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Winter’s Coming and That Sucks. We Have An Escape Plan.

Winter is coming... here's your escape plan

So, it’s been an interesting couple weeks around here. We haven’t done much posting to the blog since we’ve put the boat back on the market. We’ve had a ton of interest and people coming to see the boat and although it’s hard to believe, as of today… Vacilando it STILL for sale. A huge THANK YOU to all of you who shared the listing and emailed friends about her. We really appreciate it. Unfortunately the “dream boat” that was parked in the slip right next door has sold. We just couldn’t work it out fast enough and we were not going to be 2Boat Owners… ahem, s/v Eclipse. Just kidding! You know we love you.

The one thing we have done is the headliner. And… it looks incredible! After installing all the new deck hardware and some new furring strips, the headliner went in without incident thus completing the “to-do” list we had before we hand her off to a new owner.

Sailboat headliner finished

It was a bitch to do, but we think it looks great!

I will say quickly that it’s been pretty frustrating at times dealing with super-excited people who wanna hand us deposits to hold the boat and then completely flake out, don’t show up for showings, and don’t email or call back… Can’t quite figure that one out but we have full confidence that the universe will take care of it and it will work out as it’s supposed to.

So that’s the brief update from s/v Vacilando here on the west coast. We’re loving St. Pete. We dig Black Crow Coffee House (aka: my office), Old Northeast Tavern (my other office) and our awesome neighbors Mitch and Cindy on Kai Chi. Everything else is secondary.

The big picture; Vacilando is a badass and she deserves a badass owner. If you’re wishy-washy, please fish other streams. If you are looking for a great boat that needs nothing but beer in the fridge (the brand new fridge) to head to the islands, hit us up. You know how to find us. Winter is approaching and we’ve got your escape plan. What could be better than jumping on a Spirit Airlines flight into Tampa for a long weekend in the sun, looking at a boat? Nothing, that’s what… heh.

We’ll supply the rum.

Be good! Have fun. Drop us a line.

Cabbage Key… The Way It Should Be.

Cabbage Key… The Way It Should Be.

The first thing we did once past the “miserable mile” on the west side of Cape Coral bridge was make a beeline for Cabbage Key. We’ve read about this elusive island in the guide books and wanted to see it before… well, you know… before Walmart, Starbucks and some bar called, “The Tiki Shack” or “Margaritaville” paves the place into oblivion. Kinda how we feel about Cuba.

Cabbage Key - the way it should be

This quaint, one-hundred acre hideaway was bought by the family of famous playwright and novelist Mary Roberts Rienhart back in the 1930’s. It sits atop an indian burial mound (which is not very cool in my book) but they are protecting it with a fury… which is kinda cool in my book.

There are no cars, no paved roads and no televisions. There is also no rushing around on this island, whose main inhabitants are the endangered leatherback turtles that pretty much rule the roost, a bunch of mischiveous otters (who allegedly will not think twice about boarding your boat and rummaging for food), and one “nuisance alligator.” (Really, that’s what the sign on the nature trails said… “Watch out for nuisance alligator.”)

Because of the turtles and other wildlife, dogs are not really welcome, although they did let us bring Jet ashore as long as we kept him on a leash at all times.

Aside from the staff and one other couple who had rented a cottage on the island, we were the only ones there… and when the marina staff got on the ferry to go back to the mainland at 4:30, we pretty much had the island to ourselves.

We walked the nature trail, which was very jungle-y, with lots of different kinds of trees with snakey vines crawling everywhere. We didn’t find out until after we left that you could actually climb the water tower and watch the sunset, with hopes of spotting the “green flash.” We’ll definitely do that next time we’re there.

Cabbage Key nature trail

The Legendary Cabbage Key Bar

We couldn’t wait to check out the historic Inn and Restaurant, which contains the famous Cabbage Key Bar that is covered with signed dollar bills to the tune of over $50,000! Legend has it, fisherman back in the day wanted to guarantee a beer upon return to the lodge after a long fishing excursion so they signed a dollar bill and pinned it to the wall. The fisherman may be gone but the tradition continues to this day.

Cabbage Key Inn - money on the walls

Melody: “Just think of all the boat stuff we could get with this!”

We stopped in and had the whole place to ourselves! It was awesome. The funny thing is, we had actually made a reservation earlier to make sure we got a table!

We had a couple of martinis at the bar with the owner of the island (we think he’s Mary Reinhart’s grandson), Rob, who was gracious as could be. The bartender Rachel (also a wandering spirit), was attentive, funny and completely on the ball.

There was an old, outta tune upright piano that was crying out for some Tom Waits, Small Change. If I could have remembered the chords to The Piano Has Been Drinking, I would have given it a go.


When we were ready for dinner, the hostess took us to our table – we’re still the only ones there. Once we were seated, Rachel walks over with our menus and lets us know she’ll be serving us. She went through all of the motions of a fine dining experience, even though we had just been cracking jokes with her at the bar a few minutes earlier. Had we not been there, they could have closed early and enjoyed a night off, but we were never rushed, and the service was top notch.

Mel and I had one of the best meals we’ve had in a very long time. We ordered a smoked salmon appetizer served with a subtle dill sauce that knocked us out, it was so good. Each of us got the Grouper entree. Their famous grouper was prepared to perfection with a red pepper sauce, and served over savory garlic mashed potatoes and broccoli-rabe.

After dinner, we chatted with Chef Charles (originally from Miami) and Rachel for a bit about football, and she was gracious enough to grab a key and show us around. The inn is comprised of a few small, cozy rooms that beckon for one to wake up late, grab a coffee in the restaurant and return to bed with a good book.

It felt like a step back in time – not just the inn, but the whole island. It’s not surprising that a writer fell in love with the island long ago. It’s the perfect writer’s getaway.

Next time we go, we plan to rent one of the cottages on the island, pack a few books we’ve been meaning to read, turn off our phones, turn the deck chairs to face the sound, and relax as the hustle and bustle drains from our bodies. Play a little guitar, write some songs… who knows.

