Friday, December 31, 2010

A Year in Review...

Rasmus doing what she does best.
2010 has been a BIG and wonderful year for us.  Here are just some of the highlights:
  • We got our boat into the best DIY boat yard in Chicago (Rentner Marine) and did a TON of work along side them.
  • We learned a bunch of lessons.
  • We met Walt Genske who proved to be a HUGE asset during our refit process. We are forever grateful for him!
  • We got our first sponsor in Moosejaw (go on, click on it - I dare you.  They are experts at French kissing)!
  • I got pooped on by our boat.  Pretty nasty.
  • We put in a brand new engine! Thank you Rentner!
  • In the midst of all this, we planned a wedding!
  • ...we then GOT MARRIED!
  • We got rid of all of our stuff and moved out of our apartment and onto our boat.
  • We quit our jobs!
  • We were thrown a wonderful Bon Voyage party at the Yacht Club - thanks again to Lisa and Julie!
  • We quietly said goodbye to Chicago and "got off the dock"!
  • We encountered our first (and currently worst) storm to date on day 3 of our trip.
  • We sailed across Lake Michigan, down Lake Huron and across Lake Erie....phew!
  • We traversed the Erie Canal with winter hot (or rather, cold) on our trail...
  • We had several mishaps, including taking on water, engine trouble, and hitting a rock.  All of which colossally sucked - but the lessons learned were equally colossal.
  • We met some incredible people (mostly thanks to this blog!) who have become forever friends.  Too many to list - but you know who you are!
  • We had our first guests aboard and learned that our aft cabin makes having guests a piece of cake.  Absolutely love it.
  • We endured two gales on the Atlantic - both consisting of winds in the 30-35 knot range with seas from 8-12 feet and our boat handled them no problemo.  We, on the other hand, were a little exhausted.  More lessons were learned.
  • We travelled the entire AICW and ran aground once.
  • We made it to warm weather and managed to escape getting snowed on! 
We are so grateful for this past year and are looking very forward to the year ahead.  I cannot even imagine in my wildest dreams what it has in store for us!   We are bigger, faster and stronger than before and we just can't wait to see where 2011 will lead us!

We wish everyone a happy, healthy New Year filled with love!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Where have we BEEN?! short, we are in Anna Maria Island and we have been busy with family, friends, and holiday hoopla.
This has been the name of the game.  
Which means, as you might have noticed, I have been remiss about blogging.  So here is what we have been up to (in case any of you were wondering):

After we said goodbye to our friends - Scott rented a car and we drove across the state ("Alligator Alley") to the Sarasota area where we were met by family.  Good times were had.

We got some (desperately needed) Christmas shopping done.  Success all around.  (Phew!)

We had a chilled-out Christmas Eve - complete with a finger food dinner (thanks to my sister!) a viewing of Disney's "Christmas Carol" and we even managed to squeeze in our old family favorite, "Christmas Vacation" (it could be a study of our family, no joke).

Christmas morning was lovely - full of family, laughter and hugs (especially from my adorable nieces Skyler and Faith) and we even had a reunion (3 months in the making) with our "looper" friends Les and Diana!  It was Merry merry to the MAX!  We got some awesome gifts - including a crab trap (yes - a crab trap) from my brother, some great new sailing books from his fiance, and a beautiful hand-made piece of art from my sister!

Original art for Rasmus by my sissy, Chelsea.  Isn't it amazing?

We have eaten a LOT of meals out, been "that" rambunctious table of ten plus to your left more than once, indulged in delicious food and fine wine, have taken lots of long walks on the beach, played about 100 games of gin, and had a wonderful time. (Big thanks to my parents for making it all possible!)

We are planning on leaving January second when we will be reunited with our boat.  From there, we're not sure exactly how it will all work out - but we plan on hauling the boat for a couple of weeks to do some repair work, install a water maker (!!!!!) and complete a few other projects that we have been neglecting.

(Note:  Any cruisers have any suggestions for a boat yard that can do good work but also allows DIY'ers in the Ft. Lauderdale area?)

We figure hauling the boat and getting into "work mode" will help us to put our noses to the grindstone and get ship shape before we make the hop to the Bahamas! (Or head to the Keys, which we might do as well....)

Exciting stuff around the corner!

For now, back to chilling 'vacation' style.

Brittany & Scott

Sunday, December 26, 2010

3 Months In: 10 Questions for Windtraveler!

Us, the very day we left Chicago!  Taken by our good friend, Les.
We are about three months into our journey.  I cannot even believe how far we have come!  We have come over 2,500 nautical miles, traveled through 11 states, endured all sorts of mishaps and adventures, met some incredible people and had the best time.  In a lot of ways it feels like we've been gone longer than three months - and in some ways it feels like we just left yesterday.

I got the idea for this post from Livia of s/v Estrellita who also happens to be the author of the super cool Interview With A Cruiser Project .  She granted us permission and encouraged us to use questions from their 'question bank'.  So with no further ado - here's our little version of he said/she said - cruising style - in ten questions.  Keep in mind we are only three months in - so these answers should be taken with the understanding that we are still "newbies".

What is the biggest lesson you have learned so far?
Brittany:  That your imagination is much worse than the reality. That, and the fact that we selected a FANTASTIC, dare I say, "kick ass" cruising boat.
Scott: As of yet, cruising doesn't offer as much "free time"... or "down time" as you'd expect.

What is your favorite part about cruising?
Brittany:  Living freely, traveling in your home, seeing new places, meeting new people.  There is nothing that compares to traveling to a place by boat.  Somehow it's just 'different'.  I love it.
Scott:  After hoisting the sails, the moment you turn off the engine... as well as the moment you turn off the engine after dropping anchor in a calm anchorage at sunset. [Editor note:  true dat!]

What is your least favorite part about cruising?
Brittany: The fact that everything (even tiny things like making a cup of tea) require 10X more effort than they do on land. But you just learn to live with it.  I hate doing dishes the most.  Dish washing is the current bane of my existence.  I have mastered dirtying as few dishes as possible and pretty much don't cook if it requires more than one pot.
Scott: All the motoring that's been necessary through all of the canals and ICW.  As we head out to the Caribbean after the new year, I'm really looking forward to having the canvas up more and letting the horses rest.

