The Ins & Outs of Shadyville: Part One

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!

Stay tuned and as always… leave comments, drop us a note or hit us up on facedevillook@mebook.

How NOT To Sell Your Boat

As you know by now, Vacilando is for sale. We’ve had some people come see her this past weekend and as Melody and I were “sprucing” up, we laughed about all the times we had gone to look at boats and found that most were amazingly cluttered, comically dirty or down right misrepresented.

Whenever people come aboard our boat they almost always say, “Wow… you live on this full time? Where’s all your stuff?” We love hearing that. It’s the highest compliment because the one thing we can’t stand is clutter. If it doesn’t fit, we don’t need it.

We have no hammocks full of crap hanging in the v-berth. No stacks of papers on shelves or clothes packed into the quarter berth. We don’t even have a quarter berth for that reason!

Boat Shopping

I remember on one occasion flying from Nashville to Miami, renting a car and driving to Key Largo to look at a Westerly that looked really nice and was listed at a great price. Red Flag! When I finally found the little marina and met the guy on the dock, my heart sank. I realized at once, I’d be leaving in about three minutes.

The photos online had obviously been taken several years before and what he had done was refit one side of the boat! He painted, and did the brightwork on ONE SIDE. The other side looked as if it just survived Hurricane Andrew… barely survived. When I pressed him and said he owed me about six-hundred bucks for the wasted trip, he was shocked and perplexed that I couldn’t see the potential.

As Mel and I laughed at that stroll down memory lane, she said, “You should do a blog post on how NOT to sell your boat!” Well, here it is.

Tips On How To Sell Your Boat (And How Not To)

Attention all you dreamers, wanderlusters and wanna-be pirates, take heed. I know exactly what you are thinking and experiencing as you sit at your desk dreaming of the day the kids move out, you can sell the house, tell your boss to shove it and toss off the dock lines, bound for sandy beaches and drinks shaded by tiny umbrellas.

I, too, have spent countless hours at my desk looking at boat porncrafting my list of the perfect vessel to carry us away. And I was shocked and amazed at the listings that I found online from owners and brokers alike. Some made me laugh hysterically at the liberal use of terms like, almost bristol and sail ready.

Look, Mr. Boat Seller, if you can’t pick up your Tommy Bahama boxer shorts before you snap a photo of your v-berth, do you really expect me to believe you changed the oil in the diesel at regular intervals?

If you take a photo of your galley and in that photo we see what you are preparing for lunch, i.e., the nasty cutting board with a dirty knife, paper towel roll laying on the stove and a Publix grocery bag hanging off the companionway ladder, do I really think you’ve lubed the thru hulls and checked the engine zinc?

dirty galley - boat for sale

Notice the toothpaste on the ledge… this guy brushes his teeth in the galley. How much you wanna bet he pees in that sink?

Pet owners… we might be amongst the worst boat owners out there. Why? Cause we think pets are people. Some of us are worse than others… just sayin’… I’ll leave it there. But, if you have cats on board and they “do their business” in a litter box, it smells. Trust me on this. It does. I’m sorry. I don’t wish to hurt your feelings. but cat poop and pee stinks. If you are selling your boat, leaving your cats tootsie rolls in the litter box does not make me wanna buy it. I’m proud of Bootsy… yes I am… but I will pass on your Tayana.

Google “Sailboat for Sale” and spend a few moments looking through the listings. It’s comical, really… and quite frightening.  Melody and I spend many hours walking around marinas on a sunny Saturday or Sunday with coffee in hand and our faithful Jet in tow, just looking at boats. Yes, we are in the market for our forever boat but I just love sailboats and could spend every day studying keel configurations, rudder design, cabin layouts and rigging set-ups.

A couple weeks ago we drove down to Ft. Pierce to see one of the boats on our short list. They only made 63 of them and most of them are overseas but this one happened to be an hour away and the price was right.  Red flag… right!

The listing said, “Ready to go cruising! All she needs is your stuff!” Of course, I can look at photos and see that she was not quite so but… she was close and we wanted to see her in person to get a feel for the actual space and decide if she should remain on the short list or be crossed off. Crossing boats off the list is just as important as adding them. This particular boat had obviously been on the hard for a couple years at least. I won’t go into the litany of repairs needed but suffice it to say, she was not ready to go. She was ready for a complete re-fit.

How To Quickly Decipher Boat Listing Descriptions

I decided that there was a certain code to boat listings and here are some helpful hints to decipher some key phrases commonly used.

If the listing says, …all she needs is some cosmetic attention, that means she needs a deck re-core, toe rails replaced, hardware re-bedded, a bottom peel and barrier coat.

The engine ran when parked really means the diesel is seized up and needs a total rebuild or better yet, chuck it overboard… it’s an anchor now.

My favorite? …all she needs is some updating. Translation: the cushions are old and musty, neither the head nor the faucets work, a family of gypsies is living lazarettes, the electrical system is a complete rat’s nest and when you pull the headliner to run those new wires, the mold behind it will look like you’ve been cultivating your very own blue cheese crumbles! Mmmm… get some romaine lettuce, some red onion and lots of tissues because you’re gonna cry long and hard as you write those checks.

clutter on boat for sale

I think they need a bigger trashcan…

People, if you wanna sell your boat, pick up your panties, tidy up the galley and if you list your awesome nav station as a strong selling point, let us see the nav station, please.

Even if you don’t wanna clean up entirely, here’s a tip… when you photograph the port side settee, move all the shit currently on that settee to the starboard side, take the picture and then… move all the shit on the starboard side back to the port side, etc… etc… Get it?

man hiding in bed on sailboat

Bodies in the v-berth… do we really need to say that’s a no?

Clean the head! C’mon… clean it. Most likely you haven’t done it in months, it needs it. Put your toothbrush, Viagra and assorted creams in a cubby and if you absolutely must include your bath towel in the photo, maybe… fold it.

Dirty sailboat head

Do’s and Don’ts of Boat Listings

Here are a couple examples of what works and what doesn’t when you want to sell your boat.

This does not work:

rusted sailboat

NOT sail-ready.

 

This works… (but we could be biased!)

sailboat interior flowers

This works… of course we’re biased!

 

This doesn’t work.

v-berth on sailboat

Not the best way to show how roomy your v-berth is

 

And this definitely works.

hot chick on sailboat

You’re welcome, gentlemen. (Photo Credit: Atik Homirov)

Good luck people!

About A Butterfly Wing

butterfly wingBack on October 21, 2012 I wrote a post called Not Much Happens And Everything Happens and it was the first post to be written after Melody’s mom Kathryn passed away. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever written. We were in the middle of traveling when we got the news and trying to process emotions along with having to think rationally and clearly was incredibly difficult. Finding Mel a flight on very short notice with no vehicle to get her to said flight, all while being next to broke made it all the more stressful.

