Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve Morn - A Walk on the Wild Side

Christmas Eve is usually spent cleaning house in preparation for company, cooking or shopping for those things we forgot to get earlier in the week.  This year was quite different.  Our first Cruiser-In-Waiting Christmas Eve was spent in pleasant solitude, doing just what we want to do and relaxing...  We passed the morning on the foredeck watching the sunrise and the dolphin fish.  We talked about what we wanted to do today.

The Trail to the Tower
I was in the mood for a walk and since yesterday we had taken out walk on the beach, we chose to visit the boardwalk to see if we could find some birds or maybe a jackrabbit.

Bruce with his halo
The morning was gorgeous, very still and a bit of light fog on the water.  Bruce remarked that it was like being "somewhere else" and I agreed.  We always marvel that this well kept secret is usually ours to enjoy, alone with the beauty of nature.

Of course there are birds here, but there are signs everywhere of other animals as well.  Today's walk turned into a tracking expedition.  We walked along the boardwalk and tried to identify the different tracks we saw.

We are no expert on wildlife tracks but we think we know these...

These look like cloven hooves, we're thinking Reindeer!

We saw some sign of other animals.  I can't imagine what kind of canine would eat berries, but eat berries he did...  

We continued on our walk talking and watching for other signs of wildlife.  We never did see any furry critters but at times, I felt as if there were beady eyes upon us.  I hastened my step just a little bit.  

In the distance we could hear the guns of duck hunters.  I was a little nervous that we could get shot, but Bruce assured me that at this distance it wasn't possible.  We found several ponds with lots of happy little duckies paddling around enjoying our warm weather.  It was so still and quiet, the sound of their beating wings in flight overhead could not be missed. 

Its funny how we heard every flock of ducks but not these.  

We turned our toes towards home and breakfast.  Bruce remarked as we saw this sight in the ship channel, "Hey, I think that's Jesus!"  But, it turned  out to be a stand-up paddle boarder.  Hey!  You never know... it's Christmas EVE!

Merry Christmas to All

What does it take to make your dreams come true?  Once you figure out what your dream IS...  it is still just a dream until you make the decision to stop dreaming and DO IT!

That's when the hard stuff starts.  Our dream is to Cruise.  Bruce and I met while sailing with a mutual friend.  We got married in 2004 after four and a half years spent sailing together.  Our wedding backdrop was a parade of Tall Ships drifting beneath the Newport Bridge in a white-out fog in Rhode Island.  From that day we've dreamed of someday "casting off the docklines" and Cruising.

Through the years we've talked about it... made false starts towards it... but have not made the REAL commitment.  UNTIL NOW!

A friend once told us "People who go Cruising are running away from something".  Certainly blanket statements like that are often flawed.  At the time, I had nothing to run from. But now, there is a grain of "running from" in our decision to Cruise.  But more importantly... there is an element of "running to".  Time waits for no one and if we wait, we may never get our chance.  Lets face it, we aren't getting any younger... We don't want to be just another couple of wannabes.

Last November, Bruce and I had a frank discussion about it.  We either decide that it's going to happen and proceed to MAKE IT HAPPEN... or we decide once and for all, that we are never going to cruise and proceed with our life as it is.  That month, we began preparing to sell our sailboat and find our Cruising Home.  The stress of it gave me migraines... but the decision was made.

That was the beginning.  It was frustrating after that... having made the decision, there was no visible sign of it.  We began to look for ways to economize.  The first thing to go was our home phone and cable TV. Secondly we stopped eating out as much, gradually at first to now, almost never.  I stopped buying everything I see and started buying only what we need for the boat.  We stopped buying clothes for no reason and I will admit that we even started shopping at the thrift stores and garage sales to save money.  And even those shopping excursions have been cut to the bone.  Why... I've started cruising the DIY websites and am now making my own laundry soap at $.03 per load!

