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Well, it’s been a long time since I last wrote, years even.  In fact, the last time was May 7th, 2018.   That’s a long time, almost two years.  When I last wrote, it was to ponder an exit strategy from the boat.  The last line of my last post:

“From the very start, I have often wondered exactly what our exit strategy from sea back to land would be.  I never really gave it much serious thought but, when I did, I never could really work out exactly how things would go…what the steps would be.  Now that we are at that stage, things are no clearer.”

The exit plan from sea to land was an easy concept.  Simply put, we’d buy a car, put the boat up for sale, pack up the car, and then, along with the two kittens, go find a place we wanted to retire.  Sounded easy when we put it that way but as with most things, the devil was to be in the details.  Things never got clearer.

As our time in Key West slowly came to an end it seemed as though the Keys just wouldn’t let us go.  Over the previous few years we had melded into the local scene and had made a lot of friends.  Friday afternoon happy hours at the SOB were a “don’t miss” affair everyone looked forward to. 

The 2018 Hurricane Season was very mild in Key West and the Summer and Fall were filled with warm and lazy days.  Chuck and I slowly cobbled together a plan, or at least the sell the boat and buy a car part of it.  And, , then, Chuck has a severe accident on his motor scooter.  I won’t reiterate the details other than to say he fractured his orbital bones around his right eye and broke both his right shoulder and his left hand, necessitating him having to be flown to Miami for medical care.  It was an ordeal but it is over and we are thankful.

After Chuck’s accident the plan to leave cruising was addressed more seriously.  The boat, and selling it, seemed to be the albatross around our necks.  We pretty much decided to sail it to Tampa and put it up for sale there.  While surfing the net one night I discovered the broker who sold us the boat was actually located in Bradenton, Florida.  I called him and he was, of course, delighted to represent us and to just let him know when we were ready.

Fall merged into Winter; in Key West they are almost indistinguishable from each other.  Chuck’s broken bones, thankfully, were healing and complication free.  We bought an SUV.  I still had my scooter, but Chuck’s was damaged and would require more money to get it out of the tow yard than it was worth.  As January, 2019 dawned, it was time to move even further forward as, at least the boat selling part, the plan was coming together.

We asked our friend Ed to help Chuck sail the boat from Key West to Bradenton, Florida.  The broker was based there and with a little bit of coordination we were notified a slip was available and a weather window cooperated for the sail up to Tampa and Bradenton.  I drove the packed car up, along with the cats, to have accommodations when they arrived.  Their sail to Tampa was uneventful.

Over the course of the next few days Chuck and I packed up any and everything that we wanted to keep that was on the boat.  We shipped four or five huge boxes of stuff to my step daughter to keep for us, the more immediate items would go with us in the car.  It was during this time that I noticed Chuck was down on his knees and sitting back on his haunches as he squat or semi squatted.  The only thing his doctors told him, and told him emphatically he couldn’t do, with regards to the blood clotting issues in his left leg, was to not get down on his knees, or anything vaguely resembling squatting and being on his haunches…and there was my guy doing exactly that.  I tried to remind him, not once but several times over a day or so, but Chuck wasn’t having it and continued to do the only thing the doctors told him not to.

At the end of the third day, his left leg clotted again.  We took off to the emergency room, again.  The next day he had surgery to resolve those clots, again.  And, he was in the hospital, again.  I saw this episode with the blood clots as preventable and wasn’t happy with the way things went down.  He’s doing fine now and taking considerably better care of his leg.  The second procedure scared him I think.

Chuck’s final, surgeon’s post op appointment, was February 26, 2019…the car was packed.  As soon as the appointment was over, around noon, we grabbed the cats and said adios to S/V Freedom.  It was a rainy, Florida afternoon.  Freedom was a whole lot of fun and excitement for six years or so, but both of us were glad to be off the boat.  We looked forward to finding a home and settling down.

There was just one problem.  We still had no plan.

Well, that’s not completely the truth.  We had a plan, but it quickly fell apart.

The plan, lame as it was, resembled a no plan plan and went something along the lines of having no preconceptions of where we might want to live.  We’d simply travel at our leisure and have faith that we’d know the right place when we found it.  First stop, was to be Asheville, North Carolina.  On another rainy afternoon we pulled into the town.  We were underwhelmed with what was there.  We really don’t know what we expected but whatever it was was not in Asheville, NC.  After one day and night, we headed out on Interstate 40 headed west.

Now, even though we didn’t know where we wanted to live, we did know where we didn’t want to live.  The areas we didn’t want to live were pretty much defined by the weather.  Either very hot or very cold were out for us.  The Gulf Coast was out for us.  The Southeast didn’t make the cut; the Midwest was never in contention.  That left the mid Atlantic states, the west coast, New Mexico and Colorado.  There were other areas but those just mentioned were the high points.  When and where we would eventually go was Chuck’s decision for the most part.  We were on no time table.  We’d end up where we’d end up.

Both Chuck and I had made the trip across the States by car before.  It had been 15 years for me and even longer for Chuck, we looked forward to it.  Somewhere on the long stretch across Oklahoma, Chuck told me we were heading to Oregon.  That was fine by me.  The route to Oregon took us through Oklahoma, skirting New Mexico before entering Colorado, I-70 through the Rockies, up to Salt Lake City, across to Elko, Nevada, I-80 through the Sierra Nevada, and then I-5 through Northern California, and then into Oregon.  We finally lit in Eugene.

After a few days in a hotel we found an AirBnB.

From the get go Chuck didn’t care for Oregon.  To my great surprise, I didn’t particularly care for it either, at least Eugene.  It was a nice enough area, the people were great, and, overall, the general vibe of the place was cool.  Still, we both struggled after such a long, 11 day trip there, to warm up to the place.  The weather was a real rub for Chuck and, admittedly, it was cold and rainy the whole time, we both however wanted to give the area due consideration.  We were in Oregon five weeks and must have visited 40-50 homes.  Several of the places we saw were seriously considered but, in the end, we both felt we’d be settling…we passed them up.

