Feb 28, 2014

the final days

a cold morning in south carolina

It's hard to put into words exactly how it feels to be on the last leg of this little adventure. We're pretty much booking it home now, putting in long days of traveling and trying to outrun (somewhat unsuccessfully) cold weather and empty wallets. We have done and seen so much that it feels like surely we have been doing this forever, but at the same time, it went by in a blink of an eye. And really, five months is just a blink of an eye when you consider the big picture. But that time has certainly affected us in ways that will impact the rest of our lives.

I don't want leave the water behind. Or the opportunity to see new sights everyday. The chance to experience life in a completely new way. I want to soak up these last moments, and appreciate them to their fullest. I'm left with a feeling of sadness… accompanied by a heaping dose of anxiety. Life on a boat isn't easy, but I have it pretty much figured out now, and what awaits me on land is a whole new series of obstacles and unknowns. We anticipated the consequences of picking up our lives and taking off for several months, but now it's time to actually start dealing with them. Where will we live? Do we have enough money? Will I be able to find a job? My heart starts racing when I think of all there is to do, and boy do I have a lot of time to think about it during these long days of traveling. The hardest part is that there's not much I can do about any of it until we are actually back, except pray for peace of mind and faith that everything will work out, and try not to dwell. But even as I write this out, my heart starts racing again.

On the other hand, when we experience moments like the last 48 hours, which have been so cold, and wet, and windy, we are very ready to be home. The excitement is starting to wind down, and we're cold and tired. Operation Eat all the Food is in full swing, and the pickings are getting slim. When I wake up at 2am because my head is freezing and I need to find a hat in order to go back to sleep, I can't wait to be back in a climate controlled house. When I spend my days keeping poor, chilled Riley supplied with hot coffee, and mopping up puddles of condensation inside that are dripping from well... everywhere, I think maybe it's a good thing that we're almost home. And really, I can't wait to see where we are going to live, and I'm excited about life on land again. I have a whole long list of hobbies I want to try, skills and ideas I want to learn about, recipes I want to make, and I can hardly wait to get started.

If all goes well, we should be home next week. Next week! Until then, we will be bundled up, taking in the beauty of the sun rising over the steam coming off of the icy water, simultaneously savoring and counting down the days.

Feb 27, 2014

gorgeous georgia and the run-agrounds

That title sounds like it could be a good name for a band, no?  Okay, no maybe not.

But Georgia is gorgeous, and I honestly have nothing bad to say about it other than we ran aground a few times.  But I suppose that's mostly our fault, and the fault of the Army Corp Engineers for not keeping the waterway dredged.  But really, even that wasn't all that bad and it had to happen sooner or later.

(Oh yeah, and Riley's hand got cut so badly he needed several stitches and we had to stay in Jekyll Island longer than planned for it to heal.)

We made three real stops in Georgia; Savannah and Jekyll Island on the way down, and Cumberland Island on the way back, and each one was even prettier than the last.

read about it here, and here

Jekyll Island:

Cumberland Island:
I just wrote about it earlier this week, but you can read about it here if you missed it.  I'm still dreaming about this place!

Oh, and good news, we learn from our mistakes!  There was no running aground in Georgia the second time around!  

It was hard to say good bye to Georgia, but I have a feeling we'll be back!

Feb 26, 2014

life on a sailboat q&a: part 2

Finally, the rest of the answers to all of your questions! Thanks again for submitting so many great ones!

1. How has Gidget been on the trip? What do you do with her when you go exploring? And where does she go to the bathroom?

Gidget has been a really good sport the entire time, she's usually perfectly content as long as she has a lap to sit on! And she loves watching the surroundings while we're traveling. However, she's also been a lot of extra work. Especially for Riley, who is usually the one to take her to shore even when the weather is rough. We never were successful in training her to use the puppy pad that we bought for the boat, so we have to take her to shore to use the bathroom at least twice a day. We try to take her ashore with us whenever possible, especially if there's a beach she can play on, but she's perfectly comfortable staying alone on the boat if we have to run errands without her.

2. What's the bathroom situation like? Do you have a shower on the boat? How do you handle being unshowered for long periods of time?

Okay, so that's a picture of our "bathroom" above. It consists of a toilet and a hand pump sink. Originally, there was a hand held shower extension, but since our bed and closet are right there too, it really wasn't practical at all. In case you're really interested, here are the down and dirty details about boat toilets (If not, skip to the next paragraph!).  So, you use the toilet, and then you have to hand pump all of the water out of it (see the blue handle?), and then enough clean water back in, in order to push all of the "stuff" through the plumbing lines. Everything collects in a small holding tank behind the toilet that eventually fills up. Then we have to get to a place where we can have the holding tank pumped out. It's a lot of extra effort, it's gross, and sometimes it just plain old stinks.

