Friday, January 30, 2015

Whew, We Made It . . .

   So, we are finally here in Pensacola.  Our journey here wasn't quite what we had planned but, thankfully, we are now settled in for a few weeks.
   After allowing a few extra days for the waters to calm down in Long Beach, we motored out of the marina early Tuesday morning.  During the majority of the day, the waters were calm and the winds were comfortable, if a bit weak.  As the day began to draw to a close, I was contemplating what to make for dinner once we'd dropped anchor. I wish my worries had stopped there . . . wish being the operative word here. 
   As we edged closer to our anchorage, the winds began to pick up and shift to hitting us fully on the stern.  To make matters worse, the swells were growing rapidly and shoving us toward shore.  By the time we were within sight of our anticipated stop for the night, it became painfully apparent that, not only were we not stopping there for the night but, were not stopping anywhere for the night.  The weather made the choice for us; we motored all night long aiming for Pensacola.  The swells were horrendous.  Anything and everything that could be jolted off of the shelves was on the floor in no time.  The cats were hiding in the safest places they could find.  We did the only thing we could do, hold on.

   Finally, daylight broke.  I had been able to grab a few hours of sleep during the night and Bill had had none. The cats were still rattled but, along with the waters, were settling down.  Our bellies were empty and we were feeling a bit sticky from the salt air.  Despite all of this, the sight of the markers to the naval marina made me feel calm, eased, and, frankly, thankful to be heading toward land.  For a second, I felt like a cartoon character that, after an impossible ordeal at sea, crawls to the beach and kisses the sand.  I am happy to report that this was only a passing feeling and I did not attempt to reenact this scene.

The Cats Got Their Rest, Too . . . After Fresh Food and Water, of Course
   With a little patience, we made it through the narrow channel markers, tied up to our slip, and caught up on some much-needed rest.  That afternoon and the next day was spend settling in.  We completed our check-in paperwork with office, familiarized ourselves with the marina and the base, and managed to get everything that was thrown out of its place back where it needed to be.
Flags Cover the Ceiling; The Blue Angels Are Based in Pensacola  


Just a Few of the Many Unit Patches Covering the Walls
   Today, we rented a car for the weekend to run some errands since Pensacola does not have the small town layout that we left behind.  We took advantage of the prices at the Navy Exchange and Commissary to restock provisions, made a run to the bank, and discovered a small hole-in-the-wall deli for lunch.  Based on a recommendation from someone at the bank, we ordered gyros at the Hip Pocket Deli.  On the outside, the building didn't look like much but, the interior was definitely interesting.  Military memorabilia covered the walls; any space not taken up by pictures or flags was covered with tons of unit patches.  Nearly everyone there had on some sort of working uniform (most were flight suits).  The lines were long and so was the wait but, it was worth the trip to see this off-beat spot and try the food.

   While we're here, Bill and I both have a long list of to-dos that we want to take care of.  I plan on posting pictures on the repairs/improvements as they are completed.  We also want to check out more of the area while we have the car (That's what we're doing this for, right?).  There are lots of things to check out on base and a few spots we want to visit around Pensacola.  I'll take plenty of pictures of all of that, too.   Stay tuned for more adventures from Pensacola.   

Please let us know what you think. Feel free to ask questions and leave nice comments. (Just click on "No Comments" if no one else has commented yet.)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Bouncing Back

   In case you're wondering, we did not arrive in Florida today.  We are actually still in Mississippi.  As we were monitoring the weather on Saturday night, we found that there was a new small craft warning out, lasting through Monday (today).  So, not wanting a repeat of our 10 ft. seas experience, we decided to hang out for a few more days and leave first thing Tuesday morning (tomorrow).

   While we were cooling our heels, we decided to take a walk around historic downtown Long Beach.  Thanks to Katrina, this little town had been flattened.  Bill actually took several mission trips to Long Beach after the hurricane first came through to help with relief efforts.  He was anxious to see the town erect again.  We had seen the attempts at rebuilding during our previous walks around the other sections of the town but, this walk surprised us the most. 

   The streets were a mix of asphalt and cobblestone.  Quaint little shops ran up and down the sidewalks, selling everything from ice cream to antiques to clothing. A few interesting looking restaurants were interspersed between the shops.  The city hall and public library stood tall.  There was even a town green where, I'm told, the public schools used to be.  Now it's an open area used for festivals and fairs.

