Throwback Thursday: Our Never Ending Atlantic Crossing: Aka We Bought a New Boat & We’re Headed Back to Florida

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

So how did we get ourselves in the mess we’re currently in?  Having spent ONE YEAR now working on this boat we spotted after just arriving to Ponta Delgada in the Azores.  Had we known the project was going to be this big or take this long, we may have reconsidered, had we had all that information while we were still on the east side of the Atlantic.  Cruise the Med in a perfectly good boat that we had just gotten across an ocean?  Or take a chance on a boat that had amazing potential, but also a few defects that we knew of which would needed to be addressed in addition to the complete face lift we wanted to give her.

In the end I’m sure you can tell what we decided since we’re not currently sitting in the Greek islands or floating though Malta, but this post will help to give a better explanation of how and why we made that choice.

*Let it be noted that we still love this boat and what it will eventually become. She’ll hopefully be as wonderful to us as we’ve tried to be to her, and I envision many great seasons on her once we finally get out of here. Just with a lot more effort than what  we originally thought.

You can find the original post here.

 

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So it looks like after all of our hard work to get ourselves from Miami to the Azores, we will not be sailing the azul waters of the Mediterranean this year. Or next. Maybe the year after that.

This is because we are now turning our butts around and hightailing it back to Florida. What?! I know, something about that state just has a certain pull on us. We also have something waiting for us there in the form of 37 feet of aluminum hull.

But I am getting way, way ahead of myself here, let me back up a moment. First just let me say that we love Serendipity. She’s been a great boat to us and we’ve never been openly seeking to get rid of her. I just happen to be married to a man that spends a fair amount of hours cruising Yacht World, just for fun and just to see what’s out there. A little pastime of his. I have blogging…he has researching boats for sale.

We’ve known since we bought her that Serendipity would not be our forever boat, but she fit the bill for what we were looking to do at the time. A young couple that could comfortably cruise around for a few years in 34 feet. In the back of our minds though, there’s always been what we want in our next boat. The next boat will have a bigger galley (me), preferably be an aluminum hull (Matt), have more general storage (me), and have a pilot house (Matt). Plus we both agreed that an extra 8 to 10 feet would be pretty nice, something we can grow into and maybe eventually start a family on. Nothing that we needed right away, but something to keep an eye out for in case it came along.

Well, it did. While sitting in Horta, just as we were about to cast off the lines to sail the remaining 1,200 miles to Gibraltar and really begin our European cruising, my ever searching hubby came across a 48 foot aluminum boat with a pilot house sitting back in Rhode Island for a very affordable price. Introducing the idea of this new boat to me, I was a little less than enthusiastic about not only giving up on Europe, which I’m dying to see, but crossing back over the Atlantic so we can get this new boat and probably have to spend a year working in restaurants or Bed Bath & Beyond to build up the kitty again. When I say it was affordable all I mean by that is we have the money to buy it, but it would have taken up just about all of it.

This would be however, our f-o-r-e-v-e-r boat. Worth the sacrifice in the end, so I told him to go ahead and put an offer on it. A little bit of a low ball offer, and I’m not sure what I was expecting from it, maybe a big ‘eff you!’ from the current owner, but imagine my surprise when the broker came back the next day stating our offer had been accepted.

But wait? Didn’t you just say that this new boat is 37 feet and sitting in Florida? Yes, I did. Keep following along, I promise I will explain everything and it will all make sense in the end.

With this 48 foot boat we were not going to have a survey done since it was recently purchased by it’s current owner and a full survey had just been done last October. We felt comfortable that this recent survey along with a disclosure agreement from the owner, as well as a flight from Matt to view it in person, would be enough for us. When the disclosure agreement came back though we found there was corrosion by the stern tube, information that was not on the listing and we had no prior knowledge of. The current owner had already had a quote done for repairs, and with this new cost added to it we didn’t know if it was still in our budget. It was something we wanted to mull over for a few days.

Thinking about it long and hard we decided that we’d go back to the owner and say that if they were willing to lower the price to cover half the cost of repairs we’d still take it. Unfortunately the owner was quite firm on the price, especially since our initial offer was already at the bottom of what he’d be willing to sell for. We were disappointed but at the same time could understand. We thanked him and moved on. It appeared as if the Mediterranean was still in our future, but now we were two weeks even further behind. Fall weather was coming along and those last 1,200 miles were not looking too appealing. Seeing there were very high winds sitting between us in Gibraltar, we decided to break up the trip and get ourselves to Sao Miguel, an Azorean island 150 miles east of Faial.

The trip was a quick 36 hours, but still gave Matt enough time to think about this new dream boat that he was letting slip through his fingers. As soon as we pulled up to the docks in Ponta Delgada and aquired an internet signal he was online with the broker stating that we’d take the boat, corrosion and all, for the originally agreed upon price. Au contraire….., things do not always work out the way we hope. During our little sail in the Azores, other potential buyers had gone to see this boat and new offers were coming in. We found ourselves in the middle of a bidding war, and even though we had upped our previous offer by 5k, we still lost in the end.

To say that Matt was let down would be a complete understatement. The next 48 were spent with him sulking about Serendipity, lamenting how he screwed it all up. The overcast skies and rain we were getting complemented his mood perfectly. So while he was going back to his favorite pastime of hunting new boats on Yacht World, his mood cheered a little when he found a 37 foot aluminum boat with a pilot house, sitting in Florida, with a very affordable price tag. He was so hopeful and excited when he looked at me with big saucer eyes, asking if he could put an offer on it, that there was no way I could turn him down. Just to see what we could get away with though, and I think part of me still hoping that we’d make it into the Med, we put in an extremely low offer of ten thousand less than the asking price.

This broker was very quick and efficient and within a few hours we had a counter offer splitting the difference between the two. The big saucer eyes turned me to again. I knew it was all over. Just like when Matt knew we’d be coming home with a cat the moment we walked into the rescue shelter in Georgia two years ago, I knew we’d be heading back to Florida with a new project boat on our hands.

Ok, now for the details! Our new boat is of French design, a custom built Trisalu 37, built in Quebec in 1983. It’s a shoal draft cutter that has a center board with a draft of 7′, but when raised we’ll be down to 3’6”. Something that will be great for the Caribbean. One of the things Matt likes best about it is the deck salon, and was a big selling point for us. There’s been recently replaced sails and engine, but there are definitely areas that need work as well. We’ll be going through and replacing all the wires and hoses, and transferring over some random items from Serendipity, like the water maker. To see a list of all her features, check the link here.

This new purchase is definitely going to be a project boat for us. As Matt likes to say, it’s basically going to be a gut and rebuild. But we’ll be able to make it exactly how we want it, so I think it will be worth all the time and the effort in the end.

So what does all this mean for Serendipity? She’ll be coming back to Florida with us where she’ll promptly be put up for sale. The plan is to get ourselves to the Canary Islands shortly, spend a few months exploring them, and then depart in December or January with a planned landfall of St. Martin. From there we’ll do a bit of quick island hopping on our way north, hopefully still making visits to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, skipping the Bahamas, and getting ourselves to the new boat sometime in March.

This is definitely a huge change in plans for us, which is why I told Matt that I’m never making plans again. They just never happen. So if you ask what we’re going to do when this new boat is ready to cruise, I really couldn’t tell you. We might hang around the Caribbean or we might do another Atlantic crossing, finally seeing Europe. I don’t think we’ll know until we’re out on the water and we’ll see how we feel at that point. I do know however that this extra time back in the States will allow us a visit out to my parents in Arizona (who I haven’t seen in almost two years!!), possibly a visit back to Michigan to see friends and family there, but best of all, a chance to cruise with our boating besties, Jackie and Ron of Skelton Crew, who should be arriving in Florida with their boat just as we’ll be getting ready to toss off our lines. And isn’t that worth going back for just in itself?

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Pure, Simple Beauty; In Mountains & Wood Watches

Its no surprise that part of the draw of visiting  Arizona is for it’s mountainous landscape.  It’s rare you’ll find a flat piece of land here, and even if you happen to be in one of it’s few valleys, you’re never far from a spectacular view of peaks in the distance.  Vacationing over from one of the flattest states in the US, these sights were a welcome change from the horizontal grounds we’ve been living in for the past year.

One of the exceptional things about all the ridges and sierras we’ve seen so far is not only how beautiful they are, but how simple they are in their beauty.  There’s nothing flashy or flamboyant about them, yet they are so mesmerizing you can’t take your gaze away.  One of nature’s best canvases unfolded in front of our eyes.  No bells and whistles needed, just pure, simple beauty.

Not only have we noticed this trait about the vistas around us, but also from our new JORD watches.  This is a company we’ve worked with before, who offer unique timepieces made from wood.  Directed at those who lead an experiential lifestyle, this company is all about individuality and a touch of natural elegance and practicality in their products. It’s hard not to find yourself getting lost in the wide series of time keepers offered through their site.

When they contacted us to work with them again, we jumped at the chance.  There’s already been so many compliments to our first set of watches that I couldn’t wait to grow our collection.  This time around, Matt picked the Fieldcrest  in Dark Sandalwood, a choice that he almost went with last year.  Since I’ve recently fallen in love with maple after we’ve begun using it for the counters and floors in the new boat, I selected the Ely Series in Maple.

