm which left me scrambling into the cockpit in the midst of all hell breaking loose without any clothes or a harness attached to me, I decided tonight would not be a repeat performance.  Putting on my foul weather gear and a harness, I arranged a group of cushions and pillows on the floor as a makeshift bed and tried my best to go to sleep.  Every time I heard the wind gust up I would whisk up the companionway steps to see what was happening.  Both of our nerves were on terror alert high.  But…since we were prepared this time, nothing came of it.  By the time my shift began at midnight all the dark clouds had disappeared and I was able to enjoy my shift in relative peace, where my only worry was the speed and direction of the dozens of tankers out on the water with us.

shelf cloud on Atlantic

AIS traffic in Gulf Stream

 It’s a party out here on the Gulf Stream!

Saturday June 14, 2014

We were comfortably sitting in the cockpit enjoying our afternoon and trying to make our way north when that now dreadful and heart thumping siren went off from our VHF, signaling more severe weather in the listening area. Being 30 miles off shore now we were starting to lose the signal just a little bit and had the volume all the way up as we strained to hear the forecast. Beginning to catch the words, I wish we hadn’t, although ingnorance isn’t always bliss. ‘Destructive winds, 50-60 knots, 52 knots recorded over land, seek shelter inside a sound structure’. These were the words broadcasting themselves into our little cockpit. Did they just say destructive winds? Seek shelter inside a building? If they were giving those kind of instructions on land, what the hell was to become of us in our little 34 ft boat, out to sea with nothing to protect us?

Catching the names of towns that were being listed we figured out that yes, we were just east of these areas, and yes, this storm was headed right our way. Again, I looked around and noticed that if we were to get hit, our saving grace would be the fact that we were once more starting with clam seas. The oncoming storm might build them up, but not much, so luckily the winds would be our only concern. Over the next hour we watched the sky turn from bright blue to partially overcast on the horizon. At first it didn’t look like much, more of a haze than anything, but as it came within 10 miles, the menacing traits came along with it. Up close and personal, we could now well make out that this was a shelf cloud, and it spanned the horizon for as far as we could see. Even the power boats had no way of racing around this one. If you check the image of the shelf cloud we were just able to skirt around yesterday, this one extended even further out, with the rolling clouds on top appearing as if they were extending out miles to us. I took a spot behind the wheel and clipped my harness in while refusing Matt’s offers for a jacket, or even to take my spot while he sat next to the companionway and listened to Georgie’s meows while she was locked down below. It is the best to see the website for the best jackets and vests.

Turning on the radar to judge when it would hit us along with how long it would last, we brought down all sails when it was within just a few miles of us and decided the best course of action would be to motor right into it. The winds hit us before the rain, a sudden and angry gust causing our guages to jump from 13 knots to 58 in one swift blow. The intent had been to point the bow directly into the wind, but once the winds started in, even with the wheel hard over I was struggling to keep us within 45 degrees of it. Small whitecaps started to roll on the water, and, shortly after, the rain set in, pelting me with a ferocious force as the winds subsided into the mid 40’s and stayed there. Based on how much rain was showing on our radar, and the broadcast’s stated speed of which the storm was moving at, I figured it would all blow over in 30 minutes, and as uncomfortable as it was I could handle that.

Keeping the wheel hard over, I fought to keep our spot 45 degrees into the wind instead of being pushed beam into it. That work wasn’t so hard, but as the rain battered down on me at well above gale forces, I began to regret turning down the jacket from Matt. My body wasn’t too bad though, it was mostly my face that was stinging from the drops, my eyes luckily protected by the glasses that were now fogging up and blinding me. It wasn’t too bad, and I counted down the minutes as the little whitecaps began to turn into small swells, all the while thinking to myself, ‘Only 20,…15,…,10 more minutes. You can do this.’ But then the original five miles of storm in front of us extended into five more. The pink blob on the radar just wouldn’t end. Jesus Christ, 30 more minutes of this? I give up. Finally relenting my position behind the wheel, I let Matt slide in as I sought shelter under the dodger from the wind and rain. Also slipping a jacket over my wet body I was immediately warmed up and begged myself to answer the question of why I always put myself through so much unnecessary torture. Oh Captain, my captain…I guess I feel I should be the one to experience the brunt of it all.

As soon as those next 30 minutes were up the storm was gone with it, and we were back to our measly ten knots of wind.  Back to going nowhere.

6.14.14 (3)

Georgie’s so proud of providing her own meals when a flying fish ends up on deck.