What is something potential cruisers worry about that they shouldn't?  And something they don't worry about that they should?
Brittany:  I would say people worry about the basics like, "how do you shower? how do you eat? what will I pack?" - all this is really minor stuff that requires nothing more than some adaptation and a little homework.  More people should worry about whether or not they are willing to do this 'adapting'.  An "endless vacation" this is not, but a bad day on the water still beats a bad day on land!
Scott: Brittany will tell you, I do not believe in worry.  My favorite Zen proverb is... "If the problem has a solution, worrying is pointless, in the end the problem will be solved. If the problem has no solution, there is no reason to worry, because it can't be solved."  That being said... stop worrying and just go! [Editor note:  Yes.  This is 100% true.  I am slowly getting there.]

What was the biggest mistake you have made?
Brittany:  We've made lots of little mistakes, but the biggest is probably when we went outside a channel marker and hit a rock.  That sucked.
Scott: Actually, that was my mistake... not "we."  The other was when I put out a fishing lure to troll for lunch and forgot that it was there.  Then we came in to get fuel and had to do a few circles to wait for a boat to leave the fuel dock and proceeded to wrap the fishing line all around the prop.  This was probably the 4th time I had to put on the wetsuit to dive under the boat.  The others being... retrieving my cell phone I dropped in the water at the dock in Michigan, checking the prop shaft for what might have been causing the noise that we were hearing in the transmission, and checking the keel for damage after I hit the rock.

What is the most important attribute for successful cruising?
Brittany: Open mind, no agenda, realistic expectations, ability and willingness to adapt.  Oh - and you should probably like sailing.
Scott: Not having inflated expectations.  With anything, when you expect to much, your chances of being disappointed are much higher.  We both looked forward to everything that cruising had to offer - including the ups and the downs.

What do you miss about living on land?
Brittany:  Not much!  Bikram yoga, unlimited water for showers/dishes, and access to free laundry.  That's about it (besides friends and family, of course!).
Scott: I've gotta admit, every time I pull out the credit card, I miss having an income.  Don't get me wrong, as much as I miss all of you at SweatVac, I don't miss sitting in front of a computer and phone all day.

How would you recommend someone prepare to cruise?
Brittany:  Read as much as you can in books and forums (and learn to take some advice with a grain of salt - otherwise you'll never leave) and do as much of the work on your boat that you can - you will learn, pun intended, a 'boat load'.  As first time boat owners and cruisers we didn't feel super 'prepared' when we left, per se - but we have learned that we were actually very prepared and know a lot more than we thought!  Also - SAIL!  Both of us raced for years and found this taught us a lot of the basics.  Though racing on a boat and owning a boat are HUGELY different.
Scott: Don't get attached to your "stuff."  Garbage bags and dumpsters... and craigslist... are your friends. Get rid of it!

When you are offshore, what keeps you awake at night?
Brittany: Gear failure.  Period.
Scott: That mysterious ticking noise.

Is cruising as good or better than you imagined?
Brittany:  Better.  I already have no idea how we're going to go back to "land life"!  Out here, away from the constraints of 'society', anything seems possible and that is a pretty incredible place to be.
Scott: As good and better and it get's better every day as we gain more experience and confidence with our abilities and our boat.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas Everyone!

To all our wonderful readers and followers - we wish you a very merry Christmas!

Can you believe it?  We actually made this wish come true!

Brittany & Scott

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Special Engagement

As many of you know - two of our best friends and one of our favorite couples joined us for five days for a mini-vacation last week.  While they were not our first guests on board, they were our first friends to visit us for the soul purpose of unplugging and chilling out.  We spent one night in South Beach (meh - not our style) and then spent two nights on anchor in the lovely No Name Harbor (very much our style).  We played games, drank a LOT of wine, cooked some yummy food, and, well...they got engaged.

It was simple, pure, perfect, spontaneous, so incredibly 'them' and so incredibly special.  

Here's how it went down: They were sitting on the beach while Scott and I took a walk and when I returned I heard John-Mark say something like, "...yes honey, I have been thinking about it for a long time now and I absolutely want to marry you".   So I of course had to ask, "Wait a minute - are you guys engaged?" after which Jaime (with a big, beautiful smile) says, "I think so!"  Scott saunters up from snorkeling and I tell him, "Honey, Jaime and John-Mark are engaged!" and he asks, "Nice!  You proposed just now?" after which John-Mark looked at Jaime (realizing he actually hadn't asked the question) and said, "Will you marry me honey?"  And the rest is history.  Scott and I couldn't be more honored and happy to have been a part of it all.  I even snapped a few engagement photos for them and think they capture the moment and their happiness pretty well.

Ah love, isn't it grand?


Brittany & Scott

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Home is where the Heart Is

Our "home" for the Holidays
They say there is no place like home on the holidays.  They also say that home is where the heart is.

Right now, Scott and I are in a beautiful vacation house in Anna Maria Island where my parents have shipped their boat to spend the holidays in the Florida sun.  This is hardly our 'home' and we have no family that lives here - and yet we are all here (or will be shortly).  My brothers, my sister, my mom, dad, in-laws and nieces have all traveled here for the holidays.  The house is a buzz with Christmas spirit, love and (after 5pm) lots of 'cheer'.

Home really, truly is where the heart is.

There is no place we'd rather be.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Brittany & Scott

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Pirates Republic - A Cruisers Haven

If you are in Ft. Lauderdale and get a hankering to pull your boat up to a super cool bar and have a tropical slushy rum drink (or fifty) you *must* stop at the Pirate Republic.

We chose this place as the rendezvous point to meet our good friends Jaime and John-Mark, who flew in from Chicago to spend 5 days with us.  Not only does this place have a fabulous laid-back vibe and great drinks and food, it's owned by cruisers!  The wife, Claudia is a beautiful Brazilian woman with a beaming smile and peppy zest, and her husband (who's name I never got) actually looks like a pirate.  Very authentic.

What was best was that they (without batting an eye) let us keep our boat tied up to their dock over night for free (granted - we did sit there for 8 hours and drink our weight in margaritas) but they were incredibly accommodating and Claudia even sat with us for a while and shared cruising stories with us.

