Friday, December 31, 2010


Coconut Grove, Miami, FL 25º43.532N | 80º14.193W

Getting ourselves and a boat ready to head offshore is intimidating, a full time job at best.

Our TO DO List goes something like this:

  • Final provisioning run
  • Buy a generator
  • Get an alternator rebuild kit
  • Stock up on Raycor filters
  • Buy engine oil
  • Figure out cell phones in Bahamas
  • Get dinghy locking system in place
  • Buy snorkel gear
  • Get Chip's prescription filled
  • Buy flares
  • Get a handheld GPS and Depth Sounder
  • Get pump rebuild kit (for head)
  • Change topping lift
  • Figure out how to use SSB
  • Change zinc
  • Assemble ditch bag
  • Change raw water hose to head
  • Obtain reentry sticker from Coast Guard
  • Clean anchor locker
  • Defrost freezer
  • Call accountant about 2010 taxes
  • Do laundry
  • Route trip to Bimini on GPS
  • Study Bahamas charts
  • Oil winches
  • Finalize new health insurance policy
  • Alert boat insurance company of offshore plans
  • Get new Wifi antenna working
  • Replace stern running light with LED
  • Stow
  • Pump out and treat holding tank
  • Top off all tanks, fuel and water, before leaving
  • Secure dinghy
  • Get propane
  • Try to think of what we're forgetting
  • Faithfully watch the weather for the right time to cross
Oh yeah. NUMBER ONE: Fix reefing system.

Sometimes we just bag it and go for Cuban coffee with Karen and Dale. Nothing like a little jaunt in the Mini with the top down to raise your spirits and help you enjoy the moment.

Coconut Grove, Miami, FL 25º43.532N | 80º14.193W

Thursday, December 30, 2010


Coconut Grove, Miami, FL 25º43.532N | 80º14.193W

The dotted ropes are the reefing lines we've been puzzling over.

"Reefing" is how you lessen your sail area when the wind is kicking up. Otherwise, with too much sail and too much wind, you risk getting knocked over, something I'd prefer to avoid.

This task has been on our list since we left home waters, and despite various attempts at figuring out how to get it working properly, we have continually failed.

Today, the Island Packet Assistance League came to our aid. Two other Island Packet owners generously stopped by to help us untwangle our lines.

You get a line, and I'll get a line.
We threaded and rethreaded. We tossed around theory after theory. We pulled the lines all the way out the back of the boom to confirm there are no shuttle cars inside (as we had been told).

Problems were found. Problems were solved. New problems were introduced. New problems were solved.

Many hours later, the system still runs like a giraffe uphill. We can marginally get it reefed down. It is almost impossible to get it back up.

Thank you fellow IP friends. At least we don't feel so alone -- or stupid. If smart people can't figure this out, there's something wrong.


Coconut Grove, Miami, FL 25º43.532N | 80º14.193W

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Coconut Grove, Miami, FL 25º43.532N | 80º14.193W

Familiar faces in photos at Bonnie's condo.
Miami represents for us an end and a beginning. When I envisioned our cruising life, in my mind it always started in the Bahamas. Somehow these last 67 days since we left Manteo have been setting the stage for what is to come. And now that the new reality is upon us, we realize how very much we have to do before leaving these shores! Yikes.

Chip's sister Bonnie has a condo here in South Beach, and as we headed south, we ordered a lot of gear to be delivered to the condo ahead of our arrival. Today, picked up the booty. Wandering through Bonnie's beautiful apartment, we couldn't help but feel wistful that she hadn't been here to see us sail past her window.

As an unbelievable bonus, Bonnie called to tell us she has a car here in Miami that needs to be driven. Did we want to use it while we're in town? Really?

Captain Freddie picked us up in the convertible Mini Cooper, and now we can tilt at our enormous TO DO list with ease. THANKS, BONNIE!!!!!!

Coconut Grove, Miami, FL 25º43.532N | 80º14.193W

Captain Freddie and Chip, trying on a hair hat.
Sharing our good fortune with Karen and Dale.

Monday, December 27, 2010


This entry was later replaced with an actual Christmas message, but I keep it here so I will not lose the comments from our dear readers.

Merry Cara Mia Christmas!

We have so much to tell you, and we will tell it all -- after a few quiet days to celebrate Christmas. It is hard to measure how very much we have to be thankful for this year. Our lives are perfect but for the loss of a dear, dear friend yesterday.

We are tucked away in a safe place with new friends, loving life, doing chores and provisioning. Next stop: Bahamas.