And if you ever get the chance to go, you should… maybe a leatherback turtle will stroll right across your feet. Oh, and get the grouper… you’ll thank me.


Okee-dokee Okeechobee!

Okee-dokee Okeechobee!

Wow. That’s all I can say about the trip through the state of Florida. Literally right through the state via the Okeechobee Waterway. Along with the Erie Canal, The Amazon, and maybe the Mississippi, it’s a trip I’ve always wanted to do. We sailed V around the Keys to the Chesapeake when we first bought her so this time we thought we’d try something different to get from one Florida coast to the other, and this trip was just that.

Now… if you ask boaters about “river trips,” i.e. the Intracoastal, the Erie Canal or the Okeechobee, you’re likely to get one of two responses. I hate them or I love them. I know for us aboard Vacilando, the ICW has grown a bit tiresome but that’s after several trips both up and down the waterway. I’m thankful it’s there and dig the natural beauty,  the wildlife, restaurants and neat folks but don’t dig the three foot depths, eleven-foot tidal ranges or four knot currents in and around Georgia. Sorry Georgia.

I’m a professed Mark Twain guy and love the Adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer so I can fall right into river mode with little effort. I have no trouble traveling at 6 knots all day and checking out the bald eagles and gators through binoculars.

Jet on sidedeck of sailboat

Jet found his “river mode” without much trouble

Some concerns preventing many from considering the Okeechobee are depths at the lake and the infamous Port Mayaca railroad bridge. There are several great resources for information on the waterway, locks, water levels and any restrictions that might be in place.

There is so much written and said about the Okeechobee that it can definitely be daunting and confusing. Luckily our friends Matt and Jessica had recently done the trip through and provided us some detailed intel when we saw them in Indiantown.

Alligator Okeechobee waterway

Let me first address the depth issue. When we transited the lake, we saw nothing less than ten feet, but the water was about a foot and a half higher than normal. I would not test the depths by straying outside the marked passage though. We did opt for route 1 vs. route 2 (the outer edge 0f the lake) due to even less depth around the rim. Plus, we like to sail and we did pull the jib to make the transit that much quicker.

Okeechobee waterway routes

This lake is wide open and weather planning is crucial! I would not want to be out there in a  strong blow with any component from the north. Fetch would be nasty and with little wiggle room I bet terrifying to say the least.

Now… the infamous bridge. The Port Mayaca lift bridge is said to have a 49 foot clearance. There are no boards or indicators anywhere on the bridge. When we went through, Billy (aka Billy the Boat Tipper) said with all the rain it might be more like 47 or 48. Great.

Port Mayaca railroad bridge - 49 foot bridge Okeechobee Waterway - Lake Okeechobee

Billy is the guy who has been getting people under this bridge for years. His phone number is in the Waterway Guide Southern Edition and the folks at Indiantown Marina can also hook you up. He asks that you give him a week or so notice if you’re gonna need him and while I won’t post his number here publicly, if you can’t find it through the places I just suggested, email me and I’ll send it to you. Most people know they’ll be going through the bridge so I would say, call him early, make a plan and then stop in to Indiantown Marina and stay the night but please don’t feed the gators!

The transit from the marina to the bridge takes about an hour and a half at 5.5 – 6 knots. We left Indiantown Marina at 7 am and hit the bridge around 8:30.

The infamous 49 foot bridge on the Okeechobee waterway

Billy was a sweetheart of a guy and the whole process took about an hour and a half from start to finish. It works like this. Billy and his pal arrive in a skiff and side-tie to your boat. They load a bunch of plastic 55 gallon drums on the side deck of your boat. You’ll need a long line to run from a cleat on the foredeck back to a winch. This secures the weight of the drums and keeps them off your lifelines. Next they have a line that measures 49 feet (including a stick that extends over your instruments) and has weights at the bottom. They hoist it using your main halyard.

They then fire up a large pump on their skiff which fills those drums quickly. As the drums fill, the boat heels. As the boat heels, the weights at the end of that line you hoisted get closer to the water. When the weights are in the water, you’re clear to go. It took seven… yes seven 55 gallon drums plus the weight of Billy, Melody and his pal to get us over. That’s a lot of weight.

Port Mayaca bridge - 49 feet - Boat tipping service by Billy the Boat Tipper

There isn’t much horizontal clearance in there either, so it’s a bit nerve wracking. We heeled to port and I was worried that our engine intake would be out of the water but Billy assured me we weren’t going “that far over.” I would have liked to heel to starboard but I trusted him, and everything was fine in the end. I will say, we were holding our breath as the delicate pings and scrapes of our VHF antenna played her song against the rusty, metal girders. Billy just said, “You’re making music!” Check out the video below!


All said, it was an awesome experience. The trip from the turn-off of the ICW through Stuart and to Indiantown is pleasant. The lock operators are incredible and the process is made even easier because when you enter the locks, they have lines dangling from the lip every five to ten feet. You just pull your boat in, grab a line and hold on. No need to toss lines up, or wrestle with all of that stuff. When the water level is where it needs to be, you let go the line and pull out. Done!

John, the lock tender in the Port Mayaca lock just passed the bridge, yelled down to Melody, “Can you catch?!” She said, “Yes,” a bit puzzled at the inquest. A second later a trash bag comes hurling down to the deck… cause she didn’t catch it. It contained several popsicles and two huge dog biscuits! He said, “anyone with a four legged deck hand is alright in my book!” I’m assuming he meant Jet… but then again, maybe he counted as well as Melody catches.

Okeechobee waterway lock

River trips are tedious and require you to be at your best with your boat handling and navigation. They might test your patience sometimes with rude boaters who pass too closely, too quickly or both, and it’s not quite as relaxing as getting out the inlet, hoisting sail and killing the engine. But… chances are you’ll see cool little towns, eat great food and meet seriously unique characters who you’ll remember for years to come. And that’s why we travel this way, isn’t it? To experience new stuff? I mean how many times can you eat a steak at Coinjock for crying out loud!