City Hall

Intersection on Jeff Davis Ave.

   Although we were completely impressed with what we saw, there were still a few areas waiting for their second life.  The remnants stood as grave stones marking what used to be.  There were two places that stood out on the main street:

   There was the gate that now leads nowhere.  It appears that the gate used to lead to someone's home.  Now, the only thing behind the gate is a large tree.

   This foundation is all that remains of the First Baptist Church.  It was established around the turn of the last century and, according to the commemorative placard, was still used for regular services until Katrina changed their plans.  The good news is that the church's new building is much larger and is a pleasant sight when sailing into the harbor.



   It was great to actually see all of the progress that has been made since the hurricane.  This little town is a testament to what can be accomplished when a community comes together.  Even though we were unexpectedly delayed, I'm glad we were able to see such a great part of Long Beach.

The Rebuilt Pier (It was nonexistent after Katrina)

   Please let us know what you think. Feel free to ask questions and leave nice comments. (Just click on "No Comments" if no one else has commented yet.)

Friday, January 23, 2015

Southern Hospitality

This week has been a week of catch up; catching up on projects, chores, and sleep, and letting our mail catch up with us.
   After a comfortable sail from Rabbitt Island, we pulled into our slip at Long Beach Marina.  Given our experiences at other marinas we'd stayed in, I was expecting to have to go through what had become our precarious routine.  Bill would make sure that the boat didn't run into the dock as we pulled in and then jump onto the dock to hold the boat in place while I tied off the lines. Then we'd go through a little trial and error.  Both of us would check, adjust, and readjust lines and fenders to make sure that the boat was situated so that it wouldn't incur damage from the dock or cause damage to the dock itself.  Long Beach Marina was a welcomed change to all of that and more.
   We were pleasantly surprised to see that the harbor guard was waiting by our slip to help us tie up and two other boat owners even chipped in.  Once all of the lines were secure, we found that our shore power cord was too short to reach the outlet.  Our volunteers were on it.  Putting their heads together, they found another cord to extend the one we had and, voila!  Power.  Their help extended beyond the slip, too.  The harbor guard offered to take us to the store for groceries later and when we explained that we needed to have our mail sent to us by our mail forwarding service, the harbor master allowed us to use the marina's P.O. Box and picked up our mail when it came in.  He even gave Bill a ride to fill our empty propane bottle.  Such generosity!  Southern hospitality is definitely alive and well in southern Mississippi. 

   Pretty much everything is within walking distance here in Long Beach.  One of the places that we made sure to visit was a café called Darwell's.  The reviews we'd seen were great and it was even a Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives spot.  We are fans of the Guy Fieri show and visited other featured restaurants when we travelled in the RV.  This was the best one by far.  The place is definitely a dive; a cross between funky and down-home.  The food was delicious and the staff was friendly.  The head chef/owner even gave us free samples of their "Yum, Yum" Sauce and seafood gumbo.  These are both must haves. 

   We've checked a few things off of our to-do list this week as well.  Bill got the oil changed.  This proved to be a very messy job, especially since the access to the engine is in our bedroom. . . there are a lot of things in there that I'd rather leave "oil-free".  I got a lot of things put away and reorganized, mended a few torn items, and worked on making the boat more homey.  We cleaned the boat, inside and out, and even created and ordered our boat cards.  We should be able to send for them when we get to Florida.

   As long as the weather cooperates, we will leave here on Sunday morning, anchor out at Dauphin Island that night (south of Mobile, AL), and pull into a slip in Pensacola, FL at the Naval Base on Monday afternoon. The marina there only charges fifty cents per foot and has free laundry (can't beat that).  More projects and much needed haircuts (Yeah!) are on the list.  We also plan on getting the cats' paperwork up to date (shots, checkups, etc.).  We may not be pulling into the Bahamas just yet but, the process of getting pets into other countries can be a real hassle.  So, we're getting it started now.            

   We'll soon be headed for warmer temperatures . . . and no socks . . .

Sunset Over Long Beach Marina
   Please let us know what you think. Feel free to ask questions and leave nice comments. (Just click on "No Comments" if no one else has commented yet.)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Locks and Cleats and Lines, Oh My!