One day Chuck came out and said straight up, “I hate it here and don’t want to live in this area.”  After a brief discussion we decided to leave Oregon.  Destination, Northern California, specifically the Grass Valley-Nevada City area.  I was surprised when Chuck came up with this area.  Just as I’d always been interested in the state, Chuck had always said he didn’t want to retire in the state.  We both have a bit of history here.  I’d worked in SoCal and Chuck grew up and attended high school in the Bay Area, his mom and dad retired to Santa Rosa, and his sister lives in Sacramento.  I was fine with his suggestion.

So, off we went back to California.  After a day or so we moved into a horse ranch AirBnB.  Five weeks later we moved into a different AirBnB.  For six months or so we did pretty much nothing else but look at houses.  It was a thankless task.  Just to get to the homes we were interested in was an hour drive one way.  The initial realtor who’d been recommended to us wasn’t working out so we switched.  Still, the house hunting was a depressing exercise.  By the second week of August, 2019 we were so discouraged with the task at hand that we just shut down and stopped even trying to find a place.

Now, to those who might want the information.  Nevada County, California is in the very heart of Gold Country.  The largest, richest gold mine in California was/is located in Grass Valley.  The very start of the California Gold Rush happened about 20 miles from where I sit at this very moment.  The area is drop dead gorgeous and is known for two towns located in the county, Grass Valley and Nevada City.  The house prices in the area were/are inflated due to the rich folks in the Bay Area buying places to use as weekend vacation get away homes.  There are many, many, many beautiful homes in Nevada County, but there are also just as many not so great houses.  Finding the right home was evading us.  We found two very interesting properties but, in the end, we passed.

In mid-August, primarily due to me, though with no push back from Chuck, we decided to leave California and head back east, back to North Carolina, specifically.  We’d give it another chance, so to speak.  We let our land lord know we’d be leaving as soon as our August lease was up. 

Leaving would turn out to be a huge mistake.

The main reason we’d passed on North Carolina and the southeast in the first place was again, because of me.  Though I have many good friends who live in the South, I personally don’t like the place.  I grew up in the South.  I know the area and don’t like the vibe.  I know what lies just beneath the surface there culturally.  Though some of the finest people I’ve ever known have been from the south, and fully arguing there are good people everywhere, the area just doesn’t do it for me.  I always, always said I’d never retire in the South, and yet here we were driving all the way back across the States to consider doing just that.

So, back East.  The route was a bit different.  We took California Hwy 49 to Sacramento, I-5 down to Bakersfield, I-40 over to Flagstaff, long drive to Shamrock, Texas, then to Memphis, then to Sevierville, Tennessee, before driving on into Raleigh, North Carolina…I-40 all the way.

The second day we were there I turned to Chuck and told him we’d made a big mistake  coming back.

We got an AirBnb.

Over the next month we scoured the real estate listing for potential properties.  They were scattered from Asheville to the coast, from Raleigh to Roanoke and well into Virginia.  After contacting a real estate agent it was still almost a month before they managed to get a group of houses together we could see.  Most were on Smith Mountain Lake , just southeast of Roanoke.  To see them would require us making an overnight of the trip.

We met the agent in Roanoke; she had six or eight houses to show us plus a 150 acre Revolutionary War era track of land I was particularly interested in seeing.  All day we looked at houses, the agent dropped the ball on the 150 acres and we didn’t get to see the houses and log cabins advertised.  The best of the homes was the last one we visited, on the lake.

As the day ended, I was depressed.  I felt no better the next day.  Chuck and I talked.  I told him I knew we came back east because I wanted to, I told him I was sorry, and then told him that just as he did not care for Oregon, I felt the same way about the south.  I told him I’d do anything, live anywhere else in the nation, anything…but I did not want to spend even one more day considering the south at this time.

As always, as with most of our discussions, Chuck listened and then very calmly said, “Well, then, we’ll just have to go somewhere else.  We have to find a place we both like.”

My guy, he’s the best.

We then talked about where we might want to go next.  I told him that I’d like to check out Santa Fe and northern New Mexico, maybe Colorado. My first job out of college was in Farmington, New Mexico…Four Corners.

A few days later we were in an AirBnB in Santa Fe.  We both liked Santa Fe but the altitude was a killer.  Santa Fe sits at 7200’ above sea level.  We could really feel the altitude.  If it hadn’t been for the altitude we might well have bought a house there.  But, we just couldn’t hack the lack of air.  We stayed a full month there, essentially just vacationing.  We had a blast and really didn’t want to leave.

Next up, Flagstaff, Arizona.

The decision to hit Flagstaff was not so much to look at real estate as it was to look at the Grand Canyon.  We’d both seen it before, and we both wanted to see it again.  It is a magnificent sight to behold, just as awesome as the first time we’d seen it.  We hit every vista and overlook, the place was packed.  This was the first week of October, 2019.

Somewhere about this time, the decision was made to go back to the Grass Valley/Nevada City area of California.  I honestly don’t remember how it came about but along about Flagstaff we decided to go back to California and Nevada County.  We had a lot of good reasons to do so, most not worth mentioning, but good reasons nonetheless.  After a text message, we booked right into the same AirBnb we’d spent last summer.  It was good to be back, we felt kind of like being home.

After a week or so, we started looking at house again.  The prices were definitely coming down a bit, more and different homes were on the market.  One day, as was our want, while discussing real estate prospects over lunch, Chuck asked me if I’d seen a certain house, and handed me his phone to look at it.  It was nice, and had just been placed on the market.  The long and the short of it was that by the end of that upcoming weekend we’d purchased the home.  Closing was to be the week of Christmas.

