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What a beautiful January day! 83 degrees with magnificent sun!
Today, we went out sailing with our friends, Lynn and Steve Simons. We left the docks at the Marina around 10 a.m. and made our way out the Manatee River. Upon hitting the bay, we found 14-15 knots of wind out of the ESE, raised the mainsail and the genoa and cut through the water at almost 7 knots. Egmont key is a 300 acre island which guards the entrance to Tampa Bay. It has been on our wish list to visit since starting sailing, but the time was not right until today. We made our way to the anchorage on the SE side of the island and dropped anchor in approximately 10 feet of water. After putting out 70′ of all chain road and feeling comfortable that we were not at risk of dragging anchor, we settle in for lunch. Steve and Lynn had brought along some Cubans and Crab Rolls from Brocato’s sandwich shop in Tampa. What a delicious meal (especially the crab roll!)
We all got into the dinghy, our 12′ Caribe rigid bottom inflatable powered by a 15 hp Yamaha outboard. After covering the approximate 1 mile distance up the eastern side of the water (and nearly grounding our dinghy in about a foot of water) we pulled up onto the beach to explore. I was pleasantly surprised at how many interesting sights there were. After a couple of hours we made our way back to Beatitude and made the 2 hour journey back to the marina. At the risk of jinxing myself with overconfidence, today’s leaving and arriving at the dock/slip went off without a hitch and was as smooth as could be.
We finished off the day with fish tacos, fish and chips, and lobster corn chowder at Riverhouse Reef and Grill. I’m happy, tired, and sore!
Check off the next big milestone on the way to a cruising lifestyle. And I mean BIG milestone! We closed on our home on December 28 and officially became liveaboards on our 42′ Lagoon Catamaran. What a whirlwind week we had! Our house had been on the market for approximately 8 months or so when we finally had a first offer. Our counter-offer was accepted, but they wanted to close before the end of the year. By the time we knew the deal was final, we had just a few days to sell off all our furniture, donate or throw away bags and bags (and boxes and boxes) of “stuff,” rent a moving truck and storage unit, and execute the actual move. We are so thankful for friends who volunteered their free time and energy to come and help us pack and clean. Thanks so much to all of you (you know who you are)!
It seems now that we are fully committed! I need patience, however, as for the next 2-3 years we will be living aboard while I continue to work full time at Lakeland Regional. We met a lady today from Pennsylvania who bought a boat a couple of weeks ago here at our marina. She and her husband have their house for sale and they are in the process of selling all. I must admit to pangs of jealousy that they are setting out on their cruise in a month or so. Another couple in the marina who Cindy and I have befriended having been living aboard for a number of years preparing their 37′ sailboat for cruising. They will be leaving in April. It will be difficult watching them sail away, while we are in sailing limbo.
In the meantime, though, I’ve quickly come to think of Beatitude as home. I think Cindy is feeling increasingly comfortable living aboard our vessel, as well. While docked in Regatta Pointe Marina, we will have virtually all the conveniences of our former home on board, other than a washer and dryer. We’ve reverted to the habits of our early married years and visiting the Marina laundromat. Our bed is comfortable, our showers are warm, and we enjoy each other’s company. After 33+ years of marriage, there is still no one I’d rather be with than Cindy. Thought we cannot set sail for distant shores for months, we are looking forward to enjoying some shorter sailing excursions – many, we hope, with family and friends.
A couple of days ago, we had a wonderful time on a day-sail with our first guests aboard Beatitude. My niece, Holly, and her friend, Jason, joined us for a blissful day of sailing on Tampa Bay. We pushed off from the dock around 9:30 a.m. and stopped by the Marina fuel dock to top up the fuel tanks. Our port tank was less than one quarter full since we had been running the port engine and the generator off of that tank. Seventy gallons of diesel set me back over $300.00. Ouch! But, We hadn’t fueled up since Marathon when we were bringing the boat up from Ft. Lauderdale. If you remember, we had no wind for that trip and ended up motoring the entire way. So, that’s the cost of windlessness.
After deftly maneuvering away from the fuel dock and pivoting in a confined space while dodging other sailboats coming through, we made our way out into the Manatee River channel and headed for the bay. It was a gorgeous day which started off a little on the cool side and warmed up into the mid-upper 70s with bright sunshine. The wind was almost non-existent up until that time, but upon entering the bay (as if on cue) the wind picked up to a steady 8-9 knots out of the east. We raised the sails and enjoyed the quietude of being propelled through the water by wind alone. We glided along at around 4 knots for about 2 hours until the fickle wind decided to disappear for the rest of the day. Beatitude slowed to a crawl, so we decided to have a little lunch before firing up the twin diesels.
