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!

Open Letter To Reedville

Five days ago I posted a blog about the Omega Protein Menhaden plant in Reedville, VA. In those five days, we’ve been completely stunned by the fact that we’ve had over 25k hits on the blog  and 2k shares on Facebook which is crazy. I’ve also had tons of comments calling me every name in the book. I’ve been called vile, ignorant and uneducated along with many other colorful things and I’ve responded to every, single comment as calmly and rationally as I possibly could. This open letter will serve as my final comment as I’m finding that most who comment have read no further than the title and merely wish to assault my character and repost things I’ve already answered. So here goes.

1. To the claim that this (Omega’s environmental violations and over-fishing) is an “…old argument and a dead issue.” I say this. Look at the stats above and the heated responses and tell me it’s a dead issue.

2. To the claim that I hate Reedville: Please read the blog and not just the title. We like Reedville. We’ve anchored there several times. I said, “If boaters don’t go to Reedville until the Omega plant plays by the rules, then they will lose tourist dollars and therefore (maybe) put pressure on their local officials.” It’s up to the Reedville townspeople to remedy this issue. Vote out the ones who turn a blind eye, or suffer the financial consequences of lost tourist dollars. That’s how it works.

* Footnote: I find it incredibly ironic that a lot of the derogatory remarks mention how Reedville needs “every  dollar they can get.” They are dismayed and curse me for suggesting that people should stay away from Reedville until the issue is resolved yet there are numerous comments from those same locals blaming and chastising tourists and visitors to the area calling them “come heres”. One lovely citizen said he was going to start a petition suggesting we “…kill ourselves.”  Oh, but not before apologizing to the fine folks of Reedville.  

3. To the claim that I blame / hate the watermen: Please read this carefully because it’s important. Nowhere in my blog post do I blame watermen. I blame Omega Protein Corporation. Now, try as you may to rearrange all those letters, you will not get “watermen” out of that. I understand and respect the fishing tradition. I don’t, however, understand or respect the over-fishing or dumping of chemicals into the Chesapeake Bay. It’s very simple.

4. To the completely unenlightened who will never change, i.e. Cavemen (and women): I don’t even know how to speak to you. Maybe if I bang a couple rocks together, drag my knuckles on the ground and pound my chest while drooling beer from corners of my mouth, you’ll understand what has become the English language. I simply say, good luck.

In closing, So many of you claim that Omega sustains the town and that if it goes, then so goes Reedville. I totally understand this argument. But just because a business is the sole employer of a town, it’s not above the law or social responsibility. Many other factors contribute to the health / decline of the Chesapeake Bay and we all know that. They should also be addressed. But I guess I’ve been most amazed by the townspeople of Reedville and the Northern neck of Virginia’s reticence to accept what’s going on. It’s truly baffling. I am not a right-winged environmentalist, nor a “blogger turned hater.” I’m a sailor and a writer. I’ve made my living by observing and writing about what I see, and I write in my voice. You can not like my voice. You can discredit the source. You and call me ugly, vile and negative all you want but it doesn’t change the facts.

To the citizens of Reedvile, you are responsible for resolving this issue. The spotlight is bright upon you. As one reader so eloquently put it, “…Who knows, maybe the history books will tell of how a small town in Virginia had a huge part in decimating an entire region like the Chesapeake Bay. Or just maybe it will tell of how some people stepped up to the plate and put a stop to one lone company offering a lousy 350 full time and seasonal jobs.”

Good luck Reedville. I hope the conversation continues but I’m not sure the ‘cavemen’ will ever admit there’s a problem. Maybe when that plant closes due to the loss of fish you’ll realize they never had your best interest above company profits.

All the best.

Something’s Fishy In Reedville, VA – Why You Shouldn’t Go There (And It’s Not Why You Think)

Menhaden Fish - Reedville, VA - Fish Plant

1/2 a billion pounds annually. Try to conceptualize that amount. One-half of a billion pounds every single year.

I don’t consider myself a journalist by any means, and most certainly not an investigative journalist.  While I do love the investigative spirit that exposes corruption and abuse, I don’t know that I have the patience to sift through all the misinformation nor do I have the gene that keeps me from screaming “BULLSHIT!” in the face of the politicians and industry mouth pieces mid-sentence.

That said, after spending some time in the seemingly lovely little town of Reedville, Virginia, Melody and I started asking some questions about the foul-smelling fish plant that dominates the landscape. People around the lower Chesapeake Bay don’t seem to want to discuss the Reedville Menhaden Plant owned by Houston-based Omega Protein Corporation. They just simply shake their heads and, “They’re never gonna close that place.”  Hmm.

