Jan 31, 2014

top 5 moments of the year

Okay really, these are just my top five moments of January (obviously), but I'm feeling a little dramatic today.  We've had an amazing experience on this trip so far, but sometimes all of the memories start to run together, so it's kind of nice to take a look back at just the past month and remember all that we've experienced in just a short amount of time.

We had a rocky start to the new year, and a terrible first impression of Key West.  But after we gave into the weather and got ourselves a slip at a marina, our whole experience changed.  We had a blast visiting with Riley's sister and brother in law and getting a taste of what Key West really has to offer.

After we left Key West we were flat out exhausted.  Between the sleepless, rocky nights on the boat and then trying to fit in as much fun as possible, it took us days to recover!  Although Bahia Honda was beautiful, we enjoyed the peace and quiet and still waters near East Bahia Honda even more.  It was just what we needed!

We started noticing our engine troubles when we attempted to leave East Bahia Honda and eventually had to call for a tow boat.  After a very stressful 48 hours (and then some), we found ourselves back at Marathon.  We were able to regroup there and work on the engine, but the highlight for me was watching the manatees swim right by our boat one morning!

This past Monday marked the one hundredth day of our journey, and it felt like such a huge milestone! We celebrated by meeting up with my family in Miami Beach.  And by posing inside of a large "100" in the sand, of course.

Our trip to the Everglades this week started out rainy, but we had a good laugh at ourselves and finally waited out the weather long enough to see some alligators.  Now that I think about it, the anticipation probably made the experience even more exciting.  Even if the vultures were a little creepy.

Looking back, January definitely had it's rough patches, but we also made so many good memories and had so much to be thankful for.  I can't wait to see what February brings!

What were some of your favorite memories of your first month of 2014?

linking up with poekitten and Heather for the Monthly Review linkup and with DarciAprilChristina and Natasha for Five on Friday.

Jan 30, 2014

there is a right way and a wrong way to visit the everglades

The WRONG Way:

So, if you're planning a trip to the Everglades, you should probably plan it for a sunny day.  If you do find yourself there in the middle of a downpour however, at least remember to bring your umbrellas.  If you do not have umbrellas, large colorful beach umbrellas may suffice.  

Except of course, while you're bumbling around with your gigantic beach umbrellas, you're probably not going to see any alligators.  Because alligators, much like tourists, would much rather be out in the sun than the pouring down rain.

There will be plenty of vultures though.

After you have gotten yourself thoroughly soaked, laugh hysterically at your own misfortune as you slop back to your car and start driving, the rain will probably stop now.

The RIGHT Way:

Wander out into the middle of nowhere, jumping out of the car during intervals of sun, searching (in vain) for wildlife and snapping pictures of whatever you do find.

Definitely do take advantage of the opportunity to sneak up on your sister in law and grab her ankles.  She will scream.
Every time.

Take more pictures.

When you're fairly sure that the rain has stopped, turn around and proceed back to your first stop.  If there is now sun, there will also be alligators.  Lots and lots of alligators.

Oh, and about those vultures, they will attack your car.  Enter at your own risk and maybe even use a tarp.  They stalk that rubber with pretty hungry eyes.

Have you ever been to the Everglades?  Would you say you did it the right way… or the wrong way?

p.s. What's more frightening, an alligator or a vulture?  Alligator may be the most obvious choice, but I'll tell you, those vultures are creepy. Honestly, I'm still undecided.

Jan 29, 2014

what to see in miami beach: the beautiful and the tragic

One of the nice things about Miami Beach is that there seems to be plenty to see without having to spend any money.  Yesterday we took a stroll around the city that led us to the Botanical Gardens and the Holocaust Memorial.  The gardens would be an interesting sight for any tourist, but I had the added privilege of touring them with my aunt who is a talented landscape designer. Seeing the foliage through the eyes of someone who actually knows what they're looking at gives it so much more meaning! 

