How We Left To Go Cruising At 30 & What We Left Behind

One of the biggest questions we’ve been asked through the past few years, always without fail, is “How are you two affording to do this at such a young age?”. Considering that yes, we did quit our jobs back in 2012, threw off our bow lines and haven’t really looked back since….I can see how this question may pop up a lot.  Especially since we’ve now been sitting in a marina for the past two years remodeling a boat.  Not the cheapest of projects, one can imagine.

I’ll answer you straight away that we are not trust fund babies.  We never received sums of money from our families; and as much as I would still like for this to happen, we have not won the lottery either. Granted, your chances of winning are better if you actually play, but I can still dream that someone will show up on my doorstep one day with big bags full of money.

Nope, we got here the old fashioned way.  Through lots of hard work, sacrifices, and good decisions.  The money we saved up before traveling won’t last us forever; in fact we’ll be looking to work again come this summer or fall to fill our cruising kitty. But, we do get asked enough how we were even able to start in the first place that we thought we’d lay it all out for you in this week’s episode.

Enjoy!

Thank you SO MUCH to our Patrons. These charitable souls help keep us in the work yard, our camera equipment up to date, and the videos coming. To join the Patreon ranks, please visit http://www.patreon.com/mjsailing

Thank you!,
Matt & Jessica

Sail Loot Podcast: http://www.sailloot.com/sail-loot-pod…

Jessica’s World Beer Tour: http://mjsailing.com/about-us/jessica…

Music:
Spoiled Kids – Daniel Kadawatha
Two Weeks – Grizzly Bear
Ember of Red – Adam Yoo
Soul Catalyst – Solstice
Warm – Joey Pecoraro
Blueshift – Catas & Kasger

Camera equipment used:
- Sony NEX 5T - http://amzn.to/2glc9zG
- Sony Cybershot DSC-T77 - http://amzn.to/2hYYrTY

Editing software: Windows Movie Maker

Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/mjsailing

Instagram:
https://www.instagram.com/mattandjessicasailing/

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It’s All About Money: Sail Loot Podcast

Monday July 13, 2015

I’d have to say that about 70% of the emails we get in our inbox have something to do with money.  It may not be the sole subject of the email, but it usually comes up one way or another.  ”How do you afford this; What did you do to save; What does it cost to maintain this lifestyle”.  We don’t mind these questions, in fact we usually openly talk about our money.  Through our Cost of Cruising pages you can find out what we spend each month and year and where all of our money goes.

To take it one step further though and find out everything there is to know about us and money; starting from the beginning and going up until now, we were contacted by Teddy at Sail Loot to participate in a podcast talking about this subject. We talked about absolutely everything from when we bought our first boat, how we outfitted Serendipity to cruise, what gets covered in our monthly expenses, and how we try to save where we can.  If you’ve ever had a money related question for us, chances are it’s been answered in this interview.

Keep reading to see how our interview appeared on the Sail Loot website, including the podcast.  If you’d like to see the full thing on their site as well as check out more links relating to the discussion, make sure to check out the original post here. For even more podcast from other great cruisers talking about their finances, make sure to check out Sail Loot’s home page.

Thank you so much Teddy for taking the time to interview us, it was a pleasure talking with you!

Matt & Jessica The Baths

“Matt and Jessica decided that it was time to get off the couch and start experiencing life. How they would experience life was the first question. When they decided that sailing was the answer, all they had to do was learn how to sail, find a boat, and figure out how to find their sailing money. Easy enough, right?

They ended up taking some sailing lessons, and getting some sailing practice for about 2 years on Muskegon Lake and Lake Michigan. Their sailing money came with a lot of hard work, some downsizing (of their possessions and their activities), and some budgeting to make sure that they wouldn’t blow through their cruising kitty while sailing across oceans.

Matt and Jessica started with a little bit of money saved up, “normal” jobs, and a dream. They took off with enough sailing money in the bank to cruise for about 4 to 5 years if they stuck to their budget. Enjoy listening to this episode of the Sail Loot Podcast for all of the details!”

A Few Things You’ll Learn About Matt and Jessica, MJ Sailing, and their Sailing Money In This Episode:

  • Their Hunter 240, their first trailerable sailboat.
  • Their jobs on land prior to taking off cruising.
  • How much they paid for all of their sailboats.
  • Their cruising budget.
  • How big their crusing kitty was before they left. You know, this directly relates to how long they planned on cruisng.
  • Where they’ve sailed so far.
  • Crossing the Atlantic…twice within the span of a year.
  • The Re-fit of their new sailboat, Daze Off (the current name).
  • Matt’s hobby.
  • Where they’re living while they re-fit Daze Off
  • How Matt and Jessica keep a low-cost lifestyle.
  • Going the “wrong way” around the Caribbean.
  • Jessica’s sailing money and frugal cruising tips.
  • And Much More!

Kimberly Joy lifestyle photo

Serendipity 3

Daze Off 2

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Unexpected

Unexpected. Surprising or unforeseen.

peace sign in Grand River, Grand Rapids Michigan

 For this week’s photo challenge from the Daily Post, we are supposed to share something that’s unexpected.  After having been gone from Grand Rapids for 12 months while we sailed our boat from Muskegon to Guatemala, it was nice to be able to come back home for a visit.  I know this city is growing rapidly and has a penchant for the arts, having a brand new art museum and hosting the annual Art Prize competition, but as I crossed the bridge over the Grand River on the way home my fist afternoon there, I came across an unexpected sight.  Somebody had found a shallow spot in the river and piled hundreds of rocks together to form a peace sign and a heart.  It brought a smile to my face and is just one more reason for me to miss this amazing city.