But I’ll say this, our boat makes these trips pretty stress free. She has a fabulous old engine that we dote over and maintain like crazy. It’s powerful and stingy on diesel, burning only a little more than .57 gallons per hour.

She’s comfy and her mast height is 53 feet including the VHF antenna. How do I know this? I know this because we measured it with a newly purchased 75′ tape. All the hubbub and misinformation regarding the Cape Coral Bridge on the west side of the Okeechobee had us freaking out for days, worried that we might get all the way over there and then not be able to get under (since there’s no bridge tipper there). Can you imagine?!

If you read all the forums you’ll get tons of yabba-dabba-doos on who’s been there and what they saw or felt and then you’ll get the people who say, “Well I don’t know about the Cape Coral Bridge but we touched going through the bridge in Miami!” WHAT?! We aren’t talking about Miami! Ahhhh… don’t get me started about the forums.

Cape Coral bridge - reported 53 ft but we saw 54 1/2

See for yourself

Anyway… the Cape Coral Bridge was fine. When we arrived we saw fifty-four and a half feet. Not the reported fifty-three feet. In fact, look at the bridge boards in the photo please. That sign has no algae growth around the 53′ mark and I’d be hard-pressed to believe it’s ever seen the water. BUT… we did pass under at dead low tide and didn’t even scrape our VHF antenna. So if you wanna do the Okeechobee and have heard tales of disaster regarding the legendary Cape Coral Bridge, fear not. Plan ahead and hit at low-tide. Wait… Don’t hit anything. Transit at low tide I should say. Now… if you have a 55 foot mast, don’t crash that thing into the bridge and then say I told you it was fine. Common sense is required both on this blog and on the water. (That’s my legal disclaimer.)

Live loud people. Much love.

Getting Tipsy In Brunswick

Getting Tipsy In Brunswick

Okay… so my blog on the misunderstood Philadelphia football fans went over like a lead balloon. The one on hurricane preparation had as much staying power as tropical storm Erika. I get it. Stick to what I know and don’t stray from the box… that’s what you’re telling me right? Stick to sailing, pretty anchorages, lovely sunsets and the fluff, the circumstance that is “cruising” on a sailboat. I can’t do it. To quote the great orator Popeye, “I am what I am and that’s all that I am.” A tear forms and gently rolls down the cheek.

But we are not cruising like some are cruising. We are not in the islands or the Med or any other glamourous locations that cry out for bikini shots and greasy bodies. We are still state-side and spent hurricane season (or most of it anyway) in St. Simons Island, Georgia. Woooooah! I know what your thinking. “Where? St. What? Never heard of it.” Well Google it.

It’s a cool place but it’s like a lot of other small coastal island towns that have been over-run by tourists and trinkets, pizza joints, pubs and coffee shops. The scenery is gorgeous with majestic live oak trees covered in spanish moss looming over quaint streets and alley ways. Residents cruise the island in souped up golf-carts decorated with flames and laden with beach chairs. Men meander around the village in Bermuda shorts and pink Ralph Lauren Polo shirts. Ray Bans rule and it feels much like a frat party reunion except everyone is a little older, better behaved but still clinging to 1984 fashion trends. Think Breakfast Club meets Martha’s Vineyard.

Sadly, the food was mediocre at best and it pains me to say that. Believe me… we tried so many local joints believing the next one would be better than the last but it was not to be. Nachos Mexican was one of the best places we ate. Their specialty dish, the Shrimp Diablo, was indeed special. Their corn tortillas were so moist and delicate I could have eaten an entire stack with nothing on them. I commented to our server and he said they made them fresh from scratch every day. They were amazing. Worth the trip. The rest of the food we ate left us underwhelmed. Barbecue, surf and turf, salads, whatever… it just wasn’t that great. We hoped to find something that knocked us out. And that’s where Brunswick comes in.

Main Street

Main Street

Brunswick, Georgia is a small town, just before you cross the causeway bridges onto St. Simons Island. At first glance it looks like a town whose best years are behind it. A run-down and all but deserted main street might make one turn around and head right on outta there as fast as possible. I thought the same thing when we went to visit the Lover’s Oak, a local attraction hidden in the historic district. It’s a tree that’s documented to have been on the same spot and fully grown at the time of the signing of our country’s Declaration of Independence. Amazing right?! Well check this out, turns out this particular oak tree has been dated back to the twelfth century! Not kidding. Legend has it that Native Americans met there to… oh, just click the link and read about it! It’s standing right in the middle of an intersection but alive and well. Sprawling across the sky with a history so rich I wished I could sit amongst it’s limbs and let it whisper its tales to me.

This photo does no justice to this magnificent tree.

This photo does no justice to this magnificent tree.

I left the Lover’s Oak to wander Brunswick’s streets to see for myself what was happening and it slowly began to reveal itself a bit. The “all-but-deserted” Main Street actually contained life. Small photography studios, galleries and cafes were tucked neatly into the original brick facades and didn’t blurt out their utilitarianism. The entire town appeared quite unspectacular at best until, that is, the First Friday of the month rolls around.

Main Street

Main Street

Many small towns have celebrations like this where locals gather in the small town square and hang out as food vendors pawn their gastronomic delights and bands play familiar cover tunes jazzed-up or dressed down – whatever the case may be. This town though… has something special going on. Coincidentally, in the square stands a large oak. Nothing like the Lover’s Oak mind you, but impressive none-the-less. I bet it’s a couple hundred years old at least and could weave some tales of its own.

Town Square Brunswick, GA.

Town Square Brunswick, GA.

Brunswick First Friday outside of Tipsy McSway's

You may say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one…

On this night children of all ages and colors were dancing, running and screaming under it’s limbs as the band played Pink Floyd as if done by Nora Jones. Cops laughed and joked with residents as spectators rather than enforcers. Old timers adorned in WWII  embossed caps sat on benches watching a young, hippy-girl dance contemporary numbers with her hula hoop and a biker club handed out literature on the local no-kill animal shelter. The vibe was amazing. Young and old mingled and cajoled. Tattooed, pierced girls sipped beers with handsomely dressed middle-aged folk as Jack Russell terriers socialized with mutts and rescued Greyhounds.

