Sunday, August 30, 2015

Shopping Like a Cruiser

   I bet you have never given much thought to your trips to the grocery store.  Sure, you probably make a list or clip coupons.  You might even go so far as to plan your meals (or at least a few) around those buy one, get one free deals.  You'll probably get creative and wing a few meals during the week.  If you realize you forgot something, no big deal, just hop in the car; those peas are only a few minutes away.

This Mother Duck and Her Chicks Follow Us Around on Our Walk
These Guys Showed Up On Our Last Grocery Run
   However, a quick run to the store or a "just figure it out" approach to our grocery shopping just isn't possible or practical for us.  Like many cruisers, we find that just the transportation to and from the store (or any other place of interest for that matter) takes quite a bit of thought.  With no vehicle, we have to rely on other methods.  This normally means the world's oldest mode of transportation, walking.  We also make use of the local bus system when walking isn't doable and, on rare occasions, we have called a taxi (not very wallet-friendly, though).  Sometimes friends offer to drop us somewhere or ask if we want to tag along.  These are welcomed offers and aren't often turned down.

   Even here in Florida, we find that walking is the best option.  Before we moved the boat to our current marina, the bus was the best, although certainly not the most comfortable, way to get around.  Now, since we are a bit further away from the main bus route, walking is pretty much the only way to make our food runs.

  Transportation is certainly not the only consideration.  Before we even thing about setting out to buy our food stuffs, there has to be a plan of attack.  For us, this means planning a week's (or so) worth of meals.  There are a million different ways we could choose to do this but, there is one resource we rely on all the time,  A great tool - this allows us to create/find recipes, add these recipes to menus, and turn it all into shopping lists.  We can even use it as a digital checklist on our phones. So, we just check the items off as we go, Cool, huh?

Me With The "Stroller"
   Ok. So, Once we know what we need to buy and how we are getting there, the next step is to go . . . with the proper tools of course.  Just what might those tools be, you ask . . . Well, since we will be spending time outside, we consider the weather and bring hats, umbrellas, or (in this Florida heat) water bottles.  We also bring reusable bags, both regular and insulated.  Many people use these because they are trying to cut down on their carbon footprint.  For us, they are simply necessary.  The last thing we have in tow is our foldable shopping cart.  This thing is awesome.  We bought it back when we were in Marathon and it has well earned its keep.  It holds an amazing amount of groceries and has saved us countless sore muscles from carrying overstuffed, heavy bags.  The only "problem" with the cart is that is looks an awful lot like a baby stroller.  So, we hear a lot of jokes from our friends . . . one (on seeing it for the first time), gave me a funny look and asked, "Do you have something you want to tell me . . . ?" and inquired if I was "practicing" for a baby . . .

   Once in the store, we go from aisle to aisle, checking off items from our digital list as we go.  After everything is picked up, we head to the checkout counter.  I break out the reusable bags and work with the bagger to make sure that the "cold stuff" goes into the insulated bags, the shelf-stable stuff goes into the other bags, and the larger items (paper towels, cat litter, etc.) go into the cart on their own.  Bill works to get the items onto the conveyor and pays the cashier.  After the cart is loaded up, we push the cart all the way back to the marina.

Everything Is Ready To Be
Loaded Onto The Boat
   *Now, allow me to interject a note here.  If we happen to be making a grocery run while at anchor (like when we were in the Bahamas), another element is added to this ordeal - the dinghy.  We load everything into the dinghy to go to and back from the store.  In order to use the dinghy, we not only have to allow time for us to lower the dinghy into the water but, we also have to get the outboard onto the dinghy and get it started . . . considerably more time-consuming . . . *

   In order to get the groceries onto the boat, I hand Bill the bags, one ate a time, as he sets them on the deck (when using the dinghy, our roles are reversed because it takes much more muscle to lift the bags strait up to the deck from the water line).  Then I climb onto the deck and down the hatch so that Bill can hand the bags down to me (You didn't realize a grocery run on a boat was such a work out, did you?).  Now, you might think the rest would be easy; just put it all away.  Well. yes, in theory, you'd be right.  However, storing food on a boat (just like anything else) takes a little thought and time,  Things can't simply be shoved into the fridge or a cupboard.  Canned goods go behind the settee or under the seat in the v-berth.  Meats need to be separated and bagged into individual portions and (if necessary) labeled with the name of the meal they were bought for.  Everything packaged in cardboard must be stored in something else and the cardboard itself thrown away; Keeping cardboard on the boat is a good way to discover how many cockroaches your boat can handle.  The bags and cart also need to go back to their storage spots: the cart hangs behind our head (bathroom) door and the bags actually go under the settee cushions (they are out of sight and offer a little extra padding).  
Everything Corralled on The Top of The Dinghy  

Meat Is Packed Into Freezer Baggies

The Cart is Stored On The Door

The last step?  . . . relax . . . have a beer and a snack.  Finally, the weekly grocery run is done . . .  all of this may sound like a real pain and, honestly, it can be but, this ordeal does have its good points.  The meal planning, while admittedly a bit stringent, means that we don't buy anything that we won't use (this definitely saves money), we don't have to fight for a parking spot or make sure we have enough gas to get there, and the walk is good for our bodies. Overall, I am very proud of our little grocery system . . . even if people do see us walking down the street and wonder where our baby went . . .