6.12.14 (4)

Atlantic Crossing Day 1: Never Leave For a Passage on Thursday the 12th

Thursday June 12, 2014

6.12.14 (1)

They say that you should never leave on passage on a Friday. Sailor’s supersition that it’s bad luck. We were almost caught leaving for our Atlantic crossing on Friday the 13th. Does that make it doubly worse? Or do the two negatives cancel each other out and make a positive? I wasn’t sure and made SURE that we busted our butts so that we wouldn’t have to find out, leaving one day earlier on Thursday the 12th instead. I think we would have been better off taking our chances with Friday the 13th

The morning should have started with relaxing, enjoying our last cup of coffee for the next month where we didn’t have to hold everything down on the counter to make sure it didn’t slide off, before completing last minute projects like stowing everything away and deflating the dinghy. It did not start like that. Just as we were going to bed last night we realized that the fitting on our bow water tank had broken, leaking all of it’s contents into our bilge. Since this was to be our back-up source of water for our crossing, only taking from and refilling our port water tank, this was an issue we needed to fix right away.

The new goal was to wake up first thing in the morning and walk to the local Ace Hardware to pick up the replacement part. Knowing that we were already going to get very little sleep as it was, since we had stayed up well past midnight since we had pushed off all that evening’s projects to enjoy a hot pizza and an episode of Sherlock, I was vexed, and truthfully, terrified, at the thunderstorm of epic proportions that rolled through our anchorage at 5 am, bringing with it 50 knot winds and leaving me wondering if something similar could roll through the next night while we were on passage. Letting ourselves sleep in just a little bit longer we ended up with a late start to our morning, but we were back to the boat with the issue fixed by 11 am. The other small projects took a little longer than we anticipated, as they always do, and the anchor wasn’t weighed until 1 pm. Spending another 45 minutes circling the anchorage as we calibrated our autopilot we were finally off, exiting the Government Cut at Miami just after 3 pm.

Even though the sun was shinning down on us on our way out it didn’t take long for the clouds to roll in, and we watched Miami become consumed by darkness and rain which we were soon swallowed up by as well. It wasn’t anything more than a nice rain shower though, and winds continued to stay around 10 knots and we glided up the Gulf Stream in glass waters at 5 knots under headsail alone. Based on sheer excitement about the journey ahead of us, we even frolicked out in the rain for a bit (or Matt doing whatever the manly term for that would be) while taking in a free shower during the downpour. Things cleared up a few hours later as we passed Ft. Lauderdale and we even managed to catch a decent sunset while enjoying left over pizza in the cockpit.

6.12.14 (2)

6.12.14 (3)

6.12.14 (4)

Before I even knew it my eight o’clock bedtime was before me and I was more than ready for it. I’ve learned that the key to a good first night on passage for myself is collecting no sleep the night before we leave so I am more than ready to conk out at such an early hour. Sliding in behind the lee cloth that we’d set up on the starboard bunk in the salon, I slid easily into sleep. Something that normally takes me three hours to do our first night out.

I had been lying in my bunk for just over an hour when I heard a loud ruckus on deck. I knew it was Matt messing with the headsail, and even though all sounds are amplified below deck, this seemed much louder and as if something were wrong. Jumping out of bed I raced over the companionway boards and into the cockpit. It was immediately evident to me that we were in trouble. I looked at the chartplotter to find winds nearing 60 knots and we were being pushed so far over that our rail was in the water. Matt was feverently working to get the headsail rolled in, but had enough good sense to yell at me to get back in the boat and get a harness on before I could topple out the boat and into the Gulf Stream.

Rushing back below deck I tore through the cabinet to search for our second harness. Usually we never have both out at the same time unless we know bad weather is coming, normally just trading off the one harness between ourselves, but this storm came upon us so suddenly that we barely had time to react.

Finding the second harness I raced once more into the companionway where the headsail was still being overpowered by winds that were now sustained in the upper 40’s. With the furling sheet in hand, Matt was still trying to save the sail by bringing it in, asking me to gently release the sheet for the headsail still wrapped around the winch. The strain on the line was so heavy that I couldn’t even loosen it from the teeth that hold it in place, all the while trying my best to work it free while we’re still heeled all the way over in Force 9-10 winds. Finally Matt realized this was not going to work and it was very likely we’d tear the sail in half while working to winch it in. Looking up through the dark and thinking that we’d already blown it out he slid over to my spot he released the sheet from the winch and let it flap in the wind while he quickly grabbed the furling sheet back to get it in. Eventually the sail was rolled in, though the lines were a knotted and tangled mess that would have to be saved for another day.

Now at hand we had to deal with winds that were still blowing in the 45-50 knot range and showed no signs of relenting. Not wanting to keep any of the sails up we turned ourselves downwind and began to ride the storm out with bare poles as we were pushed along at two knots of speed.  The winds were coming directly out of the north which meant that we were now moving south, working against the current of the Gulf Stream, had absolutely no sail up, no engine on, and were still making that kind of forward progress.  Bolts of white and pink lightning were crashing down on each side of us as buckets of rain began to pour down.  The whole experience was miserable and I think both of us began to start rethinking this whole ocean crossing.  As I stood behind the wheel to hand steer us, Matt sat clipped in under the dodger and confessed, “This just isn’t for me.  I can’t do this anymore.”  Can’t do an ocean crossing?  Or can’t do cruising?