If both of our watches have one thing in common, along with these astounding mountain views, is they are also pure and simple in their beauty but uncommon enough to make you turn your head with a second glance which turns into a long gaze as you try to pinpoint what it is about it’s simplicity that makes it so fascinating.  The oiled woods themselves are gorgeous and the faces bring your eye in with their intricate markings.

I’ve already begun pairing mine with as many outfits as I can, and whenever Matt slides his up his wrist I can’t help but blurt out, “That looks so good on you”.  I’m sure we’ll receive just as many compliments on our new set of watches, and who knows, maybe we’ll keep our collection going!

Back to our original subject though….  Although it would be almost impossible for me to write posts on all the marvelous sights we took in and stops we’ve made with our time in Arizona, I thought I could at least put together something on our favorite landscapes during our time here, and also sneak in a few photos of our impressive new watches.  Included will be a few tidbits about each stop, although you’ve already read about our first one to Payson.

Rim of Payson, AZ

JORD Fieldcrest & Ely

Another great stop on our visit to Arizona was Sedona.  Famous for it’s notable red sandstone formations, this area is a must see for anyone passing through the state. Taking a run over to Cathedral Rock, one of the most photographed sites in Arizona, we were able to get a wide assortment of amazing photos as Matt and I scaled the steep rock.

I’m saving this destination for a full post, but here’s a few snippets of the day.

Cathedral Rock Sedona

JORD Ely in Sedona

Cathedral Rock Sedona AZ

Cathedral Rock, Sedona

In the middle of the week we took off from the house to view some of the best ‘close to home’ sights.  Things that weren’t more than a 30 minute drive away.  A place I had visited before but wanted to see again was Fountain Hills, just outside of Scottsdale.  Every hour on the hour, there is a  large fountain in the center of a pond that will shoot up 560 feet in the air, the fourth tallest fountain in the world!

Filled with playgrounds for kids and shaded picnic tables for the adults, its a great place to pack a snack and a few drinks to sit and relax before or after the big show.  Or if you stay long enough, you get the chance to see it over and over again.

Fountain Hills, AZ

Fountain Hills, Arizona

On this busy local day of ours, we also made a stop at Saguaro Lake.  Just 20 miles outside of Mesa, this is a reservoir on Salt River that becomes a very popular spot for locals once the temperatures start going up.  We’ve heard that if you try to get in here on a weekend during the summer, there can be a wait of an hour just to find a spot in the parking lot.

Getting a close up look at this lake, we could see why it’s such a popular haunt for anyone looking for time on the water in the middle of this desert.  The water was extremely clear, and dipping a toe into it, was refreshingly cool.  With the impressive mountains that drape as a backdrop, it’s the best of both worlds as you cool off from the heat and take in the bouldered landscape.

Saguaro Lake, AZ

JORD Fieldcrest

Saguaro Lake

The drive home took us back to the outlook we visited our first day here, overlooking the Superstition Mountains.  Because the sun had been in our eyes and blinding us a little during our first visit, we thought we might get  better views by stopping once more in the afternoon.  By this time the sun was resting behind us and highlighting the mountains much better.  We could clearly see Salt River winding in front of us, and fly fishers wading through.

We’d heard that tubing season on the river just opened, and although it was the middle of the week, you could see the stray person here or there floating through the water.  Another great spot to cool oneself in this climate while enjoying breathtaking views. In the distance we could just make out Four Peaks, another recognizable landmark for it’s 4 peaks, which also grace the state’s license plate.

Superstition Mountains, AZ

Four Peaks, AZ

 The last extra local sight we took in was one I had been begging my dad to bring me around to after I’d seen an amazing photo of it online, and that was Red Rock.  Originally he’d told me that there were no good roads leading up to it and the closest you’d actually see it was from the expressway.  Luckily for me, as we were taking a county road home one evening we found a park that offered xx views from just across a small river.

Pulling into the parking lot, we wandered up to the waters edge and caught a few glimpses just as the sun was starting to go down.  This is still one of my favorite sights of the trip, and coming upon this park was a complete act of Serendipity.

Red Rock, AZ

Red Rock, AZ

A special note from JORD, right now they are offering a special $25 e-gift card toward any purchase!  Sign up for yours with just your name and email address here and have yours sent over.  You’d better hurry though, supplies are limited, and once they’re gone, they’re gone!

JORD Ely Maple

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Throwback Thursday: From Dock to Shining Dock

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

This throwback doesn’t leave us very far from our last one, just enough time for us to finally get ourselves off Horta (Faial) and moving to the next island.  If I haven’t mentioned yet in throwbacks, because I know it will probably be the next big one to come, one of the reasons we had been sitting for so long in this area was because we were looking at purchasing a boat back in the States.  Not the one we did end up getting, but a 48 ft aluminum boat in Rhode Island.

As you’ll probably see in a future post, things didn’t work out with that particular boat, but it was enough to keep us by an internet connection (and an airport if need be), day and night.  So until we made the decision to move on, we sat in Horta and decided where our eventual destination would be: Europe, or the US.  Still debating, and with some bad weather in the not to distant forecast, we opted to move 150 miles east to Sao Miguel.  Here’s the post on our ride over, the first sailing we had done in a month, and since crossing 3,000 miles to arrive in the Azores.

You can find the original post here.

Saturday September 6, 2014

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Just as planned, we left Horta on late Thursday after trying to time it just right that we wouldn’t arrive to Ponta Delgada before sunrise a day and a half later. All the laundry had gotten one final wash, last minute e-mails were sent out as if two days were going to be a terribly long time to be away from civilization, and all the last of the provisions that we had purchased for a two week crossing were shoved into every little nook and cranny of Serendipity. All morning I had been watching the barometer, my new favorite hobby, and became increasingly worried as the winds sounded like they were howling outside the marina in the early afternoon. Four weeks of sailing in winds rarely over ten knots still makes me queasy to think of going out in anything over fifteen now. Forget that we cruised the whole Caribbean in 25-30, apparently it’s still taking me awhile to build back up to that.

At 5:00 we tossed off the lines and headed back into open water. Both of us were hoping for a whale spotting out in the channel since we still see tour boats take tourists there every day for just this thing, but we were only left with a slight chop and dramatic views of Pico while nearing golden hour. The pharmacy brand Dramamine I had just purchased during our stay in Portugal seemed to be doing it’s job, and as we carried swiftly along at five knots under a reefed main and partial jib, I was able to reheat some pasta for dinner without getting sick from the motion down below.

All morning I had been worried that I’d slept in too late and wouldn’t be anywhere close to sleeping when 8 pm came along, but just like Matt says, something about being on a boat instantly wants to lull you to sleep. Just after the sun went down and I had finished cleaning the dishes I was happily falling asleep in my bunk. The rocking was fairly gentle and there was no trouble falling back into old habits.

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Sometime during my four hours of sleep I heard the wind pick up and Matt roll in the headsail. From what I could tell we were still moving along at a decent pace and since there was no cursing or frantic movements I assumed whatever storm might be coming up on us wasn’t too bad and I quickly drifted back off. When I got up for my shift at midnight I found out that what felt like moving swiftly along to me was us only powering along at 2.5 knots. Our old friend. After getting a rundown from Matt he told me that while we were in the lee of Pico the wind had been a little schizophrenic and was not only constantly changing direction, but changing speed as well. He had just gone from 15 to 30 down to ten all within an hour. When I came up they were hovering around 12 and the wind was coming from our beam.

Just as Matt was settled into bed and I was left on my own the winds decided to shift yet again to begin to come more on our nose and forcing me to point closer and closer to Pico. It was fine for awhile, but we wanted to stay at least five miles offshore, if just for the katabatic winds alone, and finally I had to point us directly south just so we could put some distance between us once more. During the rest of my shift the winds finally started to back more to our port side and I was able to put on on a course toward Sao Miguel. The winds had also picked up to the 25-30 range, with wild thunderstorms off in the distance, but as it looked like they were headed away from us and we were only working under a reefed main, I didn’t put too much worry into it. The constant drizzle of rain we did get though was a bit annoying and by 4 am I was more than happy to take my place back in my bunk.

By morning the skies had cleared of storm clouds and we were just left with puffy cumulus balls and winds hanging around 20-25 knots. Our pace was pathetic, holding at just over 3 knots, and I began to wonder if instead of getting to Ponta Delgada by sunrise the next day, if we’d even get there before sunset. If there’s one thing I can not stand (ok, there’s actually a lot, but this is a major one), it’s getting within just a few miles of port when the sun sets and having to wait it out until the next morning to get in. Nope. That was not going to fly with me this time. When Matt woke up from his shift I let him know that winds had died down to 20-22 knots, and I know we’d been super cautious since our storms off Florida, but maybe we could think about putting out the headsail to gain ourselves some speed. We used to sail in this kind of weather all the time, right?

