Monday, January 31, 2011

Weather Window

No, this is not a bad trip - this is a pic of the Atlantic.  The red is the Gulf Stream.  Pretty neat!
Going to the Bahamas is really no big deal, in fact - the westernmost island in the chain, Bimimi, is only about 50 nautical miles away.  That's a day sail.  Piece o' cake, right?  Wrong.  The 'thing' is this:  when going to the Bahamas, you must cross the infamous Gulf Stream.  This current is about as famous as Captain Bligh for it's unruliness.  Many a boat has met it's fate in this stream - boats who have navigated Cape Horn and the Southern Ocean have arrived in the Atlantic only to sink in a storm in the stream.   It can be mean.

The stream is a current that originates in Florida and traverses the whole east coast from south to north before jutting out across the Atlantic.  It is such a big deal that it actually influences the climate of North America and Europe.  This ain't no lazy river, that's for sure.

But I digress...

Crossing the Gulf Stream should not be taken lightly.  Conditions in it are known to go from bad to worse in no time at all,  and the waves generated in this river within an Ocean can be colossal.  However, not all is lost.  Conditions can be easy breezy - if you have wind without any northerly component.  Ideally, you want a "weather window" that consists of light southerly winds for 2-3 days in a row.  This is what we have been waiting for - wind from the South will help to ensure an uneventful crossing as the wind will be going with instead of against the stream.  In addition to making sure the weather is ideal, you must also account for the current which can be up to 6 knots in places.  For example, if we are to sail to Bimini from here - the magnetic compass course (as the crow flies) is 101 degrees.  However, if we were to steer that course, we would end up way above of our mark (because the current would push us north) - so to avoid this - we'll steer a course of about 127 degrees .  Pretty crazy.

The good news is this;  it looks like we'll have the weather window we're looking for this Wednesday thru Saturday and we'll be making the hop with our good friends, Lara and Brian.  You have no idea how ready for crystal blue water we all are!


Brittany & Scott

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Dock Locked

Rasmus, Dock Locked 
As Scott and I ready the boat for heading out to sea again, we are finding ourselves being what we like to call "dock locked".  This is not ideal.  Not only does being at the dock cost money, but it makes spending money much, much easier.  Originally, we decided to stay at a marina for a few days to make provisioning the boat a bit easier.  Being able to bring mass quantities of "stuff" aboard from a dock is much more convenient than bringing "stuff" to a dinghy, then making several trips back and forth to the boat.  In fact, everything is more convenient from the dock - hence finding ourselves in our current predicament.*

But where does it end?  At first we just wanted to provision the boat with food (check!) - but now, being that we are patiently waiting out a good weather window for our crossing to the Bahamas, we have gone back into "project mode" and have a to-do list a mile long (luckily all preventative/upgrades).  So we remain at the dock, because it makes running (or, in Scott's case, biking) to West Marine, Ace Hardware and Home Depot that much easier.  What do we do at those places?  Spend money.  It's an endless cycle that resembles a Fibonacci sequence.  Lots of dollar signs.

We are planning on picking up a mooring ball near our friends Brian and Lara in Miami tomorrow where we will continue to wait for a good weather window to the Bahamas...If you are one of the rare people in the world who can manifest weather - we'd like a nice three day window of light winds out of the South please :).  Thanks!

Brittany & Scott

*Mind you, we didn't have our outboard motor until yesterday, so we didn't have much of a choice really.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ode to my Husband

My honey bunny.
(Warning:  Cheese alert!)*

You are the dreamer of dreams, the master of ideas, and the doer of do's.

When you get an idea in your head - you run with it with the strength of 1,000 horses.  Nothing can hold you back - you are the embodiment of "where there is a will, there is a way".

You are methodical, thoughtful, meticulous, and clever.  You are steady, calm, cool and patient.

You refuse to take shortcuts, think everything through and just like the engineer you were trained to be - you leave no stone unturned, no thought un-thought.

If something needs to get done - I have no doubt you will do it, and do it right.

When you embark on the daunting task of fixing something - I know that you will figure it out.

If a solution needs to be found and my head is fried - I know you will find it.

But, most importantly, if I need a laugh, a hug, a chat, a kiss - you bring it right to the surface with impeccable timing.

Your innate capability to handle just about anything thrown your way never ceases to amaze me.

You are a wonderful husband, a wonderful partner in crime, and a super fun gypsy to float around with!

