Friday, May 31, 2013

Ms. Almost... Ms. Maybe....Ms. Halfway...

What I wouldn't give for a crystal ball...Photo Source

The question most frequently asked of me about our cruising plan is:  Aren't you afraid of __________ (fill in the blank with one of dozens of fearsome things)?  The obvious ones like Pirates or Sea Monsters, I can fend off easily.  Some, like Hurricanes or getting knocked off the boat in the dark and left behind… aren't so easy to dismiss, but I have my explanations for avoiding those perils as well.  But there are a few things that haunt my dreams and require continuous stifling during my waking hours…

What if I don't like cruising?  No, really!  There are so many boats abandoned in beautiful places serving as bobbing lonely reminders that dreams aren't always like we imagine them to be.  I've done some chartering and spent time on our own boat, but it will be different when we're "out there".  What if I can't take the heat, or the dirt, or the loneliness, or the shortages of things I've grown accustomed to having at my fingertips.  What if the continuous boat repairs and physical stresses are just too much for me?  What if we return home with our tails between our legs, failures at our own dreams?  And if that happens… what would we do next, with our dreams of future adventures gone, leaving only the empty cloak of shame worn by those who can't hack it?  What if we have to start over, having given up a great job and house in one spectacular bellyflop?

What if something happens to Bruce?  He's 21 years my senior and even though he is far more physically fit than I, his age will become a factor at some point.  Suppose we've waited too late, wasted the years we should have been cruising with just talking about it…?  What if we're out there and something horrible happens and I can't get that echo out of my head… the regret for not having gone sooner.  What if I find myself alone on the open water with Bruce incapacitated or even worse???  What happens THEN???

What if I'm not smart enough?  I mean… I'm not a stupid girl, but I've always said that I would make a terrible criminal because I'm just not that CLEVER.  I'm usually the one reading about the simple solutions to problems with a "why didn't I think of that" look on my face.  What if my Cruiser Powers come in too slowly and we end up screwing up the boat or ourselves by doing something idiotic.  Maybe our cruising days will be cut short by some failure to question some telltale sound or smell?  What if our last words are "Hey, I wonder what this does?"…  

All of these things are swimming around in my head in these final countdown days before we set sail.  They are just waiting to mess me up if I let them.  Yes, there are things that could happen "out there"… but there are just as many things that can happen right here at home while we doopdy-doop through our daily lives.  What if we don't go?  How bad would that be?  Maybe we could just stay around here and be on permanent vacation right here at home.  

That day when we head East and don't come back looms frighteningly in my mind's eye.  But even more frightening… what if we don't go INDEED!?  So many people have said to me "Wow! You're really going?  You've been talking about it for years but I didn't think you'ld ever really DO IT!"…  Now reader, if you are one of those people… please forgive me for these next words… but I fear becoming one of those poor souls who are perpetually "Gonna"…  I fear losing credibility for living up to my words.  I fear forever being a "Wannabe".   I fear being, like the song says... Ms. Almost… Ms. Maybe… Ms. Halfway...

Love with a Chance of Drowning – A Memoir by Torre DeRocheThis post is part of the My Fearful Adventure series, which is celebrating the launch of Torre DeRoche’s debut book Love with a Chance of Drowning, a true adventure story about one girl’s leap into the deep end of her fears.
"Wow, what a book. Exciting. Dramatic. Honest. Torre DeRoche is an author to follow." Australian Associated Press
"… a story about conquering the fears that keep you from living your dreams."
"In her debut, DeRoche has penned such a beautiful, thrilling story you’ll have to remind yourself it’s not fiction." Courier Mail
Find out more…

Monday, May 27, 2013

We Got Away

Just a Happy Guy on his boat!
Anchoring out overnight isn't the same as it used to be when we didn't live on the boat.  Bruce used to pack on all the gear and we would rush like mad on Saturday morning to get out of the slip... Now, it's just put some things into a box so they won't crash around and take off!

Our old friends at Bay Yacht Club in Corpus Christi had a weekend cruise planned.  We quit the Club months ago since we wouldn't be in Corpus much and were cutting expenses for cruising.  We figured that we would be welcome if we crashed their cruise and we actually had invites from several members so we didn't feel too much like bums.