After lunch, we motored beneath the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, made a U-turn, and headed for home. Pelicans and Anhingas kept us company throughout the day, but we almost always see dolphins on our day sails. Approximately 1/2 mile before reaching the Marina, we finally spotted a single dolphin which was quickly scared away by a power boat.
I decided to try to back into the slip this time. Previously, I had gone around our slip and pulled through the empty slip adjacent to us. It went well with no major incidents. It was a little challenging to get the boat close to the dock against the current, but it was accomplished. My confidence at maneuvering Beatitude in tight places increases with every excursion. I really was not very nervous this time around (The fact that there was little to no wind to deal with didn’t hurt).
Our relaxing day came to an end after tidying up the boat and enjoying a nice meal at the Riverhouse Reef and Grill. We said goodbye to our guests and await another day to sail.
One month after bringing Beatitude home to Bradenton from Ft. Lauderdale with the assistance of a captain, my schedule cleared enough for Cindy and I to sail her by ourselves for the first time. Come to think of it, it would be the first time we have ever sailed any boat by ourselves. We’ve always had some crew on board to assist. Over the past month, we had already spent a few nights on board the boat at the marina, but this was different.
Having struggled with maneuvering and docking Beatitude in close quarters on our maiden voyage, I have developed an irrational fear of docks and pilings and other boats nearby. Put me out in the wide-open waters and I’m fine. Just don’t make me maneuver under motor in tight places. So, with this fear in place, we prepared to cast off. There was a 15 knot breeze from the ENE pinning us onto the end of C dock (1 knot = 1.15 mph). Thankfully, with Cindy’s assistance with the lines, we made it out of the marina without taking gouges out of the side of Beatitude and without bashing into any other vessels.
The rest of the day was spent in blissful sailing out on Tampa Bay. We were going no place in particular. A steady 15 knots of wind out of the east made for excellent sailing weather. Our boat speed maxed out at 8.2 knots in 15 knots of wind on a close reach (sailing at 60 degrees into the wind). What a relaxing, exhilarating way to spend an afternoon! Cindy and I worked well together tacking and jibing and trimming the sails. After a while, I asked her to let me single-hand our vessel and found that I could handle the sails alone without difficulty. That’s good to know. The plan will be, over time, to get Cindy to be able to handle Beatitude confidently under sail or power.
We anchored for the evening at De Soto Point and settled in for an evening of relaxation. Cindy worked on her art. She produced an amazing textural drawing of Albert Einstein. While she actually made art, I watched some lectures on the history of art. We enjoyed a nice spaghetti dinner aboard. We retired for the evening fairly early, but I slept uncomfortably due to my irrational fear of docking.
The next morning we had breakfast and did a few boat chores. Around noon, we decided to weigh anchor and return to Regatta Pointe. Preparations were made, the engines were started, and I eased the boat forward while Cindy pushed the “up” button on the electric windlass (the device which pulls up and lets out the anchor). Nothing happened! After two hours of reading the instruction manual and climbing in and out of hatches… no success. We were not even able to bypass the electrical operation and manually operate the windlass with a winch handle. Only one choice remained if we did not want to be permanently anchored there. Cindy took the helm and eased Beatitude forward while I manually pulled in the chain and anchor hand-over-hand. I’m a little sore today, but it worked and we were soon underway.
About a quarter of a mile from Regatta Pointe, with my phobia of docking already well in gear at this time, things were looking okay with the wind actually decreased to about 12 knots. Out of nowhere, a squall appeared with winds steady at over 20 knots, gusting higher. Rain began pelting us both as I pulled into the marina. Although I would have liked to head right back out to open waters, I figured I had no choice but to attempt to dock the boat in 20 knots of wind and rain. Fortunately, conditions did let up just as I rounded the end of the marina toward our slip. Two friendly neighbors saw us coming in and offered to help us out with our lines (which we gladly accepted). Cindy had a little fear of her own concerning getting from the boat to the dock to tie the lines, so her prayer was answered when help arrived. By the grace of God, I was able to maneuver the boat perfectly and guided her into the slip without major incident. We then spent another 3 or 4 hours, tidying up lines and cleaning and closing up the boat.
