Cayman edit 4

A Lesson in Basic Photoshop Tips to Improve your Cruising Photos

Wednesday October 2, 2013

storm over Grand Cayman Island

Normally I wouldn’t label myself as a photographer, although it is a subject I’ve had much interest in since I was young and even took a few college courses on in my youth (i.e. black and white film because digital was still emerging).  But when my friend Kim over at La Ho Wind started a topic on it for The Monkey’s Fist I thought I’d bring what little knowledge I have about Photoshop to the table.  As a amateur photography enthusiast I’d love to be be able to help out anyone with similar interest, and as a topic coordinator for the The Monkey’s Fist, I love to help out there whenever possible.

Getting back to my credentials.  I shoot with a Sony NEX-5N which isn’t at the top range of digital cameras, but since I’m so accident prone it’s my interim one to show that I can handle things with care.  So far I’m really enjoying what it can do for me though, and it’s nice and compact which means that I can take it anywhere without having to worry about a big bulky camera bag.  Will there be a large fully equipped Cannon in my future someday?  I hope so, but right now my Sony is doing it’s job.

The nice thing about this camera is that it let’s me shoot in RAW.  To explain this, I’m actually going to take a definition right from Kim’s post on photography tips:  RAW is a file format that captures all image data recorded by the sensor when you take a photo. When shooting in a format like JPEG, image information is compressed and lost. Because no information is compressed with RAW, you’re able to produce higher quality images, as well as correct problems (like over/under exposure or adjusting the white balance) that would be unrecoverable if shot in the JPEG format.

It’s nice for me to shoot RAW since, gasp, I’ve only been using the auto setting on my camera lately.  I know I need to take some serious time to figure out how my camera properly works (that was actually one of the disclaimers of Matt letting me get it), but with being so far behind on blogging, I keep putting that off.  Someday, I promise.  But right now, I rely on Photoshop to take my photos from decent to much better.  And these are the tips I’m going to share with you today.

Although one could spend hours on each photograph in Photoshop tweaking many little things about it, I like to focus mainly on the tones.  In fact 90% of what I do do a photo in Photoshop has to do with adjusting tones.  The great part about them is that they are all sliding bars, and very easy to use.  If I’m only adjusting tones on a photo, I can usually go through each one in about 3 minutes.  And who can’t spare 3 minutes to enhance a photo?  There are about 10 tonal sliders I use on each photo.

First let’s start with the definitions of these tools/sliders for a better explanation of what effects they have on your photograph.

 

(Definitions taken from ‘Adobe Photoshop Elements 7; Classroom in a Book’)

Exposure adjusts the lightness or darkness of an image. Underexposed images are too dark and look dull and murky; overexposed images are too light and look washed out. Use the exposure control to lighten an underexposed image or correct the faded look of an overexposed image.

Blacks specifies which input levels are mapped to black in the final image. Raising the Blacks value expands the areas that are mapped to black.

Whites specifies which input levels are mapped to white in the final image.  Raising the Whites value expands the areas that are mapped to white.

Shadows will lighten the shadows in an image, or darken the highlighs.

Highlights will increase or decrease the highlights in an image

Brightness adjusts the brightness of the image much as the exposure slider does. However, instead of clipping the image in the highlights (areas that are completely white with no detail) or shadows (areas that are completely black with no detail), Brightness compresses the highlights and expands the shadows when you move the slider to the right. In general, use the brightness slider to adjust the overall brightness after you’ve set the white and black clipping points with the Exposure and Blacks sliders.

Contrast is the amount of difference in brightness between light and dark areas of the image. The Contrast control determines the number of shades in the image, and has the most effect in the midtones. An image without enough contrast can appear flat or washed out. Use the contrast slider to adjust the midtone contrast after setting the Exposure, Blacks, and Brightness values.

Clarity sharpens the definition of edges in the image. This process helps restore detail and sharpens that tonal adjustments may reduce.

Vibrance adjust the saturation so that clipping is minimized as colors approach full saturation, acting on all lower saturated colors but having less impact on higher saturated colors. Vibrance also prevents skin tones from becoming oversaturated.

Saturation is the purity, or strength, of a color. A fully saturated color contains no gray. The Saturation control makes colors more vivid (less black or white added) or more muted (more black or white added).

Temperature adjust the coolness or warmness of a photo, focusing on blue and yellow tones.

 

Although only you can decide how you want your photos to look in the end, what’s appealing to your eye, when first starting out, it helps to work with the histogram until you get the hang of it.  The histogram, usually found by going to Image – Adjustments – Layers, is a little box that will look something like this.

histogram

(Image taken from here)

What the histogram is, is a graph that shows the tonal range of the image.  When first learning to use it, the way I was taught was to try and even out the lines as much as possible, trying to bring them from the center evenly all the way to the edges; or if very high on one side and low on the other, bringing everything to the center.  When you get into Photoshop to start working your photo, you’ll see that by adjusting the sliders for the items listed above, it will also change the graph of the histogram.

 

Putting it all into practice:  I’ll go through two photographs, starting with how the shot looks as it was originally taken from my camera, and the final product, only focusing on a few items at a time so you can see how the each effect the photo.

Here’s one of my favorite shots, taken from Grand Cayman Island. This is how the shot appears, SOOC, or straight out of the camera.

Cayman SOOC

 Here you can see that the photo looks a little washed out, not defined, and not vibrant or colorful.  There are also spots on the photo meaning that the lens needs a good cleaning.

Cayman edit 1

In my first edit here, I’ve only focused on the exposure, blacks, and whites.  The exposure was brought up to +0.70, the blacks brought down to -65, an the whites brought up to +24.  Already you can tell a very visible difference in the photo.

Cayman edit 2

 On my second edit of the photo I’ve gone through and added shadows, highlights, and contrast.  The shadows were brought down to -31, the highlights brought down to -46 (this helped to give more definition to the originally lighter areas such as the sand and clouds), and brought the contrast up to +16.  You should be able to tell that the photo has a little more definition than the last edit.

Cayman edit 3

 On my third edit of the photo I finished with the remaining tones: clarity; vibrance; and temperature.  The clarity was brought up to +18, vibrance brought up to +20, and temperature brought up from 5000 to 5300 (giving the photo more warm and yellow tones).

Cayman edit 4

 On my fourth and final edit, I used a few other tools in Photoshop to tweak the remaining problems.  Using the rotate tool, I rotated the canvas 1.25 degrees counter-clockwise to even out the horizon.  I used the clone stamp tool to get rid of the dots caused by my dirty lens, and I cropped the photo to take care of the uneven edges after rotating.  Pretty nifty, huh?  And it only took me 3 minutes.

 

Cayman beginning histogram

Cayman end histogram

 

 

This is another one of my favorite shots, taken from the harbor of Port Antonio Jamaica.  This is how the shot appears SOOC, or straight out of the camera.