If you like a very casual, laid-back place that is 100% cruiser friendly, than Pirate Republic bar is your place!

Brittany & Scott

Friday, December 17, 2010

Lions and tigers and PIRATES, oh my!

We're off to see the Wizard!
Pirates.  This subject comes up a LOT.  It seems to be what everyone wants to know about and I don't think we have met a single non-cruiser* who has not broached this topic.  The question that follows is inevitably, "do you carry a gun?!" after which they launch into a monologue of how they would carry a gun and how foolish it is for us not too.  Although we appreciate people's concern and their healthy "shoot 'em up" attitudes - we find that more often than not, these folks are a little ignorant on the subject.

Scott and I have actually sat up nights trying to figure out ways to nip this conversation in the bud the moment it comes up.  We're thinking saying something like, "Sure, we'll talk about guns and pirates - just after we discuss politics, religion, and gays in the military!**"  We think that might drive the point home.

Yes, there are pirates.  Yes, they take boats.  Yes, they take some sail boats.  Yes, they have held cruisers captive for ransom.  But do you know the odds of this happening?  I'm no accountant, but I have to guess that getting struck by lightning is more likely***.  In addition, the term "pirate" is giving these people way too much credit.  They are petty thieves.  They are low-lives.  They are robbers.  Jack Sparrow, they are not.  More often than not - they're looking for the container ships and mega-yachts who actually have some substantial coinage behind them.****  Cruisers (like us) aren't usually famed for their riches.  We live in a floating RV for god's sake.

Let me paint you another picture...It's June and your are looking to go on vacation.  You want to experience the thrills of a big city.  Chicago, naturally, tops your list.  A beautiful place, full of great restaurants, fabulous museums, a gorgeous waterfront and all sorts of other activities and amenities attractive to vacationers.  It's clean, it's fun, and it's one of the best places on earth in the summertime.


It also boasts a murder rate of 29 per 100,000 people and theft?  Don't even get me started. Are you not going to vacation in Chicago because there is a slim chance you might get "offed" or robbed?  I sincerely hope not.  Furthermore, do you go out and buy a gun to protect yourself just in case*****?  No, you do not.  You stay in safe areas and travel wisely.  Just like Scott and I.  We are not going to scrap our trip and this opportunity to visit all the magical places we can in this world because of 'pirate' threats.

I don't mean to sound cavalier, because I am not.  We've read, and continue to read, quite a bit on the subject and try our best to remain informed.  Piracy is a real threat and one we will take seriously.  We will avoid places that are 'hot spots' and will proceed with caution wherever we are.  Will our dinghy and/or dinghy motor get stolen?  Perhaps.  Might we be pick-pocketed while shopping a local market? Maybe.  Will we be held ransom by Somalians yielding semi-automatic weapons?  Not likely.

Imagine if Dorothy had let her fears of lions and tigers and bears hold her back on her journey to Oz - she would have never met the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and the Lion and she would never have had the adventure of a lifetime.

That said, we're off to see the Wizard!

Brittany & Scott

* I specify 'non-cruiser' because I don't think this subject has ever come up with another cruiser.
** For the record, we are 100% for equal HUMAN rights.
*** If you want to learn more about piracy in today's world or actually crunch numbers and come up with the odds, I suggest you go to this site.
**** Did you know that even container ships don't do too much to thwart pirates?  It's actually cheaper to pay the ransom in most cases!
***** Lots of cruisers do carry guns, and we have no problem with their guns.  We just don't want them on our boat. I don't want this to turn into an NRA debate. We do however, have some nasty bear spray.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Awesome Person(s) of the Week: Scott's Mom and Stepdad

It was 12 o'clock somewhere, I swear.
We have been MIA the past couple of days because we have been getting pampered and spoiled (yet again!) by Scott's mom and step dad at the Boca Resort* in Boca Raton.  We had an absolute blast with them, chilling, eating delicious food, laughing, cocktailing reading by the pool...  They were incredibly generous and paid our slip fees there (and pretty much every other expense!) and we had a fabulous time.  As Ed (Scott's step dad) said, "We are happy to do it - consider it your Christmas present...and, well, at the rate you two drink maybe your birthday presents as well...".  Ha!  A wonderful time was had by all.  THANK YOU SUE AND ED, we love you!

...back to bagels and peanut butter!

Brittany & Scott

*While we had a lovely time here - this is not a recommended place for cruisers like us.  Very expensive and the "marina" does not cater at all to cruising boats.  If you want an all inclusive vacation, by all means - go here - but we would not suggest staying here if you are passing through the area.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

We Got Wheels!

The Dahon Mariner - our nobel steed.
Before we left we had talked about getting fold-up bikes for the boat, but decided to wait and see if we really felt we needed them (a good habit to get into, especially when buying 'toys' for a boat).  In our 'land lives' Scott and I had five bikes between us, so it probably comes as no surprise that Scott sprung for this little beauty he found on Craigslist.

Initially I was apprehensive because of cost and the space issue we are always dealing with - but at $150 this bike was too good to pass up.  I've come around.  I dig it.  Boat toys are fun.

This bike will open a world of possibilities to us.   Biking ten miles is a lot different than walking ten miles.  It will make "popping" over to the hardware store a possibility and slightly less of a chore.

We figure we'll start with one and see how it goes.  However, Scott just zipped off to the Surf Shop three miles away and I'm already jealous so I foresee another in the not too distant future.

Brittany & Scott

Monday, December 13, 2010

The To-Do List

Last night I was doing some editing on the blog and changed our former "to-do" page to the new and improved "refit" page.   The reason for this is because it is no longer our list of things that have yet to be done, but a page of things we did to the boat prior to leaving - hence "refit".  For you boaters out there, you might find it helpful if you are thinking of doing something similar to what we are doing - I'm pretty sure we left no stone unturned.

Don't be fooled though.  We still have a very healthy "to-do" list.  It's looking like this these days:

...and it grows day by day.

No rest for the wicked people, no rest for the wicked*.