   By the way, just an  update on the local weather situation . . . We made all the preparations for then Tropical Storm Erika, including stocking up on food, filling all our tanks and fully charging the batteries. Now that Erika has dissipated, we're expecting just some strong winds and LOTS of rain. It may get inconvenient to get around due to local flooding, but we don't expect any problems on board.


   Please let us know what you think. Feel free to ask questions and leave nice comments. (If no one has commented yet, there will be a "No Comments" link near the bottom of the post. If someone has already commented, there will be a number and the word "comments" beside it. Just click whichever of these is there, click, "add comment" when the window opens, and type away.)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Modest Life of a Cruiser

What? . . . A full-time cruiser working???  Living on a boat isn't plush and luxurious?? . . . While, for some people, the idea of life on a boat being hard work isn't a foreign one, most people's first thoughts of boat life don't involve work but, fruity drinks, white sand beaches or pulling into exotic ports.  While, admittedly, these images are part and parcel of the cruising life, hard work also plays a major role in the lives of those of us that call a boat home.

Our Water Maker Pump - It Often Has a Mind of It's Own
   The project lists never seem to get smaller; As soon as you cross off a few items, a few more "to-do"s demand to take their place.  Reseal the aft hatch, rebuild the dinghy motor, replace the anchor light . . . Did the bilge pump just die again? . . . The daily upkeep also never seems to stop.  I know this is true no matter where you live (house, boat, RV, whatever) but, when you live in such a compact space, it doesn't take much for the boat to look unkempt.  In a house, you leave a few things lying around and it probably isn't that big of a deal.  On a 38 foot mono-hull, a few tools scattered about, a couple of dishes in the sink or a dust bunny on the floor can instantly make you think, "What a mess!  Didn't I just clean this place up?".
The Vent Thru-hull To The Aft Holding Tank -
It Corroded Off One Day (Nice Surprise!) - Old Boat, Old Parts 

The Inner Workings Always Need Attention

    A while back, when we were still in the Keys, our cab driver, making small talk, asked if we were there on vacation.  Once we had explained that we live and travel on our boat, the driver said, "Wow!  Are you independently wealthy?". . . His reaction is actually pretty common.  You see, many people, due to their lack of knowledge about cruising, assume that if a person lives on a boat and travels around all the time, they have ample funds to uphold a cushy life on the water indefinitely.  They envision an enormous yacht stocked with the latest in gadgets and toys and maybe a small wait staff along for the ride.

   This may be true for the rich and famous or even those that just have more money than they know what to do with but, for many of us that have adopted this life, we are people of much more modest means.  We don't have house or car payments, gas bills, or many other payments that landlubbers have but, there are certainly boat-related expenses that draw money away from our cruising funds.  So, we do as much of the work/repairs as we can on our own, we cut expenses where we can, and when necessary, we go out and earn a few bucks.    

   Why am I telling you all of this?  It certainly isn't to complain.  I just wanted to dispel a few myths.  Bill and I are pretty much stuck here in Florida.  Progress on the engine is moving at a snail's pace and our funds are in comatose state.  We have both been working in an attempt to pay off the mechanics and take our finances off of life support.  We are not alone in our problems (though it may feel that way at times); many cruisers have found themselves in tight spots like ours.  However, we have not lost touch with what's important.

  We may work hard and sacrifice a few things to live an unconventional life but, the pros far outweigh the cons.  A shopping spree feels excessive and unnecessary when you meet others that are happy with their few possessions.  An amazing sunset makes the labors of a difficult sail fade away.  Getting away from it all takes on a whole new meaning when you find yourself surrounded by the the simple things that matter and not caring a bit for the things that don't.  A closet full of clothes, a new car or a big promotion don't hold a candle to spending invaluable time with loved ones, meeting people you may not have otherwise had a chance to, and savoring once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

   The cruising life isn't glamorous but, it is rich, modest, and fulfilling.  We may work hard and do without but, if you ask me, we have beaten the system.  We have found what others have failed to discover; that less is more and that a life less ordinary can be quite extraordinary.  

      Please let us know what you think. Feel free to ask questions and leave nice comments. (If no one has commented yet, there will be a "No Comments" link near the bottom of the post. If someone has already commented, there will be a number and the word "comments" beside it. Just click whichever of these is there, click, "add comment" when the window opens, and type away.)

