Flashback -- How We Got Here Feed

Women Who Cruise

IMG_0415We have met women who are solo sailors. We’ve met women couples who cruise. And we’ve been very lucky to meet Maria and Cathy, an intrepid couple of thirty-something sailing women who decided not to wait for the “right” man, but to buy a boat together and go cruising. I have such respect for all of those women (and am delighted to call many of them friends).

It is no secret that I sail because EW is a sailor, and that I cruise because I adopted and fully embraced his dream, and this is true of biggest majority of cruising couples we meet.  In some cases they learned to sail together, and in some cases they formed the dream together, but most we meet who are our age are cruising because the guy wanted to cruise.

P8100785So women adapt. Some keep their home or a cottage to call home. Others opt to leave the boat during the summer to visit friends and family (especially grandchildren), and others like me are “all-In”. Our home is the boat and we stick with it for most, if not all, of the year.

IMG_3456Some folks chug their way down the inland waterway. Others sail outside, hopping from port to port and waiting for the best weather to sail to the Bahamas. Intrepid sailors head straight from New England or Virginia to the Virgin Islands, while others opt to put their boat on a ship and send her down alone.

We all make it work, and we all sail until it doesn’t work for us.

P8100730I still love this life. Sure, we’ve made mistakes, we’ve been caught in bad weather, and boat parts have failed, and we need to make some money to fill the cruising kitty and to fix the boat. But I love this life. So far, I’ve loved living in St. Augustine on the boat, where I’ve gotten to meet many women who sail: Women from Alaska and Santa Cruz, and Maine, and nearly every state down the Eastern seaboard; women from Australia, Germany, and Belgium; women who are retired, women who have taken a sabbatical, or women who are still working as they cruise. In short, I’ve met women from all walks of life who may have nothing else in common but the dream to travel aboard a small sail or power vessel..

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We never run out of things to say to each other. We can never do enough to help each other. We never run out of questions to ask each other. And if we are lucky, we form strong friendships, nurtured via email and Facebook and the occasional phone call—and the dream of meeting up once again in another port.

This was not why I embraced cruising. This is my bonus.

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Mother's Day with the Tree Top Band

IMG_0691Mother’s Days with EW have been “interesting”. Only a couple of months after we met, EW agreed to accompany me to Waterville, Maine for a Mother’s Day lunch that included meeting my parents for the first time. (No pressure there.) Actually, Mom loved EW from the first, saying that he was “the best thing that ever happened to me”. Once we married, EW knew that if we broke up, he could go “home” to my mother for shelter, hugs, and sympathy. You may find that humorous, but it was no joke.

The next memorable Mother’s Day occurred less than two years after we married. We purchased a home one year and a 26-foot sailboat the following autumn. When Mother’s Day rolled around, we were working on a list of boat projects, but EW had joined the local volunteer fire department which had scheduled a training on Mother’s Day weekend. (You can bet I was all fired up about that.) Still, my folks drove down to Yarmouth where the three of us shared a picnic lunch. Daddy painted the boot stripe on the boat, and Mom played with our pup, Coffee. They didn’t get to see EW that day, but still sang his praises. (“Yeah, yeah. I’m proud he’s a firefighter, Mom.”)

Mom and Mo Walking Down the AisleAs I was fortunate to become more involved in Favorite’s life my Mother’s Days became a bit more special. (Mom adored him, too. Here Favorite ushers Mom down the aisle at our wedding.)  Of course when Mom was still alive, we visited with her and Daddy. Later, EW would find something fun and special to do. Once a special Mother’s Day Brunch in a Portland hotel with his mom and sister; at other times as simple as a picnic – with or without boat projects. Mostly with. It was that time of year in Maine.

Once we started cruising, Mother’s Day began to revolve around a breakfast or brunch prepared by EW, and (if we were in the right location) my wonderful Mother’s Day call from Favorite – who never forgets. We aren’t much for presents, but this year EW purchased a quart of maple syrup because we were tragically out of it, so I knew I could expect home-made pancakes and bacon on Mother’s day. On Saturday, EW received a phone call from our musician friend, Jerry. I knew what was going on, and could tell EW wasn’t sure if it would fly. He concluded the call by thanking Jerry and telling him he’d ,“let him know".

IMG_0669Recently, Jerry has been organizing “Pot Luck” music jams. We missed the first one because he didn’t have our number and the second one because it was on a beach and there had been rain showers. Sand fleas are worse on a beach after a rainfall, and EW wisely decided not to brave the poisonous (to him) pests. On the first Sunday in May we took a taxi way up to the top of Dorthea to a home overlooking Hull Bay, where “Coach”, Diane, and their two friendly mutts, Waggley and Tramp live. It was a great day, Diane is a calm and gracious woman, and the view was to die for. The music was good, too. (That’s Mick on bass, Jerry on lead guitar, and EW during our first Tree Top Jam.)

Back to that phone call from Jerry. From EW’s side of the conversation, I could infer that Jerry had called to say that Diane (mother of four) and Coach had invited us all back on Mother’s Day. EW wasn’t sure if that is how I wanted to spend “my day”. Well if I could have done anything I’d have been back in Maine for the lobster feed at my niece Jean’s home, but life isn’t perfect, and music in the tree tops is pretty special, and really, how bitchy would I have to be to deny EW this opportunity? Way more bitchy than I am, that’s for sure. Coach kindly offered to taxi us up and back and the day was on.