Just around the corner from the Botanical Gardens is the Holocaust Memorial.  Did you know that South Florida has one of the largest populations of Holocaust survivors in the United States?  The memorial was developed by a small group of survivors in 1984 and features an outstretched hand and memorial wall with some the names of those that were lost.  It's a powerful and sobering sight.

So much of Miami Beach is sun and fun, but I think it's important not to skip over the offerings of the city that might touch your heart in a more meaningful way.

"Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy."

- Anne Frank

linking up with Nicole at Treasure Tromp today!

Jan 28, 2014

welcome (back) to miami

can you see our 100 in the sand? this was a much more difficult task than one would think.

It hasn't been that long since we've been in Miami (here), but it already feels like a completely different place. We're spending some time here with my mom, sister, and aunt, and it's amazing what a fresh pair of eyes and a vehicle will do to your perception of a place. Yesterday we checked out the beach, which was previously too far of a walk from our anchorage to be of much interest to us. Most of the beaches that we had passed along the way down the coast were basically deserted since it was off season and too cold to enjoy them. Not South Beach. Not only was it a great time to put our neglected bathing suits to good use, but it was also a prime location for people watching. South Beach has a style all it's own. After a few hours on the beach and a delicious Cuban dinner we were feeling that the welcome back to Miami was a warm one indeed.

Have you been to Miami Beach?  Do you have any recommendations of things we should do, see, or eat while we're here?

Jan 27, 2014

one hundred days of adventure

last night's gorgeous sunset

Today marks one hundred days since we set sail from New Bern, North Carolina on our great adventure down the coast. One hundred days! In some ways that sounds like a lifetime, and in other ways it has felt like a lifetime, and a measly number 100 does come close to accounting for the experiences we've had.

100 days… 

...on a boat.
...of tight knit bonding with my husband and our little dog.
...of nomadic living.
...of new sights, new experiences, and new adventures.
...of excitement, fear, disappointment and joy.

dinner at Lorelei's
This past weekend we finally said good-bye to Marathon, for real this time, and started making our way back to Miami to meet some family coming down for vacation. Our engine seemed to fare pretty well, which we are so very grateful for! The weather was calm and beautiful, and we found a great spot to anchor on Saturday night where we could enjoy good food and live music just off the water. Moments like that are the best of what these last 100 days have had to offer. We're looking forward to seeing what the next however many days have in store for us now!

linking up with Bonnie's Travel Tuesday!

Jan 24, 2014

5 things i wouldn't live on a boat without

There are some things you couldn't (or shouldn't) live without on a boat; life jackets, vhf radio, charts, etc., etc. But after nearly four months of this lifestyle, I've come to realize that there are a few very specific things that I definitely wouldn't want to live on a boat without.

My top five:

1. Baseball hat. 
Absolutely necessary for the sun, the wind, and those times that you need to go out in public but you haven't washed your hair in several days. Forget about the cute straw hats that I brought, they blow away. The practicality of a baseball hat wins out.

2. Clorox wipes. 
I've probably mentioned several times already that we have to step down on our kitchen counter to enter the cabin of the boat. I think about that a lot. And I clean it a lot. We are living in such a small space that it gets dirty again as soon as it's clean. We can't really keep a bunch of wet cleaning rags laying around, so I don't know where we'd be without Clorox wipes. Well, I probably would not still be living on this boat, come to think about it.

3. Kindle.
I never understood why people would want to use an ereader. But I have already read 25 books since we left, and there is no way I could have brought that many paperbacks with me on this boat. The best part? Most of them were downloaded absolutely free from the library!

4. iPhone. 
Riley and I both held out on buying iPhones until last year before we left on this trip. Admittedly, I had wanted one long before, but I wasn't willing to pay for it and I couldn't justify the need for it anyway. We ended up buying them because it seemed to be the easiest and least expensive way for us to have internet access on the boat. Not only has it been useful in very important tasks such as checking the weather and publishing blog posts, but it's also been surprisingly comforting to connect with people via apps like instagram and twitter during a sometimes isolating experience.