   So, we are finally out of the Inter-Coastal Waterway.  At least for a while, no more skinny canals, submerged trees, or tugs not looking where they're going.  We are glad to be away from the colder temperatures and to actually see the sun again.  I am particularly happy to be clear of the endless barrage of locks and bridges that is the Mississippi River.

Temporary Dock at the Lock
   A few days ago, we were traveling through the muddy Mississippi.  We were very much feeling like a little fish in a big pond.  The tug traffic makes traveling pretty precarious in spots and Bill had to dodge quite a few enormous vessels and floating debris.  As we approached the last lock for the day, we were starting to feel relieved.  The day had brought rain and cold winds, and we were looking forward to tying up at the marina and relaxing.  When I radioed the lock master I found that we were going to have to wait a while because there were a few tugs with large loads ahead of us.  As directed, we temporarily tied up to a dock specifically for smaller vessels waiting their turn and had lunch. 

A "Knob" From a Previous Lock
   After a while, we were radioed by the lock master and told to start pulling into the lock.  We prepared our lines before we started moving again.  For those of you that are not familiar with locks, there are usually evenly-spaced cutouts in the wall with knobs built into them.  These knobs (for lack of a nautical term) are meant for you to throw your lines around to secure the boat while the water is flowing into or out of the lock.  Well, this lock had no such thing.  We were told by a lock aid (I use this term very loosely) to take one of his lines from the top of the lock and tie it to our stern.  Then take our line to the bow (his was too short), toss it up to him, and he would tie it off on the top of the lock.  This arrangement would have been perfectly fine if the lock was filling with water (raising our boat) but, unfortunately, the lock needed to let out water.

View of a Lock WITH the "Knobs"
   We had been warned ahead of time that the water would be lowering.  So, with our own line at the bow we allowed adequate slack and tied it off.  Here comes the mistake; we assumed that the dock aid was, well, going to "aid" us by allowing enough slack on his line and actually monitor the lowering process.  WRONG.  He tied us off at the top of the lock without enough slack. As the boat began to lower, the stern line began to tighten and tighten.  We yelled for him to slacken the line but, no answer.  HE HAD WALKED AWAY.  He was on the other side of the lock.  By now the line was pulled so hard around our cleat that loosening the line from our end was impossible.  If the tension wasn't relieved soon, the line would pull the cleat right off the boat.  I asked Bill if he had a knife.  In an instant, Bill had grabbed a knife below deck, scrambled to the back of the boat, and cut the line.

   A few minutes later, we saw the aid, looking over the lock wall and tossing us down our line so that we could exit the lock.  He never said a thing about the cleat.  He hadn't even noticed.  I was livid.  As we pulled out of the lock, I wanted to give that lock master a piece of my mind.  I wanted him to know that this incompetent worker had not only not done his job but, had very nearly torn a hole in our home.  I was about to jump on the VHF and do just that when Bill informed me that the lock master had cameras on the lock.  He had most likely seen the entire thing. . . I hope that means that this guy got set in his place and not that the lock master just ignored the whole matter.  We will never know but, I do know that next time we go through a lock, the only competence we'll be relying on is our own.   

Our Anchorage View
The next couple of days after that were much better.  We made a few new friends in the marina, got some work done around the boat, and just decompressed.  As I write this, we are anchored off of Rabbitt Island.  The surroundings are serene and the weather is comfortable.  Tomorrow we'll set out for Long Beach, MS. We plan on taking about a week there to let our mail catch up with us and to scratch a few more things off our project list. 
It should be a welcomed change to our schedule from the last two weeks . . . especially since there isn't a lock in sight.

Our Navigator

Monday, January 12, 2015

Secure the Olive Oil!

   Over the last few days, we have traveled 280 nautical miles.  We had a few rather frustrating days and a couple that were pretty pleasant. The cats are starting to get adjusted to life aboard a rocking, moving vessel.  Bill and I are starting to see the pros and cons of motoring down the channels of Louisiana.  Overall, it's been an interesting week.

  The day after I wrote our last post, we decided to set out into the gulf.  Under normal circumstances, this would have been the best thing to do.  However, the weatherman got it wrong . . . very wrong.  We beat into the wind most of the day, dealing with rough waves and chilly temperatures.  By the time the sun was starting to set, we had definitely decided to revert to plan B, duck into the inter-coastal waterway. 

