Monday, December 2, 2013

The Arrival of Winter Aboard

The signs of winter have arrived at the marina...
From here on out we've got to haul the 1,000+ foot hose down to the docks to fill our water tanks, an unenviable task in the frigid cold & Ice...

This = icy, snowy walkways
Sails and summer fun are being being stowed...
Taking down the mizzen sail

Even Toby's sad the day the sails come off...Big Guys like sailing...and laying on the sail bag!

All the fun of summer - bug spray, sunscreen & fishing lures being stowed - sad day!

We've had our first snowfall...

 All around the docks the "forts" are being erected... 
The wooden frame that will will hold up the shrinkwrap - this year we're adding "windows"! 

This week or next "The Bubble" will be brought into creation yet again. The weather lately has been down right miserable and we never thought we'd say this, but we're sort of excited to get the protection The Bubble provides. Of course we'll also start the countdown until we hatch from the bubble in Spring. The winds have been relentless and the recent snap of bitter cold weather has us wishing for the greenhouse effect the shrinkwrap provides. 
BRRRR - an extra cold night aboard!

This year we're a bit wiser and we'd like to think better prepared for the onslaught of the Maine winter. With advice from our boat neighbors we've turned the boat around so she's stern-to the dock and this has helped tremendously with the rocking and rolling we get on the river. She's taking the waves on her bow and therefore cutting through them rather than having them slapping her hull - i.e. quieter in the aft cabin. We've also made our bedroom into a spaceship by insulating all the walls with the silver Reflectix wrapping. We're hoping this will avoid another "hair freezing to the wall" incident like we had last year! 

One lesson learned already...Don't store ALL of your wool sweaters in a musty, moldy trunk! 
The COLD salty air did the trick - all of my sweaters are as good as new! 
As for our heat, this year we've also put "Mr. Buddy" to good use. As an alternate source of heat to our electric heaters he's providing a VERY warm addition when we're home aboard. We won't use him when we're not there or sleeping just to be safe. We're hoping he can help us cut down on our electric bill this season. 
We had dreamed of adding a wood stove or more permanent heater this year but then we said, that's not getting us closer to our dream of the Bahamas! We made a pact that we're only adding things that we KNOW we'll need/use when we're in the tropics or sailing, because let's face it living aboard in New England winters is NOT the end game here! :) 

Another smart addition we made this year is a dehumidifier. It's been a game-changer in the battle with condensation. We got the 30-pint and it seems to keep up pretty good with the moisture. The amount of water we get from it every day and a half is quite amazing - no wonder our skin feels so moist! 

Probably the best success so far has been for Mr. Toby. He's so much braver and more relaxed now than he was last year this time when we moved to Badger's Island Marina. The marina is not the calmest port in the world and the boat gets rocked and rolled A LOT more than at the Wentworth. Last year Toby had to wear his Thunder Shirt every day and now he never needs it! He used to climb up on our faces and our laps every time the boat would move and now he just sleeps through it, snoozing away. I think all the sailing we did as a crew of 3 this summer helped him get his "sea legs" We're so proud of our little Boat Dog! 

Snooze City
So we're decking our halls for Christmas, finishing up the last of the winter preparation projects and hunkering down for our 2nd winter aboard in Maine. This year promises to be so much better not only because of our new knowledge but because there are  A LOT more boat neighbors on the docks this year! Other cool folks "living the dream" like us - kindred spirits! More life on the docks will definitely help the dark, cold months go by faster! Plus the awesomely gorgeous new Memorial Bridge is built so we can walk into downtown Portsmouth in about 6 minutes. The walk across the river is gorgeous and we're really loving living "downtown", not to mention living without relentless construction noise above our boat is quite lovely! So here's to winter - and to dreaming of moving to the Bahamas...some day! 
Our little Christmas tree & sailcloth stockings - love adding a little spirit to our boat's salon! 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Change for Change Sake

We are quickly realizing that this life afloat breeds indecision. Not sure if it's the fact that as sailors we're ruled by the vacillations of weather, the constant up and down of tides and the highs and lows of waves. Or if not having a lease or mortgage encourages shallow, if any roots, but either way we're in a constant state of up and down, high and low, back and forth. When all it takes is to untie a few lines and kick up an engine in order to move your home the options begin to feel endless.