We did bring a solar shower with us to use outside in the cockpit, but we really have only used it a handful of times. It just hasn't been warm enough all that often for me to justify standing outside to take a shower! Especially without a hair dryer to use afterwards.  We try to get to a place that has public showers every couple of days. In the meantime, we use a lot of baby wipes!

3. When you get off the boat do you still feel like you're floating on water?

So far, I haven't noticed this. I have wondered though, if once we move back on land if I'll ever feel like our house is moving. I wouldn't be surprised!

4. Have you ever feared being stuck at sea or possibly capsizing?

There were a few times when we had engine trouble that we felt a little stuck, meaning we were too far from land to dinghy ashore and try to find parts. But we do have tow insurance, and we did put it to good use once!

We really shouldn't ever be in a situation where our boat would capsize completely, but there have been a few times in rough weather that we rocked a little too far for my comfort level!

5. How do you get internet?

For the most part, we use our smart phones to make an internet hotspot. We just have to keep a close eye on our usage so that we don't go over our data plan. Usually, service is pretty good, but there have been a few times (like today!) that I've tried getting a blog post to publish for about three hours before it would actually work!

If we want to download something though, like books or movies, we have to find a place with free wifi in order to do so.

I hope that answers all of your questions! If there's ever anything else you want to know, don't hesitate to ask!

Feb 25, 2014

time travel on cumberland island

While we were in Vero Beach, we swapped tales with some of the other cruisers there, and that's how we knew that we definitely needed to make a stop at Cumberland Island in Georgia.  "The only other island that rivals it on the East Coast is maybe Martha's Vineyard," they said.  "It's like going back in time."  We were sold.

Cumberland Island is a National Seashore, so there is really nothing there.  Well, nothing manmade anyway (aside from maybe a ranger's station and a few houses and ruins).  But there is plenty to see.  We brought Gidget, a few snacks (and Riley wore a fanny pack!), and the camera and made a day of wandering around the island.  The path from the dinghy dock first led us to a beautiful maritime forest... 

and then to the ruins of a Carnegie mansion…

and then to a field of grazing wild horses…

and then to a saltwater marsh…

and then to whatever you call this kind of landscape that reminds me of The Lion King...

and then to the most gigantic sand dunes ever seen by dog and man…

and then to a nearly deserted beach with the finest, softest, most incredible sand on the entire planet…

and back again.

I don't think I have ever seen so many different landscapes in the course of just a few hours.  And each one was just as beautiful and amazing as the last.  Until the ferry arrived at 12:30, we pretty much had the place to ourselves, but even after, it was the most serene, untouched place I've ever visited.  And definitely one of my favorites.  I would highly recommend a visit if you ever get the chance!

(A word of warning though, if you do, you very well may get the song "Wild Horses" stuck in your head for the rest of the day.  We're still singing it.  It might not be so bad if we knew more than just the two lines...)

Feb 24, 2014

florida: the good, the bad, and the beautiful

Well, we've covered a lot of miles this weekend, and have crossed states lines faster than I can post about them!  We've said goodbye to Florida, and have traveled through Georgia.  It just doesn't feel right to leave a place behind without a proper sendoff, though.  We spent about two and a half months total in Florida, and really did see the best of times and the worst of times!

The Good:

-The sun! As we made our way into central Florida, we said good bye to the gray skies and starting shedding some of our winter layers.

-The blue water.  There were so many gorgeous different shades of blue I even found myself snapping pictures of just the water for future reference (for what exactly, I'm not sure…).

-The scenery. Palm trees and Spanish moss? The perfect foliage combination if you ask me!

-The architecture. One of the things I noticed about Florida is how varied it's architecture is. From Spanish-influenced to ultra modern and everything in between. And most of the homes along the water were gorgeous mansions, so there was always something to ogle at!

-Visits from family!

The Bad:

-Along with warmer weather came the humidity. The whole time that we were in southern Florida everything in the boat just felt damp, and it was really kind of gross! I'd put on a clean shirt or climb into bed at night and everything would feel wet. Not a pleasant feeling!

-Key West. I've talked about the rough time we had during the first part of our stay in Key West, so I won't go into detail again. We know now not to visit it again by boat!

-Engine trouble. We had about three or four incidents where things just stopped working. Fortunately, they all seem to be ok now, they just caused a lot of unwelcome stress and inconvenience (and expense) at the time.

-Boat traffic. Florida was definitely the most congested as far as boat traffic goes. Especially on the weekends! Unfortunately, not everyone is very considerate about throwing huge wakes.

