Monday, April 30, 2012


Fort Lauderdale, FL

This Catana catamaran called Mistral pulled in next to us at Lauderdale Marine Center. I caught the docklines for them and started chatting.

This was the first time the new owners had docked the boat having just purchased it. The husband and wife from Australia have been cruising for 17 years, most of it on a steel boat he made himself and later sold. He told us when they surveyed his 10+year old steel hull, they could not find any rust. Truly remarkable.

After the steel sailboat, they bought a canal boat in Europe and tooled around there until he got the ocean bug again. They sold the canal boat and have now switched from monohulls to this cat, which the wife reports has "a lot of things not working for a 10-year-old boat," including a broken $7K daggerboard snapped by the guy delivering the boat from South America.

They plan to spend a week doing some chores and are then setting off to spend next season in the Caribbean and then through the Panama Canal and back to Oz, as he calls Australia, as if they are taking a stroll to grandma's house.

He wants to get in some more ocean sailing before he's too old.

They flew in a few weeks ago with backpacks.

Bought a boat.

And off they go.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


Fort Lauderdale, FL

The other day during our exciting transit of the East River, I was grumbling about not feeling all that welcome in Fort Lauderdale.

That evening at our anchorage I looked out to see a small yellow powerboat anchored just off our port side and shouted a simple 'hello.' That's how it all started.

Yesterday morning, we heard a tap-tap on the hull. Meet Bob of the yellow powerboat.

Meet Bob.
He had come bearing a sailboater's frankincense and myrrh: a 40-pound bag of ice (huge) and a 12-pack of beer. Really? Geez, thanks, Bob. Come over later.

Thus we became part of the family of Bob, his wife Etel, John, Lily, Paul and Sherry plus two dogs in bags. They rafted up to Cara Mia, this time bearing a whole case of beer and plate after plate of food, which they ate very little of and then insisted that we keep. Enough food and beer to send our marine refrigerator into a 24-hour recovery frenzy.

Then they insisted that we come aboard for a joy ride around the very busy weekend waterways of Fort Lauderdale, stopping at a bar where we met Gabriele from Venezuela, who drew us a cocktail napkin map of the best sailing spots in his country and subsequently bought us a round of drinks.

Etel and her doggies visit Cara Mia.
I had a chat with Etel once we were rafted up again to Cara Mia. Her family fled political unrest in Nicaragua when she was young, taking refuge in Honduras. Her parents sent her to Guatemala alone to attend a girls' boarding school, then to Mexico for college. In her twenties, she came to the U.S. alone seeking political asylum. She lived for two years in San Diego before moving to Fort Lauderdale, again on her own, where she met Bob. Her five siblings still live in Honduras, and her parents have been able to return to Nicaragua and reclaim their property.

Etel is a sweet and inspiring reminder of how very much we take for granted.

Bob, the self-appointed aquatic emissary of Fort Lauderdale, insisted that we must come visit his home, was offended that we might not spend the night (or two) and promises to come hang out again today with Venezuelan Gabriele in tow.

He pressed me for a grocery list, so he could bring us a 'few things,' but I refused (several times).

After we waved goodbye and they motored off, I said, "What's in this bag?" It was a plate of fresh calamari.

Welcome to Fort Lauderdale!

Saturday, April 28, 2012


Fort Lauderdale, FL

The New River in Fort Lauderdale meanders way inland. It's a beautiful trek amongst gorgeous houses with amazing boats tied up behind them.

It's a pretty narrow creek in some spots, even without being lined by docked boats on each side, and it's heavily trafficked by large boats.
The Jungle Queen, she moves fast.
Add to this a swift current and drawbridges, you have a pretty entertaining flume ride.

Sometimes the bridges open right away when you hail them; sometimes they make you wait. When we were headed up the creek, the railroad bridge which is 'usually open' was, in fact, closed, which required a quick tie-up to the water taxi dock to wait for the opening.

We spent three nights at Lauderdale Marine Center (a great spot and only 80 cents a foot) but decided to head back downstream for the weekend. We left the marina slip yesterday at slack tide, removing at least one factor from the excitement. However, slack tide on the New River = Rush hour. Turns out everyone that needed to move a big boat was underway at the same time.

The big boats kept warning of their locations on the VHF. Unfortunately for us, they were using references only locals would know.

"This is motoryacht Lukousaurus moving upriver near the girls school. Standing by on 09 for concerned traffic."

Where the heck is the girls school?

We cleared the first bridge before becoming concerned traffic. As we came to one of the narrowest parts, we saw towboats pulling a large yacht toward us. We crept as close as we could to the starboard side of the creek, right up against the pilings, lines at the ready in case we had to tie up. I ran for the camera.

