Dec 30, 2013

movies, murals, and cheap dates in marathon

sombrero beach. it seemed like a fun little spot and it gets extra points for being dog friendly!
this wall brightened up the walk along the highway. every time.
the dinghy ride into the marina

We've been in Marathon, on a mooring ball in Boot Key Harbor, for a week now. It's been a great place to spend the holiday, with a Publix, Home Depot, and Redbox within walking distance, and a convenient marina facility for showers, laundry and wifi, and plenty of people around to wish us a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, which really, is no small thing. 

The weather has been sort of rainy, so we haven't done much besides walk about a mile to the Redbox and get a movie, and then walk back to return it, repeat, repeat.  At least we're getting some exercise in between all of the movie watching.  We did make the 15 minute trip by dinghy to check out the beach one day, for about 30 minutes, (because one of us doesn't really know what to do with himself on a beach, and it wasn't really hot enough for swimming. I thought it would be our first real beach day of this whole trip, but I'm not counting it.) and we had a good dinner at a local restaurant one night, too. 25¢ wings on Thursday is pretty good motivation for a date night, right?  

We're moving on today... to Key West for New Years Eve perhaps? It could either be a fantastic idea, or a terrible one.  We'll have to see how it goes.

Dec 27, 2013

are you sure you had the right girl?

Dear 2013,

As I think about how we spent our time together over the last twelve months, I really just have one question for you…

Are you sure you had the right girl???

You have to admit, nothing that has happened during this time has resembled anything remotely similar to the 27 years that came before you. You have easily been the strangest, and most exciting year of my life. Well, except for maybe the year 1985. Now that was a wild ride.

2013, you have tested me, stressed me out, pushed me out of my comfort zone, expanded my horizons, and flat out amazed me. Despite fear of failure, I opened a jewelry shop in January, and started a blog in March. It was good. Despite my fear of new things, dirt, and general uncomfortableness, I moved onto a sailboat in October and set off on a several month journey down the coast. It was also good. Mostly.

Now we find ourselves ending our time together on a better-than-I-ever-could-have-hoped-for note. I'm safe, happy, and warm somewhere in the Florida Keys. I have survived at least half of this crazy sailing adventure, no worse for the wear, and possibly even better for it. I have my beloved husband and pup by my side, both of whom I love and appreciate even more than ever before.

Like I said, I'm still not sure that you had the right girl when we started this whole adventure together 360-some days ago, but somehow, I think I became her somewhere along the way. So thanks 2013, for paving the way for an amazing year to come. I absolutely cannot wait to see what your successor has in store.

With fondest memories,

linking up with Amanda and Beka
The Lady Okie Blog

Dec 26, 2013

christmas in the keys

We left Key Largo last week, after deciding that our anchorage didn't have much to offer, and headed to Boot Key Harbor in Marathon to spend Christmas.

We seem to be in the habit of arriving in a new place and needing to do our grocery shopping on the most popular days of the year. So we started out Christmas Eve by walking a mile to the grocery store, squeezing through the crowds, and walking the mile back, lugging our groceries on a sunny 93° day. It was almost comical really. Along the way, we passed a church advertising their candlelight service that evening, and decided it would be nice to go. It was a wonderful way to celebrate, and it was made oddly memorable by the fact that the service ended, not with "Away in a Manger" or "O Holy Night," but with "Feliz Navidad" instead. And then they gave out m&m's.

Christmas Day was fairly dark and gloomy, so we only ventured out of the boat twice. It also only rained twice, and I'm sure you can guess when that was. But we had a great day, fixing ourselves delicious meals and talking to our families on the phone. In the evening we walked to the movie theater, which plays only one movie, once a day. So we ended our Christmas with The Hobbit 2 in the tiny, packed, one room theater. 

All in all, it was a very peculiar, but merry, Christmas.

I hope you had a Merry Christmas as well! What did you do to celebrate?

Dec 23, 2013

all i want for christmas is...


I feel so blessed to be able to say that. As much as I fretted over what to bring, what not to bring, how little space I was going to have for clothes and cooking utensils, I honestly have everything that I need (except of course, when I didn't have nearly enough winter clothing for all of the cold weather we passed through). 