Seeing that we were only 12 miles north of Ft. Lauderdale we tried to start setting a course there to ease our nerves and see what steps we wanted to take next.  As I tried to keep us ass to the waves, I was going just by feel for the wind direction and slipped up a few times where we took the building waves on at a bad angle and they’d crash over the stern and into the cockpit, soaking me in the process.  Yes, a break from cruising sounds pretty good right now.  Immediately my mind went to us leaving the boat in Ft. Lauderdale while we hopped a plane to Guatemala to backpack for a few weeks while visiting friends, and then returning to Michigan for the rest of summer to spend it with friends and family.  It all sounded so tantalizing that it was probably one of the only things keeping me from breaking down while we continued to fight this monstrous storm which was showing no signs of letting up.

For another hour I stood behind the wheel, knees growing weak and teeth chattering until the winds finally let up into the mid 30’s and the autopilot was able to go back into use.  Somehow I was still wired even though I’d only gathered about 5 hours of sleep in the last 30 hours, and sent Matt to bed while we pushed on toward Ft. Lauderdale with the engine on, still fighting the Gulf Stream and moving at 2 knots.  Two hours later, while he was resting his nerves and gaining a little perspective while I stood awake and continued to daydream of a life back on land, he came to relieve me and discuss our rash decision.  By this point I was beyond exhausted and finally started to break down.

I complained about how it seems like everything for the past six months has been working against us and maybe this is a sign that we should stop before something really awful happened.  He told me to grab a few hours of sleep, but for him, removing himself from the situation for a little bit made him realize that it was just frazzled nerves that made him want to quit before, but he thought that moving forward and continuing our crossing was still the right decision and what we really do want.  He made the comment that it was extremely unlikely that we’d go through anything like that again and the worst of it was probably out of the way.  We might hit the random storm here or there in the future, but none of it would likely be worse that what we’ve already seen in our cruising history.  Hmmm.  Guatemala, Lake Michigan, friends, family…….or 3,000 miles of open ocean and uncertainty ahead.  I think a few hours of sleep might be necessary to make that decision.

everything works out

When Everything Works Against You, it Sometimes all Works Out

Wednesday June 4, 2014

everything works out

It’s suffice to say we should have been gone by now.  In the cruising world it’s almost impossible to adhere to a schedule, but we still like to when we can.  You can see that by the way we rushed ourselves through the Bahamas this year.  We’re also the kind of people that would rather show up early than late.  So the fact that we’re still sitting in Miami 4 days after our intended departure date, and still have about 5 days minimum before we can think of leaving, is a bit of an oddity for us.  That’s because we seem to have everything working against us right now.  Almost every aspect that depends on us being able to get out is being held up.

At the moment, we have a multitude of things preventing us from leaving.  I’ve just spend my whole afternoon getting to know the Miami transit system once more so I could swing by the USDA yet again (let’s see, that would be my third visit to their office) to pick up the notarized forms that the vet signed on Monday. If you’re wondering, it was a five hour round trip to go from the boat to their office about 10 miles away, and come back.  That’s one item checked off our list, but it’s by no means the only thing keeping us here.

We also have a number of projects that need to be done to Serendipity before we drag her across 3,000 miles of ocean without rest.  Projects that were supposed to have been completed well over a week ago, but our shipment of odds and ends was lost in the postal system and we didn’t get a chance to purchase them again until just a few days ago.  So even if a weather window came up tomorrow, we still have about three good hard days of work on our hand now that we have a few tubes of 3M 4000 in our possession.  

Another thing keeping us in this spot is waiting for just the right weather window.  This one is a biggie, because, well, weather windows are key.

Ah yes, and the last minute project that just came up..  Even though we’ve had three weeks now to deal with it, we just thought to ourselves, ‘Hmmmm, we should replace the backstay’.  The one we currently have up there right now is original to the boat, and we don’t know if we want to trust it to 30 straight days of pressure.  Better safe than sorry, right?  As you can tell we’re taking this crossing very seriously.  You’d think we’re making ourselves out to be the first people to ever accomplish this feat.  

We just placed an order for a new one today, and even with expedited shipping, we won’t get it until Friday evening.  The real kicker on this is we had a new backstay lying around.  Right in our aft cabin!  Truth be told, we should probably get a stupidity award for this one. The only reason we didn’t install it with the rest of our rigging after exiting the Erie Canal is that we didn’t have the right fitting. So we kept cruising with the old one. Then when we just came to Miami now and we wanted to run an inner forestay, we thought, ‘There’s some rigging lying around in the aft cabin we can use. Brilliant!’. And so we thought we were. Not realizing that, duh, that piece could still go up as a new backstay once we ordered the proper fitting. Now we’re left to ordering new fittings as well as the rigging for our blunder.

