Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Reasons Why Wednesday: The Rain Stopped

Reason Why #6: The Rain Stopped on Our Survey Day! 

Yesterday was a VERY big day in this journey of ours, we had our potential boat surveyed and we took her on a sea trial! When we set out from New Castle at 7am it was POURING BUCKETS, I mean torrential downpours as we made our way up I-95. We had our "foulies" on and had committed to a VERY wet day. We arrived at Centerboard Yacht Club in South Portland and our potential boat "Zephyr" was up on the boat moving 'hammock' ready to "splash in the water". She hasn't seen the water since last September. Inside we met the current owners, the broker, the boat mover and all the old men from the yacht club there to help the owner who is the Commodore. There was coffee, doughnuts and sailing stories being exchanged around the table - a very typical scene for a yacht club and one we could certainly see Timbo being a part of years from now. For us, we were too excited/nervous to eat! And, the rain kept pouring. 
Here the owner is below being sure she's didn't blow a hole!

The tender helped us maneuver her to the dock, she's a hefty girl! 
Then it was time to "Splash Her" - as in drop her in the water! 

We climbed aboard and prepared for the ride. It was quite a thrill and all the while the owners were showing us different things with the boat's systems, electronics, storage, etc. etc. etc. It was phenomenal to have them aboard, though also bittersweet because we could tell how hard it is for them to let her go. The gentleman who owned and loved this boat for the last 5 years suffered a debilitating accident last winter while cutting trees in his yard and he's now on crunches and unable to really do the moving and work needed to sail his boat. Though yesterday, he was a ROCKSTAR - climbing aboard on the ladder, crowding into the engine room, taking the helm to guide us in. I'm sure he was in a lot of pain last night but in his mind this might be last time he gets to ride aboard his old girl and he wasn't going to miss it! 

The surveyors arrived at 9am and spent the next 3 hours aboard doing their thing - inspecting every inch, every hose, every wire and connection and valve and spigot. As the hours ticked by the rain stopped, the clouds moved out from Portland and Casco Bay, it started to get warm and then THE SUN! 
At the inspection dock - with the SUN blazing! 

Tim learning more from Deb, the current owner!
We spent the time listening in on the surveyors work, learning more from the owners, the 'old men', the broker. At one point the broker said, "You've got combined over 150 years of boat knowledge here and we still all got our heads together to figure out this goddamn water pump! Welcome to boating!" 

The assistant surveyor who was in his mid-70s said to me, "You see, this is the beauty of an old boat - you're constantly having to figure something out, fix something, jury rig something. You're constantly presented with a challenge and solving it. It makes the beer at happy hour taste a lot sweeter when you have that sense of accomplishment."

About 12:30pm the surveyor announced it was time to "take her out, shake out her sails and see how she does!" So we all climbed aboard, cast off her lines and set out into Casco Bay in the sun. There were seals popping up their heads all throughout the Fore River - amazing! We did some tests of her engine (Mr. Perkins as the owner instructed us to call him because, "he deserves our respect":)), her steering under power, her turning capacity, we raised the sails and eventhough there was no wind she sure did look pretty with her sails flying! 
Heading up the Fore River
Casco Bay
Brand new sails - they so pretty!!!
Well, our potential (can't call her ours YET) boat did AMAZING in her survey and sea trial! STUPENDOUS! Mr. Perkins, an old diesel engine, started right up and did all the tests without even a hiccup! Keep in mind this is a 34 year old boat that has sat for a year - this we were told from the surveyor and broker is PHENOMENAL! The Surveyor gave us a summary but overall he said, "This is a real solid boat". We could tell he was impressed and from the horror stories we'd heard of similar age boats that have sat we were very excited! There is one major and few minor things that we need to see remedied before we can 'sign, seal, deliver' this boat and the broker is working on that now with the owner. 

This deal is becoming more and more real than we could ever imagine! We could not have asked for better results or better weather for this survey and sea trial. We are hokey and believe in karma, signs and astrology - The fact the sun came out for our sail was a sign. The fact that the owners and friends and surveyors (those in the know) were so unbelievably helpful, enthusiastic and genuinely happy and excited for us and our new chapter in our life is a sign. The fact that the results of the day were so good is a HUGE sign. 

We are beaming from ear to ear and that will help as we pack up the U-Haul this weekend in 90+ degrees with all of worldly belongings that we're keeping to move it to storage! Life is very interesting these days! 

There she is at the dock with Portland's waterfront in the background

Our future home looking her best in the SUNSHINE!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Reasons Why Wednesday: Mobile Home

Reason Why #5: We like to change up the scene now & again. 

