Hollywood… Same Old Thong And Dance

Hollywood California… I’d venture to say there are few places like it in the world… and I’d be wrong. In fact, America has five, yes five cities named Hollywood. California of course, Hollywood, Florida, Hollywood, South Carolina, Hollywood, Alabama and Hollywood, Maryland. Although Maryland is an unincorporated community with no city government, no mayor and no city council. It’s probably the most productive of all the Hollywood for those simple reasons. But I digress. And I think any place you call Hollywood is gonna be “unique”. I think if you name your city Hollywood, you’re asking for crazy old homeless women walking around in gold lame dresses with purple headbands. You’ll have singing man on the corner, skate punks and artists. “Hollywood” calls them all. We, the crew of Vacilando have been spending some serious time in South Florida and in particular, Hollywood #2 (I say number 2 because of population totals) or as I like to call it, “Hollyweird”.

South Florida is already the land of over-population, the rudest drivers in America and the kookiest pretty people who refuse to say hello even though you’re standing next to them at the coffee machine looking right into their face. Yep, the areas is rich with climate and culture yet deficient in courtesy and patience. But… I love Hollywood! While not crazy about the municipal marina, the place my awesome bike was stolen, the town itself is really cool. It has great funky bars and dare I say, “neighborhood” type joints that just ooze character and some seriously good eats. The Broadwalk on the beach is the absolute best place to people watch and if you play your cards right, you can hit it during Canada Fest when the place is infested with our French Canadian neighbors from the north who insist on wearing nothing but speedos and sandals into the restaurants. “Um, I’ll just have a beer… I’ve lost my appetite.”

On a really good day, you’ll catch “Thong Man” riding his bicycle over the draw bridge and get stuck behind him as he pedals at a snail’s pace to ensure you get the full view of his middle-aged hairy ass and back. Yes, the man rides his bike in nothing but a thong.  A really, really small thong. And… I’d like to kill him.

The Tiki Hut - Hollywood, FL

Hollywood’s Coolest Place

But I think my favorite thing about Hollywood is the Tiki Hut. It’s little, teeny-tiny tiki bar on A1A just south of Jimbo’s and just north of Sheridan Street. If you’re not careful, you’ll drive right by it… about five times. “Small” is an understatement. It’s literally just a 15×15 foot tiki hut tucked way back on a gravel parking lot with a bunch of old beer signs, a weathered picket fence strewn with fish nets and a porta-pot as it’s “restroom”.  And trust me… you’ll get little rest in there.

One day, Melody and I decided to stop. We’d driven by it a hundred times and just thought it was too weird to stop. Who runs the joint? Is it even open? Do they have food?  So many questions and only one way to find out. We pulled in on a Sunday afternoon and were met by Eddie, the “bartender?” He was originally from Southern California and has known the owner for nearly all his life. When you walk in… or up to… oh, hell… when you get there and get up to what appears to be a bar, Eddie will great you with an amazing smile and ask you what you want. “Two Buds if you got em”, I said… “Two Buds”, Eddie says and promptly walks away. He walks across the gravel and into a shed where a refrigerator resides full of frosty cold cans of Budweiser and other sudsy beverages.

There is a sea wall that kisses the intracoastal waterway and a tee box if you decide you’d like to drive some golf balls into the wildlife park across the ICW. There are a couple of picnic tables and errant lawn furniture to belly up to and if you ask Eddie, as I did, “What’s the story on this joint?” He’ll tell you. He’ll tell you as if he’s known you for twenty years. He’ll smile the entire time he’s talking and after he finishes telling his big Alaskan husky to “…go lay in the shade!” He’ll end with this, “…I want you to feel like you’re in your own back yard, man. Kick off your shoes and chill out. No mean people are allowed here and all we’re trying to do is not get swallowed up by all the bullshit coming.” Sadly, Eddie… I’m afraid the gargantuan Margaritaville Hotel and Resort that they’re erecting down the block is not only destroying the vibe of your little town, it is in fact going to cover you in bullshit and I fear a lot more mean people, too.

Heartfelt THANKS!

Wow… where to start? First let me apologize for not posting in a little while. We have been going full throttle and I can’t even believe it’s already March. February was quite the month – not only did we release our book “You Gotta Go To Know” on Amazon, I also released a new single called “The Fray”, which I recorded last summer during our stay at Spring Cove Marina in Solomons, MD. It’s the most stripped down song I’ve ever done and talks about relishing the simplest moments.

Thanks to all of you and many others, You Gotta Go To Know was the #1 Best Seller in the sailing category on Amazon for the entire month of February and still holding the spot! We are overwhelmed by the amazing reviews, stories and feedback you’ve all contributed.  We heard from folks all over the world and Melody and I sincerely thank you all for reading along and dreaming with us.  The new single, The Fray, is not topping ANY charts! But what’s new… we are undeterred. It’s been several years since I’ve released new music and never have I released a song that I recorded on the boat complete with a cicada accompaniment.