Friday, August 7, 2015

Here We Go Again . . .

Moving Down the ICW
   So, we've moved!  Don't get too excited though. We didn't move under our own power . . . yep, the engine is still not working.  "Why?", you might ask . . . We have no idea . . . That's part of why we moved.  You see, no matter what the cause of our engine issues, it has come down to either pulling the head (top) or the entire engine (this, frankly, is something I am dreading like the plague).  Neither of these things could be done at the marina that we were in.  So, Tow Boat U.S. again played a part in our travels.

This Was Taken Right After We Got Moving Again
De Ja Vu?
   Two days ago, a Tow Boat U.S employee arrived at our slip in his boat.  We got his lines all hooked up to our bow and, with some help from friends in the marina, threw off our lines.  Now, before we did all of this, we talked with the tow boat guy to make sure he knew about one important thing: the shallow area.  We told him EXPLICITLY that he needed to bring us as close to the piers as possible on the way out.  Otherwise, we would seriously run the risk of grounding.  The marina is dredged but, it can go from comfortable depths to extreme shallows way too quickly. . . this is what we TOLD him.  What he DID was tow us moderately close to the piers.  As soon as we started to pull out, I pointed this out to Bill and he thought that the guy was just giving us a wider turning radius.  However, he didn't move over.  "You need to move over!", I yelled to him.  Just as I did, . . . bump, bump, bump . . . "MOOOOVE OVER!", I yelled, again.  Then, boom.  Stuck. Run aground.  Uhhhg!


    The guy turned to look at what was going on and actually seemed surprised that we were stuck . . . great . . . Our past towing experiences were pretty flawless and we were very pleased with the service . . . This guy hadn't listened and had quickly made it to my "Are You Kidding Me?" List.   To make matters worse, the incident had obviously jarred the guy enough that he started to try to tow us off the shallow spot in the wrong direction.  Bill had to give him instructions for pulling us into deeper water.  Luckily, we weren't moving very fast when we hit.  So, no damage was done and we were moving again in relatively little time.

   After having two bridges opened for us and getting pushed and pulled into our new slip (an act that reminded me of bumper boats), we were able to adjust our lines, plug in the power, and get ourselves settled.  Whew!

   Speaking of power, we are SOOO glad that we didn't get rid of our air conditioner back in Texas.  We had considered removing it before because it is installed in one of our wet lockers (in other words, it takes up valuable storage space).  However, the temperatures have been soaring here and, in tandem with the humidity,  the weather would be down right unbearable without the modern convenience of constant cool air.

    On the job front, I have been working at West Marine and, in fact, just got my first paycheck in the bank.  I'm not making much since the pay isn't great and I am part time for the off-season but, it's money coming in.  Bill is still doing some odd jobs for some friends of ours and bringing in some money that way.

   This engine problem has not only been costing us an enormous amount of money on its own but, the marina fees, transportation fees, and mechanics necessitated by the issue have definitely compounded the money problems. We have GOT to get this thing fixed!  Bill has made some calls.  We have a guy coming Monday to assess the problem and the shop here at the marina is supposed to get with us (also on Monday) about the possibility of rebuilding the engine.

Lots of Foodies
   We have been trying to enjoy our time off here.  We haven't made it to the beach yet (surprising, I know) because it has either been too hot or too crowded.  We have been able to get out with a few new friends and checkout some interesting places and events around town.

Just a Few of The Options
   A few days ago, we took the bus to downtown Hollywood for a gathering of food trucks.  On the first Monday of every month, many of the local food trucks get together at Young Circle to offer up a unique night out for local foodies.  The trucks begin lining the sidewalks in the circle (a sort of local park) during the day and, by dinner time, they are offering up their fares to throngs of people.  Everything from Chinese to taco bars, burgers to gelato, is served up to eager eaters.  Bill and I found a taco truck that offered a sort of mix-and-match menu.  We each ordered two different small tacos and sampled each others.  For dessert, Bill found fried Oreos with a side of ice cream and I tried a hand-dipped gelato bar with white chocolate and pistachios.  Yum!  

Me Enjoying My Dessert
  We are going to head to one of the farmers' markets in the area early tomorrow morning before I head off to work.  We love finding and cooking with fresh ingredients!  Hopefully, we will get this engine mystery solved soon . . . and in the meantime we'll keep doing our best to keep our heads above the water and enjoy our surroundings.  


   By the way, in case you were interested, I finally got a picture of the crabs that I mentioned in my previous post.  Does anyone know what kind of crab this is?  Please let me know if you do . . .  

   Please let us know what you think. Feel free to ask questions and leave nice comments. (If no one has commented yet, there will be a "No Comments" link near the bottom of the post. If someone has already commented, there will be a number and the word "comments" beside it. Just click whichever of these is there, click, "add comment" when the window opens, and type away.)