Midmorning on Sunday, we got a call from our youngest daughter which ended in a postponed departure but the addition of two to our crew...  I'm thrilled to spend any time we can get with Brittney since she's been so busy with college for so long... She and I left Bruce to man the helm while we lounged on the back deck and enjoyed the view.

Frigate bird flying overhead
We passed one channel marker with a rather large nest covering the platform.  Judging from the number of Frigate Birds flying overhead, I think it must belong to one of them.  We didn't see Frigates anywhere else along our route.  I love seeing them.  They are so majestic.  Brittney and I watched them soar and swoop until we sailed out of sight.

We had an absolutely gorgeous sail.  The boat handles so well... we're still getting used to it after over a year!  Brittney had Leila to contend with the whole way.  The little brat is going to leave some strange suntan lines on her doggie-mamma.

I roused from my drowse to discover that it was time to turn out of the ICW towards our destination.  We could just make out the many boats already tucked into the anchorage behind Mud Island.  The day was so beautiful I could barely contain my enthusiasm.  I LOVE THIS BOAT!

We turned East out of the ICW & headed for the anchorage.
We sailed across the bay with just a little chop which decreased as we neared the Island.  The winds were about 15-20 knots from SSE which made this anchorage perfectly flat even with the forecast increasing winds.

We picked our spot next to Second Star and dropped the hook.  Time for a beverage!  Mark and Julie dinghied over for a chat and to invite us to the Club dinner ashore.  Meanwhile, we got a call from one of the other Club Members inviting us over to the Host Boat for a swim followed by dinner ashore.  We were overwhelmed with the warm welcome.  While we made the right decision in leaving the Club... we still miss our friends there.

We ended up not quite making it over to Endless Summer for a swim with the group.  We splashed the dinghy and loaded up for a quick trip to shore.

Leila (the dog) has been out with us on the boat before... but it isn't her favorite thing in the world to do.  I think she figured since her momma was here, she would be going home soon.  Imagine her chagrin when the day wore on and no offers of return to home came her way.  She clung to her momma as we waded the last few yards to shore.

She perked up when she learned that this event was all about HER.  She had a blast running up and down the shore sniffing out all the stinky stuff!  Brittney followed her dog...

While I took a walk.  I love combing the beaches of these little islands where few people go.  You never know what you're going to find washed up.  I wanted to take this crab trap home with me but Bruce said "NO".  No more crap on the boat!

But it's such a NICE one and you can see that it works!  Look at that dead crab!

Looking at the island from a distance, it seems quite barren.  Upon closer inspection, it reveals a world of tiny beauties for the more attentive passer by.  I don't think I'll ever tire of beachcombing...

We detoured to visit a couple of boats on our way back to Dos Libras.  More invitations, yes, yes we're coming.  We ended up being a little late because we had to thaw out our steaks and come up with a side to share at the pot luck.  We packed up our potato salad and headed back to shore.

I think we were the last boat to arrive but we hadn't missed a thing.

We had a great time catching up with Clubmembers we knew and were happy to see so many new faces out with the Club.  It's good to know that they are thriving in our absence.  All the COOL people were there!  We're looking forward to spending some more time with friends anchoring out in our "old stompin' grounds" before we head East.

We finished grazing on all the goodies offered and judging from the angle of the was time to head back to the boat.  We didn't bring a dinghy light with us and needed to get back to our sulking kitties.

Courtesy of Bay Yacht Club
We posed for a picture from shore as the crowd broke up and everyone returned to their floating homes.

I'm sure we were in bed by "Cruiser's Midnight"(aka 9:30).  But we did enjoy a very colorful sunset for our troubles.

I slept better than I have in a long time, even with the dinghy slapping behind our aft cabin.  The wind never died down leaving us with that sticky melting feeling in the night that can sometimes happen in our cruising grounds.  My plan to sleep "late" was foiled by a restless feline.  Jetsam wanted to do her deck rounds so I got up and let her out.

This prompted a voice from the v-berth, where Brittney and Leila were sleeping... "is it too early to take Leila to shore to go potty?"...  It was 4:30 am, but whatever!  The whole household got up and Bruce drove Brittney and dog to shore.  (I'm glad she didn't get eaten by a coyote... I was worried)

Picture does not do justice...
I sat and waited while they were gone.  I enjoyed the breeze blowing through my hair and I was queen of the most magnificent of views.  I don't think the rest of the world knows how often we are treated to world-class views for FREE!  If they did, there would be a LOT more people out here enjoying sailing.

