Friday, January 29, 2016

5. Happy 1 Month Aboard, Abby

    Amazing sunrise!

This week has been the perfect gambit of highs & lows.  
Coming off our crazy sailing battle to find a stopping place last week, we took the easy trip down the ICW to Peanut Island, just inside the Lake Worth Inlet.  It was the perfect place to re-coop.  We happened upon a free mooring ball just off the island and got comfy.
    Exploring Peanut Island, FL
We spent a day exploring the island.  There is a protected cove where we were pleasantly surprised by 6 manatees.  There were paddle boards and snorkelers all around but they didn't seem to mind the company.  Andrew was the first willing to brave the chilly water and was rewarded with a face to face greeting.  
Sky soon joined and was also able to get up close and personal with a momma and calf.  Paige gave it a try but was happier viewing from the topside.  
    Loved the manatees!

We enjoyed a picnic lunch and the girls collected shells and hermit crabs to take back to Abby.  We moved to a different little inlet and all four of us got in to snorkel the rocks and see some beautiful schools of fish.  Andrew surprised the girls by swimming into their field of view holding a huge conch shell that housed the biggest hermit crab we've ever seen.  
We even found a Bahimian or Cushion Starfish about 15" in diameter - the first time I've ever seen one in their natural habitat.  
    Paige got a kiss from the starfish.

We topped off the day doing what any good sailor would do and took advantage of the free fresh water shower, never mind that it was open air :)

We continued enjoying the beautiful weather by chillin' in the cockpit as the sun set.  We had no idea of the show we were in for!  A trawler (RV on the water) moored just 100' in front of us seemed to be drifting so I nonchalantly mentioned it to Andrew who immediately jumped to attention.  The 3 crew on board were all inside the cabin so we yelled and yelled to alert them.  One casually strolled out to see what the commotion was about.  We told him he had broken free and was drifting.  He went inside to get the others.  They were not moving very fast or showing much concern.  Andrew had enough time to unlock our dinghy and motor towards them before they reappeared and said they were just "swinging with the current".  What?  Are you crazy!  Now, you know I can get someone's attention if I need to so, in my loud and demonstrative voice I yelled, "You are not attached, you are drifting!"  With that, Andrew racing toward them and the boat floating past them that had previously been behind them, they got the picture!  Andrew made sure they had no lines still hanging overboard and they got the engines revved just as their dinghy grazed the dock, 500' from where they started!  Andrew double checked our lines before climbing aboard and having a beer to unwind from the excitement.
    Beautiful sunset over Peanut Island

The next 2 days were rainy & rolly but we took full advantage of all the fresh water.  All 4 of us suited up and scrubbed down the decks to get all the salt off of our hard working girl.  Andrew even dove to check the bottom job and scrub the scum at the water line.  
Not very glamorous but we all actually had a lot of fun, what else are you gonna do on a rainy day aboard?  
The girls researched info on all the creatures we found at the island and decorated their "crab-itats".  

Day 2 of rain made us a little more productive on finding homes for loose items and adding some tie-downs in the galley in prep for more heeling.  All those days aboard with little other interaction made momma a little stir crazy so we ventured into town to grab a bite and got caught in another rain storm on the way home - what are you gonna do?!  Since we were soaked through already, were decided to load the dinghy on deck in prep for our early morning departure.  Surprisingly, no one complained about the rain, wind or cold and everyone rallied together to get it done.  I think the more the girls see Andrew & I just doing what needs to be done, no matter the conditions, the more it rubs off on them and they are happy to help and be an intrigal part of the team.  
We are now enjoying a beautiful sail to Ft Lauderdale.  Andrew & I pulled the lines this morning around 5:30am planning on letting the girls sleep and wouldn't you know, both their smiling faces popped out the hatch just as the sun was rising!  It's a pretty sweet life :)

Things learned this week:
As parents, we are the examples to our kids.  Want your kids to be complainers?  Complain around them (you may not even realize you're doing it).  Want them to be lazy?  Then do everything for them.  As moms, we want them to need us; but, as growing little people, they need to learn how much they can do themselves.  They may even surprised you!
Living aboard is like life.  Whether rain or shine, warm or cold, hard or fun, you can't get off the boat.  So you might as well get some work done and have fun while you do it!
    My crazies!

Not sure what to expect from our week in Ft Laud but we hear the entry to our next dock is pretty tricky.  Hopefully that won't be next week's story :)

Sunday, January 24, 2016

4. Back On Board

    Leaving Riverside Marina - Ft Pierce, FL
We spent almost a week at our home in Jax.  We cleaned and closed down our house.  We spent multiple days at our commercial building working on clearing the space for a new tenant.
    AppleBox warehouse looking pretty empty.  The new sail we are stitching is laid out on the floor.

