Saturday, March 31, 2012


Miami, FL 25º40.386N | 80º9.79W

The three of us shook off our barnacles today, Cara Mia with a little help from Chip. We all performed with more agility.

But, remember that plan to leave in the wee hours and sail to Ft. Lauderdale? Well, barnacles are a good example of why sail plans are tentative. We knew the wind would be dying out today, requiring us to motor some. No way we wanted to do that with all those passengers slogging down the prop. So, with a later start, we couldn't make it to Fort Lauderdale.

Once clean, we sailed away from Rodriguez, Miami-bound, onto smooth water with a beautiful 15-knot breeze on our beam. That lasted about 90 minutes. Then it clocked behind us and dropped to 7-10.

Ah, well, we made good time motorsailing, drawing any power we could from the breeze, enjoying the beautiful turquoise water.

As we approached Miami, things got interesting in an uncomfortable way. The wind was behind us and light. A big swell started rolling in with the tide, rocking us around. I was resigned to rock and roll the last 15 miles, but Chip, who knows more about waves than I do, decided to outsmart them. He got us on a tack where we could ride them and keep the jib full. For my part, I used jib skills learned on the overnight to Charleston last fall, reefing the jib in light wind and giving it slack. For some reason, this helps it stay full. We rode the jib and the swell into Biscayne Bay just as this approached on the horizon:

The huge Miami skyline is somewhere in that dark cloud. It was gusting in the high teens as the squall was barreling right at us. We were hoofing it to an anchorage, when unexpectedly, the storm just stopped.

A happy surprise. We anchored without even a raindrop just outside No Name Harbor.

Such drama in the sky.

Our little salt farm.

Friday, March 30, 2012


Rodriguez Key, FL 24º03.523N | 80º27.254W

Dropping anchor west of Boot Key.
We left the mooring in Boot Key Harbor yesterday midafternoon to fuel up, fill the water tank, and then anchor off the west end of Boot Key for an easy takeoff this morning. All good.

As we approached the dock at Burdine's Marina, it was clear we were with wind and current. Bad. (Lesson learned on several occasions: Don't do it.) So we opted to turn around. Bad. Actually the decision was good. The spot was bad.

The current funnels right at the marina, and as soon as we were broadside, the wind and current started carrying us right toward this:

Chip did a masterful job of keeping us from hitting anything, even though we tried to hit a lot of things. At one point, our bow inched out just missing that schooner bowsprit.

I was making my way around the deck, ready to fend off anything that came my way, but I never had to push off.

If you look really, really close, like I did, you'll see that the very tip of that bowsprit has a red star on it. From the bow, I gave it a little squeeze -- without even reaching very far. Yep, that close. YIKES.

So, we never did get turned around there. We went all the way down to the end of the channel and came all the way back, pulled up to the dock pretty as you please, against wind and current. Good.

The fuel was expensive. They charged us for water. We took our 'free' ice, but it made the refrigerator unit freak out (still not sure why), so we turned it off for the night and now have an enormous glob of ice in there. Bad juju on that stop.

We anchored mostly uneventfully, although not restfully, and left early. Cara Mia felt like a slow-moving walrus. The engine, what little we used it, was sluggish.

The water was pleasantly smooth with 2-3 foot waves, wind was decent, 14-18 knots, more than predicted (imagine that, she says sarcastically). In this case, a misprediction worked in our favor!

This boat sails much better with minimal heel, so we put a reef in (shortened the mainsail) about midday. It was blowing just short of where we could point, so we had to tack south, backtracking a little, every 5 miles or so. Cara Mia did great. Her crew was tired, fumbling around, tripping, oversteering on tacks (me), never satisfied with sail trim (Chip). Once a jib sheet (rope) caught a boat hook, and I had to stop mid-tack while Chip went forward to retrieve it, jib lines flying all around his head. The dinghy slowly deflated as the day got cooler, loosening the straps and moving about.