I love you,


*Don't say I didn't warn you!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Provisioning for the Bahamas - The Master List

A few of you have emailed asking us to see what this "provisioning" list looks like.

With no further ado, here it is.  Take a look.  And you all wonder what we'll eat without a fridge...psh.

There a few things missing, like fresh fruits and fresh veggies - as well as a few other snack foods we are planning to pick up over the next couple of days.  But this should give you an idea of just how fully loaded we are!

Brittany & Scott

Nautical Hoarders*

Ever seen that show Hoarders on A&E?  I've only been able to stomach it two or three times, but it chronicles the lives (and homes) of hoarders.  The website describes the show as this, "...a fascinating look inside the lives of two different people whose inability to part with their belongings is so out of control that they are on the verge of a personal crisis." I'll say.

I'll bet if we sent them this photo, they'd snatch us right up.

Hi! We can't seem to part with our things! Or can we....?
Let me be the first to tell you that provisioning a boat is not a pretty job.  In fact, when we talk about this trip - it's not the storms or the seas or monsters from the deep that get me worked up - it's provisioning. Two things to note: 1) I have not been blessed with the gift of culinary prowess (yes, I know, I know...I can learn...) and 2) I have been blessed with a very bland palate (British roots?) and have been known to be able to eat the exact same food, day in and day out, for months at a time (I mean, who else here has gotten a Christmas gift from their local Subway chain? Seriously).  What these two equal is a big fat "zero" in the creativity department.  I have gotten a little better for fear that Scott will mutiny, but it's definitely nothing to write home about.

Provisioning the boat for the Bahamas is a big deal as we have to stock up on as much as we can, lest we need to purchase it there for an astronomical price.  The only two things I have read they have at good prices is butter and rum.  Unless you can sustain yourself on hot, buttered rum...well, you need to make other arrangements.

The fact that we don't have refrigeration and are pescatarian (fish eating veggies) makes provisioning a little easier as we have less choices.  So we work with what we've got.  We made a grocery list based on items we currently eat and based on recipes in some simple cruising cookbooks like, Can-to-Pan Cookery and the Galley Guru.  We went shopping and loaded our cart.   The best part was when we were checking out, the lovely lady at the counter told the bagger, "make sure to double-bag because they need to walk down the dock to their boat".  When we asked her how she knew we were on a boat she simply replied with a smirk, "Honey, nobody shops like this for their home".

A large part of our problem cooking on the boat is that we can't just open a door and see what we have available - our food is under seats, settees, floorboards, beds...etc.  Unfortunately for us, we never made a master list of what we have and where it is, so we were sort of cooking blind.  We determined we needed to take stock.  So we did.

Scott sat at his computer while I unloaded all of our stores and read off each. and. every. item.  While this process took us four hours, it was WELL worth it.  Now, we'll be able to pull up a spreadsheet and see not only what we have, but where it is.  This will grant us a lot more flexibility in the galley.  Well, that's the idea anyway.  We can check items off as we use them and we'll have a better idea of what worked and what didn't for the next time around.

Groceries for 3 months on boat: $468.71* 
Time spent putting said groceries away: 5.5 hours 
Managing to get 60 beers 44 bottles of wine aboard: Priceless.
*Not including wine & beer, which is embarrassing to write

Brittany & Scott

*Big thanks to our very good friend Julie for inspiring this post (via Facebook), HUGE thanks to our good friends, Brian and Lara of Forest and Fin, for sharing their rental mini-van with us (would not have been possible on the bike!) and a shout-out to s/v Kaleo for sharing their provisioning list with us.

Friday, January 21, 2011

What's next?

This picture doesn't quite work here, but I took it and love it.
We are now at docked at the quaint little Cooley's Landing Marina.  Floating.

Yes, you read that correctly.  We are no longer a) on the hard and b) at a boat yard - both of these are facts to celebrate.  Life in a boat yard isn't that hard, as I wrote previously, but it's definitely not nice.  It feels great to be buoyed by water again and in view of a little grassy park, a pavilion, and palm trees instead of gravel, jack stands, and travel lifts.  It feels nice to wake up to the sound of singing birds and lapping waves as opposed to the sound of an erratically whizzing power sander or soda blaster.

And yet, I am not sleeping well.

I wake up between 2-4:00am and from there, it's eyes wide open city.  No fun.