So as you can see, we seem to have just about everything working against us right now.  If it’s not one thing, it’s another.  Paperwork, projects, weather….the list goes on.  You think we’d be cursing the fates, wondering why everything had to fall on us at once.  Can’t we just get a break, somewhere?  But here’s the thing.  When everything works against you, it actually all works out.  We’re not sitting here just cursing one single thing.  We’re not pounding our fists saying ‘If only the weather would change’, or ‘If only that package would come in’.  When there’s only one thing working against you, when there’s only one thing holding you back, it’s easy to become angry and think of all that could be working in your favor had that one thing been different.  But when everything works against you, you just sit back with a smile and say ‘Oh well, there’s nothing I can do about it’. And then you make the best of what you have.



Freedom is Another Word for Choosing Radio Presets

Monday June 2, 2014


 Look at that face.  She’s totally worth all the trouble.

Today we had the world at our fingertips. That is because today is the first time ever in our lives we have rented a car. I know, strange right? What have we been doing for the past two years that we have not had a car of our own? Oh right, borrowing other people’s cars or relying on them to drive us around.

Normally we’d be stubborn and try to take the bus, Matt has made it an actual point to see how long he can go without driving, but it just wasn’t a possibility today. Oh, not for him to not drive, he readily handed the keys over to me, but taking Georgie on the bus, even if she happened to be allowed, would have been a full afternoon of sounds being emitted from her that I’m guessing would be close to what you’d hear from a baby seal being clubbed. Of which I never want to hear. From either side.

This on the other hand would give us the chance to hit multiple places in one day and the opportunity to fill up a trunk with goodies from Walmart. I love you Publix (you’re the closest thing I can find to a Meijer), but some of your deals are just beaten to a pulp by Walmart. Though, if you thought our day might go simply smooth because we happened to have a car at our fingertips, think again. Here’s a little bit of what our day went like:

  • Woke up to alarm after six hours of sleep. Had a really good time at Vance’s party yesterday, feeling the effects this morning.
  • Walked a few blocks to the Lamborghini rental in Dubai, a car rental facility and had keys in our hands in less than 10 minutes. Wow, sometimes things actually go right on the first try.
  • Back at the boat, loaded up Georgie and and a spare fridge that we’ve been carrying around for the past 3 months. We finally sold that thing!
  • While Matt went to bring the car around and rain started to pour, I lost Georgie on a ledge under a balcony hanging over the water. Her harness tugged right off and it was a battle of strength which I finally, and thankfully, won. I hope the vet doesn’t notice that her nails just scratched across four feet of cement.
  • With a pounding headache (remember my six hours of sleep or less rule?) I got behind the wheel and drove us through a blinding rainstorm to South Maimi where we’d found a cheap (enough) Accredited vet to inspect Georgie.
  • Found out that even though we let her run rampant in Guatemala, she must not have picked anything up there because she was pronounced in perfect health, albeit a little gingevitis. Guess we need to start brushing those teeth.
  • Left the assistants to figure out the required paperwork while we went up the road to Home Depot and spent way too much time there to only end up with about six things in our cart. Among them, a new tool organizable bag for Matt. Hallelujah, I was literally about to throw the strewn one overboard.
  • Get back to the vet and find out they’re still interpreting the paperwork. All in all, it took four hours to complete.
  • Leaving our destination of South Miami/Kendall behind where we’d had every place we needed to visit mapped out, we tore back up the expressway to get the newly obtained forms to the USDA before they shut their doors at 3:30. This is the second time I’ve walked in just as they were about to close. I think they hate me.
  • Googled new location for West Marine and did three drive-by’s before finding it tucked in the very back of a strip mall.
  • Found out they only have yarn tell tales, and even though we knew they pretty much wouldn’t work out, bought them anyway.
  • Noticed that Walmart happened to be just across the street.  Score!, we never even had to hunt a new one down!
  • Stocked up on a bunch of things that I can’t wait to tear into once we get on passage, including a 2.5 lb bag of Skittles and Swiss Miss hot coco with dehydrated marshmallows.
  • Getting back to the dinghy, Georgie seemed to still be alive and untraumatized, having spent the whole afternoon huddled on the floor of the backseat.  She even had her first cry-free dingy ride on the way back to Serendipity, much more interested in the sights around her instead.
  • I actually found a non-permit requiring spot on the street to park instead of leaving it in a lot all night.

For having a car at our fingertips for 12 hours, it wasn’t as freeing as I thought it would be.  Things went right, things went wrong, and we still ended up ragged and exhausted at the end of the night.  I thought the car would alleviate things like that.  But looking back on if we had to try and do all of that on the bus, I guess it could have been much, much worse.