It was a great afternoon. By the time we got there, Diane’s three grown daughters had called to wish her a Happy Mother’s day, so we were both waiting for our sons to call, and neither of us roamed without our phones until our day was complete. (Both “boys” called by 3:00 PM well within the “I haven’t forgotten Mother’s Day” time frame.

I learned why most musicians aren’t overweight. Playing music trumps eating. (It does not trump drinking beer, but one can do that easily between songs.) The pot luck offerings included crab salad, fried chicken, potato salad, two home-made pizzas (moi’s contribution), Texas beans, and an amazing chili, cheese, chicken dip. EW ate the last two small pieces of pizza as we were in the car on our way back to the boat. That was all he ate for the entire day. He played music for six hours and drank beer. He had a really, really good Mother’s Day.

So did I.

IMG_0753After breakfast I did laundry, made two pizzas, and was then transported to the tree tops, where I could listen to great music, chat with smart women, eat good food and play with two cute dogs. I’d call that a Mother’s Day win.

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NOTE: During our first Tree Top Jam, I chatted with Diane (remember, she’s from Texas) and mentioned we were out of Maple syrup. We are both charming women and we are both strong women.

Diane (with a Texas accent): Yew know you can make Maple Syrup?

Me: Yep, with a number of Maple trees, flowing sap, and a good fire.

Diane (Smiles then goes all serious again.): No really. You just need some maple flavoring and a little syrup. (I assume she meant Karo or some such thing.)

Me (Struggling to be polite.): Yeah. No. That …..

Diane: My kids just loved it!

Me: I really like you, and I’m sure your kids were fine with it, but that just won’t work for me.

Diane: Really?

Me. Really.

She was tickled when I told her that I had gotten Real Maple Syrup for Mother’s Day. For those of you keeping score, while EW’s New York syrup is delicious, I have (of course) always favored Maine syrup. The only one available here at Cost U Less is from Vermont, so we compromised. 

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Here’s EW, Morgan, Jerry, and Mick on Mother’s Day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

IMG_0858Jerry and Diane and Coach all invited a few friends to listen and enjoy the day. Brian wins the Best Use of Smart Phone award when he quickly found the lyrics for one song.

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Yep. This does not suck.


10, 999 ... 10,998 ... 10,997 ...

Barb in first gradeFinally! t was the first morning of my first day of school. I was nearly 7 years old, and we lived in northern Maine in a very small town which didn’t offer kindergarten, so I’d had to wait until first grade. And since my birthday missed the cut-off by three days, I was going to be one of the oldest kids in the class. I had been excited for weeks finding it difficult to think of anything else, and having trouble getting to sleep each night. I was dressed in my new blue plaid skirt and a white shirt, and sat at the table waiting for my breakfast, no doubt talking a mile a minute to my mom. She handed me a glass of juice and a vitamin pill, which I inhaled – literally. As I began to choke, gasping for air, Mom hauled me upside down and slapped me on the back until the pill popped out. (Yes, I predate the Heimlich Maneuver.)

Obviously I survived, and I really, really liked school, but I’ve always found it difficult to turn off my mind when facing major change.

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One Morning in February, 2014

Fast forward more than 50 years. It’s nearly midnight and I can’t sleep. Just over a year ago EW and I made a tough choice when we agreed that neither the boat nor the cruising kitty were ready for an Atlantic Crossing. We stayed in St. Thomas and worked, becoming Live-Aboards instead of Cruising Sailors: we purchased a mooring, took jobs, stopped cruising, commuted by dinghy, and became known by store keepers, security guards, and wait staff. (You know a cruising sailor has stayed in port too long when…fill in the blank.)

This week, we both “retire” again, and in May we will cross the Atlantic to the Azores.

(Do you have any idea how difficult it was to craft that sentence? Should it be …. and in May we hope to …? Or … and in May we plan to …? Or … and in May we will …? We will….)

In the meantime I can’t sleep. I’m not worried about the crossing. I’m thinking about everything that must be accomplished prior to the crossing. I’m thinking about writing magazine articles and blog posts. I’m worrying about anything that would be able to stop us this time. So far, I’ve successfully swallowed my daily  vitamins, but some nights it’s just too difficult to turn off my brain and fall asleep.

scan0004Tonight, curled on EW’s shoulder, his arms around me in sleep, I thought IMG01912about tomorrow’s To Do list, my strange last day at the Rum Cart, our trip to Florida earlier this month, all the things not yet posted on the blog, and some of  the things that could prevent us from making this incredible journey. Since no-one was available to read me story after story until I fell asleep, I tried the method that had worked many nights in 2002 when we sold the house and moved aboard, and again in 2010 during the last weeks before we left Maine: Counting backwards from 11,000.

Counting backwards from 100 is too easy. I can do that and develop whole scenarios of challenges and create a new To-Do list – all at the same time. Counting backwards from 1000 doesn’t work, either. But sometimes, if I breathe slowly,

in    and    out           

and              in           and                  out   

                  and make myself concentrate and “say” every numeral in my mind …. I can fall asleep.

