Thursday, April 19, 2012

It's All About The People You Meet Along The Way

It's All About The People You Meet Along The Way
Posted: April 19, 11:59 am | (permalink) | (0 comments)
 [photo: This gateway just says "Deep South" to me.]

Charleston is a fun city to visit; we’ve never missed a chance to stop here. I think of it as the real, classic “Deep South” – gracious architecture, gracious hospitality, tradition, and, oh yeah, the FOOD. We arrived in late evening racing just ahead of some severe thunderstorms that heralded a cold front. The next day, therefore, was cold and blustery and we were tired, so we hung out at the marina and did “ship’s work;” refueling, taking down and stowing the jacklines and other equipment we needed in preparation for the offshore trip from St Augustine, updating the log, and giving the boat and ourselves a good wash.

Next two days were the Easter weekend, sunny and bright and just perfect for our plans of being outdoors and doing all our favorite Charleston things, walking downtown, people-watching and architecture-watching, eating and drinking and shopping. There was a farmer’s market, and a parade, and Sunday afternoon a big section of the main downtown street was closed to traffic to turn it into a pedestrian mall. Continuing on the festival theme, several of the restaurants put tables and chairs out, expanding sidewalk café style into the street. I love reclaiming the middle of the street from the cars! And somewhere in town there was (a) a beer; and (b) a chocolate ice cream cone; with my name on it. At least, that was the plan. And although we did all those things, this visit, the memories turned out to be about the people, even more than the place.

We met Steve Dowdney at the farmer’s market where he staffed a stall containing lots of tasters of southern-style foods, preserves and sauces and creamy grits. We got to chatting, and learned that he was also a former liveaboard and hoping to live aboard again; his story(as well as his peach chutney recipe) was written up in the Charleston paper a few years ago. At the end of the conversation, he refused to allow us to pay for the food we purchased. Not that it was a big-deal amount of money to either of us, but the gesture, whether old-fashioned southern hospitality, or boater’s camaraderie, just put a goofy smile on my face for the rest of the morning.
 [photo: Steve at the farmers' market, along with too many good eats to sample!]

We continued our foodie theme of the day with visits to two cooking stores, and I’m sorry I never got the name of the wonderful sales associate with the blond hair and yellow shirt. She had a lot of fun with the challenge of finding products in her store that would work with our liveaboard life, once I explained that my gadget drawer was the size of a shoebox, and things had to be chosen with an eye to sliding, breaking, rusting … no glass, no bulky one-purpose items, no electricity required, and an oven the size of a toaster oven. She brought nesting plastic mixing bowls with non-skid bottoms, a collapsible colander, a few odd-shaped spatulas and mixing spoons, for our inspection; it was like a treasure hunt. We had a blast, and got some cool new toys. Which, of course, we promptly put to use cooking up the food we got from Steve Dowdney; thank you both!

Perhaps the most fun sight was during the street festival on Easter Sunday. We were sitting at an outdoor table (in the middle of the street!) eating pizza and listening to some street performers, when I saw a woman strolling down the street, elegantly dressed and wearing the archetype of what I could only call a classic “Easter Bonnet.” And then another. And another … I loved how these ladies honored their tradition with both flair and a sense of fun; and my respect only increased when the leader of the group (who told me that the group called themselves the Charleston Hat Ladies and that she herself had the delightful title “Top Hat”) told me that they aren’t just about fashion, they were a group who liked to volunteer for various good local causes, and just do it while wearing these wild hats.
 [photo: The Hat Ladies! I think it takes a unique flair to pull off something like this, honoring and playing with a tradition. And they have it.]

So filled with the memories of those, and other, people we met along the way, we were ready to sail off again. The stretch from Charleston north the NC/SC border is probably my favorite of the entire trip for its scenery and peace. I was feeling pretty grumpy when I realized that I had miscalculated and we were faced with foul currents that slowed us down considerably for about 30 miles of the Waccamaw River. Dan, though, is always one for out-of-the-box thinking. He asked, “What’s the problem? It just means we get to spend more time in one of your favorite stretches!” And we did.