5. Smoothies. 
One of the kitchen appliances that I knew that I was going to miss the most was my blender. I loved making smoothies for breakfast but our boat doesn't have enough power to support that kind of appliance, and our refrigeration system isn't cold enough to keep frozen food. Store bought smoothies are expensive and aren't quite the same as homemade, but they have become kind of a comfort food. Buying them in the larger size cuts down on the cost a little, although it is awfully heavy to carry back to the boat. They're worth their weight (ha!) though, especially since they last longer than fresh produce if we have to wait a bit between grocery trips.

And that's my list of five things I couldn't currently live without. 

 What would your five things be?

linking up with the five on friday girls:  DarciApril, Christina and Natasha
and Casey's fresh face friday

Jan 22, 2014

how we afforded adventure

I've always wondered where people, especially younger people, find the money to travel. A few of you have asked about how we planned and paid for this trip, so I know I'm not the only one! I haven't done much traveling of my own, until now, and I hope that this trip is just the tip of the iceberg.  I still can't tell you how other people do it, but maybe the little bit that we have figured out will serve us well (and hopefully, some of you) in planning for our future travels.

We have found that there are two tricks to affording adventure:

1. Hard work

2. Keeping a budget

In other words, there are no tricks.  Not for us, anyway.  We don't come from wealthy families and we have a modest income ourselves.  Riley has worked hard his entire life and has held the same job as an electrician since he was fifteen.  I graduated college with an art degree and held a job with a local jewelry designer until I quit several months before we left.  Average people with average jobs.  Our circumstances are probably a little unusual though, in that Riley had the foresight to buy property when he was fifteen and start building a house when he was twenty-one, which would become our first home until it (now) became a rental property.

We started planning our trip a little over a year before we departed.  After excessive research, Riley had an idea of what kind of boat we should look for and approximately what kind of budget we could live on (and afford) for several months of traveling on the water.  We didn't have a lot of extra money to spend on traveling, but the idea of taking this trip became a priority, so we adopted the motto, "go small, and go now."

Our final budget (after the purchase of the boat) was $8,000 for six months.

I had already paid off my student loans, and neither one of us has a car payment, so we're not dealing with a lot of debt to begin with.  We've always had a modest lifestyle and live within our means.  So all of this budget is coming out of a savings account funded by Riley's full time job, and the long hours that he often put in on the weekends (when we weren't working on the boat) doing other electrical work on the side.

in the midst of our renovations

The thing about this trip is, living on a boat is relatively inexpensive.  Our main expenses include food, diesel fuel, pay showers, laundromats, and a few stays at marinas or mooring fields (which often include showers and laundromats) and the bill for our smartphones, which provide us with internet.  Our cost of living is significantly less than it was on land.  This is how we are able to live on $8,000 for half a year.  As far as standards of boat-living go, we probably fall somewhere in the middle.  We didn't buy a large, fancy yacht with all the comforts of home.  We bought an older, 30 foot sailboat, and fixed it up ourselves.  We don't stay in marinas at every stop, we don't pay for taxi's once we get on land, we don't (can't) buy extra "stuff", and we don't even eat out that often.  However, if we wanted to avoid marinas and mooring balls altogether and eat more beans and rice, we could probably live on much less.

This entire experience isn't so much a vacation as it is an experiment in living a completely different lifestyle.

We should be able to return without going over budget, but we definitely won't be coming back with any left over.  When we return to land we'll essentially have to start over, renting a place to live, I'll have to find a new job, and we'll have to start building up our savings accounts again.  But neither one of us would trade the security of a padded savings account for this kind of life experience.  In fact, we're already talking about how we can fund our next adventure.  It was (and still is) a financial risk to be sure, but one that we judged worthy.