A Little History, Shall We?

Captain Elijah W. Reed arrived in Reedville (of course not yet named that) from Maine in 1874 where Native American Indians had shown the white man how to use a small oily fish called Menhaden*, as fertilizer. Reed then developed a method of extracting large quantities of oil from the fish by rendering them by the millions.  The oil was then used as a lubricant or in lighting (as whale oil was) and the leftover carcasses and bones were buried for fertilizer.

Cut to today… the Omega Protein owned fish plant is second only to Dutch Harbor, Alaska for the amount of fish processed. They employ somewhere from 250 to 350 workers depending on the season, have 8 modern day fishing boats and 8 spotter aircraft.

Omega Protein - Reedville Fish Plant

Reedville Fish Plant, aka Omega Protein Plant. Photo courtesy of www.oceanart.us

Here’s How It Works:

Spotter aircraft circle the Bay looking for the large schools of menhaden that swim near the surface. They cause disturbances on the water and once spotted, the planes radio the fleet and it is immediately dispersed to the area to scoop up the large schools of fish to be processed at the plant and used in everything from cat food to cosmetics to the popular Omega-3 Fish Oil many of us take for our health. It’s also added to feed for poultry and Tyson Foods is one of their biggest customers.

Fishing for Menhaden - Methods used in Reedville VA by Omega Corp.

Menhaden Fishing – Photo courtesy of www.oceansart.us

Here Are Some Facts About Reedville’s Omega Corporation:

Reedville is quite the idyllic town with many of it’s gorgeous homes featured in the historic registry.  Omega is the largest employer in the area and is responsible for a reported $45 million dollars in annual economic benefits to the community. They employ hundreds of people and consider themselves part of the Chesapeake Bay “tradition”.  And that’s where I scream BULLSHIT!

Back in 2006-2007, Omega spent $770,000 to lobby congress to be able to hire foreign workers.  Yep… 650 (nation wide) to be exact. Tradition? Hmmm. Not so much. They were awarded a judgement that enabled them to secure the H2B visas and did so with breakneck speed.  The visas are only supposed to awarded when “…no local labor is available”  and yet the unemployment numbers in Reedville at the time were 1.5% higher than the national average. Hm? Seems like some LOCAL people needed jobs to me… Oh yeah, and… Omega paid these foreign workers significantly less than their American counterparts.

Since 2002, OSHA (Occupation Safety and Health Administration) has cited Omega for a whopping 63 violations.  One man was actually killed when he bled out after being caught in a machine. Very little information was ever provided to accident investigators or the family of the victim. The fine? $79,200. What did Omega pay? $50,000. I’m curious as to that seventy-nine thousand two hundred dollar assessment on a human life. Why the extra two-hundred bones? Why not an even 80k? But I digress…

In June 2013 Omega was assessed a 7.5 million dollar fine for dumping ammonia and bacteria (from ship toilets… that’s a nice way of saying raw sewage and cyanide) into Cockrell Creek which feeds directly into the bay from 2008-2010. Monty Deihl, General Manager of Omega Protein said, “It was not a good time for us here at the plant.”  Huh?  That is the equivalent of saying, “uh… my bad.”  And I can’t stand when someone says that.

Here Are Some More Facts:

Menhaden are tiny bait fish that were once abundant up and down the Atlantic seaboard. They are filter feeders and have the ability to filter a volume of water equal to the entire Chesapeake Bay in less than one day with the potential annually to consume 25% of the nitrogen in the Bay. If you don’t know, nitrogen is not a friend to the bay. The survival of everything from bluefish to humpback whales depends on the small, oily fish. Eagles, Osprey and Pelican also need the fish to survive.

In recent years, the menhaden population has declined by… are you sitting down… 90 PERCENT! 90 F’ing PERCENT, people! You feel me? When you over fish the main fish that sustains the bay, you kill everything. When the Rockfish, Striped Bass, Bluefish and other species don’t have food, THEY DIE! Thusly THE BAY DIES!

One local fisherman/scientist did a study over a couple of years and dissected approximately 10,000 striped bass pulled from the lower Chesapeake Bay. The majority of those fish had ZERO body fat and empty stomachs.  Their diet is predominantly menhaden. The striped bass are starving to death right before our very eyes because Omega Protein Corporation takes a half a billion pounds of menhaden out of the Chesapeake Bay every single year. And they have for decades.