The home was pretty much exactly what we wanted.  On seven acres, swimming pool, year round spring fed pond, seven tree apple orchard.  We arranged for our furniture and stuff to be shipped from Houston to here…that was set for first week in January and came off without a hitch.  By the end of January we are for all intents and purposes moved in.  It was wonderful to have a place we like and have that whole ordeal over.

…and then Covid-19 hit.

My comment on the pandemic is this.  Way, way, way back when the coronavirus was first being reported on, I mean the very first reports, my ears perked up as they’d never done before.  I’m not sure why, actually.  I watch the news religiously every morning and night, local and national.  When the MERS, SARS, H1N1, Ebola, etc viruses were first being reported I followed the development but those epidemics never really concerned me much.  But, from the very start Covid-19 did.  I told Chuck there was something ominous about the coronavirus outbreak.  Over a period of a week or ten days, I watched in horror as the outbreak morphed into a full blown pandemic.  I certainly don’t blame President Trump for the pandemic but I absolutely blame him for the lack of preparedness we had to it.  And, don’t even try to sell me on the pandemic being unforeseen and couldn’t have been predicted.  Just too well read to swallow that.

One more thing.  About a week after we came back to our AirBnB in California, or about ten days after we visited the Grand Canyon, Chuck and I both came down one day apart with a particularly nasty respiratory infection.  Breathing was not great and both of us were very congested.  Low grade fever and a sniffling cold.  It wasn’t terrible but not pleasant either, symptoms lasted about a week, except for an extremely bad bronchial cough I had that didn’t end until this past January.  In short, we kind of had the symptoms of Covid-19.  If we had those same symptoms today we’d probably be tested for it. Whatever it was, we had to have caught it from the throngs of people who we were around when we visited GC…people from all over the world.

That’s where we’ve been.

Almost exactly five years ago, Chuck and I provisioned Freedom in preparation of the thousand mile or so sailing trip to deliver her back to our home port of Kemah, Texas.  On a late Tuesday afternoon we slipped the lines from the Fernandina City Marina in extreme northeast Florida and headed north on the ICW before turning east into the St. Mary’s river and exiting the jetties on into the Atlantic ocean.  Prior to our departure we’d spent all of about ninety minutes on the boat during the sea trial.

After three days, 24/7, of bashing through eight to ten foot seas, in twenty five and thirty knot winds, we pulled into Lauderdale Marina to refuel and rest for a couple of days.  On the second day there, Chuck slipped on the boat and fell face down into the combing of the cockpit.  It was immediately back to Texas where oral surgeons saved the day.

Three weeks later, I flew back to Ft. Lauderdale to meet two crew.  Chuck stayed in Houston to work and recover from his face plant.  Nine 24/7 days after that, we sailed into Upper Galveston Bay…shortly after that, we were safely in our Seabrook Marina berth at Kemah.

Over the next eighteen months, we prepared the boat for our cruising escapade and officially retired from working.  In early November, 2015 the boat was reasonably ready to head out…we slipped the lines and left, with no plans to return.

By May of 2016 we found ourselves in Stock Island Marina Village in Key West waiting to cross the Gulf Stream to visit Cuba.  It was a great trip.

Less than six months later, in early December, 2016, we left Key West for an easy overnight sail to Bimini, Bahamas.  The plan was to cross to the Bahamas, and then leisurely sail through the Exumas before continuing on south into the Caribbean.  By June 1st of last year we hoped to be in Grenada.

As many of you know, in early March 2017, the day before we were set to depart from Georgetown, Exumas, Bahamas with two other buddy boats, Chuck developed severe blood clots in his left leg that lead to emergency surgery in Nassau, a week in the hospital, a trip back to the United States, and then more surgery.  This was a big thing, he almost lost his leg over it.

Thankfully, two of our friends (Larry McCart and Chris Earls) delivered the boat back to Ft. Lauderdale for us in late March; we moved back on the boat the very day it arrived.  In July, 2017, Chuck was released by the doctor for us to continue cruising.  My cousins came down and in early August and we sailed the boat on down to Key West to ride out hurricane season.

The first week of September saw us watch in horror as weather report after weather report increasingly suggested Hurricane Irma would make a direct hit on the Key West area.  The fact is, it did.  And, it tore the living shit out of our yacht.  Nothing structural, but a lot of cosmetic damage.

In early December, 2017 we brought the boat back to Lauderdale for it to be repaired.  Literally from the day after the hurricane back in September we’d been doing everything we could to have the boat repaired.  The time estimate for the repair work was supposed to be thirty to forty-five days.

The estimated time frame worked good for us.  If the boat could be repaired and turned over to us by the first of February, or even mid-February, we could still have time to get back over to the Bahamas and on down into the Caribbean.

Today, as I type this, though we are living back on the boat, the repairs are still not done…and we are back berthed in Harbour Towne Marina in Dania Beach, Florida.  For those who don’t remember, the days we spent in this marina last year were the most miserable we’ve spent on any boat, anywhere.

Now, to digress a bit.

Many have written about what it’s like to cruise on a sailboat.  And, admittedly it’s not the same for everyone.  But, almost to the person, when we meet someone and they ask us what we do, and we tell them we are retired, live, and cruise full time on a big sailboat they are enthralled.  They go on and on about how exciting it must be, how much fun, romantic, and wonderful it must be.  And, to an extent they are right.  It is a lot of fun…most of the time.

In the time we’ve been cruising we’ve met a ton of very nice people and made some wonderful friends.  We’ve seen spectacular sunsets, mesmerizing sunrises and water so clear one would think they are in a swimming pool.  Sitting in the cockpit having a cocktail after a good sail is hard to beat.  Anchoring out and taking the dink to the beach for good food and drink and friendship is really second to none.  New sights, sounds, and smells and cultures are just wonderful.  The problem is not the upside just mentioned, but the part of cruising that only cruisers can really appreciate, the part those who don’t cruise or sail almost never see.