Fast forward to today.  Major steps have been taken, we've sold our 36 ft boat, bought our Cruising Home, and moved aboard.  We have sold a lot of our stuff and our youngest daughter has assumed the expenses of our townhouse and made it her home.  We are "Liveaboards" but I prefer "Cruisers-In-Waiting".  The difference is... we're going!

Now comes the biggest sacrifice to date.  Christmas!  I remember Christmases as a child, the excitement of running into the living room, diving under the tree and getting big eyes at the vast acres of stuff my parents provided for us.  They didn't have a lot of money, but somehow made it possible for that tree to overflow with goodies.  This set the mental bar pretty high for me and as an parent myself, I felt compelled to duplicate this for my own children.

Unfortunately for me, kids became more sophisticated in their tastes and wants... and this translated into  BIG BUCKS spent every year to provide the "awe factor" that I had as a child.  Year after year I chased that increasingly illusive moment.  Luckily, my employer provided a generous Christmas Bonus each year that fed this monster... and this year was no different.

BUT... something IS different this year.  We have a new monster to feed.  It's a sailboat named Dos Libras and she's hungry!  So, we notified everyone on our Christmas List that we are "bowing out" this year.  No gifts to give or receive.  We told our family "Take what you would have spent for us and buy yourselves something nice".  We're going Cold Turkey!  We bought no decorations, no Christmas cards (thank you and we're sorry to those who sent us cards), no stocking stuffers, no charity gifts (a biggie at my office), no Secret Santa, no little oblong shaped cards with ovals cut in them... NOTHING!

How did the former recipients of our Christmas bounty take this personal decision that we've imposed upon our loved ones?  Well, it took a bit of attitude adjustment all around... but I think they get it.  At least, there have been no wailing recriminations about selfishness or unfairness.  Our decision has been met (at least outwardly) with a show of support and maybe a little bit of relief.  (Our Christmas wish list was full of pricey boat toys)  I guess this has been a "growing up" opportunity for us all.  But that doesn't keep it from being the source of a little melancholy.  It's hard to let go of a lifelong tradition, no matter how unhealthy it really is.

So, this Christmas, Bruce and I will be enjoying the beginnings of our Dream.  We will experience solitude and maybe a small roast chicken with our favorite Granny-recipe cornbread dressing.  We will relax aboard our "hungry home" with our kitties and plan for the New Year.  This New Year will bring many more changes for us.  It will be a busy time.  It will be a time of "letting go".  There will be lots of tears and lots of joys ahead as we finally break free of the last bit of "normal" and head for our Dream.  With that,

We Wish You
Smooth Sailing
This Holiday Season
And Throughout
The New Year!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Half A Sunshine Day

We've had nothing but clouds, clouds, clouds... for weeks!  At least while I wasn't working that is.  I'm a sunshine girl and can't go to many days without some warm sunshine on my face.  I have no idea how folks up North can make it through the long winter months of dreary weather.  Finally today we had some SUN!  The winds were light and it was warm enough to wear shorts.  Oh happy day!

Bruce needs his sailing fix just as much as I need my sunshine.  Today looked like a great day to get out of the slip.  Our daughter, Brittney and her dog Leila came to Port A to hang out with us for the day.  She's a good sport about going sailing more than an avid sailor.  But she is a good hand to have aboard when we need one.

We took the boat up the Corpus Christi ship channel in nice flat water.  There was some traffic to contend with, I guess shipping doesn't stop for the holidays.  We weren't out long when our sunny day turned cooler with the advance of a line of solid cloud cover.  OH NOOOO!

Well, it was getting late anyway, so we turned back and headed to the barn.  We were accompanied by dolphin along the way.  I never tire of seeing them ride alongside our boat as if taking a look to see what we've got for them.

If they only knew about the load of fresh shrimp we had stashed down below waiting for us to slap them on a jalapeño, poke some cream cheese in and wrap them with bacon!  If they only knew!!!