And I can't say that I've missed the stress of Christmas shopping either. Even though that also means that our friends and family are getting jipped on their gifts this year (sorry!), I can't think of a single thing that I would possibly want or need. It seems to me that too much of the celebration of Christmas has come to revolve around buying stuff, and it's been bothering me for awhile. I was able to avoid that completely this year, and focus instead on celebrating the meaning of this Christmas season without any of those distractions. Not that this is such a noble endeavor of my own doing. We kind of took ourselves out of the running for needing any material possessions simply by being in such a small (and unusual) space. 

But it's so refreshing. I don't miss any of the things that I left behind. I don't want them or need them. The only things that we think about wanting or needing these days are groceries and a clean pair of clothes. And full tanks of diesel and water. In fact, if we aren't in need of running any errands, we'd actually prefer to be out at an anchorage by ourselves, with no one and nothing else in sight.

Of course, anyone would feel the same way if they were living on a 30' sailboat with this as their current view.

I'm relishing the minimalism, and I'm so relieved to find that I'm welcoming it with such open arms. I am, however, so curious to find out how much of this minimalistic outlook is going to stick once we return to a home on dry land. It's kind of a long term experiment I'm conducting on myself. One of many actually, during this experience, if I'm being completely honest.

P.S. to my dear sister, this doesn't mean that you're keeping all of my extra clothes. yet.

Dec 20, 2013

to the keys!

We left the South Beach area on Tuesday, and headed to Dinner Key, where we picked up a mooring ball, got showers, and did some laundry. Dinner Key used to be an island, but the gap between it and the mainland was filled in in the early 1900's. The Marina and it's 200+ mooring balls (!) are the main attraction in the area, but back in the 1930's and 40's it was used as a base for Pan Am's flying boats, and was one of the world's largest airports. Today the Pan Am hangars are used for boat storage and the terminal building is now City Hall. The inside of the building has been renovated, but I love that Pan Am's blue globe logo still remains around the outside border. I live for facts like this when we visit new places! It also really makes me nostalgic for that short lived tv show.

After Dinner Key, we planned to anchor at Elliot Key, but when we arrived, we found that the anchorage wasn't very well protected from the wind. So we picked a random mangrove island instead, before moving on to Key Largo yesterday. We had beautiful weather and a great sail to Key Largo, and we're looking forward to settling in here for a few days!

Dec 19, 2013

according to the captain

taking care of business back in jekyll island

I'd say one of the fastest ways to get to know absolutely everything that you could possibly want (and don't want) to know about your spouse is to live on a small boat with them for several months.  Not that Riley's not an open book anyway.  But I thought it would be fun to ask him another round of The Boys Behind the Blog questions, just in case he has anymore surprises up his sleeve.

1. What is your favorite cereal?
"That's one of those things that goes in spells, because when it's my favorite I tend to eat it until I'm sick of it. But probably Captain Crunch or Fruity Pebbles. Or if I'm on a healthy kick, Special K or Crispix."

2. Pancakes or Waffles? 
"Waffles. The Waffle House has the best waffles. Mmm, with a side of hash browns. But I can never get Allison to eat there with me."

3. What is your favorite holiday tradition? 
"For awhile it was going last minute Christmas present shopping with my friend Ben. I'm not a real tradition kind of person. But I would probably say going to my Grandma Thelma's on Christmas Eve."

4. All I want for Christmas is… 
"A real good tan.  I don't guess there's really anything that I want.  I have y'all two, what more could I need?" *cheesy grin*

5. What was your best moment of 2013?
"When I threw off the lines and set sail for six months of the unknown."

Well, I can guarantee we'll be making a stop at the very next Waffle House we come across now that he's started thinking about it!  They don't have those down in the Keys, do they??

Mal Smiles

Dec 18, 2013

ode to gidget

I watched the movie Marley and Me, 
and then I couldn't stop crying.
"Enough of this," Riley said, 
"a little dog we're buying."