Only cruisers can appreciate the stress associated with being glued to the internet for days waiting for a weather window in order to depart…cruisers live night and day by the weather.  Only cruisers know the sheer, unadulterated boredom associated with sitting up for most of the night in howling winds making sure one’s anchor does not slip, sending their yacht to the rocks, reef, beach, or into another boat.  One has to cruise to fully appreciate the feeling you get when out on the ocean, no land in sight, with not even a whisper of wind, and the engine quits.  Or quits in the middle of a channel with ocean going ships the size of an eighty floor skyscraper in the vicinity.  Or waking up to find the refrigeration has gone out.  Or finding oneself, in spite of everything, being in seas the size of a house.  Or losing one’s batteries.  Or lack of a generator that just minutes before ran like a top.  Or stay up all night on overnight passages glued to the chartplotter/radar/AIS in an effort to not run over something, or worse, being run over by something.  Or…  Or…  Or… The list is endless.

No, cruising is anything but full time rainbows and unicorns.

Don’t misunderstand.  One does not load up the sailboat, slip the lines, and head out to sea and not expect these types of things to happen.  If one cruises, their boat is going to break.  It is expected.  Anyone who heads out and doesn’t expect or anticipate mechanical issues is simply foolish.

Chuck and I both started sailing when we were in our 20s…I will be 68 and Chuck will be 67 in September.  We’ve been sailing a long time.  When one first starts sailing there seems to be little down side.  Even if one has an issue while out sailing one weekend it’s just too easy to get a tow back to the slip, park the boat, and then go home and have a beer, having the mindset that the repair will happen when it happens.  Full time cruisers who are on the move don’t have that luxury more often than not.  If the water maker goes out while in the Bahamas that issue has to be addressed.  If the transmission goes out, it has to be repaired.  Medical issues have to be addressed.  Business has to be carried out.  Issues have to be addressed.  Things come up, and they cannot be ignored when they do.

Again, anyone who sets off to full time cruise has to expect things to come up that must be immediately attended to, often the things have little to do with actual sailing.

The dilemma is at what point does the whole experience of full time cruising become no fun?  When is the wonderfully exciting upside surpassed by the major pain in the ass downside?  We really don’t know what that point is, but we do know we are fast approaching it.

If our boat had not been clobbered by Irma last September almost certainly Chuck and I would have picked up where we left off when he had his leg clots.  Last December we’d have split to the Bahamas, made out way through the Caribbean, and be in Grenada as we speak.  But, we did get clobbered.  The repair has taken more than twice as long as it was estimated.  It is too late to head south, at least to us. 

So, there is the conundrum.  What are we going to do?

At first, we thought that after the boat was repaired in February we’d go with another couple/boat to the Bahamas…but, the boat is still not complete and, at the rate it’s going, won’t be for another couple of weeks maybe.  That puts us departing just prior to hurricane season.  Others may, but we will not be caught in the tropics during hurricane season.

Then we thought, maybe we could sail north and spend the summer exploring the Chesapeake.  Sounds like fun, until remembering that come winter we’d have to bash back south against prevailing winds and the Gulf Stream to escape the ice of winter.  We’ve now pretty much eliminated that plan.

The current option is to take the boat back to Key West and spend the summer sailing the Keys and Dry Tortugas…maybe scoot to Cuba again.  We have good friends there and, to us, it’s a pretty cool place.  There are several relatives who’ve expressed interest in visiting us and what better place to entertain than in the familiar waters of the Keys.

We could simply list the boat with a broker and walk away leaving it right here in Dania Beach until it sells.  Selling the boat might takes a couple of years, but it could sell the day we list it.  If it did sell immediately, we’d instantly be relegated to motel rooms until we found our retirement location.  We don’t get a warm fuzzy feeling about that either.

We just don’t know.

To throw a wrench into things, we don’t own a house, our boat is our home.  We are fortunate enough to be able to buy a home virtually anywhere we’d like but, at this moment, we don’t own one and are all over the place as to where we’d like to finally settle down.  Either way, we still own the boat and determining where we will call home when the cruising is over is not something that will happen in a few days, or even months.

When we sold our home we had a boat to live on; if we sell our boat we would have no base whatsoever, home or boat.  It really doesn’t make much sense to sell the boat and then go looking for a home…in the meantime the boat must be berthed, maintained, etc. 

And, further, we really enjoy living on our boat and are not really ready to give it up completely at this point.  But, living on a boat and cruising/long passages are two different things.

And, then there is the health thing.  Chuck and I are both in pretty good health.  Knock on wood, I’m probably in better health than he is.  Nonetheless, at this stage of our lives our age and health is starting to be a factor.

Consider:

Two weeks ago, Chuck went to step off the boat.  He slipped on a piece of veneer that was sitting on the finger pier.  I was below and just barely heard him holler for help.  When I went topsides he was suspended between the fixed dock and our port rail, his left leg was on the dock, his right leg was dangling between the dock and boat, and he was just barely able to support himself with his right hand on top of a stantion.  If I hadn’t of heard him and helped him back onto the dock he’d have been in the drink in another minute or two.  The result of that simple accident was that he scraped the living hell out of his right leg to the point that the next day we ended up in an Urgent Care walk-in clinic for an x-ray.  His leg was not broken fortunately, but for a good week he could barely walk on it.  Chuck takes a boat load of blood thinners, thankfully he didn’t tear a big gash in his leg when he fell.

Another case:

Last year, while in Nassau, an abdominal hernia I’ve already had repaired twice started to bother me for the first time in thirty-five years or so.  The entire time we were in Nassau, Leaf Cay, and Staniel Cay it bothered me a lot and was quite painful.  It bothered me enough that I determined that once we reached Georgetown I was going to have to go to the doctor.  Thankfully, it cleared up.  A few days ago, after giving me no trouble for a year, it has flared up again.  Something is going on there and must be addressed sooner, rather than later.