Eleven thousand

Ten thousand nine hundred, ninety-nine

Ten thousand nine hundred, ninety-eight

Ten thousand nine hundred, ninety-seven

Ten thousand nine hundred, ninety-six

Ten thousand nine hundred, ninety-five

Ten thousand nine hundred, ninety-four

Ten thousand nine hundred, ninety-three ……

 

It’s 12:40 AM. I’m going back to EW’s arms and try this again.

 

Photo above left: EW and me after purchasing La Luna; above right: a lobster buoy near our Harpswell mooring the summer before we left Maine.


Looking Back

This is the 600th Blog Post since I started Harts At Sea in February of 2008.  I started a blog because emailing friends and family just didn’t do it for me, and because I was learning about social media and dear friend Lynnelle Wilson told me I should blog.

So I did.

My first blog was a succinct introduction:

Living Aboard a Sailboat in Maine – 2/16/2008


In May of 2002, my husband and I -- and our black lab -- moved aboard our 47 foot Cheoy Lee sailboat. We had sold our home in March, after an amazing home and yard sale; moved to a furnished rental that was closer to the boat; and got her ready for habitation. We have lived aboard (year round) in Maine since that time, with the exception of one hard year on the hard while we re-caulked the teak deck and had other repairs done.

As that last sentence implies, living "on the hard" has been the most challenging year so far in our life with La Luna. We truly enjoy the life aboard and have never regretted the move. In this blog I plan to share some of the experiences of the past few years as well as current events aboard. This is my first step into blogging and is done in anticipation of perhaps creating a blog for my business, Hire Well. In the meantime. If you like sailing, dream of taking your boat to distant shores, and live aboard or wonder what it is like to do so -- then I hope to write something here that will be of interest to you.

First, a brief bio: I was born in Maine, graduated from U Maine Orono, and have worked here since. I was raised inland and did not sail on the ocean until I met the man who became my husband. On our third date, Stew looked deep into my eyes and said, "I sail and all of my friends sail". Having already decided that this was the man I wanted to spend my life with, I replied, "I'm sure I can learn." It wasn't easy, and I never intended to sell most of our land possessions and move aboard nearly 20 years later. It has been a wonderful journey and we are currently planning our next journey when La Luna slips her lines and heads across the Atlantic for the beginning of our world cruise.

The photo is S/V La Luna under sail in Quahog Bay in Harpswell, Maine. It was taken by Jack Nordby, a photographer, sailor, and pilot from Maine.

 

That’s it. Just 360 words, not much in the way of entertainment or humor, and no indication that Stew would “become” the Topic known as EW. However, I made it clear that our goal was not simply living on the dock in Maine. The name of the blog was “The Harts at Sea” for a reason.

In “honor” of reaching 600 posts, here are my favorite posts from the few I wrote during my first year as a blogger:

Winter Dangers When Living Aboard a Sailboat in Maine – 3/1/2008

This week, while getting aboard with two bags of laundry (admittedly not the safest procedure) I fell. It happened quickly -- and the only thing that went through my mind was to "Stay out of the water!"

We have a set of plastic dock stairs, three steps high with a metal railing. Right now I love that metal railing! I climbed the steps and opened the shrink wrap door and one of the bags caught on the door jam, pulling me up short. I tugged to get free and hit my head on the top of the door frame, bounced off and hit the step railing with my back and bounced off that and slid down the steps to the dock. Both bags of laundry and my bruised body all successfully stayed out of the water. The steps are screwed to the dock for safety and while the force of my fall did pull up some screws,  others held and kept me from falling backwards into a very cold ocean.

This is only the second time in 5 years that I've had a close call. During a storm in our first winter aboard, Stew and I were getting off the boat to check lines when I fell between the boat and the dock. That of course can be extremely dangerous during any time of year as you don't want to be a bumper between the dock and (in our case) a 19 ton boat. I didn't fall completely into the water, but ended up with my arms on the dock and my legs in the water. I immediately began to seek a purchase for my legs in order to lever myself onto the dock, and I asked Stew to stand back to see whether I could save myself if necessary. He was not amused, shouted at expletive and hauled me onto the dock. I'm sure I would have felt the same way from his vantage point, but I did discover how the docks were constructed and how I may be able to use the bottom crosspiece to get back aboard if need be.

Falling into the water in winter is probably one of our biggest concerns. We wear cleats on icy days, use a buddy system in storms and generally try to be careful and aware of our situation. When we have landlubber guests who stay late into the evening, we walk them back to safety on shore. This week's fall did serve to remind me that our lifestyle does have risks -- even for those of us who are old hands at living aboard.

 

Good-by to Jake, Sailing Dog

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The week before Labor Day, we had a nice -- now bittersweet -- vacation after which summer ended for us.

Our beloved dog, Jake, was put to rest one week after our return. He was twelve; he was less active during our trip and it was apparent that this would be his last sailing vacation. The effort to get from dinghy to boat was simply too hard and he no longer easily tolerated the heeling of the boat on brisk sails.

Three vet visits in a week confirmed canine bone cancer -- a death sentence. Stew had to make the final call as I was unable to do so. Knowing that this was the right choice for Jake did not make it an easy choice for us.