Jamaica SOOC

 Again, you can see that straight out of the camera it looks a little dull and cloudy.

Jamaica edit 1

Edit 1:  Exposure: +0.50;  Blacks: -61;  Whites: +30

Jamaica edit 2

 Edit 2:   Shadows: -44;  Highlights: -31  Contrast: +9

Jamaica edit 3

 Edit 3:   Clarity: +18;  Vibrance: +24;  Temperature: 6950 to 7800;  Color balance: +3 Red

Jamaica edit 4

 Edit 4:  Canvas rotated .5 degrees CCW;  Spots removed with clone stamp;  photo cropped.

Jamaica histogram start

Jamaica histogram finish

 

So there you have it.  A simple and pain free way to quickly edit your photographs to give them a little extra oomph.  To edit these photos I used Adobe Photoshop CS6, but you should be able to find all tools listed above in any version of Photoshop.  Under my version of Photoshop though, all these tonal adjusters come up as soon as I open any RAW photograph.  If I am working in JPEG, I can find them under ‘Image’ and then ‘Adjustments’.

 

For even more of our photos that don’t make it on the website, make sure to Like us on Facebook!

 

 

8.13.13

If I Knew Then What I Know Now: One Year In

Tuesday August 13, 2013

8.13.13

Now that we’re one year into our cruising on Serendipity, I can say I’m a bit more experienced than when we first left. Sure, we (Matt) read every book, forum, and the occasional blog on what to expect, but some things you just don’t know until you get out there.  We’ve learned a lot our first year out.  A lot about our boat, boat bits, and the lifestyle that is cruising.  What I’m about to share isn’t groundbreaking, earth shattering news, or possibly, even very helpful to some people, but here’s a few things I’ve learned along the way so far.

 

  • It is very hard to escape the elements. Until we had our little accident in St. Augustine that put us on the hard for three months, we were never in one spot for over two days. Which meant that we were always traveling. Out in the elements. Sun, wind, rain. We had it all. And putting yourself out in those elements hour after hour, day after day, it becomes very important to protect yourself from them. I could not imagine our trip without having our bimini and dodger, they have been lifesavers. Giving us shade from the sun, keeping us dry from the rain, and keeping those howling winds from chilling us to the bone.  And also making a barrier between us and those pesky waves that crash over the bow. It’s unfortunate that these items usually need to be custom made and don’t come cheap, our dodger is on it’s last leg with more repairs than I’d like to admit, but if it ever failed, it’s one of the items we would not hesitate for a moment to replace.

 

  • You will have a major meltdown at some point. And that’s ok. As much as many landlubbers would like to think this lifestyle is constant paradise, it’s not. It can be hard physically. It can be hard mentally. It takes a long time to get into the groove of moving your life into 400 sq feet and then taking away major conveniences. And once you get used to that, toss in things like seasickness, language barriers, and an ever dwindling bank account reminding you that you are on a budget and can’t do all the fun things that whatever place you’re at has to offer. Or, every other day, one thing or another on the boat breaks and needs repairing or replacing. Sometimes it can be too much, and once in awhile, you’ll curse your new lifestyle and wonder why you ever left in the first place. At least things were comfortable back home. But guess what? You always snap out of it. Sometimes it can take a few days (or a week), but then you’ll catch an amazing sunset, or have a drink with fellow cruisers and share sob stories, or spot dolphins riding in your bow wake, and remember that this life is not without it’s benefits too.

 

  • In Matt’s opinion, our davits are useless. You might be surprised to hear this one, and I don’t really have an issue with it, but it’s one of the things Matt wish he knew before we left. Our davits are a set of metal bars off our stern that hold the dinghy up out of the water, and in our case, holds one of our solar panels on top. We use our davits every day, so you might be wondering why he wants to get rid of them. First we’ll start with the dinghy aspect. Every single night we use the davits to haul the dinghy about four feet out of the water, keeping nasty things from growing on the bottom, and more importantly, giving possible thieves a hell of a time trying to steal it. Without the davits, we could still lift the dinghy out of the water every night with a halyard up at the foredeck. We’ve also found that having the dinghy on davits while passaging (even through the islands of the Bahamas) causes too much strain on the davits, so it gets secured to the foredeck during those times anyway. As far as the 210 solar panel that’s housed there, we’d remove it and replace it with a wind generator. That way we’d still have the two 105s for sunny days, and a wind generator for the cloudy (and usually windy) days.

 

  • Your personality is not going to change very much from who you were on land. We have found that a lot of the things we loved back on land are still things that we love on sea, and it’s hard to escape them. Laugh if you want, but our two big weaknesses are TV and fast food. We do have an actual TV on the boat along with a hard drive full of movies and shows, and they get used almost nightly. It’s how we used to unwind back on land, and it’s how we unwind at the end of each day now. When we left I was hoping the tv would barely ever get turned on because there would be too many new and exciting things to hold our attention that we wouldn’t need it. But no matter how much I try to fight my brain about television being unnecessary, it still wants the boob tube. As far as the fast food? The only time we go without it is because it’s not available. I envisioned cruising as a time for me to get really involved in cooking from scratch and making delicious meals every night, and although I’m getting better, we just have a weakness for greasy fries and burgers that has to be satisfied. My original dreams of turning myself into a culinary master didn’t come to be just because I thought it would happen with a little extra free time on my hands. I will say that you grow as a person while out traveling, trying new things and finding new likes and dislikes, but if you think you’re going to completely reinvent yourself, that’s probably not going to happen. But why would you want to do that anyway?

 

  • When purchasing a boat, place durability over looks.  We, or at least me for sure, LOVE our boat.  I think it’s a great size for us, has a good layout, and even looks kinda pretty.  Sure, Matt may be obsessed with what 10 more feet could do for us, but otherwise, we think we made a good choice.  But if there’s one thing we could change on our boat, even though the looks are a big drawing point for us, is the durability of some of the items on board.  Take the cushions for example.  They’re original to the boat (at 24 years old, can you believe it?), but still have a nice modern and clean feel to them.  They’re pretty, they make the interior look nice.  But they’re not durable.  They get dirty very quickly, and constant use has them getting pilled and a little worn down at the edges.   At times we’re even laying towels and other items to sit on just so we don’t do any further damage.  Then there’s the floors and walls.  They’re teak and holly plywood, and there are dents abound.  Moving things around in small spaces, items rearranging themselves on passage, or just good old gravity when your’re not expecting it.  I’m not saying our boat now looks horrid and torn apart, but she’s definitely rougher around the edges than she was a year ago.  Bottom line, you LIVE in your boat.  It needs to be able to handle your constant wear and tear.