   Once we had set ourselves on our new path, we found ourselves spending our first overnighter in the channel.  It was bitterly cold but, at least there were no serious waves.  After dealing with a couple of nights without heat, a place to actually "park" the boat for a night seemed wonderful.  When it finally came time to tie up to a recommended transient dock, we were relieved . . . briefly.  It seemed that the same winds that had forced us into the channel had also blown so much water out of the channel that we only fit (due to our 5 1/2 ft. draft) in a spot with no electricity.  Thankfully, the men that worked the dock allowed us to run a power cord from the boat to an outlet that was used for their equipment.  We at least had a heater for the night. 

   As we started to settle in for the night, we looked around the cabins and salon.  Our very tired eyes were met with quite a sight.  Stuff was everywhere.  Papers here, tools there.  That's when I saw the galley. Olive oil. all. over. the sink and the counter.  Apparently my prized, well-weighted olive oil container had, and no wonder in those high seas, tipped over on the counter and slid into the sink.  There was a nice coating of yellow on everything from the spice bottles (that also flew into the sink) to the dish sponge. . . On the bright side, everything in the galley got a good cleaning.  I thought I knew how to secure our possessions pretty well after traveling around in a RV for a few years but, this, I guess, is different.  After all, RVs do move but, they don't do 10 ft. waves or 40 knot winds.    

     After that, things seemed to calm down.  We had a few obstacles here and there.  Our last stop was in Morgan City, Louisiana.  We were supposed to leave today but, the thick morning fog had other plans.  So, we took another day to recharge.  The people here have been very helpful and friendly. The town is small.  So, we were able to do some birthday gift shopping for family, send the gifts off at the post office, get a bite for lunch, and pick up some groceries all by walking a few blocks from our boat.

HUGE tree in Morgan City's park

   Tomorrow, we will head off for Houma, Louisiana and from there cross the Mississippi.  Here's hoping that the next few days will feel like they have here in Morgan City . . . and, hopefully, no more spilled olive oil.
Our view. or lack thereof, this morning

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


   As I write this, we are tied up to a pier in Galveston.  We have just finished up a dinner of grilled steaks and potatoes and are relaxing on the settee in the salon.  Our first official day of cruising is at an end.  Today's completion marked the passing of a huge milestone.  It was the beginning of a grand adventure. 

      The passage was more or less uneventful, which when you're underway is a good thing.  The Houston Ship Channel was crowded but, everyone seemed, for the most part, to cooperate with each other and to know where they were going.  Listening to the VHF can be overwhelming to the ears but, it certainly makes me feel better to hear that the large tanker headed in our direction knows that he will be passing us.

   The soups that I made were a big help.  In no time at all, I had ladled some stew into a pot on the stove, brought it up to a boil, and served it to myself and my very chilly captain.


   Only one member of our feline crew decided to join us in the cockpit while on passage.   Silas finally got up the courage to check out the scenery and found that he thoroughly enjoyed it.  He only went below decks when it came time to tie up, and he only went then because we made him.

   Tomorrow holds our first overnight passage.  We will be stopping in Abbeville, LA. There are supposed to be good winds and chilly temperatures. So, we are planning on bundling up as much as possible and drinking lots of cider, hot chocolate, and coffee. 

   Mark Twain once wrote "Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do.  So throw off the bow lines.  Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover."

Monday, January 5, 2015

Boat Food 101

   So, I just thought I'd fill everyone in on something that Bill left out, provisioning and cooking. 

  For the past few weeks we have been creating menus, and, once all the necessary items were picked up at the store, finding a place to put all of it.  For those of you who have never tried to provision a boat, I want to try to paint an accurate picture of how this provisioning thing works.  First, one must consider what sorts of foods to buy.  This means stocking up on favorite items or things that you fear might be hard to find or too expensive elsewhere.  It also means planning what's for dinner in advance, waaay in advance; as in, "We need to buy 10 cans of tomato paste because we have planned to make pizza sauce 10 times in the next few months". 

   Then, a place must be found where all of your purchases can be stored. We'll start with the fresh items.  We have a refrigerator/freezer on board but, it is not by any means close to the size of a home fridge.  I think my refrigerator in college had more room than this one.  So, anything that can be stored elsewhere is, and the things that can't are just made to fit.  As for dry/canned goods, that's where creativity and ingenuity come in handy.  Not only can these items be stored in the small spaces in the galley but, they can also go behind settees; under cushions, floor boards, or beds; even under the air conditioning unit (yes, there is usable space there). 