Well as soon as we got the boat put away and the laundry started... (Jezabelle, as always plagued with mal-de-mer) Brittney started assembling the shrimps for grilling.

Bruce's turn came next and he fired up the grill.  They didn't take long and they were so good!  It's nice to have the Poly Anna as a neighbor.

We finished up our dinner and saw Brittney and Leila off to home.  I was sad to see her go.  We enjoy living out on the boat but miss seeing the kid every day.  Look, now I'm getting sappy... must not have had enough sunshine!  Well, there's always tomorrow and half a sunshine day is better than none!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Homemade Air Freshener Gel

Yes, those are SALSA Bowls!
It's winter here in South Texas but but the same AC unit we use to cool the boat, heats our living space as well.  This time of year we use it some days and others not.  This makes it obvious when there is a "smell" lurking somewhere in the process.  The warm/cool air begins blowing after perhaps days of sitting idle and the boat is filled with a malodorous scent of something not quite right.

Sailboats are notorious for growing mold and mildew.  Some you can get to with a cleaning cloth and others are unaccessible.  I found hope in an email touting this miraculous product that, when placed near the air intake, can eliminate the musty odor emanating from the air vents throughout the boat.

Unfortunately, that miraculous product comes at a price... about $45  for one small pot.  I can do BETTER!

I found this website among the many that seems to have the common ingredients for making my own air freshening gel.  I've adapted the recipe to suit my own purposes and have come up with the following easy steps.  My needs were for mildew/mold control so I used Tea Tree oil.  Any essential oil of your choice would be fine for simple freshening purposes.

Make Your Own Color & Smell Combinations With This Easy Air Freshener Recipe:

2 cups water
4 packages Gelatin (plain)
15 to 20 drops Essential Oil (Since my needs are "industrial" I used a bit more.  You can adjust to suit)
2 TBS salt
Food Coloring (optional, I chose not to use it since these gel pots would be inside a cabinet).

  • In a small pot, mix 1 cup water, essential oil and food coloring. As soon as it starts to boil, remove from heat.
  • Completely dissolve gelatin and salt in the hot water then add the other cup of water (cold)–stir well (gently so it doesn’t foam).
  • Pour into jars and set aside for a couple days before using so the gelatin has a chance to completely set (you can refrigerate to speed up the process). Once cooled, cover with lids that have a few holes punched in them to allow fragrance to escape.
The salt in this recipe is used to help combat mold, please make sure to add it.

Once the gelatin has set, I'll place these out of site inside the air vent and see how they do!  We enjoy the scent of Tea Tree oil but it isn't for everyone.  But, if your purpose is to help control the mildew problem on a boat, it's the choice to use.

Update:  My freshener lasted just over two weeks before it had reduced by about 2/3 in size and mold began to grow.  Mine had very little scent after the first day or two.  I will try it again with a stronger essential oil when I make it again.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Things I Miss - My Washer & Dryer

Our guests added to this week's load!
When we moved aboard our plan for laundry while we are still here in Port A was to continue using the machines at our Townhouse.  We quickly realized the inconvenience of this and after taking our laundry to Thanksgiving dinner, we have never been back.

It was nice having our own machines so that we could just throw a load in whenever it was convenient.  Our Marina has a small laundry facility for those emergency loads.  But we have found that all things considered... it's just easier for us to load it all up once a week and take it to the laundromat.

I know, I know... people our age should be past the laundromat phase.  But you would be surprised how many other women my age and older I meet there who either live aboard boats or in RVs.  Port A is that kind of town.

Anyway... we get the whole week's worth of laundry done in about two hours, spend about $15 per week and it's all done!  We can go about our lives!  With the cost savings of not driving to Corpus Christi and the 6-8 hours it would have taken us to do it at the townhouse just seem like a no-brainer.  Plus, I'm still making my own laundry soap and fabric softener so that helps to defray the costs of using the laundromat too.