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Let’s All Go to the (Drive-in) Movies

Friday August 23, 2013

drive-in speakers

It’s our last day in Michigan, and all I wanted to do was nothing.  Nothing but crawl under the covers and sprawl out in an actual and comfortable bed for the last time in who knows how long it will be again, and maybe snack on some Skittles or peanut butter brittle which we’re now trying to cram into our backpacks since we didn’t get a chance to eat them while we were here.  Know why they haven’t been eaten? (Cause, in my mind, any food like that which I haven’t come across in the last five months was going to be devoured within 24 hours of placing it in my hands)  I haven’t had a chance to touch them because I haven’t been home. At all.  Unless I’m sleeping or showering. Do you know what I’ve crammed into our last eight days here?  7 dinners out, 5 lunches out, 2 beauty shoots (yup, there was another Mary Kay one I never mentioned), 2 trips to Marshalls, 1 hair cut, 1 round of miniature golf, and 1 sculpture park visit.  So on my last day I just wanted to unwind and only worry that everything makes it’s way back in my bag.  Which is exactly the opposite of what I did.  Not having seen any of my side of the family except a quick lunch with my brother last week, I took another lunch in with my great-aunt and my grandma, and then spent the time I should have been home packing, out for one last drink with Matt and his dad.  Looking back though, I wouldn’t have planned my day any other way.  Exhaustion fades.  I don’t know how many years it will be until I see these people again, and the memories will far outweigh my need to catch up on sleep for one day in my life.

Then were…our evening plans.  Which even though I was still just a little more than tired, I had been looking forward to all week.  Since neither Matt or I had ever been to a drive-in movie theater in our lives, Matt’s mom and step-dad were going to take us to one in Muskegon.  There was only one small snafu.  Since the movie is outside, they don’t start until dusk and in Michigan in the summer, that can be after 9 pm.  Our flight leaves out of Chicago (a three hour drive from Grand Rapids) at 5 am tomorrow.  Add together the travel time and the fact that we need to be there 2-3 hours before our flight to check in, we didn’t see how we’d make it back home from the movie in time to get our things and leave for Chicago.  Simple solution: don’t go home.  So at 7:30 pm we had the car loaded with all our belongings after I tried to shove 25% more things in my backpack that I came with, a cooler full of snacks and drinks, and a few folding chairs.  Yes, this was going to be an experience.

As our Cadillac rolled up to the entrance, we joked and asked Crystal and Jack if they wanted us to duck in the backseat and cover ourselves with blankets to save on the cost of tickets.  They just laughed and said it was their treat, although I’m sure with our immanent departure looming, I think Crystal may have gotten the idea to stick us in the trunk instead, claiming it was for cheaper tickets, but then locking us in there until morning and ensuring that we’d miss our flight so that we’d be forced to stay a little longer.  Or possibly forever.

Trying to pick out a ‘perfect spot’, which I guess I have no idea where that is in a drive in theater, we proceeded to pull out the chairs and set them up next to a pole housing the speakers for sound.  I’m assuming that most people nowadays stay in their car for the movie viewing experience where there’s a radio station you can tune into and therefore don’t even need the speakers.  Since as we found out, about 80% of them were not working.  As soon as we’d set our chairs up next to a speaker pole, we’d fiddle with the dials and find that either one or neither was kicking out sound.  So we’d move and repeat the process until we decided good enough! after more and more cars began to pull in and we’d rather be stuck with an ok speaker than a non functioning one.

Settling ourselves into the seats, Matt and I listened to the faint sounds of Hootie and the Blowfish play on a continuous loop through the speakers as Crystal and Jack were moving around on the opposite side of the car in a very secretive manner.  I didn’t think much of it, since strange tendencies seem to come from this family from time to time.  A few minutes later, just as the sky was getting dark and announcements were coming out of the speakers, I was presented with..ta da!  A birthday chair!

birthday at the drive-in

 My birthday happened to be the next day, and I was even mentioning to Crystal at dinner that it was too bad I wouldn’t be home on my birthday and wouldn’t get all the decorations of balloons and crepe paper like she did last year for Matt.  Little did I know, she’d already planned for this and had balloons and crepe paper in the car, ready to decorate the hell out at least something for me.  Such a great mother-in-law!

There were also lemon squares in the cooler awaiting for me where at the stroke of midnight I could blow out candles on top of them.  For the moment though, as the sky is getting almost black and the previews are projecting on the screen, I think I’ll enjoy this big bright screen under the stars while I snack on some Mike and Ikes and sip a can of Coke.  And maybe rummage through my bag for a pair of socks, because it is cold out here at night!

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fixing drive-in speakers

Cadillac at drive-in

folding chairs at drive-in

sunset at drive-in theater

drive-in movie screen

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Picturesque Frederick Meijer Gardens

Thursday August 22, 2013

Frederick Meijer Gardens Horse

With so few days back in Grand Rapids and so much to see, we used one of our afternoons to visit the Frederick Meijer Gardens with Matt’s mom and step-dad.  This is an area on the northeast side of Grand Rapids that’s composed of 132 acres of natural wetlands, woodlands, and display gardens.  It recently ranked in the top 100 most visited museums worldwide, and it’s right in our backyard!  Because of the 132 acres and because we’re still a little worn out from our non-stop running around here there’s no way we could see everything, but sit back and enjoy the parts we were able to catch.