We have been doing these independent ventures with the hopes of creating enough momentum to enable us to cut the employment cord and head to the destinations that lured us to this lifestyle in the first place. This is the year! We really hope to get the rig replaced, a new roller furler and headsail and then figure out our departure plans for next fall.

All this said, I am super grateful for the people in my life. We have incredible friends and family and that family keeps growing everyday when we meet amazing people out on the water. Whether doing the ICW, living in the same marina for 5 years or sailing to the South Pacific, you continue to dream and inspire and that is what we think this is all about. Inspiring others to push through when it might be easier to stop.

I know for a fact that this has been an exceptionally difficult winter for folks all over the country and the world. A lot of our family and friends have suffered through the unusually bitter cold and massive snow falls. All I can say is hold fast, Spring is coming!

Much love and thanks from the crew of Vacilando!

Sunrise at Dania Beach Pier by Vacilando

You Gotta Go To Know

“Every minute you spend wishing you did something is a minute you spend not doing it.”  ~Chris DiCroce, You Gotta Go To Know

Hey y’all – Melody here. I meant to get this post up earlier in the week, but it’s been quite a whirlwind around here! Long story short, we’ve been down in South Florida for a couple of months now, and because Chris works freelance, he often has stretches of time where he doesn’t have “work” – which is funny to say because he’s always working on something – the boat, his music, etc. In fact, he’s hardly ever not working. If there’s anything that needs to be done (which, as you know on a boat, that’s always), he has a hard time allowing himself to relax, so I’ve been trying to encourage him to get away from the boat and boat projects, and just go to the library and write… a blog post, perhaps a song. After many long days at the library, he comes back one evening and tells me he wrote… a book? Yep. A book.

You Gotta Go To Know Cover

What has happened since it went live 4 days ago has been amazing. We have been overwhelmed with gratitude for all of the people who downloaded it, and for the awesome reviews that readers have taken the time to leave on Amazon. I know I’m biased, but I think Chris has a way of weaving words into something more than just a story, and I love seeing that I’m not the only one who thinks that.

The book is available on Amazon. Don’t have a Kindle? You can download the FREE Kindle Reader for PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Droid, Blackberry, etc.  Below is the synopsis and a few reviews, and you can always find more on the Amazon page.  Thank you again for the downloads, reviews and the kind comments on Facebook. Y’all are awesome.  


SYNOPSIS

Every minute you spend wishing you did something is a minute you spend not doing it.

This is the real life story about a leap of faith. It’s a story of hope, loss and resolve. Wanting more from the life they were living, during one of the worst economic periods in American history, a couple decides to quit their jobs and sell everything they own to move onto a sailboat with dreams of oceans, adventure and travel. They chronicle their attempt to break away from the conventional in search of the exceptional. In the process they discovered that their greatest triumphs often came from their greatest challenges. Champagne wishes and caviar dreams fell prey to their bologna sandwich and High Life budget. Breakdowns, tropical depressions and over-extended bank accounts brought them face to face with the reality that things don’t always go as planned, but sometimes… that’s the best plan.

Part sailing adventure, part Vision Quest, You Gotta Go To Know is for anyone who’s ever had a dream that balanced precariously on a fine wire between absolutely irresponsible and downright crazy.

 ”…this isn’t so much a book about a sailing life as it is a book about being true to  yourself,  following your dreams and what creates/inspires/goads you to find the courage it  takes to  do that. And in that regard it succeeds wonderfully.”

 ”As talented a songwriter as Chris DiCroce is, it’s no surprise that his first published foray  into longer form prose is so well written. He draws you into his and Melody’s story by  honestly sharing the hopes, dreams, fears and motivations that led him to ditch one  dissatisfying life for one that may or may not turn out to be his last one, but is certainly the  one he should be living now. And he sure seems to have one hell of a girlfriend.”

Download the FREE Kindle reader for all your devices. You Gotta Go To Know

When Good Decisions Go Bad

Happy New Year everyone.  With the holidays behind us and the awesome AeroPress give-away done, I can get back to the business of sailing and sailboats.  Funny thing… we’re not sailing. We are however adding to the ever-growing lists of things that need attention on “V” and preparing to pull her out for the bottom job that is long over due.  In the mean time, I am going to write a post I have both been looking forward to and dreading.  Looking forward to the comments and feedback all of you will provide and dreading all the comments and feedback all of you will provide! I’ve since spoken to many of my serious off-shore sailing pals and described the events I’m about to write about here and have gotten their takes and suggestions (as well as several, “WTF were you thinking!”) and now it’s your turn.

On our trip down this year, we had several bouts with weather and most of them you are familiar with as we usually posted on the Facebook page.  One event in particular was tropical storm Andrea that kept us sitting in Reedville, Virginia for about three days.  We were holed up in a safe and very secure anchorage just off the crab shack there and doing just fine, although a bit bored and damp from the dinghy rides ashore.  Nothing was open at that time of year (mid October) and the town was quiet.