Brittany & Scott

*Of course we are not "wicked" - we are very nice!  I just love that phrase.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ship Shape

If you err on the side of OCD when it comes to tidiness, then you've got one thing going for you if you ever want to live on a boat.  If you are of the messy persuasion, however, and didn't learn from your mother to pick up after yourself, well then, you might have some adjusting to do.

We've all heard and probably used the phrase "ship shape" to describe anything that is in meticulous order.  A quick Google search yields the fact  that when ships were sent out to sea "jury rigged" (meaning, incomplete and with work to be done) the crew would work hard and fast to complete the rigging whence the boat would be deemed "ship shape". (Didn't know you'd be getting a little trivia lesson, did you?)

Order on a boat is not a comfort, but a necessity.  Because space is such a premium, you need to be very creative, thorough and consistent in how you stow your boat.  If not, you will have a very hard time finding that snatch block, shackle, cleaner, tool or whatever it is you might "need" at a moments notice.  Trust us, we know - Scott and I bought a new LED masthead light six weeks ago and had to buy another one because we both completely forgot where the heck we put it and doing everything save turning the boat upside down did not produce it.  Boats are small, but my oh my how they can swallow gear!  We are constantly amazed by how much this boat can take and are always finding new 'nooks' and more efficient ways to stow our belongings.

Prior to leaving, Scott and I did a TON of reading about how to organize your boat (I cannot recommend Beth Leonard's "The Voyaging Handbook" enough!) and so we were pretty prepared.  We have about 40 bins in various sizes (LOVE the Container Store) that we pre-measured to make sure they fit.  Then we labeled every single bin so we know what's inside ("chargers", "batteries", "printer gear", "spares: electric"...etc).  Nearly everything we have aboard is in either a water-tight bin or a zip-lock baggie to protect from water, salt, and damp air.  In addition, all of our clothes in the v-berth sealed in the large sip-lock bags with a dryer sheet.  This keeps them fresh and dry no matter what.

As for food - we have a bunch of airtight containers which house tea, sugar, pasta, crackers...etc. and everything else is stowed in zip-locks.  We remove all the cardboard packaging to save space, and put everything else in zip-locks (are you seeing a pattern here?).  As for cans, I write on the top of each can what the contents are with a sharpie so that I know what's inside should the label peel off (not uncommon in the humidity).  We keep fruits and veggies in a hanging net hammock in our main cabin and most liquids are in our ice box.

I could go on, but the bottom line is this - every boat is different and how you store your items is completely up to you.  There is an adage in sailing and it is this, "a place for everything, and everything in it's place".  You have to get into the habit of putting everything away (from pens, to books, to utensils, to tools) or else they can get launched, lost, spilled or broken and that is just no fun.  On a boat, there is reason to cry over spilt milk.

A delivery captain once came on our boat and said something to the tune of, "I can tell you run a good ship because it's tidy, neat and in order - it says a lot about you both. I'd never go to sea in a boat that wasn't immaculate."  He's right.  We work hard to maintain that order, it's our home and we take a lot of pride in it.  As the political satirist P.J. O'Rourke once said, "Cleanliness becomes important when godliness is unlikely" - and on a sailboat at sea, nothing could be closer to the truth!


Brittany & Scott

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sharing the Load

Now this is a chick I'd like to drink a bottle of
wine with!
Today on the radio the Coast Guard announced that a 30 foot boat about 11 nautical miles ahead of us was in distress with two adults on board - one being a man who had suffered a heart attack.  I can only assume* that the other adult was his wife.  Based on that assumption, immediately I thought of the wife and wondered, "Does she know how to operate the boat?"

Too often in the boating world the answer is "no".  There is this 'thing' they talk about in cruising where people divvy up boat responsibilities into "blue" and "pink" chores.  Men do the 'blue', women do the 'pink'.  The tasks themselves are just as obvious and reminiscent of life in the 1950's.  This is possibly the most annoying aspect of the cruising community and it irks me every time I read anything where people casually mention it.  Not because I'm an uber feminist**, but because that's just not safe...

While Scott and I do fall into a somewhat "traditional" pattern of roles and responsibilities (i.e. I do most of the cooking/cleaning, he does most of the engine work/boat handling) we both try to make sure to keep those responsibilities in check.  Sometimes I check the oil, sometimes Scott does the dishes...sometimes I trim the sails, sometimes Scott makes the bed...If (god forbid) something ever happened to Scott rendering him useless, I would have no problem running the boat by myself.  I know how to use our chart plotter, how to read and plot a course on a nautical chart, I understand how to use our VHF radio, how to raise, lower, and trim our sails and how to dock our boat.  I would be able to bring us and our boat to safety, should we ever need it.  I have to give both Scott and my dad credit for this "balance" - because both of them are adamant that I know all things 'boat'.

Like I said, we still fall into many of the traditional male/female roles - and I am completely okay with that.  Changing it up, however, not only keeps us on our toes - but keeps us on par with one another.  Sharing the load, for us,  has almost nothing to do with "gender roles" and everything to do with safety.

So ladies, next time you are coming to a new port - take the helm and put your man to work on those dishes!

Brittany & Scott

*And it is only an assumption, but for the sake of this blog post - it works.
** Not that there's anything wrong with that!  It's just not me...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Two if by Sea...

The other day Scott's godmother took me grocery shopping.  We had a lovely lunch, took our time in the grocery store, and even did a little sightseeing around Bluffton.  We were gone, in total, about four hours.  When she dropped me back at the cottage where Scott and I were staying, I saw Scott sitting on the balcony reading - and the BIGGEST smile came over my face as I waved out the car window enthusiastically.  That's when it dawned on me. "Oh my gosh Willa, I just realized this is the longest I have been away from Scott in over two months!"  You read that correctly folks, the longest Scott and I have been apart this entire trip is a half of a workday.  Wow.

A lot of people who meet us are shocked by what we are doing.  Not because we're living on a boat, not because we live by the weather, not because we take to the sea, or that we don't have refrigeration - but because they cannot imagine spending that much time with anyone, let alone their partner.  We are together, for the most part - 24 hours a day.  That's a loooongg time.