I'm not sure if any of this information is really helpful to any of you, as not many people actually take off on a several month sailing adventure!  But I hope that it inspires you in some small way to know that it is possible to have an adventure on a budget.  This is simply how we went about it.

If any of you have any tips about other kinds of budget traveling, I'd love to hear them!  A few of our ideas about our next adventures include a cross-country road trip and backpacking across Europe. 

What kind of adventures have you embarked on?  What adventures are you planning and dreaming about embarking on?  How are you making it happen?

linking up with Ashley

Jan 21, 2014

weirdness on the water

On our way down the coast, we have seen so many beautiful landscapes and creatures of all sorts. But sometimes, it's not the "beautiful" that catches our attention. Sometimes it's the quirky, the strange, and the downright weird. Like the face for instance, that we nearly stepped on while walking along a narrow beach in Southport, North Carolina. For whatever reason though, most of the strangest sights we've seen have been in Florida. Thanks, Florida, for keeping it interesting!

We have seen boat after boat after boat floating down the waterway, so the first time we saw a floating house, it was such a refreshing change of pace! This one had no inhabitants though, and it wasn't going anywhere, it was just... there. And dilapidated.

Not long after our floating house, we spotted our first floating… dragon?! It was just out there all by itself, so who knows what the story is there. Any guesses?

Once we got to Key West there was an abundance of floating houses. Most were just floating out there by themselves in the bay. But then, there were others, a whole community of floating houses that seemed to be tied to a dock or something. I couldn't figure it out, can anyone enlighten me on this? Whatever the story, they look pretty happy to be there.

Floating boats, floating houses, but surprisingly we haven't seen all that many actual houseboats. This one seems to have an unusual "custom" second story addition built on.

That's all I've got for now, but you can bet I'm going to continue to keep my eyes peeled and camera ready for even more weird as we go.

Have you spotted any weird on land lately?

Jan 20, 2014

a marathon weekend

Can I tell you my one and only gripe with Marathon?

There's really not much to take pictures of.  Wonderful, wonderful place for cruisers.  Not so scenic.

A few snapshots of our weekend though…

1. Manatees!
Ever since Jekyll Island Georgia, we have been seeing "Manatee Zone" signs, but as large and slow as these guys are, they've been hard to spot.  I finally got my first good glimpse of three of them the other morning as they made their rounds in the mooring field.  Sadly, my quick draw camera reflexes could use some work.  This is when it would pay to have your phone glued to your side at all times.

2.  Traffic, I tell ya!  It's hard to find a parking spot in these parts!
Even after several months, I still find a crowded dinghy dock kind of funny.  It's like looking for a space in a Target parking lot at Christmas time.  Okay, not really. These cars are inflatable, they bounce off of one another in an accident, and everyone is really friendly about the whole thing.  Except of course when we were in Dinner Key and the dock was so crowded that dinghies were tied up three-deep.  Those drivers were a little disgruntled.

In other news, Riley's been working hard on the motor and it seems like it just might be back in working order!  We had reserved our mooring ball in Marathon for a week though, so we haven't taken a test run of it yet, but it's looking good.

Also, thank you guys so much for all of your questions per Friday's post!  I was so excited to read all of them and I'm looking forward to putting together a post or two with all of the answers!

I hope you all had a great weekend!  What have you been up to?

Jan 17, 2014

what do you really want to know?

photo courtesy of our friend James, waaaay back in north carolina

Sometimes I still have a hard time believing that I actually live on a sailboat.  This is my life?  How in the world did I even find myself here?  It's been good, bad, beautiful and ugly, and certainly an experience I'll never forget.  I have enjoyed sharing this experience with you, I'm sure you probably have no idea how much it really means to me that you are following along with us.  So I want to know, do you have any questions?  Sometimes I feel like I am sharing more of our life than probably anybody really wants to know, but surely it's possible that I just might have left something out!

Is there anything that you want to know about living on a sailboat?
About sailing in general?
Life in general?
How we planned the trip?
Maybe about spending nearly every hour of every day in close quarters with your husband?
Is there anything else you want to know about the places we have visited?