The wind was 20-25 from the northeast most of the week. As we sat, we discussed the possible weather window for our continuation south, listened intently to NOAA and repeatedly checked Passage Weather, Wind Finder and several other weather forecasters in order to formulate the plan.  After a few days of this and not much positive news, we decided that we had sailed in heavy weather in the past and since it was N-NE and we were heading SSW, it was a manageable situation.  Melody has been in the Gulf of Mexico on several occasions when the wind piped to over 20 knots and was accompanied by rain, lightning, rising seas and reduced visibility. She’s of the opinion, “we are sailors and the only way to gain heavy-weather sailing experience is to be out in heavy-weather“.  As a licensed Captain, I don’t take that sentiment lightly.  Safety is the main decider aboard Vacilando. But, after much conversation and plotting our “ditch” options should it get too bad, we decided to poke our heads out and make for Seaford, VA just inside the entrance to the York River.  The entrance to the channel was south west and seemed like a very doable scenario with a NNE wind.

storm on the horizon

On this particular morning, as I stood on the bow I thought to myself, “I should tie in a double-reef right this minute before I even pull up this anchor.”  THAT right there should give you all the information and ammunition you all need to ROAST me for the poor decision I made NOT to do so.  When you think it’s time to reef, you’re too late.  This would later prove to be an almost catastrophic error.  I weighed anchor and we headed out past the completely rebuilt and quite impressive smoke stack that marks the Reedville harbor.  Two other boats followed us out so I wasn’t the only one who felt that 20-25 from the NNE was reasonable – a small Stone Horse 23 and a large Pilothouse that I didn’t get a good look at so I can’t tell you the make.  Anyway, as we passed the last markers into the Bay, we motored and fell off to our course for the day. I unfurled about 40% of the 110 on the furler and the boat was heading between 100 and 120% down wind.  The swell on the port quarter is the reason for the deviation but we were controlled and moving at a steady 6 to 7 knots.  I did leave the engine running just in case we had any issues and needed to maintain steerage.  The Stone Horse behind me had his staysail up and the Pilot House was under double reefed main. Not sure if either were motor sailing.

This configuration worked perfectly fine all day. We did roll a bit and I was wishing (and kicking my ass) that I’d double reefed the main and had it up instead of the furled jib. The wind began to build and by the time we hit Wolf Trap Light, the wind built to a steady 35 knots and was climbing.  The seas at this point were 10 to 12 feet and I’m bad at estimating that and usually go conservatively. Shortly after, the wind went due North and that made my decision to head SSW – a very uncomfortable one at this point. That would put me beam to the swell and ditching into the precarious Horn Harbor was not a viable option.

I’ve been pooped twice in my life. Having a wave break into the cockpit and into the back of your head is a scary situation to say the least… Both times were on this day about 20 minutes apart. Melody was down below in all of this WORKING… making phone calls and conducting business and had no real idea what was going on until she poked her head out. I still cannot believe she was able to function down below. She felt the increase of wind and seas and was astonished when she came into the cockpit.

storm

This photo wasn’t taken on this particular day, but it is our boat in a storm and that day on the Bay looked very much like the photo… but without the mainsail up.

I wanted to go forward and reef, albeit way too late, but she was not in agreement with me going on deck in the conditions as she had never steered in wind and waves like we were then experiencing. I wasn’t going to fight with her in this situation or argue but I should have gone forward and reefed.  Spotting and then getting Wolf Trap Light to pass on starboard was a harrowing task as the seas were bowling me straight into it and my rolled up headsail had very little drive.  The engine was now compensating for my poor decisions and I struggled to get the boat to respond as it would if properly canvased. Not much was said on deck as we did get around Wolf Trap and then had to point up into the York River.  We would have to jibe the headsail.

The waves astern were swinging the boat to the point were the jib did backwind and jibed a couple times unintentionally.  I thought we might lose the rig. I really did.  I wish I had better notes of my compass course and the exact wind direction but I don’t. I know we were trying to find a very narrow channel to the York River entrance and to the west of that Channel lay depths of three feet.  I had very few options and of course as you all know, things get worse before better.  Visibility was about 1/4 of a mile with torrents of rain coming regularly. Usually I welcome rain as it will often flatten the sea state.  Not today, not in the shallow water that we were in.

Since the Jib was uncontrollable in this sea state, I furled it completely. This is where we may as well have been playing Russian Roulette.  I motored with our 1984 Universal Diesel, beam to the seas for about thirty-minutes in an attempt to find that channel marker.  We pitched and rolled violently for every, single one of those minutes and before it was said and done, I saw a steady blast of 43 knots on my instruments.  I stopped watching the gauges after that and tried desperately to show no fear or concern as Mel was now in the cockpit with me brandishing the binoculars trying to find our mark.  I had the chart plotter on and yes it was on there but as you all know, that’s a “cartoon” of where you are in the world… My concern was once we spotted that Red marker, would it be to starboard where it should be or have we been blown so far off that we were also outside the Green as well.  The long and short of it is, we found the Red and yes we had it where it needed to be.