September 9 was the end of summer for us. We have wonderful memories of Jake on the boat, in the dinghy, and on many beaches in Maine. He was just over 12 years old and still full of love with an appetite as big as the world. Prior to the final visit to the vet Stew stopped at Reds Dairy Bar and presented Jake with a large dish of soft serve. Then, our long time veterinarian, Linda Bond, and four other vets and techs who knew Jake joined us in saying good-by and in giving him hugs and dog cookies. He went peacefully and with much love.

Jake was our friend and companion, our mascot, and just the best dog. Jake was the trainer’s “teacher’s pet” in obedience school, he was the favorite dog on the FedEx driver’s route, and he was the greatest walking buddy in the world. He loved his family, the vet, the kennel, power boats, kids, babies, belly rubs, going to work, the Great Island Boatyard crew, cookies, and “the big munch” – not necessarily in that order. He took care of his family, welcomed visitors, enjoyed new adventures and respected tradition. He repelled possible borders at sea, kept an eye out for seals and whales, assisted on the foredeck, and “vacuumed” the galley and dining area. He made us smile, gave us comfort when we were sad or ill, and frequently made us laugh out loud. He gave lots of wet kisses, painless nose nibbles, and unconditional love to all. When Jake came into our lives as a young adult dog, he just wanted a loving home. We did our best to provide that. He did his best always. We will miss him.

Stormy Winter Day at the Dock – 12/21/2008

We  are having our first major North Easter here in 2008/09 winter. It is 6:07 with high tide expected at 6:46. This will be a higher than normal tide with a surge; the 30 knots of winds mean it's bouncy out there and northeast winds blow the boat away from the dock, stretching the lines.   I get nervous getting on and off and we will change the lines a bit during the next few days. We don't have to be this far off the dock. You landlubbers do not want to see the chasm we negotiate from boat to steps.

We planned for today, shopped yesterday, will do laundry on Monday. Stew ventured out for the paper and we have stayed in and kept warm. Our nearest neighbors are monitoring a radio channel with us. If anyone has a problem, we can get some help quickly.  We love our new neighbors . John and Dora are newbies at this living aboard thing but they are game, learn quickly, and are great sports. Life is still good on the water. The photo is taken from our door. The lights are the Christmas decorations on Far Horizons. The white specks are blowing snow. You can't see the white caps rolling in from the river.

Exploring Home Before We Sail the World -  1/4/2009

We read a lot of sailing books and subscribe to a number of cruising magazines. While crossing oceans is what motivates Stew, I am eager to explore new areas and meet interesting people. This morning I was reminded that Maine is indeed a delight and that interesting people can be found anywhere.

One of our propane tanks was empty and Stew asked me to go with him to get it refilled, so I would know the drill in the future. He told me about the guy who usually filled the tank. "He attended some training program for doing this safely and is very proud," said Stew. "He always gives me a little lecture on safe transport." Sure enough, we pulled in to the local U-Haul, parked by the fill tank, and in just a few seconds a young Asian man, with very baggy jeans and a slow shambling gait, walked over to our car. He spoke with a slight accent,and while he didn't recognize Stew, he did recognize the tank. (Really, he knew our tank!)

He examined it carefully then quickly and efficiently refilled it. I talked with him a bit and found that this is a weekend job. He has another part time job in the area and he is a full time student at a local college. With all of that going on, this young man was very conscientious as he filled the tank. He had obviously taken his training to heart and was proud of the responsibility that he had been given. When he handed the tank to Stew, he again admonished him to keep it upright and not to smoke while the tank was in the car. For some reason, he touched me. Nice kid, working hard to move ahead. When we finally take off to sail the world, I am sure I will be touched by many people.In the meantime, I want to remember to notice the people here in Maine who help to create this interesting community. Not all discoveries occur thousands of miles from home.

Hmmmm. Guess I knew something back then, after all.


So, You Want to Go Cruising? Part One–Decisions

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Lately, folks who wish to follow in our wake have asked advice about boats, cost, homes, and this lifestyle. Many of the questions are the same, but some are unique to each cruising couple. Some of our fellow cruisers may have answers similar to mine, some of them – and EW – may disagree with one or two of my statements. Please comment, disagree, agree, and start a discussion. What do you think, and/or what questions do you have?

In no particular order, here are answers to the most asked questions:

Will you talk my wife/husband/significant other into this? Not for a million dollars. This truly only works well if both parties are eager to embrace this lifestyle. I’ve met cruising spouses who have very reluctantly agreed to join in their loved one’s dream. In every case I’ve met, either the dream or the marriage are cut short.

The exception to that rule – Some less enthusiastic sailing spouses have willingly agreed to a cruise for a limited length of time, or in a limited manner. Though we all admire and love to meet those who have circumnavigated, even they will say that there are no rules to this. If you like to sail, and are interested in travel, there are ways to make it work. Some spouses meet the boat in the Bahamas, Caribbean, or wherever after the captain and a crew have delivered it. Carolyn Goodlander, veteran circumnavigator, excellent sailor, and super fun cruising buddy told me that “There is no shame in yacht transport.” I met a woman in Trinidad in October who told me they were leaving for the Med on November. I was nonplussed, until she said they’d gotten a great deal on a yacht transport, and could sleep on their yacht for the ten day passage. We’ve met a lot of couples who cruise the Caribbean in the winter, haul the yacht in Grenada or Trinidad, and fly home for the summer. I won’t talk your spouse into trying this lifestyle, but you may consider adjusting your dream to meet their comfort level. If that doesn’t work, buy a land yacht or vacation home.