 

  • It’s not how it’s depicted in photos.  Unless you’re Taru Tuomi (whom I wish I could be like), all the glamour goes out the window when you’re cruising.  In pretty much every way, shape, and form. As far as personal glamour, there was about five days in Jamaica that I forced myself to wear the dresses I bought just so I could get use out of them, but other than that I’m in shorts and a tee (and now it’s even becoming gym shorts more than jean shorts), my hair is up, and I have on no make-up.  The areas we’re in are so hot and humid that it’s barley worth making an effort, and gone are all my original ideals of wearing cute bikinis all the time with perfect make-up and long flowing hair covered with a wide brimmed hat.  Unless there’s a special occasion, it’s just not gonna happen.  What’s also not depicted in the photos is all the hard work that goes into cruising*.  It’s not just sitting surrounded by a perfect landscape, with perfectly trimmed sails, and a glass of chilled wine in your hand.  If you follow blogs or are into some of the sailing magazines, you probably know this already, but the work of constantly maintaining a boat, dragging your laundry to a coin-op (or worse, doing it yourself), showering in your cockpit, and tearing apart half your boat just to get to a jar of peanut butter, is anything but glamorous.  Sure, there’s a couple of sunsets and fruity drinks thrown in, but that’s only about 20% of the lifestyle.  If that.

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*Yes, I did know it was going to be hard work before we left, I just didn’t realize the portion of it vs fun relaxing things.  I thought it would be 25% hard, 75% fun.  Nope, I got it the other way around.

**When I told my loving husband I was writing this he goes, “Ugh, I hate when people who don’t know what they’re talking about write those kinds of posts”.  So if you found this utterly useless, don’t worry, you’re not alone.

 

8.12.13 (1)

What I’ve Learned My First Year In

Monday August 12, 2013

8.12.13 (1)

Leaving our mooring in Muskegon for the last time.

 

Now that Serendipity has been out traveling for one year, I felt compelled to make a list of things I have learned over our last 12 months of travel.  This post is not meant to be advice to future cruisers on what works and what doesn’t while living and traveling on a boat (that’s coming later), but rather, things I have learned about myself and the lifestyle of cruising.

 

  • I thought that by leaving Michigan in the middle of summer and continuously heading south, that I would need few to no warm clothes.  I was oh.so.wrong.

 

  • Memory foam up in the v-berth, although 10x more comfortable to sleep on, also makes it 10x harder to make the bed.

 

  • Friendships are made fast, and with bonds that will last a lifetime.

 

  • If your battery bank can spare it, en electric water heater, like the Bodum one we own, will be one of your best friends while traveling.

 

  • It is surprisingly easy to find yourself wearing the same outfit for two days in a row.  Sometimes three.

 

  • Sitting on the opposite sides of the salon and ignoring your spouse (intentionally or not), is almost as good as being alone.

 

  • Just because you are constantly tired or hungry or nauseous, does not mean you are pregnant, and you can stop taking an at home test every month ‘just to be sure’.

 

  • Before we left, I envisioned passages as a time to get a bunch of things done.  Instead, due to my (non-debilitating) seasickness, I get nothing done.

 

  • It takes approximately six months to get used to the fact that the steps on the companionway must be used as extra counter space while cooking, instead of having a meltdown because the boat is too small.

 

  • It IS worth it to have a microwave, even a 600-700 watt one, because leftovers are so much more enjoyable without the extra pans to clean.

 

  • Listening to some of my favorite music can pull me out of a bad mood almost instantly.

 

  • Many port officials still seem genuinely surprised to see a woman listed as captain.

 

  • A harness and leash, as silly as it may look, is the best thing ever for a cruiser with a cat.

 

  • I can not get on board with the non-shaving thing.  Even if I was alone on a deserted island with no one else to see me, I would find something sharp and keep my legs smooth.

 

  • Matt thinks the davits are useless, and we would have been better off without them, exchanging the one solar panel that sits on top for a a wind generator.

 

  • I barely go through half the clothes I’ve packed.  And yet, I’m still happy I have every item I do.

 

  • Friends can help force you to get out and explore after you’ve been stuck in a rut of sitting around on your ass day after day.

 

  • No matter how many times I try, I can not seem to ‘equalize’ by plugging my nose and blowing out when I dive below 10 ft of water.

 

  • Ten days is really all I can handle out in the middle of nowhere.

 

  • It takes approximately nine months to become a master of the Tetris game that is your storage area.

 

  • I really really need to learn to cook.  Actual, from scratch, big girl meals.

 

  • I kid you not, one of the things I missed the most once we were out of the States was access to Pandora.  (I could not find any internet radio stations that worked in the countries we were in!)

 

  • If a chart says to seek local knowledge, which you do, but something still feels wrong?  Trust your gut and turn back around.

 

  • Cruising really does make you bipolar.  One day you’re up, one day you’re down.  One minute you’re ready to burn down your boat, and the next, you couldn’t imagine living a better lifestyle.

 

 

Important memories from our year cruising:

 

Leaving our port for the last time to sail out into the unknown.8.12.13 (2)

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Making lifelong friends along the way.

8.12.13 (4)

8.12

Picking up a boat cat in Georgia.

8.12.13 (5)

8.12.13 (6)

    Taking Serendipity into a new country for the first time.

8.12.13 (7)

8.12.13 (8)

Serendipity & Rode Trip

Smells Like Middle-Aged Spirit

Monday May 20, 2013

Tamarisk Waterfall

A group of us 30-something cruisers, enjoying the spoils of Jamaica
(Photo courtesy of Jason Windebank)

 

(The title, in case you’re wondering,  is not in reference to us, but to the main age group of cruisers you’ll find out there.  While checking my facts/numbers of what’s considered ‘middle-aged’ on Webster’s, their thesaurus defined it as ‘being on the wrong side of 40’.  Very cruel Websters, very cruel…)

After all the great times we’ve been having in the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Cuba, I’ve realized that a lot of it had to do with the people we’re spending our time with.  And most of those people, coincidentally, happen to be right in our age group.  Which almost seems to be a bit of an anomaly in the cruising world.  Chances are, if you’re a cruiser, you’ve had at least one over the hill birthday.  Some people might argue if that age is 40 or 50, but either way, most cruisers have passed both.  Us on the other hand, are what people refer to as young cruisers.  The 40 and under crowd.  (Not that being over 40 makes one old, I think that would just put you into the young(er) cruising group.)  We were even affectionately referred to as ‘the kids’ while spending a few weeks in Long Island Bahamas, which seems to be the only place we’ve been so far where we were actually a novelty for being young, baffling a few other cruisers on what we were out doing.  On more than one occasion, multiple people would come up to us and ask where we were visiting from, or what family member’s boat were we staying on, or even upon learning we were cruisers ourselves, how long we were ‘chartering’ our boat for.  In the end it became laughable, because none of these are the case.  We’re just cruisers that were very fortunate not to have to wait until retirement to get out here.  And even better, we’ve been finding a bevy of people our age to spend that time with.