We got into the channel and the anchorage where it was still blowing 25 knots. We spent several days in Seaford experiencing the incredible generosity of those folks at the Seaford Yacht Club and playing over the trip a hundred times.  One clogged fuel filter… one simple engine failure that had been happening pretty frequently, and we would have been on the rocks.  By the time I could have gotten to the main and tucked in the reef that should have already been there, we would have been at the mercy of those ridiculously steep Chesapeake waves.  I fear I’d be telling a different story.  I will say, our CAL 35 is an amazingly unassuming vessel. We have repeatedly been in some tough weather and she is a good little ship.

A couple months removed, I am posting this to prompt discussion.  As I’ve said, I have spoken to several folks and they’ve confirmed what I knew in my heart but I promised to write this and lay it all out there.  That said, feel free to critique and filet my decisions.

You Like Coffee? You’re Gonna Love This!

*Update 1/1/14: We drew a winner – congratulations to Jody & Peter from Punta Gorda, FL!
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Hello everyone! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and holiday season in general. We love this time of year and even though we celebrate it differently than we ever had, the season is as festive as ever.  In fact, we’ve decorated the mast with care and we have no chimney for the big man to navigate so we’re basically good to go.  It’s a bit strange to see palm trees decorated with lights and suffer no seasonal chill in the air but we are in full bore aboard Vacilando. We are ever grateful for the family, friends and gifts we are continually blessed with.  On that note, we received an amazing gift from the folks at Aerobie!

Decorated mast with Christmas Lights

Now you may remember a previous post “Won’t Leave Home Without ‘Em” where Mel and I extolled the virtues of several things we would never leave the dock without and our Aero Press Coffee Maker was one that both of us felt we couldn’t do without.  I will say again, this little gem works like a charm and produces the most exquisite cup-o-joe you could ever want.  Forget your Starbucks coffee maker with the cute-little, plastic containers of coffee that end up costing you about six-dollars a cup if you can find them once you run out. The Keurig “brewing system?”  Pshaw… Fuh-get-about-it!  Hot water, great espresso coffee (our favorite is Illy Ground Espresso) and your AeroPress is all you need.  Here’s how it works, heat the water (about 175 degrees is about perfect), put the paper filter in the press, put a scoop of espresso or ground coffee and pour. Stir. Gently press the plunger down.  Presto! Ahem… You have an incredible cup of coffee.  But don’t take our word for it…

aeropress-coffee-maker-illy-espresso

Guess what?! The awesome folks at Aerobie have agreed to GIVE YOU ONE! Yep, they’re gonna give one of our readers a FREE AeroPress Coffee Maker. All you have to do is leave a comment on the blog and tell us and them, what you’re like without your coffee!  Keep it clean folks… Have fun and we’ll pick a winner at random and bang! Someone will get a very special treat. Hurry, we’ll be picking a winner on New Year’s Eve!

Again, the crew of Vacilando want to wish everyone a very safe and happy holiday season. Enjoy your families, friends, loved ones, cats, dogs, horses and hogs! Thanks for reading along with our crazy adventure. We cherish every last one of you.  All the best in 2014. Be kind to each other!

I Fought The Law…

Okay, I don’t even know where to begin or how to get this whole damn story in so I’ll just jump right in. Please do your best to follow along.  We have all been holed up in Titusville replacing some injector lines and waiting out a major front that blew through here over the last three days. Thirty plus knots of wind for days on end and it was maddening. We are, however, thankful that we were on a dock and not out on an anchor or mooring. That said, yesterday morning we woke up and the wind had dropped to 15-20 from the East. Now on most days that would make me rethink going anywhere but hell, 20 knots now is like a walk in the park compared to the bullshit we’ve had to deal with on this trip.  Anyway, we tossed off the half-dozen dock lines and hit it hard. Favorable wind and we pulled sail immediately. That is always good for a nice boost in the speed-over-ground department. Nine hours later we covered 65 miles and found ourselves at the sweet little anchorage by the Wabasso Bridge near Vero Beach. It’s a cool spot right off the dock of the Environmental Learning Center so it’s easy to take Jet ashore. And therein lies… the rub.

We dropped anchor around 5pm and immediately launched the dinghy…that’s our usual drill. I take Jet ashore and Mel finishes up her work for the day and then keeps an eye on the chartplotter to make sure we’re not dragging. Usually I’m hurried so I don’t grab my phone, ID or shoes for that matter. You see where this is going?  Anyway, we land on the dock and walk to a  little gate directly across the street from the Environmental Learning Center. It’s a nice place with a couple of small poles across the driveway with a pad lock and a sign that reads “CLOSED”.  I notice the beautifully manicured grounds that looked like a lovely spot to walk Jet as daylight slowly waned and promptly stepped over the knee-high impediment to exploration and walked in.  As I rounded the corner, Jet froze. His ears popped up and his gaze fixed. I was a second behind and then I saw it… crouched at the edge of the palm fronds and low in the brush was a freaking cougar! NO, not Courtney Cox… a real cougar. Eyes fixed on us and in the pounce position. HOLY SHIT… ran through my mind.  Jet didn’t move a muscle and neither did I.  Actually… neither did the damn cougar. It was a life-sized painted exhibit in the park!!! The freaking thing was so real it scared the crap out of me! But it did not scare the crap out of Jet. He would not poop. He just kept sniffing and was totally distracted. So we turned around and I thought better of walking farther into the park at dusk and headed back to the road across from where we were anchored.

