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Friday, November 11, 2011

We Begin!

We have not had a moment to catch our breath since we left!  After a decent flight across the country (I highly recommend Economy Plus, for the extra $20!) we arrived in Annapolis with a long punch list of things we needed to do before our October 11th departure, and managed to get a fair amount accomplished: Unpacking, provisioning & cleaning were completed with a minimum of fuss.  We were disappointed to find that most of the vendors at the Boat Show did not stock many of the items we planned to purchase, so we had to order (or postpone) them.  Still, things were looking to be in good order :)

We hired a Captain for trip, as we felt a bit more experience would be welcome....we are still familiarizing ourselves with the boat and decided we'd rather be safe than sorry!  The Captain brought along one crew member to assist with watches on the voyage, as he estimated the trip would take somewhere in the neighborhood of 56 hours. We left Annapolis as planned on the 11th, and had a nice sail down the Chesapeake in brisk winds and choppy seas. 

Leaving Annapolis (for the final time!)
Our anchorage that evening was a familiar one; we were back in scenic (and smelly) Reedsville.  After an uneventful night, we were off to Norfolk, where we docked close to downtown, on the river.  All the Naval shipyards were in full swing, with lots on coming & going.  
View from our "back porch" in Norfolk
Our berth in Norfolk

We had a most interesting run from Norfolk, out around Cape Hatteras & Cape Fear, into Southport, NC. After checking weather in the morning, our Captain decided that the weather window was favorable, so we headed out.  Let the record show that Laurie did not feel the same way, after checking her favorite weather sites...but depart we did!

Bill & I had been calling it our "shake down" cruise, and that is exactly what it turned out to be: by the time we limped into Southport (low fuel & engine trouble) some 50 hours later, the whole boat looked like it had been dipped in Margarita Salt-a result of the sheer amounts of sea water washing over the boat...
Water over the bow...
Before the weather really hit...
 she, and we, came through just fine, with a few minor (mostly) repairs to be made: Bill had to switch out the head pumps while underway in 6-8ft seas, the starboard fuel tank had an issue, leaving us with only the port & spare tanks, and the starboard navigation light was taken off by a wave at some point during our voyage. We also had part of the aft rail rip loose because the dinghy spent so much time slamming into it-our Captain did not want Bill to go back & secure it better, as he felt it was not safe to do so. We navigated through winds ranging from 20-30 knots (mostly 25k) and seas from 6-8 for some hours, 8-10 for about 20+ hours, and the occasional 10-12, with random 14 to 16 footers tossed in every once in awhile just keep it exciting ☺  Despite the weather, we thoroughly enjoyed the journey!  I rigged a strap for the coffee maker, so we could have hot coffee any time & it worked perfectly *patting self again*.
Aren't I clever???
We survived our watches, although at one point poor Bill almost had a heart attack when he found me sprawled out on our bunk, feet hanging off & arms spread out iron cross style-he apparently thought I had expired & shook me awake....really, all I was trying to do was keep myself on the bed-hence the arms straight out positioning!  The weather, while wild, compensated by being balmy & we had a beautiful full moon to keep things lit up nicely.  We were most happy to arrive in Southport, and after bidding adieu to our Captain & crew, we went out & celebrated our success!

We sat in Southport for a day, then looked at the weather and realized  we had to leave immediately, or be stuck there for close to a week due to weather, so we hauled in the dock lines & off we went.  We were able sail for about 6-8 hours or so, before we realized that on that tack, we would just about double our distance and time, making a 20 hour trip for just the 2 us into something we really did not want to do-so we fired up the engine, motored through the night, and arrived in Charleston, SC in the early morning. Bill did an amazing job of docking in 1.5 knot current that was ripping through the marina.  Since we got here, we have been cleaning, repairing, and attempting to catch up on lost sleep.  The weather, lovely upon our arrival, has turned quite chilly and howling wind keeps us rocking!
Sailing along @ 8.7 knots in 10.9 knots (true) of wind! What a beauty!
Now, we get to hopefully start the fun part!  We have already been a aboard a "Mega Yacht" (invited by crew, not the rich folks who owned it, lol) and enjoyed an Oyster Roast on Saturday here at the Marina. 
At the Oyster Roast
And, of course (Bill & Laurie here, don't forget..) we have managed to find a couple of great bars, one of which is the perfect dive, complete with pool tables....
To top it all off, our grill was delivered yesterday, so we can even throw on a steak to celebrate!