I don't know what it is about Scott and I, but we seem to be handling it just fine.  When we first got together, over three years ago - we were the couple that spent a LOT of time together.  It's our natures I suppose and we're lucky that they work well together.  When we moved into an apartment together everyone warned us, "This is a big test!  You are going to learn a lot about each other and you may not like it..." but when we did, the only thing we noticed was how much easier everything was.  All that schlepping stuff back and forth was really becoming a pain in the butt.

When we planned our wedding (while simultaneously prepping for this trip, mind you) everyone said we'd have some heated moments, that it would be "stress-city".  "Oh, the guest list!" a friend would lament, "...that is a nightmare....and the seating chart!  So awful!"  Sure enough, Scott and I got through the entire wedding planning process with nary an argument.  In fact, the whole wedding planning experience was a piece of cake (mostly because I hired a wedding planner who was worth her weight in gold - you can see more of my bridal mentality here).

Don't get me wrong.  We are not living in "la la land" and we don't burp rainbows and fart sunshine.  As Scott likes to say, "the claws come out fast, but they retract fast too".  We have had our moments.  Anyone living in a space that could very easily be someone else's walk in closet is lying if they tell you otherwise.  For the most part, however, it's nowhere near as "hard" as some people have either warned us or envisioned and I think this is largely due to the fact that since day one Scott and I have been each other's full-time partner.

I don't want to mislead other cruisers by thinking living on a 35 foot boat with your partner is a cake walk - because it is definitely not for everyone.  But if you can find your "space" in a book, in silence or even (god willing!) snorkeling off into the sunset, then you too can live in a space slightly larger than a cargo elevator!

Brittany & Scott

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Images from St. Augustine

St. Augustine is a little town with a LOT of history.  Founded in 1565, it is considered the oldest European-established city in the continental US (who knew?!).  First explored by Ponce de Leon and later established by Spanish explorer Pedro Menendez de Aviles - this town has remained true to her Spanish roots.  Terra cotta tiles, brightly colored buildings, cobblestone side streets and a bohemian artist history all combine to make this one very cool little stopover along the ICW.  Not to mention it is rumored to be the home of the Fountain of Youth.  While we didn't find a fountain of any sort, we did find a couple nice watering holes!

Historical figures are all over the place.  Here we have some Spanish Jesuit or something...
Beautiful old buildings with loads of character.
Art shops are around just about every corner.
If you ever visit, stop into the Mill Top Tavern and have a listen to our friend
Don - he's an amazing musician and has been playing there for over 30 years!
If you are a boater, this is like a boating thrift store on steroids.  You could spend HOURS in this place.
"The Sailors Exchange" - they have more than you can possibly imagine!
Like Popeye's attic!
Ahoy there!
Well said Buddah!!
Feels kinda like Spain!
We've shoved off the dock and now we're headed to an anchorage about 20 miles down.  

Brittany & Scott

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

My Love Affair with the Rasmus - A Guest Post by "Uncle Al" (Scott's Godfather)

Al, Will, Brittany and Scott at dinner
I want to merge this post with an "Awesome Person (People) of the Week" post and give a shout-out to  Scott's Godparents, Al and Willa Thiess, who have gone above and beyond for us wayward travelers.

Not only have they been completely and utterly supportive of our journey by way of emails and well wishes, they hosted us in Hilton Head as if we their own children!  They got a slip for Rasmus (thank you John and Monique Duffey!!), they put us up in a lovely cottage (with a KING bed!) and treated us to more than one fabulous meal.  They are wonderful people and we were so happy to spend the time with them....but the time was not over - as "Uncle Al" joined us aboard mighty Rasmus, and he has a few things to say about her!

My Love Affair With The Rasmus

My wife and I who live at Hilton Head Island were thrilled when Brittany and Scott told us they were stopping on their way south.  I met them in Beaufort, SC, and then accompanied them for the 25 miles from down the ICW to Hilton Head.  After a couple of days of rest and wine, they planned to leave on Sunday.  They wanted to run the next leg of their journey in the ocean, but there were full Gale warnings in effect on Sunday – thus the departure was moved to Monday when the weather was supposed to calm down.  And on Monday morning – we thought it did calm down.

By Monday morning, I had plied Brittany and Scott with enough food and wine to finagle a ride on the Rasmus to Florida and we set off at noon on Monday.  The first decision was important.  There are two exits from Hilton Head, the Port Royal Sound exit that is very deep water, and the Calibogue Sound exit to the south that is very shallow and shoaled.  Of course, the Port Royal exit was almost twenty miles farther to go south, so we had to make a call.  My son Brandon is the Captain of a charter fishing vessel so we turned to him for advice.  He told Scott that it’s easy to go out the south entrance - you just go to the south channel, find the last “green", make a thirty degree right turn, then go towards the three sticks, and then 100 yards short of the sticks, turn thirty degrees south and you’re out.  Which “green” Scott asked?  I don’t know!  What are the “sticks”?  I don’t know said Brandon.  Well, as you can imagine, we were all perplexed.  Finally, after kind of finding the “last green” and something that could be the “sticks” on a chart, Scott made the call to go that way.  It worked out well – we avoided the shoals and saved twenty miles.  Thus began the largest test yet of the Rasmus.

At first, it was just cold – at least for South Carolina.  While brisk, the wind was not bad and the seas were probably 2-4.  By nightfall, the wind had gone to 20-25 and the seas to 4-6, and they both continued to build.  My next watch was midnight to 3 am.  By that time, the seas were 6-8 and the winds were 25 to 30 with gusts to 35 – and it was colder.  It was then that my love affair with the Rasmus began.

I have done my share of sailing and racing in the Great Lakes and California - 20 years ago - on a number of boats, including some quite a bit larger than the Rasmus.  Never however, have I been on a boat like her.  There in the cold darkness, a series of steep eight footers would roll in off the beam with the boat healed over in 30 knots of breeze.  The bow would be eight feet above the wave in front of us and then falling toward it.  At the same time, the wave behind would be ready to ponce on us.  And the Rasmus wouldn’t flinch.  Instead, she would do a ballet dance over them and between them – one after another, just tip toeing from one wave to the next– and stable the whole time.