It took us just over 11 hours to go 45 nautical miles, slow enough to cause a murderous road rage for some, a slow sail with no engine to us.

Rodriguez Key, home for the night.
We are anchored in Rodriguez Key on clear, placid water. We lowered the dinghy to inflate it, and, while we were at it, have a look at the prop.

No wonder we had such a hard time turning around in wind and current! Chip will be up first light to scrape Boot Key stowaways off the prop for there will certainly be some motoring tomorrow if the wind prediction is right. Ha.

Pre-reefing. Hot dogs anyone?
Our chichi Rodriguez neighborhood. Anchored next to a Trumpey (I think).

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Marathon, FL 24º42.366N | 81º5.669W

It's time to head north just as the wind is laying down in the Keys, making for perfect snorkeling conditions. Sigh. Ah, well, Key West and the Dry Tortugas must wait for another voyage.

Money beckons, so we're off to Fort Lauderdale where Chip will be doing his wine thing.

A month of howling wind has kept me on task with my writing pursuits, where I have made some real strides with some freelance editing, a potential magazine column (more on that later) and continued progress on my book and book proposal.

We plan to anchor west of Boot Key (Marathon) tonight and head out at first light, destination: Rodriguez Key. Since we came south on the 'inside' (the shallow water between the Keys and the mainland), we're sailing 'outside' up Hawk Channel on the ocean side. The plan as it stands will be to raise anchor in the wee hours and sail into Fort Lauderdale Saturday afternoon with a boost from the Gulf Stream and the last wisps of wind for a few days.

We'll probably be out of Internet range until Saturday, so stay tuned for how those plans played out. There are a lot of options along the way.

It will be great fun to get some wind in the sails and water moving under the keel before it's back to work in Fort Lauderdale.

BLOG FRIENDS: We are looking for a place to keep Cara Mia for the two+ months we'll be in Fort Lauderdale. So far, the most economical options we've found are anchoring in Lake Sylvia or picking up a city mooring ball. If you have contacts or know of a private slip we might rent, please use our contact form to let us know. Thank you!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Just created and will be updating a Resource Page with some of the links we use. I made it for us, but you might find it useful as well. The link, for now, will be in the sidebar, on the bottom left under our Blog Log -- also recently updated.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Marathon, FL 24º42.366N | 81º5.669W


It's work time again. Time to talk about the next exercise in Getting the Love You Want.

This one is called Parent-Child Dialogue and is a role-playing exercise. Your spouse pretends they are your parent, and you talk to them about childhood wounds and frustrations.

I have to admit, we both found this a little maudlin, so we did it our own way. Instead of role-playing, we just took turns talking about what we learned by doing the earlier childhood frustrations exercise.

While neither of us had any major blockbusters to divulge, it was interesting to find that, even though we came from vastly different households, our frustrations were similar. Could we be kindred spirits in that regard too?

Well, in case you haven't been reading this, we're going through these exercises, because we haven't been feeling all that kindred. As reported before, we started back in December and fought about the only exercise we had to do together to this point, that would be Exercise #1. We were able to maintain our air of tension through this exercise as well, trying to be kind and empathetic through gritted teeth.

The upcoming lessons will slowly move from individual work to the meatier stuff, a perfect crescendo of pressure and anxiety building. The book warns that there will be blow-ups and backsliding, repeating old patterns, you know, general mayhem. Something to look forward to.

I know there are at least 12 couples who are working with us, or 'with us', and if you want to interject privately or publicly about your progress or lack of it, please do. We'd love to hear from you.

Don't lose faith. Chip and I are on Exercise #13 and have had tremendous breakthroughs. The communication tools coming up in Exercise #8 are life-changing on their own.

March on!

Here is the book in our store (you pay the same price, Amazon gives us a paltry percentage):
Getting the Love You Want -- paperback
Getting the Love You Want -- Kindle edition

HAPPY WHAT? -- how this started, my original confession on Valentine's Day
Exercise #1 Don't forget to read how awesome you are, even if you don't feel it yet.
Exercise #2 & #3

Exercise #4

Monday, March 26, 2012


Marathon, FL 24º42.366N | 81º5.669W

A marine refrigerator offers an unwelcome bit of time travel back to the days of defrosting the freezer, drudgery nearly forgotten in our culture. Thank goodness.