Mel and I both sat in complete amazement. These days, with so much negative in the news about young vs. old, black vs. white, cops against citizens, this was a Mecca of love and community. The complete antithesis of all that is “wrong” in America.

Add to this one of the coolest bar / restaurants I’ve ever been in, and you have the making of a really great little town and an emerging “scene” of some sort. Tipsy McSway’s is a bar… no wait, its a restaurant… it’s a music venue… shit… who cares what it is! It’s worth the diversion to Brunswick, Georgia. If the Lover’s Oak and First Friday celebrations aren’t enough, chuck in some Tipsy’s and that will solve everything. Or complicate it as the case may be.

Tipsy! You temptress you!

Tipsy! You temptress you!

Melody and I have a long-standing game of judging two things when we travel, burgers and pizza. We have the reigning champs on our list, and every time we visit a new town, we seek out new contenders and possible upsets. We rarely find worthy opponents for our consistent top performers. Oh… but that’s before Tipsy’s!

The menu at this place is short and sweet. Pub food dressed up a bit. Great beers on hand and a great and colorful staff of bearded brew slingers and tatted up bar maids. The atmosphere is relaxed and the minute you walk in, you are local. The burger here upended my top favorite of all-time and it pains me to say that, because the “Tell Tale Heart Burger” at Poe’s Tavern on Sullivan’s Island outside Charleston was it for me. The pinnacle of creative cow patty on a bun…then… I met the Tipsy burger.

A glorious burger topped with bacon, fried onion ring, dill pickle slices, arugula, bbq sauce and monterey jack cheese cooked to perfection that will almost make you cry it’s so good. As a starter, do the Disco Chips which were delicicously perfect hand cut french fries topped with queso, blue cheese crumbles and scallions for $8. The small order! Trust me on this… Small Disco Chips and a Tipsy Burger. That’s what you order. Get a cold beer, turn off your phone and don’t make any plans for the evening except maybe to walk five or ten miles.

The New Numero Uno: The Tipsy Burger

New Numero Uno: The Tipsy Burger

The Tipsy burger had just become my new number one, and when I voiced that out loud, or as audible as could be with my mouth stuffed with the last morsel of Tipsy languishing on my palate, Melody’s face told the true tale of the tape. “REALLY?!” She said, “Wow! Better than Poe’s?!” Defeat is not pretty and neither is the truth.

St. Simons? Eh… I could go back there and be ok with it or I can not go back and be just as ok. Brunswick? I will definitely go back. I will pick the First Friday of whatever month and make my plan. A plan that will definitely involve my tantalizing temptress… Ms. McSway.

Peace out friends, and don’t forget to scroll down below and leave us a comment! We love hearing from everyone!

Hurricane?! 5 Things You Should Be Doing ASAP

Hurricane?! 5 Things You Should Be Doing ASAP

As we sit in St. Simons Island, Georgia watching tropical storm Erika break apart, I looked back over the list we had put together of things we should do to prepare if she decided to head this way, and thought I’d do a quick post and get your feedback.

Every boater on or near the coast during hurricane season should have a hurricane plan on board. A plan that encompasses a little more than charging your cell phone, laptop, Kindle or iPad and downloading all three seasons of Orange Is The New Black.

A really strong plan that works best in hurricane preparation is to NOT BE in a hurricane zone! Yuma, Arizona is lovely this time of year. But we aren’t there. As you may know, some insurance companies set guidelines and restrictions that require boats be out of a certain area and above “xyz” longitudinal line from June 1 through November 1, the official hurricane season. Our insurance requires this and that’s why we head north during these months.

But lets say you do as we did and leave for waters considered outside the hurricane area and still find yourself in the path of an approaching storm, what do you do? What 5 things should you be doing ASAP when there’s still enough time to execute that hurricane plan you have on board?  Cause you have a plan now, right… a hurricane plan?

1. Move The Boat: Obvious Right?

You’re saying, “But I just moved the boat out of the zone, why would I move again?”  First of all, if the marina you are in is not designated as a safe hurricane marina, they may make you move whether you want to or not. I suggest you spend some time looking at the area (long before you need to) and find out where the local hurricane holes are and pick a plan “B” location. Go visit and make sure you can get there in ample time. Once a storm has been named and looks like it’s headed your way, make a reservation and go.

You’re still gonna have to prepare the boat but at least you’ll be in a “better” spot. Sometimes moving is not an option. You are in the only option available, and if that’s the case, the next several steps should be apparent. I say “should be” because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen boats aground with headsails and canvas in tattered ribbons after a storm. A lot of times, your boat is not the problem, it’s the boats around you!

2. Remove  Stuff! Sails, Canvas, Solar Panels and Dinghies On Deck

Our first round of activity once we heard about Erika’s approach was to remove the furled headsail. We needed to have some of the sacrificial Sunbrella stitched anyway, so we used this as the perfect excuse to get that baby down. We stowed the halyards we could stow and bungeed the ones we couldn’t.

We planned on pulling the main as well as the bimini and solar panel. Frames would be either removed or lashed securely to stern rails and whatever else was available. I keep several different lengths of 1/4″ Dyneema on board for just such occasions.I lashed the roller furler, the anchor and chain. I thought about removing the anchor altogether since we have a Mantus that can be stowed easily, but we never go to that point.

Next was our hard dinghy. If we had an inflatable we’d deflate and stow obviously, but we have an old hard dink that we didn’t want on deck no matter how well it was lashed down. Once those winds start, it’s far too late to attempt a last ditch effort to move it. In addition to adding extra windage to the boat, it can become a projectile should the wind break the straps holding it.

boat with canvas

Your canvas may be lovely but it’s gonna come down. One way or another. Better by you than the wind.

3. Go Shopping and Stock Up

As you’re keeping a watchful eye on the storm via,, NOAA and/or your favorite weather app, make a list of provisions and hit the market well in advance of the panicked locals who will ultimately wait til the last minute and rush to buy bread, milk and eggs, which I never understood.The three most perishable items one can buy!!! What… is everyone making French Toast? I know… I’ve used that before.