We had a great time together on Beatitude. We both feel we are still novices at this whole sailing and boating business, so we count it a success that we took a 42 ft. by 25 ft. sailing catamaran out in 15 – 20 knot winds for two days by ourselves and returned relatively unscathed (Unfortunately, Cindy had a misstep and injured her left shoulder). We were dealt some adversity by the inoperable windless and the inopportunely-timed squall, but we dealt with it and succeeded. This was the first of many such adventures. For the next 2 to 3 years, we will have many such excursions in preparation for the day when we cast off our lines and head out for distant places.
I am now sitting in my home office catching up on mail and other business which waited for our return. The night shift in the Emergency Dept. awaits me this evening. When I last left you, we had awakened from a night spent in the Marathon Marina. I’ve concluded that I’ll be spending less time in marinas and more in anchorages when cruising. It cost us $133.00 to tie up next to a dock for 1 night. Comparing that to our $668.00 for 1 month at Regatta Pointe (where we will keep Beatitude) makes our permanent home look like quite the deal.
Well, we left Marathon at 1 in the afternoon. The morning was occupied by my taxi trip to the local Publix for a few more provisions and utensils, and some general upkeep of the boat. Shortly after leaving the marina, we sailed under the famous 7 mile bridge. With a clearance of 65′ and a mast height of 64+’, I experienced anxiety and palpitations looking up to the top of the mast as we motored under the bridge. I was certain we would lose our mast (which we didn’t, thank God)! The rest of the day was spent motoring in light and variables winds approximately 20 miles off the gulf coast of southern florida. The only aquatic life we saw up to this point was a few flying fish removing themselves from the path of our yacht. Around midnight, we spotted the lights of an oil rig off to port (left side of the boat facing forward). At 7 am we witnessed a beautiful sunrise over Naples. Shortly thereafter, we were greeted with the company of a pod of dolphins who playfully swam beneath our boat before heading off. After 28 hours of motoring (we motorsailed for about 12 of those with the mainsail up), we anchored in a beautiful anchorage in Venice. See the foregoing discussion on anchoring vs. marinas above. The Crow’s Nest Marina wanted $175 for us to tie up to their dock for the night. And there was no nearby restaurant as in Marathon.
Friday morning, we were up early so that we might journey up the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) the rest of the way from Venice to Bradenton. It was a beautiful, peaceful trip on which we saw all manner of waterfowl and several dolphin sightings. We pulled into our home port, Regatta Pointe Marina on the Manatee River around 3:30 in the afternoon. After securing Beatitude to the dock, washing down the boat, and generally putting things away, we had a celebratory dinner at the marina restaurant.
All in all, the trip was wonderful and we feel really good about Beatitude and our future plans. More on that to come. Following are some photos of our first passage (Click on the photos for a larger version):
After 21 hours of sailing, we completed the more than 26 mile trek to Marathon (Roughly 100+ miles). We’ve had beautiful weather today with lots of bright sunshine and finally, around 7:30 this morning, turned off the engines and sailed. The sails were up all day, but were supplemented with some diesel fuel for a couple of hours when the wind shifted around to our nose once again. Around 4:30, we pulled into Marathon Marina, refueled, and spent an hour washing, cleaning, and airing out some of the lockers. Whew!
The rest of the evening we relaxed and ate dinner at Porky’s BBQ and Seafood… a little slice of Americana. Live entertainment consisted of a couple of old guitarists singing a mixture of (most songs we had never heard) bluegrass, Jimmy Buffett, and who knows what else. Actually, they weren’t bad. The food wasn’t either… Ribs, Conch Fritters, and Shrimp.
Well, it’s 9 a.m. on Wednesday. Breakfast is cooking and we are preparing for another full day of sail, another overnight passage, and then a stop on Thursday evening somewhere within range of a day sail to Bradenton. Until then…
After getting underway at 4:06 p.m., we navigated through Port Everglades, avoiding the large container ship and its tugs. As of 7:27, we are about 2 nautical miles off of Miami Beach.
Early this morning, we flew to Ft. Lauderdale. Captain Dale picked us up at the airport and we spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon getting reacquainted with Beatitude and provisioning for our maiden voyage upon her. We will do an overnight passage tonight and hope to reach Marathon, in the keys, tomorrow evening where we will have dinner ashore and spend the night in port. We have a 5 day window (set by my work schedule in the hospital) in which to travel safely to our home port in Bradenton.
Unfortunately, the wind is on our nose (blowing directly from the direction we need to go, for you non-sailing folks) so we have been motoring and not sailing today. That may continue overnight. We’ll see about tomorrow. We’ve had dinner aboard and are preparing for our 3 hour on/3 hour off watch schedule for tonight. Pictures to come at some point when good internet access is available. I am able to put this post up from my iPad thanks to excellent 3G from 2 miles offshore.