I've tried all the various theories for speeding up defrosting, including a blow dryer, pans of steamy water, salt, saltwater, finally falling back on the hardest but most effective: patience. It was always a 12-24 hour ordeal.

So, last time when I had my head down in the freezer complaining loudly, Chip says, "Just put a candle in there."

And would you believe, it defrosted in about two hours, not even long enough for the refrigerator compartment to warm up much.



Brilliant! Thanks, Chip.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Marathon, FL 24º42.366N | 81º5.669W

Some people really know how to leave a mark. In Florida his name is Flagler. I wrote about him when we were in St. Augustine, but all along the state Henry Flagler's name keeps coming up. Pretty amazing for a guy who died almost 100 years ago.

One of his last undertakings was a fanciful one: constructing a railway to Key West.

The Keys: That strip of islands sprouting off the southern tip of Florida.
The Keys, a coral archipelago, or a string of unconnected islands, are 127 miles long, and Flagler decided to build railroad bridges across open ocean between the islands, the longest one seven miles. Even today that sounds like a bad idea. Skeptics dubbed it Flagler's Folly, but he did it, making the first run himself in 1912.

That longest stretch, now known as Seven Mile Bridge, has been replaced by a modern expanse, but most of Flagler's version still stands. Part of it has been removed to allow people like us to pass through on sailboats.

And 2.2 miles of it, from the western edge of Boot Key to Pigeon Key is open to pedestrian and bicycle traffic, so Chip, Karen (Jessie Marie) and I rode our bikes out over the ocean to have a look.

Pigeon Key where railroad workers were housed.
Their metal rusted too, but 100 years? Not bad.
Looking east toward Boot Key.
The railroad to Key West was never financially viable but ran until 1935 when a hurricane came barreling through, like they do, and took part of it down near Islamorada, east of Boot Key. Many of the bridges and their underpinnings were used to build the Overseas Highway, opened in 1938, that allows you to drive your car to Key West.

Friday, March 23, 2012


Marathon, FL 24º42.366N | 81º5.669W

Whoever says they're "feeling blue"
is not speaking of this shade.
Floating in this sea of color
it is impossible to feel sad.  -- ploddingINparadise, march 26, 2011

This flashback from a year ago is called "Brought to You by the Color Blue," and you might notice it is linked in the left sidebar as our second most popular post. I don't know why. It is just my ramblings about blue.

There doesn't seem to be any consensus (found online) about the etymology of the term 'blue' being used to mean sad. Its usage dates back to the 14th century, so it's not a new thought. Living in the middle of blue, I think it should come to mean 'happy,' but nobody asked me -- unless perhaps it's the etymologists who are clicking on this page?

FLASHBACK:  Saturday, March 26, 2011


Thompson Bay, Long Island, Bahamas 23º16.7N | 75º6.9W

Crossing the shallow bank from Georgetown to Long Island.

Blue on blue
shade upon shade of
blue water
blue sky
interrupted only by
blots of white cloud,
strips of white sand.

Water the color of Merlin's eyes 
or a mermaid's tail.
On days like these,
I think the sky should 

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Marathon, FL 24º42.366N | 81º5.669W

Team Dogfish Head
The first chapter of the book I'm writing about cruising is titled, "I Know Squat." Even it were just a list of the things I now know that I didn't know, it would be a book on its own. For example, when I started out cruising, I thought it would be a solitary undertaking, you know, me and Chip wandering about on our own. If you've been reading along since the beginning of this blog, you know this is almost laughably wrong. We were not 48 hours into cruising before we started making new friends on the water, friends that have wandered in and out of our lives for the last year and half. (Speaking of them, I recently updated the Blog Log of our new waterborne friends.)