We like to shop late at night and provision as if we’re going offshore. Canned chicken, tuna and salmon. Beans, chickpeas, and chicken broth. Rice and Quinoa (or similar staples) work well, too. Easy-to-prepare foods… enough for a week or two, in case the worst happens and there is loss of power and water. Which is the perfect segue to my next point. (Oh, and don’t forget the rum.)

Photo Credit Mount Gay Rum

Photo Credit Mount Gay Rum

4. Fill The Tanks. Empty The Tanks

Fill your water tanks. This serves two purposes: one, you have water! Two, you’ve added weight to your boat. It’s not significant, but every little bit helps. Should the worst happen, you have full water tanks and can ration accordingly and by now, you should know how much water you use when you’re not worried about water and when you ARE worried about water.

Additionally, we buy a few of those 2.5 gallon water jugs that we stow in the shower and we use this for drinking and coffee. We also carry a 5 gallon potable water jug that we fill and keep in the cockpit just because we can. Make sure to fill the “Rum” tank as well. It adds additional weight… just saying.

If you cook with propane, make sure you have enough to cook with in the event you are stuck on the boat for a week or more. Whatever fuel you cook with, make sure you have enough. Roads, causeways and dock pilings can wash away and you may not even be able to get to the parking lot or the marina bathrooms. Again, a good segue; your holding tanks… make sure you pump out and have empty holding tanks before the storm hits. Nothing is more stressful than having to “go” and realizing your holding tank is full and you can’t get off the boat. NO DUMPING! In more ways than one.

Don't wanna be this guy.

Not A Good Place To Be

5. Top Off Your Fuel Tanks

We always try to keep our diesel tank full whenever we sit. It keeps the condensation down inside the tank and if we did ever have to leave quickly or run the engine to charge batteries, we know we’re starting with a full tank. It also adds weight but in our case, not much since we only carry 33 gallons. That said, I top off the tank and fill our 5 gallon jerry jug in the event power is out for significant amounts of time. This is where that rum really comes in handy.

Of course, I did not state the obvious elements of nice, strong, and appropriately-sized lines for your vessel. I don’t need to actually say that, do I? A nice web of spring lines fore and aft. Doubled where possible. And I don’t need to discuss bumpers either… right? I can’t believe how many boats I see, BIG boats with tiny, algae-and-barnacle-covered, deflated bumpers clinging for life to a frayed 1/4″ line. We’ve all seen that guy and if you haven’t seen that guy… you ARE that guy.

This is on our dock… swear.

This lovely vessel is a few docks away… Thank God!

There are many things one can do and should do to prepare for an approaching hurricane and the truth is, it still may not save your boat. If you have time and can move out of the path, that is the only “sure” thing. Going up against Mother Nature is a losing proposition in most cases but as boaters and sailors, we take that risk and do the best we can to prepare ourselves and our boats. I once heard a quote that went something like, “Mother Nature has no patience for the unprepared,” and I think about it every single time we make a passage or prepare for a storm.

Don’t be the guy with the ripped up headsail flogging in the wind or the guy on the foredeck tying his dinghy down as the winds pipe up to forty knots. Make your plan. Execute it well in advance and if the storm misses you, enjoy your freshly stocked galley, downloaded movies and have some rum! Celebrate your badass-ness.

Now it’s your turn – comment below with some of your methods (serious or funny) of preparing for heavy weather while on a dock.

Be safe!

It’s About Time!

It’s About Time!

That’s the thing we’ve (I’ve) heard most over the last two weeks. In case you’re not on our Facebook page (why aren’t you?) or personal friends of ours, you might not know that we, got hitched a couple weeks ago. In a very quiet ceremony on a lovely beach, accompanied by a few family members who decided to crash the party, we made it legal. No more “living in sin” for us! And thus begins the quiet decent… I’m kidding. Aside from the tremendous about of love we’ve received, came the comment, “Well it’s about time!” Yes it is about time. I’m sorry to have kept you all waiting.


It was the ninth anniversary of our first date and that seemed like the perfect day. We didn’t want two different anniversaries to think about and now we just have to distinguish between the first-date date and the wedding date. Once I actually write it down, it seems just as complicated doesn’t it. At any rate, we’ve decided to go with the same tactics Mac and Windows use with their OS launches and go with the decimal. So, next year on our first wedding anniversary, we’ll call it 9.1. Nine years together- one year married. Then 9.2, etc… etc… I’ll let you know how that goes.


After the ceremony, we hopped on a flight (a 5:30 am flight) to NYC for some posh hotel beds, great food, museums and  Broadway so Mel could check Phantom off her bucket list. On our last day we hit Brooklyn for Grimaldi’s Pizza and other glorious gastro-adventures and then back to Vacilando where we quickly got back to reality and installed our new fridge. Glamourous right! When you’ve been buying ice and eating out for six months you better believe it’s glamourous!


So there you have it… the latest from St. Simons Island. Take it easy everyone. I hope it’s been a wonderful summer.


Philadelphia Eagles; The REAL America’s Team

Philadelphia Eagles; The REAL America’s Team

I know what you’re thinking, football on a sailing blog? But please, bear with me. Indulge me for a few short minutes. Sailing is after all, a sport and after reading Sports Illustrated’s piece announcing Philly fans as the “most hated” in the NFL, I just had to defend my hometown, show some love, and rebut this because it’s tired. It’s completely unoriginal and cliche by now. So I ask – sailing friends, read on. Don’t click away just yet.

Yes, in 1968 Eagles fans booed Santa Claus and threw snowballs at him. Nineteen-sixty-eight, people! Do you realize how long ago that was and you’re still holding on? ESPN writer Phil Sheridan explains it perfectly in his blog so I won’t go into too much detail but to paraphrase, after losing their first 11 games that year, the Eagles went on a dismal two game winning “streak” which effectively knocked them out of contention to draft the No. 1 pick in 1969, hall of fame running back O.J. Simpson and at half-time they were in no mood for Santa. And… Santa isn’t even real!