In the live aboard and cruising culture marinas have often been to referred to as the Trailer Parks of the yachting world. 
And there are definitely some major similarities - rather tight quarters, no rolling spans of green lawn to distance from your neighbors, no fences, you can't choose your neighbors, a lot of time is spent outside your private space, everyone deals with similar challenges, the lifestyle is a specific choice. But there is a BIG difference - THE VIEW. There's also a lot of smaller differences too that make living aboard a whole lot sweeter than a double wide in a trailer park. 

Tim and I have been navigating the world of marinas trying to arrange where will be keeping this 43' yacht that we are (hopefully) taking ownership of in a couple weeks. Since it is the end of the summer season here in New England slips are not at a premium as they would have been just a month ago - good news for us! Here in the Portsmouth area there are 3 major marinas one of them is up the Piscataqua River and our mast on our boat is too tall to fit under the bridge for Route 16 so that marina is out. Then there is the Wentworth Marina on New Castle island, around the corner from where we rent now.

Wentworth Marina - Our Summer Home
And Badger's Island Marina which is just under the not-there-right-now Route 1 bridge that spans from Portsmouth to Kittery, Maine. The only marina that "allows" year-round liveaboards is Badgers Island - They call them "extended stay" guests. So this will be our winter home. 
Badgers Island Marina is where the arrow is pointing.
That bridge is not currently there right now
Both marinas are fantastic. If looking only at facilities the Wentworth wins out. It is GORGEOUS! With 4 restaurants, 3 bars, pools, showers, laundry and even hotel rooms if a Nor'Easter hits! 
The walkway at the top of the docks

Latitudes restaurant that overlooks the Marina
Marina "members" get use of the pools

And there's the SWEET Wentworth by the Sea Resort & Spa
on the grounds too!
Badger's Island is ALSO super sweet too - great showers/bathroom facilities, a Tiki Bar in summertime, great outdoor grilling area & patio plus our new friend Justin lives at Badgers, is the dock master and can throw a super mean cocktail party! When NH Dept. of Transportation finishes the NEW Memorial Bridge (slated for completion July 2013) Badger's Island will be a 5 minute walk to downtown Portsmouth. That's the kicker with Badger's right now - it's literally UNDER a construction zone which for our first year aboard should be interesting. But we can walk to downtown Kittery Foreside a fantastic up and coming little neighborhood with a great restaurant, yoga studio and dive bar and it's only a 15 min. or so drive into Portsmouth over the Route 1 Bypass bridge. So winter should be fantastic at Badgers. 

 Now comes our reason why - Mobility. The best part about living aboard - we have a MOBILE HOME! We can move when we want/need to and can experience different scenes, towns, marinas, people, views all the time! Our plan now is to move into the Wentworth Marina for the end of the season, through October 31st and then move to Badger's Island for the winter. Sometime before Turkey Day we will shrinkwrap the boat (that's a tale for another post), winterize and hunker down for the cold New Hampshire (technically we'll be in Maine) winter at Badger's Island. 
 Boats hunkered down at Badger's Island for the Winter 
Then come next spring we will open up the shrink wrap and most likely move back to the Wentworth since the bridge construction will be FULL SWING by that time.The idea of our first spring aboard being marked by cranes, jack hammers and a giant bridge being built above our decks is not all that appealing. However, we could also move south to Newburyport or north to Portland or maybe try a mooring or maybe Mexico????-- the beauty of life aboard -- MOBILITY for two gypsy souls like us it's the best lifestyle we could think of! 

"The whole world's topsy turvy, you feel like you're upside down.
Everyday it's a push and shove of people tryin' to get around.
Workin' hard, tryin' to make some bread, tryin' to get it 'fore it gets away.
It's too bad how a man must work to get along, 
but to live you know he needs the pay.

The city is a place in which to build your dreams,
It's a chance to give your ideas life.
A man gets a'longing for some country green, 
He'd just like some peace and quiet, peace and quiet, peace and quiet...

So, ah, to be up and leavin' this town, I said, headed down that open road
With all that you own kinda thrown on the backseat, thinkin' 'bout a-where you'll go
Maybe New Orleans... Maybe Mexico, yeah, got to go, yeah, Mama
I got to get outahere, doncha know, yeah, Babe, I got to head on down...

If only you could pack up everything you love
And everyone who'd ever been your friend,
Well Keepin' close to you the things that make you strong
Got to carry them with you around the bend.
The fear to move and meet the new can keep you in line,
Though you know that something stays behind,
So separate the good and bad and take along the kind
To the place you'd like to be at right on time... time...

So, ah, to be up and leavin' this town, I say, headed down that open road
With all that you own kinda thrown on the backseat, think' 'bout a-where you'll go
Maybe New Orleans... Maybe Mexico, yeah, got to go, yeah, Mama
I got to get outahere, doncha know, yeah, got to go..."