 

Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory

Frederick Meijer Gardens Atrium

FMG Tropical Conservatory 1

FMG Tropical Conservatory 2

FMG Tropical Conservatory 3

FMG Tropical Conservatory 4

 Lena Meijer Children’s Garden

Children's Garden 1

Children's Garden 2

Children's Garden 3

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Is it just me, or do these flowers look like they’re flipping me off?

Children's Garden 5

Children's Garden 6

Children's Garden 7

Children's Garden 8

Children's Garden 9

Children's Garden 10

Children's Garden 11

Children's Garden 12

The Waterfall

FMG Waterfall 1

FMG Waterfall 2

FMG Waterfall 3

 

 

The Sculpture Park

Sculpture Park 1

Sculpture Park 2

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Sculpture Park 11

Sculpture Park 4

Sculpture Park 5

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Sculpture Park 8

Sculpture Park 9

The camera was not on auto-focus.

Sculpture Park 10

Later in the evening Matt and I met up with some old friends for dinner.  Now if I thought that Laura and I were going for a long time at 19 years, I don’t have anything on Matt and Kevin who have been friends since they were four.  Joining us as well was Kevin’s wife Cindy, and then Korey, who joined Matt and Kevin’s circle of friends in high school, and Korey’s new wife Lindsay.  Have I also ever mentioned that the house Matt and I built in 2004 was kiddy corner to a house that Kevin built?  Yup, they actually lived even closer to each other as adults than they did as kids, and the secret tunnel plan between their two houses, that they had been dreaming up ever since they were kids, could have been a reality.  I can’t even tell you how many days of our adult youth were spent having BBQ’s on Kevin’s back deck, or enjoying a bonfire or hot tubbing at our place.  There have been many great times between this group.

We all met up for dinner at a little restaurant that we used to frequent all the time and was actually in walking distance from our old house.  We were also surprised and excited to see Korey’s dad, Les, there as well, as he used to come to Matt’s office and sit for hours as they talked, and has been an avid follower of the blog since we’ve been away.  (Hi Les and Mary!!)  Dinner was a great chance to see what everyone has been up to in the past year, and we were surprised and excited once more that night when we found out that Korey and Lindsay are going to be expecting a baby next year.  The first ones out of our group, and we’re so happy for them!  With so many new things to catch up on, there was no way we were able to get through all of it at dinner, and had to move the party to Kevin’s where we set some chairs up in the driveway and chatted under the starts until after 2 am.

I didn’t catch any good photos with my camera that night (they all came out blurry or had people blinking), so enjoy a few photos of our group from Kevin & Cindy’s wedding back in 2010.

Matt and Kevin Matt & Kevin

Jessica and Cindy  Jessica & Cindy

Korey

Korey

And just because you’ve been so good, a photo of our group (including my friend Laura) from when we had a dinner party at our house back in 2009.  Yes, I made those scarves for everyone, I’m such a dork.

friends

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Rubbing is Racing

Wednesday August 21, 2013

rubbing is racing

Yes, I know I’ve basically been starting ever post for the past few days this way, but I was so excited to get back to Grand Rapids because that meant that I’d be able to attend a Wednesday JAM (jib and main) race at the Muskegon Yacht Club.  For those of you that have been following along for awhile, you might remember that early last summer I joined a racing league (is that what they call it?) to get myself even more comfortable on boats and gain some knowledge along the way.  One Wednesday night last May I showed up with nothing more than a request to join, and was randomly placed on a boat.  Which happened to be, the best boat ever.  Just because they were short on crew that night and didn’t mind taking on extra (and unexperienced) hands, I was allowed to join Team Island Dream, captained by Tom Spoelman.  We came in third that night.

I kept coming back every Wednesday, and even though we may not have always been the fasted boat out there, in fact there was one time we got the DFL (dead f#@king last) award, but I think we definitely had the most fun out of everyone there.  Some people in the crew were rotating, only there a couple times out of the summer, and others showed up every week, for the fun, the adventure, or maybe just the Lime-a-Ritas afterward (this is where I got hooked!).  We had a great crew last year and it was highlight of my week, rushing out there after working and enjoying time on the water where, for once, I was not the one behind the wheel.  Being rail meat was just fine by me and gave me a chance to watch knowledgeable people in action, picking up on their movements and asking questions without a look of ‘We’ve been sailing for three years, how do you not know this yet?’.

Not having to rush my way out to Muskegon this time since there was no time clock dictating my departure, I strolled into the marina with plenty of time on my hands before our six o’clock push off from the docks.  I saw Tom and his wife Denise getting Island Dream prepped, and ran down to greet them, noticing that Tom was donned in his boat swag, just as I was.  There were big hugs around, and as we sat there chatting for a minute, I was also able to meet one of Muskegon Yacht Club’s past commodore, Dave Ellens, who Tom turned on to the blog and has been following mine and Matt’s misadventures.

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Catching up with Denise and Tom.

TID 3

Meeting past MYC Commodore, Dave Ellens.