Once we got Melody situated and back home with her family, I headed out with my friend Tommy bound for our final destination, Ft. Lauderdale. We didn’t make it. My injector lines and hurricane Sandy had other plans and left me stuck in the quaint little town of Cocoa Village, Florida.

Cut to this past November 26, the night before Thanksgiving when Vacilando and her crew pulled into Cocoa Village Marina for the second time, in the dark, cold and very tired. We had done the ICW in frigid weather, high winds, rain and we were hell-bent on reaching Cocoa for the holiday.

Mission accomplished. Time to relax.

We decided to hang our shingle here for the next couple months and we got busy planning a trip back to Nashville to attend a long-standing pre-Christmas party with some old and dear friends, then back to Florida for Christmas. Secretly I was planning to ask Melody to marry me and when I knew we were going to be in Nashville the week before Christmas, I devised a plan.

The plan was to nudge Melody towards suggesting Philadelphia for Christmas since we’d almost be halfway there once in Nashville. It worked like a charm. She suggested us “making the rounds” and heading to Arkansas for one night to see her Dad and sister Michelle, then whisking off to Philly from there, then maybe even stopping in Virginia Beach to see her brother and sister in law on our way back down to Florida after Christmas.

However, Melody’s sister had just had pancreatic surgery and she was still recovering, and after speaking with her Dad, who only half-jokingly said “Y’all aren’t going to just drop in on old Dad, are you? I’m not really prepared for any last-minute unexpected visitors… no offense”, we decided not to drive to Arkansas. We made him promise to plan on a big get together for Christmas next year and he agreed that would be awesome. We decide to still head to Philly to spend Christmas with my family. If we couldn’t be with her family this year, at least we could be with mine.

We had a lovely time in Nashville and promptly headed out early the morning of the 21st, bound for the City of Brotherly Love. We had put a lot of miles on our little rental car and there were more to come.

My family loves Melody so much and none of them were aware of my proposal but excited we were coming. I was nervous as hell trying to keep track of the ring. The ring I actually forgot to pack when we left the boat and had to turn around to go get after an hour of driving! Melody, bless her heart, said, “honey… forget my Christmas gift. We said we weren’t exchanging gifts this year! You can give it to me when we get back.” Ugh… No honey I can’t.

My Italian family is spread out as are most of our families and this year, and neither my sister Linda or my brother Michael would be there. Christmas would be smaller and quieter without the nieces and nephews, boyfriends, girlfriends, dogs, etc… but it would be really special. Hours before, I enlisted my brother’s help for my proposal and decided Christmas Eve would be the time. Family around but not TOO much family around. You know what I’m saying? She could say no… that would really be special… and… incredibly awkward.

Anyway, a little more back story. The first part of my Christmas present to her was her passport. She didn’t have one and I had been harping on it for years… this year I said, “I’m paying for it. It’ll be my Christmas present to you. I’ll be giving you the world!” Corny… I know… be nice.

On Christmas Eve around 10:30 PM we were all sitting around the table. My sister Mary, brother-in-law Artie, Melody, Jimmy, my Mom and myself.

Jimmy says, “So Mel… Chris said you got your passport. How exciting! If you could get married anywhere in the world, where would you go?”

Melody, looking totally perplexed says, “I don’t know… I haven’t thought about it.”

Jimmy: “C’mon Mel… You had to at least think about it?”

Melody: “No… Jimmy, I haven’t.” A bit testy now… kind of giving him the shut-up-this-is-awkward-and-you’re-making-us-uncomfortable look.  But my brother persisted… at the same time, my sister Mary complimented and asked to see the infinity ring that Melody was currently wearing, which I gave her last year. Melody took it off to show her, leaving her ring finger bare.

Me (sliding the engagement ring case across the table): “Well, maybe you should start thinking about it.”

Melody (completely confused): What the…?

Head spinning, scanning for a face that wasn’t grinning mischievously, trying to figure out if this was really happening, she said nothing. Mouth agape, she opened the box and still confused said, “Is this for real?”

My only answer could be… “Unless the answer is no… you might want to start thinking about it.”

It was a wonderful night. My family got drafted at the last moment to help me surprise my girl. Minutes after she stopped crying, we called her Dad to break the news. Jim Puckett was a former police detective and military man. His sense of humor dry and so well-timed, when Mel told him the news, I could hear his muddled response and it was perfect, “Are y’all drinking?” Once he knew we weren’t, he was elated.

Sometime later that night, Melody woke up to a text from him:

You know Mel, I always thought that it wouldn’t make a big difference if this ever happened but I was wrong. It’s big time awesome, and a perfect chapter in the progression of you guys’ story. I am just really happy for you both. I love you sweetie. Can’t really stop smiling lol. Gonna sleep and just have a relaxing day so in case I don’t talk to you, you guys have a very Merry Christmas!

The drive back to Florida was a long one but a fun one. We laughed and relived the moment, and when we arrived back in Cocoa, we were tired and ready to just settle in and have a low-key New Years.

We spent the night at a local British Pub and were back and in bed by 1am. Usually we would have been in bed by 10pm but this year we were celebrating the year to come. We were going to start planning a really cool, unique ceremony somewhere like Ireland. We’ve always wanted to spend time in Ireland and a very small ceremony would be just the ticket.

Melody was so excited at the thought of having her Dad there since he hadn’t be able to do much traveling since leaving the force. It was mostly financial hardship, as with all of us of course, but we were going to surprise him with a ticket to wherever the hell we were getting married. Like or not, Jimbo… you’re coming!

New Years Day. Fresh start. New dreams. New outlooks. Not so. Jim died suddenly and completely unexpectedly on January 1, 2015. He had gone to the hospital the evening before because he had been unable to eat and was having stomach pain. They ran tests and his white blood cell count was high, but otherwise he was  healthy and the doctor decided to keep him overnight to give him fluids, but no immediate cause for alarm.

The next morning, New Years Day, the nurse was doing her rounds and Jim was jovial, joking with her and ready to go home. Fifteen minutes later, that same nurse was surprised to hear the alarm signaling from Jim’s room. She responded thinking an IV had come out or he’d mistakenly knocked a button or something. What she found was Jim’s body calmly lying in bed, eyes closed. No covers disturbed. No signs of struggle and not a single reason he should be gone. He slipped away in that fifteen minutes. At 57 years old.

Melody and I were walking down a dock, looking at boats in Eau Gallie, Florida when she got the call. I knew instantly because it was the same reaction I had to helplessly watch when she got the call on October 15, two years before. I will never forget either moment in my life and I hope to God I never have to see her suffer like that again. My best friend in the world. My partner. My love in a heap on a dock.