Fast Forward

August & September were spent at a rather breakneck pace, as we finalized plans for our October 1st departure.  The house needed to be completely cleaned up, with every cabinet, closet, attic, and garage space gone through, packed up & emptied out....all the while keeping things spotless for Open House days & Realtor showings-ugh! We also needed to change our Domicile to Florida, arrange for mail forwarding, move all banking online and shut off  phone and cable.  

The most important thing was to make sure we said goodbye to all of our friends, so we staged the "Bill & Laurie Farewell Tour".  We scheduled it for the week before we were to leave, thinking that we would have all of our work done & would have time to enjoy....NOT!  Amidst all the craziness, we had 5 nights of local stops to make on our tour: Baja & Money Band on September 22, Lalapalooza & The Brit on the 23rd, Brophy's for Monday Night Football on the 26th, English Ales in Marina for Firkin Night on the 27th & Flanagan's on the 28th.  Whew! We had so many people at Baja, that we didn't get to talk to all them, let alone all our "parking lot" car & motorcycles we had to make a second unannounced stop at Baja on the 29th!  All in all, it was an amazing tour :)  We have wonderful friends that we will truly miss!  Hopefully, they all want to vacation somewhere warm & floating...
Our early am departure out of Monterey on October 1st was welcome, simply because sitting on a plane meant we got to rest! More soon....

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Hot August Nights

We headed back to Annapolis in August, accompanied by Ryan and Morgan.  They immediately made themselves at home, with Ryan residing in the Starboard forward cabin, and Morgan in the Port.  Both thought the boat was pretty cool.  We put Ryan to work right away, cleaning bilges & helping Bill with general maintenance →

← Morgan also got in on the "swab" action

That pretty much set the tone for the whole week, as this was a working vacation, so not so much fun for the kids! The weather was what we were now used to in Annapolis: hot, humid and scattered thunder showers.

We did have a lighthearted moment, though, when we held our renaming ceremony.   Superstition runs high amongst sailors, so we were required to follow some rather elaborate steps to ensure that we did not offend Poseidon, or any other Sea Gods that may be out there!  We did some research online, and decided upon a course of action: Rum, Cigars, Champagne, and an official speech from Bill, along with a toast seemed appropriate.

Morgan hated the rum, but quite enjoyed blowing smoke rings with the cigar...go figure!

Mañana was scheduled for a spa day down in Reedsville at the end of the week, so we woke the kids up at 5:45 am on the day of departure, not so much because we needed help leaving port, but because Bill wanted a family bonding moment at you might imagine, a most popular move.  Not!  I have say though, that the sunrise was worth it :)  The kids both went back to bed at 7 am, and we didn't see them again until close to noon!

Our trip down the Chesapeake was lovely, with beautiful sunny weather & light winds.  Alas, the wind was on our bow, and we had a schedule we had to meet, so again, the sailing had to wait.  The good news?  Otto (our auto helm) kept us on course nicely.   I took some beautiful pictures along the way:


We arrived in Reedsville around 4pm, and successfully anchored for the first time.  *Patting selves on back* We then had to take all the head sails down and stow them, as the boatyard in Deltaville (our next stop) required that they be off while Mañana was out of the water having her bottom repainted.  That my friends, was something we should have had the video camera running for!  The wind kicked up & was blowing straight over the beam, so when we lowered the Jib (a BIG sail) the wind wanted to push it over the side, at the same time we were trying to fold it up.  At one point, it looked as if the sail was going to kite right of the boat, taking me along with it...Bill told Morgan, in a rather urgent voice, to jump into the middle of it.  Morgan, being female, 19, and in a mood, put her hands on her hips, looked at Bill, and said "you didn't say please!".  Bill was not amused, let his daughter know that, and she promptly sat on the sail, allowing her mother to remain on the boat. Whew.  We eventually managed to get the sails down & stowed, and headed off into Reedsville for a much deserved dinner & a beer.  Ryan manned the dinghy helm, and had a great time getting all (except himself) soaked by the waves that were rolling in, powered by the wind behind them.  We arrived at the Crazy Crab a rather bedraggled bunch, so elected to sit outside.  We all agreed that we were most happy to be anchored on the other side of the bay, as the fish processing plant was in full swing, and the stench was appalling! How, we wondered, do people live, let alone try to EAT, nearby??  Nauseating is the word that immediately comes to mind.  And just in case you need a little help imagining what the stench was like, I'll help; think of the worst can of spoiled cat food you ever opened, multiply by 100 and you MIGHT get close.  Not to mention, the food was bad, too!  Our dinghy ride back to the boat, sans flashlight (oops!) was interesting, but we arrived safely & tucked in for the night.