And, just one more:

A very good friend of ours and his wife, whom we met and sailed with last year in the Bahamas and was nice enough to treat us to dinner when we were up in West Virginia last December, flew to Australia last week.  They were going to travel a bit in Oz before flying out to Tonga where they and our friends Rod and Janet Casto were all going to meet up and do some charter sailing in the South Pacific.  For the past few days, Facebook has shown them having a wonderful time.  Yesterday, they were in Alice Springs, Australia enjoying Ayers Rock.  This morning I was surprised to see a photo of him in a Cairns, Australia hospital bed after a medical emergency required him to be flown out.  I don’t know what the issue is with Joe, he’s a tough old salty bird for sure.  But I’m so glad that whatever has caused his hospitalization happened now and not while he was on the high seas.

Suffice to say, a medical emergency on a boat is a big deal…I know first-hand, believe me.  And, as much as I hate to admit it, Chuck and I are no longer bulletproof.

So, we are at a crossroads.  Not ready to give up the boat, but really no longer interested in significant long distance cruising either.

From the very start, I have often wondered exactly what our exit strategy from sea back to land would be.  I never really gave it much serious thought but, when I did, I never could really work out exactly how things would go…what the steps would be.  Now that we are at that stage, things are no clearer.

Below are photos showing the progression of the hull repairs to the starboard side of Freedom due to Hurricane Irma:

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From the previous post one can see that finding affordable accommodations in South Florida or the Keys is a chore.  Once we finally bit the bullet on finding anything reasonable in the Lauderdale area, we started looking for a place further north.  Once out of Florida opportunities were to be had. 

Early on we found where we would eventually end up but hesitated to book it because we’d hoped to find something closer to Ft. Lauderdale.  Once Lauderdale played out to its bitter end we jumped on what the owners call simply The PropertyPlease check it out.  I won’t go into much detail on this place because the VRBO link does a much better job.  But what I will say is that we have been here since mid-January and just love it.  By the time we leave we will have been guests here for roughly two and a half months.  It’s been a delight.  In fact, we wish we’d gotten this place way back in December.

The property is owned by Bob and Eleanor Rawls.  One would be hard pressed to find a more congenial couple…they just define good folks.  The place has everything Chuck and I wanted.  It’s quiet and secluded yet is just a few miles from Brunswick, Georgia should something in the immediate area not have what we need.  Aside from all of the things listed from the above link, we particularly like the huge private lake and fishing (no fishing license required), wooded hiking trails, and the ability to just sit outside on the patio and barbeque in peace and quiet.  The Property has everything one might want in a home-away-from-home accommodation, bar none.  The only thing we furnish is our food.

Hardly a day goes by that we don’t speak or hear from either Eleanor or Bob, or both.  They both live on the property in their beautiful home a hundred yards or so away from the cabin.  Eleanor, now retired, was a lifelong dance instructor, while Bob initially worked as crew on a tugboat, before ending up as a building contractor along the way.  Both are extraordinarily interesting to talk with in a real and comfortable sort of way.  We are in love with them both.

I urge all of my friends and readers to consider staying here if the need arises for a place near the coast and Brunswick (Brunswick Landing Marina), during a hurricane, or just a weekend getaway to unwind.  I would recommend you do not book through VRBO.  Instead, call Eleanor at 912-617-7915 to make a reservation.  I assure you all these people will work with you any way they can so that your stay will be as enjoyable as can be.

Unfortunately, it appears that after more than two months of this luxury, our stay here will end on April 1st.   The boat is nearing the completion of its repairs.  In fact, early this morning Chuck headed out to Ft. Lauderdale to inspect the work and see what is left to be done…he will return later this evening, a very long drive and day, indeed.  We were told that the work would be completed by this Friday, March 9th…but they requested another week to March 16th…just in case.  Unbeknownst to the contractors, they actually have to April 1st.  But by first of April it must be 100% done, complete, totally, caput, absolutely nothing left…Chuck will find out today.  I’m looking forward to his report.

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Port side…new hull color.

 

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Starboard side…new caprail and rubrail replacing hurricane damaged area.

 

After arriving in Ft. Lauderdale, and before we found a motel, we went straight to Harbour Towne Marina to look at our boat.  It was on the hard and completely wrapped in plastic so the entire boat working area could be air conditioned for the workers.  Generally speaking we were pleased with what we saw.  The damaged caprail and rubrail had been removed, the repairs to the hull upon which they are attached had been repaired and faired, and the caprail that was not damaged was been stripped of varnish and was being sanded.  On the surface that doesn’t sound like much, but considering the damage to our starboard side it was considerable.

Over the next few days we met with the boat contractor, Starboard Yachts,  and made the necessary decisions for them to continue.  Though there were several items we wanted taken care of above and beyond what the insurance would cover, the two main things we decided were to recoat the topsides and to change the color of the hull.

Over the next few days we continued to go to the boat and visit with the workers to assure ourselves there was nothing we missed.  After a week or so, the boat particulars addressed, we once again faced the challenge of finding a more permanent place to live.