So we picked her out and brought her home,
with a couch to sleep on and land to roam.
It was a good life, lazy and sweet,
safe and sound, it couldn't be beat.

But it wasn't to last, we soon bought a boat,
moved out of our house and decided to float.
And this little dog, she had to come too,
to leave her behind would leave me too blue.

So a miniature life vest we bought, and a patch of fake grass.
"She'll just have to learn, and she'll have to learn fast."
Now she lives on a boat and dingies to shore,
a new life on a leash, free reign no more.

Stubborn but smart, she's adjusted quite well,
she rolls with the punches and rides with the swell.
So many new places to see, smell and mark, 
there was even one brief Halloween stint as a shark.

Whatever comes next, she's coming along,
because she is so much more than a dog.
As long as we're together, she has no other wish,
but to rest on my lap and to steal a wet kiss.

Happy Birthday dear Gidget, I love you a lot,
from your cold little nose to your very last spot.
Only four years old, your life's just beginning,
let's celebrate... want to go swimming?

Dec 16, 2013

a weekend like a landlubber. kinda.

This weekend we went to the movies, the mall, and the grocery store. We did some cleaning and we hardly got any sleep. It was just like a real land-people kind of weekend. Well, except for a few glaring differences, of course.

1. Ever since Catching Fire came out in theaters I have been hearing how good it is, and I got it in my head that I really wanted to go see it. We haven't been anywhere that I would even consider looking for a movie theater within walking distance, but we came into South Beach Miami this weekend, and there it was! It was just as good as I thought it would be, but honestly, it was a little strange sitting inside a theater on land for that long.

2. These days we are always excited to do a little grocery shopping, and so we were pleased to find a Publix grocery store not too far away. We didn't walk to it, but rather drove our dinghy along a canal and tied up alongside of it. Strange, but convenient. We took full advantage of it and it's Redbox.

3. I was also excited to hear that there was a walking mall nearby with all of my favorite stores. I really tried hard to buy something, really I did, but I walked away empty handed. You know, all the stores are selling winter things, that I finally don't need, and it's not like we have a bunch of extra room to store stuff. We're also skipping Christmas presents this year, because of the challenge and cost of finding a post office and mailing packages.

4. Friday night we happened to catch a little fireworks show from across the water. We're guessing it was from one of the cruise ships docked nearby.

I'm assuming most tourists probably don't get much sleep in South Beach. For us though, it wasn't because we were out all night partying. The trade in for being near a city with so many convinces is that there is a lot of traffic. This includes boat traffic as well. Sometimes the constant rocking motion of the wake from passing boats lulls me to sleep. Other times, it's 2am and I'm trying to send telepathic messages to whoever is out riding around on the water to either go slow or go home already!

So except for the constant rocking, lack of shopping bags, and the travel by canal, I almost felt like I was a land dweller again.  And it was really kind of nice.

linking up with carissa!

Dec 13, 2013

what a big little world it is

It's kind of funny when I stop to think about it. I may be living in the tiniest space of my life, but my world is actually bigger than ever. 

When I go to sleep at night, I crawl (this is literal) into an itty bitty triangle of a cave-like bed, but really, my bedroom is made up of the entire night sky and the vast body of water around me. Sometimes the walls around me are rows and rows of illuminated businesses and condos, and sometimes they're simply trees and more open sky. This is amazing to me. 

Everything that is public now belongs to me personally. Public bathroom with toilets that flush and running hot water? Awesome. That is my bathroom. Public library with free wifi. Yes. My wifi. Public dock? That is there just for me to get ashore. Thank you for the parking spot. Every grocery store on the coast from North Carolina to Florida is now my grocery store. And I am always so grateful that each one is there providing me with a means to buy food. Even the houses that decorate outside for Christmas. Honestly, thank you. Your decorations are now in my backyard as well, and I thank you for sharing your Christmas spirit.