When I asked I thought we’d just be putting it partially out, I still felt like being a little cautious, but Matt was fine with letting the whole thing out. He didn’t see any more storm on the horizon and since it was day we should see any new ones coming from far away. As soon as the sail was let out and trimmed in we set off like a rocket. Our speed jumped from 3.2 knots up to 6.5 as the ‘Dip heeled over at a nice 10-15°. For a moment I sucked in my breath. We hadn’t seen speeds like this in a long time and I don’t even remember the last time we had a nice heel. But then I realized…we’re fine. This is what the ‘Dip is meant to do. This is what she used to do all the time before we became too scared to let her get into her groove after one too many squalls on our crossing.

For the rest of the day she stayed in her groove, speeding along at 6.5-7 knots, and even though we’d definitely made up the lost time we wondered if we might still get to our destination a little too early. When the sun was going down we rolled the headsail back in and went to cover the last 50 miles at a steady 4 knots. With the nights getting colder I spent my 12am-4am shift comfortably settled into the settee below while running up for checks every 15 minutes. Being less than 40 miles from the island at the time I spent my shift using my MP3 player to scan for decent radio stations, delighted when I found them although each station seemed to have quite an eclectic mix ranging from brand new Coldplay to 90′s Mariah Carey to turn of the millenium techno.

It was me who was in the cockpit once again as we approached the island just after sunrise. The last 10 miles seemed to take forever, not bringing us to the harbor until 11 am, but the sights as I watched us come in were well worth the wait. The SW side of the island is edged with sheer cliffs while rolling green hills followed, turning into the white buildings with coral colored roofs that we’ve come to know so well. For the last hour into the harbor I was treated to one of the best and longest dolphin shows I think I’ve ever had in my life. Plus this was a completely new species that we hadn’t come across before! Pods and pods of saddle back dolphins swam alongside the boat and tried to get views of it’s newest visitors. The whole thing actually went on for so long that I went from excited jumping, to snapping about a hundred photos, to peeking my head over the side while I enjoyed my coffee, to completely ignoring them. They just would not go away.

Once we were about two miles away from the entrance to the inner harbor I finally woke Matt up and we tried to find this elusive entrance in the massive bay. Eventually locating the itty bitty red marker that stood on the breakwater we fired up the engine and began to head in. It was strange when we pulled up to the fuel dock that there was no one working it, but we just tied up and headed inside the building. After talking to the local authorities that have an office inside we found out that we’d just crossed into low season and the marina is not open on Saturdays and Sundays. They told us just to grab any open slip and come back Monday morning to check in. Parking Serendipity in the new part of the marina (anchoring is banned here too, argh!!), we took a slip that’s probably meant for a 60 ft boat, but as they’re currently at about 20% capacity, we didn’t think it would matter.

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A Landlubber Vacation

It has been 20 weeks since our last real vacation from boat work, and to say that we were ready for it was the understatement of the century.  Sure, there’s been the random day off here or there. What’s come to be known as ‘Bloody Mary Sunday’ where we spent a day at the marina drinking way too many bloody marys with friends in the work yard and were in bed by 3 pm; the 2 days we took off to head to Miami for our Vineyard Vines photo shoot; and one morning where I put my foot down and told Matt I couldn’t go on anymore without a break, so we watched a marathon of Mad Men in bed instead; but other than that, each day has consisted of some form of work.

Luckily there have been the occasional BBQs at the patio in the evening or different sets of friends stopping by to give us a little nightly entertainment, but otherwise our nose has been to the grindstone as we’ve spent way many more months working on the exterior of Daze Off than we ever thought it would take.  So when my parents had offered in their last visit to see us in December to host us at their place in Arizona anytime we wanted, we knew it was time to take them up on that offer.

Our flight out of Palm Beach gave us great views of the ICW and coastline out the window, and even a shot at Lake Worth below us where our friends Johannes and Cati were sitting at anchor.  Although we missed our connecting flight to Phoenix and arrived two hours later than we originally anticipated, it was still nice to be able to travel where I could hand over the reigns of getting there, and all I had to do was show up. I still laugh at the people who complain how hard it is to fly somewhere because of connections or having to stand in any number of random lines.  Seriously, try sailing there.  You still have it easier while you’re sitting in a waiting area playing around on your wifi.

airplane over ICW

flying over  Lake Worth

Because of our 1 am arrival to my parents house, we thought our first day would be full of lounging in front of the tv with air conditioning blowing on us, and maybe taking a dip in the pool after drinking a cold beer or two in the afternoon.  Little did we know that my dad had taken a half day off work so he could take us sightseeing.  After hearing a few comments from Matt in the past of “I could never live in a desert, I need something green around me”, I think my parents took the hint on what he might want to see with his time there.

Piling into car, we did make a quick pit stop before our destination de jour to an overlook of the Superstition Mountains that run on the outskirts of where my parents live in Mesa, and the river that winds around them.  We were told about some hiking trails just up the road, and I was determined that at least one day during our stay, Matt and I would get around to seeing them.

Superstition Mountains Mesa AZ

blooming cactus

Superstition Mountains overlook

Superstition Mountains AZ

For the next 90 minutes or so we rode through a mix of expressways and county roads, our elevation changing, and the scenery along with it.  Fields of dust gave way to groups of cacti, which turned into low shrubs, and eventually pine trees. The area we were eventually trying to end up that day was the Mogollon Rim that runs through Payson.  Located at an elevation of 5,000 ft, it’s a popular place for people in the valley to escape the heat and take in some spectacular views while they’re at it.

As soon as we jumped out of the car we noticed the sharp temperature drop, having gone from 80′s back in Mesa to barely hitting 60 degrees here.  As we walked out toward the edge off the rim, turbulent winds came out of hiding and made you second guess every step you took closer to the edge.  The views below were well worth any lack of stability though, and it felt like we were transported to a scene that was more appropriate for South Carolina, but definitely not the Arizona we had been expecting.  My parents definitely hit the mark when they decided to take us here.

Taking a few different trails down to different areas of the rim, I took in every view I could while teetering on top of the large rocks that separated me from the bottom.  At the end of one trail we saw a memorial sign for a pet and I really hoped that someone wasn’t playing an ill located game of fetch with their dog, until my dad mentioned that it may have been the dog’s favorite place to go and not how he died.  It did turn into the running joke of the day though, pretending to throw a ball and then making woofing sounds that slowly died out.

Matt  & Jessica in Payson

Mom & Dad in Payson

Rim of Payson AZ

 

Taking shelter from the winds we drove further into the park where a small lake was situated.  Strolling the banks of it  for a few minutes, we also decided it was a good time for a small picnic of cheese and wine by the water.  Since it was the middle of the week and also the beginning of camping season, things were rather slow and we had the whole place to ourselves.

lake in Payson park

Matt counting tree rings

Our last stop of the day was an unintended one, but a pleasant surprise to all of us.  My dad had seen something  on TV recently about Tonto Natural Bridge Park, and since we were so close we decided, why not?  Unfortunately we did end up there about an hour before closing, but it still gave us enough time to do a little walking and take in some great sights.

The Tonto Natural Bridge is believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world.  It stands at 400 ft long, 150 ft wide, and 183 ft high.  The first path we took to view it brought us out to the back side of it where you could start to see that a cave was forming, but mostly took in the large amounts of reddish limestone in front of you.  If we thought that was a great view, we had no idea what was waiting for us on the other side.

Retracing our steps back through the parking lot and to the next viewing area, we had no idea that we were in fact walking on the natural bridge until an open grate in the cement showed us the view to the rocks and stream 183 ft below us.  Getting off the bridge and turning a corner onto another path, we were able to look back to where we had just come from.  A lone tree sitting on a lump of soil was hanging precariously over an edge that led to a sheer drop surrounded by jagged limestone on each side.

Tonto Natural Bridge, back side

grate looking to bottom

Tonto Natural Bridge

 

Tonto Natural Bridge

All for of us stood in awe for a few moments since this had been such an unexpected surprise, and I don’t think any of us knew what to predict from our visit here.  From our perch on the walkway we could see another path at the bottom of the bridge which led right up to the cave, but unfortunately we didn’t have enough time before the park closed to be able to check it out.

Instead, with our remaining time, we decided to quickly check out the waterfall trail right next to where we had parked the car.  It didn’t look like much from the trail head, but as we got deeper into it we quickly began descending steep steps in the dirt that led to lush greenery.  The walk wasn’t very long, and soon we were straightening out and could see a small waterfall in the rocks ahead of us. Again the change in scenery was sudden and unforeseen. Who knew such a diverse geography could be held in such a small area?

Spending just a few minutes taking in the sights, we knew we needed to be out of the park before it closed.  Plus those large couches, air conditioning, and a large dinner from Five Guys was calling our name.  Settling back in the car for the two hour drive home I finally let the toll of the last days travel set in as I fell into the cracks of the cushions and my little travel pillow.  For our first day in, we’d taken in more remarkable sights than I’d been expecting to see during our entire stay.  And since this was only day one, who knew what else awaited us.

dad at the waterfalls

waterfall Tonto Sate Park

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Throwback Thursday: The Leibster Award

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

After our absolutely amazing scooter tour of Faial, we fell back into a pattern for a little while of just hanging around Serendipity, the marina, and the little park that sits across from it.  There was the morning we went to the lookout over Porto Pim, which gave spectacular views to the little town we’d been calling home for the past few weeks; and I also put together a compilation of photos of all the beautiful sights we’ve been coming across here.  During more time sitting around on the boat, taking in the views of the volcanic Pico across from us, and sipping on Super Bock, I went back and did a few posts about our Atlantic Crossing, one answering a few questions from readers, and another putting together a video of our time at sea.