This thing looked totally real at dusk!

This thing looked totally real at dusk!

Barefoot and donning my favorite black terrorist sweatshirt and black baseball cap, I walked Jet up this deserted road hoping he’d quit being distracted and get on with his “business”. I quickly lost patience after a good twenty minutes and did an about-face towards the dock and our dinghy.  Not to be the case.  As I about-faced, a cop car approaches and stops with a sheriff van immediately behind him. I think nothing of it because I’m a law abiding citizen and honestly, preoccupied with thoughts of a cold beer and a warm meal.  But no, they pull over in the middle of the street and open the doors and get out.  The sheriff says, “You the guy who just jumped the fence at the Environmental Learning Center?!”  I… with an amazing look of complete and utter stupidity say, “Jump the fence? What fence?  Oooooohhh, you mean the knee-high pole that keeps cars from driving through? Yeah, I guess technically speaking, I’m the guy who “jumped the fence.”  Just then,  a sheriff chopper… YES people an F’ing police helicopter circles over head of the cop car and the police van.  All for a shoeless man who “JUMPED THE FENCE” of the Environmental Learning Center.  Now… I have no ID. No cell phone and again… no shoes. The officer proceeds to read me the riot act, takes my name, address, phone number, social security number and goes to his car. The other dick-head, I mean officer, proceeds to “small-talk” me as if I’m an idiot. Which by now I’m beginning to believe I am.  The first officer gets out of the car and says, “I’m gonna need finger prints. I can’t find anything on you in Tennessee.”  To which I reply, “Of course you can’t FIND anything on me because there is NOTHING to find.”  No go.  He pulls out a digital device and I have to place my index finger and my middle finger (which I promptly displayed to him saying, “this one?”). Ten more minutes with Barney Fife numero dose… and officer one comes back with, “You’re cool. What’s your phone number again?”  I gave him my old fax number from Filmhouse. Sorry, Ron.  He says, “What are you doing here?” “Um, officer… I am traveling on my sailboat we are anchored just over there. Do you think the chopper is a bit much?” “Oh” he says, “They just buzz the scene whenever there’s a call.” Reeeeeaaallly.  Tax dollars at work.

Now… I’m going to bump up my usual cynicism here and say this.  When we travel, we use an incredible resource know as Active Captain. This site has the whole Intracoastal Waterway as a Google Earth format and you can see anchorages, bridges, docks, marinas… you name it. It’s how we found this little gem by the Environmental Learning Center aka: The Authority Nazi Dock.  Travelers can get on and post immediate reviews, warnings, notations or hazards and  all sorts of positives and negatives regarding all the stops along the way. It is a priceless resource and FREE! We use it all the time.  I tell you this because, on the way down, we stopped at a popular anchorage in the middle of a well-known military base (we won’t say the name so as not to draw attention to it).  The notes read something like, “Great anchorage. Tons of space. 10 foot depths and well protected from all directions. But it’s an active military base so don’t even THINK of taking your pets ashore.”  Well, there is no other place to take him ashore and since he has refused to go on the boat, I did.  I got in my dinghy with it’s loud and smoky outboard engine and Jet and landed that thing right on the sandy beach where they do their landing exercises. He peed on and sniffed every rock and shrub on the entire landing area while Melody chaffed my ass on the VHF to “Hurry up!!!”  Not once… did anyone ever ask me a question.  Not once did a single MP approach me and say, “Sir, this is a heavily guarded Military Base in the United States of America! You sir are OUT. OF. BOUNDS.  Now drop and give me twenty!” Not once.

But “JUMP THE FENCE” of the Environmental Learning Center in Vero Beach?  You get a cop, the Sheriff and choppers.  And THAT my friends is what is wrong with our great country. Common sense has crawled up a horse’s ass and died.

The Romance Is Gone

The Death Of Romance Occurs After Two Years, Six Months And 25 Days, Study Says.

The honeymoon period is officially over two years, six months and 25 days into wedlock, according to new research. This is the point in the average marriage where both partners take each other, and their relationship, completely for granted. After the second wedding anniversary couples are far more likely to scatter socks and pants around the house, leave the toilet seat up, hog the remote control and go without make-up.