It's those things that I took for granted that I now appreciate so much. When you have a house that stays in one place, you generally have your usuals. You know, your usual grocery store, your usual coffee shop. You know where you're going to do your laundry and take a shower. While all of these things have now become more complicated by living on a boat, it's also become a sort of game. Let's drop the anchor and make this spot our home. Ok, now this one. And so on and so on, all the way down the coast. We're making this tiny little boat our home, but along the way, we're claiming the entire coast as well. And the reward for winning this game is pretty darn sweet.

linking up with casey!

Dec 12, 2013

a sailboat christmas

So, what do you do when December rolls around and you find yourself living on a sailboat?

First you find some free wifi and get your hands on as many Christmas movies as you can find. Next, you search every port for a dollar store or a general store so you can try to round up some Christmas decorations and a pine scented candle. Then, you sit around for a few days and wonder what in the world you are going to do with said decorations. 

This is where I have to give a big thanks to Riley. He absolutely does not get into decorating for Christmas, but he was a good sport about letting me deck the boat and helping me figure out just exactly how to go about doing it.

So, now we have a Christmas tree mast, and a biminy swag. And they're just perfect! Oh, and red glitter everywhere. Yay, Christmas!

linking up with AshleyJessicaJordon, and Allison!

Dec 11, 2013

sometimes I have to wonder...

Sometimes I wonder what in the world I was thinking going along with this scheme. 
Sometimes I wonder at how blessed we are to actually be living it.

Sometimes I feel like a complete impostor, only pretending to be brave and adventurous and free spirited. 
Sometimes, I am. But sometimes, I don't give myself nearly enough credit.

Sometimes I can't possibly imagine living in this teeny tiny space for one second longer. 
Sometimes it's cozy and I can't imagine needing a single thing more.

Sometimes I wonder how in the world Riley puts up with me. 
Sometimes I think to myself just how lucky he is to have a wife like me, sharing in his dream.
(sometimes I think this out loud.)

Sometimes all I want in the world is a shower. 
Sometimes I just don't care at all that I stink.

Sometimes all I can think about is moving back into a house on land. 
Sometimes I think surely this won't be our last time living on a boat.

Sometimes it seems like we've been at this forever already. 
Sometimes I realize we're just getting started…

Dec 10, 2013

the view from the water

near cape canaveral, florida
There was a very specific moment last week when all of a sudden I noticed that the water around me was blue. Not the brackish, gray/brown liquid that I'd become so accustomed to seeing, but a blue-green, almost teal color. It was such a surprise to see, and it made me think about all of the ways the landscape has changed as we've made our way down the coast. It's amazing the different impression you can get from a place when you're viewing it from the water, as opposed to exploring it by land.

near wrightsville beach, north carolina
We started in North Carolina, which was characterized by charming coastal towns, isolated anchorages, and unfortunately, dirty water. It had a slow-paced, romantic feel, straight out of a Nicholas Sparks novel. The waterway was quiet, and framed in endless tall grass.

georgetown, south carolina
South Carolina had it's own charming towns and cities, full of history and the first hints of spanish moss. We were bundled up half of the time, but figured we just hadn't made it far enough south yet. 

somewhere in georgia
Georgia won us over with it's hospitality in Savannah and Jekyll Island and of course, even more spanish moss. Unfortunately for sweet Georgia, the waterway was tricky and stressful, being narrow and shallow in so many places. And the cold days started to outnumber the pleasant ones, and we'd had about enough of that. Riley says the landscape along Georgia's waterway was his favorite, but I spent so much time trying to avoid the cold, my memory of it is limited to the photo above.

palm beach, florida
We rolled into Florida with the fog, but it wasn't too long before she showed us the sun. And blue water. The palm trees and red tiled roofs dotting the coastline were a welcome change of scenery. The waterway in Florida is wide, and busy. Marinas with mega yachts, hotels, and bridges, lots and lots of bridges. Today we only plan to travel about 30 miles, but we have to call and wait on 15 different bridges to open along the way. 

North Carolina's coast had kind of melted into South Carolina's, which had morphed into Georgia's, but here on Florida's waterway, we're in a whole other world. We can't wait to see what else she has in store for us.

linking up with bonnie!

Dec 9, 2013

a map of our sailing journey… so far!