When my birthday rolled around and we were still in Horta (I expected us to be back to sea at that point), I took advantage of the situation and we had a nice dinner overlooking Porto Pim.  At least, the view was nice. The food itself was another story.  With our departure date still up in the air I took to wandering around new parts of Horta each day, and finally getting myself up early enough one day for a sunrise walk around the town.

Another great thing about our indecisive plans at this point is I was still around when we received our Leibster Award, something passed around from blogger to blogger.  A great chance for people to answer questions from bloggers and pass on the award with new questions of their own.

You can find the original post here.

MJ Sailing's Leibster Award

Do you know what I love? Question and answer posts. They’re so simple. No trying to find out how to make your day sound exhilarating or exciting when it hasn’t been, no trying to think of topics that could in any way be exciting (we actually tend to sit around more than we get out), and they give you a glimpse into our lives instead of trying to pick through the hundreds of blog post that are already published to look for the information you really want to know.

I’ve done just a couple of question and answer posts on here before, and I’ll embarrassingly admit that even though some of you were kind enough or curious enough to go on our Facebook page and ask those questions, a few times I may have been left a little short and had to make a few up myself. I know, how lame.  I had to ask myself my own questions in an interview.

So you can imagine my surprise, and my gratitude and pleasure, when we were nominated for the Liebster Award. Don’t worry, there’s no need for me to start thanking the academy yet. We’ve come a long way, but we still don’t have that kind of status yet. The Liebser Award exists only on the internet and is given from blogger to blogger. A fancy chain letter, if you will. Each blogger nominated for the award has the option to accept it or not, and if they do, they thank and link back to whom they were nominated, answer ten questions posed by that person, and pay it forward by nominating up to ten blogs of their own choice and asking those bloggers ten questions to answer.

Since I find it heartwarming that we were nominated, and now learning that the term Leibster comes from German roots meaning valued, endearing, sweetest, and kindness, I will be accepting this award.

Our nomination comes from Mark and Cindy of s/v Cream Puff (thank you for thinking of us!), and here are the 10 questions they have for us:

 

 

Meet the crew. Who are you? Each share something about the other (not on the blog).

We are Matt & Jessica, 32 years old, couple for 14 years, and married for almost 10. We started out sailing six years ago on Lake Michigan, and a year later, realized we wanted to sail off into the sunset, working very hard for the next three years to make it happen. So far we’ve been out cruising for two years, and have decided that we like this lifestyle enough that we’re going to try and stretch our dollar as far as it can go to ensure that it will be quite some time before we have to go back to the rat race that is our former life.

Jessica on Matt: Even though Matt’s pretty good about letting me watch chick flicks whenever I want without complaining (he usually just busies himself on his computer) there are a few of them that he can not stand to have playing if he’s anywhere around. I had to leave The Notebook at our hostel in Peru because he didn’t want it back on the boat.

Matt on Jessica: I don’t think she’ll actually ever learn to play the guitar that was given to her as a Christmas gift years ago. For two years now we’ve been dragging that thing around, and I’ve only seen her pull it out a handful of times.

(Jessica: I’m trying to change that! I really do want to force myself to get into the habit of constant practicing. Rock star status is still in my future!)

 

What advice would you give to a wannabe traveler just starting out?

The first year of cruising is probably going to be the hardest, but if you stick in there, chances are by the time you reach year two, you’ll realize it’s the best thing you could have done with your life. The first year is full of overwhelming transitions, and as it seemed for us, constant boat work and repairs, as well as traveling at lightning speed to cover LOTS of ground, which meant not a lot of time left over for just enjoying life.

By the second year you’ve got most of it figured out, or have at least figured out what you want from the lifestyle. Then the cruising you’ve always dreamed of can really begin. Still with those pesky boat repairs and maintenance. They may dwindle, but they never go way.

Matt & Jessica at Nazca LInes

Can you roll your tongue or wiggle the end?

Yes, we both can both roll our tongues! But only I (Jessica) can fold it in half from left to right, and only Matt can touch his tongue to his nose.

 

What is your favorite restaurant in the whole world?

Boondockers in Glen Arbor, MI. It wasn’t necessarily the food I went there for, although it did always have a live band playing on the weekends, who’s cover of Amie by Pure Prairie League could always steal my heart away. But I think part of the reason I love it so much is because if I was there, it meant I was having the time of my life. That I’d probably just come from climbing the Sleeping Bear Dunes or kayaking down the Crystal River. It also meant that right after dinner I had a bonfire on the shores of Lake Michigan, curtained by a sky of stars to look forward to. Plus this restaurant did have a pretty good chicken tenders basket, and all the seasonal beers on tap.

Serendipity in Port Antionio

 

If you sail as a couple, who is really, and I mean really, the captain?

Even though it’s me (Jessica) on paper, it’s Matt on the boat. He knows much more about boats than I could ever possibly learn, or want to. We each have our strengths though, and if sailing the boat is his, then weather reading and preparation is mine. We’re both a little half and half on navigation, where he knows the rules of the road a little better (who has the right of way), but I think I have the edge in map reading.

If you’re wondering why I’m the captain on paper, just try sending a young female through customs and immigration and see how quickly she gets through it, and with how many smiles in return.

 

What are you favorite meals to cook while sailing?

While sailing? That would probably have to be Pop Tarts, since most of the time when we’re underway I can barley get myself below deck to use the head, let alone cook a meal as we’re getting tossed around. If you’ve followed some of our recent posts though, you’ll know that this trip has been incredibly flat and allowed me to move around the galley as if we were at anchor. That being said, passages still make me incredibly lazy, so my number one go to meal would have to be a naked burrito. Use one pan to cook up a few cups of rice, and another to heat up a can of chicken (adding some spices like chili powder, cumin, and garlic if I’m up to it), then add in a can of black beans to heat. Put all these into a bowl and top with salsa, sour cream, cheddar cheese, and voila! A hearty, filling, and easy to prep meal.

 

Who’s idea was it to buy the boat, and how did they convince the other person?

If you refer to our About Us tab, you can get the full story, but buying the boat in general was a mutual decision. We never had the intentions of leaving our lives behind when the first boat was purchased, just something to keep us busy on the weekends and take advantage of the waters of Lake Michigan, instead of just admiring them from the sidelines.

West Harbor, Port Antonio, Jamaica

Our buddy boat armada in Port Antonio, Jamaica

 

Where is your dream destination?

Matt has always had a fascination with the areas that very few people have been to. Unfortunately, they also happen to be, in my opinion, in cold and inhospitable areas. Cape Horn, the Falklands, and the Baltic Sea. Why, Matt, why???!!! I think he likes isolated areas of beauty, but he at least agrees that should we ever make it to those areas, it will not be in Serendipity.

For me, I can’t say. I’ve never had my heart set on any one particular place, there’s so many different areas I’d like to see. But the Mediterranean is one of them, so I’m very excited that we’re on our way there now. I think I’d also like to see the islands of the South Pacific, but again, probably on a different boat than Serendipity.

 

Why did you pick sailing as a form of transportation or hobby (over an RV/camper for instance)?

Why does anyone get into sailing? From far away it’s exotic and alluring. The movies make it look so romantic. Have you seen that scene from Casino Royale where they’re taking their beautiful Spirit 54 into Venice, while James Bond is wearing a preppy pair of chino pants or a cardigan and Vesper has on her cute nautical stripes and tortoise shell sunglasses?

That’s the image that most non-sailors have of sailing. I know it was mine. And just like any advertisements out there, you think by buying into this product, that’s exactly how your life will be.

Vesper sailing

 This is the life I imagined for myself.  I’m getting…..closer.

 

Would you please describe your best sailing day ever?

Usually my best days of sailing involve flat seas, which doesn’t always make for the best sailing. According to people who actually enjoy the sport. There is one day however, that I think satisfies both, and it was sailing the Delaware Bay back when we were only a month or so into cruising. We had just met Brian and Stephanie on Rode Trip, our soon to be cruising buddies down the east coast and half of Caribbean, so it was nice to have someone else, just as young and new as us, making the same trip.

Even though waters on the Delaware Bay are touted to be some of the worst you might come across, we had a beautiful sunny day with only light waves on the water and 15-20 knots of wind in the air. The sails were perfectly trimmed, the ride was comfortable, and the current was pushing us along at up to 8 knots at some points. The scenery may not have been as perfect as some of our Bahamian cruises (still with Brian and Stephanie), but just something about that day holds a special place in my heart.

Read our full post on it here.

Comer Channel Bahamas

Cruising clear Bahamian waters with s/v Rode Trip.

 

I would like to nominate:

 

Skelton Crew – Jackie and Ron, our boating besties, about to set off from Lake Michigan in 2015.