[photos: Cow House Creek, a favorite anchorage, and cypress along the Waccamaw River. After our people-centric time in Charleston, the isolation and natural beauty here was an even more amazing contrast.]
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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Living in the Moment

Posted: April 11, 12:50 pm | (permalink) | (0 comments)
 [photo: Low Country Sunrise, near Beaufort, SC]

When we’re sailing, it’s impossible for me NOT to “live in the moment” – but perhaps my version of doing so is not quite like the popular sense of living in the moment. When we’re sailing, if the weather is good and the day is beautiful, then in my mind, all sailing days are wonderful, they all always were wonderful, and they all always will be wonderful in the future. And if the weather stinks? Sailing always did stink, and always will stink. (Okay, in my mind I’m using a different s-word than “stink.” But this is a nice newspaper, ya know?) Anyway … that’s what the trip from St Augustine to Charleston was like. We left through the Bridge of Lions (“bye-bye, lion statues, luvya guys, see you next time”) and started out the inlet. We’d ride the Gulf Stream overnight about 20 miles off the coast, bypassing Georgia and coming into Beaufort, SC the next afternoon; from there, it was only one day motoring up the ICW to Charleston. The ocean water was sparkling blue-green, the winds were just right and the sun was warm and soon we had the sails up and were skipping along, making good time northbound. The weatherman had promised the winds to continue from the south (a comfortable direction for our planned passage) and we were looking forward to a magical moonlit night on the water. Ah, I love my life!

Before midnight, though, we started seeing distant flashes of lightning and the moon and stars were obscured by clouds. The wind grew stronger, colder, and shifted from comfortably behind us to in our faces, kicking up waves. Now chilly fat raindrops were falling and the lightning was getting closer. I hate this! Never never again! Night passages stink, they always stank and always will stink! I never want to be on the ocean again! I started having fantasies of cottages in the forest, cabins in the mountains, in the desert … Sorry, Dan, promise me we’ll only keep living on the boat if we stay safely inside and only go out on the days with perfect weather from now until forever.

Until next morning, that is, when the wind went back to its proper location and a fair current whisked us on toward our destination. We saw the sea buoy exactly “on time” as I had predicted at 2 PM, and it guided us in to a sheltered anchorage for a placid night. Next morning after a lovely sunrise we continued north. I’m lovin’ my life afloat again. Good thing I’ve got a short memory!

 [photo: We had a three-dolphin escort! C'mon, how can you NOT love this life?]

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Turning our Bow Towards Home

Posted: April 2, 10:22 pm | (permalink) | (1 comments)
 [photo: looking out toward the misty ocean]

And just that suddenly, the winds which had been blowing strong and dry from the north, shifted. Now they became softer, moister, gentler, and most importantly, from the south. Winds bringing springtime. Winds we could travel on, these winds from the south. Winds we could ride homeward back to Annapolis.

First, we had to prepare the boat, switch from small-floating-dockside-condo mode to vessel-under-way mode. We’ve gotten used to setting things down on flat surfaces, surfaces that are no longer flat when we’re underway; things that could easily get tossed off needed to be stowed, and everything decluttered. There were a zillion projects to do. We made lists, and a list of all the lists, and spread out the chores over days so we wouldn’t be too overwhelmed. We topped up fuel tanks and scrubbed the growth from the hull – amazing how much accumulated in the 4-1/2 months we’ve been stationary at the dock here. We prepared the boat to run on its own power and solar panels instead of the fat yellow cord that supplies electricity from the dock. Hoisting the sails, just our own kind of flowers spreading their white triangular petals to the spring sun, making sure the lines ran free and there was no winter mold or critters hiding in the folds. Land-based toys like our scooters and backpacks were stowed away, and out came the life jackets and nautical charts and guidebooks. We rented a car for seemingly endless trips to the hardware store, grocery store, and yes, the liquor store; everything we need to be independent for a while. We also visited our favorite places one last time (for this year, anyway), to hear the old-time sea shanties sung a local pub, our last visit to the historic fort guarding the city, our last chile relleno meal at our favorite funky family-owned Mexican restaurant, and soon (not just yet, but very soon) our last people-watching stroll up St George street, dressed in historical costumes or pirate garb, posing with/for the tourists .