We were told a while back by a seasoned sailing cruising that you live in 6-month horizons. There's little if any long-term planning when it comes to boats and travel. And life as a liveaboard here New England, this couldn't be more true. Here in the Portsmouth region options are limited for marinas to live at and this only adds to the 6-month horizon lifestyle. Not to mention that for 6 months of year you're the envy of many and for the other six your the crazy friend/son/daughter/sibling living on a boat! 

As Summer of 2013 folds into Fall 2013 the changes around us are palpable. The marina goes from bustling with action to silent. The dockside cafe closes. The marina staff hours cut back. The parking lot empties. The slips around us start to clear out. And the sense that it's time to move on becomes stronger and stronger. Couple that with the natural transition occurring in the environment during autumn in New England plus a natural propensity for change and a couple of gypsy souls and you've got the recipe for a tumultuous few weeks. Welcome to the crew of the Zephyr's last month. 

We started out in mid-August looking at liveaboard marinas in Boston. Thoughts of big city living and change drove us to explore this option. But then logistics of costs, cars, lifestyle and our love of open spaces (especially Toby's) stopped making sense. We then headed north, though not in support of our end goal of heading to points south where the latitudes get smaller we'd always been drawn to the city of Portland, Maine. The music, the food scene, a few very rad friends, the familiar but difference to Portsmouth. We checked out the one marina of liveaboards in the Old Port. It was a GORGEOUS late-August day, the stuff of summer dreams. 

Minds whirled all of September - Portland or Kittery? Kittery or Boston? Winter rental on land (for a very brief second)? We came to a decision - Portland. We tried that decision on, felt it out for a while. Just like trying on clothes I've always 'tried on decisions'. When I was deciding on where to go college I was at a fancy cocktail party for my dad's work in NYC. Every person who asked where I was going I'd respond with a different school - St. Michaels, Trinity, Fairfield, Loyola New Orleans - just to see how it felt to say and also what their reaction was. New Orleans always, always got the best reaction, obviously! 

So we told our friends and families we were moving to Portland. Always incredibly supportive they were happy and sad at the same time. And all the while the decision was still not 'fitting right' entirely for either of us. We were feeling overwhelmed, stressed and there were a lot of 'heart hurts' as we thought about leaving this city we've called home for the last 7 years. Not to mention the marina in Portland was not responding to our request for a rental agreement so nothing was falling into place. Add to that our good friends and fellow liveaboards, Justin and Kim made the decision to stay aboard their boat in Kittery for the winter - neighbor friends on the dock! 

As all our awesome Portsmouth friends gathered to celebrate Jill's birthday on Monday night the decision became clear - we are staying. Changing for the sake of change when nothing else is really drawing you to change is not the healthiest way to live. Last year was our first winter aboard, everything was a lesson, everything was new, this year we have the opportunity to learn from our mistakes, improve upon on lives and if we go and mix that all up by moving we may lose that clarity. Our end goal is not to move north it's to move to points south and the decision to stay will help us stay on target to do that. Eyes on the prize as my mom always tells us. So, we'll be in Kittery, Maine again this winter and this time without the incessant construction noise from the Memorial Bridge - we can walk downtown! 

Hopefully the Badger's Island Swans will return this year - the Piscataqua River is an infinitely
endless source of fascination

Saturday, September 7, 2013

One Year In - 10 Things We've Learned

So it was exactly one year ago today that we moved aboard Zephyr and set sail from Portland!
Right before we stepped aboard for the 1st time as the new owners!
The lessons we've learned, the experiences we've had are too many to name and we're so incredibly grateful for it all. We thought we'd put our 3 heads together and come up with the biggest lessons learned in this first year of living our dream. Next week we'll each write our own personal lists of personal lessons learned, so stay tuned.  

1. You can live with a lot less - when we moved aboard from the Dupe we were quite cutthroat about purging our worldly possessions. At the time it was very emotional to give up our 'stuff' and we definitely weren't sure we'd be 'OK' without it. The emotions were high as we bid adieu to our bed, couch, books, most of our wardrobes, kitchen stuff, etc. Now a year later we rarely even miss those things. Sure we're doing laundry A LOT more because we both only have enough clothes to get us through a week and when it comes to dressy occasions we definitely have to 'recycle' a lot. Jill, being a girl, struggles with this a tad more than Tim but there's also a great sense of peace coming from the simplicity. 