Our friend Larry McCart indicated that he and his wife, Carol Sue, were going to be in the Ft. Myers, Florida area for several weeks on a vacation of sorts.  We always enjoy being around those two and did everything in our power to try to find a condo/apartment/cottage for the time they would be there.  (Larry and Carol Sue aside, Ft. Myers is only a couple of hours from Lauderdale and staying there long term would allow us to be close enough to the boat that visiting it would be an easy day trip.) We actually even booked a cottage in the area.  But, in our haste to procure housing we didn’t perform the due diligence we should have.  We booked the cottage only to find out it was on one of the barrier islands and only accessible by water taxi.  Not only was the water taxi not free, there was also a daily charge to park our car on the mainland.  Additionally, the cottage was almost five hours away from Lauderdale.  Having booked the cottage via VRBO and the internet midafternoon of one day, by 0800 of the next we were trying to cancel the reservation.  We thought canceling the reservation would be easy; we had bought cancellation insurance after all.  But it turned out that the insurance was worthless (don’t get me started on that) and, in Florida, unlike many other states, once a reservation such as we had made is confirmed there is no cancellation; we would either have to stay there or eat the prepaid money we had put forth…unless the owners themselves would agree to let us back out of the agreement.  We managed to get in touch with the owners, however, and explained our situation in detail, indicating we simply did not read the fine print, and asked/begged/pleaded for them to allow us to cancel the reservation and get our money back.  The owners were wonderful about the situation and seemed to understand completely; they agreed to cancel the reservations at no charge and by the next day our funds showed back up in our bank account.  All was good.

However, we still had no housing…it was high season in Florida…and anything near to Lauderdale long term and available was insanely expensive.  After spending another couple of days in the motel looking, oddly, we seemed to have found a place in Naples, Florida, even closer to Lauderdale, also through VRBO, that appeared to be too good to be true.  After jumping through myriad hoops and once bitten, twice shy, we finally managed to get in touch with the owner by phone.  Almost immediately, and apologetically, she told us there was an application process.  The hang up, she told us, was that before she could rent us the place we’d have to pass muster with her home owner’s association.  She said she’d send us the forms so we could “start the process.”  All of this is taking place late at night…at around 0100 we got the paperwork.  We were blown away.  The home owner’s approval process required credit checks, background checks, personal references, addresses and phone numbers of places we’d lived in the past, and then a personal interview with them in Naples before they would allow this lady to rent her house to us…additionally, the place was in a gated community that had two full pages of rules that essentially limited us from doing much more than sleeping at night.  This place was beginning to be a real hassle, but the deal killer was that at a minimum it would take 10 working days before they would even give us a disposition, yes or no.

Full stop.  No!  There was no way we were going to go through all of that time and money for a maybe.  Well, you know what they say about too good to be true.

Having decided in the wee hours of the morning that the place above would simply not work for us, early the next morning we called the lady and told her we’d have to back out of the inquiry and why.  She said she got that kind of response a lot from potential renters.  It turned out she and her husband lived and worked in Ft. Lauderdale and had bought the place in Naples to retire to.  They thought they could rent their place out on VRBO to help pay for it, but after they bought it ran smack dab into the same homeowners association restrictions we had regarding the ability to rent it out.  She said it really wasn’t working out for them because most of her potential clients were somewhat spur of the moment and didn’t want to go through the same processes we didn’t want to go through.  She wished us luck and thoroughly understood.  We actually kind of felt sorry for her and her situation…but renting her place was simply ridiculously complex and time consuming.

As we were waiting for all of the above paperwork late in the previous night, though we hoped things would work out, we continued to look for other places.  And, actually, felt we’d never get anything close to Lauderdale that was affordable, instead having to go much further north and out of Florida.  We’d need a place for at least a month and probably longer.  The next best option was a place about thirty miles west of Brunswick, Georgia.  We made an inquiry with the owners and had indicated we’d let them know.  Early that next morning we both contacted the Naples landlord to tell them thanks but no thanks, and then immediately contacted the Georgia owners to tell them we’d take their place for a month.  We’d already checked out of Lauderdale and made all of these arrangement while on our way towards Waynesville, Georgia…roughly six hours from Ft. Lauderdale.  It was known simply as The Property.

Make no mistake, Maryland is beautiful in its own right.  Leaving Annapolis our next leg was to be Virginia Beach, Virginia via the eastern shore of Maryland.  Crossing the bridges to get out of Maryland on the way down to Virginia Beach it was amazing for us to see the bays and tributaries of the Chesapeake frozen…often, frozen solid.  One could only imagine how pretty it would be if not so cold and icy.  The area is mostly flat farm land.  Taking it slow, it took us the better part of the day to make it to Virginia Beach.

Leaving Maryland we crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel just south of Cape Charles.  We arrived in Virginia Beach just before dark.  Once again, though one could see what might have been beauty in the warmer months (maybe) when we went were there it looked like a lower case frozen Miami in its heyday.  Actually, it was worse than that.  The streets were snow covered, pot holed, and hadn’t been snow plowed at all; to say it looked run down would be kind.  Virginia Beach had the general feel of sleaze to us.  Having no intention of staying we found the first motel that took pets and at daybreak the next morning left for the Outer Banks.

I really don’t know what I expected from the Outer Banks, but whatever it was I was disappointed.  There was really nothing to see, and most everything was closed for the winter.  We intended to drive all the way down them and then either spend the night in and around the Cape Hatteras light house or take a ferry back over to the mainland and spend the night there.  After hours of driving we came to realize that there was no place to stay on the Banks and we would arrive too late for the last ferry over.  At Rodanthe, we decided to turn around and drive back to Nag’s Head before heading west into North Carolina.

It was a very long day.  We finally held up in Rocky Mount, North Carolina which is worth of saying nothing about.  After breakfast the next day we continued south to Cocoa Beach, Florida.  That was another long day.

In Cocoa Beach we decided to take the time to tour the Kennedy Space Center .  The whole time we’d been in Clear Lake, though Chuck had been before, the two of us never toured the Johnson Space Center even though we lived maybe a couple of miles from it.  I’d been to Kennedy back in 1974 but figured it may have changed a bit since then, and as Chuck had never been, we decided to check it out.

It was a long day, and a long tour, but worth it.  It had changed quite a bit, but not necessarily for the better, if I remembered right.  Most of the actual space capsules and engines had been replaced with fiberglass replicas, though there was an actual Saturn Five and a real space shuttle on display.  There were other exhibits as well.  All in all, it was worth the trip.  We spent two nights in Cocoa Beach before making the trek back down to Ft. Lauderdale.  Cocoa Beach had one of the best restaurants I’ve ever eaten at…Fat Kahunas.