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IMG01488Should we sell our home? We did. Frankly, we couldn’t afford both home and boat, so we sold the home and lived aboard the boat for eight years, year-round, in Maine. Now that we’re down here, we think we would have been too stressed if we’d kept a home in Maine. We have friends who had to fly back to New Jersey this fall because their home sustained major damage in Hurricane Sandy. That just isn’t fair. They had to haul their boat during prime cruising season to stay home, in the winter, supervising repairs. We met a couple from South Africa who had circled the world BK (Before Kids), returned home to have and raise four kids to college age, and left them attending local colleges and living together in the family home. Now there’s an idea. Obviously, if you are going to sail half the time, you need a home for the other half. La Luna is our year-round home. NOTE: For some reason all of my “La Luna Living Aboard” photos from Maine were taken in the winter. It wasn’t like this year-round. Really.

1-STW Things we kept 7-23-2010 11-48-18 AMHow about all your stuff? That’s easy. Get rid of it. It frees you like nothing else. (Having said that, note the size of our boat and discussion about stuff, below.) Seriously, since we lived aboard for eight years, we required a storage locker for our seasonal stuff – boots, coats, and shovels in summer; and dodger, dinghy, and grill in winter. It was larger than we needed for those things because we hadn’t yet gotten rid of some precious items. Before we left we shipped the art to Favorite, participated in two yard sales, and gave stuff away. We also are blessed with dear friends with a very large dry basement, who have allowed me to store precious items and photos until we return. Other than that – it’s all gone or on board. If we ever get a land home again it will be tiny. In fact, I follow the Tiny House Blog, just to keep me centered.  NOTE: Except for the art shipped to Favorite, this smallish pile is all we kept on land. Get rid of your stuff. Most of this are photos and mementos that will probably be scanned and thrown. Get rid of more stuff.

How big a boat do we need? A lovely woman who reads this blog, actually triggered this post. Her husband has assured her that they can go cruising on a 32 foot boat. They certainly can. I wouldn’t, but they can. When we purchased La Luna, we fully intended to live aboard for five years. She’s 47 feet and I needed every bit of it for living aboard, working full-time, and having as “normal” a life as possible. Somewhere during year one or two, I told EW that if he wanted to sell her before we left, I could go cruising on a 38 to 40 foot boat. I could, too. I don’t have to because EW had already bonded with La Luna, and wanted to keep her. I’m in love with her too, and am delighted we kept her. In my humble opinion, the boat needs to be big enough to have the following:

  • A comfortable cockpit that will seat six comfortably for a party on the hook. (We’ve had 14 on board at times. EW and I find that comfortable. Some of the catamaran sailors seemed tense.)
  • Refrigerator and real freezer – even if the freezer is small.
  • Really good stove and oven.
  • Excellent galley storage actually in or near the galley.
  • Two separate sleeping cabins so the guests aren’t in the main saloon.
  • Storage. You don’t need as much as we have. The more storage you have the more stuff you will acquire. We seem to have forgotten the “new thing comes aboard, old thing goes off rule.” You will want some comforts from your shore life: Christmas decorations, art, photos, and Maine maple syrup are a few that come to mind for me. Having said that, we have friends on a 52 Tayana (you know who you are) and the captain emphatically stated that they don’t have a sewing machine on board because they don’t have room to store it. Oh yes they do. I could find room for that machine in five minutes.
  • Room below for your lifestyle. EW and I can both be below at the same time, each enjoying our own favorite pastime in the main saloon. He plays guitar on the settee and I write at the dining table, or read in my corner. However, I do wish our chart table was more comfortable and had more air circulation. I’d prefer to write there.
  • Oh, and of course most important, the boat has to be well built and blue ocean worthy. In a group of cruisers, there are many different opinions about which boats we would each take to sea. EW and I agree (probably because he taught me), that we are comfortable in La Luna because she is a very well built, mono-hull, with a strong hull and decks, and full keel. This works for us. Each cruiser and potential cruiser must do their own research and decide what works for them. Remember, you need to trust your boat. I do trust La Luna. ( There are many, many, many factors to consider when choosing a cruising sailboat. This is not to be considered a definitive list. The best recent book on the subject is Beth Leonard's Voyager’s Handbook, the Essential Guide to Blue Water Cruising.  Purchase that book and read it. Use post it notes and a highlighter like we did. Read other, more technical blogs. Face it, Harts at Sea is a lifestyle blog, not a boat blog, and  I know my limits. In fact, here’s a link to a blog by friends of ours – more about them below. They listed their catalogue of the instructional CDs they have found helpful. http://www.zerotocruising.com/research/)

Catamaran Disclaimer: We have nothing against catamarans, in fact, many of our dear friends sail them. I have great envy of their room, gathering space, and especially the freezers. EW would not cross an ocean in a catamaran. He readily admits that his prejudice was formed many years ago, and that cats have changed greatly. He, however,  has not changed so much in that regard, and because of that, I have not. On the other hand, we both agree that if we were going to just cruise the Caribbean and Bahamas, we would switch to a catamaran – as long as I can take my stove with me. They have great space, certainly don’t roll as much, and most have little or no teak to varnish. Who knows? Instead of a tiny home, we may retire from our retirement on a cat.