The Beautiful:
Between the palm trees, the tiny, uninhabited islands, the sandy beaches, and the cities, there was a lot of beauty to behold along Florida's coast! Some of my favorite sights (you can click on the name to read my post about the place in case you missed it):

Thanks for the memories, Florida!

Feb 21, 2014

5 favorite insta-memories

As we've started to travel through areas that we visited during our first few months of this trip, I have noticed myself looking back through my instagram feed more often.  As we're passing through an area, I'll look through my photos and say, "hey, remember this when we were here 11 weeks ago… 11 weeks ago!"  It's really kind of a neat thing.  I've noticed that quite a few of my favorite moments from this trip were captured on instagram, but never really made it to the blog, so I thought I'd share them today.

1. Sketching out our anchorage for the night.
For the first several weeks of the trip, after we had finished traveling for the day and had settled in our anchorage for the night, I got in the habit of sitting outside in the evening light and sketching out the scenery around us.  Then I'd make a journal entry of the days events.  Sadly, it started getting too cold to be sitting out there sketching in the evening, and by the time it warmed up again I was out of the habit.  But, I have managed to write a journal entry for every single day of the trip.  Longest consecutive journal of my life!

2. A perfect sail to Key Largo.
You'd probably be surprised to find out how little sailing we actually do.  Our boat can actually sail faster than it can motor, but… the wind has to be coming from the right direction.  Since we are "cruising sailors," we only sail when there's a favorable wind. Otherwise, we save a lot more time and unnecessary miles by motoring.  But when those perfect sailing days do come along, we appreciate them so much more!  There is something so peaceful (and quiet!) and soothing about it.  We had one of those perfect days on our way to Key Largo, and it's one I'll never forget.

3. Watching the storm roll in
Our first few days in Key West were rough, to put it mildly.  There is no good, protected anchorage to keep a boat, and the best we could find was still a mile ride into shore on a slow dinghy.  We also got caught in some really bad weather and were pretty much stuck on the boat.  We eventually gave in and shelled out the big bucks to stay in a marina, and it changed our entire experience.  Not long after we had safely tied up to the dock, another front came rolling in.  In just a matter of minutes the sky turned dark, the temperature dropped significantly, and the wind started howling around us.  Everyone on the boats near us ran to the end of the dock and we literally watched (and heard) the storm rolling in.  It was a pretty awesome sight.  Especially, of course, since we were safely at a dock.

4. The sound of Taps as the sun set over the water.
We spent quite a bit of time, on two different occasions, at the mooring field in Boot Key Harbor at Marathon.  It's a popular place for cruisers and they have formed a great community there.  One of my favorite memories during our stay is hearing the sound of one of the cruisers playing Taps on his trumpet in the evenings.  There's just something about hearing that melody as the sun set over the water that's going to stay with me forever.

5. Dinner at Lorelei's
After one of our long days of traveling, we anchored in a nice little spot just off shore of a restaurant called Lorelei's.  Live music, good food and drinks, and a view of the sunset over the water… it's just what you might expect to do at the Keys, but something that we hadn't experienced nearly enough.  It was so nice to be able to just take a short trip to shore, and we even got to bring Gidget along too (I always have a guilty conscience when we have to leave her behind).  It was one of the absolute best ways to spend an evening.

It was hard to narrow it down to just five, I have so many other favorite memories!  You can find me on instagram as @allisonsutphin, if you'd like to follow along!

Happy Friday!

linking up with DarciAprilChristina and Natasha for Five on Friday.

Feb 20, 2014

life on a sailboat q&a: part 1

So, I only asked you guys if you had any questions for me…oh, about a month ago, so I'm sincerely sorry it has taken me this long to start answering them. I had considered doing so in a video, but you wouldn't believe how easy it is to find excuses not to. The wind was too loud, the boat was rocking too much, I hadn't showered in too many days, I didn't have enough wifi to download it anyway… you know, the usual. So we'll just stick to good, old fashioned type.

1. What made you decide to live on a boat?

Riley had come up with this idea as kind of a "someday before I die," thing, but he couldn't stop talking about it. So we decided to make it a "right now before we have kids," thing instead. We were both feeling like we needed to shake things up a little, and it seemed like as good a time as any to do it.

2. Do you and your husband run out of things to talk about? Is it difficult spending a lot of time together with not much time to yourself?

I'd say that instead of running out of things to talk about, we seem to have better, more meaningful conversations than we've ever had before. Especially lately, as we're trying to figure out what we want next in life and what steps we need to take to make that happen.

As far as having time to ourselves, sometimes Riley might run errands on shore while I stay behind with the boat, or one of us will sit outside while the other one's inside. It's not much space, haha, but it seems to do the trick!