Quick recap: In grand fashion we left the Bay bound for Lauderdale with a couple of stops planned in between to hang with family and see the “new” nephew Odin, who I’d not yet met. After that? BING, BAM, BOOM, south-bound like a freight train in an Allman Brothers tune! Woo-Woo… Charleston, SC. Board Jet in a fancy doggie day-care and then the jump off to Lauderdale. Then, I’d fly up and grab the truck and the Jet-Pack from his week of leisure and return him to the confines of our little “crate” house on the water. THAT was the plan. And if you have followed us for any length of time you know, plans simply don’t follow directions when it involves Chris and Mel. Toss in tropical storms, sitting at anchor for three days waiting for weather and now the illustrious water pump failure x 2 and here we sit in Charleston. The Romance (with a capital “R”) gone. Now I got to thinking about all this romance talk and I’ll tell you a few things from a mans perspective. Is that allowed any more?  A man giving his perspective?  Anyway… that quote about romance being done some two years into a marriage? Bah~ live on a boat and it’s last rights will be administered by the end of the first week! Here’s how it goes.

Man:  Begins to go feral after about a day. Stops shaving because he’s conserving water. Shower? What, are you kidding?  Conserving WATER! Wears the same tattered shorts and t-shirt that is now quite “fragrant” in the interest of… you guessed it… saving water. Basically, he becomes a homeless person with a college education and for the first time since he graduated, uses his knowledge of Hemmingway simply by looking like him.

Woman:  Begins to go feral after about 6 months of living with the barbaric man / subhuman she no longer recognizes.  She fights the good fight with moisturizers and conditioners but soon surrenders. She too refrains from shaving her legs. She stops washing her hair and constantly opts for the ubiquitous “pony-tail / head band” tennis player from the 80′s look.  Of course she’s “saving water” all-the-while uttering under her breath, “He looks like Grizzly Adams and smells like the dumpster behind CBGB’s and this is my only defense to keep him OFF. OF. ME.”

Now lets get to the delicate subject.  The Nut’s and Bolts shall we say. The Bathroom. Toilet. John. Head. We have one and it’s about the size of your linen closet. Stop reading and go look… if you have one. GO!

Welcome back. Anyway, I’ve mentioned before that we have to pump the toilet. There is no “flush” handle. Actually there is, it’s name is Chris DiCroce. Just as our windlass is named, Chris DiCroce. It’s close quarters indeed. If you’re shy, bashful or “sensitive” about your bathroom orchestration shall we say, DON’T move onto a boat with the opposite sex. You will be doomed to a life of misery and severe discomfort. Here’s my advice. Get it over with quick. Just do it. Stand on the commode (not possible but go with me on this) and shout out through your gray, scraggily beard and chronic halitosis… that mantra made famous from the most amazing man among men, “I AM WHAT I AM AND THAT’S ALL THAT I AM!”  Yes, I did just quote Popeye.

Isn’t it funny how living on a boat is synonymous with romance and yet SO not true. All those images of sweeping shots from a helicopter as a man stands at the wheel clad in a big, cushy sweater and sea boots, pipe in his mouth  as his woman adorns the bow in a long flowing dress like the hood ornament on a Rolls Royce – eh, nah… Here’s what really happens… tomorrow we’ll both be grease monkeys as we pull the old water-pump and replace it with what I hope is the right one that’s coming from San Diego. Then, I get to drive an hour to pick up the OTHER water pump and install it… Then and only then, will we try, and please let me emphasize the word “try” to leave Charleston. Hey, at least it’s not St. Augustine again…

Rage on my friends. Sorry for the lack of posts. We are simply trying to get there.

chris-and-mel-inside-boat-head

Stink Bugs And The Zen Of Sailboat Maintenance

Do you know how to tell that you’ve not sailed one single day all summer long? How to tell that you’ve been in one place too long? Wasp nests, dirt daubers and stink bugs… that’s how. As Melody finishes up her four-day road trip with her sister in law from Seattle to Norfolk… yes, drove it in 4 days… with an 8 month old and a 100 lb. Lab,  I’ve been readying “V” for the trip south.  I’m very excited to move and be moving again.  But that couldn’t happen without some fixes and maintenance of course. So, we had an exhaust system that was badly rusted and corroded and in serious need of attention. If you have an exhaust that goes into your waterlift muffler and haven’t looked under the heat wrap for a while or… ever, do it now. You may find that it will break off in your hand as you tweak it to see what condition the metal is in, like ours did. Thus… more $$$. But it allowed me to check the exhaust hoses and my waterlift muffler for any carbon build up inside. Clean as a whistle!

Not My Best Photography...