How much experience do we need? We have met a few sailors who had zero to no experience before setting off on their cruising adventure. Most have come to no harm, nor have they caused others to be harmed. Mike and Rebecca  – those friends with the CD collection -- named their boat and their website Zero to Cruising http://www.zerotocruising.com/, because they went from zero or “total sailing newbies” to cruising when they set off on their dream. Mike and Rebecca are remarkably focused people, each have exceptional drive, courage, focus and a desire to learn. They have continued to take advanced courses while thoroughly enjoying life in the Caribbean. We’ve also met folks who weren’t ready when they left and had bad to horrible experiences. I’d  suggest going when you’re ready to nearly ready. EW had crossed an ocean and delivered boats from the Bahamas and Florida to Maine. He’d been working in the industry for over 30 years and he can fix nearly anything. I had been sailing since I met EW, and had done overnights on both of our boats and with others. I guess that’s why I don’t have Mike and Rebecca’s list of CDs – EW was my primary source. (You can’t have him as I got him first and am holding on to a good thing.)  Before we left, we both took courses in navigation, first aid, and understanding weather. (Full disclaimer, I slept through the weather course.) EW had his Captain’s license – which is not needed but does allow us to get a discount on insurance. More experience is better. Research what you don’t know. Read a lot – including the books about difficult passages – and get at least some ocean sailing experience before setting off. Both of us can drive and anchor the boat, handle a night watch and make decisions about sail trim, navigate, drive and beach the dinghy, use both radios, know when the engine sounds right, cook a meal, and doctor the other. This is a team effort, and the more ready all team members are, the better the effort. We have met women and couples who have taken actual sailing “courses” at sea and none of them regretted it.

Here’s the thing … this lifestyle is a lot easier, safer, and more accessible than it was 20 years ago. Cell phones, satellite phones, SSB radios, and the Internet allow us to keep in contact nearly all the time. We can receive up-to-date weather information while we are at sea, and we can have an AIS VHF radio which lets us know what big ships are out there and whether we are on a collision course with us. Frankly all of that can make it too easy for some folks to set sail with perhaps a skosh less experience than they really need. More is better.

Here’s the other thing … If this is something you have wanted to do, and really want to go for it – then do it. It’s an amazing, wonderful, enriching lifestyle. I look happy, don’t I?

PC241338 


Neighbors and Friends

Still in St. Thomas:  18.20.257 North and 64.55.817 West

New Year’s Day, we were on the hook in Fajardo, and still had things to store from the three days of shopping and provisioning. We also spent a lot of time calling folks back home. Our first call set the tone for the day when we discovered that our former neighbor had passed away that morning. We’d been informed that he was terminally ill and had called to chat with him and his wife. My call was answered by their eldest son who seemed stunned that I called and immediately gave the phone to his mom, who broke the news that “The Boss” had died just a few hours before. We all cried.

IMG01822During the second year of our married life, EW and I purchased a real “fixer upper” in South Portland. We shared our back border with these neighbors. A chain link fence, with a chain and padlock on the gate, separated our yards. After meeting us, Billy, our next door neighbor told us that he’d grown up playing with the kids who grew up behind us and that their parents still lived in that home. Billy said that the people who had owned our house had put the chain on the gate to keep Billy and our neighbor’s sister and her family from cutting through the yard. EW immediately unpacked the bolt cutters and cut the chain.

It was the best use of bolt cutters I’ve seen. We were welcomed to the neighborhood by those who had lived there for twenty, forty, and sixty years. Our back neighbor’s wife taught me how to be a “Neighbor Lady”, and her husband, The Boss,a retired arborist, taught EW how to fell a limb without getting killed. He was something. For a year or so after we had moved in, EW thought that The Boss didn’t like him. He liked to tweak a person, and was more quick to tease than to praise. He was a worker, with a good sense of humor, who loved dogs, horses, gardening, and his family. He was a good neighbor.

If we needed something, we could ask The Boss. If he thought we needed to know something, The Boss would tell us before we asked. I was painting our new shed one day while EW was upstairs installing new electrical outlets. (I told you this was a fixer upper.) The Boss came by as I was happily putting the paint away. He noted that I had painted only the outside of the shed double doors but he didn’t say a word to me about it. Instead, he walked into the house, calling for EW. Once he found him, he said, “So, Barbara’s done painting the shed.” “That’s good,” said EW. Then The Boss tattled and said, “She only painted the outside of the doors, you know.” IMG01824EW said, “Well that isn’t good. They’ll warp.”

“Yep,” said The Boss.

So EW left his job and walked with The Boss down the stairs to the yard, where EW informed me that I had to paint the interior of the doors, while The Boss laughed. I laughed, too.

One spring I had bought a gardening book and read an article about how to kill grass when you want to create a flower garden in place of a section of lawn. The article talked about using a sheet of plastic, cut in the shape of the new garden, weighting it down with stones, and leaving it for “a couple of weeks”. The grass will die and something good called nematodes will grow/appear/be created. Since this was a home in Maine, I had a blue poly tarp not being used, so I cut that into the desired shape and held it down with bricks. EW had to mow around it. For weeks. The grass wouldn’t die. Finally, The Boss came over and called me out to the front yard. “What in hell do you think you’re doing here?’ I told him. “You dammed fool! You have to use clear plastic so the sun burns the grass and the grass can’t breathe! This tarp has air holes and you have created a grass greenhouse.” He was right. Under the blue poly tarp, that section of lawn had a thick, green carpet of eight-inch tall grass. EW was not happy. That area was mowed and remained lawn.