So much for new dreams… new outlooks. The happiest moment of our lives will have to wait. I don’t know that it will ever be possible to have the same elation now that both of Mel’s parents are gone. I don’t know what to say to console her as I have no idea what she is experiencing. My parents are alive and while my dad’s Parkinson’s has kicked in hard, he’s still here. He’s still able to be witness to what we are supposed to be planning. But we haven’t planned a thing. We can’t seem to get excited about it and the enormous void that accompanies us will never be filled.

Life is so precious and the balance so easily thrown out of kilter. The simple and almost indiscernible turbulence caused by a butterfly’s wings can shift the tectonic plates of one’s life in minutes. It’s not fair. The equilibrium between joy and sorrow is vexing. I know it’s life but it’s cruel.

Back in October of 2012, we were planning to visit Kathryn that Christmas and we never got to. This year, we were going to surprise Jim but we decided that wouldn’t be fair since he wanted to have a calm and quiet Christmas. We won’t get another Christmas with them and I now wish we barged in loved them both loudly, ignoring their requests for calm. We will all have an eternity of calm when we are gone… Please, live loudly. Love large and never, ever miss an opportunity to forgive someone, hug their necks and tell them how utterly irreplaceable they are in your universe. Not much happens and everything happens and the space between them is about the thickness of a butterfly wing.

dad-melody-michelle

Superstition Ain’t the Way

I’m not sure Stevie Wonder ever stepped foot on a sailboat but when LOOK Insurance Services invited us to be a part of a new campaign they are launching, my songwriter brain snapped right to the famous intro to Stevie’s song “Superstition”. See, The folks at LOOK are taking a fun look at sailing superstitions and wondered if we put any stock in the legendary stories, myths and tropes. Melody and I looked at each other and simultaneously uttered one word… Loa.

loa-agwe-lord-of-sea

Loa Agwe – Lord of the Sea medal

If you’re not familiar with Loa Agwe, Lord of the sea and guardian of the sacred underworld, it’s okay… neither were we. That is until my former boss gave me a “good luck” charm just as we were preparing to leave on our maiden voyage aboard our new ship bound for a new life. Mel and I were familiar with Neptune of course and hip to some of the famous sailing superstitions such as not leaving port on a Friday, not whistling on board and the whole red sky at night business but Loa was new to us. If you’ve read our blog at all, you know Melody is a total tech geek and when she encounters something she doesn’t know about, she Googles it. Upon discovering a little about Loa, she also found the ritual that one can do to ensure a safe passage and since we’d already decided not to leave Panama City on a Friday (better safe than sorry right?), we might as well get a little extra insurance… pun intended… and appease Loa, too.

They say if you give an offering – rock salt wrapped in blue paper gently dropped into the sea – Agwe will keep a watchful and protective eye over your journey. So, as we departed Panama City on a bright and beautiful Saturday morning, Melody bounded into the cockpit with a big smile on her face, obviously proud of herself and produced a small, impressive, tightly wrapped wad of blue paper in her palm. It was tied with tiny piece of hemp string. I said, “Where did you get the blue paper?!” Cause… who has blue paper on board, right? She said, “We’re sailors. I had to improvise.” And, improvise she did. She took one square of our environmentally friendly toilet paper and with a blue sharpie, proceeded to carefully dot the entire square until it was the perfect shade of azure. Rock salt? How about some sea salt instead? Loa won’t mind… right?

offering-sea-blue-paper-salt

Our offering to Loa

Well, we gently dropped that perfect little wad into the spectacular Gulf of Mexico, certain our passage to the Chesapeake Bay would be blessed and carefully chaperoned by Loa, Neptune and any other God that felt like they wanted to jump on board, so to speak. Needless to say, that night the remnants of Tropical Storm Beryl unexpectedly backed down the East Coast and pummeled us for twenty-four hours, ripping our main sail and dodger. The rest of the trip was not without incident either (think broken toilet) but we did make the Bay that summer. So much for appeasing the Gods.

If you ask us today about sailing superstitions I think we fall somewhere on the fence between “It never hurts to pay a little mind to the lore and pour a little rum over board to keep Neptune happy” and… “nah, we don’t believe any of that stuff.” That said, when dolphins meet us on a passage, we smile, acknowledging their presence as the purveyors of good luck. We don’t keep bananas on board or do much whistling at sea either. I do however, travel with woman on board, always seen as bad luck in the past, but I keep emphasizing the fact that as long as she’s naked, she’s considered GOOD luck. Mel’s not buying that one.

No, Stevie Wonder may have never set foot on a sailboat. And when it comes to life’s trials and tribulations, “superstition ain’t the way” but on our boat, I guess we have been duped by our own credulity just a bit but then again, we’re sailors right? We travel under five-thousand year old technology. We should be allowed a little leeway.

Do you have any sailing superstitions? Leave them in the comments and tell the folks at LOOK about them by taking their short survey here.

Tis The Season~

Amazing how quickly the time passes. Another Christmas and holiday season is upon us and we are so stoked. We here on Vacilando don’t have the space for a tree so we decorate our mast every year. It’s become our tradition and new friends as well as old have given us ornaments along the way that we’ve added to the mast and now she looks like a full fledged Christmas tree! Mast. Christmas Mast!

Christmas Tree Mast

To be honest… Melody and I have never done the “big” Christmas thing so we’ve never been caught sleeping in Walmart’s parking lot waiting for the Black Friday specials. Even when we lived in our land house, we exchanged a few small meaningful gifts and that’s about it. If we were traveling to see family, we’d usually get them gifts and forego gifts for each other as we’ve always kinda felt like we didn’t really need anything other than what we had.

Now with our mast tree, we’ve purchased very small stockings for each of us and one for Jet. If it can fit in the stocking, then you can’t give it. Melody never seems to follow the rules and last year gave me the most awesome KitchenAid hand mixer and food processor. No… it didn’t fit in my stocking.

Anyway – this summer was an incredible one spent on the Chesapeake Bay with friends at Spring Cove Marina and I helped deliver a friend’s boat to the BVI’s. The delivery to Tortola and our own trip down the ICW were both taxing and incredible. We’ve never dealt with 26 degrees in the boat, ice on deck and fog for days at a time.

anchored-waccamaw-river-icw

icw-waccamaw-river-panoramic

sailing-cold

We landed in our temporary home in Florida on the eve of Thanksgiving and were extremely thankful to say the least. Fish tacos and football on Thanksgiving was yet another first for us and now as the Holiday Season gets into full swing this week and next, we reflect on all the amazing gifts we have. We’ve made new friends this year to add to the old friends we continue to treasure on a daily basis. Rarely does a day pass when we don’t mention Rock Hall, Solomons, Ft. Lauderdale, Hendricks Isle and all the in-betweens.