Rode Trip – Brian and Stephanie, our first buddy boat, now also taking on the Mediterranean, in a new and larger boat.

Mondo Vacilando – Chris and Melody, sailing the east coast and Chesapeake while looking for their forever boat.

It’s a Necessity – Genevieve and Eben, along with Arias and Ellia. Cutest little philanthropic family sailing the Caribbean.

Turf to Surf – Ryan and Tasha. From cruising to a Clipper Race, to backpacking, these two cover every form of travel.

Tamarisk RTW – Jason and Piers. Two brothers taking on a circumnavigation on their Sundeer 56, and shoot some truly amazing photos along the way.

Sailing Chance – Kelley and Jason.  With one trip to the Bahamas under their belts, they have hopes of sailing all the way to Colombia one day to open a surf shop.

Sailing Journey – Drena and JR.  Replenishing the cruising kitty and sailing the Chesapeake until they can get back to the Bahamas and beyond.

Hannah and Kyle – British dancers turned backpackers who spent 10 months taking on Central and South America.

 Mr. & Mrs. Globetrot – Julia & Yuriy. Portrait & fashion photographers from Seattle that travel the world and capture the most beautiful parts of it in their breathtaking photos.

 

My questions for you:

Explain yourselves. Take that to mean however you wish.

When is the first time you ever set foot on a sailboat?

Where is the worst place, traveling or stationary, you’ve been with your boat? Not a city/country you visited, but a place you were physically on the boat.

If a genie granted you a lifetime supply of one kind of alcohol, what would you choose?

What’s the nicest thing the other person has done for you while traveling?

If you had the option to transport yourself anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?

What did your family say when you told them you were going to up and leave everything in order to travel?

Do you think you’ve found the place you’d like to retire to?

What language do you think would be the most fun to speak, even if you have no plans to learn it?

Outside of the US, where has your most expensive meal been?

 

Opt out questions for our non sailing friends:

What was the most used non-electronic item you packed on your travels?

What was the worst mode of transportation you’ve had to endure?

 

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Look and Feel Good while Helping Clean our Seas

If there is one troubling fact we’ve observed from spending so much time in and around the water, its how much plastic ends up in the sea.  We notice it mostly on the windward sides of islands; jugs, bottles, combs and shoes that wash up on shore and litter the beach in a rainbow of non biodegradable items.  Its a sad sight, and while we ourselves try to use as little plastic as possible, or get reuse from the items we can, there’s little we’ve been able to do in a lot of the countries we’ve visited, as any plastic we would even be able to round up from the beach and dispose of would be set up in a big blazing fire instead of being recycled.

This is why my heart lifted with joy when I was contacted by Norton Point so they could tell me about their new project where they collect plastic from the seas and use it in turn to make stylish sunglasses.  Their kickstarter campaign of Sea Plastic Differently is a great way to contribute to the cleaning of our seas while still providing yourself with an accessory indispensable to anyone who spends time outside.

Here is a short announcement the company uses to describe their mission:

Norton Point is an eyewear brand based on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, MA. We believe that the 8 million metric tons of plastic flowing into our oceans is one of our planet’s greatest environmental challenges and we have chosen to become part of the solution.

We have developed the first line of eyewear made from recovered high-density-polyethylene (HDPE) ocean plastics. HDPE is a consumer plastic used in millions of products around the world and is one of the most common plastics you will find today.

Ocean Plastic sunglasses 1

Swell_Angle_Cropped

Now here is where the facts get really cool.  For every pair of sunglasses purchased, the company has pledged to collect 1 pound of plastic from our oceans.  I don’t need to tell you that it takes a few handfuls to gather that weight, so with every pair made, you can only imagine how much debris is being removed from our waters. Next is that 5% of all net profits go toward global clean-up and education, but here’s what I think is coolest.  They’re not just buying this plastic from a major manufacturing company.  Norton Point is working with The Plastic Bank who have established a network of collection centers in Hati called Social Plastic® Recycling Markets.

These markets not only help to give employment and a source of income for their local collectors, but they also help to keep the streets and canals of Hati clean after so many plastic bottles are tossed aside here due to it being the only source of potable water around.  With your help and the growth of Ocean Plastic Sunglasses, Norton Point hopes to build their own Social Plastic® Recycling Market here as well.

Norton Point Hati 1

Norton Point Hati 2

Another disturbing fact is that 8 million metric tons of plastic enter our oceans yearly.  By 2050 its assumed that 1 billion tons of plastic will be consumed, many for one time uses. With a rate of 400 years to break down, it won’t be long before there is more plastic in the sea than fish.

What can you do to help?  Back this project and it’s mission! They are currently offering three different styles of sunglasses, all which come adorned with their signature stainless steel compass point, and choice of mirror blue or charcoal gray lenses.  The high quality lenses offer a scratch resistant and anti reflective coating, as well as a polarized and 100% UVA & UVB blocking filter.

Norton Point Swell

NP_Nic_Turner-6644

KS_Header_1

Norton Point closes their campaign by saying:

It’s been a journey getting to this point. There has been moments filled with total joy and moments of heart-crushing setbacks, but if it were easy everyone would do it, right? Innovation takes time. Sea Plastic Differently is over a year in the making. But the most exciting milestone for us will be seeing how we all come together and share our passion and commitment for cleaner oceans.  

With future sites for Social Plastic® Recycling Markets include China, Thailand, Vietnam, and even the Bahamas, the next time you take a stroll in one of these areas on a pristine beach clear of plastic and debris, you can smile and know that you helped make the difference.

 

(All photos and information are property of Norton Point)

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We’re Like Catnip for Germans

If I look back to most of the young cruisers that have stopped into Indiantown with their boats, and inevitably ended up hanging out with us (since we’re the kids here), just about all of them seem to have one thing in common.  They’re German.  Starting with the Sailing Conductors, and then moving on to Mark and Hanna (an American and a German), and then Meike and Sebastian, it never seems to fail that if we make new friends, they all hail from this same country.  There just must be something about us.  It’s like we attract them here.

The next flood of Germans to hit up Indiantown happened to be from a couple we’d met once already, but were only able to spend a few hours with as they were here by car.  We talked them into another visit with us as they brought their boat from the Gulf side of Florida over to Palm Beach to prepare for an Atlantic crossing.  So, our now very good friends Johannes and Cati were back in Indiantown, with prepared to stay a few nights with  Maverick Too, and we were ready for an all nighter with us of drinking and talking, which was sure to end the next morning in terrible hangovers for anyone who listens to my persuasion of ‘Just have one more beer’.

A comment less surprising to come out of my mouth when I’ve just stocked up on a summer variety pack and my greeting once we met up began with, “Here, taste this Banana Spice beer”. Which really was how our first night started when we wandered over to Maverick Too in the water to check her out and inspect the Kiwi Grip non skid surface which is also scheduled to make an appearance on our boat soon. It was while we were sitting in the intense heat of the setting sun that I couldn’t wait any longer, and started forcing cold drinks on everyone. It wasn’t until the bugs started coming out around dusk that we eventually moved ourselves to the screened in area of the patio where I grossly underestimated how many burgers it would take to feed this group after we were all 2-3 beers in (16 oz cans no less). Cati and Jessica Johannes and Jessica

Matt, Johannes and Cati

The next morning Johannes and I joked over Facebook that we really should have paced ourselves with last night’s beer since they’d be in for more than one night.  That nights plan…pizza from Little Ceasar’s and a max of about two drinks each.

Earlier in the day though they did come by Daze Off for a visit and to also see how much we had not accomplished in the two months since they had been here last.  We did get a few oooo’s and ahhh’s over the deck, but basically everything else looked the same.  I had managed to get a few coats of paint to the inside of the head, which I was hoping for a dramatic contrast to the varnished wood inside, but because the painting isn’t finished all of the wood is covered in old newspapers to protect it and the effect was a little lost. Jessica and Matt on Daze Off Our pizza and limited beer night was just as promised, and it was then and there I learned what a slow eater I am.  For years Matt has always been able to eat two of whatever to my one, but when not only Johannes, but Cati, were able to keep up with Matt’s pace as I finished my first slice about ten minutes in, it was confirmed that I may be one of the slowest eaters on earth.

Now you’d think that with two nights in a row of hanging out with each other we’d want some time to ourselves, right? Nope!  Johannes was ready to play chef and invited us over to Maverick Too for their third night in the marina so we could have rotis, a meat and curry dish wrapped in a tortilla like bread.  Or actual tortillas if that’s all you can round up in Indiantown.  It had to be specified before dinner was made that not all in our party could handle spicy food, so they nicely agreed to make the children’s version for us. Even though the meal basically had to be made in a crockpot because they had run out of propane and couldn’t get a fill with their European adapter, the rotis were a big hit and I wasn’t even three bites in before begging for the recipe.

Dinner was followed by straight gin for Johannes and I, as Cati and I found earlier that Indiantown also does not seem to carry tonic water.  After 5 stops looking for it.  A few (neat) gin  drinks in and I was pulling Ricky, their stuffed cow, out of his comfy little hammock and giving him lots of hugs while learning his history, how his name is really short for Maverick, and how he’s probably put on more sea miles than the two of us. Johannes, Jessica and Matt

Jessica and Matt (and Ricky)

(Photos courtesy of Johannes).