Bruce made coffee upon his return and fed the kitties (who are still sulking).  Nobody drank the coffee, opting to return to bed.  This time, the kitties hid in Brittney's room and weren't budging just because she and her dog came back to bed.  I got a kick out of all they eyes staring back at my when I peered in...

We had a nice nap then tried again after 7am.  This time, getting up took.  We made one more trip to shore for a potty run, then weighed anchor and headed for the slip.  We didn't sail due to the winds being on our nose the whole way, but it was still a pleasure to be on the water.  We had to dodge shrimpboats all the way home.  Don't these guys ever get a holiday???  As we motored along, I kept thinking... soon, many of our days will be spent just like this.  But until then... I'm glad we were (finally) able to get "away".

Sunday, May 26, 2013

What's A Girl To Do?

What to do with my skin, hair and nails while living on a sailboat?  I have asked myself this question over and over during the months (and years) leading up to now.  The harsh environment can be detrimental to all three.  Do I give up and go eau naturale? Or do I continue in woman-kind's age old struggle to remain... well, looking less old than I have to?  I have decided that I won't give up the struggle, at least not immediately.  Maybe when Bruce's eyesight begins to fail and we're far from civilization...


It's funny how things stick in your mind...  I read somewhere that with limited amounts of fresh water for showers, combined with the moist tropical air, it is easy to develop body odor and possibly even fungal infections on your skin while cruising.  I wish to avoid BOTH!  One treatment has come up time after time and am certainly willing to try it.  Selsun Gold has been used by some Cruisers in diluted form to keep skin healthy.  My plan is to have it aboard for periodic use as a bath soap.  If I have trouble finding the Gold, I will use Selsun Blue, which is a lesser strength and is found more commonly.

I will most likely give up my Oil of Olay skin soap and go for a stronger "his & hers" deodorant bar.  Bruce uses Irish Spring, which smells nice and seems to last quite a while, but it has no antibacterial ingredients.  I've done some reading about overuse of antibacterial agents causing germ resistance and I'm not sure where I stand on that.  I am sure that I want to avoid skin issues.  Maybe with the deodorant bar for every-day use and the Selsun periodically, we'll be the boat you want to be near in the anchorage.

Sunscreen:  I have noticed on recent boat trips that I tend to develop a rash whenever we spend more than four or five days out.  I have decided that it must either be heat rash, or a contact allergy caused by increased usage of sunscreen.  The problem occurs every time we have vacationed on a boat (It isn't always hot).  This is something that I'm going to need to resolve.  This year, instead of depending upon layers of greasy sunscreen, I've more often avoided being in the sun.  Years past have been spent actively seeking the sun on my skin.  I figure that I will be getting that tan soon enough in my new lifestyle so no need to rush.  I plan to cover up with fishing shirts, sarongs and skirts more than I used to.  If I use lightweight clothing to cover my skin, I can reduce the amount of sunscreen needed and hopefully I can avoid that rash.  I will continue to use Oil of Olay face cream with SPF every day.  I've been researching the best sunscreens and the jury is still out...

Next up... HAIR:

I used to spend a LOT of money on my hair.  I routinely dropped $150 every five or six weeks to have it done professionally.  In more recent years I have found myself loathe to spend what salons charge for doing my hair.  No more fancy cuts for me.  I wear it longish (at Bruce's continued request) and mostly straight.  I use a flat iron and blow dryer and it has been a long time since anything resembling my natural color has been seen by human eyes.  BUT... remember, I'm cheap.  I learned from my hair dresser many years ago, to do my own color using Wella Color Charm.

So, what will happen to all of these rituals when we leave?  Since moving aboard six months ago, very little has changed.  I still need to be somewhat presentable for work and so I have continued with the color treating and blow drying and flat ironing...  I just can't give it up yet!  I probably won't use the blow dryer or flat iron very often once we go, but I'm taking them with me.  And... I just placed an order for a year's supply of Color Charm...  I know, I'm WEAK!