So, while I do miss the convenience of washing a load anytime in our own machines... I only miss them a little bit.

Things I Miss - The Big Bathtub

It gets a little foggy!

I have spent the past several years reading cruiser blogs with hope that they would prepare me for this life.  One of the things many cruisers miss are unlimited water when showering… and BATHS!

Today while scrubbing my tub, I got a wild hair.  Thusfar, I've only taken showers on board.  But today was the day for my first bath.  I won't lie and say that it was a "real" bath… there was no stretching out luxuriating in a steaming pool of bubbles.   But, it was an honest-to-goodness-sitdown bath.  I even got to shave my legs.  

Bruce got a little crazy with the camera!
I know… I'm really close to being over the line here.  But in the interests of keeping it real, I wanted to share this moment.  Of all the things I miss in living life afloat… a BATH isn't one of them!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sailing with the Relatives

Jackie practicing use of her new smart phone
The honored title of "First House Guests" since moving aboard goes to Bruce's brother Phil and his wife Jackie.  What to do for entertainment? That's an easy one... take them out SAILING!

I took the day off work so that we could enjoy this balmy December weather and that it was.  We had a light cool breeze that made for a smooth sail.

I would have thought with all the recent bouncing in the slip we've had... Jezabelle would have been able to handle this gentle glide.  But alas, there was some seasickness at the start.  But her curiosity overcame her mal-de-mer and she came up to see what was going on.

We took the Crab Man Channel to Aransas Pass  where we parked the boat so that we could enjoy a drink and lunch at Redfish Willies.  It really is the perfect daysail destination out of Port A.

Photo by Jackie
The winds had clocked around more East when we finished our meal and got underway for the return to our slip.  This put the winds (light as they were) square on our nose with a tide against us.  Nothing to be concerned about, we just had to motorsail the entire way.  It was still a pleasant way to spend the day.

Our move to the new slip to facilitate more sailing is working.  We had no trouble getting out and I (this time) backed the boat smoothly into the slot.  I won't say it was perfect but we're still working out our process with the lines.  There are more of them, and the slip is much more wide than our last one, but we're getting there.  No stress, just a great day on the water.

Once we were safely back in the slip, Jetsam, who had spent the whole day blending into the upholstery of  the Starboard settee, came to life.  She's a good sailor cat than Jezzer if a bit aloof.  She seems confused as usual as she checks out the scene.  Come on back inside Jetsam and enjoy your reward dinner!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Mother of Invention...

Since we've moved aboard our 45 ft, sailboat, Dos Libras, we've had our bedroom and the cats have had theirs.  We keep the litter box in the floor of the v-berth, aka the spare room.  We figured it would be quite some time before we would NEED the spare room for anything else.

Last week we got a phonecall from Bruce's brother, Phil.  It's been quite a while since we've seen Phil and his wife Jackie and years since they have come to Texas to see us.  Well... they're coming for a visit and they're staying with us on the boat!

This caused a flurry of activity not the least of which is to figure out where to put the litter box that it won't be in the way.  We could just live with it in our room until the guests have gone... but that would be a pain.

The wheels started to turn in my mind...  I've still got my Mom's sewing machine set up on the table to work on another project (I know, hasn't it been WEEKS!?).  So I started cutting and folding and stitching...

Don't ask why we use a storage bin for a catbox...
I figured that we could put the litter box underneath the stairs where it wouldn't slide around when we go sailing.  It would be out of the way and it's unused space most of the time.  It fits just perfectly.

I sat and stared at it and made some measurements and voila!  I made a litterbox Tee Pee (pardon the pun)  It took me all afternoon but it works just wonderfully!  I'm so excited that it worked.  I figured I would be throwing the whole thing in the trash, but it came out great!  We'll see how we like having it there and if we do, maybe we'll let it stay permanently.  Necessity is truly the mother of invention.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Moving Day

Maroon Bimini center is our old boat in the slip
One of the good things about living aboard a sailboat... if you don't like your location, you can move!  This is not exactly the case with us.  We love our dock mates, we love where we are in the marina, we love the floating dock.  We just don't like having to make a sharp right angle turn to get in and out with the prevailing winds making it a near certainty that we will smack another boat eventually.