Until we have time to catch up, here are a few photos of our first furlough from the ICW, our first offshore passage, our first turquoise, see-through water, our first Christmas with Cara Mia.

Thank you for coming along on this adventure with us. We love you one and all.

Christmas Day is in our grasp So long as we have hands to clasp
Welcome Christmas. Bring your cheer. Welcome all who's far and near.

Tammy & Chip

Under full sail at sunrise on passage from Palm Beach to Miami.

No ICW. No bridges. No engine. Pure happiness.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


Coconut Grove, Miami, FL 25º43.532N | 80º14.193W

Hey Mom,

Merry Christmas! Hope you like your new computer. Boyd and Kathy thought you'd enjoy being able to read of our adventures.

Computers are wonderful, confounding things. It delivers the world to your fingertips while at the same time offering infinite opportunities for frustration! I'm proud of you for making the effort.

If you get bored of our new life and want to read about how we got here, our old blog starts here:  <-- click on that

At the bottom, you can click on the words "Newer Post" to read back through the whole story or until you get bored. Maybe this will help you sleep.

My readers would probably like to hear from you. If you click on the word "comments" under my blog writing, you can write a note that everyone can see, so don't curse or anything.

Glad you've come along for the ride -- and traveling this way guarantees you won't get your hair wet! LOL (that's computer speak for Laughing Out Loud).

I love you.


p.s. -- I guess Nanny was right. I really am "the girl who lives in the middle of the ocean."

Coconut Grove, Miami, FL 25º43.532N | 80º14.193W


Coconut Grove, Miami, FL 25º43.532N | 80º14.193W

Merry Cara Mia Christmas!

It is hard to measure how very much we have to be thankful for this year as we have successfully made our way to Miami and anticipate our next stop: The Bahamas. Our new life is bitterly sweet as we embrace the joys of cruising and reel from the loss of a dear, dear friend Dale just two days ago.

Christmas has smiled on us, leaving awesome cruising friends in our stockings, Karen and Dale (yes, just as my old friend Dale was taken away, the universe has brought me another one).

A makeshift Cara Mia tree, guaranteed not to topple.
It was our turn to show them our own Christmas traditions, however goofy. Sure enough we issued our guests their Christmas socks, and in a long-standing family tradition, took photos thereof.

Christmas feet!
We ate, we laughed, we watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the original TV version with the voice of Boris Karloff).

And to top off a perfect day with a perfect ending, Chip played the guitar and sang for us. The crowd went wild.

Christmas Day is in our grasp So long as we have hands to clasp
Welcome Christmas. Bring your cheer. Welcome all who's far and near.

Thank you for coming along on this adventure with us. We love you one and all.

Tammy & Chip

Coconut Grove, Miami, FL 25º43.532N | 80º14.193W

Happiness is an inaugural offshore passage.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


Coconut Grove, Miami, FL 25º43.532N | 80º14.193W

Christmas Eve. A day so packed with nostalgia. We had made great plans to celebrate, and I decided that Dale would have wanted me to go into them with gusto, to love the day, to love those around me, to celebrate Christmas.

And so I did. One foot in front of the other, I marched right through, although often crying, and had a grand time with the help of new friends.

On a long walk yesterday, I found a discarded Christmas tree that is now installed in the dinghy, complete with solar lights.

In our decorated chariot, we joined other cruisers for happy hour on a neighboring island. Among the many things cruisers have in common, on this day, we all miss somebody. It soothes the soul to spend the holiday with kindred spirits.

Cruiser formal Christmas Eve Happy Hour.
And speaking of kindred spirits, tonight we celebrated Nova Scotian Christmas Eve with Karen and Dale (my new friend, Dale) from Jessie Marie. The fare included pomegranate cocktails, shrimp, lobster, smoked salmon and other amazingly wonderful things.

To top off the evening, we combined two traditions:

1. Nova Scotia: Sneaking candy canes onto people's cars

2. America: Christmas caroling

Our version:
We dinghied through the mooring field, quietly approaching boats, silently hanging candy canes on the lifelines and bursting into song and laughter as we sped away.

This could possibly be the most fun I've ever had, especially while wiping away sad tears.

Sheer fun. Utter sorrow. They say one makes you appreciate the other more. Perhaps it is true.

Happy Christmas Eve.

Coconut Grove, Miami, FL 25º43.532N | 80º14.193W

Nova Scotian deliciousness!
Delighted as children when we returned from Happy Hour
to find solar lights on the tree doing their magic.