Prepping on the boat - wash in the Marina facility
The sun does not love hair.  It wants to make it crispy and dry.  I'm still too cheap to spend big money on shampoos and conditioners and have found little real difference in them in my experience.  So cheap it will be.  Most of my days will be spent wearing a hat while out in the sun.  This should help prolong the life of my dye job.  I'm figuring about every six weeks we'll have to find a place with a shower facility for me to use as a makeshift hair salon.  The chemicals can't be washed into the water so I can't do my hair on the boat.
Haircuts:  I've been cutting Bruce's hair for years. I can do a better job than any Barber Shop and I CARE what he looks like.  I will admit there have been a few "oopses" over the years, but it grows back and he has never noticed...  (tee hee, don't rat me out).

I also use scissors as a styling tool for my own hair.  Seriously, if a hair won't behave, I snip it right off.  I have been able to do a pretty decent job with some minor layering and the only help I will need from Bruce will be a straight cut across the bottom.  I can get my daughter to cut it when she visits or maybe I'll find another Cruising woman and we can trade haircuts.  I'm still toying with the idea of cutting it much shorter but Bruce won't let me just yet.

And last but not least... NAILS: Once upon a time, the season could be determined by the color of my toenail polish.  My toes were always painted either pink (for summer) or red (for winter).  I used to take a lot of grief from my sailing buddies about my long red fingernails.  Well... I finally gave up the nails for sailing.  The two just don't mix, but the toenails, I could not give up...

I brought my favorite nail tools along when we moved aboard.  In the past six months, I think I've touched them maybe once.  The harsh environment and frequent exposure to salt water and cleaning products just isn't good for nails.  Mine are thin anyway from years as a childhood nail-biter.  They have developed ridges in later years and split easily.  Even if I paint them, they chip quickly and just look ragged.  I give up!  I'll just keep them filed and the cuticles trimmed and that's all I can do.  One more vanity down the drain.

These are my plans.  We are poised on the cusp of becoming real Cruisers and I will be interested to look back a year from now to see what may have changed.  I have heard from other Cruising Women that a girl shouldn't have to give up ALL of her vanities to embrace the Cruising Life.  Each must decide what is important to maintain a sense of femininity while living in this very different world.

Maybe some of you have some advice or pearls of wisdom to share with a Newbie, please DO by leaving a comment or drop a line on the S/V Dos Libras Facebook page.  I love hearing from you!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Second Best Shower of My Life

A little over a week ago, I got a little more stimulation from my morning shower than I had planned... no hot water!

Bruce!  There's NO HOT WATER! So I rushed through my shower as Bruce sprung to the boat's electrical panel, he searched frantically for the cause... Nothing!  It should be working!

Fast forward to my arrival home from work.  Bruce is washing dishes with water heated on the stove.  He tells me "there's been a miracle".  I'm skeptical...

Suddenly the water heater is working again?  I head for the aft cabin to change.  Walking past the electrical panel I smell "that burning smell".  Bruce rushes over and flips off the switch to the power.  We sniff around and finally locate the source of the smell.

Pretty sure this is it!  I've never seen one of these gadgets.  The best we can figure is that there was once a problem and the previous owner had to make repairs with whatever was available.  This little gadget has obviously decided to give it up.  Thoughts of what might have happened are pushed out of our minds as we begin the process of figuring out what could have caused this.

Bruce spent the better part of the past week (while I had cold showers) thinking about the best plan of attack.  Sources say that a poor connection could cause this type of burnout.  Other sources say that the connection could have been stressed by a dying heating element.

We ordered a new element and before it even arrived, we made the decision to replace the entire heater.  The Kuuma 6 gallon water heater we have has been a good one, but upon closer inspection, we discovered that it is leaking.  (could this be the cause of our water pump going off periodically?)

Bruce picked up a new one at West Marine.  While it sat in the car for two or three days... I listened to Bruce's ever growing plan for installation of the new heater.  It involved raising the platform that holds our Xantrex inverter and ..... WHAT!???  Why the *&%$ would we do THAT?!!

I had to take matters into my own hands and get this party started...  We re-evaluated the issues at hand and decided... if it ain't broke, don't move the thing!  The problem was raising the Xantrex which rests upon the heater.  We devised a way to lift the board using a strap (seen at the top right corner of this next pic).