Not My Best Photography…

As I scrubbed the decks, I decided I should pump up the dinghy and pull the main up. As I lifted the dinghy, a ton of stink bugs fell all over me! I’m not a freakish guy… I can handle a bug or two but these things REEK! Oh my God… I’ve seen them before but never in these numbers.  They were everywhere. I pulled the mainsail cover off and there were MORE!  Of course I had all the hatches open on this spectacular fall day… YEP… dozens of them… right into the boat – UGH. As I raised the main, wasps started to “fall from the sky”. They too were everywhere. Wasps now have a nest at the very, tippy top of our mast where the sheaves are. Holy crap… what the friggin’ hell is going on. As I raised the main, I discovered dirt daubers made nests on my BRAND NEW, CRISP, WHITE SAIL!  Ohhhhhh, nooo you don’t.  It was at that moment I realized… we’ve over stayed our welcome. I marched right over to the shipyard and met up with Alan. He’s in charge of short-hauls. For those of you who don’t know~ a short haul is when you haul the boat out simply to clean the bottom. Usually called a lunch-time hang or something like that. During this time the guys pressure wash the bottom and get all the algae and barnacles off… oh, and all my expensive bottom paint too. “Alan… I need you to fit me in before the weekend… can that happen?” He said, “Be here tomorrow at 8 AM sharp.”  I’ll get to see the bottom which I haven’t seen since the survey (and a few groundings by yours truly), change the prop shaft zinc and then put her back in. Moving is a great thing. I know I’m ready. And when I see all the boats in the anchorage off the fuel dock as these days end earlier and earlier, I don’t think we’ll be alone.

The Plan. Cue Universe laughter

The Plan. Cue Universe laughter

As we head south, we make no schedule… only destinations. See some friends and fellow cruisers in Beaufort, NC. then offshore. Maybe Charleston, SC. or straight to Fernandina / St. Mary’s. If the weather holds (it never does) we’ll be in south Florida by Christmas… that’s a joke. Then again, if you know us, you know how possible that is! Keep the faith friends. Hold fast to common sense and positive thoughts during this time of disastrous governmental incompetence. Now that I think about it, the government shut down back in ’95 while I was on my honeymoon… hm… I hope this one turns out better than that marriage.

Planes, Trains and Auto-mobiles

Where did summer go? September already… heck, almost October 1. I am always stunned at the passage of time. We got to Solomon’s Maryland in July and we had planned to relax and spend the summer with friends and family on the bay, in Philly and at the Jersey Shore. Soon after making that declaration, I promptly left for work in south Florida. It’s really hard to turn down the opportunity to make money, especially when we need it. And… There-in-lies-the-rub. I’ve been gone most of the summer. Away from Mel. Away from Jet and the boat and away from my life. While I’m not complaining about having the opportunity to work with and see my friends in Lauderdale, I had just hit an amazing creative spurt which I hadn’t seen the likes of in almost ten years.  That creative spurt has since shut down. Being out of my zone in a house with my friend and her 11 month old puts me on a whole different plane. Getting up and going into the studio to work on the schedule we’ve been on leaves little energy at the end of the day for creative exploration. I’m burnt and I wanna go back to the boat. I wanna get back to my routine… and that’s funny because everyone thinks we have no routine… I didn’t think we had much of a “routine” but we do. We wake up, make our delicious coffee and walk our cool dog over to the lighthouse, marvel for a few minutes then walk back to the boat and get to work… There are projects that needed to be done in July that still remain unfinished. “I’ll get to them after a break,” I said.

coffeegrnscreen

Well… It’s almost October. I’ve been away from the boat since early August. In that time, I’ve flown to Lauderdale… worked. Then to Nashville, cleared out our storage unit, drove to Philly and then flew back to Lauderdale for more work. I’ll see Mel tomorrow when she flies in for an appointment. Then we’ll both fly back to Maryland and resume our life aboard “V”.  It’s so strange because now I have to rush to prepare for the trip south… yes, back to Florida for the winter. It’s been planes, trains and automobiles this summer. I had the best intentions… I really did. But I want to apologize for not posting more often.  We haven’t taken the boat out once! Not once… It’s been make hay while the sun is shining mindset and I guess it should take some of the pressure off that we felt last year when we came down. Anyway folks, thanks so much for reading along with us and I hope you’ve all had a fantastic summer. I hope you learned something new, saw something you’ve never seen before and spent time with someone you love. I have been away from my life for too long. As I sit on the bed writing this, I cannot wait to smell the Chesapeake Bay, eat some crabs and take it all in.

peace.

Jet the SUP-er Dog

When we got Jet 4 years ago from a rescue shelter, he was a bit of a basket-case. He just had SO MUCH ENERGY and his months spent in a cage at the shelter only intensified his need to burn that energy however he could, which usually consisted of running and not stopping. Like ever. You see, at the shelter, they had named him Chase. We had decided to name him Teak because of the color of his fur, but on his first day home, he took off after a squirrel… like a jet… and we never thought we’d see him again. Lucky for us, he decided to come back, so we named him Jet because he was the fastest dog we’d ever seen.