Friday, December 24, 2010


Dale Clifton Thommarson

October 31, 1961 - December 23, 2010

This morning going about my boat business, I mused about how very happy I am, happier than I can ever remember. How this new cruising life suits me, how on this eve of Christmas I feel so joyful spending it in our new life on our new boat with our new friends.

And then my phone rang. My sister asked where I was and was Chip with me.

And then life put up this road block. A cement barrier that I ran up smack against. My forever friend Dale was gone.

Words have always been my life raft. If I throw them out in just the right combination, they become buoyant and deliver me safely to the other side. But all these thousands of words that have been my life and livelihood, I filter through them, string them together, restring them, trying to arrange them into something to carry me through grief. Instead my words sink to the bottom.

Those who regularly read my blog know that I rarely write in real time but after the fact, although usually only a few days later. Now, almost a month later, I put words together but dread the moment I hit "publish" because that becomes the final word.

And that happiness? It is still there. I know that Dale would not approve of sadness, in fact, would be angry at my tears.

Now, happiness and sadness coexist, side by side. Like a child walking along a curb, one step up on the curb and the next step down on the street, here I am, one moment ecstatically happy, the next weeping. Happy and sad, so close together, sometimes confusingly intertwined.

The day that photo was taken earlier this year, we were headed to Billy Ray's for karaoke night. How I wish that I had asked him that night to please live forever, because that's what I really wanted.

Instead, like we are so want to do, I asked for what was immediate and simple, a tiny, lame request. 

Sing Love Me Tender

And he did. 

There at Billy Ray's in the pitiful, tired light, his beautiful baritone voice rang strong as he slipped away.

"Love me tender. Love me true. All my dreams fulfilled. For my darlin' I love you. And I always will."

And I always will.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


Lake Worth, FL 26º45.935N | 80º02.601W

Chip and Lake Worth.
We -- and Cara Mia -- have been set free! The long-awaited moment: open water, calm seas, a light, freshening breeze and no engine.

But I get ahead of myself. Yesterday, the winter solstice, was spent cleaning, doing chores and stowing for a sail offshore. The tides, current and distance to Miami added up to make 3 a.m. the best departure time.

I've read so many articles the dreaded "first night watch," so many cruisers afraid of sailing in the dark. Chip and I discussed the strange circumstance that has us making our first ocean sail at night, but found ourselves not only undaunted but stoked.

We chased Jessie Marie out the Lake Worth Inlet at minutes after 3, and made a right turn south toward Miami. That was about the extent of our navigation. Okay, not quite, but still, compared to slogs down the ICW, it was a great joy to set a way, way out there waypoint.

Full moon keeping watch to the west.
Our path was lit by a beautiful moon, recovered from its full eclipse the night before.

Jessie Marie fell back, making a marvelous sight at sunrise.

Cara Mia sailed like a dream. The three of us need to work out some kinks, and this was the beginning.

And the ICW? We're finally free! I could see it passing on the right side of our GPS screen, just inside the shoreline. Every time I saw "bascule bridge" I shouted with joy, tempted to hail the bridges and tell them "I don't need an opening."

Before reaching the inlet at Miami, we attempted once again to get our reefing system working. It jams badly when we pull in the lines from the cockpit. Bad. "Reefing" is how we shorten the mainsail in strong wind so we don't get knocked down. It's a little like downshifting on a downhill drive.

FIX REEFING SYSTEM: Chore number one before we can cross to the Bahamas.

The turn into Government Cut in Miami was action-packed. We ran the gauntlet of this busy port in rush hour traffic. Ferries, cargo ships, super-sized freighters, small power boats, jetskis, sportfishers, motoryachts.

We pulled into Dinner Key at 3:30, our last stop before crossing.

Next on the TO DO LIST: Christmas!

Miami, FL 
Entering Government Cut into Miami.
Cranes. Large ones.
Does this ship look large?
That's the same ship with Jessie Marie in front of it. LARGE.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Stuart, FL 27º11.826N | 80º15.682W

In general, I believe any day that starts hunched over the toilet is not gonna be a good one.

Our plan for this day was to make our final, short trek down the Intracoastal Waterway to Lake Worth where we plan to make a hop down to Miami outside in the ocean. The ICW between Stuart and Lake Worth is punctuated by ten bridges that either open on demand or are on alternating scheduled openings, some on the half hours, some on quarters, so we knew there could be a lot of fits and starts.