One thing you’ll find out about cruisers is they stick together.  The thing with young cruisers is they really stick together.  Even though there’s more and more of us popping up every year, we’re still a general rarity among cruisers as a whole.  Not that there is anything wrong with the over 40 crowd.  They’re great to talk to, very encouraging, and usually have the best stocked liquor cabinets and snack spreads when they invite you aboard for a sundowner.  But the real fun with young cruisers and why we’re attracted to each other like magnets, is that we’re mostly all out here for the first time.  Although it’s all well meaning, there isn’t the ‘been there, done that’ attitude that comes with the older and more experienced cruiser.  We share in common first mistakes and revel getting to a new location for the first time.  When we’re around each other there isn’t the ‘What you need to be doing is this….’, or ‘Where you need to go is…, but only during this time of year because that’s when all the other cruisers are there, and make sure to avoid this certain area like the plague.’.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m already recommending areas to fellow young soon-to-be cruisers, but there’s something different about a fresh pair of eyes vs. someone who is out for their 22nd season.**

So one of the things I’ve wondered as we’ve been out here, clinging to every young cruiser we meet, is why are there so few of us out here?  We’ve listened to a good number of cruising couples in their 50’s & 60’s that have been out cruising for 20-30 years, usually on and off throughout that period.  Which would put them at our age when they started.  So why so few of us now?  If you really wanted to get into it, there’s a thread on the Sailnet forums asking the same exact thing with hundreds of responses and opinions.  But since I can’t answer for the general population, I guess I’ll just have to give a quick rundown on why we’re out here now, and how we did it.

First we’ll start with the why, since that is what’s sent the wheels into motion.  After visiting my parents in Vietnam in 2007, where they were temporarily relocated for my dad’s job, we were bitten by the travel bug.  Experiencing new sights, and a whole new way of living.  We were intrigued.  And that was only one small part of the world.  Imagine what else was out there for us to find.  How we got into sailing was Matt.  A little more info about getting into sailing in general is on our About Us page, but Matt, ever the OCD researcher, started reading about cruising online and brought it up to me.  Which at first was a big ‘hell no’. I was not going to move my life onto a dinky little boat while constantly putting myself in raging and life threatening oceans and seas as we went from new place to new place.  But then he turned me on to blogs such as Bumfuzzle and The Slapdash, and I was instantly hooked.  I learned that as long as we were well versed in sailing, there isn’t much danger out there, and all of the places we could visit looked like a lot of fun!  That was all it took to change my mind.

Then comes the how.  This was the toughie.  We had a good life going for us back home. Going away on weekend trips to Traverse City or Chicago, spending Saturday nights grabbing a nice meal out before going to the bar with friends.  We owned a home that we built in 2004 and were constantly making upgrades like adding a hot tub, and building a nice patio area to house it.  New items kept popping up in my closet when I’d see something at the mall and decided I couldn’t live without it.  Once we made the firm decision to go cruising, all this had to stop.  Want to go to Traverse City?  It will have to be spent in a tent, with most of the meals brought in a cooler from home.  A trip to Chicago?  Better make sure your friends are willing to split the cost of a hotel room with you.  While at the restaurant, try to order only a sandwich or appetizer for your meal if you can, and at the bar, drink the cheapest draft they have and then switch to soda after your second drink.  And that was only the first year while transitioning.  The second year saving, Chicago was out, camping was a ‘birthday treat’, and we’d skip the restaurant and meet our friends at the bar.  Year three?  Ugh.  We were basically hermits, only meeting up with our friends if it could be done at someone’s house where we made our own dinner instead of going out, and then stayed in for the evening to drink beer we’d purchased from the store.  All my clothes became second hand.  It was not an impossible life, but it was much tougher than we were used to.  We even sold our house a year before leaving, banking the very little money we made after the market crash, and saving as much money as we could while staying with Matt’s mom and step-dad.

So maybe this is why there’s only one young cruiser to every 10 middle-aged to retired ones?  They think it isn’t in the reach of someone their age who hasn’t spent a lifetime saving up for such adventures?  Again, there’s a million and one possible reason of why people in their 20’s and 30’s aren’t throwing off the bow lines to sail into the sunset, but I think we should encourage that more do.  After all, if you really have a dream, the only person that can stand in your way is you.  No one knows what tomorrow can hold, and no one should put off their dreams until it’s too late.  To quote Mark Twain and finally join every other cruiser that has said this at some point, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed in the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did.  So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover.”

And now, an ode to the young cruising friends we have met along the way that have made our travels so unbelievably great. (* Denotes that photo used is courtesy of listed cruiser)

Jackie and Ron

*Jackie & Ron on s/v Hullabaloo (soon-to-be cruisers)

Our very first cruising friends from back in MI.  We love them so much!!

Bill and Grace

*Bill & Grace on s/v Calico Skies (soon-to-be cruisers)

Kim and Scott

*Kim & Scott on s/v Anthyllide

Serendipity & Rode Trip

Brian & Stephanie on s/v Rode Trip

Ryan and Tasha

 Ryan and Tasha on s/v Hideaway

Frank and Yu

*Frank & Yu on s/v Moitessier

Scott and Brittany 2

*Scott & Brittany on s/v Asante

Eben and Genevieve

*Eben & Genevieve on s/v Necesse

Ren and Ashley

*Ren & Ashley on s/v Nila Girl

Jason and Piers

*Jason & Piers on s/v Tamarisk

Ana

 *Ana Bianca on s/v Kajaya

 

**I’m not saying that all older or more experienced cruisers are like this.  But we have found our fair share of them.

 

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The Monkey's Fist

It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Loses a Dinghy

Thursday February 21, 2013

It’s my dirty dinghy, and you can’t have it!

A few weeks ago I was walking by the boat and realized how nice and shiny the hull was.  It had just gotten a good buffing and polishing, but what I really took notice of was the stark contrast of our dirty and dingy dinghy hanging off the davits on the back.  This dinghy was brand new to us just a year and a half ago, and had been in pristine condition when we started our summer 2012 cruising season.  Now it’s covered with rub burns from being tied up extra tight during (short) ocean passages and just general dirt and gunk that hadn’t been cleaned up.  Both our outboard engines are not looking much better, both scraped and scuffed to hell.  And surprisingly, that’s not far off of how we want all of them to look.

The reason for this, is there are unfortunately going to be thieves in the places we’re traveling.  And thieves tend to go for the bright/shiny/new objects that they think they can get the most money from when they’re going to re-sell.  Without getting into too much detail for any potential thieves reading this (not completely impossible),  a lot of objects we own that they like to steal, such as outboards and dinghy, are in a condition that would make them desirable, but they definitely don’t look it.  And although ours are probably not the first items in an anchorage they’d pounce on, there’s still a chance they could be taken.  So this brings us to the question, what can you do to keep thieves from taking what’s yours?  A simple answer would be:  Make it hard for them.  Make them have to work for it, and therefore not worth their time.