Here's the thing - now that we are back in the water - we are prepping for the Bahamas.  This is the next big milestone in our journey and not only involves provisioning the boat for three months (seriously?!) and crossing the Gulf Stream (famed for it's, shall we say, "moodiness") but it means we will be away from the comforts of convenience.  We have been living in Ft. Lauderdale the past month which, if you have never been here, is a mariners paradise.  Whatever you need for your boat, it's here.  Need to have a flame painted on the side of your boat?  Want to add a tiki bar to your aft deck? How about a hot tub?  There are probably 20 vendors lining up to do it.  That's the name of the game here and we've enjoyed this during the last few weeks of boat preparation and work.

This is not how it will be in the Bahamas.  Not only is everything 2-5 times more expensive there, but resources are fewer and farther between.  If (and when) something does go will be a major exercise in resourcefulness and patience.  Having lived in Tanzania, East Africa for three years I have played this game (you have no idea), but for some reason - I continue to go through list after list after list in my head, after which, of course, I start playing that "what if" game...and we all know who wins there.

I think what I am going through right now is what keeps people at the dock forever.  Wanting to be 100% prepared and 100% ready for everything that lies ahead and that is just not possible or realistic.  Show me a cruiser who was  prepared or ready for every situation he/she encountered and I'll show you a liar.  I mean, we're not going to the moon for god's sake.  That's the Pacific...

That said - we cannot wait to get there.  We cannot wait to sit at anchor for as long as we want.  Cannot wait to jump in the crystal clear water for a morning swim.  Cannot wait to dingy to shore for a stroll on the beach.  Cannot wait to snorkel and spear fish.  Cannot wait to partake in cruisers happy hours (duh!).  We are so excited we can taste it.

I guess that's the thing - as long as the excitement outweighs the apprehension, you're good to go.

That said, we hope to be Bahama-bound in the next 10 days or so, depending on the weather gods, of course.  Ready or not, we're a comin'!

Brittany & Scott

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Newly Salted!

Us, the day we left Chicago...pre-salted. 
Today we were featured in a great new site for cruisers called Newly Salted which profiles cruisers who have been cruising for less than 2 years.  The idea is to share real information - cruiser to cruiser - in a casual, 10 question format.  I love it.  The site is a companion site to the wonderful Interview with a Cruiser Project (IWACP), a site I have been a fan of almost since it's inception, which poses 10 questions to cruisers who have been at it for 2 years or more.  I have found the IWACP a great resource over the past few months so I was pleased as punch and jumped at the opportunity when Livia asked if she could post our "10 Questions for Windtraveler" on the Newly Salted site.  Though you've probably read it before, check our our shining moment here.  Be sure to "like" the IWACP on Facebook and be kept "in the know"!

Brittany & Scott

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Why Take The Path Less Chosen?

Yesterday, I posed a question on our Facebook page about what people would want to know about living aboard.  The idea is to develop some fodder for articles that I will (soon!!) write and submit to sailing magazines.  One question asked why Scott and I chose this life, when so many others in our situation (young, newlyweds...etc.) choose a life of the more, I don't know, "land-based" variety.

The truth is both Scott and I have wanted nothing other than what we are living right now for the larger portion of both of our lives.  When we met and realized we shared the same dream, well, that was just gravy.  Let me see if I can explain from my point of view...

I've always been a dreamer.  I attribute this fact to wonderfully supportive parents who not only instilled a love of travel, but a love of reading...more specifically, a love of stories.  I grew up wanting a story of my own.  Not necessarily a book, per se, but a life worthy of one.  The path less chosen historically seems to scratch this itch and just seems to be the one that I take in life - a lot.  Rebel spirit?  Perhaps.  I, however, attribute it to something greater - something bigger than myself.  I am following what is in my heart and soul.  I am living my life on my terms and I am lucky enough to a) be able to do it and b) have someone I love do it with me.  I count my blessings daily.

Scott and I have planned this journey from the moment we met 4 years ago.  We made some sacrifices (only had one car, lived in a very cheap apartment that could not get any closer to the 'el' train, gave up our summer to work on our boat...etc) but I think the most important thing is that neither of us ever wavered or doubted what we were after.  We just kept our eye on the prize.  Kept the dream alive, as it were.

Sure - we don't have a house (or any real "land based" possessions to speak of), have put a 'hold' on children and are alienated (physically) from our family and friends.  However, you just can't have it all in life and the way we look at it, life is to short to not get out there and enjoy the heck out of it.  For us - that means traveling, meeting new people, seeing the beauty of the world and sailing.  We choose to live freely, away from commutes, away from neon office lights, away from meetings and deadlines and  away from the totally constructed 'norms' of society.  Sure - we might return broke as a joke and have to start all over, but we're going to have one heck of a story to tell our kids...or have them be a part of.