I'm so happy to be wrong.

We met Dale and Karen on Jessie Marie only two weeks after leaving home, and they have been all over this blog since then, our constant fellow adventurers for more than a year when we parted waves in early January. As I mentioned last week, they totally surprised us by 'popping in' from Cuba.

We're cramming in good times with them before Cara Mia points north and Jessie Marie heads back out (unless we can entice them to come with us). Ideally, all our sail plans will bring us back together somewhere in the Caribbean next year.

The boats are slow and the Caribbean is big, but so far Jessie Marie and Cara Mia have proven quite capable of showing up in the same harbor!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Marathon, FL 24º42.366N | 81º5.669W

When you throw yourself into something new, like sailing full time, for instance, you never know how it will turn out. Will you love it or hate it? Is it what you thought it would be? The number one question we fielded about our plans was: What if you don't like it? 

When we sold the wine shop in 2010, we put away an untouchable nest egg and, with the rest, we gave ourselves a gift for fulfilling our 5-year plan: one year of cruising without worrying about income.

And what a year it was. Simply fabulous. We learned enough to fill a book (more on that later) including, most importantly, that this life fits us like a wetsuit (and it's just as hard to get on).

So we've paused for a few months to start some new business ventures to finance our new wetsuit, I mean, life.

Chip is channeling 30 years of experience in the wine business in two directions, one of them you can read about on his website:

He has some wine gigs planned in southern Florida in April and May, so we'll be floating around in these lovely environs until June.

For my part, I have my nose in a computer 6+ hours a day writing two (!) books about cruising as well as some freelance writing and editing.

The plan, always to be taken with a grain of sea salt, is to keep Cara Mia in Brunswick, Georgia, during hurricane season, June through October. You'll just have to stay tuned to find out what great things we'll be doing during that time!

After hurricane season, we'll be poised in southern Georgia to set off on a new aquatic adventure. Hope you'll be coming along....

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Marathon, FL 24º42.366N | 81º5.669W

Our poor dinghy, also known as Your Mom, has been neglected. We inherited Your Mom (not named that) when we bought Cara Mia two years ago. She was already in borderline condition, but now, well, we've let her get just plain bedraggled. For every bit of TLC we give Cara Mia, we totally ignore the dinghy.

In some ways, I'm okay with that. Dinghy theft is always a worry, and I figure if our dinghy looks a mess, thieves will choose another one. However, I'm guessing few thieves would be interested in stealing a dinghy with a 3.5 HP motor. Even if they did, we could swim to catch them.

So, Your Mom is needing some attention and her repair list is long. The marina here has a crane to haul small boats, and they allow you to work on them onshore. A real luxury.

Your Mom's day is coming soon and the partial list includes:

--Clean the hypalon (after figuring out how to do so)
--Paint the hypalon
--Patch rough spots
--Replace u-bolts (three of them used to hoist and secure)
--Replace painter (the tether)
--Clean the floor and paint if necessary
--Clean bottom and put on coat of bottom paint
--Repair straps for securing oars
--Replace registration numbers
--Fix locking cooler
--Make engine strap
--Get and install throttle extension
--Put grate on floor

Monday, March 19, 2012


Marathon, FL 24º42.366N | 81º5.669W

[working hearts]

Let's get back to work -- on our relationship, that is.

It all started on Valentine's Day: HAPPY WHAT? Although we got this book back in December and have been diligently working since then. (See below for links to my posts about the previous exercises.)

Exercise #4 is called Childhood Frustrations, and, fortunately, it is an exercise you can do on your own (no fighting potential). You start by making a column on the left side of a page listing your greatest frustrations when you were a child, such as not enough attention from your father or mother being overly protective. Then on the right you list how you responded to those frustrations.

For example, one of my frustrations as a child in a small house with five other people was feeling crowded and not having enough personal space. My response was to go off into my own imagination and play alone.

Your responses in the right column are labeled E.

Apparently we will use this information later, I'm guessing about repeating patterns...