Even if our items aren’t as shiny and pretty as the people next to us, most crimes are a crime of opportunity, so we’ve even taken extra precautions besides not having the best eye candy.  Let’s start with the outboards.  We have two, a 3.3 hp and 9.9 hp, but they look old and run down and about to fall apart at any moment.  Their covers are dirty and scratched and beat up like no other.  Back in Annapolis when we were anchored near our friends Kim and Scott on Anthyllide, they offered us a beat up cover for ours, not knowing it already looked like crap, because they said the last thing you want down in the Caribbean is a shiny new outboard.  But even if a thief saw our beat up crappy looking outboard and thought “Hmmmm, I may not be able to sell that for much, but I could still give it to my second cousin’s niece’s brother…” we’re still going to make it hard for them to do so.  Anywhere we go, even in Safe City, USA, everything gets locked up.  The dinghy, the outboard, all of it.  When we were in Detroit, we’d even run the chain through our life vests to keep them from being taken.

So that takes care of when you go to shore, but what about back at your boat?  Not that we’ve been any further than the US yet, but we’ve heard of far to many stories of dinghies in the Caribbean that are only cleated off to their boat overnight, and by morning they’re gone.  What we’ve learned from this, is to get your dinghy out of the water.  Every. Night.  There are two main ways that most cruisers can do this.  One is by having davits off the stern of your boat, which will connect to the front and back of your dinghy, and by using a pulley system, lift it out of and suspend it over the water.  The other way is to use a halyard to pull it out of the water near the foredeck of your boat, and either leave it suspended over your deck, or lower it and secure it to your deck.  If you want to take even more precautions than that, you can still lock it to your boat after following one of these steps.  It may seem like a lot of work, but while out cruising your dinghy is your car, and you can literally be left stranded without it.

Having your outboard or dinghy taken is the most common practice of thievery any cruiser will encounter, but what if worse comes to worst and someone tries to board your boat?  The chances of this happening really are incredibly low, but it still deserves attention.  As I said before, I’m not going to write an instruction manual of all the obstacles you would need to overcome to get into my boat, but let me just say that we are locked down, inside and out.  Most cruiser’s will take the precaution to lock down their boat while they’re away from it, but what about while you’re inside?, sleeping through the night.  Sure, you might have a can of Mace (or bear spray) next to your bed, or even an arm knife that your previous boss gave you, but you may also find yourself with not enough time to react to get to it.  There might be a gun at your head before you realize anyone has even boarded.  Think you still have time to use your Mace then?  Think again.  To make sure that never happens to us we’ve outfitted our boat with inside locks on the companionway, hatches, and even have a motion alarm.  I’m not saying it’s impossible for anyone to try and board our boat, but before they get inside, we’ll know about it.  And that will give us plenty of time to jump on the radio, and pull out our arsenal of Mace, knives, and flare guns.*  Wanna try messing with us now?  I think not.  Or maybe I’ll get further if I just ask nicely.  Can you please move on to the next boat?  They have much better stuff than we do anyway.

I spy a little bear spray in the eye.

 

*Mom, this is not meant to scare you (or any other family, friends, and cruiser’s out there).   We are aware of the dangers and keep ourselves very protected.  The chance of a breaking and entering on our boat is close to none.  I actually fear for you more while you’re walking to your car in a deserted lot at night.

 

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Shot-a-holic

Monday January 21, 2013

Bet you thought I was referring to Purple Hooters or Lemon Drops, didn’t you?  Although those are among my favorite shots to drink, I am referring to being a shot-a-holic with my camera.  I can’t seem to go out without taking 100 photos of this, that, or whatever.   And even though 100% of them aren’t fantastic, there’s still a good number that I wish could make it on the blog but don’t.  Because even though photos are a ton of fun, I have a feeling I might lose a few viewers if every post had 30 photos of things from beautiful building facades down to the spokes on my bike.  I try to edit the photos on the blog down as much as I can.  You’re welcome.  With that being said though, I think some of those photos do still have a place, and a want to be seen by some people.  So over the past few days I’ve started going back through the thousands of photos I’ve taken over this trip (2,918 so far, to be exact) and selecting some through those to go into albums on our Facebook account.  I haven’t gotten that far yet, just through photos of the Great Lakes, but with the constant internet connection I’ll be having for the next few weeks there’s a small chance I may get caught all the way up to St. Augustine.  So check us out on Facebook to see all the photos and get a full sense of all the places we’ve visited.  Go ahead and like us while you’re there, and get real time updates of everything we’re up to.

In the meantime, here are a few gems that never made their way up on the site the first time around.

A Boat Cat With No Water

Friday January 18,  2013

We’ve now had Georgie for about two months, and she seems to be settling into boat life pretty well.  Even if she’s now a boat cat on a boat with no water.

Neither of us had been cat owners before, but after our dog passed it left a fuzzy little hole in our hearts that needed to be filled.  A dog was at the top of Matt’s list again, but we’ve heard horror stories on customs and quarantine on dogs and thought it would limit our travel destinations.  So we left, animal free, with the constant begging from me to get a cat. They’re small, easy to care for, and never need to leave the boat.  I didn’t even think I was begging or nagging too relentlessly, but with the help of some friends while heading down the ICW we wore him down enough that over Thanksgiving weekend we went to a no-kill animal shelter in St. Mary’s Georgia ‘just to have a look’.  We knew it was over as soon as we stepped up to the property housing 207 cats, and two hours later we had Georgiana in a pet carrier and on the way back to the boat with us.

We’re still getting used to boat life with a cat, and she’s still getting used to a life with just two humans, but here are some of the things we’re learning along the way.

 

  • It took us three attempts to finally get a litter box that works for us on the boat.  The first one we knew was going to be temporary.  It was an open plastic container that we had laying around until we could do some damage at a pet store.  The second one was a hooded litter box with a flap to keep the smell out.  Two problems were (with that model at least), Georgie could not push through the flap, so part of it was always open, and it dragged so much litter onto the floor each time she went in and out.  The third (and hopefully final) solution was a tweaked Rubbermaid container with a lid.  We purchased a 20 quart plastic storage container that had a lid with a nice deep lip and a hole wide enough for her to get in and out of with ease was cut at one end.  This allows her privacy and us not to have to see everything she does in there.  It keeps the smell out and also keeps 99% of the litter in the box or on the lip.