Then a surprise wave would hit at the same time from another angle – the kind of waves that cause most boats to shudder with a thunderous slamming sound – but not the Rasmus.  She would just cut through them with her full-length keel like a knife through warm butter - ready to begin the ballet dance all over again.  She danced through the evening, danced all night and was still dancing in the morning.  And how many times did Rasmus do this?  Well, I was once an accountant, so the answer is easy.  Let's see, a six second interval which makes 600 per hour, so for the 18 hours we were in the big seas, Rasmus did her little dance almost 11,000 times and never got tired.  Quite a lady!

Even though good sailors do not want to sail in these conditions, and seek to avoid them, being at the helm of Brittany and Scott’s boat last night was – well, fun.  I just have not seen anything like the Rasmus!

At 3:00 am this morning the spell that Rasmus had over me was broken when Brittany relieved me.  And what did she get - the wind and seas picked – UP!  While I am sure Brittany was in love with her boat before last night, at 3:00 am with the wind howling in the Atlantic, she looked just a little bit apprehensive.  When Scott and I got up at 6:00 am at the end of her watch, she was like a kid with a new favorite toy.  She had a grin – although a cold grin – on her face and said something like – “I get it - this isn’t just a boat I love, it’s a boat that loves me back, and a boat I can trust.”

I guess this is what I am trying to say to all of you out there in the Windtraveler blogosphere who follow Brittany and Scott on this journey - while things can always go wrong at sea, and usually something will, one thing none of you who follow them, or me, has to worry about is the mighty Rasmus.  She is a gentle lady with a heart of steel.  If any of you have the opportunity to go off shore with Brittany and Scott on the Rasmus – take it and enjoy the ballet ride.

Now we’re off to enjoy a day in St. Augustine, even though it's still cold.

“Uncle Al” Thiess
December 7, 2010

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Break on Through to the Other Side

The one permanent emotion of the inferior man is fear - fear of the unknown, the complex, the inexplicable.  What he wants above everything else is safety.  ~Henry Louis Mencken

I'm a worrier.  I hate it.  It's a horrible habit. One that I attribute to a) my being a woman, and therefore constantly wanting to take care of others and to b) my own little psyche, confusing as it may be.  I worry about Scott, about my friends, about my know, the usual, but I also worry about the wind...namely wind over 20 knots and at night.

I know - this is totally contradictory being a cruising sailor and all.  However there is a fine line between a nice, surfy, broad reach with a following sea - and screaming down waves, feeling the rigging shudder and fighting the incredible (and it is incredible!) force of the waves on the rudder hoping "dear god, please don't let something go wrong here".  Some of you may recall our first storm on Rasmus - perhaps it was that experience that made me a little gun-shy.  It was that storm that opened my eyes to what could be, and what opened my mind to the fear of it possibly happening again.

I read an article a while back by Beth Leonard in which she stated "Fear begins where control ends". She was writing about the fact that she gets scared every time she goes offshore.  Beth Leonard - one of the "it" women of cruising (if there is such a thing)! That line struck a chord with me and I have thought on it ever since I read it.  There are times on this journey where I have let fear and worry inhibit me; what if the rigging isn't adjusted right?  What if the engine dies?  What if the weather forecast is wrong? What if a shackle fails?  What if a halyard snaps? What if, what if, what if.... Scott likes to say, "we are always just a ring-ding away from catastrophe." Hardy har har har...Helpful, honey.  Helpful.

Last night was one such situation.  We checked the weather and the forecast was 15-20 knots out of the northwest.  When we got out there we realized it had changed.  Before too long, the wind was 25 to 30 knots out of the West and we were flying.  On Rasmus we take 3 hour shifts - Scott and I were lucky enough to have Scott's Godfather, Uncle Al on board with us (what a trooper!) to divvy up the schedule - sailing offshore is much more manageable when you can get 6 hours of rest.  My first shift began with winds 25-30 knots of breeze.  Immediately my stomach tightened and I clenched my jaw, "The forecast called for 15-20..." I thought to myself.  Imagine if you will; rigging howling, the whole of the boat shuddering with every gust, blackness all around you as giant rolling waves break over the bow with a powerful, booming CRASH!...followed by the loud SPLAT of the water as its weight lands all over the boat.  All you see is the white foam spray over the deck and the white caps of the frothing waves that approach you.   It's 50 degrees, tops - and you are taking the helm.  For THREE hours. Yikes.

By the second hour of my shift, I cracked open the can of Red Bull and drank it down.  With a newfound boost of energy I decided to look my fear in the face - it was doing me no good out there.  So I did.  The wind started gusting up to 35 knots, waves were bucking and rearing our old girl but she was stellar.  If there is one thing that helped to abate my 'fear' that night it was our boat - she is one sturdy vessel, that is for sure.

When wind was under 30, we called it a "lull".  25 is the new 15!
Before I knew it, I was actually having fun.  The wind was screaming, the rigging whistling, waves crashing, water coming in through our hatches, spray in my face - and there I was, out there in the darkness alone, fighting the wheel as the rudder rounded up with every powerful wave, when suddenly - I caught myself smiling.  Holy crap!  I was enjoying myself.  I had control.  I was no longer intimidated by the strength of the wind or the force of the waves, I was simply guiding our vessel through them - and I knew I was safe as long as I was with her.  I had faith and a newfound confidence - the kind that you find on the other side of adversity.

Facing your fear is the hardest thing to do - but when you don't have a choice it's a heck of a lot easier and - you never know - you might just find it's actually a whole lot of fun!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Images from Hilton Head

Some images of our time in the Hilton Head area.  What an amazing place!  We LOVE South Carolina - it's full of beauty, nature and that unforgettable Southern' charm!  Scott's godparents, Al and Willa, have been AMAZING hosts (getting our slip, putting us up in a beautiful cottage, taking us out to lovely dinners...etc) and it's going to be very hard to leave tomorrow!

Rasmus right at home in Windmill Harbor.

The South Carolina Yacht Club at Windmill Harbor.

The inside of the beautiful Yacht Club

The Porch - would love to kick back with a few on here!  Just lovely!

The Bluffton Oyster Company - one of the last working oyster factories in the South

Don't forget to "like" us on Facebook where you can see even more photos and fun stuff!  Click on the box in the upper right-hand corner!