We send texts when we think about you and we get texts shortly after we’ve mentioned your names… I promise… and we love every minute of it. This week, some of those new friends surprised us on the dock here and spent a couple days traipsing around with us and we couldn’t have been happier. Nate and Don… you were a pleasure and… a reminder of what this time of year is all about. Family and friends make it all for us. We are gearing up for big things in 2015 and not concentrating on what we didn’t get done.

cold-night-warm-wine

I know I speak for Melody when I say, Thank You! From the bottom of our hearts, we really dig getting to correspond with you, sit and share a beer, rum, dinner or just the interest in sailing and dreaming. s/v Magnolia, Where the Coconuts Grow, Turf To Surf, Summer Time Rolls, Dos Libras, Windtraveler, MJ Sailing, Lasata, Lahowind (and so many more that I know I’m leaving out and I’m sorry!) we love you guys! Thanks for inspiring us every day and for posting your debacles, triumphs, fears and dreams. It’s an awesome world that we live in and we can’t wait to see what happens next!

The crew here at s/v Vacilando wanna wish everyone much love and joy this season. Joy is a big word for me and the past several years have been challenging for many – financially, spiritually and physically. We wish you peace. And we wish you safe travel.

And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.
Have a very crabby christmas!

The Leibster Award

Leibster award - not to be confused with Beiber.

Leibster Award – not to be confused with anything pertaining to Justin Beiber.

Hey everyone – Melody here… it’s been awhile since I’ve done a post, but here I am because my dear friend Jessica from s/v Serendipity nominated our blog for the Leibster Award, a virtual award given from one blogger to another to show appreciation for their writing and online contribution, which is really an honor because no one understands the work that goes into blogging like another blogger. As Jessica explains it, it’s sort of a blogger’s chain letter from one to the other.

The nominating blogger gives the nominee ten questions to answer, and you in turn nominate your favorite bloggers and give them ten questions. I say it’s kind of like the Blogger’s Ice Bucket Challenge!

This is pretty awesome because a) we love s/v Serendipty’s blog and the fact that they nominated us is an honor and we’re very grateful, and b) we don’t have to come up with a topic to write about!

Before I answer these questions, I’m going to give the disclaimer here that “all opinions and versions of these answers/stories are my own, and do not necessarily represent the opinions or views of my beloved, Chris… although if my opinions or answers are funny or interesting, we’ll call them true, because as they say, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”  So here goes:

Explain yourselves. Take that to mean however you wish.

Chris and Mel of Vacilando being crazy

Two crazy not-so-kids!

We’re just two lovers with gypsy souls. Ok, ok. We have no explanation. We’re just batshit crazy.

When is the first time you ever set foot on a sailboat?

For Chris, it was sometime in his childhood. He sailed a couple of times with his stepbrothers before buying his first boat many years later in 2006.

For me, it was shortly after I met Chris – he took me sailing on his San Juan 24 about a month after we started dating. He told me, “you’ll either love sailing, or you’ll think, ‘meh – too much work’.”

Well, I loved it. In fact, I fell in love with sailing so much that I jokingly credit it for our relationship. I mean, of course Chris is sexy, funny, kind and smart – but so was George Clooney. You might think it was a tough decision between those two handsome hunks, but I loved sailing, and Chris was the only one of them with a sailboat. It was a no-brainer.

Where is the worst place, traveling or stationary, you’ve been with your boat? Not a city/country you visited, but a place you were physically on the boat.

Long hair and poop don't mix

Long hair and poop don’t mix.

We were in Wrightsville Beach in 2012, and our toilet crapped out on us. (Pun intended). We pulled in to get fuel on our way down the ICW, so I took the opportunity to catch a cab to West Marine for a new one. Later that day once we docked in Southport, NC, we decided to install the new head.

My hands are tiny, and as such, the only hands that could easily reach down underneath the floor to put the nuts on the backside of the bolts. But let me back up… anyone who has installed a new toilet on a boat knows, when you take out the old one, there is bound to be some spillage from the hoses, and that spillage is a mixture of water, pee, and yes, poop. I should also mention that I have long hair. I wore gloves to help protect my hands from any residual body fluids, but what I did not anticipate was getting it in my hair as I was crammed down there. Yes. Pee. And Poop. In my hair.

I tried to do the job with a good attitude, but shit in my hair tends to set me off, so when I accidentally dropped one of the nuts into the bilge and Chris made a snide comment about it, let’s just say that I may or may not have thrown another bolt at his head and cussed at him for the first time ever in our relationship. It was a pretty low moment.

If a genie granted you a lifetime supply of one kind of alcohol, what would you choose?

Wine, for sure. It’s the nectar of the gods and as such, makes me ponder important questions in life, such as “What do blind people see in their dreams?” or “If a bulldog and a shih-tzu mate, would their puppy be a Bullshit?”

Wine - nectar of the gods

I don’t always drink wine… but when I do, I drink the whole bottle. Oh, who am I kidding? I always drink wine…

What’s the nicest thing the other person has done for you while traveling?

We bought Vacilando in Panama City, FL and promptly sailed her to the Keys. We were really conservative with our water usage since it was our first time sailing her and we wanted to make sure we had plenty of water for the 6 day trip. On our last night before going into Marathon, we anchored just outside of Little Shark River, and I felt dirty and cranky from not showering and enduring some pretty rough weather along the way. Chris then opened a bottle of wine, handed me a glass along with the rest of the bottle and said, “Honey, go take a nice, long, hot shower. Shave your legs, drink your wine, and relax. We’ve still got at least 45 gallons, so no rush. You’ve earned it.”  That shower was the best thing in the world. You could put me in a room at the Ritz right now and it wouldn’t be as lovely as that shower was that night.

If you had the option to transport yourself anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?

At this moment right now, I’d say Lunenburg, Ireland, the Azores, or somewhere off the coast of Spain. I’d go anywhere at this point!

What did your family say when you told them you were going to up and leave everything in order to travel?

My Mom told me it was the best decision I ever made. My family has been extremely supportive and has never once questioned our decision to travel. Chris’ family is also very supportive, although his Mom worries about us a little more and says she can’t wait until we get it out of our system so she can relax!

Do you think you’ve found the place you’d like to retire to?

Not yet. Being on a sailboat is great in that it allows you to see places at a slower pace, and we hope that once we do find “the place”, it will be like love at first sight, and we’ll just know immediately.

What language do you think would be the most fun to speak, even if you have no plans to learn it?

Pirate… Aaaargh!  No seriously, I would love to learn to speak any language fluently.

Outside of the US, where has your most expensive meal been?

Well sadly, the only place I’ve been outside of the US before is Mexico, and I don’t recall any expensive meals there. Chris has been to all sorts of places with his music, but I think he had a meal in Dubai that was fit for a king during his USO Tour in the middle east. He also ate guinea pig while in Peru once. Yuck!

