Monday, October 28, 2013

Honesty is the best policy...most of the time.

I was looking back on some old posts (I’m all by myself for the last 4 months) and getting nostalgic and noticed that I used to be funny.  I was candid.  I was funny.  I didn’t care what people thought.  So I asked myself, “what’s different?”.  I’m still the same me.  As a matter of fact, my filter has fallen off a few times here in the US and almost gotten me kicked out of my home!   So, what happened?

Other cruisers started reading my blog.  My best stories are either about other crusiers (I mean THE BEST) or they’re about my opinion on cruising.  When you leave the dock, you think you are the most unique people out there.  You sold your sh**, you got on that boat and you left, damn’t!  You’re family thinks your crazy, your friends are envious (they still have jobs), and your grandmother is praying for you non stop.  You pull into that first anchorage thinking you are the bomb!  The only problem?  There are 27 other boats ahead of you (and they all have blogs.!)  I know.  I’ve been there.  We pulled into the Marquesas after 21 ½ days at sea and not only did I notice how many boats where there, I also noticed how it looked exactly like Mexico (another post entirely)!  We were so not unique.

My point is, once you start traveling around the world, , you meet people.  Those people have feelings.  Those people are extremely funny.  They would make for very good stories.  Did I mention those people are your friends?

So here I sit in Norfolk, VA looking for something to write about.  I have a few really funny stories about my land lover friends here…. (thank goodness I’m happily married and don’t have to date with new gray hair I have discovered)….but they would appreciate them about as much as a fart in church (well, worse than that, but my filter is on so that’s about as graphic as I can get).  I have a few stories of fellow cruisers (even way over here in Norfolk), but like I said they read the blog.

So where is that line?  I was talking with a friend of mine lately that writes for a living.  I was talking about magazine articles.  She said I needed to find my “voice.”  My “voice” is sarcastic and crude.  The minute I start to write like I think a magazine would like, I fall asleep at my own computer. 

I’m all over the place…where did I start this blog?  Oh yea…don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.  And I don’t.  So, bear with me.  The best comments I’ve ever gotten on this blog were about my honesty.  So I’m going to work really hard to find a line not too big and not too fine that I can walk without getting knocked off.    Feedback is always appreciated.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A long look back

It appears they're doing just fine without me!!

I was reading through our old blog entries the other night – feeling nostalgic and missing my boys – and I came across our list of projects we HAD to do before we left.  We completed a huge amount of work, but I found it quite funny that many of those projects are still unfinished 3 ½ years later.  So this post is for those people who aren’t quite sure if they’re ready to leave.  I think this is timely as it’s getting close to the end of hurricane season in North America and many are preparing for the Ba-ha-ha in CA (the yearly migration to Mexico) or for heading south here on the east coast.  My advice, Just go.  If it’s important, it will get done. 

Just for fun…Here’s our list from 2010 and the CURRENT status of those projects…it’s actually a pretty short list now that I look back on it.

Galley Remodel
Lucky for me, this was complete and has made a world of difference in our comfort level.  We expanded our fridge and added a freezer.

Extend bed, new mattress
While we did get a new mattress (love it!), we never extended the bed.  We just switched which way we lay our heads.  And now that I’m stateside in a real bed, I find myself sliding down to the end so I can hang my feet over and hugging the edge of the bed (normally the wall on the boat, so I give Andy more room).

Single Side Band “stuff”
We did install the modem but it took a good year after being out to finally figure out how this thing worked.  In the end, we bought a new radio (and still took an additional six months to come up to speed).  This is an area that still seems to need chicken bones and voo-doo dolls to make it work.  One lesson learned for us though…we bought a huge, expensive antennae and drove it down to Mexico for better reception.  It never worked properly and literally broke off into the water shortly after purchasing it.   After duct taping it back together we now use it to hold the very inexpensive 30 feet of wire needed for proper reception.  Most of the time, it works like a champ.

Lifeline netting
Installed and very helpful for keeping toys on board.

Deck box for compressor
Never did this.  The compressor has a permanent home in our head on top of the engine cover.

Configure cockpit for shower curtain so we can have some privacy while bathing
Never did this.  We still shower outside but have decided it’s not that big of a deal.  The way our cockpit sits, I don’t’ think anyone can actually see anything.  I wear my bathing suit top anyway just in case, but overall, cruisers aren’t really that concerned with your showering habits (I do have to watch out for tour boats in Palau though…learned that the hard way).  Jake forgoes the shower altogether and just jumps in the water naked, using soap when forced to do so.

Now here’s a list I did find useful…

  • ·       Quit Job/ Retire/ Leave of Absence (my favorite)
  • ·       Get all checkups, shots, teeth cleaning, eye doctor, hair cuts, etc.
  • ·       Beef up the first aid kit for long term/remote travel
  • ·       Put together ditch kit
  • ·       Establish residency in homeschooling, tax friendly state.
  • ·       Sell Car/Truck
  • ·       Provision – a few times.  I find that I am always thankful to have too much, rather than not enough.  Many people disagree with this advice.  It depends on your relationship with food….we love food, therefore we never leave home without the essentials.
  • ·       Last but not least…Plan a party!  Say goodbye to friends and family, relax, have fun.  You’re just getting started…

Good luck to all those leaving this season!  Maybe we’ll share an anchorage one day.

Some of the latest from Palau....

Not sure what the toilet paper is about...I'm usually the one
that brings that

I seems the one good thing I'm missing is all the
crappy weather they're getting.

It looks like he still has enough left to lick off the bowl!