The wind was real that December day at Franklin Field. The cold was also real as fans arrived to find the stadium and their seats covered in a foot of snow. The Santa that had been hired to appear at half-time was a no-show and the Eagles staff needed to do something quick. They scanned the stadium and saw a young man dressed in a Santa suit and persuaded him to march onto the field as their last-minute Santa Claus. 19 year old Frank Olivo’s life would never, ever be the same. Frank Olivo passed away April 30, 2015 in Philly and I’m sad that I never emailed him or got speak to him directly. I would have loved that.

Frank circa 1968 dressed as Santa (AP Photo) the day he was booed and hit by snowballs by Philadelphia Eagles fans

Frank circa 1968 dressed as santa (AP Photo)

Yes, in 1998 Philadelphia installed a jail in the bowels of Vet Stadium to corral the rowdiest of a-holes, and shortly thereafter in 1999 some Eagles fans were caught on camera cheering when Dallas’ Michael Irvin lay hurt at mid-field with a spinal cord injury that ultimately ended his career. I remember that game and no, it wasn’t a shining moment but it wasn’t the entire stadium, either. Every bushel has bad apples. Houston Texans fans cheered when their own quarterback Matt Schaub went down with an injury! Where’s the out-cry? And tell me again, how the Raiders’ fans escape criticism? Fa-get-about-it!

Listen – Philly is a tough town. The Eagles had two Super Bowl appearance and lost both. They went to three straight NFC Championship games only to lose and not make the playoffs all three times. It’s frustrating being an Eagles fan, yes. Hell, it’s frustrating to be a Philly sports fan, period!

But you know what? The waiting list for season tickets is “… a mile long” and Philly fans are still around regardless of weather, stats or lists deeming them “most hated.” In fact, I’m gonna say what I’ve been saying for twenty-years: The Philadelphia Eagles are the real… America’s Team.

Speaking of America’s Team

Not taking anything away from Jerry Jones’ successful marketing campaign but excuse me, Dallas Cowboys, what have you got besides a marketing budget (and affluent community that buys merchandise) that qualifies you as America’s Team? Because some announcer in 1978 said that the Dallas Cowboys’ players were so familiar they were like movie stars and therefore “America’s team?” Nice going… 37 years later, Roger Thomas Staubach is 73 years old and if I bumped into him in the Wawa, I wouldn’t know it. You want facts?

I got your facts…

The Declaration of Independence: America’s most important document… ever! Signed where? In Philadelphia. Do you know where Thomas Jefferson wrote that Document? In a small brick house on the corner of 7th and Market streets. In… Philadelphia.

The First Nation’s Capital: Yep. From 1790-1800 the mansion at 6th and Market street served as the Presidential Mansion to both George Washington and John Adams. 6th and Market in… Philadelphia.

Ben Franklin: We all know the story of Ben and his kite with the key and his discovery of electricity. But the reality is that in 1746 Ben actually shocked himself while messing around with some experiments in his house. You know where that house was? Philly! It wasn’t until a stormy day in 1852 that Ben took his kite and his son out to a field… in Philadelphia.

Betsy Ross: Remember Betsy? She was the seamstress who sewed that thing we fight for, die for and swear by… the American Flag? Maybe you’ve heard of it? It’s got some stars, a few stripes… it’s pretty famous. And… do you know where Ms. Ross sewed that flag? If you’ve been paying attention you do. In a small house on Arch Street in… Philadelphia.

Now… I could go on for days with factual evidence which places Philadelphia at the epicenter of America and that would just become redundant, boring and tedious. So I’ll end with this last, seemingly inconsequential point… our nations national symbol, the Bald Eagle.

What? I’m sorry, did you say… eagle? Our national symbol is not the cowboy. It’s not a single, blue star, and while we do idolize, revere and dare I say covet the surgically-altered, silicone-infused cheerleaders… they aren’t our national symbol.

At least not yet.

Philadelphia Eagles - The Real America's Team

The Real America’s Team

Okay, St. Augustine… We Get It!

Okay, St. Augustine… We Get It!

Hi y’all. Yes, it’s been a couple months since the last post and I once again find myself uttering apologies all around. When we sit for a while in one place, I do find it difficult to write about the daily grind, the boat work and the Chronicles of Jet. Actually, I find it difficult to believe that’s what you want to read about.

We’ve been working like mad, our noses to the grindstone trying to make the summer as financially productive as possible and that’s not very romantic. But it does help pad the cruising fund. On that note, if you don’t know about Mel’s blog Saving to Sail, you should drop by and check out her posts on making extra income each month. She’s got some great tips and has been killing it with her nautical jewelry and other side hustles.

nautical bracelet, shackle bracelet, sailor bracelet

We are usually on the Chesapeake Bay by now enjoying a Spring Cove Punch by the pool with our bay friends that we’ve missed over the winter. That said, we are not there. After a nice sail out of Lauderdale with tons of shark sightings, we noticed something weird with our batteries. Our monitor was giving us some strange numbers so we fired up the engine and got the volt meter out. After starting the engine, we noticed very unusual smells coming from the engine bay. Not really electrical and not really oily-diesely but not normal. Lots of unexplained heat as well but not coming from the engine. The temp gauge was a little higher than normal but not alarmingly high. Needless to say we shut her down and sailed on.

The sail from Fort Lauderdale to St. Simons inlet is only about 3 days and we were a couple into it when we noticed this. In fact, we were right of the coast of St. Augustine. Yep… again. Those of you who’ve been following along with Vacilando know that if it’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen off the coast of St. Augustine. This will make three times we’ve had issues off the coast of St. Augustine and had to divert in.