2. Tim can't cook in a Galley - When Tim attempts to cook in the tiny galley that is our kitchen the word 'shit show' is an understatement. The crashing, banging, expletives and "angry Tim" episodes abound. The galley is a practice is patience, planning and patience. Your counter top is also the access to your fridge. Your fridge is a deep pit with bins barely balanced upon one another like a cruel game of tetris. Tim has taken on the role of grill master and Jill is galley wench. We eat pretty darn good aboard. Our favorite meals:
Jambalaya, black beans & rice, stir-fry and fajitas. 

3. Two People and a Big Guy can Survive Aboard a Boat - Patience. Communication. Sense of humor. Those are the keys to surviving in 500 sq. ft. with 2 people and a Big dog. There's no "I'm just going to sneak behind you" - there's no sneaking, there's slipping through, there's just moving out of each other's ways and waiting, maybe giving them a little sass about taking their sweet time...  

4. We're not retired, nor rich - Sailing off into the sunset for months (years) is our end goal since we're not retired or trust fund babies we're going to have to figure out how to do this while making an income. Plans are in the works in that regard. Doing all that we need/want to do to our boat is a work in progress, a LONG (maybe lifelong) work in progress. We aren't rich so most of the work we do is DIY. We don't have the budget to hire boat yards, or specialists so we do a lot a lot of Internet research, YouTube clips and message boards to learn how to do something. It's not a fast way of getting the all work done but it's what we got. Choosing to do this when we're young rather than retired requires a lot more patience and perseverance to see it through. 

5. Sense of immediacy doesn't work - Refer to above. When you're out sailing it's about the journey not the destination. If we're impatient or antsy the wind doesn't care. A sailor on a deadline is a recipe for disaster, you make poor choices about weather, you push your boat too hard and you could end up dead. 

6. Summer is way better than winter  - This one sorta goes without saying but we've definitely realized why living aboard in New England in the summer is pure bliss. You feel like you're on vacation all the time. You're the envy of all your friends and boat neighbors. But around this time of year is when people start feeling less envy and have a bit more pity.

7.  You learn to love zippers, hatches and portholes - Life on a boat is deeply embedded into the elements - the glorious and the not so lovely. As we've written about before, we are very closely connected to the weather around us. We live, breathe and soak up every ounce of the weather. When the morning sun shines and the breezes pick up we unzip the many zippers of our cockpit enclosure, when the evening dew sets in we zip them back up. When the rains start we run around madly closing hatches and fastening portholes and then as soon as the rain stops we open it all back up. We love being able to let the weather into our living space and when we want to be dry and warm, zipping it back out. 

8. Cockpit Speakers are the Bomb  - enough said. 

9.  It's not all cocktails & hors d'oeuvres, but when it is it's awesome - We've definitely become masters at the sundowners and Happy Hours. The boat is almost never without some nice cheese, crackers, salami and olives and of course copious amounts of rum. The thing about boating people that we've learned is they do know how to kick back and soak up the sunset. It's a daily ritual and we've taken to that habit quite nicely. Sure, there's days when there's work or errands or chores but the boat friends we've made over some cocktails and snacks are great. 

10. Think things through - whether it's how to bring the boat into the slip, how long a passage from one port to the other will take, how to cook a galley meal or how to get to something buried deep in a locker it's all about the forethought before acting. You have to step back before acting and think it through, think about your bail out if the docking goes wrong, think about what you'll need to cook the entire meal, plan out exactly which waypionts you'll hit on your passage. It's a practice in discipline and patience and one we're still working on. 

So there they are - a few of the overarching things we've learned as we've gone through this first year. We aren't going to sugarcoat and say it's all been delightful but we have had  a lot of great times! When we moved aboard a year ago, we promised one another that we'd give it a year and if either one of us wanted off, we'd both bail. We're happy to report today that we're both still in it to win it! We're no where near close to giving up on this dream in fact we just keep pumping it with dream gasoline! Thanks for following along with us! 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Kicking off Summer Right!