The girls had fun with lots of their friends.  And we were blessed to celebrate our friends’ adoption of a family of four.  
    It's official - the Wolff family just doubled in size!
Super productive week but we were all excited to get back to Abby and back on the water.  

She welcomed us back with a bit of warmer weather and we shed our layers for tanks tops and shorts, even if only for one day.  
We spent time with our new friends, the Lawsons, another liveaboard family finishing up loose ends in Ft Pierce before heading to the Bahamas.  Sky and Savannah became fast friends and she even got to sleep over at their boat.  
            We hosted the second night.
We are keeping our fingers crossed that all works out for us to cross to the Bahamas together.  
We spent the last day in the marina prepping to head to the open ocean for the first time (and taking advantage of some great food in the area).
    Archie's - Andrew schooling Paige.

We thought we were stowing everything as best we could but we would soon find out it was all in vain.  The next morning the wind had kicked up as promised and we took the small craft advisory as an indication of great sailing to come.  
    Our first glimpse of the ocean.
Leaving the inlet at Ft Pierce was so exciting.  Everyone was in high spirits as we saw the open ocean in front of us.  We only had a flake of a foresail out and the 20-30 knot winds were moving us along at a steady 6-7 knots.  
    The moms will be happy to notice everyone wearing their life vests.
The wave surfing was super fun but we soon realized that “items tend to shift during shipping”.  
I was making repeated trips below deck to see what new item had wiggled free from it’s holding, each time thinking I had secured the last possible mess.  
    A small bit of the mess in the galley.
At one point Andrew heard a thud and sent me running to check.  An entire cabinet top we had forgotten to re-screw down during refit had shifted in our cabin and all the three ringed binders with owner's manuals and various schematics had flown onto the floor.  
    The shelf was full, only one book only slid to the bed, the rest are on the floor.
Luckily, the ice maker on that same shelf still sat firmly in it’s place.  That’s one of our luxury items onboard that we would sorely miss if it took a dive :)
After having their giggly fill of bouncing on waves and getting cold spray in the face, the girls headed below deck to be a little more comfy but not before Paige tripped on all the stuff that had fallen on the cabin floor, landing flat on her back.  
She was fine but Sky & I laughed at her uncaringly as she laid there to determine if it was a laugh or cry moment - she laughed too :)
Because the conditions turned out to be much more than we bargained for, we took our first bail out option at St Lucie.  You would think being surprised by wind and sea and having to turn in sooner than planned or turning into the inlet and fighting wind and current at a whopping 1 knot would be the most frustrating point of the day but NO.  Trying to lay the anchor out 7 times without a windlass (for our non-boaters, a motor that reels in the anchor for you) and not catching a holding anywhere, that was the moment that made me want to cuss and cry all at the same time.  I enjoy handling the anchor most days, it is great exercise but today just wasn't our day.  
    Even through frustration you can't deny the beautiful surroundings - Jupiter Lighthouse.

By this time, we were so exhausted and ready to find our stopping point for the night.  Jupiter offered no such luck.  We even had our first running aground.  Not a first you look forward to but Andrew and Abby worked it out.  We pressed on while the moon rose beautifully, passing many drawbridges along the way.  We finally happened upon a restaurant with a fixed dock near North Palm Beach and decided to treat ourselves to dinner and then took advantage of their hospitality and stayed the night, planning to ask forgiveness if they had asked us to move :)
    Our safe haven for the night.
We all slept like rocks!

So this week brought us lots of firsts:
-first boat family friends we’ve met on our trip and spent time with aboard
-Sky’s first boat sleepover with a friend
-first meal Andrew prepared for us onboard :)
I'm one lucky lady :)
-first ocean passage
-first gale force winds
-first full on waves over the bow
-first failed anchoring
-first grounding
-and the furthest south we’ve ever been in Abby.
What a week!

Things learned this week:
Our cabin is not ready for ocean passage.  Moments into the adventure items began flying across cabinets and onto the floor.  We have new items added to the list of “to do”s -adding hooks and bungees to secure all stowed items.  Luckily I have a handy Andy aboard ;)
Abby can handle a lot!  
And we’re pretty tough too.

Now we bob at a beautiful mooring in Lake Worth, licking our wounds and planning the next leg of the adventure.  We will be checking out another marine supply store hoping for deals and doing the final prep for the crossing to the Bahamas (which will have to include one more trip back to Jax - but this is really it!). Thinking we will be ready to leave, officially, in the next 2-3 weeks - my fingers are crossed for two ;)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

3. Boat Life / Land Life

    Making our way south.