Reactions to our decision to sell it all and sail away range from, “That’s awesome! I’d love to do that!” to “Why in the world would you ever want to do such a thing?” Most responses tend toward the latter. Well, when asked similar questions, a number of liveaboards and cruisers offered several explanations (Liveaboards live on a boat but may never leave the dock while cruisers actually cruise from one adventure to another while living on the boat.):
1. If you have to ask why, you probably won’t understand the answer.
2. Dolphins (Manatees, other wildlife) and bioluminescence.
3. Being rocked to sleep at night.
4. If we don’t like our neighborhood, we can just move our “house” to a different neighborhood.
6. Global Warming (You’ll be prepared)
7. The night sky.
8. My home has a moat and gangplank.
9. I don’t have to cut grass or shovel snow.
10. A simpler life.
11. The in-laws hate boats and water. (Not, I repeat, Not my reason!)
12. A greater awareness and appreciation of nature (tides, currents, winds, weather).
13. An alternative to a consumeristic society (There’s not much room on a boat for lots of “stuff.”) Or, “It’s more fun collecting experiences, memories, and friends than it is collecting material things.”
14. Adventure and Independence.
15. Oceanfront property.
16. To save money.
17. To live a spiritually, emotionally, and physically healthier life.
18. Fellow cruisers.
19. A means to travel to foreign countries without having to pay hotel bills.
20. The pure pleasure of sailing.
The reasons we decided are mostly contained in the above comments: A simpler, less materialistic life. A chance to enjoy, appreciate, and be challenged by God’s great creation. A love of travel and adventure. Here are a couple of more reasons why we are making this change (from a recent overnight sailing adventure):
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. – attributed to Mark Twain
Cindy and I have charted a new course for our future: Selling everything (well almost) and sailing away. This idea was first planted in my impressible mind on a flight back from the Evangelical Philosophical Society annual meeting held in Providence, RI in November, 2008. Sitting next to me was a gentlemen who had just retired from the Air Force and was on his way to Tampa to meet his family and move aboard a sailboat for retirement. Although I knew virtually nothing about sailing, I thought,”What a wonderful idea!” For the next several years the thought of retiring on a sailboat remained somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind as a cool idea, an amazing life, but not something I seriously entertained as being part of any realistic plan for my future. Although I was born in Atlanta, GA, we took nearly yearly vacations to the Gulf beaches and I loved the sand and water. For the past 12 years, I’ve been a Floridian and have always been the one in the family who has suggested going to the beach more than others. Cindy and I love travel and have been blessed to visit Europe and the Caribbean on multiple occasions. In retrospect, the idea of retiring on a sailboat was quite logical (as illogical as the idea of anyone living on a sailboat may seem to some).
After three years of percolation, the idea bubbled to the surface during a difficult time at work. Medicine, at times, seems less and less about taking care of the patient and more and more about meeting goals, jumping through hoops, and making sure the patient is “satisfied” and “happy.” A lawsuit, which was eventually settled, didn’t help my frame of mind. The political climate of the country and the direction that I saw it going compounded my depression. (By the way, I’m coping fairly well now. Of course, the carrot of sailing away into the wide open seas and living in tropical paradises doesn’t hurt one’s mental state.) One day, over a year ago, I casually mentioned to Cindy that I would love to cut back on shifts or retire early and buy a boat, move aboard, and sail away.
Let’s just say that she was not as receptive to the idea as I was. She and I will both post to this site so you will be able to read her initial (and ongoing) feelings in her own words. God has blessed me with with a remarkable wife. We met in college in St. Paul, MN in the 70s. When she married me in 1979, she thought she was committing to a life of ministry as the wife of a pastor. It turns out, she did commit for 14 years of that. Then 7 years of full-time college for me. Then 3 years of residency. Then a decade plus of being the wife of a physician. And now… well, now she has, at first reluctantly, and now with slightly more enthusiasm agreed to come along with me on our next adventure. You can read a little bit more about us on The Crew page. There is a lot more I will say about our preparations for such a move in future posts. For now, you can read a little about our future “home” here.
I expect that primarily (at least at first) this blog will be followed by family (and a few friends). I and my wife will express our joys and frustrations and hope to be a help to someone else who is thinking of doing something crazy like this. You will gain insight from one member of the crew who is enthusiastically embracing this change and another who is approaching this future life with a little (or a lot) more timidity. Our posts will be geared to family, friends, and future cruisers. Enjoy!