Well, Summer 2013 certainly has been a BUSY time for the crew of the Zephyr, hence the total lack of blogging! So we figured we'd try and get caught up slowly but surely.We'll start with the highlight to our summer so far, the first day of summer, June 21st, overnight raft up at the Isle of Shoals. I've always loved the solstice, my mom would always remark that it's the longest day of the year and for me being someone who LOVES sunsets and twilight it's just about perfect. The Isle of Shoals is 6 miles off the coast of Portsmouth and it has a long and fascinating history which is definitely worth checking out if you're interested. We made the plan to meet up with our great friends Justin and Kim and raft up on their yacht club's mooring for the night. 

First, we needed to the way, this is the best beer in the world.

We provisioned, prepared, did our check lists and cast off at about 4pm. Winds were around 5-10 knots and the seas were relatively flat for the Gulf of Maine. We had a fantastic sail and we got to use Autopilot for the first time! What a fantastic little device that is! To be able to leave the helm and go forward or grab a drink or just lay back and enjoy the peace of lapping waves - WOW! We cruised at around 4.5 knots and soaked up the sweetness of our new life - feeling very, very grateful. We had the stereo up and the beers were cold. This was our first overnight trip since we brought the boat south from Portland in September. It was quite awesome not to worry about what to pack or if we had all that we needed - our boat is our house so we had it all! Quite an incredible feeling of freedom to know that all you need in this world - dog, husband, 'stuff' is all aboard and you're setting sail out on the water...the opportunities are endless, that feeling was like a drug for me and I can't wait to feel it again! 

It was such a thrill to finally be approaching the Shoals this clump of land that we see all the time from the marina. There's this fantastic old grand hotel out on Star Island called the Oceanic Hotel, now part of the Star Island Corporation which is owned by the UU church. They host lots of retreats and camps throughout the summer out there and Gosport Harbor where the moorings are located overlooks this grand hotel. 
Approaching White Island lighthouse 
We arrived around 7pm, rafted up alongside LIB and the happiest of hours ensued aboard Zephyr with Kim and Justin. Toby got to have his first dinghy ride to take care of 'business' ashore. Toby was nervous but in the end he really liked taking an adventure with his papa. 
LIB and Zephyr rafted up in the waning light of day

Toby & his Papa dinghying into shore

Gorgeous Kim & her fantastic Bag 'O Wine

A very happy bunch of sailors & Toby ringing in the first day of summer! 
The sunset was nothing short of phenomenal...the stuff of watercolor paintings. There was a gorgeous gaff-rigged, wooden sparred, schooner moored off our starboard side and once the sun began to sink behind her rig I was pinching myself that this was our life getting to witness this kind of beauty. 

As the day turned into night we were 'boarded' by Pelicans. No, not the birds, but rather a few of the staff from the Star Island Hotel. They're called Pelicans because they work out on the island all summer and barely ever visit the mainland for 5-6 months. They are fantastically interesting people who were a pleasure to have aboard. The first Pelican, Keith, came aboard via row boat and came bearing gifts - a pitcher of Raspberry Lime Rickey from the Cafeteria & a bottle of Rum, our kind of boat guest! Then more Pelicans came via a little blue dory sailboat. Still more arrived in another row boat, at the height of the night our little raft up had 5 assorted boats tied to it.
Assorted boats tied off to our little floating party 

Pitcher of Lime Rickey, Rum & Heady Topper - what a great spread!


The stars over the grand hotel, the cool summer breeze, the Super Moon, the sound of the waves crashing over the breakwater...absolutely awesome! To be able to experience all this a mere 3 hours from our slip at the Wentworth, even more incredible, and to to think, this is just the beginning for us and our adventures aboard Zephyr! 

In fact, next weekend we depart for a two-week cruise up to Maine and Casco Bay. We are in the planning, charting, provisioning list making phase but we'll be sure to share our plans as they come together. Our first stop on Sunday, July 28th - The Isle of Shoals! Since sailing is inextricably linked to weather we're keeping our plans loose all we know is that we're going to shove off the dock and not return for two whole weeks! We can't wait! 