In Conclusion…

So there you go! I have been promising Jessica that I would get this out for about a week now, so I wanted to get this posted so she could read it before she leaves the Azores headed for the Med! I have not come up with questions for my nominee, so once I have them, I’ll update this post with that info. In the meantime, I’m going to open a bottle of wine and celebrate the fact that I have no poop in my hair. Ciao!

Crickets…

I know… I know… it’s been a very slow summer here at MondoVacilando and I know what you’re thinking. We are just like all the other bloggers who start off strong with weekly posts and then within a year, the posts dwindle to a measly one per month, then every other month and before you know it… once a year. I promise that’s not the case here. This summer has been a summer of big decisions and a lot of “behind the scenes” activity.

As you know, Vacilando is for sale. That was by far the biggest decision we’ve made since deciding to sell the house and live aboard a couple years back. Once we landed here at Spring Cove in Solomons this past June, I got straight to work on my fourth record which has been a long time coming. When we left Nashville, I was deep into a long writers block and after about ten years, its released its grip on  my psyche and not knowing how long that would last, I’ve been drinking mightily at that spring for the last three months. It’s hard to leave a place like this when they have been so gracious. They offered me a work space to use after hours and late at night, while the marina sleeps, I’ve been holed up working and recording. When people ask, “Why haven’t you sailed anywhere all summer?” That’s the reason. Not to mention, this place has become our home away from home and the people here like family. If you’ve never been to Spring Cove in Solomon’s, you owe it to yourself to come visit for the weekend.

We spent a couple weeks in July on the hard doing a bottom  job, replacing a cutlass bearing and doing some other maintenance. Once we splashed “V”, we had a friend come visit for a wonderful night of wine and food and then it was back to work. About two weeks ago, we took V on a much needed sail out across the bay and when we were returning late afternoon, we decided to bypass the turn up the creek to our slip and instead, headed up the beautiful Patuxent River to Battle Creek, where we promptly and completely ran aground.

Bluefish for dinner

Winner winner, bluefish dinner!

The grounding was so soft neither of us even noticed. We had been doing about a half a knot and I was going forward to drop the hook. Once at the bow I n0ticed we’d stopped. I looked back to Mel at the helm and was about to say, “Nice driving baby!” until she said, “I think we’re stuck.” And we were. Super soft sand gently captured our newly painted keel. We figured we might as well clean the fish and eat cause we’d be there ’til the tide came up. Turns out… that full moon had a super sucking effect on that little Battle Creek and extreme tideswere in order. No matter, we downloaded a movie and Melody got to try out her super slick, filet knife. We had a lovely dinner, albeit at 20 degrees to starboard, and then at midnight, we kedged ourselves off as easily and unspectacularly as we had put ourselves on. We dropped in deeper water and fell swiftly to sleep. I know I left some of that expensive bottom paint on the sand at Battle Creek but at least it was “environmentally friendly” bottom paint. “It’s only money right?”… said us, never.

So here we are… September. Where has the summer gone? Every year I say the same thing. I marvel at how glorious it is when it’s here and sit stunned when I realize its gone. This year, we come upon fall with some more decisions to make. Where we’re going to live this winter is the big one. We are thinking of pulling V here in Solomons and leaving her for the winter but that leaves us looking for a place to rent and I really don’t want to be up here when its winter. We don’t want to put the mileage and wear and tear on the boat to head all the way back to Florida, but to pay winter storage and rent is not really smart either. It’s closing in fast and we must decide something soon but isn’t that the beauty of this lifestyle? We call it “flexibility” when really its a bit maddening at times.

I have officially finished recording most of what will be featured on this record and now we’re just putting the finishing touches on. It will then go to my dearest of pals Michael Romanowski in San Fran for him to mix and master. I plan to have a pre-Christmas release. Melody continues to work remotely for the company she’s been with since we left but they continue to increase her work load. She still finds time to make her awesome nautical jewelry and its selling like gang busters! I’ve been working on a second book but we’ve put it on the back burner until the record comes out. The freelance film work I was doing in Ft. Lauderdale has been nonexistent this summer and I’ve not made a single trip down. I guess I look at that as uninterrupted time to work on the music.music-new-record-decisions

I have also enjoyed my afternoon runs around the island while pondering the big question, “what next?” I don’t know what comes next. I guess I’d like to know Vacilando will sell to someone who loves her and sails her the way we did. I’m very excited about the new songs and grateful that one of my greatest passions, songwriting, returned to me this year. I’m totally blown away that Melody and I just celebrated our eight anniversary together and as long as she’s around, what next doesn’t really matter. We know that we’ll be on some boat, somewhere doing something and we hope you guys are still reading and sharing your thoughts with us. We’d love to be traipsing around the globe like some of our compadres but for right now we just gotta take what comes. Much love to you guys. Sorry we’ve been so quiet.

Vacilando Is For Sale…

vacilando - cal 35 for sale

Yes, our beloved Cal 35, Vacilando is for sale.

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For those of you who have been reading our blog for awhile, or if you’ve read Chris’ book, You Gotta Go To Know, you know that a couple of years ago we decided to sell everything and move onto a boat full time. We love sailing and we love to travel, and it was the perfect way to do both, but we also knew that it would be a BIG lifestyle change, both physically and emotionally, and we said we’d give it at least a year, to determine if we liked it.

We wanted a boat that was big enough to live comfortably on with us and our dog Jet, but one that was small enough for one of us to handle alone on things like night watches, or God forbid should something happen to the other crew member. I wanted a few comforts that we didn’t find in many other boats in our size range, like a separate shower, and lots of ample storage space.

Some of the best people we've ever known

Remember the time we had 10 people on our boat?

We got a great boat that was in our price range that would suit our needs as we transitioned into this lifestyle of living aboard full time while cruising to different places which, for us so far, has been up and down the East Coast, the Chesapeake Bay, and several areas of Florida. Sadly we never made it to the Bahamas on Vacilando, although we’ve been told she made a few trips there with her previous owners.

And now? Well, our two year “boat” anniversary came and went while we were offshore on our way up to the Chesapeake Bay last month. We talked to each other about future plans, as we often do, and we asked the same question we had asked each other a year prior around this time. “Do you still want to keep going and continue living on a boat?”

The answer was a resounding and unanimous yes.

What can I say? We love it. I’m not gonna lie. It’s not an easy life. You have to work for it, and working means you’re gonna get banged and bruised and there are times it will break your heart and nearly break your spirit. But the trade-off, at least for me, is worth every bit of it. There are things that this lifestyle has shown us that I wouldn’t give up for anything. We were meant to be on the water.

vacilando cal 35

I’m so proud of what we’ve done with her. We took a great boat, and we made her better. We loved her, we kept her clean, we replaced her old, broken parts, and we sailed her. And in return, she took care of us. She gave us refuge. She gave us a home.