The really hard part, though, was not the scramble of errands. The “problem” anyone should be proud to have – how, exactly, are we ever going to have time for visits with all the friends we’ve made while here? I can’t remember when we’ve had so much fun, or met so many people we liked all in one place. The friends we’ve made here have ranged widely, some kind, some a laugh a minute, some smart, some just a little odd, and all have enriched our lives.

I hate goodbyes and I’m not good at them. As far as I’m concerned, goodbyes are the very worst thing about living on a boat and traveling, worse than scary storms or big waves or odd sounds in the night. But we packed the schedule with a little time for Melissa and Rosaire and Jose and Shelley and Diego and Dave and Trish and Bill and John and Mark; spent a night laughing uproariously playing liar’s dice and eating pizza with Tiger and Pearl and Grace. I’m gonna miss you guys so much it hurts. We realized how much our thoughts were already on the ocean passage ahead, when we went to a cookout at new friends Michelle and Tony’s and spent much of the evening focused on getting insights on the tricky harbor inlet from one guest, Larry, who happened to be a former TowBoat US operator. If the weather holds, we leave tomorrow. The empty ocean calm will be a phenomenal contrast to the happy-crazy-busy times we’ve been having.

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But How Do You Get Your Mail?

Posted: March 30, 11:04 am | (permalink) | (1 comments)

P1060764 st b mail [photo: St Brendan's Isle mail-forwarding service owner Doug Moody and employee Anna Eden with one day's incoming mail]

I love it when people who are thinking about living aboard and traveling ask me about how we get the mail. It means they’ve gone from the fantasies of crystal water and pristine beaches, to the practical realities of “how could we make this life work?”

Think of every form you’ve ever filled out. What goes in the little boxes right after your name? Ninety-nine times out of 100, it’s your address. So automatic, you don’t even need to think about it. But what if you don’t have an address? What if you’re truly wandering? “John and Jane Jones, sailing vessel FreeBird, somewhere in the Atlantic …” probably just wouldn’t cut it.

So, how do we deal with the mail?

The first thing we did was decrease the amount of mail we get. When you think about it, you realize that most of the time you do not need the actual piece of paper, you need the information printed on it. So we shifted our banking and bill paying and news and magazines to online-only. We could access these from anywhere, and – extra bonus – we no longer had to file and store the paper copies.

Other times, though, we need the actual physical thing. From holiday cards to prescription meds, to anything you order from the internet, you need someplace to ship it to. For each specific item, if it’s a one-time thing, we could use the address of the marina we happen to be at. But sometimes we’re only there for a few days, so that approach would involve changing our address on a weekly basis. We could have used the address of a good friend or family member – in fact, MVA suggested we do exactly that when we tried to renew our car’s registration early* - but asking someone to perform that kind of favor for years on end, seems to me, would get really old. We’ve been living aboard for 10 years so far, and not planning on moving back ashore any time soon. Ten years or more of favors seems quite a lot to ask.

The obvious answer became a commercial mail-forwarding service, and we were lucky enough to end up with one, St Brendan’s Isle, that caters specifically to travelers like us, cruising liveaboards and RV-ers. They collect our mail, hold it for us, and then periodically, when we’re at a place we’re going to be for a while, we contact them, they bundle up everything that has come in for us, and ship it to wherever we are.

They’re located in Green Cove Springs, FL just about a half-hour’s drive from where we are currently, so one weekend when we had rented a car, we took the opportunity to visit. I haven’t decided if it was ironic or symmetrical. Here were people we’d dealt with for years over the internet and cellphone; the whole purpose of the mail-forwarding service was to have what amounted to a virtual location instead of having to go to a physical one, so here we were going out of our way to see the physical space? Huh? But it turned out to be a very cool experience. Okay, I’m busted on geekiness – but I’ll admit that I love to get behind the scenes and under the hood and know how things work.