I'd love to answer any and all of your questions in a post, maybe even in vlog form…?  Maybe.

Again, I can't tell you how much your reading, your comments and your encouragement has meant to me.  You have been keeping me company on this isolated little boat when Riley and Gidget just weren't cutting it. :)

So, what do you really, really want to know?  Feel free to email me, or leave any questions in the comment section!

We Took the Road Less Traveled

Jan 16, 2014

this wasn't part of our plan...

Well, we had our first tow the other day.

We've learned several times over and over again during the course of this trip just how impossible it is to make plans and expectations. We've only really suffered relatively minor setbacks and discouragements in the grand scheme of things. But this, well, we just really hoped something like this wouldn't happen.

repairing anything on a boat requires a great deal of patience, flexibility, athleticism, and the ability to fit in tight spaces.

We woke up early the other morning with the intention of sailing out to another new place, but our engine had other ideas. Without going into the boring details that I really don't understand anyway, it's not working right. Poor Riley worked on it patiently for hours and hours with no success. And this guy can fix anything! (You might be asking yourself, if we're a sailboat, what do we really need an engine for anyway? But as cruisers, we really do depend on it in quite a few situations.)  Finally, we had to call Tow Boat US to tow us in about 2 hours to the nearest marina/mechanic.

Now we find ourselves in Marathon again, in the same mooring field where we spent Christmas.  The engine situation is still up in the air, but we have been encouraged just over the last 48 hours by so many answers to prayer.  This mooring field, which usually always has a long waiting list, miraculously had none, and exactly one spot opened up yesterday morning during the time that we were standing at the reception desk.  Last night we were able to wait out another bout of high winds safely on a mooring ball where we have easy access to shore and the parts that will hopefully get our engine back to good working order.  It's also just a comfort to be back in a familiar place, a kind of home base for us almost, during such a stressful situation.

After being afraid that this engine trouble was going to bring our trip to a swift halt, and that meanwhile we would be stranded without a motor in high winds, we have so much to be grateful for.  It's an incredibly helpless feeling, being stranded on a boat with no engine, too far from any civilized shore, with foul weather on the horizon.  But today we are so very thankful for safety, for tow insurance, for a mooring field, and for the simple comforts of familiar surroundings.  God is good.

Jan 14, 2014

finding sanctuary in east bahia honda

After another morning sail, we finally found calm waters on the west side of the seven mile bridge. What a difference! We anchored near a teeny tiny island with just enough land to take Gidget ashore, and then took it easy for the day. Peace and quiet is what we were looking for for the next few days, and in this little spot, peace and quiet is exactly what we got. The water was so calm and glassy I almost forgot that I was on a boat. Okay, not really. But if I was to awaken suddenly from a very deep sleep, I might have to think about it for a second or two.

Riley is usually the one that has to tender Gidget back and forth to shore (let me tell you, riding back and forth in a dinghy really gets old after awhile), but the scenery looked so interesting this time, I decided to go along. It didn't disappoint.

Jan 13, 2014

bahia honda and the old bridge

that's our little boat anchored out between the palm tree and the other sailboat

After a rough and choppy sail out of Key West (a fitting good-bye, I suppose) we were relieved to finally anchor at Bahia Honda Key.

I think it's one of the prettier islands in the Keys, sort of what I had imagine that they all would look like before I knew better. It's home to one of Florida's state parks and looks like a great place for laying on the beach, picnicking, and camping. Riley's sister and brother in law met us there on their way out of Key West (a much faster trip by car…) and we wandered up to the old bridge that offers stunning views of the island. 

We were looking forward to spending a few days in Bahia Honda, but sadly, after a sleepless night of intense rocking, we decided to move on first thing in the morning. If you ever visit the Keys though, I highly recommend a stop at Bahia Honda!

linking this post up with Bonnie's Travel Tuesday!

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