(Above photos courtesy of Team Island Dream)

 

The rest of the crew wasn’t far behind, and all but one were regular faces.  I had Shannon to sit rail meat with me, Michael to work the spinnaker, Mark and Pete on the main, and John as our tactician.  Before I knew it, we were swinging off the dock, with only one crew member left behind holding dock lines that we needed to swing back and pick up again.  Once on the lake the sails were hoisted, and the light breeze that was blowing through at the dock was now strong and powerful out on the water.  We weren’t in the first division to start that night, but I did have fun watching all of the ones that were, cross paths with each other while they tried to keep a spot close to the starting line, cutting in back and forth and sometimes missing each other by just a few feet.  I don’t know why, call me psychotic, but watching the close calls have always been my favorite part of the race.  I know that no one is going to crash (hopefully), but I always get a kick out of how far these well trained but sometimes cocky captains will go to keep their spot.  (Yes, I would probably be one of them)

Bad Dog Muskegon Yacht Club

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 When it was our turn to start we didn’t even hear the horn go off, and it was a little bit of a mad scramble trying to get ourselves where we wanted to be.  We must have been doing something right though, or at least the downwind part of the course is much shorter than I remember, because as we came up to the first buoy we joined in the funnel of boats trying to round it at the same time.  If I thought I was seeing some close calls before, that was nothing.  There were boats literally bumping off each other, and I think I may have seen a boat hook broken out to push away.  Our rounding wasn’t quite that close, but we were still surrounded by boats on each side.

I can’t remember many more specifics about the remainder of the race, I think I was high on the feeling of being back out there, enjoying sailing in a way that you just don’t get while cruising.  I know that each time we’d tack, I’d slide under the boom to take my place on the new high side.  No small feat while you have an expensive camera in your hand that you’re trying not to damage, mind you.  I also know there were plenty of chances I was able to hike myself out on the side, dangling my legs over the edge as splashes of water would occasionally toss up beside me.  I remember that the trickling sun set the head sail ablaze in bright golds and oranges.  I remember grasping that it already hurt inside to know I wouldn’t be out there again.

You know, all the important aspects of racing that one usually tends to go through.  Luckily, since I can’t remember enough to put a thousand words down recounting our whole sail on the water, I can at least photo bomb you with the many photos I took throughout the race.

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We may not have finished in the top three that night, but we also didn’t come in DFL either.  In no rush to get back to the dock right away we celebrated our finish with cold beers, and yes, a Lime-a-Rita, before docking the boat and bringing the party into the Yacht Club.

TID 1

 (Above photo courtesy of Team Island Dream)

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It’s funny to look back at what the past year has done for me, and put certain things into perspective.  I remember all those times we sat at dock after a race last year where I’d count down the weeks until leaving Muskegon for the last time, excited to get out of a small lake and into vast oceans.  Who knew that after wishing for so long to get away, I’d be counting down the weeks until I could return again.

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Photo Caption Day: Miniature Golf with the Fam

Tuesday August 20, 2013

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What can I say about the weather here in Grand Rapids since we’ve been back except that it’s been absolutely perfect?  Even though we had a discussion with Matt’s mom on the way back from the airport last week that due to the Lake Effect from sitting on the ‘wrong’ side of Lake Michigan, Grand Rapids has approximately 230 overcast days a year (the same as Seattle, just without the rain!), it has been nothing short of perfect so far since we’ve been back.  See, if it was like this every day, we never would have had to leave!

Not wanting to waste yet another beautiful day by sitting indoors, we decided to hit the miniature golf course with the family.  It was me, Matt, his mom, and his little brother Travis.  Driving just ten minutes from the house we pulled up to a very nice course that sits just outside of the 5/3rd Ball Park.  A place that everyone on this side of town has been to at least once, and where a lot of high school kids (myself and countless friends included) would go to on dates back in our high school days.  Awww.  Just don’t tell Matt that I brought two different guys here before him.

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We’re at the first hole.  Ready, set, go!

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Travis is up to bat golf, and he looks like he has a strong swing behind him.

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Make room please, champions passing through.

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Travis’ face after a hole in one.  I’m just as surprised as he is.

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I was told I had to bounce it off the wall if I wanted to do the same.

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And was quickly laughed at when it went in the water….

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Finally at the bottom after playing a game of Plinko to get there.

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I’m glad the sign is advertising that they’re ‘Now Open’, since we’re now nearing the end of the season.

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We found berries growing on vines, so we ate them.  Brian and Stephanie would be so proud!

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Warning to Travis, these are not stepping stones.  You will fall in.

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 Who could resist ending the day with a few rounds of skee-ball?

 

 

Later in the evening I had yet more plans.  I know.  I haven’t even had time to zone out in front of the tv at all since we’ve been home, what gives?  It was just a girls night with Jackie though, and we spent plenty of time relaxing and and enjoying some time alone together.  She cooked me a delicious meal that she promises isn’t that difficult to make and I might actually be able to repeat it on the boat with just a few ingredients.  We then went out for ice cream and since her and Ron live out in the country, we stopped into a cute little shop on Main Street that had families out enjoying the lazy afternoon and kids in their t-ball jerseys, fresh from out on the field.  It was a perfect little slice of Americana with the hardware store on one side of the street, a city park just across from it, and barns watching over rows of cornfields off in the distance.  Enjoying a movie and some sparkling wine back at the house, I’d call it another perfect day in Michigan.

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 Ron was supposed to take me for a ride on his bike, but ended up ditching me for work.  I was tempted to take it out on my own, but that plan failed when I couldn’t  even stand it up by myself..