                                          -- Jerry Jeff Walker "Maybe Mexico"  off Mr. Bojangles 1968  

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Reasons Why Wednesday: Purging

Reason Why #4: To Embrace the Art & Beauty of Purging 

So recently a team of anthropologists from UCLA published a book called "Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century" it looks like a coffee-table book with big, glossy photos of the living rooms, garages and bedrooms of 32 middle-class Los Angeles families. However, the book has a deeper story line, one that totally sums up why Tim and I are buying a boat and moving aboard and hope to one day raise our children aboard -- American families are being buried by and stressed out over our "stuff". 
The researchers called their findings "disheartening" and "troubling". The book shows garages so full of bulk boxes of fruit snacks and 500 oz. bottles of laundry detergent and skis and float toys and old baskets and storage boxes that the cars have to stay in the driveway. There's photos of shower stalls full of laundry because there is so much clutter everywhere there's nowhere else to put it. They talk of these fantastic backyard 'oases' with the best furniture the outside living section at Target had to offer and yet 50 of the 64 parents studied never stepped foot outside and less than a quarter of the kids did. The family dining table was covered with mail and books and toys and the families never sat together for dinner - Mom in one room on the phone, Dad in another on the computer, the kids watching TV or playing video games. And then there's the toy obsession for kids -  America has 3.1% of the world's kids and 40% of the world's toys. The children were DROWNING in their toys and yet all they wanted to do during this study was watch TV to see more commercials of more toys they want. The consumerist culture we seem to embrace has resulted in a clutter-filled and very stressful life for our society and our next generation isn't showing signs of slowing their constant need for material possessions either. 

OK, off my soapbox and back to our Reason Why. We are just as guilty as anyone else of having "too much stuff". Our little 2 bedroom duplex is full - every closet full to the top, every dresser full, 2-3 junk drawers, stuff under the back porch and in the basement.This lifestyle choice we are making to move aboard a boat with approximately 250 sq.ft. of living space is causing us to embark upon the very cathartic, emotional, at times overwhelming experience of purging. A famous Farrell family saying is, "Everything must go." There's a long story behind that but it couldn't ring more true for us these days. Our friend who's living on his boat told us we will have to "ween" and all the books and blogs we consult also say there is this "weening" process that one goes through with their stuff where you move aboard more than you'll ever need and slowly you'll realize all you need is some warm clothes, good beer and a good mug. Isn't amazing that we liken the process of a baby maturing off of breast milk to the process of giving up our material possessions? 

We did the first round of purging this weekend - the upstairs storage closet. There was one particular bin that I've moved with me the last 3 times we've moved and never actually opened it because I knew the process of purging the contents would be emotional. There were old notes that were passed between my best friend Tierney and I in math class in high school. There was a middle school "slow dance diary" of every song I'd slow danced to with a boy. There were countless concert ticket stubs, festival maps, a "Welcome to Aussie Land" banner made by my amazing Australian friends when my parents arrived in Brisbane. There was poems written about road trips I'd taken from NOLA to Chicago and a "100 things to love about college" list that was added to for 4 years. There were palanka notes from college retreats and even the beer festival program from the day Tim and I met (I didn't purge that!). These things recalled fantastic memories of amazing people that may or may not still be in my life and though that thought is bittersweet the memory of these people and those times is still as poignant as ever. I don't need to hang on to some crumbly, half faded note to remember the care package my mom mailed me my first week in college, I can still taste the brownies. Or the lab report from my 7th grade Science Fair. I can still feel the pride from the moment I heard my name called. They are just material representations of life stories and the reality is I will never sit with my granddaughter and go through that bin of old things. I'll tell stories, show photos and sure, the details will fade or embellish with time but that's the beauty of life -- it's living the moment, making the memory, telling the story, not holding onto the things. 

This life path we are embarking upon will provide such amazing stories and moments of inexplicable challenge and beauty that no material thing could ever represent. The constraints of life aboard will challenge us to fulfill our lives with moments and experiences rather than gadgets and toys. When we buy something new, something old must go. Our future children will learn to love a strange piece of driftwood on shore as much as some plastic playmobil toy. Our living space won't be surrounded by our stuff but instead will be surrounded by the ocean, the wind, the damp dew in the mornings, the cold frost at night, the cozy teak interior. Our time won't be spent using our newest gadgets or things but instead we'll spend our time learning to fix a faulty cooling line or charting a course to a new anchorage. We will have no choice but to eat together at the table every night. And we'll spend every single day experiencing the outdoors in some meaningful way whether it be shoveling off the deck, walking up the dock with Toby or sipping coffee in the cockpit. 

So for us the "clutter culture" of American society is stopping now. We are taking a path less traveled and trusting that life experiences will provide far more happiness for us than things. 

"I believe we would be happier to have a personal revolution in our individual lives and go back to simpler living and more direct thinking. It is the simple things of life that make living worthwhile, the sweet fundamental things such as love and duty, work and rest and living close to nature." -- Laura Ingalls Wilder

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

It's All Happening...