All we wanted was to get the ICW behind us, once and for all. Our last rite of passage.

Not so easy.

After a crappy few hours unstopping the toilet, we left the marina and ran smack into a grumpy bridge tender, who wouldn't answer to the bridge name we had successfully called the previous day. Busting my chops already?

Then about three miles past the bridge a man hailed us on the VHF. When I answered he went on a four-minute yelling screed -- on Channel 16 for everyone to hear -- about how we had waked him on his motoryacht as we passed his marina. ("Waked" means going fast enough to create a wave behind your boat, called a wake, which can cause damage.)

It's hard not to laugh at the possibility of us creating a damaging wake along the ICW where boats constantly fly through wreaking havoc with their wakes, especially since we can create a larger wake with our dinghy than we can with the boat.

Deep breath. Onward. The Coast Guard then made an announcement about a problem with the bridge we were approaching. Now, I don't know how the Coast Guard selects who will make their radio announcements, but it seems to be the same selection process used to hire McDonald's drive-through window employees. What?!?!?!? What did they say?!?!?

So, I start hailing the bridge to find out what horrors we might be approaching, hoping we were not going to be turned back.

I hailed "Jupiter Bridge" and hailed again. And hailed and hailed. Finally a dispassionate voice come on saying, "Are you hailing the Jupiter 707 Bridge?"

"Yes." Nothing. "Jupiter 707 Bridge, this is Cara Mia."

"Bridge here."

"Can I have an opening!?!?!"

Sheesh. Second chops-busting of the day from a bridge tender. He didn't even respond when I thanked him.

So, after passing through Mr. Grumpy II's bridge our next peril loomed up about 50 yards ahead: a dredger right in our path at a turn where a heavy current was running. It was unclear how to pass them, and they too did not answer hails on the radio. We guessed. We guessed right.

As we passed the dredger I hailed the next bridge about 100 yards ahead, only to be advised by Mr. Nice bridge tender that he was happy to have us, but his bridge only opened on one side. At least he was nice about it.

We then entered the group of bridges that opened on a timed basis. The first one acknowledged us and two other boats traveling with us, and said that the opening was imminent. We waited and waited, idled, reversed, pivoted, waited. Finally the horn sounded. We waited. The bridge started moving and so did we. But wait! Have you ever seen a bridge open that slowly? We idled and reversed and pivoted again until we could safely lurch through hugging the port side. Whew.

At the next bridge, we were second in line behind a sailboat, and the tender told us this was another malfunctioning, half opening bridge. At this point it was hard not to see our bridge as half closed.

With the same sailboat in front of us we motored toward yet another timed bridge as a large sportfishing yacht pulled between us. At the same time I could hear a sportfisher approaching from the opposite direction asking if he could fit under the bridge with "23-foot outriggers." He decided to wait for the opening.

As we were all idling, pivoting, reversing, Chip said, "Is that a flashing light on top of that boat?"

We took a look with the binoculars and could see that the boat waiting on the opposite side of the bridge had his big-ass Furuno radar spinning -- in the ICW. There is NO reason to have radar on in the ICW on a clear, sunny day. None. Laughable.

So, once the bridge opened, I could see the sailboat start forward, because everyone on our side had the right of way since we were traveling with the current. Just as we started moving, I looked ahead to see the sailboat turned sideways just on our side of the bridge.

The sportfisher with his outriggers and spinning radar was barreling on through the bridge opening, right of way or no.

The bridge tender came on the VHF: "Sir, you need to take a boating right of way class."

Someone else chimed in after him: "And you can turn off that radar too!"

The very last bridge held only minor thrills as it was around a sharp turn with swift side current and heavy traffic, but we made it. Triumphant. Goodbye ICW.

We anchored near our friends on Jessie Marie at the mouth of Lake Worth Inlet, poised for an easy escape. I checked my email to find an insurance claim had been filed against us for waking the large motor yacht.

Determined to pull out a good day, we had our friends over for home-cooked pizza, wine and laughs, then set the alarm for 2 a.m. to watch the lunar eclipse. Beautiful.

Thanks, Gio!     Photo credit: Giovanni Calabro
Lake Worth, FL 26º45.935N | 80º02.601W

I didn't see any peanuts, but they got the shack part right.
Palm Beach across the water.

Monday, December 20, 2010


Vero Beach, FL 27º39.389N | 80º22.256W

Bridge south of Vero Beach mooring field.
We broke the spell of Vero and headed for Stuart today, a short hop on the way to Lake Worth in Palm Beach, which is where we're headed tomorrow. This leg was so uneventful, I'll take advantage of this opportunity to mention what we've been doing.