Off the coast of St. Augustine

Off the coast of St. Augustine

At this point, we noticed our batteries dropped to a dangerously low 57% and that’s never happened! So I fired up the engine again to charge the batteries, and Mel and I got busy troubleshooting pronto. She noticed that when we were running the engine, we seemed to be depleting our batteries rather than charging them, so that led me to believe our alternator was shot. Upon inspection, I found a weird wire hanging (hiding) behind the anti-freeze overflow reservoir. It was the positive stud off the back of our alternator! The whole area where the bolt was on the alternator had broken clean off!

No wonder things got so hot. No wonder we had negative voltage and it’s no wonder we didn’t have a FIRE! Sheesh. Thank God we found it and shut it down. We turned off all unnecessary equipment which was everything. Our solar panel started kicking ass and within a couple hours we were back up to 12.4 volts (which is still dead but climbing). We radioed Sea Tow and bobbed our way towards the safe water mark for a pick up and tow into that old familiar inlet. Only this time, none of  our usual marinas in St. Augustine would accept a vessel under tow. Believe that! New policy.

But one did and we’ll be forever grateful. The Conch House Marina is awesome! If breaking down in St. Augustine can be considered kismet, at least we landed in a new and special place. One we’ll be returning to under our own power of course. We loved it… but a couple of days later, with a new alternator installed, we left.  We had to… kooky hurricane insurance guidelines. Gotta be out of the state by June 1… Fuera!

We decided to stay somewhere we’ve never been and tied our lines to a cool place in St. Simons Island, Georgia. Morningstar Marina at Golden Isles… Sounds like a Henry Fonda movie, “On Golden Isles.”

It’s a cool place. Very reasonable with nice docks and wicked current. And I mean wicked. We had a rousing 4th of July storm that derailed our crab fest and instead left us tending every last line we owned until well after dark as Vacilando bucked and jerked on the dock as the dock started breaking apart. No lie… we were about twenty-feet from where the dock split in half. As Mel and I strongly considered grabbing our laptops, important personal records, insurance papers, Jet and abandoning ship, V held fast and the storm abated as quickly as it rose.

Completely off the subject but a relevant update none the less, Melody is leaving her job of 9 years to begin a new chapter in the editorial department for a prominent author! She not only stepped outside her comfort zone this year, but leapt out! This job affords her more money and more freedom and should let us get to the islands this year. Seems every year we plan to jump over, we endure a catastrophic event and this year, we aren’t letting anything get in the way.

Now that South Florida is well in the rear view, we have a few plates spinning as we try to plan our fast approaching wedding… Yep, we’re getting hitched and after several stressful conversations about how to include all of our family and friends from across the planet, we’re rethinking the entire plan. Again. Don’t be surprised if we just sneak off in the middle of the night, with the moon and fireflies as our witnesses and make it official. Should that happen, we’ll find a way to have a few parties in a few locales so we can celebrate with everyone we love and miss.

Rainbow over St. Simons

Rainbow over St. Simons

So there you have it! A little about a lot. We are enjoying all that this area has to offer and as the summer flies by we are grateful for everything we have. It’s an amazing journey every day and it can change in the blink of an eye or the thickness of a butterflies wing for that matter. So we treasure every moment and even though I’m not posting as much during this down time, I’ll try to do better. I’ll delve further into the little things that posses so much magic and try to put it into words. But I think everyone reading this blog over the years possesses a very strong “dreamer” muscle and I’m pretty certain it’s not getting too terribly out of shape.

Much love friends. Be well and have a great, great day!

I’m Walking on… Sunshine.

I’m Walking on… Sunshine.

As I wake, to a clean boat and a cool north east breeze cascading through open hatches I realize I’m craving something. It’s Saturday morning. Mel and Jet have been out of town for two long weeks and are on their way home. I… have a free morning. Varnish is done, Laundry is done and I’m outta almond milk. I’m not drinking black coffee today. No, it’s time for a con leche and I know just the place!

sunshine bakery

Our little slice of Heaven

Anyone who’s ever stepped foot in the Miami / Fort Lauderdale area notices one thing immediately… traffic! No, wait… of course… the food. And Cuban joints are all over the place serving up their own interpretations of the Cuban sandwich, Cuban coffee, croquetas and more. Versailles restaurant in Miami is the most famous and has played host to presidents and movie stars for years.  If you’ve never tried any of these Cuban treats, you must. And we – have a special place, a bit off the beaten path but worth the trip.

It’s M’s Sunshine Bakery. A small, unasssuming place in a little strip mall that makes one of the best colada’s and con leches in town. Stroll past the old timers smoking cigars sitting on bicycles outside the Broward Adult Day Care Center and you’ll see the big “M” on the door. The “M” is for Monique. She own’s the place and she’s usually behind the counter with a smile and great suggestions.

You’ll be hard pressed not to stand nose pressed to the glass display cases filled with pastries, cakes, empanada’s, the aforementioned croquetas and some things you’ve never seen before. Try not to do that… Ms. M doesn’t really dig cleaning nose prints off the glass… That said, don’t be shy… the staff are incredibly awesome, they speak English and they will tell you anything you want to know about what’s what. If you’ve never had one, try Mel’s favorite, a guava and cheese filled puff pastry called pastelitos.

Empanadas Pastelitos

No Fogging the Glass Please!

Cuban coffee, colada or con leche… try one of each! Of course not at the same time unless you wanna swim to the Bahamas or chew through some steel cable. This tiny slice of gastronomic heaven is on Davie Blvd., just west of I-95  right across from Flanigan’s restaurant.

caffè con leche

Yes Please…

Check it out… my large cafe’ con leche, spinach and cheese empanada and two croquets? A whopping $4.25. You can’t even get a crappy Starbucks skinny, non-fat, bla-bidy, blah, blah, blah for under five bucks! Add to that waiting in line behind chicky-poo in her Landrover talking on the phone for fifteen minutes before realizing the line’s moved forward… nah.

Yummy Goodness

$4.25! RU Kiddin’ Me?! Starbucks, pshaw

Everyone needs more sunshine in their life! Go see Monique but if you tell anyone… we’ll have to kill you.

be good!