I snapped this picture just after the guy on the cell phone waved at me. Once the boat passed, my jaw dropped, and Chip, whose sole focus had been keeping us off the pilings, (not me taking pictures) started shouting, "GET THE CAMERA!"

Blue Guitar is Eric Clapton's motoryacht, a nice, classy contrast to Spielberg's boat.

I went dashing back to the cockpit, frantically zooming in to see who just waved to me from on deck.

Alas, it was not The Man.

About that time, apparently Lukousaurus had cleared the girls school. We came around a hairpin turn to this:

Fortunately he saw us coming and slowed down until we hugged the far side.

And then hauled ass around the turn.

William Marshall Bridge.

Gauntlet run. Safely anchored in time for a spectacular sunset.

Friday, April 27, 2012


Chip spoke to a class at Warren Wilson College in Asheville yesterday. Actually, the class was in Asheville. Chip spoke to them from the boat via Skype.

We have visited Warren Wilson College several times and both wish we could go to school there! It is a fascinating concept. As they say on their website: "You'll learn by doing, through caring and while following a personal passion. This is learning that lasts." They take a much larger approach to education than sitting in a classroom. They teach people to think, to be aware of the bigger world and deeper meaning, including a focus on sustainability and helping their students find "meaningful work." A beautiful thought.

Our 'third kid' Brett is in his final semester there and asked Chip to speak to his class about our life onboard.

The class, in Warren Wilson's business department, is Simple Living and its impact on the planet and our society.

Chip reports that the students had excellent and thoughtful questions, including what would happen if everyone went off the grid, like we've done. They asked about solar power, health, relationships, how we got started and how they could do what we do on land.

They touched on life, science, religion, music and philosophy, all of Chip's favorite subjects.

So, welcome Warren Wilson students! I hope you'll enjoy our simple trek and reading about us simply living.

If you're interested in how we arranged our lives to do this, have a look at our original blog,, the first post, called Off the Grid, was written in July 2008, two years and three months before we left the dock.

Use the little 'comments' link below the posts to talk to us and our readers. We love questions.

Fair winds!

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Fort Lauderdale, FL

The crew of British S/V Black Thorn hail from England. They love to laugh, and they name their boats after ingredients in gin, the last one Juniper. How could you not love that? Jackie and Robin proclaim themselves 'chickens' about sailing, but I don't believe them. They got their chops sailing in the challenging waters off the coast of England and made a transatlantic passage from England to Trinidad before meandering up this way. It's just as hard to believe Jackie's claim to being a hard-nosed, shoulder-pad-wearing insurance exec in London, trying to tame Robin, who is a former cow farmer with a degree from Oxford.

They are welcome to bring their jolly, country-farmhouse-owning selves aboard Cara Mia any time. It was a pleasure to share Lake Sylvia with them. They are Bahama-bound, so watch for them over there!

Black Thorn had just sailed away when I looked at Facebook:

What are the chances? With a party afoot, we yanked up the anchor and headed for a place that wouldn't require a massive dinghy ride and would give us easy access to nighttime activities.

Unfortunately the tides, currents and bridge openings were a Rubik's cube without a solution Monday. The ride had a few undesirable thrills, but we landed safely if not a little rattled at Downtown Docks, a beautiful stop and right next to:

Farmer, of Outer Banks Boarding Company and Farmdog Surf School, was on his way to Costa Rica with his Aussie friend Aaron for a week of surfing. We added a certain je ne c'est quoi to their journey by letting them sleep aboard Cara Mia. Facebook comes to life!

Our new song: Friday night people at a Monday night bar.

Could you anchor just a little closer? Might as well raft up.
Palm trees make me happy.
Dinghy musings.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Fort Lauderdale, FL

Every once in a while, I "entertain" myself by reading about all the recent disasters at sea.

"Why do you do that?" Chip asked yesterday, a fair and relevant question.

It all started when I was reading a cruiser's book, and they wrote, to paraphrase heavily, "don't let not knowing how to sail keep you from cruising. We knew dick squat, and we didn't die."

That attitude gets me all riled up. Number one, I think it's completely irresponsible to go offshore with that cavalier attitude. When you get into trouble, somebody has to risk their life to come help you. Number two, it's even more irresponsible to encourage others to do the same. Certainly, we all have to learn offshore sailing by, yes, sailing offshore. But doing that without first sailing inshore -- a lot -- is foolish.

Then a few days into stewing about that book, Island Packet posted this article and a haunting, really haunting photo of a fully intact Island Packet 380, exactly like Cara Mia, adrift, ghosting alone in the Atlantic.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Habibi's computer table.

It's Habibi day here on Cara Mia. Rahel and Marco are the nicest people we've never met. Yes, you read that right. We've never met them.

