Saturday, December 27, 2014

Land Of Mountains - A Book Review

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Dang it!  I finished the book!!  I started reading Land of Mountains in short spurts, hoping to prolong the process because Jinx Schwartz’s writing is just that good…  This was a foray into the unknown.  Would I like the book?  I loved the Hetta Coffee series by the same author… would this totally unrelated story be as interesting?  

My initial doubts about the book being for young readers were instantly quelled.  Phooey!  So what if the main character is a kid.  I think, after reading it all, that’s the only reason she could get away with all the stuff she does in the book.  Very early on I “became one” with 'Lizbuthann as only happens with a gifted writer.  Everything that happened to her... happened to ME!  

I was hooked from the moment Elizabeth Ann stepped off the plane and decided not to tell her mother about the heads.  A bond of secrecy was forged that carried through the entire book.  We roamed the mountain paths and I feared the Voodoo woman.  I want a zombie of of own...

I love this smart, scrappy, resilient little girl and how the physical hardships of life in Haiti were incidental in her mind.  Living with few luxuries and making the world up as she goes, the secrets of adolescence shared only with the reader… it all creates a vivid experience that had me eagerly flipping the pages, hurtling across the river in a bucket and tromping through the mud towards the end all too soon.

I don’t know if it’s the “Texas connection” or perhaps having grown up in a time when a kid could still roam free… but whatever it is, this book has “It"!  Pay the money, get the book, clear your schedule and settle in for a wild ride. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

On Golden Wings

United States Naval Aviator - Wikipedia
Our absence from the many important moments in the lives of our family and friends is one of the major downsides to Cruising.  Trying to be in a given place at a given time is difficult, if not impossible.  Planning anything with any certainty... well, just forget it!  But with a little fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants ingenuity... sometimes a plan comes together!

The first plan for attending our daughter's boyfriend's "Winging" fell through, but it wasn't us... his flight schedule got changed and the ceremony postponed...  No way can we wait in the designated (planned) pick-up spot for another MONTH!  We've gotta get SOUTH!  The Bahamas await!  We were going to miss it, an unfortunate casualty of the cruising life...

So when he called us late one night less than two weeks prior to the new date and said in that special tone... You know the one... "It's totally OK if you can't make it but I would REALLY love for you to come"  (Read:  If you don't move heaven and earth to be here for this, you'll be REALLY SORRY!) What could we do???

In the morning, I got online and arranged for a place to leave the boat (a few towns south), rental car and a hotel room in Pensacola.  Oh... and all of this would be kept secret from my daughter so we could surprise her at the last minute when we suddenly show up after all.

There is really no reason for us to be rushing to the Bahamas other than our desire to be out of the cold weather, so taking a little side trip to be in attendance for an important family event was no burden, in fact.,, it was suddenly growing in importance.  Our daughter was in for an even bigger surprise when she pinned on those wings.  Whispers of "Will you marry me" are in the air and I think it's gonna happen!

Our plan seemed destined for success as we made it to Titusville in plenty of time... we closed up the boat and left it on a mooring, stuffed our cats into carriers and took them for their first dinghy ride to shore... then we drove seven hours to the other side of the state.  It was a whirlwind day but we finally settled into a cheap (but clean) hotel near Downtown Pensacola.  We felt very much at home in Pensacola as we had spent over a week here back in the frigid winter of our first months cruising.  Tomorrow was gonna be FUN... I could hardly sleep!

The surprise was a success.  We spotted our daughter as we waited outside of the auditorium on NAS Whiting Field... She spotted us and a big smile lit her face, followed by hugs and maybe a few little tears.  From there, the day seemed to pass in fast forward.  One minute we were waiting to be called to the stage for the Winging... the next, we were all milling around waiting for our turn back on stage for a photo op...

Sister moment
The part in the middle was a blur and I'm glad that I got it on video because it all happened so fast... Suddenly he had his wings... and she had her ring... evidently there was a "YES" in there somewhere...

Years of training culminating in the reward for hard work, combined with the promise of a new life full of excitement and happiness were all rolled into one pretty great moment with smiles all around.