After three nights our group finally did take a break from each other so we could all catch up on a full nights sleep.  It was all we needed to keep the four of us apart though, and by night five we were ready to get back together.  I made my beef stir fry down at the patio, although as it always goes, it was never as good when I make it for company as it is when I do it at home.  They were nice enough to tell me it was a great meal though, which is always appreciated, even when I know it’s not my best.

Our 12 pk of Dos XX disappeared way too fast between the four of us and it wasn’t long before I was sneaking off to buy a little more booze when Matt was looking the other way.  Basically another repeat of day 1.  We like to blame these Germans that come visit us as bad influences, but the best part is they are always more than happy to take the wrap.  All week we joked with Johannes and Cati that we were getting nothing done on Daze Off because of our nights out with them.  They just laughed and replied, “That’s fine, you needed the break”.  Which is actually very true.  We are long overdue for any kind of vacation and have been looking for any reason to slack off lately.

Cati with camera

Cati and Johannes

Johannes Erdman

By their last night here we were too tired to really create any kind of ruckus, but at the same time, also knew it was our last time to see each other and still wanted the company.  Making dinner extremely easy on all of us by just picking up another pizza from Little Ceasars, we gathered at the patio once more where we all slowly sipped on beers and put the television on where our bodies molded into the backs of our wicker chairs, watching a marathon of Naked and Afraid.

For three hours we watched people that actually did have it much worse than us, and suddenly, the boat projects we had all been complaining about earlier didn’t seem so bad.  I’m sure we wished we could have gone out of more of a bang, especially since Johannes and Cati are leaving soon to take their boat back to Germany, and for most people this would be a forever kind of good-bye.  We promised ourselves it would not be, though.  As it happens, these two will be taking ownership of a charter boat in the Bahamas this fall, just around the same time we’ll (hopefully) be cruising again.  So as we walked over to Maverick Too the next morning to give a farewell from Indiantown, at least we were able to say “Until we see you again”, and know that it will be a good possibility.

group shot

 (Photo courtesy of Johannes)

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Throwback Thursday: Touring Faial by Scooter

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

As soon as we set foot on land in Horta, we were in love.  This was our first taste of Europe, and even though we were still 800 miles from the mainland, this cute little town had touches of it all over.  There was a little wandering and Coca-Cola drinking our first evening in, and the next day was spent exploring the streets by foot on what has been nicknamed Blue Island.  Getting our bearings, finding the grocery store (and stocking up on Portuguese beer!) our afternoons were spent running errands or  just relaxing at the boat, and during our evenings we took in the events of Sea Week.  A yearly celebration that brings in hundreds to thousands of yachters and landlubbers alike.  The week ended with a great celebration of a full moon rising over the peak of Pico, and even a ‘fireworks’ celebration.

On this particular day we decided we’d like to see more than just the harbor where our boat was sitting.  Checking out a few local scooter rental shops, we picked one up for a 24 hour opportunity to tour the island.  Wow, seriously one of the best days we’ve ever had cruising.  I’d never seen so much diversity and beauty within such a small span of land.  If we  hadn’t been thinking about permanently setting down roots here before,  this day was very tempting to make it happen.  If we didn’t have such nomadic souls….

You can find the original post here.

Tuesday August 12, 2014

Capelinhos, Faial, Azores

Today we decided to splurge on a little treat for ourselves and rent a scooter to tour the island of Faial. Having done a bit of research the previous day and then visiting a few of the rental shops this morning, we found that prices were basically the same whether you were on the main strip or off on a little side street. 18€ for a half day, or 25€ for 24 hours. We chose the latter. As we found in Key West, provisioning trips to the store are much more fun with a scooter at your disposal.

With having done the research on getting the scooter itself, I had kind of forgotten to do research on what to see with it at our disposal. I had no idea how long it would take to drive around the whole island, if that’s what we decided to do, or how long we’d want to be out before we tired of joy riding, so I only picked one sightseeing stop and left it at that. From our 19 year old Imray guidebook, which I’m ashamed to admit is the only placed I looked for things to do in Faial, one item had stood out to me while reading it over and over again on our crossing, and that was the caldeira. The sunken crater left behind by Faials volcanic cone. Our guide book touted it with the best views on the island and a perfect place to hike, stroll, or even enjoy a picnic lunch. Should we only have time to fit one big sightseeing stop in, I wanted that to be it.

Gathering information from the tourist information office that morning, along with multiple maps and directions, as soon as we had the keys to our scooter, we were off on the road that would take us there. Little did I know that the views taking us there would be almost better than what we found at our destination. Taking the well paved and well traveled road that led east on the island, we wound and rose up hills while breathtaking views of the harbor and town unfolded below us and I was pestering and poking Matt to pull over to the side of the road so I could get photos. Pulling over to one grassy spot and standing in awe for five minutes while other motorist made way for us, we found an even better spot another mile or two up the road. This one even came equipped with statues and an overlook. I guess I’m not the only person who thought this view was worth taking in.

Matt renting scooter in Faial

overlooking Horta, Azores

scenic overlook to Horta, Azores

Now that we were beginning to climb in altitude and were no longer blocked by the hills surrounding us, the winds began to pick up to something fierce as we rode along. The light and airy tank that I had been sweating through down in town was now doing little to keep me warm, and my helmet, although securely attached, was now starting to blow back off my head, forcing me to hold on to the scooter with one hand and constantly readjust with the other. Passing out of the farmlands and green fields, we entered the forest part of Faial where large ceder trees sprouted around us and fresh earthy scents filled the air. Both of us were dumbstruck by this sudden change and diversity and beauty. Simultaneously our thoughts suddenly changed to, ‘Do you see any property for sale, because I think we need to move here’.

overlooking Pico, Azores

hydrangea filled road on Faial, Azores

The ceder forests gave way to more winding roads with stunning views of Sao Jorge and Pico, with green hillsides and blue hydrangeas leading the way. It was almost too much beauty to handle, it seemed like something out of a fairy tale. On we pressed though, closer to the caldeira, and further on in altitude and dropping temperatures. As we pulled into the parking lot full of tourists for the caldera I doubt it took me two seconds to grab my windbreaker out of my backpack and put it on. From there we wandered through a small tunnel that brought us out to a viewing platform for the caldera, full of plaques listing the history and different kinds of flora and fauna to be found in the area. It was a nice view, although a little crowded, and even though we were clad in flip-flops, we decided we wanted to walk the rim to the highest point for even better views.

Trotting down the dirt path and occasionally stepping over rocks and up sometimes muddy slopes, we made it to the top of the caldeira just in time to enjoy 60 seconds of a remarkable view before the clouds rolled in and draped us in fog. Taking in as much of the 360 degree view as possible, we noticed that we were quickly the only people left there and wondered if something nasty was moving in since all the other hikers had already made a hasty decent back down to the parking lot. We quickly joined them, bathed in sunshine once more at the bottom, and hopped back on the scooter to see what else we could gawk at that day.

The caldera sits right in the middle of the island and we chose to take a route north and then drive the remaining circle around the island back to Horta. For the most part we were on paved roads, although we did take one dirt path just off from the caldeira that would lead us out to civilization again. Of course it had to be an area that we were taking a somewhat steep decent, a blast in a rally car I’m sure, but not the best thing for rental scooters. Inching carefully forward it wasn’t until we were about 100 feet from level ground that we wiped out in the reddish soil. Luckily neither of us were badly hurt, although Matt did end up with a few new scrapes, and we’re pretty sure the ones on the bike had already been there. Soon enough though, we were back out on a main road, one that completed a higher elevated circumnavigation of the island.

caldera, Faial, Azores

caldera, Faial, Azores

As we were winding up the hill, passing under leafy green trees and gorgeous ocean views off to our side, I figured this was the perfect time to blurt out ‘Happy Anniversary!!’. I knew Matt wouldn’t have remembered this date. No, it’s not our wedding anniversary (although our 10 year is coming up this December, woohoo!), that one I’ve ingrained in his mind long ago. This was our two year cruising anniversary. It hadn’t even hit me until we had been out for an hour or two that morning, and even though it happened accidentally, what a perfect way to celebrate. Wow, to think of how far we’ve come in the past two years. From our familiar stomping grounds of Lake Michigan, all the way down the East Coast, touring the northern part of the Caribbean, and now all the way over here. And to think I had been ready to throw in the towel at 10 months. To keep going is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

seaside town in Faial, Azores

 

While making our gorgeous drive back to Horta through small villages and sea side towns, we passed a sign on the road that had a set of binoculars, meaning there was some kind of overlook or sightseeing attraction, and we thought, ‘Why not?, let’s check it out’. Just like on our way up to the caldeira, the road leading to this new spot almost looked better than what could have been waiting for us at the end. Resort buildings that were alluring but not over the top, more cedar lined streets, and old world stone buildings with bright blue shutters. What we found waiting for us at the end of the road was just icing on the cake.