Driving to South Florida from, I guess, anywhere is a real drag.  It goes pretty good on the east coast I-95 route until one gets to around Palm Beach and then  everything seems to just go to hell.  The traffic backs up, urban sprawl and general commercial congestion seems to just cave in on one.  We hate the area.  And, Ft. Lauderdale is the worst of it.  Why anyone would ever want to go to Lauderdale intentionally is beyond us.  It’s like a pestilent sore in every way.  It seems to have no redeeming values.  Crime is rampant, the people not particularly friendly, and getting from one place to the next is a nightmare.  Nonetheless, shortly after noon on the day that we left Cocoa Beach, we were back there…again.  By the end of the day we’d visited the boat and were checked in to a Day’s Inn hotel…complete with two off duty cops to guard the place.  Ugggg.

Once again an early start as we left Elkins and moved east to Annapolis, Maryland.  Joe Deneault’s advice and assurance on the road conditions were right on the money and we had no problem getting over the mountains.  Eventually we left West Virginia behind and entered the foothills that are just west of Washington D.C.

Neither Chuck nor I had ever been to D.C.  Unfortunately, because of both time and the weather we were not going to be able to spend any time there.  Nonetheless, as we drove around it on the beltway it was somewhat awesome as different exits pointed out the general direction of some of our nation’s more famous landmarks.  But, unable to stop, we simply drove past them and, again, by mid-afternoon were checked into an extended stay hotel in Annapolis, Maryland.

And, once again, the weather turned to hell.  First cold, then snowy, and then colder.

We spent a full week in Annapolis but little of it was spent actually seeing the place.  It was just too damn cold to sight see.  We cooked breakfast in our room and watched TV for most of it.  We did find a great place to eat called Boatyard Bar and Grill rated #2 on Trip Advisor.  The food was wonderful and almost every day we had dinner at the place, if not a bit pricy.  I had to have their crabcakes (at $38) and did…a couple of times.  They lived up to the hype, believe me.

One could tell that Annapolis would be a cool place to hang out in the spring, summer, and fall.  But the bitter winter weather and our lack of clothes to accommodate it pretty much put a damper on our visit.  As well, it had more than a touristy feel about it.  One day, when the weather finally subsided to a mild arctic blast, we did get out and see the town though.  The harbor was frozen and even with the very slight (read that as moderate frost bite) warm up, it was miserable.

Also, at about this time, we recognized we were going to have to go back south.  It was over a month since we’d left Lauderdale and though we’d been kept abreast on the boat repair via telephone, emails, and photographs, it was becoming apparent that there were certain decision regarding the repair and refit that we could not make unless we actually set sight on our yacht first.  The time had come to slowly mosey our way back to Lauderdale.

After a week in Annapolis we shoved off south headed slowly back to South Florida.

One of the objectives to us cruising around on our yacht was to eventually find an area to retire.  With that in mind, once we got the boat squared away we headed north in our rental with no particular place in mind, our only constraint was that we had to check into our cabin in Elkins, West Virginia on December 20th.  We had eight days from the time we left Lauderdale to get there.

Leaving fairly early on the morning of December 13th with absolutely no plans whatsoever, we decided we’d check out St. Augustine, Florida first, it was on the way.  We weren’t impressed though we did spend a couple of nights there.

Next up, we decided to take the coast road and head to Beaufort, South Carolina.  It rocked us even less.  We didn’t even stop, instead we just drove on through it to Charleston, South Carolina.

Charleston we did like.  We’d been there before in 2012 while looking for a yacht to buy.  But, having seen all the sights in Charleston before, after three nights there we were anxious to continue on north.

Somewhere along this time we heard from our friend Joe Deneault.  We met Joe last winter in Bimini while he and another friend of ours, Rod Casto (he sailed on his boat to Cuba with us in 2016), were spending several months sailing all over the Bahamas.  Joe and his wife Betty live in Charleston, West Virginia (they keep their yacht in Brunswick, Georgia).  When Joe learned we were headed to Elkins he invited Chuck and I to spend the night with them in Charleston on our way up.  Having our cats with us and all we declined the overnight accommodations but very much accepted their invitation to take us out for dinner and show us his town.  It was a slight detour but not by much and we looked forward to it.  With that in mind, we left Charleston.

Our next stop ended up being Jonesville, North Carolina.  Jonesville is located in beautiful country but there really wasn’t much else to see.  We were only there overnight and the stop was punctuated by our kitten, Spookie, getting outside, precipitating a seven hour ordeal to find and catch her that ran until 0530.  As our good friend Larry McCart said, “Spookie can take years off of your life.”  Larry had to deal with Spook last winter when she disappeared on the boat while he was looking out for her.

Charleston and the Deneault’s was the next leg.  Jonesville, North Carolina is just south of the West Virginia state line.  Very pretty country, but it couldn’t compare with West Virginia.  Chuck and I both have traveled all over the US.  There are many very beautiful areas of America.  West Virginia has to be at the top of the list.  It is simply gorgeous.

It was a fairly quick trip up to Charleston, WV.  By mid-afternoon we were checked into a nice motel.  We gave Joe a call and arranged for them to pick us up for dinner.  Right on time they arrived, and after them driving us all over the town on a first class tour of the town and Christmas lights we had a delicious meal at one of their favorite restaurants.  We’d never met Betty before but she was a joy to be around, just like Joe.  It was a great night; we hated to see the evening end.

The next day was our check-in day at Elkins.  We had a two bedroom cabin rented at a place called Revelles River Resort .  Revelles is nine or so miles just outside of Elkins up in the West Virginia mountains, on the very clear water of the Cheat River.  When we drove up we were slightly disappointed as the entire place initially had the feel of a huge fifth wheel trailer park.  But after we checked in and moved into the cabin we loved the place.  Indeed there were many fifth wheel trailers but most were permanent camps of people who parked their trailers there year round to enjoy the area in the spring, summer, and fall.  As it turned out there were only two other families there besides us.