Now that we’ve agreed to continue on, we feel that it’s time to start looking for our “forever” boat. And some lucky person, or lovely couple will get Vacilando. She is the perfect liveaboard cruiser and would be right at home on the Chesapeake Bay (where she currently sits) and would be well-suited for someone to take her to the Bahamas.

We will be listing her through this site for $48k. She is by far the best Cal 35 on the market with her extensive upgrades and clean interior and exterior.

Vacilando At A Glance:

A few things to give you an idea of what we’ve done. Photos and video can be seen on our BOAT page, and her full, official listing can be seen HERE.

Upgrades Since 2012

  • Checked bonding, electrical, bonded rudder (2012)
  • New heat exchanger (2012)
  • Bottom job (2012) and (2014)
  • New Garmin 441 GPS unit (2012)
  • New aft chainplates (2012)
  • Rebed stanchion bases (2012)
  • New electrical fuel pump (2012)
  • Rebuilt injector pump (2012)
  • New injector lines plus spares (2012-2013)
  • Dismantled and serviced winches (2012)
  • New shower head (2013)
  • New shower sump pump (Whale Gulper) (2013)
  • Rebuilt shower access hatch (2013)
  • New Jabsco twist-n-lock toilet (2013)
  • New hoses and clamps in head (2013)
  • New holding tank (2013)
  • New Shurflo fresh water pump
  • New custom main sail from Super Sails – 2 deep reefs (2013)
  • New Mantus 45lb anchor (2013)
  • New 50′ 3/8″ chain and 260′ new rode (2014)
  • Installed starboard chafe protection under anchor chain on bow (2013)
  • New steering chain, wire and brake assembly (2013)
  • New Universal Admiral’s instrument panel (2014)
  • New wiring to panel (2014)
  • (4) New Odyssey AGM batteries – PC2150 (2013)
  • New Xantrax Linkpro Battery Monitor (2013)
  • New Mastervolt ProCharger 12V 40amp battery charger (2013)
  • New wiring and fuses in battery bank (2013)
  • New propane solenoid (2013)
  • New Oberdorfer raw water pump (2013)
  • New fresh water (coolant) pump (2013)
  • All interior cushions professionally cleaned (2014)
  • Full rigging inspection (mast and standing rigging) (2014)
  • New standing rigging (forestay, backstay, and cap shrouds) (2014)
  • New U-Bolts for standing rigging (2014)
  • New custom oversized chainplates on starboard side
  • New Pro-Furl roller furler (2014)
  • New running rigging – Sta-set jib halyard, Endura main halyard (2014)
  • New belt and spare for Autohelm
  • Retabbed bulkheads (2014)
  • Bottom job – new antifouling eco-friendly paint (2014)
  • New cutlass bearing (2014)
  • Zincs changed regularly
  • Diver hired to clean bottom every 3 months
  • Oil changed every 75 engine hours since 2012
  • Fuel consumption:  0.57 gal/hr

Full Specs

DIMENSIONS

LOA: 35′          LWL: 28′ 9″        Beam: 11’  Draft: 5′ encapsulated fin keel

Displacement: 13,000#                Ballast: 5,200#            Clearance: 53′

 

DESCRIPTION

Cal 35

Classic fin keel aft cockpit cruising yacht

Built in Tampa by Cal Jensen, 1984

Designed by the legendary William “Bill” Lapworth

USCG Documented Vessel

 

ENGINE AND SYSTEMS

Universal Diesel Engine  32 HP Model: 5432

Bronze Shaft and PYI Dripless Shaft Seal

Fixed three-bladed propeller

Spare 2-blade propeller

Heat exchanger

Cruising Speed: 6 knots

 

ACCOMODATIONS

Sleeps 5 comfortably, 2 in V-Berth , Single salon Port, Double salon Starboard

Full Headroom in all cabins

Generous Storage,  Hanging lockers, w/ Drawers throughout

Barometer and Clock

5 opening hatches, 6 opening portlights and 4 non-opening salon windows for lots of light and air!

Separate shower in head!

Large fold-up table in salon

Teak interior with nice, neutral upholstery in great condition and just recently steam cleaned

Forward facing Navigation Station with ample shelving and storage inside for charts, manuals, etc.

2 propane lockers with propane tanks

2 deep lazarettes

Built in Hamper

 

U-SHAPED GALLEY

Hillerange 3-Burner Propane Stove w/ Oven

Double stainless steel sink w/ H & C Pressure Water, & freshwater foot pump

6 Gallons Hot water tank

Large Top-loading Icebox with Refrigeration and Freezer

Deep Dry Locker

Built-in Wastebasket

 

ELECTRICAL AND ELECTRONICS

12VDC and 110VAC Systems

4 Odyssey AGM Batteries (3 in house bank, 1 separate starting battery)

Mastervolt Battery Charger (2013)

LinkPro Battery Monitor (2013)

VHF Radio at Nav Station with RAM (remote access mic) for use in cockpit

Sony Radio/CD player w/2 speakers in salon and 2 all-weather speakers in cockpit

Datamarine Speed, Depth and Wind Indicator

Autohelm 4000 Autopilot with spare

Universal Admiral’s Engine Panel (new 2014)

Regulator

LED lights throughout salon

Garmin GPS 441 at helm

Garmin GPS 152 at Nav Desk

 

SAILS AND SYSTEMS

Mainsail – Custom with 2 deep reefing points, new in 2013

ProFurl Roller Furling (new 2014)

110% Genoa on Furler

135% Jib

Whisker Pole

Sail covers / sail bag

TANKAGE

Fuel: 33 Gallons

Water: 90 Gallons

Holding: 24 Gallons

 

DECK GEAR

Stainless steel standing rigging – new forestay, backstay, cap shrouds in 2014 w/Sta-Lock fittings

Running rigging – Sta-set jib halyard, Endura main halyard (new 2014)

Integrated Bow Roller

Mantus 45lb anchor w/50′ 3/8/chain plus 200′ rope  rode

Spare 35’ CQR Anchor

Spare Danforth Anchor

Bow and stern pulpits with Double Lifelines

Edson Pedestal steering

Pedestal mounted Ritchie Compass

(3) Barient 2-speed Self-tailing Winches (serviced 2013)

(3) Barient Winches on Mast (serviced 2013)

2 Dorades for Great Ventilation

Stainless Toe-Rail

Outboard Motor Hoist

Outboard Motor Mount

Boarding Ladder

Fenders

Magma stern-mounted propane grill

Boat hook

Bimini

 

SAFETY EQUIPMENT

Life Sling

Offshore flare pack

Fire extinguishers

Manual Bilge Pump

2 Electric Bilge Pumps

 

Please email questions to crew(at)mondovacilando.com.

Ah Summer. Sun. Saltwater. Anxiety and Fresh Tomatoes

It’s really hard to believe that July is upon us. Time is just flying and I have arrived at what I like to call my “summer slump”. Once the hustle and bustle of readying to leave, sailing and arriving are over, I’m good for about a week. One week of “ahhhh, rest and relaxation… cough, cough” and then it hits… like clockwork, the slump.