The Boss loved both of our dogs, and his dog, Nan, was always welcome on our side of the fence. His wife and I both are snake phobic, so when she was home alone and discovered a snake in the basement, EW disposed of it. When EW was gone and I had a snake in the way of the lawnmower, I called The Boss. He took care of it. We had a row of tall pines between the two houses. The Boss and I hated them, but for years, both his wife and EW didn’t want to cut them down. Finally, one Friday afternoon we all came to agreement: EW would attach the  board to our shed to hold the end of their clothes line, which was currently on one of the trees. And then,the trees could come down. The Boss put the call out, and on Saturday morning, he arrived with three of his sons, who all had climbing gear and chain saws. By evening eight thirty-foot pine trees were down. His sons and daughters are workers, too.

We attended their birthday parties, and they came to our Christmas Eve parties. We shared recipes, stories, horse radish, sour dough starter, sugar, plant cuttings, tomatoes, dog toys, mulch, and work. We laughed a lot. We cried when their nephew died and made baked beans for the wake. They hugged me when my folks died, met EW’s mom, and kept an eye on Favorite when he was home alone.

They were the best of neighbors. In 2002, we sold the house and bought a boat and they sold their house and had one built in the country where The Boss could have some animals. When we visited, we met the chickens and walked the horse pasture, admiring his “stock”.

The Boss was the finest kind of Maine man, quiet, sometimes caustic, who showed his caring by his deeds, not by his words. EW’s favorite story happened a year or so after we had moved into the neighborhood, when EW still thought The Boss didn’t like him. A freak wind storm had broken a huge branch that had fallen onto our kitchen roof. EW was going to stay home from work to dispose of the branch; I was sure he’d be injured in the process. We were standing in the yard, discussing the project, when The Boss strode through the gate. “What in hell are you going to do about that?” he said to EW. “I’m just trying to figure it out now,” EW replied. “Well, I can’t climb anymore, but I’ve got the stuff and I know how to use the ropes. I’ll tell you how to do it,” The Boss stated. And he did. He worked with EW all day, until both tree and EW were safely on the ground. He directed EW every step of the way, and EW began to call him “The Boss.”

On New Year’s Day, we cried, then called Billy to talk with him and to catch up on his life. Then we called other friends and family, because it was that kind of day.

Good-by, Neighbor.


Three Things I’ve Learned About Staying Happily Married

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Twenty-six years ago today, EW and I were wed at Holy Cross Church in Portland Maine. I became a wife and a 003_3step-mother, and had a lot to learn about filling both roles. We all had a lot to learn – and EW and I still work at it. Having been married and divorced when we met, EW at first flatly refused to discuss marriage, saying he was never getting married again. When he proposed, I was so surprised that I asked him if he were serious and threatened bodily harm if he “took it back”. Not the most romantic response, I know.

We both very quickly got used to the idea – in fact I picked out my dress the very next day! EW began to set limits, “I’m not sure that I can be married for life,” he said with a sly grin. “That’s fine”, I said, “but I want a 50th wedding anniversary. Can you handle 50 years?” He said that sounded OK; this morning he (predictably) mentioned that he only had “Twenty-four to go.”

We’ve had our ups and downs – still do, even on the boat – or perhaps especially on the boat – but we’re committed to being married for 50 years and I’ve taken an option on the next 50. Priorities and lessons change with each year, month or day; today I am sure of three things that will help us reach that Golden Anniversary: first, a sense of humor is vital (see above) second, we don’t have to agree, but we do have to forgive; third, sharing a dream and working to make it come true adds spice, excitement, and a reason to make things work.

Many years ago we both attended a course led by Ivan Brunell founder of International Personal Development. We learned a number of techniques that we try to put into practice, though both of us have had times when you’d never know it. Ivan said that if you still get angry about something that happened in the past, you haven’t forgiven the other party, no matter what you tell yourself and others. And you know something? Two smart, creative, strong people will never, ever agree about everything. Relationships create conflict and it’s how you manage that conflict that determines whether you move forward fully or not. That was brought home to me recently as EW and I “discussed” an old issue that was creating new conflict because I couldn’t let go, accept what is, and move on. I’m working on that. It’s my belief that the inability to truly “agree to disagree” and let it go destroys many marriages. I’ll not let it destroy ours.

We are living our dream and that is a wonderful thing to share. Though having a boat and sailing to distant ports was a dream EW brought to the relationship, he made it abundantly clear that he would be happier at sea if he could share that dream with me. Through the years this became our dream and we worked, plotted, read, asked questions, attended boat shows, and visualized our shared adventure at sea.

Last year, late in June, I was stunned when he expressed concern that he hadn’t thought of something exciting to do for our Twenty-fifth anniversary. I told him that he was taking me to sea in a few months – that was excitement enough! Now, one year later we’ve weathered squalls off Cape Fear, fixed the boat in beautiful harbors, met others who were living their dreams at sea, and traveled from Maine to St. Lucia. No life is perfect, no relationship sunny every day, but as I write this with rain beating down on the deck, I know that I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, with anyone else.