This fantastic scene from my most favorite movie Almost Famous pretty much sums up how Tim and I are feeling these days. It's all happening...
There's something about how William has Penny ask him again so that he can feel that exuberance and excitement flush through his body and he can smile that wide smile and respond again YES that gets me every time. That's us these days...asking one another again and again - "You really want to do this?" And every time the answer is more emphatic than the time before - absolutely, positively, for sure! 

So first things first - the big news -  OUR OFFER ON THE GULFSTAR WAS ACCEPTED!!!! We still can't believe it! In the next 2 weeks we'll have the survey and sea trial and the closing is scheduled for September 5th! We'll be celebrating our 2nd Anniversary on the 18th on board our very own boat!!!! 
Just finished signing this!
The last blog we'd written we were setting out for a week-long liveaboard sailing class and as we'd expected the class only put longer legs and more stamina on our dream. We ABSOLUTELY loved the cruising lifestyle. We took to it like a fish to water (pun intended). From the early morning swims off the stern in Prudence Island, to the morning delivery of pastries by boat in Block Island, to the soggy night in Newport, to the hours sailing downwind. We loved every single second. 
Anchored out in Dutch Harbor the first night 

Dutch Harbor, Narragansett Bay 

His 33rd Birthday at the helm - living the dream!

Navigating with binoculars on the bow

The "Foulies" are out for our approach into Newport Harbor

He's a natural 

Five Mile Smile 

Block Island - The Oar Bar, amazing sailing bar - note the dighys behind us

The Crew - Capt. Jen, John & Amanda - incredible people! 

Dinghy-ing back to the anchorage as the sun sets 

Aldo's Bakery - Delivery by boat! 

The view from our cockpit - Newport Harbor sunset 

Coast Guard Eagle arriving in Newport Harbor off our cockpit - the benefit of waterfront property! 

There wasn't a single aspect of life aboard that we didn't love or at least tolerate well. The week was a mix of flash flood warnings, pea soup fog, HOT sun, drizzle, gale force winds and sea breezes. Your life is led by the direction of the wind and we loved that. When else in modern life do you determine the track you take to somewhere based upon the direction of the wind and the time of the tides? That close connection to the natural world is something that I LOVED the most. Being "environmental" it was incredible to live and breath by the elements. We woke to damp sheets and knew there was fog outside. We rocked to sleep by waves and we knew the wind had picked up out of the west. We hung our towels to the lifelines when the sun came out and took them in when the dew set in. Water and energy conservation is a way of life aboard a boat. Everyone is mindful of the amount of water they use and no one ever leaves a light on in a room they've left. 

The time spent heeling over on a close reach sail with wind whipping your hair and your sails full is especially thrilling. Sailors call it "the groove". Sure, you're only maxing out at 7 knots but sailing isn't about getting anywhere fast, it's about the journey there. It's about fine tuning your sail trim to maximize your "wing". It's about hearing the waves splash in your wake rather than the hum of an engine. It's about letting nature propel you, not fossil fuels. You work in a team to trim your sails, sheet in your jib. The crew and the helmsman execute a finely orchestrated dance to propel your boat through the water. You steer by the compass and the predetermined navigation course that you'd laid out over breakfast. You make sandwiches in a small galley while you balance yourself as the boat heels. As you approach your port you find your navigational beacons shining through the fog or the rain. Once you've dropped anchor and it's set in the mud you coil up ropes, stow charts, bring up the beer cooler and the cheese and crackers. You jump off the stern for a swim rather than a shower. You grill steaks off the stern mounted grill. You sit in the cockpit with cold beer, sunburned skin and salty hair and watch the sun set, knowing you'll do it all again the next day! 

Here's a little taste of sailing on a close reach from below deck and you can see our floating home away from home for the last week: 
We came back and stepped on shore, got in our car to head back north to New Hampshire and immediately we felt a bit overwhelmed. The speed of the car, the fast paced nature of life on land, not knowing which direction the wind was coming from - we missed it immediately. We made the (horrendous) mistake of stopping at a mall to cool off on our way north - the VW bus doesn't have AC and she cools by air moving so when we're in Boston traffic on a 90+ day it's a recipe for disaster for her and us! Being in the mall, watching all the people buying all this stuff, the store windows full of so much stuff, the bags of stuff filling people arms. None of it interested us at all - we just wanted to go back to the ocean, back to the small, little boat that had all we ever needed to be extremely happy. It was in that moment, in the crowded food court, that we both knew we were going to call the broker in Maine and offer our top dollar for the Gulfstar. We loved that boat and now we knew we LOVED the life that boat will lead us to. 

So today we sit with a signed purchase and sale. We've let our landlords know that we'll be leaving The Dupe. We have begun to discuss what we'll sell, what we'll store and what we'll move aboard. It's all happening...