If that doesn't sum up why we're doing this, I'll let my old friend Robert Frost do it in his beautiful poem, The Road Not Taken:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Sure has.

Brittany & Scott

*Wrote this at 4:30am after being unable to sleep due to a) a buzzing mosquito around my head and b) a sudden (and unexpected) downpour which sent me up on deck to close up the boat.  That is why you are seeing this post marked at 5am.  :)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ask not what your boat can do for you...

But what you can do for your boat.

Scott and I have spent the last 10 days or so doing just this.  The way we look at it, the more TLC we put into our boat, the more TLC she'll give us right back.   This is a win/win situation for sure.

Taking care of your vessel is a full-time job.  I read once that you are in really good shape if 80% of your systems are in working order.  I'm no mathlete, but that means that at any given time 20% of a boats systems will be in some state of disrepair.  I'm sure it's not much different than a home, except for the fact that a home cannot sink, isn't floating in a devastatingly corrosive environment, and isn't surviving the equivalent of an earthquake every other day.

By taking the time to go through all of our systems, make minor adjustments, mini-repairs and, yes, even beautify our boat - we think (or shall I say hope) we're saving ourselves much bigger headaches down the way.

We take great pride in our boat - her strength, her beauty, her power - and we want to make sure she is in the best possible condition she can be, so that she will keep us in the best possible condition we can be.

Boat Karma? Indeed.

Brittany & Scott

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Images from Key West

Key West (whose motto boasts: "where the weird go pro") is truly a magical place and one that has always attracted free spirits and dreamers.  Not only did the likes of Jimmy Buffett, Ernest Hemingway, Shell Silverstein and a slew of other artists and musicians make their mark here - but this little Southernmost Key even tried to secede from the Union (after one whole minute of rebellion) in 1982.  Any place that tries to cut ties with the U.S.A and call themselves "The Conch Republic" is bound to have some stories - and it does.  It's the kind of place where you'll see a man walk into a bar with a parrot on his shoulder, a woman walking down the street carrying a sunglasses-wearing dog in a baby Bjorn, and a violin playing street performer who actually doesn't know how to play the violin, but sings in fluent Swedish...all in the span of one block*.  This place thrives on uniqueness.  It also boasts many, many bars and the ability to walk around in public with open liquor.  Just sayin'. 

Though a lot of Key West is "blurry" - I did manage to get some shots...

One design race boats getting rigged for Key West Race Week at Truman Annex.

Hemingway's old watering hole...
Lots of color in Key West!

It's Mardi Gras everyday here! 
Always bloomin'
The most famous main drag; Duval Street.
It is truly 90 miles to Cuba from here...Cigar anyone?

Brittany & Scott

*Yes, I saw every one of those things with my own eyes.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

When Opportunity Knocks...

Photo credit Billy Black open the door!

I may or may not have mentioned this - but one of my mantras in life is this: "if there is an opportunity, take it".  Opportunities tend to beget opportunities - and I have found that taking advantage of what is offered to me is a wonderful way to live a life full of fun, adventure, interesting encounters and excitement.

So when our friend Mark (aka "Gonzo") asked us if we would drive the chase vehicle for this magnificent boat to Key West while their crew of fourteen sailed there, Scott and I jumped at the chance.  Why not?  Not only do we get free lodging, a little pocket money and the use of a car for a day or two - we get to go to Key West, one of my most favorite places on Earth and a place that holds many, many memories for me...but those are for another post.

Anyway - it would have been easy to say "no" - after all, we still have a lot of work to do and taking 2-3 days off is not ideal.  But you know another mantra of mine?  Work hard, play hard.

Off we go...

Monday, January 10, 2011

Life on the Hard...not so Hard!

As many of you know, we are living on our boat which is currently out of the water and on jack stands.  This is referred to as being "on the hard".  This is nothing new for us or our boat, it's just that last summer when we were "on the hard", we had an apartment to clean up in and escape from the boat to.  Why would we want to escape from the boat you ask?  Because when in "work mode" any boat is a total disaster area, that's why.  We, quite literally, do not have room to swing a cat in here and maneuvering around the boat requires tip-toeing over this, grabbing a railing and swooping over that - arching *just so* to get around this, crawling on all fours over get the picture.  We would make Cirque du Soleil proud.  What is amazing is that I have not had a single freak out yet.  You see, I am what some might call a "neat freak".  I like my living spaces to be tidy, clean, and welcoming.  I won't follow you around with Lysol or anything, but everything has a place, and everything should be in it.  If you have ever seen our boat or previous apartments, you know what I am talking about (my desk at work - now that was another thing...).