The celebration moved to a luncheon provided by the US Navy and then as the sun set on Pensacola bay... instead of winding down, we were back in party mode!

There was cake... which took an unfortunate dive on the way home...

Friends and family filled the house and oh the stories they told...

Evidently getting engaged means it's suddenly OK for your family to rat you out with all of your embarrassing secrets...

An awesome dinner was served with delicious steaks and all the trimmings.

Once everyone was served and settled, the speeches began... My firstborn jumped right in and got started on her Maid-of-Honorly duties by delivering the first speech... followed by words from every. single. person. in the house!

And then we all had CAKE!  Brittney's Sister-In-Law to be serves it up for everyone.

Was it an exceptionally delicious cake... or do all celebratory cakes just taste extra good?

The day could not have gone better.  We shared surprises, laughter and hopes as our two families began to form bonds secured by that circle of white gold on my daughter's finger.

Our hearts were swelling with pride as our baby prepared to leave the nest and fly with her Love towards a bright future... born on Wings of Gold.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

How Much DOES Cruising Cost?

That's the big question everyone want's answered...  The answer you usually get is "It costs all you have".... and this could be true.

The numbers are in for our first year of cruising.  I totaled it all up and came up with a relatively accurate accounting of where all of our money went.  The total is a bit more than our income this year so we've had to dip into savings.  I'm hoping that our next year is not quite as "repair/replacement intensive" and we can live more within our means.

So, without further ado... a drum roll please.  The grand total is $50,674.11.

The breakdown is as follows.  Some items are approximate and some may be miscategorized because I can't remember exactly what I bought through, but this is close.

Auto  Repair Maintenance        551.97

Boat Bits  Major  - Larger single item purchases

Boat Bits  Misc. - Multiple little items

Boat Repairman - Repairs we paid to have done


Data  Phone iPad 

Dining Out

Dock Mooring

Entertainment - Tickets to shows, Museum/Attractions

Fees Registrations - DTOPS/Boat Registration/Auto, etc.

Fuel - Auto/Boat/Dinghy


Groceries Household Goods - Everything from the Grocery store including liquor and pet supplies

Insurance   Boat

Insurance   Car

Insurance   House

Liquor - Liquor Store purchases not counting what we had on hand already :0

Medical - Excluding Medicare premiums

Memberships - Towboat/West Advantage


Pet Expenses Vet Fees Other



Taxes - House

Technology - Apps/Chartplotter chips/GPS

Travel  Off Boat


Cash Spent

There you have it folks.  Don't judge.  There are a lot of things we spent money on that we hadn't planned to... docks/moorings for instance.  We thought we would spend a lot more on fuel than we did, especially considering that we've motored everywhere!

Groceries and food were big eye openers.  But I do have a lot of food and pet supplies (that are included in the grocery total) stockpiled.

Laundry was a total shock. It's very expensive to wash clothes out here...  

We are debt free, no car payment, no mortgage, no boat financing.  Just the expenses of keeping our home like insurance and taxes.

I'm hoping that our second year is very different. We are pretty much set on technology (although some of it falls in the second year numbers already).  Being in the Bahamas at anchor for a large portion of the year must have some impact, but then it may cost more in other categories...

I welcome your questions or comments and will do my best to answer them as candidly and accurately as I can. 

Cruising really DOES cost "All. You. Have".

Saturday, December 6, 2014

A Hop, A Skip, and A Jump...

Oh I just can't tell you how wonderful it feels to be moving again and on our way to the Bahamas.  The cold winds of winter have released us from their clutches and we've actually begun to sweat again!  Ah, that glorious sheen... I promise I won't complain about being hot... ever again!

We found some new streets to walk in St.A
We enjoyed our short stay in St. Augustine where we spent a day walking around the town with our old friends on Stephanie Dawn.  We met up for happy hour with Cinderella and Rockhopper, which turned into dinner at Mojo BBQ, Bruce's favorite!

Cruisers Happy Hour at A1A

St Augustine was all dressed up for Christmas.  Walking the festive streets after dark was a magical thing!

We don't decorate Dos Libras for the holidays and I do miss it some.  But with the cities we visit doing the decorating for us... I get my fix!