  • She’s more vocal than our dog ever was.  I haven’t been around too many cats in my life, not as much as I have dogs, but I’ve always remembered cats as quiet beings.  Not ours.  Luckily it’s not the kind of ‘howling and keeping you up all night’ kind of noise, but she’s definitely trying to communicate with us.  A lot.  I’ve gotten to the point where I think I have them figured out, and they seem to fall into four categories.  1.  Feed me.  You will know when her bowl is empty.  She won’t wake you up in the morning, but as soon as you’re out of bed she’ll let you know that she’s hungry until there’s food in her bowl.  Don’t even think of trying to feed yourself first.  2.  Let me outside.  We think it goes something like this in her mind, “This boat is so god-awful small.  I’ve checked out every nook and cranny that you’ll allow me to. Please let me out where I can at least watch what other people are doing”.  If it’s a nice day the companionway is open anyway and she can roam as she pleases, but on the few cold days we’ve had here she has to let us know she wants out herself.  3.  I’m bored and I’ve already played outside.  This cry usually comes later at night after we’ve closed up the boat to keep the bugs from getting in.  Her bowl still has food in it, her litter box is clean, so I can only assume she wants attention.  We’ll pull out a few of her toys and either she’ll go crazy chasing after her laser pointer or the plastic ball with a bell inside.  4.  Still have not figured this one out yet.  I’ve gone through steps 1-3 and she’s still meowing at me.  I keep telling her that with no options left I’m going to take it to mean “Please pick me up and swaddle me like a baby”.  So I do for the thirty to sixty seconds it takes for her to wrestle her way out of my grasp.  Then the meowing stops and she ignores me for a good thirty minutes.

  • We don’t know what she thinks about water.  And not what’s in her bowl, but the stuff that’s supposed to be keeping our boat afloat.  The first ten days we had her, we were very leery of letting her up on deck because we weren’t sure that she didn’t know to not jump off.  “What’s that stuff down there?  It looks fun…I should pounce on it!”  So we mostly kept her below deck and when we did let her up we monitored every move and even had to try and stop her from jumping from the cockpit into the dinghy which was hanging on davits.  Then, luckily for her, and unluckily for us, we encountered a bit of bad luck which has now had us sitting on the hard for six weeks.  She can roam the deck all she wants and has the good sense to know that a 15 foot drop is not good.  Let’s just hope that sense stays with her when we get back in the water.  (No, we’re not putting netting up on our boat)

  • She gets lost on our boat.  Easily.  Cats really are curious creatures and she loves to try and get into every nook and cranny possible.  She has an affinity to try and jump into our bathroom cabinet each time it’s left open.  Our garage (aft cabin) is her playroom, and she ends up in places when we don’t even know how she got there.  One afternoon we realized we hadn’t seen her in awhile but didn’t think much of it.  Then, while both of us were sitting on our computers, we heard a scratching noise coming from the space that holds Matt’s clothes. Sure enough, I open the lockable latch and she comes tumbling out.  A few hours earlier I had noticed Matt’s clothes had spilled onto the floor, shoved them back in and closed the latch without ever seeing her.  This is not a big space and it is full of clothes.  She had to have already been so nestled in when I started putting the clothes that fell to the floor back.  Then just today she went missing but we could hear little “Mew, Mew” coming very faintly from the aft cabin.  After tearing it apart and not finding her we took our search to the cockpit and found her inside a lazarette.  Which had never even been opened!  We’re still trying to figure that one out.

  • Her favorite spot to sleep is on my pillow.  If I’m lucky, it’s way off to the side and I can still turn from side to side without ever running into her.  The past few nights though, she has been situating herself right in the middle.  If I try and slide her to the side she just get up, pace in a few circles, and drop herself down right on top of my head or face.  I think I’ve finally outsmarted her and found out that if I let her fall asleep first and then slide her down off the pillow on to the bed, she’s too tired to care and will just stay there.

  • She’s a pretty chill girl.  She’s taking to life on the boat very well and did great for her one and only sail with us.  While cruising over 3-6 foot waves she slept nestled up in the v-berth and even stayed there when we started slamming on the bottom and was completely calm while being shoved into a backpack for a possible evacuation.  She doesn’t mind when we pick her up and toss her out of the way to get to a part of the boat, and if the sun is out you better believe she’s on deck rolling around and soaking it up.  Even though she hasn’t visited them yet, she’ll be the perfect island girl, relaxing outside in the warm breeze and eating up fish scraps.

 

There’s plenty of other things we’re continuing to learn about her each day.  Like how if we let her out and close up the companionway she’ll come pawing at it when she’s ready to come back in.  Or that she likes to greet me when I come up the ladder by waiting at the top rung and nuzzling her face against it until I giver her a nice good scratching.  She’s definitely different than a dog, much more independent, but she’s the perfect pet for us on this trip and we’re loving her companionship.  We’re watching her grow up before our eyes, but I can’t help but hope she’ll hold on to some of her kitten tendencies.  Like kneading us with her front paws, that’ll always be my favorite.

No matter how many times I tell her certain areas are ‘not for kitty’, she just doesn’t listen.

“Gotcha, sucker!”

Flashing for beads.  Such a naughty girl.

 

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There’s A Plus Side?

Saturday December 15, 2012

 

Guess what?  We haven’t been off the boat since our trip up to Walmart on Wednesday.  The weather has slightly been dictating our travels (even on land), and we try to look for low-wind days before taking the bikes out now.  It’s not like there’s anywhere we have to be, and Matt’s completely content as long as he has his laptop in front of him and access to the internet.  I think he could be on Yachtworld and Cruiser’s Forums for days straight without ever getting up.  I’m still waiting for the battery charger for my computer to come, but I’ve found I’m just as easily amused if the touchpad is charged or I can put a movie on.  Yes, these are the same people that are out trying to ‘experience’ the world.  So with nothing happening to write about, and not wanting to leave you hanging too long before something worth writing about happens again, I am going to start writing fluff pieces just to give you something to read.  The first one?

 

The Positives of Being Stuck in a Boatyard

 

This will also be broken down into further categories, which is surprising that I have that many things to list.

 

Monetarily:

Ok, I know this is almost laughable considering the amount of money we’re going to spend while in here, but again, I have to take the positives where I can get them.  Or maybe I should  term it ‘How we’re trying to recoup that big a$$ deductible’ since that may be better suited for what these are actually doing.

  • No diesel.  Since we’re not traveling anywhere, there is no need to buy gas.  We usually filled up twice a month at around $100 a pop, so there’s $200 recouped right there.
  • Fewer groceries.  You may be scratching your head on this one, but it seems like we’re actually eating less now that we’ve been on the hard.  Somehow we’ve reverted back to a summer vacation schedule where we stay up until 2 am and then sleep until noon.  Breakfast is now out, and it’s rare that we snack after dinner. Plus this is pre-drivers license summer vacation so we don’t travel out too much to fast food restaurants.
  • Bathroom facilities.  I know I’m grasping at straws here, but it still counts.  While on the hard we’re not using our head at all and climb down the ladder and walk to the bathrooms each time we need to go.  How does this save money?  Two ways.  No pump-outs, which have been getting upwards of $15-20 lately, and use of the yards toilet paper.  What?  That stuff is expensive in the Bahamas and I want to save all of ours for when we get there.
  • No friends.  With Hideaway down in Vero Beach and Rode Trip and Anthyllide still up in St. Mary’s there has been no one for us to hang out with.  No reason to pop open a few beers or that bottle of wine.  Or to check out that cool restaurant or go on that interesting tour.  Luckily our friends are on the same budget we are so thing are never too extravagant or expensive anyway, but spending time alone has helped to keep a little money in our pocket.  But we still can’t wait for them to visit though, and we will definitely open that beer while touring that museum just after going to that restaurant.