Anniversary 5 St. Lucia 2011 7-6-2011 1-19-10 PMFor me, this is perfection. I love you, EW. Thank you, for giving me at least 50 years of your life, all of your love, and making our dreams come true. P7060031

The view off our stern at Marigot Bay, St. Lucia. Not a bad place to spend a wedding anniversary.


Smaller is Better When You Live Aboard a Boat (Or, Cathy Was Right)

Ever since we moved aboard the La Luna eight and a half years ago, our friends have been very supportive. One friend tickled us because she kept looking for things that would “fit” our new lifestyle and came up with bread mixes that only needed one ingredient, coats that zipped into a pocket, and a travel towel from L.L. Bean.

I have to confess that I was not enamored with that travel towel. In private, we smirked a bit and exclaimed “But this is our home! We use regular towels!” Indeed, when our plush green towels started showing wear, we purchased even more plush white and buff towels, 60 inches long. We even had a set for guests.

Then Margo (world cruiser and one of the folks I listen to with rapt attention) said, “You know you can’t take those towels when you cruise, don’t you?” EW was more stricken than I and I was struck dumb. “Really?”. “No, you can’t. They will take ages to dry in the tropics and will  mildew.” Ick.

So I did some research on microfiber towels. (You know where this is going, don’t you?) I found the towels on Amazon for a good price, but the size I wanted didn’t have hanging tags and then I found the same towels just down the road at L.L. Bean. EW and I took a short road trip before we left Maine and picked up two sets of microfiber towels so we have a set for guests. They really do dry us well, and they dry very quickly. They’ll be easy to wash out on the boat when we are far from a laundry-matt.

And they take up a lot less space. Here are two lovely plush towels with two lovely flat micro-fiber towels on top of them. PC120098

And here they are with one vacuum bagged plush towel. EW wouldn’t let me get rid of them, so they’re stored under our bed. This is supposed to be a long cruise and I wonder if they will still be usable (or important) eight years from now. PC120099


Pecha Kucha Portland - The Creative Process of Living Aboard In Maine

Forgive me for not writing a new post in days (weeks?). I have neglected you and feel like a bad person. 

I have been writing though, as I was honored to be chosen to join some very talented and passionate Maine folk in presenting at the July Pecha Kucha Portland event on July 12. Don Elliot - a talented and committed Pecha Kucha Volunteer handled the technical side of things and posted this video of my presentation. When you have about 8 minutes, tune in and see why we moved aboard and what it's like to live aboard in Maine in the winter. 

Enjoy!  


Barbara Hart at Pecha Kucha Portland, Maine from Pecha Kucha Portland on Vimeo.


Twenty-Five Years Ago - Celebrating our Silver Wedding Anniversary

Twenty-five years ago this past February, EW and I wandered into the Old Port, had a beer, and played a game of darts. I lost. "You don't really love me," I pouted. "I love you enough to marry you," he said.

I was stunned. Happy, but stunned. Then he said, "But there's something you need to understand before you accept. Some day I want to have a sailboat and sail around the world." 

This shouldn't have surprised me. Even though he didn't have a sailboat at the time, I knew that was a dream of his and that he'd actually started building a sailboat when he lived in western New York. I was not a sailor, and really couldn't imagine what he was proposing to do. (Well, I could totally imagine the proposal part -- and had for months. But the proposing to sail around the world part was another story.)

This less-than-romantic proposal became a discussion about what we wanted individually and together. Certainly we wanted to help raise his son, "Favorite", who was then 9 and living with his mom in New York. We wanted to buy a home together. I had never owed a home and was looking forward to that experience. We both wanted to travel. EW wanted to travel on his own boat, under sail. 

I have a lot of respect that EW laid his hopes and dreams on the line when he proposed to me. I never doubted his love and knew we could work together, laugh together and love together for the rest of our lives. I just wasn't sure about this sailing around the world thing.

I remember that I cried. Sitting on a stoop in the Old Port in February, the idea was so overwhelming that I cried. I'm not really proud of that. We talked about what sailing around the world meant. I stated that "There is no Horn in your future." There is no way I am sailing around the Horn. Ever. There still is no Horn in our future. 

I also stated -- "I think I can sail around the world with you, but I don't want to be one of those people who sell their homes and all their stuff and just have what's on the boat."  Now I didn't know any of those people and I didn't yet own a home. But I wanted to. I wanted to host Thanksgiving and Christmas. I wanted to decorate a house, I wanted a garden. And I was sure that once I got all that, I would never want to give it up.

We cheerfully gave up the house 8 years ago in May. It was my idea because EW took my desires seriously and would never have asked me to give up our home. This home.  

IMG01822
 I made every curtain in that home. I designed the kitchen. EW designed and created the molding. We took every room down to the studs and renovated her. That was our home for over 15 years.

Now, when we welcome friends to the boat and they ask, "So this is your home?"  Maine Saloon - Table
EW says yes and, "Home is where the Hart is." 

That's true. This is now all the home I need. That night in the Old Port, I accepted both of his proposals - to marry and to sail around the world. No regrets. We were married July 6, 1985.

Happy Twenty-fifth Anniversary, my Love.  You are giving me the world.

New Family on Wedding Day