Blue boat on the right hit us. 
That eventuality came last weekend... in reverse.  The 40+ ft. Sport Fisher that  I've come within a hair's breath of snagging many a time HIT US!  Just minor damage was done.  One side of our anchor roller was slightly bent out.  We probably won't even get it fixed... but in my mind, it's HUGE.

We had been looking at other vacant slips in the marina for a while and are on the "move up" list hoping for a rare 50 ft floating slip further down the dock.  This little crash galvanized us into action.  There is an old racer that is stripped down to bare decks sitting in a primo spot on dock 6.  We inquired about it and were told that the boat CAN"T move.  It has a 8 ft draft and is sitting in a hole.  The surrounding depths are less than 8 ft.  It couldn't be moved even if it's owner wanted to.  It would have been perfect.  Straight shot in with a long pier on one side.

Middle dock third boat from the end on the rt. side would be our new slip
Well, second place is a really wide slip on dock 7.  (our current slip is narrow - we rub bumpers on both sides because of a misplaced piling)  It's near the end and has an oversized dock box.  It's also nearly a straight shot in and out.  We should be able to leave the slip with little concern about what the winds will be doing when we return... well you know what I mean... we ALWAYS have to watch the weather, but I'm talking about normal conditions.

Now I wish to make it clear that we aren't just whiners who aren't up for a challenge.  I've docked this boat many times leaving witnesses glad it wasn't them who had to do it.  I know that we'll face docking conditions far more difficult than this while cruising.  I will even say that having experienced the changing conditions docking the boat in this slip has made Bruce and I better able to handle this boat.  But we're tired of having to do it nearly EVERY time we go out.

The new slip is on a fixed (not floating) pier which is not optimal.  It really doesn't even have any cleats for our lines, so we'll have to go over and work something our before we take the boat over  The dock doesn't run the length of the boat which will make it more of a challenge to step on and off of the deck.  All of these things we've weighted against the fact that we will be much more willing to take the boat out sailing... the sailing won!  Plus, an added bonus - the slip rent is cheaper!  Woo Hoo!

So, today we say goodbye to the folks on our dock.  Maybe Merlin will take a shot at our slip.  It can be US who helps THEM get in and out.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Haircut Day

We are on the final stretch to cruising with only just over six months to go, and we are really trying to cut down on any expenses we can.  If it doesn't further our cause... we don't need it!  That said, I won't try to pretend that we've only just begun cutting our own hair.

I discovered long ago that I care what Bruce looks like FAR more than that girl at the barber shop or cheapo salon.  He was getting kind of shaggy... at least a week overdue, when we found ourselves with a free moment.  So he hosed his head down on the dock and presented himself for a trim.

This is the first time haircut day has come around since we moved aboard.  I had no idea where we would do it.  Bruce suggested the dock and I found the dock steps to be the perfect height for me.

I set to work on his head... it actually went a lot more quickly than it does at home.  Easier access or something.  Sometimes Bruce takes liberties with me that he dare not with some nameless hair cutting stranger... The boy can't handle idle hands... 

This could be grounds for a serious haircut faux pas but somehow I always (almost) get it right.  He's a NEW MAN!

My hair is another story...  I use scissors as styling tools and trim away if a lock gets out of hand.  My coiffure needs are simple and I can get by with only an occasional chop across the bottom by my daughter.  I guess I'll have to brave it and let Bruce have a go at it once we're out there.  At least if he botches it, I can hide out until it grows back before being seen by other humans. I wonder how many other strange and wonderful places we'll find to play Beauty Shop...