Not sure what I expected. What I found was a calm, quiet room with about a half-dozen employees sorting mail into rows and rows of stacked numbered and color-coded plastic inboxes, one for each of the 4,000-odd subscribers. Lots of computers and scanners, too; these guys were definitely living in the 21st century. Owner Doug Moody explained that before he bought this business 12 years ago he was in the paper-distribution business, and mail-forwarding is just a specialized kind of warehousing. I thought about the amount of mail we got every day when we lived on land, all those different sizes and shapes and packages (and junk mail, ugh) and mentally multiplied it by 4,000, and asked Doug how they kept it all straight. He talked about process and training and quality control, bringing back memories of my grad-school engineering project management course. Their focus, he explained, was to make the process extremely accurate. If they could do it right, he explained, “instead of fixing problems, [they] could spend their time on ‘extras.’” Extras meant dealing with the sometimes quirky circumstances of our mobile existence. I’ve been able to phone them – and gotten a live person to answer the phone after just a few rings – and had someone able to go to my box, and tell me if a particular piece of mail or package I was waiting for had arrived. They’ve even opened some letters at my request and read me relevant parts over the phone; or scanned the contents and emailed me a pdf. I’ve never ever gotten someone else’s mail mixed in with mine, for example (and as far as I know, no one has ever gotten a piece of my mail by mistake.) And when we received a package of refrigerated medication that needed to be forwarded, they were able to advise us on the safest way to get it. They couldn’t eliminate the sticker shock for the overnight package, unfortunately, but at least we were prepared. Being able to get it right the first go-round to have time for extras sure seems like one of those simple concepts that we’d love to see more of in so many areas of life, doesn’t it?

(* Before we left Annapolis, we wanted to renew the registration on our cars early, knowing they would come up for renewal while we were gone. Frustratingly, MVA could neither take the payment early, nor forward the registration out of state. “I’m trying to do the right thing here, what to do you suggest?” I asked. Their solution was that we use the address of a trusted friend in Maryland.)

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Work-Life Balance

Posted: March 26, 5:23 pm | (permalink) | (0 comments)

Here’s a popular concept -- balance -- that seems logical on the surface, desperately needed, yet I’m just not sold on it. Balance? Balance implies some good, some bad, some black, some white, and lots of shades of gray. Finding compromise between competing goals of how you spend your time, accepting some of what you don’t want. My image is a seesaw, “work” on one side and “life” on the other. Trade-offs and a zero-sum game. When one goes up, the other must go down. That’s not what I want in my life. Why do I want some bad, some gray? I want no bad, no gray. I want passion, exuberance, saturated bright colors. Instead of a “balanced life” I want what my former colleague Imogene Bynum called a “congruent life” – one where work life and home life point in the same direction, toward parallel goals. Doesn’t mean bad stuff won’t happen, and it doesn’t mean I won’t sometimes have to do work I don’t like. But I don’t want my goal to be “balance,” I want my goal to be “extraordinary.” What if I aim for mediocre, and fall short? Where am I then? “Aim for the moon,” the quote goes. “Even if you miss, you’ll land somewhere among the stars.”

My congruence has been water. It has been the thing my work, life, and play are organized around. When I had a career, it was all about various aspects of water – water pollution, water supply, water quality, floods and droughts and water law. Water was also what supported my home and my recreation; with living on the boat and sailing as recreation, I’ve been unusually aware of environmental concerns and how they affect my life afloat.

But a vacation in Aruba last year was my first serious introduction to life under the water. My father, Mel Lindner, had been a pilot, and he’d often joked with us about navigation. He said that he had to think in three dimensions flying at various altitudes, while we in our boat were restricted to the surface of the water and only had two dimensions at our disposal. But going scuba diving changed that. Here was our third dimension, but it was down rather than up. We floated weightlessly in fantasy landscapes, and with weird creatures. Our guide, Manon Houtman, at a unique dive shop/pool/café called Aqua Windie’s, was an extremely competent and (patient!) instructor and tour guide, who became a friend in the time we were there. She was also a wonderful photographer; the stunning images here are all hers and I hope will give you a bit of a feel for what we experienced. Saturated colors and exuberance indeed! The t-shirt I brought back said it all – “same planet, different world.”Seeking the congruence of water in my not-balanced life afloat has given Dan and me access to new adventures that were magic far beyond our expectations.

dan diving small IMG_8260 c

IMG_8080 c IMG_8031 sm

IMG_8302 c IMG_8405 c

IMG_8343 c IMG_8464 c

IMG_8460 c [All photos by Manon Houtman, 2011, and used with permission and my deepest thanx.]