They contacted us through this blog last year when they bought an Island Packet 380, just like Cara Mia, from our same awesome broker, Michele at Gratitude in Rock Hall, Maryland. They too are young, even younger than we are. And if that's not already enough in common, Cara Mia is 'my beloved' in Italian. Habibi means 'my beloved' in Arabic (Rahel and Marco are Swiss, but they lived for several years in the Middle East).

So, we've kept in touch and compared notes on cruising and Island Packet 380s. Since we stayed in the U.S. this year, they sped way past us and are now on their way from St. Bart's to St. Kitts. We'll be trying to catch them next season!

Rahel (or was it Marco?) sent us that beautiful photo on the right yesterday when I was grousing about not having a place to work onboard. They created this little work table below the large fold-down table that you can see above it. Brilliant!

Check out Habibi's blog, which always has beautiful photos:
and Facebook page:

Thanks, Rahel and Marco, for the table idea -- and for sending traffic to this blog from yours.

Monday, April 23, 2012


Chip and I have lived together on our 38' sailboat for more than two years. It has never felt small, cramped or even snug. Shocking, really, eh?

But now that I've started working 4-8 hours a day, our boat has grown mysteriously Lilliputian.

First, there is really nowhere to sit that is ergonomically correct or acceptably comfortable for that long. Could somebody please invent a boat friendly office chair? (My posture in that photo is not as bad as you think! We were underway and heeled over.)

Second, we have three separate rooms, a salon (shown) and two bedrooms. Neither bedroom has seating, which leaves me to work in the main cabin where our whole life takes place: cooking, eating, playing music, talking on the phone, entertaining, being us. All of that is great. None of that is conducive to working.

I'll be deep in thought, tapping out some sentence that sounded fabulous, earth shattering when inside my brain, and Chip will, quite kindly, ask me if I'd like some guacamole. AAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!

Solutions being pondered. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012


It seems fitting, although quite unexpected, that my post on the fabulous Women of Freediving has gone mildly viral today on Facebook. The post, as you can see on the left, has consistently been the most popular page on my blog and is now making the rounds on Facebook after U.S. Freediver Carla Hanson put it on her page yesterday.

It is fitting, because it was just one year ago this month that freediving took my breath away. When we were in Long Island in the Bahamas, we visited Dean's Blue Hole, an enchanting and mysterious vertical cavern plummeting 660 feet. You can stand in ankle-deep water on shore and peer into the abyss.

When we arrived at Dean's, we saw a white platform floating in the center of the pool peopled by wispy figures in black wetsuits. All I could think was, "that platform is really interfering with my photos." Then the platform erupted in shouts of, "BREATHE, BREATHE, BREATHE"! I was hooked.

I had never heard of freediving. The sport, the setting, the athletes -- the whole scene mesmerized me, resulting in my article in the Sunday New York Times print edition (with a huge assist from my friend and former colleague Jeffrey Marcus).

Now, a year later, I'm interested once again in writing about these remarkable athletes and their curious sport. Even though we're in Florida now, I'm going fishing once more, always from the surface, to see what stories I can find in the abyss.

Photos by Chip Sellarole

Saturday, April 21, 2012


As we dinghied toward the ICW yesterday, we drove under the bow of a monster, megayacht. Seven Seas, it turns out is the $200 million personal vessel of director Steven Spielberg.

This 282-foot beast can be chartered for $1.3 mil -- a week.

It's difficult to capture in a photo just how extra large that boat is. Those two boats behind it in the above photo are 'normal' megayachts. Behind Seven Seas is a two-story building with a rooftop restaurant where folks were probably wishing Mr. Spielberg would at least show one of his movies on the side of the boat to compensate them for utterly obstructing their view.

When we reached the 'other side' of the ICW, we were curious to see standup paddle boarders paddling around with laundry baskets attached to their boards. We stopped to ask, what's up? They had attached nets to their paddles and were scooping litter out of the water. (Unfortunately my photos didn't come out. I'll try to catch them again.)

"Are you volunteers?" I asked.

"No, volunteering is P.R.," one woman said. "We're just doing this, because we want to."

Friday, April 20, 2012


Okay, now I'm obsessed with these nautical words and phrases that have made their way into common usage. Check these out.

Under the weather: A sailor standing watch on the weather (wind and wave) side of the bow, getting pounded by wind and spray, was the dude 'under the weather.'

Toe the line: When called to attention, sailors had to line up their toes on a seam in the deck planking.

Clean slate: The ship's watch keeper chalked speed, distance, wind, etc., on a slate. At the end of his watch, he wiped it so the next shift started with a 'clean slate.'

Pipe down: At the end of the day, the bosun pipe's the final signal for lights out and silence onboard.

Overbearing: Sailing downwind at another boat, stealing their wind.