Brittany & Scott

Saturday, December 04, 2010

The Tale of the Panicked Mariner

The Panicked Mariner...his boat has been blurred to protect his privacy.  Ha.
After our docking extravaganza yesterday, we were happily on our way (albeit with thumping hearts) when all of a sudden we heard on the radio in a muffled, stressed-out voice, "Sailboat heading south?".  Scott and I looked at each other - then around the boat...there was another boat circling around out there.

"Is he hailing us?" I asked, confused.  It was a pretty strange way to hail another boat.  Then it came through again, "Sailboat in front of me heading South?".  Scott picked up the radio and answered "This is Rasmus, go to 17".  He did not go to 17 and then said, again in a very stressed voice, "Yeah, uh - are you guys heading South on the ICW".  Scott replied we were, and again told the man to go up a channel. Channel 16 is strictly a hailing and monitoring channel - not only is it poor form to carry on a conversation on this channel, if you chat for very long on it the Coast Guard will get on to sternly remind you.  We are constantly shocked at how many boaters don't know this.


He finally switches to 17 and says, "Yeah, uh...I don't know these waters and I...I just don't feel comfortable - would it be okay if I follow you?"  We replied that while we too didn't "know" the waters we had charts and a chart-plotter and would be happy to lead the way for him.  We did, however, think this was pretty strange.  Was he just planning to "follow" other boats all the way South?!

So we are motoring along - enjoying the beautiful day and the company of Scott's wonderful godfather Al, when again we hear on the radio something to the tune of, "Uh, yeah...sailboat I'm following - do you know if I can anchor to your port side over there in that shoal?" He sounded pretty panicked.  We all looked at each other confused.  "Go to 17" Scott replied.  They both did, and Scott continued, "Is everything okay?" Our panicked mariner replied, "No...god, damn engine is smoking and I need to shut her down...I think I ran out the coolant, might need to add some wat....OH SH**!  Oh dammit!  The engine just died.  Oh crap....(more expletives)"

Again, Scott and I look at each other because a) we feel bad for this guy and b) he obviously doesn't know what he is doing.

We tell him we'll circle back around to help him out.  I get on the radio and ask him if he has Boat US towing insurance and he replies that he does.  We had originally thought about towing him ourselves, but quickly realized that doing so was unnecessary as there was no immediate "emergency".  Better to wait for Boat US.

"Oh crap..." he came back, "I don't know what to do... Aren't we in a shipping lane? I don't want to be swept out to sea".  Our charts and chart-plotter indicated we were not in a shipping lane (in fact, zero commercial vessels come through the sound we were in) and the current would be nil for the next 3-4 hours.  He was fine.  I called TowBoat US for him - and they said they'd be to him within the hour.  I felt bad just leaving a panicked person alone - so we told him we'd just sail around for a while (in case of emergency) until Boat US came with a tow.  Sometimes just the presence of another boat in the vicinity can ease one's nerves.  We've been there.

And that is what we did.

We figured we put a little coinage in the Karma bank.

Brittany & Scott

Friday, December 03, 2010

Getting off the Dock in a Current

We like ebbing currents...OFF the dock.
So this morning we had an interesting situation.  We were tied to a dock in Beaufort, SC (thanks Uncle Al!) with our stern to an oncoming ebbing current which was going about 5-6 knots.  We learned that getting off a dock in that kind of current is not only really, really hard - but really, really scary (thank god for our 53 horses!).  We tried several times to reverse out, but each time we were pushed into the dock with an incredible force.  We scratched our heads - tied up again and thought and thought.  What to do?  Scott finally said, "I'm going to go forward with the current and turn around to get our bow into it".  Sounded simple enough.  I was on the dock, fending off and all of a sudden - he puts the boat in gear and off he goes - toward several docked boats.  I have never seen our boat move so fast and my heart stopped as I saw the current just take her away like she was a cork.  "Turn! Turn!" I yelled (I was still on the dock) and finally Scott maneuvered a tight turn (again, thank god for 53 horses!) and got back control of the boat and did a little touch and go to scoop me back up.  Yikes.

If any of you boaters out there have any suggestions for dealing with a situation like this that will not cause our heart rates to sky rocket to an unnatural high - we'd love to hear it.  We are sure there is some sort of combo of spring lines and maneuvering that could have helped this situation, but we have yet to learn it.  That was a little too close for comfort for me!

Brittany & Scott

Thursday, December 02, 2010

When Tragedy Strikes

It is easy to think of the cruising life as one of beaches, palm trees, full sails and beautiful days - and it is, some of the time.  Maybe even most of the time.  It is easy to forget just how dangerous what we do is.  Scott and I try very hard to be mindful of the risks we are taking - and take precautions against them.  We always wear our inflatable life vests and harnesses when offshore, we always clip in to our jack-lines when we go forward of the cockpit, we watch weather like a hawk - but this is the 'predictable' stuff.  What about the freak accidents?

Today on the radio Scott and I literally heard a tragedy unfold.  It was a cool morning, but the sun was shining in a blue bird sky and it was a beautiful day in the calm safety of the ICW.  Around 10am we heard musings on the radio from a few boats ahead of us of shoaling and shallow water, and around 10:30 am we finally heard that one of them had run aground.  This happens to the best of us - and no matter what our charts say, these tides are dramatic and the bottom changes.

Around 11:15 am we heard a call to the Coast Guard from s/v Promise (one of a few heros of the day) stating that there was a vessel in distress (s/v Lighten Up) with an injured woman aboard.  I thought, "Huh?" - I mean, you couldn't have created a more calm and peaceful day... and then she clarified, "She has severed her finger while they were trying to get off a shoal".  Her voice was stern and serious, and indicated urgency.

Immediately my heart sank and tears welled up in my eyes.  Severed fingers are among the most common injuries on boats (in fact, my dad's left hand bears this mark) and it is for this reason Scott does not wear a wedding ring when we sail.  I was horrified.  This poor woman - hard aground on a boat that could not go anywhere, her husband (probably) desperately worried about her - with a devastating injury and bleeding badly.  Helpless.