Securing the engine coolant return hose McGyver style
Problem solved... we got to work disconnecting the hoses and wiring from the old heater...

I am such a back-seat-driver, it's usually better if Bruce just let's me do it.  So I climbed in and with the instruction booklet on my lap, I began unhooking hoses.

All hoses disconnected, ready for removal
Everything had to be labeled according to it's purpose so that I could hook it all up to the new heater with no extra parts.

I had a bit of panic when I disconnected the first big black hose and found antifreeze running out.  I stuck my finger in the hole and stared at Bruce...  What do we have that can plug these hoses so that the antifreeze doesn't all run out into the bilge???

I think for a second... bring me some saran wrap and a paper towel, quick! I wadded the paper towel into a plug shape, then wrapped it in the saran wrap and voila!  I've got my plug.  I stuffed into the hose and taped it securely around the end.  It wasn't the BEST fix but it did the trick until we could remove the heater and get the new one in place.

Once everything was disconnected, Bruce came in from the other side and I helped guide the box out through the wiring, no sweat!  It came out beautifully!

We had a discussion about changing how the hoses were configured to make it more easy to remove the heater should we ever need the space for generator repairs... We decided that we would cross that bridge when we come to it and just resumed with putting the new box in exactly as the old one came out.

Bruce had the honor of unwrapping our new heater.  I love shiny things!  We breathed a sigh of relief as we inspected the new unit and found it as closely identical to the old one as we could expect.  One of my fears was that there would be changes that would make plug-and-play impossible.  We lucked out today and it was the same size with all the fixtures in the same spots.  We were SET!

We slid the heater into it's new home and I hooked up all the hoses.  They went on much more easily that I anticipated.  Bruce hooked up the wiring and we opened the water valves.

Pssssssss  OH NO!  There was one tiny spray of water coming out of one of the hoses.  I KNEW that one was not tight enough!  Well, it was late and the place was a mess... Tomorrow is Monday and I have to go to work!

So... we put off tightening that one hose until morning.  Bruce dealt with the fallout while I went to bed... only mildly disappointed.

Monday morning, I talked Bruce into  tightening that hose while I ironed my work clothes.  (yes I iron my work clothes... for four more weeks)

Lo and behold... it held tight and after a short wait... I disrobed and climbed into the tub.  Ahhh the happy noises coming from the aft head could be heard all down the dock!  It was the SECOND BEST shower of my life!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Graduation Day

Finally, after years of being a "blur"... Brittney can finally (for a little while) slow down and catch her breath.  She has done it!  She has her Bachelor's Degree.

Right out of high school, Brittney attended community college in San Antonio.  Lets just say she wasn't putting her best effort into it and leave it at that, shall we?

She moved back to Corpus Christi and rededicated herself to getting her education at Texas A&M Corpus Christi.  She got to work in a most singleminded way.  She studied, she volunteered, she networked, she interned... all in an effort to prepare herself for her chosen career in Accounting.

Many times these past few years, Bruce and I have marveled at her resolve to be the best she can at everything that she endeavours and WHERE has all of this energy come from???

How could she ever have doubted herself and her ability to pull off a Summa Cum Laude ranking?  We'll never have to answer that... pull it off she DID!

Here it is in PRINT!  That special little symbol next to her name designates her as graduating with highest honors!

It was easy!  Well, for US it was anyway!  We just sat back and watched her go...

Today, we sat in the stands with family and waited to catch a glimpse of our baby as she takes that proud walk...  THERE SHE IS!  That smile on her face lit us all up as we each locked our eyes on our girl.

We waited patiently as the faculty was introduced and the Mayor gave her speech... for the moment!  Here she is poised to accept her diploma, waiting those last few seconds for her name to be called, hoping desperately that she wouldn't trip in those shoes with the sticky bottoms I talked her into wearing just before we left the house earlier today...

We cheered furiously as we heard them say "Brittney LeighAnn Honeycutt, Summa Cum Laude"!  Time stood still for me as I felt like a poser, stifling the lurking pride while reminding myself that I really had nothing to do with it myself.

All of her accomplishments, all of her successes, all of her progress was made while we were living our lives.  We worked, we played... Brittney studied.  This is all Brittney.  I can take no credit for any of it.