 

It’s Just Easier On Land:

These are the things that we took for granted back on land and we get to have them back now.  Just for a little bit.

  • Showers.  Ask any cruiser that doesn’t have access to this what they miss most about land and they will tell you a hot shower.  Now we have access to them every day.  More than once if we want.  It’s fantastic.
  • Immediate access to land.  As much as we love our lifestyle, do you know how tiring it can be to have to lower the dinghy, ride it in, and find a place to tie up every time you want to go to land.  We’ve become pretty accustomed to it, but on cold or windy days (something we’ve had plenty of on the way down) it can be downright miserable.  Like the two times we had Rode Trip over for drinks and then sent them home in the rain.  Sorry guys!  But having solid ground right at your disposal?  Sometimes I hop on and off the ladder just because I can.
  • Wifi.  This is not only to give us something to do during the day while we’re sitting in the yard day after day, but it helps me keep my sanity with 24 hour access to the website.  I’m not kidding you, I don’t even know how many times I would become unglued or fits I had because we’d go days without access to the internet and when I finally was able to get it, it would be for thirty minutes, only allowing me to get two posts up and maybe respond to three questions or comments.
  • Popcorn.  Yes, that’s right.  I am a very big popcorn lover and before we left one of the things we stocked up on at Sam’s Club was a box of 28 popcorn packets.  Which I didn’t find out until after we left that even with the battery at 100% and the engine running, our 700 watt microwave was not strong enough to turn more than just a few kernels into buttery goodness.  But, the yard happens to have a microwave and has been popping my bags to perfection.

 

Mentally:

Sometimes the mind can go a little wonky when your living space has been cut down to 1/4 of what you’re used to and all of your everyday luxuries are gone.  Stephanie and I often trade stories of our low points on the trip just to remind ourselves that everyone living this lifestyle has breakdowns at some point.  Here are a few of the mood boosters I get to take advantage of while sitting here.

  • Singing in the shower.  I don’t know if I ever mentioned it in this post, but one of my favorite things to do before we left was sing in the car at the top of my lungs to the radio while driving home from work.  There was no one to hear me, no one to judge me, and it just felt good.  Living on a boat you rarely to never get that kind of alone time, so while I still sing along to the radio a lot, it’s not the kind of belting, sing until you’re lungs give out kind.  And I miss that.  So now when I’m in the shower and no one else is around I get to go back to singing like my life depended on it.
  • There’s nothing to hit while on the hard.  Now that Serendipity isn’t moving at all, there isn’t a chance for her to crash into anything else.  And while I’m hoping our trip in the inlet was a once in a lifetime kind of catastrophe, I needed some time to collect myself before getting back out there.  For the first week or two I’d have panic attacks in the middle of the night with thoughts of everything else that could go wrong or happen to us while we’re out traveling. But I think this time standing still will help me to gain a little bit of perspective and confidence before we’re back out on the big blue ocean.

 

They may not be big reasons, but they’re just enough to keep me going.  During a bad day I can always look back at these and remind myself the things I have to be thankful while we’re here.  And who knows, when we’re back out traveling, looking back at this list just might make me wish we were back in the yard.  Probably only during a very bad day out on the water though.

Man, what I wouldn’t give for my old hot tub right now.  But hot showers are pretty close.
(circa 6/08)
Ok, I think I’m ready for anything now.  *
(circa 02/12)

 

*And yes, that’s the men’s size M foul weather jacket I got stuck with because it was on sale.  Does a great job of keeping me warm though.

 

Bathroom Sailor’s Exchange

Wednesday December 12, 2012

One of the things stationed here in St. Augustine, and the reason Matt agreed to come here in the first place, is a little shop called the Sailor’s Exchange, kind of a consignment shop for everything boats.  Someone brings in an item they’d like to sell and it can be anything from winches to shackles to anchors  to books and magazines.  (By the way, we keep stopping in to see if anyone has brought in our anchor at which point we can buy it back, but no luck so far)  Once the item is brought in the shop decides if they want to buy it, settle on a price to give the seller, and then stock it on their shelf with a mark-up, but usually still cheaper than you could find the item elsewhere.  Plus it’s one stop shopping because you can find basically anything you’re looking for, but just like any consignment shop, you have to do a lot of looking first.  It’s a great place and we’ve already spent a decent amount of our time there.

Over the past few days I’ve been noticing something similar going on here at the boat yard that I like to call the ‘Bathroom Sailor’s Exchange’.  As far as restrooms tend to go anywhere you are, the women’s bathroom here at the yard is far superior to the men’s, although both of them tend to have similar Air Care Services.  While their’s only has one urinal and one stall, we have one stall and a shower, plus a little table with a bowl of potpourri that’s littered with books and magazines for the taking.  If it wasn’t placed right next to a toilet without a lid, I think I’d have a few of those books on the boat right now.  But recently in addition to the bathroom reading available there have been…other things.  Things that people don’t want on their boat anymore and figured the women’s room was the best place to deposit them.

It’s a good idea in theory, kind of like a Goodwill with no money involved, but in the bathroom?  Right next to the toilet?  Those Correll dishes would be looking a lot better if I didn’t have to think of where I found them each time I was eating off them, no matter how many times they’ve been washed.  Some people were wiser and put things inside of bags which helped to protect them a little bit more, I guess, but made me curious enough to have a look through to see if there was anything I wanted bad enough that I would bleach it enough times to bring it back to the boat and store it there.  Let’s see some of the treasures available.

Plates, glasses, and athletic wear.  Thankfully we’re pretty stocked in the galley and the clothes were a little too big for me so those weren’t even a question.  Is it bad that I hesitated on the plates for a minute though?  I mean, they may be sitting right next to the toilet, but the design looks a little nautical, kind of like flags.  ‘I have a full galley……I have a full galley’.

A very essential pirate hat.  Just after we watched ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ no less, but let’s face it, it can’t compete with Captain Jack Sparrow’s hat.  I tried to think of any good reason to need this, and if we still had the opportunity to meet up with our friends Jackie and Ron in the Bahamas next month it would have been grabbed up in a second for all the fun we’d be able to have with it, but as it is, I had to leave it.

Hair clippers, Mardi Gras beads, and Preparation H wipes.  I don’t even know what to say about this bag.  I don’t know if I should avoid the owner at all costs or hunt them down for some crazy nights of partying that could leave me with some of the most interesting stories I’ll ever tell.

I just have one question on this.  What happened to the dog??!!