Do you find it interesting that someone who grew up feeling crowded and not having enough space would move onto a small boat with another person, she says as she plays alone on her computer.

At least the backyard is big.

Getting the Love You Want
Exercise #1 Don't forget to read your list this week.
Exercise #2 & #3

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Marathon, FL 24º42.366N | 81º5.669W

Happy St. Patrick's Day! To celebrate, we're tilting at a list of boat chores to see how many we can get done before green beer drinking time.

For my own viewing pleasure, here's a look back at a beautiful mega-chore from last month:



Friday, March 16, 2012


Marathon, FL 24º42.366N | 81º5.669W

I enjoy looking back in my blog to see where we were a year or two back. Blogging is a valuable journal. I don't even remember this happening, and I'm so glad it's recorded.

It offers some encouragement for those hours and hours (and hours) spent working on your boat. This was written two years ago when we had been painstakingly preparing our last boat, Isabella, to be sold and had just put Cara Mia, then named Good Company, under contract.

FLASHBACKSaturday, March 6, 2010


Sailboat maintenance is a life of quiet desperation. Actually, it's not all that quiet. There's a lot of cursing. It's day after day of tedious, solitary work that doesn't just seem endless. It is endless.

The only fuel that can sustain that kind of work is altruism itself. You have to do it for the greater good, because there just ain't no glory in it.

Sure you hope your work will pay off when you sell the boat, but your deepest hope is that all that boat karma is gonna come back around in your next boat -- and not just in the next life!

In a typical twist of our ever-strange lives, in January both of our boats got surveyed on the same day:Isabella, the boat we were selling, and Good Company, the boat we were buying.

The surveyor told Chip that Isabella was in awesome condition, especially for being 30 years old. He fawned over the teak and complimented the engine.

While this was amazingly gratifying and humbling, it was what we heard from Good Company's surveyor that brought it all around.

"That's a clean boat, obviously well taken care of." He told us it was in remarkable condition and the fix list would be very short.

A beautiful set of karmic parentheses.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Marathon, FL 24º42.366N | 81º5.669W

Sometimes you have to wonder why they charge so much for products that say "marine." Mostly you wonder this when sitting at the dock.

It doesn't take long in a "marine environment" to see how seaworthy non-marine products are.

I bought an outdoor latch at a hardware store in Miami last year before heading to the Bahamas. Now it looks like this:

It was in the dinghy, out in the wide open, but, one year? Wow.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Marathon, FL 24º42.366N | 81º5.669W

Chip organized a splicing class this week under the tiki hut -- the hub of all good things here at the Marathon City Marina. He announced it on the morning radio call-in on the VHF and gathered two teachers and eleven students.

And now, I have a new snubber!

Beautifully splicing

What's a snubber, you ask? When you attach the hook onto the chain, cleat off the other end on the boat and then let out some more chain, it takes some of the strain off the anchor chain and the windlass (the electric winch that feeds the chain). I'll take a picture of it next time we're anchored...

Our old one was too short and had lost all its stretch. See for yourself.

Let's go anchor somewhere! Yahoo!!!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Marathon, FL 24º42.366N | 81º5.669W

No, that's not a gnome trying to break into the boat. It's called a Tru Plug.

It used to be that we all carried around an array of various sized wooden plugs like this:

(And, obviously, I still do.) The plugs are intended for use should an aptly named 'through hull' fail. Through hulls are intentional holes in the hull for either discharging something or pulling in sea water. If one ever comes out or leaks, you shove one of those wooden plugs in there to, you know, keep the boat from sinking.

But somebody invented that Tru Plug/gnome, which is flexible and fits any size hole. NOTE TO SELF: don't make a hole bigger than the Tru Plug.

Fortunately, we've never used it for its intended purpose. Instead, when it's chilly out, we use it to plug our vents to stop the wind from blowing in.

I'm pretty sure that Tru Plugs got their idea from here:

A more economical option. So, since we have more than one vent, no playing football when it's cold and windy!