Number one: FREEZING. For several nights in a row the temps dropped down into the 20s. I don't know if you ever lived on a boat in the freezing cold, but it's, um, less than comfortable. We bought a small propane heater that runs off of those little camping canisters, and I loved that until I tripped on it and burned my leg. :-| Despite that, it really helps take the edge off the cold.

I didn't know that the cold weather would turn the inside of the boat into a rain forest.

We could watch the drops forming above our heads in the v-berth, and more than once we've had our own version of water torture as the drops fell on us in the night.

According to wikipedia, "the condensing molecules suffer from reduced degrees of freedom and ranges of motion, their prior kinetic energy must be transferred to an absorbing colder entity." The cold certainly reduced our degrees of freedom and ranges of motion! We transferred our energies to Publix and the mall. It's impossible to sit on the boat in the cold all day, so we rode the free bus to town and hung out like hapless teenagers, complete with backpacks.

Number two: Chores. All things pass, and we had a few warmer days to get chores done.

Rig tuning tool.
Tuning the rig had been on our TO DO list since we left home, and this week we finally got to it. The vertical cables that hold the mast in place have to be tensioned appropriately to hold the mast straight and in place.

The tensioner tells you how you're doing.

So does the audience.

We're spending the night at a mooring in Stuart, poised to head out tomorrow to Lake Worth. As soon as the weather cooperates, we hope to make an outside passage -- in the ocean, finally -- to Miami. Stay tuned.

Stuart, FL 27º11.826N | 80º15.682W

Plugging along.
Does the mast look straight?
Reward for chores accomplished.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Vero Beach, FL 27º39.389N | 80º22.256W

Bridge south of Vero Beach mooring field.   ©2010 Tammy Kennon
At the end of my cruising days, I expect to return with a bilge full of memories, captivating moments from my floating life. Tonight will be one of them.

First, I must preface this story with a bit of Florida law. Bear with me here.

Most of us cruisers don't have navigation lights on our dinghies, but as we all approached the Florida state line, we began hearing chatter about a Florida law requiring at least one light that can be seen from "all around" and over the heads of the passengers when motoring at night.

The conformers among us bought tall $35 lights from West Marine and officially attached them to our dinghies.

Other (most) cruisers being free spirits, crafty and cheap anarchists have figured all sorts of workarounds. One friend sports two head lamps and turns his head a lot. We know several who jury rigged a PVC pipe to the back of their dinghy and stuck a $4.99 solar light from Kmart in it.

Those of us who are even less inclined to conform for a quick passage through Florida use the ultimate cheap workaround: a $4.99 solar light held overhead by a human.

Tonight we held a reunion of the Thanksgiving kids' table from St. Mary's: Dale & Karen from Jessie Marie and Håkan & Anna from Unicorn. We spoke fondly of the fourth couple Barney & Diane on Sea Gal, who have already crossed to the Bahamas.

Håkan and Anna on the way to Happy Hour.
The six of us gathered for Happy Hour on the other side of the bridge from the Vero Beach mooring field. Under that highway bridge, jutting out about 50 yards, there is a low pedestrian bridge that you have to go around in your dinghy to get to the restaurant. Or do you? The pedestrian bridge has about two feet of clearance underneath. A typical inflatable dinghy stands a little less than two feet above the water -- without passengers sticking up.

As we were leaving the restaurant, Dale says, "Under the bridge, women driving!"

Nova Scotians Dale & Karen
Dale had assured us all that if we dove in the bottom of our dinghies, we could just fit under the bridge, cutting off, not our heads, but the long trip around the low bridge. There are some people in this world that inspire trust, and Dale is one of them. He is a SCUBA diver, a skydiver and a retired Canadian sailor who served in Afghanistan dismantling IEDs -- specializing in underwater explosive devices down to 300 feet. Yeah, he survived all that, so surely he would not lead us to our death under a low-slung, concrete bridge.

Off we went, six people diving at the last minute into the bottom of three dinghies, buzzing toward the bridge.

Our little dinghy parade emerged unscathed, with three women at the helm, motoring through blackness pierced only by three solar lights held high, like so many giggling Statues of Liberty.

Vero Beach, FL 27º39.389N | 80º22.256W

What's Håkan worried about?
That I might publish this dog biscuit photo from Thanksgiving?