If the cedar forest was varied from the quaint towns on the coast, we had just stepped on to Mars. The area the signs had been leading us to was the Vulcão dos Capelinhos or ‘Little Cape’, a monogenetic volcano (so Wikipedia tells me). I didn’t really know what it all meant at the time, all I knew is that it was one of the most incredible things I’d ever seen and completely not at all what I was expecting. This area is part of a volcanic eruption that lasted from September 1957 until October 1958 that enlarged the area by 2.4km with volcanic ash. Over 2,000 people had to be evacuated, many moving to the US or Canada.

What’s left of the area now is desert and sand with backdrops of large sandy and rocky cliffs that range from golden beige to espresso brown to burnt red. There’s a lighthouse that overlooks all of it, and at the bottom of the road leading to the coast is a portioned off swimming area between large jagged rocks. Following the other groups of loiterers, we trekked up the steep sandy hill to the top of the barren landscape. The views only got better the higher we climbed, and we marched through the dust and stones to find one spot that looks north over the coast and a staggering colorful cave with lush green hills just behind it. I could have stared at that view all day without it ever getting old.

Lighthouse do Capelinhos, Faial, Azores

Capelinhos, Faial, Azores

Lighthouse at Capelinhos, Faial, Azores

Capelinhos, Faial, Azores

 If it wasn’t for the fact that it was turning into late afternoon and we still hadn’t eaten yet, our lunch still packed inside the scooter sitting in the parking lot, I probably would have. Back down the hot and dusty hills we went, the lack of food and water so far for the day finally catching up with me. Stumbling back to the scooter I kept repeating to myself ‘I’m going to die. Holy crap, I’m going to die. Feet don’t fail me now.’ I made it back to the scooter without collapsing and we rode the half mile down to the natural oceanic pools where we dug into our sandwiches and watched the families on holiday. Matt was lucky enough to have worn swim trunks out for the day and even took a dip in the refreshing water.

I think it’s safe to say that even having the highest of expectation of Faial, it continues to blow them all way. Around every corner is something new and unexpected and stunning. I’m not lying when I say I think I could put roots down here. Turn that scooter around I think I saw a place for sale next to the stone house with the blue shutters!

*I’ve only used a small portion of the photos from today in this post, make sure to stay tuned for Picturesque Faial to see more!

Matt diving into natural pool in Azores

family at natural pools, Faial, Azores

natural swimming areas, Faial, Azores

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Throwback Thursday: Land Ho!

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

28 days after leaving Bermuda, and 48 days at sea since leaving Miami, we finally made landfall in Horta.  All of the nights of terror I been experiencing in the Bahamas and Miami earlier in the year prior to leaving were all for naught.  We did not get stuck in the 2-3 expected gales that one has on an ocean crossing (or so we read), and the storms we did encounter (other than our first night out of course), were nothing that us and the ‘Dip couldn’t handle. The few storms that had sent cannonballs of water against our hull only proved how strong all of us were.

Mostly the passage consisted of drifting along in winds under 5 knots and in glass calms seas.  It may have been an extremely long journey, but it was a comfortable one.  If we did one thing wrong I’d say that we may have provisioned a little light on food (mostly snacks) and are now arriving to our destination about 10-15 pounds lighter than when we left the US, but hey, a little fatigue and weakness is easily curable once you reach a land of plenty again.  And I was beyond ready for land, internet, and a full nights sleep again.

You can find the original post  here.

Wednesday August 6, 2014

Faial, Azores

When I woke up this morning there were only 45 miles separating us from Horta. A very dangerous distance because it gives you just enough hope that you will in fact be there before the sun goes down, but also allows you enough leeway to completely eff it up and leave yourself at sea for another night. We had 10 hours of daylight left and would have to average 4.5 knots to make it in time. Not normally hard, but the king of ‘I won’t turn on the engine, what’s another few days out here’ has seemed to move on board sometime since the Bahamas.

Luckily for me the winds have shifted behind us and built up enough, near 20 knots, that we were just holding that 4.5 average when I came up on watch. Through my whole four hours I watched the spedometer like a hawk, and even a momentary dip down to 4.3 would result in a sharp intake of breath. I was not going to lose landfall tonight.

Just as I was beginning to go crazy near the end of my shift since the winds were now almost completely downwind of us which was causing the headsail to flop around a bit (and drop into the low 4s..gasp!), Matt woke up from his sleep shift and I quickly ordered that we raise the spinnaker pole to get our speed back. That did the trick and we were comfortably coasting at 5 knots.

All afternoon I kept my eyes glued to the horizon in front of us for any sign of land or life. Directly across from the island we’re landing at, Faial, is another island, Pico, with a volcanic peak of 2350m high. It’s said that on a clear day you can spot it from 50 M away. This unfortunately, was not a clear day. After thousands of miles of nothing but sun and clear skies, our welcome back to terra firma was presented with low lying clouds and mist ahead of us. I had been burning holes into my eyeballs staring into the reflected light, trying to be the first one to yell ‘Land ho!’ while Matt napped below, but I couldn’t make anything out through the haze.

It wasn’t until hours later when I had given up and begun my showering routine to make myself presentable to people again after a month at sea that Matt was able to pick out a shadow through the clouds. After lots of pointing and references I was able to see it too, honestly a little disappointed that this barely visible outline was my welcome back to humanity. It was land though, and we were quickly approaching it with just enough time to eek in before sunset. Although I think it’s high time we finally update our clocks to the proper time zone, a full two hours ahead of what they’re currently reading.

If anyone was even going to be there to check us in at the now revised hour of 8:30, I wanted to make sure I looked very nice and hopefully distract them from the fact that I was handing over veterinary papers for our cat, just in case we didn’t have all the right ones. Plus I was just excited to have any reason to wear something different than the pajamas I’ve been living in for the past four weeks. Now came the very important decision of what to wear for my first night in Europe. Khakis and a cable knit sweater? My llama skirt from Peru?…there were just so many choices! I had finally settled on a pair of skinny jeans, a tank and a cardigan, but Matt stared with disappointed eyes. “I thought you were going to wear a dress?” he asked. “Have you looked around?”, I replied, “It’s cold out here”. I guess a drop down into the low to mid 70′s now makes freezing weather for us, and it was more than my Caribbean geared attire could handle.

Finally I changed into a somewhat nautical themed sweater dress and applied some eyeliner before joining Matt out on deck again to watch that shadow on the horizon grow larger. We were finally getting to the point now where we could make out features on land and spot little houses and villages on the hilltop. The nearly setting sun was throwing rosy glows off the clouds, and even though I had imagined coming in to the crystal clear images splayed throughout our guidebooks, the view of Faial as we sailed in was indelible. It was just as beautiful as I could ever have imagined, and I stood there slack jawed until I remembered that we actually had to begin taking steps to get ourselves in the harbor.

Bringing down the spinnaker pole, we rolled in the genoa and coasted along with just the main for a little bit, until we were well into the channel between the two islands. As the engine was turned on and sputtered to life, we brought down the main and began running dock lines and hanging fenders. I swear, Matt and I can sail a whole ocean together and not have any arguments or communication issues until we’re landing. As I was trying to run the dock line at the bow it kept getting tangled in the wrachet straps for the dinghy, and since it wasn’t being done in a timely matter, a very impatient and agitated person was yelling at me from the cockpit until I became so flustered that I couldn’t touch anything and went to switch places instead. Since it was the only boat related spat we’d had since coming into Bermuda though, I think I’ll still consider our overall travel a success.

Faial, Azores, Portugal

Monte da Guia, Faial, Azores

Matt & Georgie coming in to Horta

Horta, Faial, Azores

Monte da Guia, Faial, Azores

Getting all the lines squared away we pulled up to the reception desk and music blasted from the main road. Unbeknownst to us, we arrived in the middle of Semana do Mar, or Sea Week. Horta’s biggest yearly event. Having read about it in our guidebook we knew that it was at the beginning of August, but we thought it only spanned one weekend and that we had already missed it. But from the sights and sounds on shore, it was still in full swing, lasting ten days instead of 3, and we could not wait to get out and partake.

Before we could go party though, ourselves and the boat needed to be checked in to Portugal. Having called many times on the radio prior to arriving and getting no response, I went to scour the office of the marina but could find no sign of life there either. Getting ourselves tied up to the fuel dock at 8:05, it looks as if we had just missed them. Our passports wouldn’t be stamped until tomorrow, allowing us one more day in a Schengen country. Darn.

We used up our last remaining hour of daylight talking to other sailors that had just come in within the past two days, many of them not faring as well as us. While we had taken a more southerly route and became trapped in the stillness of high pressure systems, most others took the northerly trade wind route and got a little bashed up along the way. We talked with one boat that had their autopilot crap out their second day out, meaning the crew of 4 had to hand steer the whole way. And to make matters worse, the halyard for their headsail broke not too long after, meaning they completed the rest of the journey with just the mainsail. Stories like that make me extremely happy we took the route we did, even if it means it took us twice as long to get there. Time we have. Money for fixing boat issues…not so much. Or at least, not that we’d be wiling to part with.