I wake one morning, stretch, look at my beautiful lady then at the amazing scenery here on the Bay and think, oh my God, we’re broke. What’s next? What am I going to be when I grow up? I’m a total failure! A bum! I’ve wasted my life!!! Let me just add if I may… a birthday doesn’t help this swift decent.

As Jet and I walk along the serene lanes that wind along placid coves I start to feel the swell of anxiety, shortness of breath, rise in heart rate and after about two weeks, I’m a nut-job. I begin to look for projects. And I find them. Like pulling out the water tanks and re-tabbing  bulkheads. Cleaning the carburetor in the dinghy outboard (for the fifth time) and inventing silly floating chairs. Then, I realize… holy shit, I gotta get a job! How are we gonna pay the bills?! Book royalties are not cutting it. Music royalties are not what they used to be. Sweat starts to bead on my brow and then … I get quiet. Very quiet.

Melody knows when I get quiet things are beginning to unravel. And she, like a maestro begins to unravel the ravel. She knows if I’m quiet for too long, I’ll start to … (cue the horror movie sound effects, dun-dun-dunnnnn)… remodel. She’ll go to the restroom for fifteen minutes and return to find me dismantling the engine or removing all the floors because my neurosis needs a project and I JUST COULDN’T STOP!!! And she begins to counter-attack.

She begins to talk.

Now, if you don’t know my lovely Melody… she can talk. She’s a waif of a girl but she holds a lot of wind. And we’ve been talking about maybe finding a small plot of land, an acre or so, near some water and maybe toying with the idea of building a tiny house. Of course all we can do is talk because we have no money.

Tiny House - photo by Marc Walters

Photo Credit: Marc Walters Photography

If you are unfamiliar with the tiny house craze, you should check it out. I’ve always loved small, uncluttered, uber-simplistic spaces. I liked being on a tour bus and I liked my small cottage in Nashville. I also love the idea of being completely off the grid and self-sufficient in a space that is designed so well and comfortable that you forget all about the dimensions. I said, dimensions not dementia… but I digress.

One of our talks was about how our boat is actually a “tiny house”. And Mel astutely distracted me by dangling the “shiny object” of a blog post. “Honey, why don’t you write a blog about it? Like right now. Go. Now.”

tiny boat house

Tiny boat house – how cool is this?

I had never thought of it that way. We live in a very small space and we call it home. It’s uncluttered and very well designed. We want for nothing and we really don’t miss the conventional home. Now, if I’m being completely honest, I do miss having a garden and I miss a fireplace on those chilly fall nights. I would also love to have a place to keep my nice guitars and not fear them being destroyed by the changing humidity and exposure to salt air. These things we could totally incorporate into our “tiny-house/cabin.”

The amazing thing about the tiny house movement is that there are no limits to what some people are doing. It’s pushing the boundaries of design and innovation to extraordinary lengths. Of course conventional building codes are going to hinder the most extreme but people are even finding ways around that!  One architect designed and built her house for eleven thousand dollars! Can you imagine not having a mortgage?! We don’t and let me tell you… it’s freaking awesome.

Tiny House library

A family of four lives in this tiny house

I think (always dangerous because my opinion is to follow) that the modern adaptation of our living spaces should be challenged and pushed forward. Environmentally friendly building methods will benefit everyone and alternative energy sources are getting better every year! I love watching our solar panel pump amperage into our batteries! FREE! Clean and free energy.

Imagine living in a space powered for pennies a day, insulated with materials that don’t contain formaldehyde and other dangerous gases and maybe a waste system that uses composting toilets and other cool alternatives to just dumping it all into the ground. I don’t know… I’ve been called crazy for less.

Texas-Victorian-Tiny-House-stairs          2 Floor Tiny House

We love our floating “tiny house”. We love the fact that if we wanna move… we don’t have to pack a single box! We stow the laptops. Secure the Rum. Toss off the lines and swing the bow.

Now… if I can just find a place to plant some damn tomatoes.

Here are more cool links if you wanna read more about tiny houses:

Tumbleweed Houses

Tiny House Build

The Tiny Life

How Close Is Too Close To A Tanker, You Ask?

That’s a good question. Just how close is too close? Let me begin with some back story.

We spent this past winter in Ft. Lauderdale again doing some work on the boat and doing some work on the bank account. We managed to install a new Admiral Engine panel to replace the original cracked one, as well as new wiring to do away with those dangerous wire harness connectors that are on the old panels. We did the standing rigging (by ourselves) with some superb council from my friend and rigging extraordinaire Brad Storm of Storm Rigging and the boys at Sailing Services, whom you know from a previous post. We got all new running rigging and a new Profurl roller-furler (that we literally got installed the night before we left), and that was that. If you heard an enormous “sucking” sound around the end of May, that was my bank account! But the boat was finally ready to leave for her trip up to the Chesapeake Bay, where we are spending our summer.

Almost Goodbye

We said our goodbyes to all our dock mates and around 11:00 am on Thursday, May 22 on a rising tide… supposedly. Now picture the scene: we toss off the dock lines, engine running, everyone saying somber goodbyes, “Ok… love you guys! We’ll call you! Email! You guys better stay in touch!” Them hollering back, “We love you! Be safe. We’ll be following you on the Spot Tracker!” Then… the anti-climactic dead stop. What? Mel looks at me, “What happened?” Tommy, our friend from Nashville who flew in to do the trip with us, looks at me, “Um…” and all I can say is, “We’re aground.”

Yep… Not fifteen-feet out of the slip, a large hump had formed since we pulled in a few months before and now on a rising tide (thank God), we stopped dead. Everyone was howling laughing. So much for sad goodbyes, ay? After about forty-five minutes, we got off, headed out the Port Everglades inlet and hoisted sail. It was a glorious day and we were promptly into the Gulf Stream. Not moving too fast in the light winds but moving, under sail, nonetheless.

Cal 35 sailing on the Atlantic after leaving Port Everglades

Tommy sailing

Tommy’s first bluewater sail!

Ground Control to Tanker Tom

That night, we all got ready for the evening watches. Harnesses, tethers, binoculars, and the discussion about what to look for, what to do, and under no circumstances does anyone go forward on deck without waking someone else up. Also, no question is a stupid question. If you don’t know what you’re seeing ahead of you… wake someone up.

Tommy had first watch. I was to take the midnight to 3am, and because Melody likes to see the sun come up, she took the 3 to 6am watch. Tommy had never been on a blue water trip before. I had faith he’d be fine but we gave him the first watch cause that’s the easiest one to begin with. One gets really tired the first couple days at sea and until you get into a rhythm, it can be tough.