We said "so long" to our friends and left St. Augustine to revisit one of our favorite anchorages just about 13 nautical miles further south.  Since we were in no particular hurry to eat up the miles, we put up the sails and turned off the engine.

This has only occurred a handful of times in all of our time out here.  The winds always seem to be from the wrong direction or nonexistent... but today...

We got in a little over an hour and it was glorious!

The cats came out of their "battle stations" spots and joined us in the cockpit.  I don't think Jezabelle even knew that we were under way!

We passed big flocks of white pelicans along the way

A rainbow heralded our arrival to the anchorage

We all settled on the deck to enjoy the balmy breezes and sunshine

Until a line of rainclouds began to drop their burden

Once the rain passed, the moon lit the scene
It was just a gorgeous day, followed by an even more gorgeous evening.  We were pleased to see four other cruisers have found this anchorage.

N29°43.006', W081°14.475' 

We stayed in the cockpit until well after dark just watching the progress of the moon.  We looked forward to the coming day in hopes that we could splash the long unused dinghy and revisit the white sand beaches that lie just around the bend... maybe get some sun on our pasty white bodies.

But the morning never dawned.  I guess there was a dawn... but we never saw it.  The anchorage was enclosed within the icy grip of a dense and suffocating fog.  We felt as if we were alone in the world with no sound penetrating from the outside.

This is how we spent our day... Not how we had planned, but not a bad way to pass the time.

I did some baking... snicker doodles and a double batch of sweet cornbread.  We cooked up a pot of ham and beans and enjoyed our shut-in day.

The next morning was no different.  The fog still hung around but we were on the move again.

We pulled up the anchor and flipped on the radar.  The visibility was maybe a quarter mile - if that - as we eased ourselves out of the sleeping anchorage.

Looks like a STRONG current in our favor!
We had the tail end of the rising tide with us to help our progress.  The information on tidal currents is not as readily available in these waters as it had been in South Carolina, where it is more important...  So we had no idea how our day would go.

We were making good time with speeds reaching 7 knots.  Bruce manned the ship's bell, every three minutes - DING!  We may have radar but that doesn't mean everyone else on the water does...

Radar on top and chart on bottom

Late morning, the fog began to burn off in patches allowing us to relax a bit.  It made for some very peaceful views and I was reminded that we are so very lucky to see places that most people never see...

We upset a flock of birds splashing on the water

The tide remained favorable all day!

We were passed by many power boats.  Look at that brown water!

Long stretch of Fox Cut

More Christmas cheer!

Are we there yet?

Patchy fog with pockets of weak sunshine

Our intended destination was Daytona Beach.  As we approached the curved twin bridges born fast on the favorable tides, we decided to skip Daytona and press on.  You just don't get this kind of luck with the currents every day...

Another couple of hours brought us to a late afternoon approach to our final bascule bridge for the day.  Just beyond it lie the anchorage where we hoped to stop.

We passed beneath the fixed  bridge at New Smyrna Beach and found disappointment.  The anchorage was full of transient and derelict boats, leaving no room for us to anchor safely with enough swing room and depth.

We motored around and then backtracked to find our "plan B" anchorage.

We quickly settled between two other boats and made friends with our neighbor.

N29°01.658', W080°54.913'

What a stoke of luck THAT was.  The anchorage at Chicken Island in Sheephead Cut turned out to be much more scenic and less crowded.

We enjoyed the sunset and the dolphin rolling in the channel with our sundowners.

Chicken Island to our north
Setting moon taken the next morning
The moon rose huge as we finished our dinner and I retired.  Bruce stayed up on anchor watch.  The anchorage is a bit tight and he wanted to see the reversal before he went to bed.

This was a lucky thing... although it probably would have been fine, the boat next to us didn't turn with the tide as fast as ours... we were about 15 ft away stern to stern when Bruce called me back up to move the anchor.  So, in my jammies, I joined him on deck and we repositioned the anchor.  Not difficult.  The water was flat calm.  We found a new spot a short distance away from our neighbor and went to bed... but not before enjoying the gorgeous moonlit night.