 

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To Grandmother’s House we Go

Monday August 19, 2013

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I know for the past few days I’ve been saying “I couldn’t wait to get back to see this person or that person”, but truthfully, the tipping point for us to buy tickets back to Michigan when we found we’d have a layover in Ft. Lauderdale was to see family.  And more importantly in that line of family, Matt’s grandma.  She’s turning 90 in October, a complete sweetheart and a total crack-up with stories from her childhood (don’t even get me started on tales about shoe glue) and from her youthful adventure days where she’s traveled all over the world.  Truth be told though, she hasn’t been in great health lately.  No cruiser wants to get that phone call or email while they’re out traveling that a close family member (or anyone really) has passed away, scrambling to get home with only a few days notice, all the while, wishing they would have spent more time with that person.  We’re still  hoping that we’ll be celebrating her 95th birthday with her when we’re back home from good, but just in case something happens while we’re gone, we wanted to make it home to see her at least one more time.  Besides, doesn’t it feel better being able to celebrate someone’s life while they’re still with you?

Going on zero sleep once again, we gathered at Matt’s grandma’s house for Sunday night dinner.  The whole crowd that usually gathered there for Christmas Eve dinner was there again, and just like Christmas Eve, all the chairs were set up in the living room with everyone to their assigned seat.  We were given a little more freedom for moving around this time and were even to able to sneak a few beers into the house.  Looks like Matt’s mom wasn’t the only one who picked up on the hint that I like Lime-a-Ritas.  Thanks Aunt Laurie!  We talked with everyone about how the trip had been going so far, although it sounded like almost everyone there was up to date on the blog and didn’t have many questions about where we had already been.  They were more excited to know where we were going next.  Where we’d end up with the boat, and what spots we were going to hit on our backpacking adventure.  It was a great evening catching up and spending quality time with family.  The fact that Matt’s cousin was able to stop by for a few minutes with her adorable little son, Chris, was just a cherry on top of a great evening.

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Matt cracking up at Grandma’s stories.

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Crazy and unexplainable things are always happening with this group.

grandmas

Spending some QT with Christopher.  (photo courtesy of Kristen, or, mommy)

 

Today has been a nice relaxing day at home with a few hours out to lunch with a good friend and old colleague, Amber.  We used to have desks next to each other ages ago where we would spend our days punching numbers into spreadsheets and sending private messages back and forth.  Even though we both eventually left that job, we’ve always kept in touch here and there and she was one of the first people to ask me to pencil in a date with her while I was back in town visiting.  What were just going to be plans for coffee turned in to lunch, and soon we were downtown, because, why wouldn’t I want to take as many opportunities to get down there as possible?  Over some food and a beer at HopCat we did a little more catching up.  It’s been surprising the variety of questions Matt and I have been getting from family and friends on our visit home.  When we left there were basically five standard questions.  Now we don’t even get bored telling our story because everyone is asking something different.  It’s kind of refreshing.

When we got back to my place after lunch though, the real fun began.  Amber is working to become a make-up artist for events like weddings and senior photos.  Specializing in airbrush make-up, I had seen on her Facebook page where she’d done some runs with family and friends.  I had asked before our date if I could be a test model, and she was more than happy at the chance to practice on me.  Sitting at the kitchen counter trying not to move a muscle, I let the airbrush wand spray over all parts of my face as she worked on base coverage, highlights, and contours.  A little bit of lipstick, eye shadow, and fake eyelashes later, I was all set for my photo shoot.  We took advantage of the good light and cheerful flowers in the garden out back.  Posing against trees, on stools, and even in a bed of stones, I made love to the camera dreamily looked into the camera as Amber snapped away exclaiming, “These are great!”.  It was an entertaining afternoon, and yet another chance to be all girly before I go back to ponytails and no makeup in a few days.

Fotoface 2

Fotoface 1

(Photos courtesy of Amber Hoagland, Fotoface Makeup)

 

 

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Fancy Cocktail Hour: JW Marriott Grand Rapids

Saturday August 17, 2013

JW Mariott Grand Rapids

One of the first things I did when I knew that we’d be going back to Michigan for a few days was block off our only Saturday night there to spend with our friends: Ken, Mindy, Tyler, and Becky.  These two couples were who we’d always spend the one Saturday night that we’d allow ourselves out each month when we were still back home and saving every penny.  Somehow, without fail, each time we all got together we’d start the night with dinner out at 6:00 and end up at someone’s house after, then look at the clock dumbfounded that it’s 4 am and no one has realized it.  I swear those hours after midnight seem to disappear into the Twilight Zone.  They’re always gone in the blink of an eye.  I didn’t know what our next night out with them would hold, but as soon as I knew we were coming, I told each of them to book a babysitter for night and to make sure they didn’t have any responsibilities to tend to until the next afternoon.

When Mindy asked me what I wanted to do for the night, I said that we should keep it simple, probably just grill some steaks at their house and have a bonfire so we could keep the night relatively cheap.  But then I got to thinking about something all of us girls had talked about way before Matt and I ever left last year, but never ended up doing.  Which was to get dressed up and go to a trendy bar downtown for a few drinks.  Basically, just like the fancy cocktail hour we had in Jamaica, but in a big city.  Many reasons came in to play of why I wanted so badly do this on our visit home.  One was that I wanted to get downtown and enjoy the city for a night since who knows when I see it again, another was that, well, I like getting fancy, but most importantly, I have a dress that’s been sitting in my closet for three years now and I needed an excuse to break it out.  It was originally purchased to wear to my 10 year high school reunion, but somewhere along the line the ball was dropped on that occasion and we never had one.  Way to go Northview class of 2000….. (kidding!)