The Ins & Outs of Shadyville

The Ins & Outs of Shadyville

ShadyvilleThe breeze is warm, from the south. Tide is high and Vacilando has a fresh coat of wax on her hull, fresh oil in her power plant and a fine tune to her rig. The seemingly endless beeping of the bobcats and bucket-lifts careen off the buildings across the isle and reminds us that the economy in Fort Lauderdale is raging like the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Cranes crowd the skyline and distracted drivers swerve precariously into the bike lanes along Las Olas and A1A. This place is hopping and I am struck yet again at just how swiftly time passes.

This winter derailed us with the death of Mel’s father, Jim, but we’re slowly regaining traction. The trip south was a cold one and the record I was working on all last summer and this past fall is not going to be released any time soon leaving me once again, in musical limbo. I’m taking any and all paying jobs in exchange for tiny, pie-shaped triangles of my soul. Melody has ramped up her website design and has several side projects filling her evenings. We’ve dubbed this our year to be badasses and we’ve got our noses to the grindstone. As many full-time cruisers know, plans change faster than the weather and one day you’re going to the Bahamas and the next you’re replacing your refrigeration unit.

So here we are in sunny Fort Lauderdale for an indefinite amount of time, working. We aren’t traveling and we aren’t sailing. We’re existing, albeit in a pretty awesome little compound surrounded by palm trees and yes… massive development projects. As the concrete dust rains from the sky upon my laptop I ponder the question, “What the hell am I gonna write about?” So, in the interest of keeping my chops up I’m gonna write about life. Life here in Fort Lauderdale, Shadyville as I like to call it. There isn’t much shade but there’s tons of shady. And in case you missed it, Melody just did an awesome piece on her Saving to Sail blog about the good, the bad and the ugly of Fort Lauderdale. It’s quite funny and very true and if you haven’t seen it already, give it a read. It’ll provide a little perspective on the place we now call our home base.

Rigging work - paying the bills in Shadyville

My office

Since we aren’t moving or spending lazy days in tropical island locations, I decided to expand on Melody’s take and write about seemingly random topics that may or may not relate to sailing. I mean, all one has to do is drive down Las Olas Blvd and a hundred different stories will leap, hands in the air clambering for attention.

Distraction is easy around here, whether it be bronze, sculpted young men and women jogging to the beach glistening in sweat, the million dollar Ferraris or the seventy-year old grandmother’s gravity defying breasts and lips so full of collagen one could almost hear her pleading with her cosmetic surgeon’s assistant, “Please, Javier! Just a little bit more!”

Distraction is easy. And… in all this craziness, we’ve discovered several small pockets of awesomeness that provide sanity and solace. Restaurants, Cuban bakeries, coffee shops, oysters, clams and cold beer on the water… whatever it is, and wherever it is; kooky Hollywood or right here in good ole’ Shadyville, we love our little local joints and I’m gonna tell you about em.

Our hideaway in Shadyville

Our hideaway in Shadyville

With the feeding frenzy in full swing, Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Hotel chain has dealt the first big blow to one of the long standing local favorites. LeTub in Hollywood is famous for what was to me, long waits, rude servers and the most expensive cheeseburger ever. But it had charm! Right off the ICW, you’d find old wooden picnic tables, crooked steps that were a litigator’s dream and cold beer in a can. Ah the glamour. Oprah Winfrey loved it and Guy Fieri featured it on his Diner’s, Drive-ins and Dives. Sadly it will fall to the wrecking ball to make way for what I’m sure will be big, flowery, colorful shuttle boats carrying people from the gargantuan hotel up to Port Everglades for their cruise departures. The second busiest port in the world is about to get busier. Damn you, Buffett.

In reality, Mr. Cheeseburger in Paradise probably has no earthly idea where his hotels are being built or what landmark they are infringing upon. I think once the licensing check posts to his account, any environmental concerns or civic responsibility becomes a hit and run casualty only recognizable by the fresh F12 Berlinetta tracks.

But I digress… we covet these spots and we’re gonna share some of what we know while they still remain. We may not tell you the name of the place or where it is and that’s because we’re selfish. At least I’m honest right? Nah – most folks already know about these spots but the Bennys, the grockles, shoobees… the tourists… do not. Thank God.

And I know what you’re thinking… “You guys are tourists! You’re not from Florida!” We, by definition, “a person who travels to a place for pleasure” are not tourists. We are here on business. Serious, serious business. I don’t wear black socks with sandals. I don’t own sandals. I don’t own a single Tommy Bahama floral shirt or any other shirt with flowers. I don’t have a straw bowler, trophy wife, rented Maserati or Tag Hauer Calibre. I… have a G-Shock.

My friend Kasya from London sometimes calls me The Jägermeister and when I inquired about that nickname, she told me, “Every once in a while you just show up and smack down words of wisdom in a fit of coherency. Your posts smack people just like Jäger sneaks up and smacks you, but it works. It’s a compliment, really.” Well Kasya, I’m not sure they’ll be much Jägermeister-ing here but it’s been known to happen…  wink, wink… (let’s not go there, Melody – no tag to prior posts here please…)

Anyway… Melody and I would love to be in St. Thomas with all our cruising pals eating Pizza Pi, swaying on the hook and drinking painkillers but alas, we’ve gotta get Vacilando a new home and hopefully once that’s done, our next boat will still be for sale. When that happens, I’ll be listing one well-worn and dust covered grindstone for sale. Much love to you all!

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About Us

Chris DiCroce and Melody Puckett - VacilandoChris: Singer/Songwriter (and now Author) from Philly, transplanted to Nashville, needed a break from the entertainment business and decided to convince his girlfriend to live on a boat.
Melody: Computer Nerd/Writer/Jewelry Designer who thought her boyfriend was crazy for wanting to live on a boat but never one to shy away from an adventure, decided to play along and now may never get off the boat.
Jet: Dutch Shepherd rescue who has now traveled more miles in his 6 years with Chris and Melody than most people do in a lifetime. We're waiting for him to say "screw it" and jump off the boat.
The Boat:A 1984 Cal 35. Our home.

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Chris DiCroce: Songs from Before (The Unreleased EP)