 

I’d like to say that I left the restroom that night with nothing in my hands but that would be a big fat lie. There may have been a few athletic shirts stuffed at the bottom of one bag that may be a little too big for me but the quality was so high that I couldn’t resist at least trying them out.  And if they don’t fit I’m sure I could always pawn them off onto someone else, like Stephanie.  No one walking down the street has to know she didn’t actually run the Boston Marathon.  There may have also been a few magazines in my possession when I left, but they had popped up within an hour of the last time I had gone in so I’m fairly certain they didn’t have a chance for nasty particles to float on top of them.

The Bathroom Sailor’s Exchange only lasted for a day before everything was cleaned out.  Either someone really cleaned up, or management wasn’t fond of this program and disposed of everything.  I hope not though because it’s things like treasure hunting in the bathroom that make our endless days in the yard a little more interesting.  Just think of the things we could collect while we’re here.

Anyone else have similar stories to share?  What’s the strangest thing you’ve found at an exchange or the strangest place the exchange was happening?  Leave a comment with your story.  I’d like to know more than just Jackie and Ron are reading.

Just Cause I Know You’ll Ask

Monday July 16, 2012

Now that I’ve finally let it slip at work that I’m about to go on this big adventure, and only about 10 of the 120 people in my department knew about it beforehand, I have a feeling there are going to be A LOT of questions asked.  And although we’re always open for questions in person or through our new email address on the website (click on Contact Us) I thought it might be a little easier to dedicate a post to the most frequently asked questions we get, which right now are just from friends and family.

 

Where are you going?

Besides getting to the Caribbean, we don’t have any definite plans.  Since our longest cruise so far has only been the 69 mile journey from Muskegon, MI to Milwaukee, WI we’re hoping that we like this lifestyle but won’t know until we try it.  Our estimated departure date is Tuesday July 31 (weather permitting) and we should be jumping into the Bahamas in early to mid December.  Then we’ll take stock of everything and see what we want to do next which could range anywhere from ‘This just isn’t for us, let’s sell the boat and go back home’ to ‘I’m really LOVING the Caribbean, why don’t we spend all our time here’ to ‘I love the Caribbean but there’s so much world to see so let’s keep heading West’.  Should it be the latter we’re going to try for a circumnavigation (going all the way around the world).

 

What’s your route?

This somewhat depends on the previous question, but we do know the route to the Caribbean for sure.  We’ll leave out of Lake Michigan in Muskegon and hug the Michigan coastline while going North.  After passing under the Mackinac Bridge we’ll head South down Lake Huron into Lake St. Claire and then into Lake Erie.  We’ll jump into the Erie Canal near Buffalo, NY and follow that until it drops us out in New York Harbor and the Atlantic.  We’ll slowly be making our way South visiting places like the Chesapeake and probably staying inside the Inter Coastal Waterway.  When we get near Miami, FL we’ll make the approx 30 mile jump over to Bimini Bahamas where you go through the island chain and it’s not more than a day sail from one island to the next.  Should we decide to stay in the Caribbean we’ll keep heading down the island chains (Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic, Virgin Islands and the Windward and Leeward Islands. Basically all of the islands leading down to Venezuela).  Should we decide we want to travel the world instead, after Bahamas we’ll go to Jamaica and then the Panama canal.  After crossing through the canal we’ll go through the islands of the South Pacific until we bunker down in New Zeeland for hurricane season.  When we get the ok to go again we’ll start making our way north to Fiji, Vanuatu, and the Solomon Islands.  We’re thinking of skipping Australia and Papua New Guiena and make our way to Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.  From there the plan varies on the pirate situation at the time.  We could go toward the Red Sea and hop up into the Mediterranean or maybe we’ll go South to Madagascar and Africa.  Either route would put us back near the Caribbean island chain and we’d get to experience the Windward and Leeward islands that way!

 

What made you decide to do this?

There could be so many answers to this question, but a short answer would be that we’re young and there’s nothing holding us down, so why not?  The long answer would be you only get one life to live and wouldn’t you love to do something extraordinary with it?  We all think that we’re bound to these traditional 9-5 lives, it’s what’s proper and what’s expected.  But there is such a big world out there with so much culture and beauty.  And once we thought about that more and more we realized the only thing keeping us from experiencing these things are ourselves.  So we decided to put tradtion aside and do something unexpected and unforgettable.  Plus, reading the stories of others who have done it before us made it sound really really fun.

 

How do you pay for something like this?

SAVING!! Lots and lots of saving.  The old adage of ‘Nothing in life is free’ is definitely true and this trip is not coming free or even cheap to us.  On our website is a Cost page which we’re fully disclosing how much it does cost to outfit the boat and pay for for a trip like this and once we get going we’ll also update it with our monthly spending.  But to get to the point of even being able to spend that money we had to do a lot of sacrificing.  Some of the money coming in has been from the sale of our house and cars and the rest just comes down to not spending.  Matt’s mom and step-dad have been kind enough to take us in for the past year where we don’t have a mortgage/utilities anymore.  We don’t go out to eat or go to the movies.  We don’t go to the bars or take weekend trips to Chicago or Traverse City.   Most of the clothes I’ve purchased over the past two years have been second hand.  Everything that comes in that we don’t have to spend, we don’t.  I can’t say it’s been easy but it will be worth it.

 

Is it safe?

Just like anything in life there will be risks, but cruising is a lot safer than most people think.  As far as danger in the way of storms on the water we will be following the weather religiously and if it’s bad or looks like it could become bad we will not be traveling.  If storms come up on us and we can’t get into a harbor it means we’re probably far out to sea which is actually the safest place to be during a storm since there’s not much chance of you bashing into anything.  And in the ocean the swells are more drawn out instead of the choppy ones we see now in the Great Lakes meaning you slowly go up the wave and slowly go down it.  Plus we’ll always have on lifejackets and be teathered in.  Danger from pirates is a possibility but not very likely.  We’re avoiding pirate heavy areas and in the big picture, getting captured is only about a 1 in 200,000 chance.  And since we won’t be living on land anymore, we actually cut out a lot of dangers in our day to day life.  Did you know that you have a 1 in 6,000 chance of dying in an automobile accident each year?  I think we’ll take our chances on the water.

 

Aren’t you going to get sick of each other?

Four years living with another person on a 35 ft boat?  Yeah, I can see how people would assume this will happen a lot.  But we’re lucky in that we usually can’t get enough of spending time with each other.  Just going to work and coming backs feels like we’ve spent an eternity apart.  We follow each other from room to room at home.   In the twelve years we’ve been together we’ve become so much a part of one other that it feels like something is missing when the other isn’t around.  I can guarantee there will be moments that we want a little alone or me time but I think separating ourselves above and below deck or a small excursion on land alone will help cure that problem.

 

Most of these answers are currently directed at non-sailors as just a general what we’re doing.  If you have anything else you’d like to know, sailing/boat related or more general questions feel free to ask us.  I’d love to know what else you’re curious about!