Our Summer Vacation exploring the many islands of Casco Bay!

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Usual Chaos of Living Well...

Somehow we'd imagined our life aboard as being entirely different from land life, and though things are different, from the daily chores to the sounds and smells, life is still life. There's still a lot of life that goes on whether we're floating or still. That means life commitments, job commitments, house/boat guests, life events to celebrate...overall, time spent off the boat living life. One of our favorite quotes to describe our lifestyle is by poet Robert Lowell, "The usual chaos of living well."  And living well is exactly what we've been doing these past couple weeks.

Carrie from Texas comes to stay aboard in torrential rains! 
We haven't gotten as much time sailing as we'd like, no thanks to the torrential rains & 40 degree temps of Memorial Day weekend, we have been having a wonderful start to the summer. Full of laughs, visits and celebrations with old friends, happy hours with new friends, special times with family and adventures in OJ, the orange bus. If we can't be adventuring in our sailboat we can at least adventure in our other love, the VDub! There's just something about slow rolling around New England in a VW bus...

We found enough sun to visit Seapoint Beach in Maine, Carrie's never been to Maine!
Jill, Meggie & TK, also known as the 3 Musketeers at Notre Dame Academy
Meggie and Seth got married in Scituate on Memorial Day weekend. Fantastic catching up with Jill's old friends from high school & celebrating a wonderful couple! 

Wouldn't be Jill & Tim without some funny photo-ops 

Memorial Day Monday was spent 'straight chilling' on the bow. The sun was shining, the breezes blowing and we just laid about the boat doing nothing, answering to no one, enjoying the sweet life of living aboard.We hit some golf balls at the range, had some late afternoon beers at The Green Bean with some boat neighbors and took a long walk with Toby at sunset. Perfect kick-off to summer! 
Our neighborhood sure is glorious in the waning light of day...

Following the cold and rainy Memorial Day, in classic New England style, the temps rose 50* in less than a week and ushered in HOT and HUMID weather! It was pushing 95 on Friday! Lo and behold we discovered that Zephyr has a working A/C system - WHAT?! So we may not have had central heat all winter but we'll take central A/C! We took a fantastic dip in the Wentworth pool and sipped on frozen pina coladas Friday afternoon before hosting some new boat neighbors and friends for happy hour. 

The heat arrived just in time for a trip to Newport/Portsmouth, Rhode Island to celebrate Kate and Andrew's wedding. Tim grew up with Kate and her brother Tom was Tim's best man at our wedding. Rather than spend tons of money on a hotel we chose to get a campsite and park the bus for the night. The adventure to Rhode Island was a bit worrisome, you see, an air cooled bus + 95* heat + Boston traffic can make one very nervous...

But OJ rallied through and we made it just fine to our wonderful little patch of forest in Portsmouth, RI. Getting ready for a formal wedding out of the back of a VW bus at a campground is so much fun because of the sheer irony! 

We clean up pretty good! 
The wedding was GORGEOUS! In a mansion on the shore of Narragansett Bay. It brought back fond memories of our fantastic week sailing those waters last summer and elicited more planning and scheming for future trips! The celebration was so full of happiness and love CONGRATS KATE & ANDREW! 
The dudes on the grounds of the mansion 
Kate was a GORGEOUS bride - why she chose to include us 2 jamokes - not sure! :) 

The "Tim and Funny Portraits" series continues...
A flashback to another time at the Glen Manor House 

Gorgeous tablescapes with a fantastic backdrop
The adventure home in OJ had an additional two passengers/friends who ended up camping with us the night prior - I think they just wanted to experience the awesomeness that is rolling in OJ. 
Danielle, Matt & Toby Post-wedding snoozing in the back of the bus - Toby was all partied out!
Deluca and Timbo bus posing in East Boston - thanks for riding along Del!

So though we might not be getting as much sailing in as we'd thought we would we have been soaking up this special time with family and friends. In the not so distant future we'll be off cruising in the Caribbean and we won't have the opportunity to rejoice in all these special moments and celebrations and I know we'll be sad to miss them. So from now until we cast off the lines for good we'll be playing the balancing act that is life and loving every second of it, in other words, living very, very well!