About halfway through his watch, I was awakened by a calm, “Chris on deck” call from Tommy. I lumbered out from behind the lee cloth and up on deck in my underwear, “You okay? What’s up?” As I turned to face the bow, I saw exactly what was up… a tanker… within 1/2 a mile away, maybe closer, directly off the port bow and crossing! Full speed. NOT GOOD.

I disengaged the auto-helm and went hard to port to dip his stern. We were on starboard tack so I was simply falling off, no drama of tacking or jibing but still. As we crested his wake and breathed in the stench from his exhaust, I had to be careful with my expletives here cause like I said, Tommy had never been out here before. I turned and as calmly as possible said, “Tommy… what were you thinking? That’s just too close.”  He said, “I was watching him for the last half-hour and then he was just right there. I was like hypnotized by him and then I realized too late he was on top of us.” That was how close it was.

We adjusted course, set the auto-helm and continued on. I sat up there for the rest of his watch trying to calm his nerves (and mine). We made some coffee, tried to make some small talk and mostly sat quietly. Mel came up for her watch and I briefed her on what happened and all was good. I will say this now and I’m gonna brag on my woman here, she blossomed on this trip like I’ve never seen. She was trimming the main, easing and trimming sheets, adjusting the course to suit the wind shifts… It was awesome.

Usually when I’m off watch, I’m rarely asleep. I’m lying there worrying if she’s ok. Is she cold? Does she need some coffee? Does she have to pee? Should I poke my head out?… but that’s not the deal. Every body needs rest. When you’re not “on” you should be “off”, period. Nap. Read. Whatever. Just don’t be at the helm unless you really want to.

Mel at helm, sailing on her night watch

Mel at the helm, enjoying her night watch

Finally… Some Fair Weather Sailing

So, besides one afternoon of getting kicked a little from a wind that backed to the NE while we were in the stream, it was a quiet and uneventful passage to Beaufort, North Carolina. We played with Tommy’s sextant and learned to dial in noon sites, we fished and Mel hooked a Mahi that jumped the line just as she was pulling it in. We did some laundry when becalmed and had a whole lot of fun.

Melody and Chris - offshore on Cal 35 - Vacilando

Enjoying a nice, easy passage for once!

Doing laundry offshore while sailing is a breeze

Laundry while sailing is a breeze

Mel and her Cuban yo-yo... and an empty hook after the mahi jumped off at the last second

Mel and her Cuban yo-yo… and an empty hook after the mahi jumped off at the last second

Chris taking noon sights with the sextant

Chris taking noon sites with Tommy’s sextant

Tommy Taking Noon Sites  - Sextant

Tommy taking noon sites

Fair Weather? Don’t Speak So Soon…

The ride into Beaufort inlet was another story. It was just after midnight and we were trying to get in the inlet ahead of a front coming around Hatteras. We didn’t make it. The wind built to 25 and the waves were coming from astern and smashing us on the port quarter. We can never get into an inlet unmolested… ever.

Anyway… everyone was in the cockpit wide-eyed and helping me steer to the lights. I was almost certain we were going to get pooped before getting inside and we almost did, but around 2 am we were safely in. Then… the next problem… where the hell were we going to anchor?

I wasn’t going to try to anchor in Beaufort’s harbor since the wind was now 25 constant and it was pitch black. Lots of boats in that anchorage use bow and stern anchors since the current shifts so much and we weren’t going to try to navigate that as tired as we were. My idea was just to motor around the inner ICW until dawn and then continue north, drop an anchor at the first cove and sleep.

Mel was furiously checking Active Captain and the charts trying to find  a suitable stopping place. The wind was just too high to stop in the unprotected area where we were, just outside of the big turning basin inside the inlet, so we motored up the ICW at 2 knots, in the dark with Melody on the bow holding our spotlight that’s so bright it could shine to space.

She would illuminate my “Greens” and “Reds” so I could stay within the narrow channel, then she’d turn the light off, and fall asleep, sitting on the bow, light in hand! I’d yell from the cockpit, “Honey! Can you hit the green again?!”  Immediately the long, straight beam from hell would shine into the dankness and bam! There would glow my green. Then she’d fall back to sleep for about 45 more seconds.

We did this for an entire fifteen miles until we hit the Cedar Creek “anchorage”.  It’s a tiny little cove with 7′ depths and a sunken sailboat in the middle. But it was heaven for us. By then, it was 6:30 AM, and we promptly opened a bottle of wine to celebrate. The wind was howling. We were exhausted but totally fired up. It had been a great trip.

Mel at the helm after finally getting anchored after a long night

Mel, tired, but happy to be anchored after a long night

We slept the entire day, made a killer kale and white bean soup for dinner and ended the night with more wine and the entire second season of Breaking Bad on DVD… Thank you, Margaret. Melody is now hooked on that show the way Jessie is hooked on Meth.

Dismal Is Lovely

Elizabeth City was pretty cool but we didn’t get to explore the town too much as we were tired from a long windy and cold day coming from Alligator River, not to mention the anchor moving drill in the middle of the night prior that was fun… no really. It needed to happen at some point. With our Mantus anchor, we aren’t worried about dragging so we had picked a spot to anchor that was exposed (trying to stay well out in the breeze to keep the mosquitoes away… bad idea). So when a storm came up around 2 am, we were rocking and rolling, so we hauled up our anchor and tucked into a small cove to re-anchor.

The trip inside to Norfolk was also calm and lovely. We did the Dismal Swap route for the first time. Loved it! The Pasquotank River is beautiful as it enters the swamp. We landed at AYB without incident. Had our fill of all you can eat sushi at the killer little Japanese restaurant around the corner and when I flew down to get Jet and the truck in Ft. Lauderdale, Melody decided she wanted to move the boat to a free dock… BY HERSELF. Yep. But that’s a story I’ll let her tell in her voice. She did great!

Dismal swamp route out of Elizabeth City

Dismal Swamp

This was a great passage in so many respects (minus Tommy almost killing us). Tommy, whose new nickname is “Tanker Tom”, finally got to check Blue Water Passage off his bucket list. Melody felt like she had control of the boat on her watches whereas before, she’d wake me up to help with things. She got to cook and read and enjoy a passage and not fear for her life like all the others. Jet was boarded at his favorite doggie daycare and I got to enjoy Melody enjoying.

Now… mid way up the Bay, here we sit. Relaxing and looking forward to visiting with family and friends. We hope all our Ft. Lauderdale friends are well… we miss you. To our Chesapeake and Philly family, we’re here! Let’s eat some crabs! Drink some beer!

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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 5 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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Melody’s Jewelry

Maggie and Milly - Nautical Shackle Bracelets for sailors, surfers - beachwear

Chris’ Music

Chris Dicroce: The Fray
Chris DiCroce: Songs from Before (The Unreleased EP)