So the plan of action was to go downtown to have a drink (‘Only one!’, Matt lectured, since we’re still trying to keep our spending down) and then make our way to Ken and Mindy’s where we’d follow the rest of the original plan of grilling steaks and hanging around a bonfire.  Becky and Tyler weren’t going to be able to make the ‘fancy cocktail’ part and were going to meet up with us at the house later, so Ken and Mindy came to pick us up from Matt’s mom’s, after I’d just rushed home from Muskegon, blowing through the door and yelling ‘I need the shower, I need the shower!’, to be able to get myself ready to be picked up an hour and a half later.  With only one working in the house at the moment, sometimes it needs to be fought for and I was going to be damned if I was the one standing on the other side of that door while another person used up my precious time inside.  Quickly bolting myself into tiled safety, I ran through the 20 minute ritual of washing, shaving, and scrubbing, …all the necessary prepping to make one fancy.  Even though I still felt a little rushed at times since then drying and styling my hair after it’s been washed can be another 45 minute episode, I think the results turned out ok.  And just like in the days when Matt and I were back in high school and ready to go to a formal dance (two of which we actually attended together), there was still a few minutes for the obligatory photos from parents.

Matt & Jessica before fancy cocktail hour

Did I mention that only the girls were getting fancy?

 

The bar we were off to, to enjoy our one cocktail, was not really a bar in it’s own standing, but rather a bar attached to an upscale hotel, the JW Marriott.  The reason we (I) had chosen this is because the bar that’s part of the hotel, Mixology, sits in a part of Grand Rapids that overlooks the Grand River, has a trendy little sitting area inside, and cabanas just about hanging over the river on their balcony outside. And since this was my one chance to get out on the town during our trip back, it was either go big or go home.  Since my photos won’t do quite the justice it deserves, let me take a moment to show you a few photos, of which are not mine, to give you a feel for this place and why I wanted to spend my evening there.

JW 2

JW 4

Nice, right?

 

Even though it was now around six in the evening, the sun was still bright and blazing in our faces as we walked from the parking ramp to the hotel.  Did that stop me from asking to sit in the nice air conditioned lounge with views of the river instead of getting a table out in the scorching heat where I could get an even better view of the city?  Absolutely not.  The rest of the group trudged behind me as I excitedly called out to the hostess, “I wanna sit outside!” and we were led to a table (not a cabana, where I’m guessing you have to be ready to spend big $$ to sit there) that did not harbor any kind of protection from the sun.  I enthusiastically slid into my chair as everyone else slumped into theirs, pulling out sunglasses and using their hands to shield the sun from their faces, as if they were about to melt into a puddle under the table.  I tried to tell them it was a beautiful day out.  Besides, why would they want to miss out on views like these?

Grand River from JW Marriott

For the next hour we all sat around the table enjoying ourselves and our drinks (that’s right, Matt ordered two!) and I tried to tell everyone that the heat wasn’t so bad, that we had it much worse in Guatemala, while truthfully, there was enough perspiration on my legs to keep me sliding around in my seat.  Before I could turn into too much of that constantly sweating person I am while back on the boat, I decided that a nice breeze up the skirt would do me some good and did a little wandering around the patio area.  Taking a few photos here and there, I made sure to capture the River House condos where Matt and I would be living had we spent our money on a new home instead of a life at sea.  Which, he had full view of the whole time we were enjoying our drinks, and made sure to bring up many many times how we could be sitting on the 16th floor overlooking the river and the beautiful lights of Grand Rapids each and every night, had we decided to stay home.  I have to admit, it was looking pretty tempting at the moment.

beers at Mixology

River House condos across the bridge

 River House condos in the background.  We would have had a view looking right.

Matt at JW Marriott

While I was up and about, I talked our server into taking a few moments away from running from table to table to get a couple of photos of our group.  She was very willing to help us out with the photos.  The guys…not quite as willing to be in them.

Mindy & Jessica at JW Marriott

Ken, Mindy, Jessica & Matt at JW Marriott

 Back at Ken and Mindy’s place, we unwound on their shaded deck while waiting for Becky and Tyler to show up.  It didn’t take long for the sun to go down, and all of a sudden, that heat that we’d been trying to take shelter from all evening was completely gone.  I forgot that up in the 42nd degree of latitude, the nights don’t stay warm after the sun disappears.  It didn’t take too long before my fancy attire was crumpled in a heap on the floor where I had traded it in for much more comfy jeans and a cardigan.

sunset over a field

enjoying wine at sunset

As soon as Becky and Tyler showed up the steaks went on the grill and we sat down to more food than I could ever eat in a lifetime.  Salad, 10 ounces of meat, and a loaded baked potato.  I’d been dreaming about this meal for weeks which meant I felt guilty about not eating every single bite.  I basically had to be rolled away from the table, swearing I’d never eat again, the same way someone with an epic hangover swears they’re never going to drink again.  It’s an empty threat, but one that always gets repeated after any episode of overindulgence.

setting the table

 Then it was time for something else I had been looking forward to since there’s not many chances for them when you’re surrounded by water.  The ever popular bonfire.  You can’t say that you’ve fully experienced a summer season without attending at least one.  While Ken and Mindy went outside to set up the fire pit, Matt and I stayed behind with Becky and Tyler to mix the cocktails.  Becky was stirring up some kind of concoction in a large thermos that included Southern Comfort, orange juice, and 7 up.  Since the two of us are not normally fans of whiskey of any kind, she promised that by the time she was finished, we would not even taste the alcohol.  That it would be just like drinking fruit punch.  Which, after having another set of friends used to make what we liked to call the ‘pink drink’, including: pink lemonade concentrate, vodka, and a can of beer; we found out can be very dangerous when you don’t realize how much alcohol you’ve consumed, and in Matt’s case, think it would fun to jump in your hot tub fully clothed with your wallet and cell phone in your pocket.