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Great Dismal Swamp

Years ago, when I first started dating Andy, he took me on a kayaking trip to the Great Dismal Swamp here in Virginia.  We paddled the 3 miles or so back to Lake Drummond and had a little picnic.  It was absolutely beautiful as very few people ever go back there.  Large motor boats aren’t allowed and it’s not all that easy to get to, so the traffic is pretty sparse.  (Incidentally, the Dismal Swamp Canal can be used by shallow draft sailboats to transit he ICW, so this post isn’t totally disconnected to sailing).

When trying to think of something fun and unusual to do with my friend while I’m here, I thought it would be really cool to go back there on our stand up paddle boards (well, HER paddleboards).  She loves to paddle and has never seen Lake Drummond, so why not?  I tried to down play my reasons for buying the super duper Deep Woods bug spray.  There was no need for her to worry about the bird size biting flies we might encounter.  I tried to sound confident when I told her where we needed to park and put our boards in.  I didn’t think it was necessary for her to know that all of my intel was gleemed from google earth and not any actual experience.  I tried to be nonchalant when I asked her to text her boyfriend and tell him what time we got started and how long we thought we would be gone.  No need for her to worry about things she hadn’t thought about yet (like getting lost or abducted or whatever).  Because the chances were so remote that we would ever see one, I didn’t think twice to tell her that there were black bears back there.  When it looked like she might panic, I reassured her that Andy said that at the rate we talk, anything of any interest would be scared away before we even knew it existed. 

So off we went with our backpacks packed, complete with lunch, drinks, and bug spray.  As soon as we put the boards in the water, it started sprinkling.  Lucky for us, it was short lived and didn’t really bother us that much as it was a beautiful day.  We were really into the scenery and my friend was starting to relax and enjoy our little adventure.  We took a leisurely approach and decided to paddle on our rear ends/knees.  I’m not sure if this was for any other reason than we were being lazy, but it was working for us.  After about 30 minutes or so, I saw something about 100 yards in front of us swim across the canal.  I was excited that we were actually going to see something bigger than a turtle so I said “oooohhhh…look at that!”

Then we watched this creature swim across the canal.  It was fast.  It was HUGE.  It was black.

“What was that!?” she asked me.
“I have no idea”
“It was HUGE!”
“I know.”
“I’m a little freaked out!”
(laugh, laugh, laugh)…that’s me laughing at my friend.
“I think I’m going to vomit”
(laugh, laugh, laugh)  “It was pretty freakin big!  Come on, we’ll just be loud and it will go away”
“I don’t think I can go any further”
“I’ll go check it out…I’ll be right back”  I was really, really curious.

So I paddled a few strokes then I stopped cold…I heard a loud growl or roar or whatever you want to call it.  “ooo!!!”
“What?  What did you see?”
“Nothing” I lied.
“What?  What was it?”
“Nothing.  Let’s just hang out and have a beer and give it time to go away.”

So we do.  At this point we’re both thinking we saw a bear.  So we’re freaking out a little bit but I’m still trying to convince her to keep going.  I’m hoping the beer will do the trick.  And I tell her how skittish bears are and we have surely scared it off now.  I remind her that some people come back here in the hopes of seeing a bear (Andy being one of those people).  Then I look back and I see the darn thing swimming back across the canal again, only a little closer to us. 

“Nothing” I lied again.
“You’d better tell me”
“I saw it again” (me starting to paddling) “Let’s go”
“Where was it?” (paddling really really fast) “How far back?”
“Oh, way back there” I lied one more time.

So we hauled butt out of there all the time convincing ourselves that the bear was stalking us.  We decided it was a mama bear with cubs and she wanted us to go away.  We kicked ourselves for not studying up on how to survive a bear attack in the water on a paddle board and vowed to do this as soon as we got home.  At one point, we were both hungry so we thought about taking our sandwiches out.  Then I remembered that Yogi bear always loved a good picnic so we thought better of it and just paddled faster (but now we had a plan…we would just throw the sandwiches to the bear!).  I turned around again and we saw a large figure in the middle of the canal about where the bear was.  We convinced ourselves it was just standing there watching us making sure we got the message. When we got back out to the main canal, we stopped and had our lunch (and another beer) while recapping the whole thing.

Pretty soon, we saw a couple in a canoe coming from the same direction (hindsight, this was probably the figure we saw in the water…not a bear wagging his finger at us) and I paddled over to ask them if they saw anything.  They were trying not to laugh at our story, as they politely informed us that they thought we might have seen a large beaver.  “They can get to be 40-50 lbs.  Bears are 200 lbs and almost 4 ½ feet long”

“Thank you…yes, yes, maybe that was it.  Thank you”

They paddled off.  We looked at each other and at the same time we said “That was a freakin bear!”  I know they were probably thinking we should just take our “city-girl” selves back to the mall and leave the nature loving to people who knew what they were looking at!

We paddled back to the dock we had lowered the boards in on and a ranger on a four wheeler with a big gun on the back hollered across the canal at us, “You girls almost got yourself in a predicament.  I was just about to lock that gate.  There’s a boat launch down the way.  You should use that.” 

“OK, we’re sorry.  Thank you” blah blah blah

Then we go to put the boards on her car and I see not one, but two no trespassing signs that I swear were not there when we arrived earlier that morning.

I don’t think we thought that whole thing through.  My idea is to go back with more people so we lower the odds of getting eaten by a bear (my friend Ray politely told me that he didn’t think bears were actually known for eating people – but he didn’t volunteer to go either).  But sadly, I don’t think I have any takers.  If they only knew how pretty it was back there…

I later told Andy this story and he said he saw a bear just about every time he went back there…I think I’ll keep that to myself.