Menhaden Fishing Boat - Reedville Fish Plant

Menhaden Fishing Boat – image courtesy of www.oceanart.us

Recently there have been heated debates about putting restrictions on this plant and they’ve all been defeated due to the serious money the lobby throws at the Richmond, VA governing officials. And that is the real issue at hand here. Do I think this place should be shut down completely? Yes. The real and inexcusable issue here is that Omega won’t even entertain the idea of placing a limit on their catch. They want unobstructed rights to every menhaden in the bay. THAT’s the crime.

Every other fishing and hunting activity has limits. You can’t kill all the deer you want. You can’t catch all the blue crab you want anymore. If everyone did that, there would be nothing left. Remember the American Buffalo?  Hunted nearly to extinction? The Gray Wolf?  That’s what’s quietly happening in Reedville, VA. Some people don’t have a problem with that and personally I think those people are uneducated, unenlightened assholes.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) along with the Coastal Conservation Association of Virginia, are fighting hard to implement restrictions and save what’s left. I think they deserve support.  If you live or sail or spend any time on the Chesapeake Bay, you need to get involved in this story.  I’m not anti-fisherman. I’m not anti-corporations (usually). But I am pro-environment and when you have spotter planes and massive ships that suck up every living thing in a huge net, you’re fucking up a place that is not yours to fuck with. What could possibly stand a chance?

The upper bay hasn’t seen a menhaden in years. They can’t make it past the gauntlet that is Reedville. Melody and I saw this firsthand on our trip up the bay. South of Reedville, the surface of the water was abuzz with schools of fish. Once we passed Reedville, nothing. We saw nothing and we didn’t even realize it until we were sitting at a local watering hole here in Solomons, Maryland, a scant 40 miles north and while talking about fishing with a local, the conversation turned to the lack of big fish in the upper bay and ultimately Reedville. “Nothing survives to make up here any more,” he said. “It’s been devastating to the Bay. Rockfish are now starting to eat the blue crab and all sorts of crazy stuff is happening.”

So there… my soap box. You can read all about it via the links. Fire off some emails, donate some money, share the story or don’t do anything. If you happen to know someone in Reedville or in Richmond, feel free to send them the link to this blog. Everyone has a voice. Social media has the power to effect change.

The Most Important Fish in the Sea: Menhaden and America - Amazon BookSailors, boaters and travelers can also voice displeasure by NOT visiting Reedville, VA. Tourist dollars speak volumes and there are other places to go. Other places to anchor and buy fuel. I’m sorry but 250 jobs (not counting the foreign workers of course) does not equate to destroying the largest estuary on the planet. There is only one Chesapeake Bay. Bypass Reedville and head for Deltaville. It’s nicer and the air doesn’t make you wanna vomit.


*Note: A reader turned us on to this book about this amazing little fish, titled “The Most Important Fish In The Sea: Menhaden and America” if you’re interested in more info on them.
(In full disclosure, we are Amazon affiliates so if you purchase this book through this link, we get a very small commission.)

 

U-Bolt. I Bolt. We Bolt. They Bolt…

This is usually my favorite time of year. Baseball season starts. Hockey kicks into the Stanley Cup playoffs and summer is right around the corner. This year? The Nashville Predators and Philadelphia Flyers are both booking tee times instead of logging ice time. The Phillies look to have a “re-buliding” year ahead of them and since we’ve been in south Florida for the last six months, we’ve missed that horrible winter up north and I’m not anxiously anticipating wearing my flip flops… I’ve been in ‘em since Labor Day.  Alas… I guess the only thing I’m getting excited about is the new standing rigging.  Woo-hoo! Livin’ large here on Vacilando! Right?  Just sitting here chilling with a couple pit-bulls, super models and the Cristal on ice. Uh… not really.

BOAT-break-out-another-thousand

Actually, I’m staring at a couple of U-bolts that cost us $300 EACH!  Yep… Three hundred bones. Three hundred Benjamins, clams, ducats, greenbacks, sawbucks, smackers, stacks and every other name imaginable for a damn dollar.  You know why they cost three hundred bones, Benjamins, clams…? Wait… let me back up.

When we bought the boat two years ago, the rig was questioned by the surveyor since there was no way to tell exactly when it was last done. We knew we wanted to redo the entire standing and running rigging at some point in the near future, so we decided to have an inspection done here by the local rigging giants, Nance and Underwood. I had been to N & U twice, once for a furling line and once for a quote on some halyards. Both times they were rude and a little pricey. But… since we’re working on a time frame here and after calling several other riggers, they were the only ones who could “squeeze me in.”  I should-a known.