I am a very visual person.  I also happen to be geographically and directionally challenged.  I've gotten pretty good at being able to find our location on our charts, but as far as the big picture goes, I was feeling pretty lost!  Whenever we would stop for the night, I would know what city we were in, and how many miles we had traveled to get there, but that meant practically nothing to me without a large scale picture of our progress.   So… here it is!  

I have been wanting to map our actual route, but haven't quite found a way to do that without using roads.  So for now, I put together this map that marks all of our major stopping points (the ones that got blog posts, anyway!).  It's not a very precise map, obviously, but I hope it helps give you a general idea of where we've been, too!  Are you as visual as I am?  

We started in New Bern, North Carolina on October 20th, and have traveled the Intracoastal Waterway (for the most part) all the way to Fort Pierce, Florida.  We left Fort Pierce yesterday and are going to be making our way to the Florida Keys over the next week or so.  

As of this morning we have traveled about 817 miles by sailboat!  It's finally starting to feel like we're getting somewhere!

Dec 5, 2013

the port of call point system (aka, where should we sleep?)

looking out at all of the boats anchored in Cocoa
On any given day, we're mostly likely chugging along on our little boat, trying to cover a considerable distance before stopping for the night. Sometimes we anchor out in the middle of nowhere, and other times we anchor near a town or city. Picking the perfect place to sleep is a tricky little thing. There are a lot of factors to consider, some more important than others. When finding a place to drop our anchor for the night, we first have to decide how far we are willing and able to travel that day. Then we have to find a place that is somewhat sheltered from the elements, is shallow enough to drop the anchor but not so deep that we don't have enough scope (line on our anchor), and has appropriate underwater topography (mud, rock, weeds…). 

But that's all of the boring stuff that I usually leave to Riley. I like to employ the point system. If we're in the middle of nowhere, my only real concern is finding a place for Gidget to do her business.

Allison's Port of Call Point System

-Is there a patch of sand or grass nearby where we can take her in the dinghy? (This is harder to come by than you might imagine.) +5 points

If we're near a town or city, it gets a little more complicated.

-Is there somewhere we can shower? +5 points
-A grocery store? +5
-A library or coffee shop with wifi? +5 points
-A laundromat? +5 points
-A hardware/marine store? +5
-Is any of this within walking distance? +/- 500 points. (This one's pretty much a deal breaker.)

Of course, sometimes a shower or a grocery store can be worth upwards of 100 points. It's all about the priorities of that particular moment.  Any place that gets 510 points or more might even justify more than a one night stay! On the other hand, if the answer to all of the above questions is NO for more than several days in a row, we may try to find a marina at a reasonable price.

Last night we were anchored in Cocoa, Florida. It gets 15 points (land for Gidget, wifi, hardware and marine store). It's walking points are neutral, because whether or not that marine store really was within walking distance is still up for debate.

(It wasn't.)

Dec 4, 2013

and the rockets' red glare...

What a difference a day (or five, really) makes!  Yesterday we finally saw the sun, and the skies were clear and blue and beautiful!  It really is amazing how much the weather can make or break this whole experience.  We made great time yesterday, which for us means that we traveled 56 miles in about 8 hours.

We passed Cape Canaveral (you can just barely make out towers in the photo above) and talked about how cool it would be to watch a launch.  We even checked out NASA's website to see if there was anything coming up in the next day or so, because we would have been interested in hanging around for awhile just to catch a launch.  But, we kept on moving and found an anchorage in nearby Cocoa.

Well, wouldn't you know, something did indeed launch last night!  We didn't catch the whole thing but saw enough of it to be awestruck.  I'm just glad we looked up in time! It's not everyday that you happen to glance up and see a bright light streaking through the sky. Some post-launch googling revealed that the rocket was Falcon 9, launched by SpaceX, and was carrying a commercial SES-8 communications satellite into orbit.   Admittedly, that means nothing to me.  But it sounds impressive. And it was pretty darn cool to watch.  Bet you can guess which song I've had stuck in my head ever since...