It is strange putting together the “sailing” blog while sitting in my home on land :) but here is what we’ve been up to.  After Paige’s birthday visit from the grandparents we delivered them to the dock via dinghy, no problem.  Our trip back to Abby gave us a little excitement/drama, enough to to be post worthy so here goes.  Andrew had seen a very nice 60’ yacht beached on a sandbar near the Ponce Inlet so we decided to go exploring to get a better look on our way back to the boat.  As we moved toward the inlet, the sun began to set and the fog grew thicker and thicker.  After hearing our little outboard engine putter a few times as we were about to run aground ourselves, we decided to pull out google earth on my tablet (which usually stays in the dry bag).  By the time we had the satellite image up, the fog was so thick we could no longer see landmarks for reference and had to trust that the computer was smarter than us!  We wound our way past the inlet opening, seeing the larger waves of the ocean much closer than we would want.  The girls were FREAKING out and Paige was convinced we were headed out to the open ocean and, I’m sure in her mind at the time, never to be seen again!  We tried to show them how we were navigating based on the images and used them as lookouts as best we could.  It is amazing the things you think you see when you can’t see anything at all!  Our 15 minute dinghy ride took over an hour to get back to Abby.  Andrew & I had a few intense moments but really didn't feel the panic the girls did because we trusted Google.  Once we arrived back at the boat both girls had a good cry from the stress.  We apologized for not having a better plan and all had a good hug.  
Lessons learned:  
- this experience is not for pushing the boundaries to see what we can endure, we need to make sure the whole crew is “onboard” with the plan.  We don’t want to regularly freak them out or they will not enjoy this experience.  
- fog is not something to be messed with!  You would think we would have learned that from our first experience but we are hard headed, what can I say?
    Ponce Inlet anchorage - note the fog, middle of the day.

After a much more exciting night than we had planned, we were ready to head further south.  We had a fun passage out of New Smyrna and traveled all day with another boat, Rockyella, until Titusville.  There is a tiny passage called Haulover Canal that was densely populated with fishing boats, some having to pull out of our path so we could pass.  We had never seen anything like it.  Where the Indian River opens up heading south is more like a very large lake.  We had quite a bit of chop and some huge wind gusts.  The girls love those moments and get giggling hard.  We had our first pretty severe heeling (for non-sailors- meaning the boat leans far over because of all the wind in the sail) which sent many items in the cabin flying - makes a mess but helps you learn what needs to find a new home :)
    Anchorage at Cocoa Beach

After finishing a total of 4 nights at anchor, we rewarded ourselves with a stay at the Vero Beach Marina and dinner at Riverside Cafe.  OMG - great place to stay and even better food!  We were a little over stimulated to be on land, with people, and lots of TVs but we enjoyed ourselves so much.
    View from Riverside Cafe - breath taking

We are now docked at the “no frills but very affordable” Riverside Marina in Ft Pierce.  
    First time at a dock with no finger piers, you should see us dismount :)

Andrew is doing some finishing touches aboard while the girls and I are at home trying to get everything set for us to leave long term.  We’ve be able to use this time as an opportunity for the girls to take some much missed dance classes at our home studio - Scott Jones School of Dance and squeeze in lots of sleepovers and friend time.

Things learned in our third week aboard:
The boat is home - I am surprised to find that the four walls of our home are no longer where we feel "at home”.  We have lived here for 10yrs next month. It is not a fancy house, sixties style that needs lots of improvements but we have loved it and turned it into our little haven.  But our 37’ boat feels more like home lately than our comfy 4 walls, why?  Because it's where we are living!  It's no longer about the stuff we have accumulated to make us cozy or happy or entertained but the family I share the space with and the interactions with them that make me feel like the wife and mom I was meant to be.  Lesson: don't be over “stuffed”.  Focus on what is important and what you have or don't have no longer matters.
    Cute girls, being cute in their cute V-berth.

Play the role you're cast - I will try to combine the 3 things I know best: being a wife, living aboard and being a performer.  Andy & I have had a few disagreements aboard usually over nothing particularly important and the resolve quickly.  I have pinpointed that it is usually because I'm trying to do his job, not mine.  Now if you don't subscribe to the “Wives submit to your husbands”, you may appreciate that there is, in fact, a hierarchy on a boat and if there is more than one captain, mutiny ensues.  I have realized that any disagreement comes when I am questioning the captain instead of embracing my role as first mate which is equally important even if it is viewed as a supporting role.  It's like being cast in one role and trying to play another.  Here's a FRIENDS reference for everyone our age :)  It's like being cast as Monica and trying to play Rachel.  Rachel is only truly convincing as Rachel when she has Monica to play off of.  A captain can only truly focus on his duties when his crew is fulfilling their's and a husband is only free to thrive when he has the full and undying support of his wife, a role I cherish.
    The rewards of the sailing life

We have a few more days on land to wrap things up before heading back to the boat so if you’re in Jax and need us, better make it quick :)
Hoping the next post will be from aboard and in a new location

Sunday, January 10, 2016


Week 2 - Happy New Year
We rang in the New Year in style with a horse-drawn carriage tour of St Augustine, fireworks, dinner w/ live band and counting it down with a whole bunch of new sailing friends aboard S/V Valhalla - thanks Stan & Sarah.
        A unique look at our oldest city.