Out trip down to Deltaville in the morning was quick & Mañana was soon docked and ready for her beauty treatment.  We packed up & headed for Norfolk, where we spent a nice day in, with Bill & Ryan heading off the Naval Museum and Laurie & Morgan off to do some shopping.  A quick side trip to Virginia Beach and we were done! Another step closer to our departure....

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Diary of a Bad Blogger

Hard to believe it is already August!  I have proven to be a very tardy blogger :(  But I shall do my best to rectify the situation immediately...
In order to keep things nice & tidy, I am going to update you all the easy way: month by month, just as if I had actually done it properly to begin with!

May: Tomorrow Finally Arrives
Once we decided to act, things happened quite quickly!  We put an offer on "American Pie" a Beneteau 57 flagged out of Deltaville, VA, and currently residing in Annapolis, MD.  Our offer was accepted with no counter, much to our surprise, as we (& our broker) offered well below what we actually expected to pay.  We then had to work to get financing, insurance, down payment, inspections and a host of other items in order.  We flew to Annapolis for a whirlwind 3-day trip for our Sea trial and inspections, then finalized the deal; on May 20th, "American Pie" was ours!  At that point, we had a sum total of about 45 minutes of sea time on her, but were certainly ready for more :)

June: The devil is in the details
June saw us scrambling to get all of our "affairs" in order...we needed to get the house ready to list, get all of our extraneous belongings sold or donated, and start planning for our (hopefully) upcoming move.  Have you ever tried getting your children to make a decision on what to keep & what to throw away?  Not easy...
We also needed to research a host of things necessary for safe living on a boat, which includes everything from the best life raft down to the smallest connector needed for a potentially critical repair miles from anywhere!  A lot of details...

July: Manana Goes Topless
July was a fun month, as we were able to return to Annapolis & spend some time on the boat, now stripped of the name "American Pie", although yet to be officially renamed "Manana", as her lettering was not yet on the stern.  We decided (darn tax man) to flag her out of Dover, Delaware, and completed all the necessary paperwork.  We also contracted for a myriad of work items to be completed:  The hard top removed, cushions recovered, Hull buffed, waxed & polished, teak refinished, engine overhauled, and much, much more...
When we arrived on July 1st, her top was off (gasp) and she looked much better stripped of that gosh-awful thing!  Naked was a vast improvement!  We spent a crazy busy week going through every nook & cranny of the boat, in 98 degree heat & 99 percent humidity...yuck. Thank goodness we have A/C on her!  Our one major issue was a horrible diesel smell that was the result of a fuel spill that occurred while the fuel was being polished (cleaned). We spent hours on our first day cleaning the bilge, but where never able to rid the boat of the smell.
Fourth of July in Annapolis was great fun despite the heat; we managed to buy & outfit a dinghy in time to motor in to town to watch the festivities.  The sheer number of boats on the bay was mind boggling!  Awesome Parade & nice fireworks rounded out the evening.
We headed home tired, pleased with what we had accomplished, and disappointed that we never got to do more than take Manana out & motor around a bit, getting a feel for her, because the Wind God wasn't cooperating that week :(

Monday, April 18, 2011

Reality Check and the Intimidation Factor....

Whew!  Where to start?  So much has changed since I last blogged, most of it in the last 4 days, that just sitting here at the computer trying to order my thoughts is overwhelming!  My brain is on major overload.  Really. I will however, make an attempt to pull myself together enough to make some sense of it all. Please note the word “attempt”.

What changed, you ask? What didn’t is the easiest place to begin, so that’s where I’ll start: We still plan to list the house on August 1, 2011 and head out on our adventure sometime between October 2011 & January 2012. Sadly, Shadow kitty will not be joining us, as we lost her in February.

On to the changes…

On a recent visit to San Diego to spend some time with Morgan, we contacted a (get this!) Yacht Broker.  Barrett is a great guy & we really enjoyed talking to him. He was able to get us on three boats: A Beneteau 50, 523 and 57, respectively.  We jettisoned the 50' one right away-too cramped! For us, anyway J The 523 was beautiful, totally livable and well set up. Then we saw the 57. I honestly don’t have words for that initial first glance, because I was so busy looking uuupppp the mast that my brain couldn’t come up with any, and still can’t.  This, then, is the intimidation factor mentioned in the title! A picture of a boat does not in any way prepare you for the actual REAL size of said boat.  Hey, we thought, we’ve sailed a 46 foot boat no problem! And that was a 10 foot jump from the 36 foot one we’d just been sailing, what’s another 10 feet??? A lot. Truly. Everything is bigger. Duh!  I know, huh? Common sense says so, but when was the last time you had to LOOK at common sense?  This was a 50,000 pound boat. No grabbing the shrouds and swinging yourself on. We had to use stairs. Three of them. Deep breath time, I told myself.  Two people sail this very boat by themselves and if they can do it, so can you! Right. We thanked Barrett nicely (I hope-it’s still a blur) and flew home shortly thereafter.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, the mind is an amazing thing. After a week or so, we convinced ourselves that the boat couldn’t possibly have been that scary, and continued on our merry way.  Next item on the agenda?  The Strictly Sail Pacific boat show in Oakland. Four days of free seminars, tons of exhibitors and vendors, and schmoozing with people who sail (or want to). We were able to get on some beautiful boats and really talk to the reps. We learned about financing, insurance, navigational aids, anchors and anchoring, first aid, PFD’s, Safety equipment, how to outfit above and below deck, and so much more.  But wait, there’s more!  Brain overload, that is….