Found to be "serviceable" by our rigging inspector

Found to be “serviceable” by our rigging inspector

Now… the photo you see, you know… the chain plate with the massive crack and rust… yeah that one… was examined by our “inspector” and found to be in “serviceable condition.” He said we just had some “surface rust” that we should hit with a scotch brite. By the way, he used his iPhone for his flashlight and only inspected three out of my six connection points stating, “We assume they’re all in the same or similar condition.” I kid you not. That’s a direct quote.

Neither me or Mel felt good about the inspection and as soon as they left, we went behind them and did our own inspection. The surface rust he casually mentioned was hiding the crack you see above. Oh, and the “new” looking chain plate below was literally one inch away on the other side of the bulkhead. How do you feel about those assumptions now?

Literally on the other side of the bulkhead, one inch away...

Literally on the other side of the bulkhead, one inch away…

Listen, Let me say this… I don’t use this blog to bash on people or go off on tirades and God knows I can go off on a tirade or two.  I could go on and on about them not using a magnifying glass, not taking photos, not even removing the boots on my spreaders, etc… etc… etc… I’m not going to do that. I did pull those chain plates off and drove to see Mr. Underwood personally.  I told him about the “inspection” that his boys did.  I told him that I didn’t pay $255.00 for an assumption, I paid for an inspection. I showed him the chain plate that you see here and his chin nearly hit the floor. To his credit, he was receptive and not the least bit defensive. He looked me straight in the eye when I spoke. He took photos and refunded every cent. I actually liked him a lot.  I will never use his company again but I think he’s a decent guy.

The $300.00 U-Bolt… I know… Can you find the crack?

The $300.00 U-Bolt… I know… Can you find the crack?

The U-Bolt above… that was made by Navtec. They have great customer service but no more U-bolts. They stopped making them. The company who does have them… is Rig Rite. They should change their name to “Rip Ur Ass Rite Off” because they are gouging people by charging $300.00 for a bolt that should cost less than a hundred bucks.  Several boats use this U-bolt with the Navtec rod connectors (Cal, Ericson, some O’Days) and the forums are ablaze with people searching for options.

At this point, we made the decision to replace all of our standing rigging before we head offshore. For our rigging needs, we were referred to Sailing Services in Miami. Brion Toss recommends them highly and now I know why. Brooks and Richard are fantastic! They gave me an incredible price and they spent almost an hour talking to me about the f-ing u-bolt issue, drew up alternative configurations and Brooks even called his friends to see if they had some laying around. No dice.

I took the old chain plates to AIM Welding and Fabrication and they made me two new ones. They are a tad over-sized, beautiful, and get this… they only charged me 95.00 bucks! Scott is awesome. If you need anything stainless or aluminum, check them out. I saw them building some vintage motorcycle gas tanks and was blown away by the detail.

Problem was we still needed to figure out the u-bolt issue but we’d spent a heck of a lot of money on all the new rigging and mechanical fittings (we went with Sta-Loc) so a re-engineering project was not on the books… We bit the bullet, or the bolt should we say and purchased two of the u-bolts and I will say this… F.U. Rig Rite. Their customer service is terrible and they don’t give a shit about ripping people off. The guy who own’s the place apparently doesn’t believe he’s doing anything wrong. The forums are also full of people raging about what a shitty company he has. Apparently he doesn’t believe that either. I hope he chokes on his fucking bolts personally…

What’s the point of all of this?  The point is this… know what you need done before you call someone to do it.  If at all possible, do some research and find out even a little about the job ahead of you. Youtube is an incredible resource for any project you might need to undertake.  Google it and chances are you’ll be able to find enough information to have some clue about what the mechanic, rigger, canvas person, whomever, is about to do or should be doing. You’ll be better able to spot a shoddy job or ask a question that should be asked.

To sum it up… we purchased the u-bolts and that’s a done deal. We got all our wire and connectors from Sailing Services along with a new ProFurl.  A local rigger named Brad Storm (Storm Rigging) let me work with him for a couple days and in return, he loaned us his mast climber and other gear and we are going to re-rig the boat ourselves. We’ll let you know how it goes. Fingers crossed… we’ll be heading out Port Everglades Inlet on or about the 17th of May!

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

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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.

Get Our Book! Just $2.99 on Amazon

You Gotta Go To Know

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)