Also lucky for us, he never manifested his energy by chewing anything such as our shoes or furniture. Aside from the first year or so, where we had to really work with him on his role within the pack (he was a born leader and wasn’t thrilled to relinquish that role), he’s had virtually no behavioral issues at all. We know this has a lot to do with our constantly exposing him to different environments – sitting on the busiest street corner in Nashville so that he didn’t get anxiety around cars or traffic, out to the boat so that he was comfortable around water and on boats, crowded festivals so he was not afraid of large groups of people…you get the idea. And it has paid off amazingly for the cruising life since we are so often on the move. Nothing shocks him and everywhere we go, everyone comments on how well-behaved and easily adaptable he is to any situation. He spends his days sitting on the bow or one of the sidedecks, just staring at the water, on intense lookout for those evil ducks or herons that he must protect our boat from.

A month or so ago, I won (yes WON – as in FREE!) an inflatable stand-up paddle board, or SUP package from Tower Paddle Boards, courtesy of a contest hosted by eBoat Cards, brought by the same people who brought us Active Captain.  I can’t tell you how excited I was to win this thing – we had been wanting a paddle board forever and the fact that we can deflate it and stow it makes it a perfect toy for the boat.  I could go on and on about how awesome this thing is and will probably do another post on this soon.

I had never been paddle boarding before so I watched a bunch of YouTube videos about techniques because the last thing I wanted to do was fall into the jellyfish-laden Chesapeake water. After a morning of educating myself, I decided to hop on the thing, and IT. WAS. AWESOME. It was so awesome, in fact, that I just had to share the experience with someone and since Chris was out of town working, who else but to let in on all this fun besides Jet?

We had a brief meeting beforehand, at which point I begged him not to fall off because one, that would make us look bad, and we have reputations to uphold, and two, because if he fell off, the chances were highly likely that I would have a hard time getting him back on without falling off myself and if we couldn’t get back on, it might be a long, un-fun swim back which would be followed by a bath. That sealed the deal and he shook my hand to confirm our mutual understanding and off we went. Two pals just SUP-ing along like we’d been doing it for years.

dog on paddle board

He took to it almost immediately. He was a little unsteady at first, but quickly figured out the whole balance thing and we looked like pros. We were literally the talk of the water. Every single boat that passed us whipped out their cameras and took pictures. People ran out to their docks to ask how long it took me to teach him to do that… (ummm, 15 seconds?) and I even had a group of Navymen shout at us to invite us to their beach party because as they put it, “y’all are the coolest things on the water!” (I declined… never sip and SUP, but was flattered to be called “cool” by a group of cute, young twenty-something year old sailors).

Here’s a video showing how Jet gets on the SUP and how we make it work without falling in the water (a little toward the end you see me bend down to hold the board while I shift the positioning of my feet… I’m not quite confident enough moving around on it too much with no hands!).  It also features Chris song ‘California’ from his 2010 EP ‘Songs From Before’.

 

So this has now become our favorite thing to do together.  If you want to try SUP-ing with your canine pal, there are a few things that are essential in my opinion before going out.

  • INTRODUCE THEM SLOWLY: I knew Jet would just hop right on because that’s how he is. There’s no warming up with him – he just does it, but many dogs might get nervous so be sure they are comfortable before leaving the dock or shore. It won’t be any fun for either of you if your dog is miserable once you’re out there. Start by introducing them to the board while on land and use plenty of treats if necessary.
  • DOG LIFE JACKET: Always have your dog wear a life jacket. For one, it can help save them from drowning, but most pfd’s for dogs have a handle on top that you could grab to lift them back onto the board if they fall off.
  • NON-SKID: Be sure your board has non-skid to help their feet grip. Some boards are more slick. Our Tower board is perfect because almost the entire top surface is covered with a thick non-skid so I didn’t have to do anything and Jet was able to easily hop right on.
  • NEVER LEASH YOUR DOG TO THE BOARD: If they fall into the water, the leash could strangle them.
  • WATER SUPPLY: Always carry plenty of fresh water for you and your dog. Dogs need water to help keep them from overheating and dehydrating, so carry some in a little dry-bag that can sit on the front of the board, even if you’re just going out for a short distance. There was one time that, due to a strong opposing current and a bit of wind that it took me longer to get back than I had anticipated and I didn’t have water for either of us. Jet took a few sips of the brackish water off the side because he got so thirsty and had some major diarrhea that evening. Guess I’m out of the running for Dog-Mom-Of-The-Year award.

Have any of you ever SUP-ed with your dogs?  What’s your favorite way to stay active with your dog? Leave us a comment below!

* A huge thanks goes out to both Tower Paddle Boards and eBoat Cards. This post is not sponsored in any way. I won the inflatable SUP in a contest but cannot say enough good things about it, and have since become a Tower affiliate, so any links to Tower on this site are affiliate links and I do get a small percentage of any sales. It is extremely well constructed and online reviews call it one of the best inflatable SUP’s you can get. It’s also more affordable than most out there. We will likely be purchasing a second SUP at some point so that Chris and I can do this together. I highly recommend these boards and am so excited to have found such a fun and rewarding form of exercise!

* Since this post went up, several of you have asked which board we have – we have the 9’10″ Adventurer Package, and we totally love it. Note that all links to Tower are affiliate links.

Tower Adventurer Inflatable Paddle Board

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