I was behind the wheel quickly realized we were not far behind them - I  called to Scott to get out our offshore medical kit and call them on the radio.  He did, and notified the vessel s/v Promise that while we had an extensive medical kit, we were not medically trained - but would be standing by to help if we were needed.  They thanked us and told us they too were headed that way from the other direction.  We continued to proceed towards them.

As we did, more of the situation unfolded.  Apparently another vessel, m/v Mama's Money had come to their aid and had been working with them to try free them from the shoal when the injury occurred.  I am not sure exactly how it happened, but when dealing with anchors, windlasses, chain, winches,'s easy to see how quickly something can go wrong.  These are serious systems that can have very serious consequences with one small misstep.

More talk on the radio indicated that the m/v Mama's Money was going to take the woman on board, and  bring her to the nearest dock, where the Coast Guard would be waiting with an ambulance.  The situation was dire, but stabilized - she was on her way to shore and would be getting to medical attention as quickly as possible. As both our boat and s/v Promise converged on s/v Lighten Up - my heart sank further as I heard the helpless voice of her husband - alone on his boat, worried sick about his wife and completely helpless.  I honestly could not think of a worse situation to be in and in that moment, I would have done just about anything I could to help that man and his wife.

Again, on the radio we heard s/v Promise call s/v Lighten Up and state that the woman on board would join the lone husband and either wait with him for the tide to come up - or take his boat to a safe harbor while he got picked up by the Coast Guard if he felt so inclined.  She was delivered to his vessel by a passing fishing boat.  I have no idea who this woman is, but I intend to give her a big hug if and when I meet her because she was stellar today.  The husband decided to stay with the vessel, and wait for it to be freed, with the woman from s/v Promise aboard with him.

We circled around s/v Promis and s/v Lighten Up for a while, standing by, when the husband called us on the radio saying that while he was thankful for our willingness to assist, there was nothing we could do.  We knew it, but somehow just being near him felt right and leaving felt wrong. Knowing there was nothing we could do - we left, wishing him well and sending him our deepest condolences.

While this is a horrific reminder that what we do is not without it's risks and that tragedy can strike in the most unlikely of places, I was totally and utterly proud to be part of a community that so selflessly comes to the aid of others.  The boats s/v Promise and m/v Mama's Money went above and beyond - and the Coast Guard as well responded with professionalism, speed and care.  We were all willing to do whatever we could to help and the woman's situation was much better because of this.

I do not know the status of the woman as I write, but I do know from the last update from m/v Mama's Money that she was conscious, thinking clearly, and doing well.  By now she is most certainly in the care of a hospital and nearing the road to recovery.

My thoughts go out to s/v Lighten Up.  And to the vessels s/v Promise and m/v Mama's Money - you have our utmost respect.  We are honored to be on the water with the likes of you.


Brittany & Scott

Post Script: I got the number for Theresa (the woman who injured herself) and called the next day, just to let her know we were thinking about her and hoping everything was okay.  A couple days later she called me back and a couple days after that we connected.  While she lost the tip of her pinky, she is happy, healthy and with a wonderful positive attitude about the whole thing - as her husband said, it could've been a lot worse.  She was very touched appreciative of our call and we're hoping to one day meet in person as we both make our way South!  Here's hoping!

The Gypsy Life

Sometimes you just gotta beach yourself and slow down.
As I mentioned yesterday, Scott and I have moved with ease into a gypsy life.  I have always thought I had a gypsy soul - adaptation seems to be one of my strong points.  I am equally comfortable in the bush in East Africa and at a black tie gala in downtown Chicago.  I have a strong affinity for a simple, country life in a small town - but also love the energy, excitement and pace of a city.  Scott, too, has a knack for adaptation - he's lived all over the US from Santa Barbara to Chicago, and for most of that time owned nothing more than would fit in his Dodge Durango.

We like change.  It feels good to be moving, and what's best is we move in our home.  We have everything we could ever want or need tucked into our little tortoise shell of a boat.  When the weather is right and our feet start to itch, we pull up anchor or cast off our lines and quietly move on leaving nothing in our wake.  When we started this trip, we set a fast pace - we had to, for old man winter was tapping his icy fingers on our shoulders every single day.

Now that we are in the South and the threat of ice and snow is gone -  we still feel the urge to move on, see a new town, fire up the engine or (preferably) set the sails to a new course.  We have loved ones to meet in the near future and our pace is not quite as slow as we'd like.  We have learned that even we need to take time to stop and smell the roses, look around and take it all in.  Even we - in our little sailboat that goes about as fast as a runner can jog - need to pace ourselves.  We are looking forward to being tied to a dock less and out at anchor more where we will be more isolated and more in tune with ourselves, where the noises and pressure to go ashore and get things "done" will be less and where we will be forced to just be.

We'll get there.


Brittany & Scott

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Life is Good...

...when you can go surfing in December.

Yes.  This is definitely proof positive that we are doing something right.
Go Scott, Go!  (Yes, he did get up...just hard to capture with my little camera on 14x zoom)
We were planning on leaving Charleston early this morning, but after meeting up with fellow cruiser/bloggers - Lara and Brian of Forest and Fin and learning of the weather system that we were not quite out of - we decided to stay.  Lara and Brian are awesome.  We met, gelled instantly and became fast friends.  They are on the same "route" as we are ("route" being a very loose term meaning "South") and are actually from Charleston so they took us all around to the hotspots.  One such hotspot is a little town called Folly Beach (shout out to Pat for letting us hijack use his car!!) where Brian and Scott got their surf on while Lara and I chilled on the beach snapping photos.  Folly Beach is the kind of place I could get used to; surf shops, laid back vibe, people walking around in flip flops, dogs welcome everywhere...your quintessential surf town.  I'm learning I like surf towns.  A lot, actually.

Anyway, we have had a fabulous time here in Charleston (what a wonderful city - so quaint, a hint of Euro, beautiful, laid back...and the food, oh the food!) but now it's time to move on!  It's funny how used to this gypsy life we've become - staying in a place much more than two days feels odd, like we're getting too comfortable and need a new horizon.  So tomorrow at 5am, we're shoving off to find one!

Brittany & Scott
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