  After all of the food is stored, there comes the challenge of cooking.  Cooking in a galley has challenges in and of itself.  However, when you factor in all of the preparation that must be done before cooking, the challenge is something worthy of a Food Network show.   Once we have decided what to cook for the up-coming meal, we make sure we gather EVERTHING needed for the preparation of that meal.  Our reasoning for this is two-fold: the main work surface is actually the top of the refrigerator and there are cans, cookware, etc. in multiple places.  Before we moved on board, I never thought that I would have to make sure that I got the chicken out before I started cutting onions because if I didn't, I'd run the risk of spilling the onions all over the counter to try and retrieve the chicken. 

   In all honesty, we have enjoyed the new experience and the challenge of cooking aboard.  We have found that with little adjustments here and there to old cooking routines, we can cook successfully in our tiny galley.  I enjoy making  lots of different soups and stews; something I got to do a lot of this past week, as I made several batches for something quick to heat up underway. Bill likes making juicy burgers, breads of all sorts, and  pizza cooked on our pizza stone. 

   So, if any of you are looking for a way to spice up dinner, try cooking on a boat.  It will certainly be a challenge.  It will offer a new perspective to preparing a meal.  Who knows?  It might even make you grateful for that not so small, landlubber-style kitchen of yours.

Here's our galley with the work space/refrigerator


Twas the Night Before . . .

  So, here we are, still in the marina, but with firm plans to set sail tomorrow morning for points south and east. Though looking around the boat it seems like we've got a lot left to stow and secure, it's been a whirlwind week of preparations. We got all the family visits done at Christmas, presents delivered and received. Last Tuesday brought a huge step as we dropped off our trailer - our home for the last two years - at the dealer to be sold on consignment. And we took an even bigger step today as we dropped off the truck at the dealer. That truck had been a part of my life for the last 14 years, but now it's gone, and we have no means of transportation except for the boat. We actually got it sold last week, but kept it until the last day in case we had other errands to run. Finally, we took the boat over to the fuel dock, filled her up, and brought her back ready to sail.

   It seems like we've spent years getting ready, but really it's only been 8 months. These last few weeks have been the hardest ... both the running around arranging things and the watching the weather for a good window. But tomorrow's the day, we're FINALLY cruising!! Wish us fair winds and following seas, and say a prayer for our safety. We'll let you all know how it's going as we travel!

Out with the old ...
And in with the new!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Ready . . . Set . . . Dream

   There are just a few items left on our to do lists.  Our previous home is nearly cleared out.  We have planned, checked, repaired, replaced, and stowed just about everything . . . the moment of cutting those lines is almost here . . .

   For many, long term dreams are just that, dreams.  Some may take steps toward those dreams; researching, investing a little time and money but, very few actually make it to and take that final step, sometimes giant leap, that turns dreams into reality.  For us, this dream was to travel the world via sailboat.  Yes, we did our homework.  We invested much more than was initially planned - financially, physically, emotionally - but, we made it.  Finally, we are at the point where we can jump.

   For Bill, this was a dream that started when he was young and was only fueled by his career in the Navy.  For me, I've always loved being on, in, and near the water.  We both love to travel.  Our life together has been a constantly changing adventure.  Why would we stop?

   I am astounded at how far we've come and so very proud of the milestones we've met along the way.  This is something that we both have worked very hard to attain.  There were times when we had our doubts and worries.  There were times that we thought better of going through with something so drastic, something so "out of the box" but, this was a dream that needed to be realized, a dream that we couldn't let go.  

   So, we are about to realize our dream and take off on a grand adventure.  Please don't think me naïve.  I know there will be many times along the way when I will wish I was somewhere else and times when I will question my sanity but, this dream is a package deal. With the trials will come rewards.  For every leaky port hole, schedule delay, or skinned knuckle there will be an amazing sunset, a perspective-changing conversation, or delicious new meal to make up for it.

   To those of you who decide to read this blog and follow us on our adventure, thank you.  I, by no means, am an authority on sailing and will probably never call myself an expert.  However, I do hope to offer a little insight into the cruising lifestyle and possibly inspire someone else to take that next step toward their dream. So, ask questions, leave kind comments, learn from my mistakes, and sail along with us.  We'll soon be putting out to sea.