Bidding adieu to our new friends as our stomachs growled with the recognition that it had been about 8 hours since we’d last eaten, we pulled some Euros out of an ATM and went to join the throngs of people milling in the streets. One small section of park was set up with a stage playing what I’m guessing was traditional Portuguese music, and small food stands were set up all around it. Our noses guided us toward a mini doughnut stand where we happily handed over a few Euro for our first taste of fried sweet goodness in months. Continuing up the road we wandered into a tent filled with other food stands and restaurants.

Getting an eye full of this one stand that was selling huge sandwiches filled with sausage or presunto, we were sold. As Matt grabbed his sausage filled baguette and I asked for my presunto to be slathered in a creamy cheese, we ordered a few cans of Coke and went to sit with our new treasures on a wall overlooking the harbor.

Taking everything in as we enjoyed the food and the sights, I turned to Matt after about ten minutes and asked, “Does it feel strange to you to be sitting here, finally on land after 30 days, surrounded by people, and drinking a can of Coke? Do you feel as excited as you thought you would to be back on land after so long? Like this is what’s been missing from your life?”

He thought about it a second and observed, “No, not really. This is definitely nice, but it just feel like ‘Today we were at sea, now we’re on land’, easy transition, not as big of a deal as I thought it would be.” I pondered on it for a second, kind of surprised to hear myself say, “Yeah me too.” Smirking he looked over at me and asked, “So then you think you could go back out to sea for another month?” Laughing I looked back and him and replied with a resounding “Absolutely not!”.

Horta Harbor, Azores

Horta fuel dock, Azores

Horta insignia

Horta harbor at dusk, Azores

 

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Changes to the Top and Bottom

Everything seems to be about the exterior of our boat right now, but that is ok.  We’d prefer to sit outside in the sun when it is merely 82 degrees instead of waiting until August when it is trying to break 95.  Most of the work on our interior has come to a screatching halt, but we figure we’ll be able to pick it back up in a month or so, our deck covered by a sun shade and two 5000 BTU air conditioners blowing cool air onto us as we work to complete all the projects inside.

Other than the paint and plexiglass which had been taking up most of our time so far on the deck, we’ve had two other major changes to the exterior.  To the upper most and lower most parts of Daze Off.

The first project/change is one you all knew was coming.  Or at least those of you that have been following us since this post when I originally talked about it.  Our mast has come down and is currently resting on jackstands in the open area next to our boat.  When we originally purchased Daze Off we had been hemming and hawing on if it would be a good idea to bring the mast down.  Yes, she would need a new light attached to the top.  Yes, there were a few new wires we’d like to run up the mast that were probably not of consequence to the previous owners.  But did we want to pay the fee of $500 to have her stepped and then raised again?

Unfortunately the decision was made for us when we were taking apart the overhead surrounding the deck step for the mast and found that one of the previous owners used an ORANGE EXTENSION CORD to wire it.  Whaaa??!!  We were speechless.  Who was the idiot that thought this was a good idea?  So yeah.  The mast would have to come down and be completely rewired.

This of course had not been a top priority on our list and was a project we had been planning on saving until near the end….until we learned a few things.  If you have your mast raised or lowered at the same time as someone else in the yard and the crane only needs to make one trip out, each party saves $50.  Ok, so all we needed to do was find a friend that needed a crane for theirs, and we’d go at the same time. And although we did have some friends in the yard who we thought were a month or two away from putting their mast up (and so we agreed to go together), we struck gold when another set of friends came into the yard and needed theirs lowered.  Best part was he used to be a rigger for Mack Sails and knew this process inside and out.

We figured our mast would be down for 3 weeks or so while we rewired, ordered new rigging, and then Bam, we’d still be in time to have it go up along with our other friends that were getting  ready to raise theirs.  Win/win.  The new friends in the yard happened to be the friend of a friend sort.  We’re both friends with Ren and Ashley of Evolve Freediving, and when this couple had come to the yard in September to put their Bayfield 32, Rainbow Connection, in the water, we chatted for a little bit, made plans for a weekend sail in Stuart sometime (which unfortunately never happened due to our lack of taking  days off), and kind of lost contact.  Until they came back to put their new/traded boat in storage (Long story.  Or short.  They traded Rainbow Connection for a Rival 39).

But when our new-ish friends, Jamel and Tania, came back to Indiantown, we were glued to each other.  Afternoons spent checking out one another’s boats, and evenings in their salon (cause who would want to be in ours?), eating  delicious meals Tania made, or even Little Ceasar’s takeout.  And when they mentioned they were taking their mast down before they went into storage for hurricane season, we were quick to jump on the opportunity and shout “We need to too!”.  Letting them choose the schedule since their timing mattered more than ours, we settled on a Monday morning to have A+ Crane services come out and bring both of our masts down.  Unlike previous years of storage in Michigan, you needed to do all the work yourself here, other than operate the crane, so we were especially happy to have a rigging specialist at our side.

Quickly getting through Jamel and Tania’s stepping first, we were over at Daze Off, and Jamel was riding a bosums chair up to attach the hook and a strap to the top of our mast.  Since I still know next to nothing on rigging, I let these three knowledgeable people around me unscrew the turnbuckles and bring the standing rigging to the mast to later be tied, as I ran around and tried to help them in any way I could.  Handing over screwdrivers, crescent wrenches, and sometimes vice grips to help them get our rigging (which hasn’t been touched in almost a decade), lose from our deck.

Because we had these friends with us helping out with a job that I know would have ended in a lot of short fuses if it was just the two of us, we soon had the mast resting on a set of jackstands next to the boat, and we paid the crane operator and sent him on his way.  One project down, but a lot of little projects left before it will be ready to go back up.

Jamel getting raised by crane

Jamel up the mast

Matt loosening the rigging

stepping the mast

The other change had to do with what we wanted to do to the bottom of the boat.  Not that we’re going to get as far right now as putting a coat of anti-fouling on, but we would like to have all the barrier coats built up so just before we are ready to go in the water, we can spend one quick day getting the anti-fouling on and be done with it.

This was the decision before us: Do we leave the previous barrier coats on, the ones that have been sitting there for at least 10 years now, (although doing a great job of holding up, it looked like), and just sand off the light blue anti-fouling coat and add a new one when we’re ready; Or do we take everything  off, getting  all the way down to bare metal, and start from scratch.  Both sides had their pros and cons.

By only taking off the top layer of anti-fouling that exists, we had the pro that it would be a cheaper solution, only having to buy 2 gallons or so to complete the bottom.  Even though it was old, it seemed to be holding up extremely well.  Would we make it worse if we attempted to start all over ourselves?  The negatives to this plan were that while going through the storage inside the boat (while trying to make this decision, actually), we found that the current bottom paint had tin instead of newer copper-free. To get a new bottom paint on that works with the aluminum, we’d have to heavily sand this layer, and in other areas, all the way down to bare metal.  A special primer would need to be applied, and then barrier coats….we were starting to realize the time and money we were saving ourselves didn’t put us that far ahead.

Then there was the option of taking off all the existing paint, bringing the bottom down to bare metal, and build it all back up again.  The negatives were of course spending what we expected to be about 10 days stripping the paint off, and then the multiple days of applying coats of primer and barrier coats.  Just like the top of the boat, any bare metal needs to be hit with our Aluma Protect before the metal can oxidize, so we have to work in small areas for that, grinding and priming within an hour of each other.  Then there’s the days spent building up the barrier coats, about 4 days, to get it to the point where it will be ready for anti-fouling this fall.  Plus, what if it somehow doesn’t end up as strong as what was already there?  What if we go to check it out in a year or two and find out that areas are flaking off?

Eventually the positives of this outweighed all else.  Yes, it was going to be at least 2 weeks of extra and unexpected work.  Yes, we’re  going to have  to buy another gallon of Aluma Protect and about three gallons of InterProtect.  And hey, let’s throw in another 2 gallons of paint stripper to get off everything that’s already on there.  But when we thought about it more and more we realized that if we went with the first option, we’d only be putting off the inevitable.  Eventually the bottom will have to be stripped and repainted, and who knows where we’ll be when this comes up on us.  Right now we’re already out of the water, in a DIY yard, and have easy access to all the supplies we need.  It may be a headache to go through all these extra steps here and now, but it could be a much bigger headache if we wait a year and have to do it in some remote island in the Caribbean, or while freezing my butt off while wintering over in northern Europe a few years down the road.

Matt has been doing a great job of getting all the old paint off and so far has been moving at a pace much faster than both of us expected.  In less than 10 days he’s been able to not only scrape both sides clean, but to sand off any remaining remnants.  The days have been a little hot and sweaty, and he completely ruined a set of lightweight Helly Hanson foulies he got off the free table a few months ago, making sure that none of the paint stripper came in contact with his skin.  He’s a real trooper though, and in the next few days we’ll getting the new waterline painted on.  I do have to say this this has benefited me in one big way….all these hot days of work under the boat actually has Matt craving beer at the end of the day, so guess who was able to pick up 2 cases during our last visit to Sam’s Club?!

 

Matt sanding off bottom paint

sanding off bottom paint

Daze Off, looking bad ass

Matt sanding the hull

bare hull and bottom

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