Becky mixing drinks

I think the Twilight Zone of missing hours happened while we were out at the bonfire, because I’m pretty sure the fire started blazing around 10 pm, and before I knew it, the clock was reading midnight and all the sturdy logs we had stacked up were now reduced to nothing more than glowing embers.  The night was over yet though.  As we straggled back inside I remembered that Becky had brought me a box full of ‘old’ clothes that she wanted me to look at to see if there was anything I could use.  Not that there is any room on the boat for me to bring as much as a souvenir back from Machu Picchu, new clothes did not fit into any extras that we can bring back with us.  But drop a box of free clothes in front of a girl, and she will shop through them.  The next two hours basically turned into a fashion show where I’d riffle through the items, found something that I liked, ran to the bathroom to change into it, and come back out to show everyone.  Some of the items weren’t even used, price tags still hanging off the side, like a pair of American Eagle jean shorts that fit me so perfectly it was like I had sought them out among 50 other pairs.  Luckily since Matt was a few drinks in at this point, I was able to smuggle about three news pairs of shorts and five new tops into my bag without any argument from him.

 

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 The shoes, unfortunately, were borrowed and not on the table for my taking.

 

When the fashion show ended we were all running out of steam and ready to call it a night.  Matt and I were sleeping over, so there was never a worry of drinking and driving, and as we climbed up the stairs to settle ourselves into their three year old’s bedroom, we were surprised to see it was only after three.  Looks like we can’t even keep the party going until after four anymore. We’re starting to get purposeless in our old age.

 

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Boating with our Besties

Saturday August 17, 2013

wheel of Hulaballo

If there were two people I could not be more excited to see on our trip back home, it would be our friends Jackie and Ron.  They’re a couple that we met last summer through our blog, and even though we only had a chance to hang out about four times before Matt and I left for our big adventure, we became fast friends and I now even consider them among my best friends.  As fellow boaters and soon to be cruisers themselves, they’re always excited to hear what we’ve been up to, and always there to lend an ear when I want to vent about any cruising or boat related problems.  When we had our accident in St. Augustine, they were the shoulder that I leaned on to cheer me up with constant funny and sarcastic remarks that always lifted my spirits, and even sent friends on secret spy missions to leave a bottle of rum at our doorstep while we were stuck on the hard.  Little surprises like these made the fact that due to our accident and we would no longer be able to make it to the Bahamas at the time they booked their plane tickets to visit us, a very hard pill to swallow.  These two have been such amazing friends to us that there was no way I was going to let an opportunity to see them, or their new cruising boat, slip by.

Having invited myself and Matt out to visit them and their boat as soon as our tickets to Michigan were booked, I didn’t even give them the chance to turn us down, although I doubt they would have.  What I did do though, was force them back a few days early from their two week cruise around Lake Michigan in which they wanted to make sure that all systems on their boat were in working order, and just to get a taste of the cruising life before they simply leave it all without ever thinking twice.  Like we did.  After having made a drive half way across the state earlier in the day to have lunch with my brother (I was going to get that visit in one way or another, damn it!) we made the drive out to our old familiar stomping grounds of Muskegon, even stopping at our old familiar West Marine on the way out just so we could get them a boat warming gift.  Wandering under the fluorescent lights we wondered ‘What would be most useful to a new cruiser?’ and decided that a fuel filter would be appropriate since lord knows how many times ours has come in handy since leaving the country.

There was one more stop on the way at the party store for libations.  Hard as I looked for Blue Moon or Land Shark in cans, some of Jackie’s favorites, they only had bottles and since I didn’t know what their glass policy on board was, so I went with Bud Light instead.  Completely similar to Blue Moon, right?  Parking our car at the marina and stepping out I that strange feeling where you know you’ve been gone from a place for a long time, yet you feel you were also just there.  It almost felt like we never left and that we’d still find Serendipity sitting out at her mooring.  Except, now that same mooring belongs to Jackie and Ron.  And as if their ears were burning as I though that, their dinghy came turning the corner into the channel.  Doing my best to sprint in flip flops and a dress, I quickly made my way around to the landing where Jackie jumped out and we gave each other a big bear hug that I’m pretty sure the guys thought they’d have to pry us apart from.

Torresen's Marina

Feels like we just left this yesterday.