3. How did your families handle this decision and being gone for the holidays?

Both of our families were really encouraging and supportive from the very beginning. Since we lived near both of our immediate families in Virginia, it was an adjustment not seeing each other whenever we felt like it. But we've stayed in touch on the phone, and we've had some family come and visit us along the way too, which was really nice. We sure did miss a lot of holidays, but maybe that will just make next year all the more special!

4. Is there anything that you wish you would have packed because it would be handy to have on the boat? Anything that you packed that you haven't used and have been tempted to throw overboard?

In general, I actually think we did pretty well when it came to packing. Especially considering we had never done anything like this before! I definitely should have brought more winter layers though, and we both wish we would have brought along some movies and tv shows on dvd!

I did pack way too many bathing suits. I only really needed one maybe three times. I had also packed a few nicer things, thinking that we might want to go out more, but when it comes down to it, getting on and off a dinghy all the time is tricky and things get wet and dirty, so I've been living in just jeans and t-shirts.

5. Any creature comforts that you miss?

At this point, the list could be really long! We both miss the ease of having our own shower and a real bathroom, a rectangular bed, a car to get around… and really anything else that comes along with living in a house! I miss my shoes. And this sounds silly but...terry cloth. Microfiber towels just aren't the same! Oh, and a paycheck sounds pretty good, too!

Thanks again for submitting all of your questions, and waiting so long for answers! I divided them up, so I'll be posting part 2 next week. That one involves some "potty talk," so that should be fun!

Feb 19, 2014

exploring st. augustine

Well, it's safe to say that St. Augustine lived up to my expectations... and that's a tough thing to do!  In fact, I was just going to call this post "All the Reasons St. Augustine is Perfect," but I started thinking it might get a little long winded.  To make a long story short, St. Augustine has amazing weather, it's a very walkable city, it has such an interesting assortment of shops and restaurants, gorgeous architecture, and honestly, the best shower facilities from North Carolina to the Keys.  No joke.  In the past several months I have seen more than my fair share of public showers, ranging from downright dirty to "this looks like a utility closet" sketchy.  So, this was a pretty big deal.  Thanks St. Augustine.

We also had the good fortune of arriving in St. Augustine on President's Day, which meant that we could tour The Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the continental US, for free.  It was a great way to get an introduction to the amazing history behind such a beautiful city.

St. Augustine has been good to us, and we'll be sorry to say goodbye!

Feb 17, 2014

the weekend haul

last night's anchorage by Fort Matanzas
We've made good time and covered several miles since we left Vero Beach on Friday.  We spent our weekend traveling about 50 or more miles a day, which usually takes around 8 hours or so, and then finding a quiet place to anchor and pretty much going right to sleep.  A cold front has come through, reminding us that we can't hide out from winter forever, so we dug back out our hats and fleece coats.  Let's just ease back into this nicely though, okay Winter?

These days of just covering ground can get kind of boring, but we're trying to soak up the scenery, knowing that Florida's coast will have passed us by before we know it.  Before we leave it behind for good though, we have a few more stops we'd like to make.  Later today we should be coming into much anticipated St. Augustine!  We passed it by in a hurry to get South before, but we have heard so much about it, we know we can't skip over it a second time.

Have you been to St. Augustine before?  I'd love to hear any recommendations for things to do or see if you have them!

Feb 14, 2014

"this is a date"

Happy Valentine's Day!

This will be our fifth (and final!) holiday that we celebrate on the boat.  Although, one of us argues that it doesn't really count as a holiday.  Good thing that one of us is a good sport about it anyway!

(Click to see how we celebrated Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's on the boat!)

We caught the free bus to the beach the other day, and as we were walking along the boardwalk Riley said, "You know, since we're together all the time now, we don't really go on 'real' dates anymore.  So, this is a date."And so we walked along, and down near the water, and we enjoyed the weather and the scenery and each other's company.  And it was a date.

I think something special happens just in the small act of designating a moment as a "celebration."  That's kind of how we have celebrated holidays on this boat in general.  We haven't done anything outrageous to celebrate, but just knowing that it was a special moment made even the ordinary things seem a little more extraordinary.

And that's how we'll be celebrating Valentine's Day, too.  There won't be an exchange of flowers or gifts, or even an elaborate dinner.  In fact, we left Vero Beach bright and early this morning, so we'll be underway for most of the day.  But, we have a movie rented and downloaded on iTunes for this evening, a nice bottle of wine that was gifted to Riley as a thank you for helping out a fellow cruiser, and one truffle each left over from a box of chocolates that we bought on Monday (talk about self control!  Of course, I won't mention the fact that we ate the other seven truffles on that same Monday…).  So we'll have a nice evening, and we'll be sweeter to each other today just because it's Valentine's Day, of course.  Funny how that works.

Are you celebrating Valentine's Day?  What kind of things do you do to make holidays, or really any old days, feel special?

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