Our cabin was somewhat typical of vacation cabins one might find in the mountains anywhere.  It was fully equipped with cable TV, wifi, complete kitchen, hot tub, etc.  We liked it.  But there was only one issue: outside, it was freezing cold.  Over the next two weeks we cooked, watched the NFL playoffs and relaxed.  On the second night there the temperature plunged to the low teens…and then just kept dropping.  For the second week the temp seldom climbed above 10 degrees in the daytime, hovering around zero or slightly below at night.  Considering we had no winter clothes to speak of, going outside was an exercise in futility most of the time.  The second or third day it snowed and for virtually every day after that it continued to snow at least some.  It was most beautiful, but extremely cold.  As it turned out, that was the extreme cold weather of late December that caused extremely cold weather, ice, and snow all the way down to northern Florida.

We enjoyed the snow as much as anyone but simply were not equipped for it.  As our departure date loomed ahead we began to worry a bit if we would even be able to get out of the mountains with the icy roads and all.  Joe had worked as an engineer with the West Virginia highway department before retiring.  We decided to call him up and ask him what to expect of the roads considering the current and predicted weather that was to come.  After checking his sources he assured us that our anticipated route should be good to go.  He was right, and we had no problem negotiating the two lane roads that led us first deeper up into, and then out of, the mountains as we shoved off for our next stop…Annapolis, Maryland.

Well, it’s been a long time since we last posted here.  No excuse, it’s just there’s been a lot going on.  Will once again try to catch up on things with a series of abbreviated posts.

In early December of 2017 we brought the boat back to Ft. Lauderdale to have the damage from Hurricane Irma repaired.  The insurance claim had been approved and the repair contractor was lined up and waiting on us.  Soliciting the help of our good friend Fernando Barta in Key West, we sat out for the overnight sail back up to Lauderdale, leaving around 0600.  Right around dawn of the next day we approached the Port Everglades entrance channel.  By 0800 we were tied to the fuel dock of Harbour Towne Marina…shortly after we moved the boat to the contractor’s slip.  A bit later, Fernando flew back to Key West.

During the week, we met with both the repair contractor and our insurance adjuster to square up the particulars of having the fairly sever damage to our yacht repaired.  Everything was a go.  We now had to find a place to stay for the next forty five to sixty days while the work was to be done.

All along the plan was for us to get our yacht into the hands of the contractor and then split from Lauderdale and allow them to get the work done.  Chuck and I are both fairly particular when it comes to work being done on anything, with our yacht we can be downright anal.  Neither of us had any desire to hang around Lauderdale nitpicking the repair daily.  Ever since the hurricane all we wanted to do was turn it over to the repair contractor and leave, only returning when all of the work was completed.  We decided we’d go north for a while.  We just had to find a place north to go to.

It was just a week or two before Christmas and neither of us was too optimistic as to what we’d be able to find on such short notice.  Nonetheless we persevered, with the intent being to find a cabin/apartment/home somewhere and then travel from there to various outlying places.

After a bit of legwork, we found a cabin in Elkins, West Virginia that was affordable.  It was in the mountains, snow was predicted, nice cool weather and close to other areas north we’d hope to visit.  We made the reservation through the New Year and looked forward to the holidays, football, and lots of home cooked meals. 

On December the 13th we locked the boat, loaded up the kittens, and headed out.

Recently retired, I’ve found a need to fill my time by helping the sailing community by giving back and sharing my experience.  Now, I realize some of you have sold everything you own, bought a boat and are stupid as shit yet don’t have even a vague clue as to what you are doing but that’s OK.  My site has all your answers.  For just a small fee of $737.39 per month plus nominal carrying charges (a bargain and not even a grand!!!) we will answer all of those complicated questions you have.  You will have our undivided attention.  We treat all of our marks clients the same way and are always there for you.

We are professionals! 

You won’t see us begging for money on PayPal or Patreon to pay for our vacation sponsor us, no you won’t!

We are here to help! 

We realize the sailing community is chocked full of quacks boaters just waiting to take your money.  They are there 24/7/365 to advise you, massage you, sympathize, empathize, enlighten, praise, bring you up, encourage, discourage, message, ignore, and my favorite, coach you down the road to a successful sailing adventure.

We are different!

Everyone realizes that the bare essentials of living on a boat are different than living in a land based home.  There are different questions and different solutions and we have the answers!  We also realize that when a new boat owner makes the decision to cut the lines they lose every little single bit of common sense they ever had.

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We answer every question you might have with hard-hitting, no-nonsense answers.  We don’t mince words!

As a bonus you’ll see only on this offer, below is just a small sampling from our files of the complex problems we’ve helped others to solve:

Q.   How do I watch the sunset each evening now that I’m on a boat?
A.   Sit in the cockpit and open your eyes.
Q.   What do I eat while on a boat?
A.   Food.
Q.   What is the best way to use the toilet?
A.   Sit down on it.
Q.   How do I cook on a boat?
A.   With heat.
Q.   Should I really keep clean while sailing?
A.   Yes.
Q.   What is the best type of anchor?
A.   A metal one.
Q.   How do I make my bed?
A.   With your hands.

 

See?  It’s just that easy!

Just send in your questions via the US Postal Service with a prepaid return addressed envelope and we will mail you back the answer as soon as we get to it!

Everything is different on a boat, right?  But we tell you everything you need to know about living aboard and sailing!  All of your questions are stupid important to us.  Just a sampling of the topics we cover:

How to sprinkle salt…
How to climb a ladder…
How to pick up after yourselves…
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The correct way to get up in the morning…
How to say good morning…

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