In another unintended use, we have found that the coffee pot handle can keep the pot from flying about underway.

Somebody did tell us that necessity is invention's mom.

Monday, March 12, 2012


Marathon, FL 24º42.366N | 81º5.669W

A 'conch' (as Keys locals are called).
Not Conchs yet.
Seen in the ladies' room at a local bar.

Get it? Ugh.

Exhibit from the American History Museum.

And finally, as we wait out another blow this week, here's a video showing why you should never anchor near a shallow draft boat. Notice the other boats steadily pointing into the wind while he's flying all over the place.

A 'sailing' powerboat in a 20+ knot blow.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


Marathon, FL 24º42.366N | 81º5.669W

photo by Chip
We woke this morning, planning to run a few errands and then drop in on the Marathon Seafood Festival. Ho hum.

Then the phone beeped with a new text message.

WHAT?!?!?!? Karen and Dale can't text us from Cuba.

Jessie Marie was anchoring about 100 yards west of us in Boot Key Harbor, fresh in from Cuba. Really? No, really????

The best surprise ever.

Sorry this is blurry. I think the camera was crying...

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Marathon, FL 24º42.366N | 81º5.669W
"Thanks in part to you two, we are realizing our long held dream of moving to Arizona this year. We decided to be brave and just do it, methodically making trips and looking at properties in earnest for the past year. Everything is falling right into place at the right time. I was one of your last customers at the wine store when you sold it. Took the card for the blog and have been a faithful reader ever since. Reading the blog really helped cement that we were doing the right thing. So, I thank you." -- A Facebook reader

One of my readers posted this on Facebook, and, first of all, I'm honored. We did not set out to inspire anyone. If that has happened it is a delightful byproduct of following our own dream.

But what it really got me thinking about is what dreams are made of, which sounds like a corny song from the '60s, I know. In this case, though, isn't it interesting that I, a girl from the desert moving onto a sailboat, have inspired someone to move from the Outer Banks near the ocean to Arizona in the desert. The content of the dream is not important. All that matters is that you have one.

I often ask people about their plans after the kids are grown or when they retire. Most often I'm answered with a blank look, as if I just asked them the Gross National Product of Zambia. There are people who haven't thought to dream. It hasn't occurred to them that there's another life possibility out there, that they might just pick up and do, well, something else.

And what difference does it make in your life to have a dream? I can tell you from experience that our plan to go sailing, even 10 years back, was a great stencil for drawing in almost everything else in our lives. We drew a smaller house than most, almost boatlike, and were better stewards of it, knowing our ultimate goal was to sell it for cruising cash. We drew a better business than we would have otherwise, making more prudent decisions that, we hoped, would make it more marketable when the time came to sell. We downsized, stopped buying useless things, drove older cars, sat on worn couches. I could go on here, but you get the idea. Our dream was the outline that kept us marching toward our goal for 10 years.

Try it. Get one.

Dream a dream. A big one or a little one.

Put a flag out there.

Start marching.

You'll be so glad you did -- and you'll be there sooner than you think.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


Marathon, FL 24º42.366N | 81º5.669W

UPDATE: March 18
The marina has included tile for the showers in its new budget still waiting approval by the City Council. Perhaps there will be improvements soon! Somebody send me new photos when that happens....

In Boot Key Harbor, cruisers host a morning gab session on the VHF called The Net. Announcements, introductions, goodbyes, buy/sell/trade, trivia. It's lighthearted and fun. Usually.

This week there's been some snarking about the condition of the bathrooms at the city marina -- the bathrooms associated with the moorings here. Some think they are hideous and unsanitary. Others say they've "seen worse."

I'd love to start a website that have photos of marina bathrooms and showers. It would be great to know in making selections. Here's the first round. You make the call.

Marathon City Marina

These photos make it look slightly worse than the reality. There is always plenty of hot water, and the fixtures, and shower curtains are relatively clean.

But I wonder where those who've seen worse did their time? Would you shower here?