The biggest thing we took away from the show, with many thanks to Dana, was that we needed to adjust our schedule. The time we planned to allot to outfitting whatever boat we buy was naively conceived on what we’ll call “Silicon Valley” time, as opposed to what we will kindly, in honor of our visits to Jamaica, call “Island time”. Dana very gently let us know that things get done on the Boatyard time schedule, which may not necessarily coincide with ours. Oh. Another duh! What that means is that we are now actively searching for the boat, instead of just researching one we might want.  The good news?  We found one in Annapolis, MD that had many of the things we are looking for, and yes, it is a Beneteau 57.  Saints preserve us!  Our, ahem, Yacht Broker Barrett (cracks me up every time-sounds so dang grandiose!) will be starting the offer/counter offer dance for us, and depending on how it goes, we may be boat owners much sooner than we planned. And that, my friends, is the reality check!  Our scheduled (estimated, of course) date of departure remains the same as far as we know…but, then again, we are just learning how much we don’t know :)

As always, we’ll keep you posted!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

And so it begins...

Much to the chagrin of family and friends, we are adamant about selling our home, most of our worldly possessions, taking the cat (if she is still with us) and moving onto a boat.  Why?  Because it is something we always wanted to do and now is the time: The kids are off at College, we are still somewhat young & energetic, and because we can.  Seriously.  We have saved for this, planned for this, taken various sailing courses in preparation for this, and are now in the end stages of readiness....

Our plan?  Oy!  Where to start?  At the beginning, I guess...which is about 22 years ago, when we first thought about buying a boat to live on.  In retrospect, can I just say I am very glad that never happened?  What we may have been able to afford at that time would have been very small, very old, and most likely barely seaworthy!  Did I mention probably cold, too?  San Francisco is not exactly a bastion of beautiful weather;  foggy, windy & cold much of the year-A quote oft attributed to Mark Twain, that states that the coldest Winter he ever spent was a summer in San Francisco, is apt, but according to, false. Ah well, the sentiment is right on though-NOT conducive to an enjoyable experience!  Not to mention, there just aren't that many good places to sail to around here.  We currently reside in Carmel, CA, which means all of our sailing is done on the Monterey Bay. Like San Francisco, there is fog, wind & cold.  We have sailed out of Santa Cruz to Capitola.  We have sailed out of Santa Cruz into the Bay and around in circles.  We have sailed in and out of Santa Cruz Harbor and practiced docking.  Are you getting the picture?  We could sail to Monterey, but we are cheap enough not to want to pay for the boat for 2 days!  Same goes for Moss Landing.  The Charter company requires us to stay inside the Monterey Bay, and not to sail at night, which does somewhat limit our options...but we persevere!

We are now in the final planning stages:  Kids, family and friends have accepted the plan, even if they all think we are nuts.  Comments like "Are you REALLY planning to sail across the Atlantic???"  abound.  As do the ones about watching out for Pirates, and "what about Hurricanes?".  Our focus is now on an extensive checklist that includes things like:  

1.  What kind of Boat
2.   How big
3.   Travel Immunizations
4.   Travel Insurance
5.   EMT course
6.   First Aid Supplies
7.   Relearn French (Laurie)
8.   Learn Spanish (Laurie & Bill)
9.   Relearn German (Bill)
10. Acquire various texts, charts, electronics, etc...
11. List House (projected date August 1, 2011)
12. Start selling everything
13. Continue sailing education
14. Continue adding to list as thoughts occur!
There are many more items on this list, but I'll not bore you with all of them :)  We are committed to our adventure, and are looking forward to sailing our new boat, which we plan to name "Manana" (Loosely translated, it means "tomorrow") around the British and U.S Virgin Islands as our first step, and up the Eastern Seaboard once we have our "Sea legs".

We'll keep you posted and let you know how it goes!