Enough for now. Great stuff!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

NAUTICAL TERMS: Aboveboard & Footloose

Schooner on the horizon in the Keys.
Did you know these words had roots onboard? I didn't.

aboveboard |əˈbəvˌbôrd|
adjectivelegitimate, honest, and open certain transactions were not totally aboveboard.adverblegitimately, honestly, and openly the accountants acted completely aboveboard.

On a boat, anything that's on deck or in plain view is 'above board.'

footloose |ˈfoŏtˌloōs|adjectiveable to travel freely and do as one pleases due to a lack of responsibilities or commitments
Thank you, Kevin Bacon. 
On a boat, the 'foot' is the bottom of the sail, and if it is not secured, it is 'footloose,' dancing randomly in the wind, also called 'loose-footed.' 
Everybody clap!

Sunday, April 15, 2012


We parked the boat, rented a car and drove to Melbourne. Sounds easy, eh?

Well, it poured rain overnight, so our morning started with pants rolled up, standing in the dinghy bailing, bailing, bailing. Motor to the marina with our rain gear on in case it starts again. Walk to the bus stop. Bus to bus terminal. Wait for next bus. Bus to airport. Stand in line at ticket counter. Wait in car line to get out of airport. Believe it or not, we were underway by 10:00, arrived in Melbourne just after 1:00.

Our girls, Wendy, our dear friend from New Zealand, and Lily, drove from the Outer Banks to visit Wendy's sister. Couldn't let them get that close without a visit -- and lots of hugs and kisses! We've known Lily since she was minutes old. How fun to watch her grow into a little lady.

It's easy to see why people think we're sisters!

Got back to the boat just after midnight. A day very well spent.


Fort Lauderdale, FL 26º6.328N | 80º6.690W

Fort Lauderdale is a beautiful boater's haven yet not so cruiser-friendly. There are precious few anchorages, and even fewer docks where we can leave the dinghy and get on land. Our daily source of adventure is dinghying more than a mile, under bridges, down canals and across the busy ICW, to tie up behind a bar where they charge $10 to dock. Fortunately that $10 can apply to your tab at the bar/restaurant, so any trip to shore must include time for a couple of beers or a bite to eat.

To get out of our anchorage, we have to pass under low-slung bridges, made easier but less fun at low tide.

Friday we went to several happy hours in remote locations, driven by a fun Kiwi (New Zealander) that we met through cruising friends. We had a grand time right up until midnight when he dropped us off at our dinghy on his way to another party.

We're still looking for a slip to rent. Our favorite is behind this 'house.'

Yes, it's a castle, built out of coral. Adorable. 800 square feet. Beautiful slip too, but a little expensive for us. :-(

So we stay for free at anchor, ditching under bridges, drinking our dockage fees, meeting lovely sailors from all over the world.

Our first cockpit part included Alejandro, a pilot and maraca player from Venezuela (that's his stunning boat at the top), Martin, a former tugboat captain from The Netherlands, and Jackie and Robin, former Merrill Lynch execs from England.

Great adventures in Fort Lauderdale -- and we're just getting started!

Alejandro, captain of S/V Janley shown at the top of this post.
S/Y Blackthorn built from a blank hull by Robin & Jackie.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


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

Is this too close? Tight quarters on the mooring balls in Coconut Grove.
Coconut Grove released us in only nine days, a record for us. Fort Lauderdale calls -- and beautiful conditions for an offshore sail.

We attempted to outsmart the wind and tides to get a smooth trek through both inlets, 20 miles apart. With a little math, we decided to slip out Government Cut early afternoon, shooting for the Fort Lauderdale inlet at slack tide around 6.

I got my ponytail on...

...and then drove through the gauntlet of Miami traffic to the inlet, where Chip's sister Bonnie was finally at her condo to see us pass.

Bonnie looking at us:

Us looking back:

She's on the 17th floor.
And then we headed into a beautiful day of sailing with flat, calm seas and light wind from the EAST! (We were headed north/northeast.) When I daydream about sailing offshore, it's exactly like this. Unfortunately they are rare as a flattering swimsuit.

We took our time and relished every second, although I did fall down once. ? The sea was so calm, I let my guard down. I was standing in the cockpit taking this picture:

A random little wave sent the boat rolling once, and the cockpit bench just jumped up to meet me. I caught myself with my arm and wrenched my shoulder and neck. Oops. My bad. The photo kind of makes the point about how silly it was to fall on this day.

We sailed the whole way and reached Fort Lauderdale just a wee bit early, but the inlet was smoooooth. The only bridge we had to go under was a little tight for comfort, but the bridge tender was enjoying rush hour, and asked us to have a go.

Our height is 55' plus antennas.
I watched nervously as we passed under, but I always think we're going to hit, even if there's 65' of clearance.

See what I mean?
We ghosted on skinny water and anchored in beautiful Lake Sylvia.

Get to Fort Lauderdale. Done.

Our swanky new neighborhood.