 

After loading our bag, beer, and new gift into the dinghy, we were off to see Hullabaloo for the first time.  I was so excited when we got there that I absently left all our belongings up on deck as I scrambled below to take a tour.  It’s a beautiful and roomy boat and I think they’re going to love cruising it it.  I love my Serendipity, but I might have even been just a little bit jealous of their spacious layout.  No time for sitting around admiring cabinets and cushions though!  First orders first, we all (ok, maybe just me and Ron) grabbed cold beers out of the fridge, and then it was time to get the boat moving.  Too late in the day to actually go for a sail, unless we wanted to come back in the dark, we were only moving ourselves across the lake to anchor in front of the State Park and the dunes for the night.   It’s a calm and quiet spot which always produces great sunsets, and I can’t say that I haven’t missed being near the dunes of Michigan.  Ron ran up front to detach us from the mooring, and I fell into place behind the wheel, not even asking before I started to captain their boat.

drinks on Hullabaloo

Lexie

The evening was warm and the sun was still casting a few golden rays over the water, so we spent the last few hours of daylight lounging in the cockpit and catching up on what everyone has been up to.  Which surprisingly, was not much about us this time.  Since I talk to both of them on basically a daily basis when I have Internet, telling them about every passage, project, or even dinner out Matt and I have, it was us that needed to know what they were up to and how their trip around Lake Michigan had gone.  I’d already gotten a few tidbits here and there from what Jackie posted on their blog, but it was a nice change for once to be regaled in our friend’s cruising adventures instead of the other way around.

As interested as we were in their stories and as excited as we were to see them, we were still incredibly weary from all we’d done since we left Guatemala, and unfortunately, that sleepy feeling was setting in way too early.  Matt decided to cure this with a jump in the lake.  I….was not so brave.  You can’t just take someone from 82 degree water and plop them in 72 degree water, it’s not natural!

Matt diving in Muskegon Lake

 I did the next best thing instead and suggested that we eat.  Because we all know that food is the cure to waking someone up.  Wait, what?  You mean it’s the opposite?  It makes you even more sleepy?  Well s%*t!  Oh well, the burger and corn were damn good, and worth any extra drowsiness they may have caused. Even the dog can back me up on that one.

Lexie eating corn

 

After dinner was finished and Jackie would not let me touch the dishes, even though I told her it’s how the dinner club works: you cook, we clean; I was sent back into the cockpit to keep enjoying myself with a fresh beer in my hand.  I couldn’t force myself to sit still at the moment though, so I floated around the deck with my camera, catching the last bits of baby pink and blue in the sky.  The sunsets here are just as beautiful and serene as I remember them.  I swear, there is something truly special about Michigan in the summer.

Ron and Jackie

 Our wonderful hosts.  Aren’t those just the cutest faces you’ve ever seen?

sunset on Muskegon Lake 1

sunset on Muskegon Lake 2

sunset on Muskegon Lake 3

 Just as I had used up almost all remaining space on my memory card and made my way back to the cockpit, Ron decided it was his turn for a swim that night.  Once again, I was still to scared to jump into what would now seem like frigid waters.  I guess two beers wasn’t enough courage or motivation to make me just go for it.  Looking at the blackening waters I told myself, tomorrow.  When we’re in the clear and even more frigid waters of Lake Michigan.

Lexie watches Ron

Lexie watches Ron swim in front of the dunes.

 

Since it was now getting dark and there were just a few too many bugs to make sitting in the cockpit enjoyable, we moved our party down below where we broke out a game they kept on board called Farkle.  And at the time, trying to figure out the rules to this game were just as hard as trying to say the name out loud without breaking into grade school worthy snickers.  I’ll just blame it on the bottle of Shiraz that had just been opened.  Round the table we went, rolling our dice and trying trying not to Farkle.  I swear that after every person played I was leaning over the scorecard trying to add up how they got to their points since even after a dozen explanations I could not catch on to anything more than a 1 is worth 100 points, and a 5 is worth 50.  I just played along as best I could until a winner was declared.  All of us stayed up a little bit longer and had Ron show off his guitar skills that he’s been picking up over the past year.  Kind of a reminder that I need to get my butt into gear and learn to play before my guitar turns into firewood at the hands of Matt.

Ron playing guitar

 Having got about six hours of sleep since we unknowingly stayed up past 2, we all woke up this morning with groggy grunts as we stumbled up the stairs and into the dewy cockpit for some fresh air and sunlight.  Strong coffee was quickly made, and we sat around talking about what we wanted to do with the next few hours as Ron busied himself below making sausage and fresh blueberry pancakes for breakfast.

sunglasses on Hullabaloo

blueberry pancakes

 Even Lexie got her own pancake in the shape of a bone.  Too cute!

 

After figuring out that Matt and I still had about four hours on our hands before we needed to head back to town for yet more plans we have with friends, we figured there was enough time to still squeeze in a sail on the big lake for a few hours.  Upping the anchor we made a beeline for the channel and felt the wind kick up from nothing, to a stiff breeze as we passed the USS Silverside and the lighthouse that neither Matt or I expected to see for at least 4 years after we said good-bye to it last August.  Even though that breeze which was so strong it had me running to put on my fleece even though I was just sweating moments before, it was gone as quickly as it had come, leaving us with dead calm waters and no breath of air as soon as we’d exited the channel into Lake Michigan.  I knew I wanted a leisurely sail instead of the bouncy passages we’ve been subjected to, but I was hoping for at least some wind.  We hadn’t been planning on going far, but now it was looking like we weren’t going anywhere.

windless day on Lake Michigan

Jackie & Ron on Hullabaloo

 Bobbing around going nowhere for a good 10-15 minutes, I had finally decided to go below and change into my suit and at least catch some sun when just enough air hit us to get us going. True to my wish, the universe held up it’s end and gave me everything I had been asking for ever since I started planning this day over a month ago.  A beautiful sunny day.  Check.   A calm and leisurely sail on Lake Michigan.  Check.   Surrounded by friends that I had been counting down the days to see again ever since I left them last year.  Big Check.

chillin on Hullabaloo

relaxing on Hullabaloo

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