Dec 3, 2013

southwestern chicken and cannellini bean soup

Last night we had another dinner that Riley added to the "make again" list.  I haven't been finding much motivation for cooking lately, and this soup recipe really couldn't have been any easier.  But first, there's something important I'd really like to discuss.  

Canned meat.  

Yay or nay? There are opposing viewpoints on this matter in our boat-hold. Riley loves it, and was known to throw a can of Spam in our grocery cart even at home. I shudder at the thought of it. Oddly enough, there wasn't a can of it to be found on the boat last night, so it didn't get it's rightful place in the picture. Picky and snobbish eater that I am, I always lumped any canned meat in the same category as whatever Spam is. I mean, I grew up with the occasional tuna fish sandwich, but anything else in a can just seemed… wrong. Then, I found myself living on a boat and willingly tossing a can of chicken in my grocery cart. Really, I'm growing by leaps and bounds here. Okay, maybe I was a little nervous to open the can (who knows what it might look like in there), but as it turns out, canned chicken tastes pretty darn normal in soup. And, it's easy.

Southwestern Chicken and Cannellini Bean Soup

2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
1 tablespoon taco seasoning
Olive oil
2 (14-ounce) cans chicken broth
1 (16-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup green salsa
sour cream (optional)
Chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add chicken and taco seasoning and sauté for 2 minutes or until chicken is lightly browned. Add broth.
2. Mash most of the beans and then add to pan.  Add salsa and stir well. Bring to a boil then reduce heat. Simmer for 10 minutes or until slightly thickened. Top with cilantro and sour cream.

Cooking on a boat has me looking for the most possible shortcuts to a tasty dinner, and while I'd still probably choose to buy chicken breasts at home, I can now see why canned chicken has it's place.  I can't say that eating canned anything really feels as healthy as the fresh option.  But practical, it is.  I still refuse to touch Spam or canned ham though, for the record.  

So, I'm really curious… where do you stand on canned meat?  How about Spam?  It seems to be a love it or hate it kind of thing.

I'm linking up with Jessica and Ashley today!

Dec 2, 2013

the sun will come out… tomorrow?

December?! That means that we've lived on the boat for two months now, and we've been sailing for 43 days. It all started in October (you can read a recap here), and November was all about finding our groove. In November, we found ourselves in the cities of Charleston (eating cupcakes, rubbing shoulders with millionaires, and admiring it's beauty), Beaufort, and Savannah (squatting in the city , and doing fun things on a budget).  Then, we spent the last two weeks of the month in Jekyll Island, riding bikes, checking out driftwood beach and the er, swinging from ropes, and having a Thanksgiving potluck.

We finally left Jekyll Island on Friday morning, and we are going to be spending the next week trying to get as far south as fast as possible. Which brings me to my two main goals for this week:

1. Get to warmer waters.
When we left on Friday morning, I was bundled up in 4 layers on top, and 3 layers on bottom, 2 pairs of socks, gloves, a hat, and 2 hoods and I was still cold. Yesterday I was down to 3 layers on top, 2 on the bottom, a hat and one hood, but enough is enough already!  You know that song from Love Actually, Christmas is All Around? We made up our own words to it as we were cruising along the other day:

I can't feel my fingers,
I can't feel my toes.
If you really like sailing,
Just try it when it's cold.

That's as far as we got. We would take turns bursting out in song whenever we needed to have a good chuckle about just how ridiculously cold we were. It helped, temporarily.

2. Keep a positive attitude until we find those warmer waters.
The honest to goodness truth is, living on a boat is not easy. A lot of the time it's uncomfortable and just plain hard. Add in a little cabin fever,  a tiny bit of seasonal affective disorder, and extended periods of extremely windy and cold weather, and it's not always easy to stay positive. I need to work extra hard to keep my spirits up during times like this. 

So, we'll be putting in some long days this week, trying to outrun this cold and gloomy weather. We made it into Florida on Friday, but we probably have another three days or so until we hit the really nice temperatures. We can't wait to start enjoying some sunshine and putting all of those shorts and bathing suits we packed to good use!

linking up with the nectar collective for weekly wishes!
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