New Year’s Day was spent relaxing aboard.  Teaching the cup song to the girls proved to be both entertaining as well as refreshing -for Andrew, as he dove into the water to save an over-zealous solo cup who flew out of the cockpit :)
    Just before he finds out how cold the water is!

St Augustine was a great stop for picking up the supplies needed to wrap up a few boat projects.  We even traversed King St with our "new to us" whisker pole in hand.  
    Beautiful downtown St Aug, crazy sailors.

The weather turned a bit on us and the St Augustine Municipal Marina was gracious enough to hold a space open for us on the other side of the bridge so we moved from our first home in the north mooring field to a calmer spot in the south field for our last night there.

Jan 2 was a fun and exciting day, even if the girls didn’t know it yet :)  
We dropped our mooring and headed south to Marineland Marina.  We had a chilly but short motor south and the crew at Marineland were super helpful at getting us docked quickly with the gusty wind - thank you, Eric, Quinn, and Daniel at Marineland.  
We rushed to get settled in so we could meet up with our friends, the Wolff pack, at Marineland Dolphin Adventure Park.  
We had an amazing tour guide, Valerie, who taught us about all the different marine life they have at the aquarium.  
The kids even had an opportunity to pet and feed the dolphins.  Such an amazingly fun way to celebrate 2016 and our new life!  
    Andrew's battle with Neptune has already begun.

A trip back home to Jax was in order to wrap up a few loose ends.  
It is always bittersweet to go home.  The girls get kind of excited to see all their stuff and watch tv, Andrew gets stressed out because it reminds him of all the stuff we are leaving undone, and I feel like I’m in a tailspin because I have so many projects to complete before we cross to the Bahamas that I’m not sure where to start.  But we try to keep our head about us and just eat it like an elephant, “one bite at a time”.  

We were so happy we spent the first part of the year at the dock because we had a FL style burst of winter and we fired up the heater to stay warm.  Now, I have to apologize to anyone in freezing snow, etc. because it was nothing like that; but we are Floridians, anything below 50 gets us layering up, cuddling like we’ve had an Arctic blast :)
We took the first opportunity of nice weather to move a little further south and even sailed most of the day towards Daytona.  
After our beautiful day sail, we topped it off by dropping the hook for the first time just south of Memorial Bridge.  We had great holding and a perfectly still night that got us excited about all the nights on the hook we have ahead of us (even though Andrew did pop out the top to check our positioning every 15 minutes :)

January 8 is one of my favorite days of the year.  
It is the day I first became a mom, my most favorite job!  Happy 13th Birthday, Paige!  
We woke and pulled anchor promptly to head to the local city dock to pick up Paige's birthday surprise.  Mom & Dad Howell met us there to squeeze Paige's neck and Mom joined us aboard for the quick 2 hr ride south to New Smyrna where Dad met up with us.  

We revisited the Inlet Harbor Marina, one of our most notable stops of our delivery home where we crashed into the dock - see The Bump & Grind if you want to read more about that :)  
Surprisingly the dock guys remember that day really well, too!

It was fun to celebrate in a familiar setting and great to have Mom & Dad join us for a slumber party onboard.

Things learned in our second week aboard:
    I don't have near the time I imagined.  I had dreams of endless minutes to read and write and maybe ponder life as I stare into the distance but that doesn't happen as often as you would think.  There is always something to be done; just as breakfast dishes are done, it is time to adjust the sail.  You may sit for a moment then the charge for the fridge needs reset.  I'll be ready for a sit down but everyone else is hungry :)
    It's not normal yet, I'm still counting the days aboard.  The transition from vacation mode into normal life mode is still illusive.  I'm a foodie and would love to eat out in every location, every day.  Luckily my family is very appreciative when we make a good meal in, it encourages me to press on.
    The quality of communication and family time is invaluable.  Watching my girls learn to communicate better and everyone enjoy each others' company is what this is all about!
    Crazy girls having way too much fun!

Oh, and we completed our first full day back to school aboard - yay us!
    Celebratory popcorn and m&ms after school.

We are looking forward to a week in Fort Pierce to complete the rest of the projects aboard and what is hopefully the final trip home to Jax.  We'll keep you posted.