And yet at this moment our boat is in total disarray (it's like we barfed bins, lines, buckets, tools and spares)....and I am somehow okay with this.  I am not entirely sure how or why - but perhaps it's the fact that I know deep down I simply cannot beat this mess?  Perhaps I have just resigned to accept it as what life has to be at the moment?  Perhaps I am learning that life isn't always meant to be clean and tidy?  Deep, I know.

What is 'hard' about this life (besides the mess) is the fact that we are living without plumbing.  Because we are out of the water, our toilet won't work properly (rendering it useless) and our sinks just drain onto the blue tarp below us.  This is a real shame for a girl who drinks a LOT of water and has to get up to go to the bathroom at least twice a night (TMI?).  Every night between midnight and 4am I have to get up, crawl down a 12 foot ladder, walk all sleepy and zombie like 75 yards to the bathroom and back again.  Twice.  In the middle of the night.  I have had more than one stand-off with the boat yard raccoons.

As for the dishes, I do not miss doing them (although with our new sink it should be much easier!).  I do, however, wish the dirty dishes that have been sitting below us in a bucket full of soapy water would wash themselves.

Tonight - Thai take-out!

Brittany & Scott

Friday, January 07, 2011

Work Mode!

One "little" project - putting reflective tape in a pattern on our
mast so we can distinguish our boat in a dark anchorage at night!
Whew!  It has been a crazy couple of days.  While we are living in total chaos (see Facebook for proof!), we're getting a lot done.  There is something to be said for getting into what Scott and I call "work mode".  Work mode is when you just put your nose to the grindstone and git 'er done.

A lot of little projects have accumulated over the past three months - some which we have tackled, most of which we have not (Note:  this doesn't include the "big" or "essential" projects which, obviously, get done stat).  I blame the fact that these "little" projects are not urgent for our procrastination.  Nevertheless, big or small, they require attention.  Life on a sailboat can be very dangerous (and, not to be dramatic, but deadly) if you neglect even the tiniest of ring-dings, so we're hitting it hard over here.  Both Scott and I agree that getting into "work mode" by hauling our boat was the right thing to do, because over the past two days we have checked off 21 items off of our 40 item "to-do" list.  We would never have gotten all that done if we were still in the's just too easy to get distracted.
I don't know what it is that you're procrastinating doing, but perhaps if you get yourself in "work mode" you can knock a few things off your list as well.  Whether it be locking yourself in your room, turning off the phone and the computer, or making that initial call - hop on it!  It feels oh-so good to tick things off the list!

Brittany & Scott

PS.  I am writing this all hopped up on Epoxy fumes, so excuse any grammatical or spelling errors.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Back to Work!

Yesterday Scott and I had the boat hauled out of the water at River Bend Marine where we plan on being for the next couple of weeks or so to do some work on our boat.  We chose this place because a) it's centrally located and walking distance to a bunch of conveniences (West Marine, hardware store...etc) b) because they have 24 hour security and allow DIY'ers and c) because we can remain living aboard therefore relinquishing the need to spend oodles of cash on motels and hotels (a penny saved is a penny earned!).  So far, we love it - the people are great and very helpful, and we have some super fun boat neighbors around who are of like mind.  

Our "plan" right now is to patch the scar on the bottom of the keel (check Facebook for a pic of it - and "like" us while you're at it!), replace the one thru-hull we didn't before, perhaps get our old girl buffed and waxed and the big one: install a water maker (Village Tec "Little Wonder").  The list goes on and on....we've got a bunch of other smaller projects to do as well.  That said....I've got to go....Scott is barking at me to get off the computer and get to work!

No, we're not super patriotic, we just chose the colors red, white, and blue
to mark our anchor chain every 10 feet....anchoring will be much easier now!

Stairway to heaven?  Not quite. But now we feel like we live in a tree house!

Brittany & Scott

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy New Year

A boy playing on the beach in Anna Maria Island.

We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day.  
-Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Happy New Year friends, may you fill your "book" with health, love, happiness...and adventure!

Brittany & Scott
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