But still... the pride comes.  It envelopes me, it overwhelms me, it lifts me up and carries me along with her as she walks that stage... What a grand moment!

Then time resumes, as we strain our eyes to get our next look at her... the Graduate!  There she is, following along in the line, toting her prize and wearing a HUGE grin!

The rest of the ceremony was fast forward it seems...  Suddenly, we were all outside in the wind on the Corpus Christi Bayfront, searching the crowd of square hats to find our Grad.

We congratulated her and beamed as others did too.  We were in a sea of joy as families and friends all around posed for pictures and hugged proud kids.

We posed for our fair share of photo ops, some even made their way to the University website!  What a great day this is!

OMG look at the time!  We have people coming to the house for a party!  We have to get HOME! We headed for the cars and joined the procession of thousands heading out to all points away from the Convention Center... we thought we would NEVER get out!

Luckily, back at the house, most of the stuff for the party was already done.  We popped the brisket into the oven and mashed avocados just as our first guests began to arrive.

Brittney has such a warm and supportive group of friends.  The house was filled with well wishers, all people who have been there for her and had their own part in making this happen.  See the rest of the pictures here.

Whew!  It's done.  Brittney has landed a great job.  She will join the fracas that is life and I know she will rise to the top of her profession as she takes the next step in getting her Master's degree... but for now... have some CAKE!


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Six Months In

People keep asking me (with suspicious looks in their eyes) "Are you still enjoying living on your boat?".  My automatic answer is "YES!".  But let me think about the real answer for a moment...

Still "YES!".  Do we miss living in our townhouse? Not really.  Are we tired of doing laundry at a public facility?  Not a deal breaker.  What about all the things that need to be fixed all the time?  Now that one is kind of getting to Bruce.

Six months ago, we moved aboard so that we could test all of our systems before we leave.  Well, test them we have, and as the saying goes... cruising is just fixing your boat in exotic places.  We just aren't traveling to those exotic places yet...  Maybe that's why Bruce is grumpy about all of the fixing of things going on.  The constant repair jobs haven't yet begun to wear on me, largely because I still go to work every weekday leaving Bruce to tend to the piddly little things.  Rest assured we are saving the big jobs for the time when I can help him.

We tore into projects with vigor in the beginning.  The winter months were perfect for doing projects.  There was nothing else to do!  But as time has passed, our vigor has waned.  We have begun putting things off... making an ever growing list of things to fix or improve once I quit working and have more time.  That's OK with me though.  I (still) enjoy doing boat projects and welcome the learning experience.  Ask me that one again in a year...

The weather has been a bit of a challenge since we moved aboard.  Has it always been this crazy or is it just that we notice it more now?  No, it has really been crazy.  We have had constant "winter" for six months.  (If the temperature falls below 80˚ for more than two days, it's winter!) We usually lose winter in about February and here it is May and the temperatures are STILL in the 70s most days!  Not acceptable!  It also seems as if we have had some hellish winds along with the cool fronts that have me doubting my ability to leave the boat some mornings...  At least we are living at the dock for all of this...  I lie in bed at night and try to imagine how it will be with similar weather conditions when we are "out there".  I guess we'll hunker down and get some reading done...

One thing we've discovered about living on the boat that we hadn't expected, is that we are always "home" instead of "away".  Most of our time on the boat was previously for play... but not now.  There are chores to do that somehow seem to take up a lot of our play time.  I'm not sure how this happens but it does.  Poor Bruce wants to run and play evenings and weekends...  But I'm tired from work or need to get some things done that were normally done at the townhouse.  Friends come to their boats and we hardly find the time to hang out.  I really have to remind myself that Bruce is here all of the time and needs a bit of fun.  There will be time for boat projects soon, and we need to spend some quality time with our friends and family before we leave.

It really amazes me at how comfortable I am here.  It's like being inside a cozy protective womb where I know I'm safe.  The winds can howl and the temperature can drop... but it's all good inside Dos Libras.  Slowly I'm beginning to trust that she will take care of us.  Bruce says it's like having your home and your car and your boat all rolled into one... but it's more than that.  We count ourselves as lucky every day that we have been able to make this happen.  We can't wait for to see what the next six months holds for us.  Six months down... let the new life begin!