In the morning, I watched the NSB free dock like a hawk.  There were boats there overnight and I wanted to scoot over and take their place when they left.  The moment the trawler left, we pulled up our anchor and quickly moved over there to claim our prize position.

The tide made docking on this curved dock a challenge, but we were soon tide securely with room for the lines to allow the boat to drop with the tide.  We waited around until the tide turned so that we knew things were good, then we took off on our bikes to see the town.
More Christmas Cheer!

We rode across the bridge we had passed beneath the previous day

We rode across the causeway and found a cute little typical beach town with no shortage of places to dine and buy souvenirs.  If we were not cruising and were just vacationing here... I could really do some damage to the budget!

We found the beach on the Atlantic side near Ponce DeLeon Inlet.  The day was grey and misty, but there were still beachgoers out trying to enjoy it.

We backtracked across the causeway and stopped to take a snapshot of our boat parked on the other side.  Can't have too many pictures of your boat now, can you?

Once back on the mainland, we found an odd fort.  We parked the bikes and climbed around on the old walls, trying to figure out what it was...

We met up with a couple of guys we had seen back at the dock and spent about half an hour chatting with them.  Steve (the local) ended up offering to give us a ride to the grocery store, which we declined.  What nice people... to just offer to take strangers for a ride in their car!

I did ask him to take our picture though... :)

I was getting hungry and talked Bruce into taking me to the Thai Mango.  I've been eating BBQ almost every meal out for months!  It's my turn to pick the place and I want Thai!!!  We biked down Canal street and found the little hole-in-the wall place, where we split a plate (thank goodness) and some spring rolls and both left there pretty stuffed.  It was freshly prepared and divinely aromatic... I highly recommend Thai Mango if you ever get to NSB!

More Public Christmas Cheer!
We made our way back along the waterfront to the boat.  Still no neighbors...

Bruce took over our dock to do a little maintenance on our folding bikes.  There is already a little bit of rust showing up.  He cleaned it all off and oiled the bikes in hopes of keeping it at bay.

The day melted into evening as we sat in the cockpit reading and watching the world go by... And what a world it is sometimes!  This prompted quite a lengthy conversation about what in the blazes was going on with this boat...

Another unbelievably beautiful moonrise saw us safely to bed with smiles on our faces and thoughts of how supremely lucky we are to live this life.

We were up early the next morning with one more jump to make...  Next stop... Titusville, FL.

N28°37.539', W080°48.358'
What bird is this???

Strange boat.  Looks like he went under a bridge too low!

We found a tiny stowaway...

We motored along all morning and early afternoon found us pulling up to mooring ball B1.  Finally, after many months hanging on the davits, we threw off the cover and splashed the dinghy.  We pumped it to full and attached the fuel in hopes that it hadn't gone bad...

I waited patiently while Bruce got the motor going and jumped in with once that sweet sound told me we were going to shore!!!

Our upper lips were sparkling with the unaccustomed sheen of sweat.  SWEAT!  In December!!!

Just like that, we shed the months of living on the dock and found ourselves back in Cruiser-Mode.

Our minds shifted back into that other gear... the one where every day is different from the last... the one where we see new sights and experience new towns every day.  The one where we see wildlife galore, up close and personal as if we are a part of it!

And oh how good it is to be back to it!  We docked at the Titusville Municipal Marina dinghy dock and checked in.

We took a little stroll around, checked out the facilities and talked to some locals.  We were greeted by Dennis, who said he had followed our blog since we left home!  How awesome is that???
What ARE these birds?
Back on the boat, we settled in for the afternoon to enjoy the light and balmy breeze.  We reclined on the bow and watched the birds, dolphin, and even a manatee going about their day.  The cats joined us on deck and everybody on Dos Libras was floating on a cloud of good feelings, and I don't even think it was the RUM!

Our shy girl even came out

Lots of lines to scratch feline chins upon...

Good times...

We had three osprey all looking for the perfect roost.

Here she comes again...

Beautiful setting sun

Clear water, but a bit brown...

Titusville looks like a cute little place to be... It seems impossible that only one week ago, we were having Thanksgiving back in Beaufort, SC.  Now we have just just made a hop, a skip, and a jump but it feels like we're worlds away.

And, yes... another moonrise!