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Getting Around

Posted: March 19, 8:05 pm | (permalink) | (0 comments)

scooter at jekyll sm [photo: lacking a car when we travel by boat, we opted for a more playful form of transportation!]

One of the biggest adjustments we had to make when we started cruising was giving up our cars. Hard to imagine life in suburbia without a car, but it wouldn't exactly fit on the boat. It’s sometimes been a hassle, but there has been an unexpected financial benefit. I’ve read that the average cost of owning and driving a car in the US, including purchase, registration fees, insurance, fuel, and maintenance, is about $700 per month. Each month. Each car. Wow.

$700 a month can buy a fair number of taxi rides. We’ve learned to take the bus, and have gotten some insight into the life of people who can't afford that $700 per month and must rely on public transportation. It can be inconvenient, not getting exactly where you want, when you want. At the same time, we have met some interesting characters on the bus, that we’d never have met cocooned in the safety and isolation of a car, from the curly-haired guy with the parrot on his shoulder to the couple with the two-year-old so willful, and so energetic, that they had to keep her on a bright pink kid leash to keep her safe. When we really want to rent a car to explore the surrounding area, Enterprise has a fantastic deal for $10/day on weekends that we’ve taken advantage of numerous times.

But mostly, we’ve learned to walk, a lot. And that brings us to benefits number 2, 3, and 4. Good for the planet, good for my waistline, and, most of all, you get an interesting perspective on the city, perusing it at foot speed. Both Annapolis and St Augustine were laid out centuries before the invention of cars, and they’re scaled for pedestrians. Might as well explore them on foot, at an on-foot pace. The whole city changes, when you’re on foot. Instead of noticing things like parking spaces, traffic signs, you notice architecture, plantings, weather, even the texture of the pavement.

Some boats have space enough for bicycles. Generally, they use folding bicycles, made of marine-grade materials to be rust-resistant in the salt air of our everyday lives. At 33 feet, we don’t have even enough storage space to spare for that. Instead, we use folding scooters, driven by foot power, just like the one you probably had as a kid. Not only do they force us to go at a slow-enough pace to really notice our surroundings, but they are worth it just for the reactions we get from passers-by. It’s nice to help remind other adults that you’re still allowed to play even when you no longer write your age with a single digit!

scooter pavement sm [photo: The light-colored pavement I'm scootering on in the photo above isn't made of concrete; seen up close, it's lots of tiny seashells. Not to minimize the comfort and convenience of a car, but no way would I ever have noticed this interesting pavement, or gotten this up close and personal, had I been driving!]

scooter folded sm [photo: storage is everything. Here, the scooter collapsed and ready to pack away.]

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Cost of Living ... Afloat

Posted: March 10, 10:26 am | (permalink) | (0 comments)


I love the conversations we get into when we tell people we live on a boat, year round, without a house or lots of “stuff.” Some people are amazed, some are clearly baffled, some ask practical questions, some shyly share their own dreams of freedom from the rat race. But some skeptically give us some version of “must be nice,” implying that only someone with lots of money would be able to buy a boat big enough to live on, much less travel in. There’s a cynical joke among boaters, when asked how much it costs, to say, “as much as you have.”

How much does a car cost? If you’re thinking, “new Mercedes from the dealership;” and I’m thinking, “used Chevy from Craigslist;” we aren’t going to be able to have a very productive conversation about the cost of cars. And it’s the same with living on a boat, just as it’s the same with the cost of the boat itself. How big? How new? What kind of amenities? How well do you know yourself? What creature comforts do you require to keep it from feeling like you’re camping out instead of living at home? Bear in mind that there’s no right answer here. You don’t get extra points for living an unnecessarily Spartan lifestyle. But that definition of Spartan varies also. What you think is a luxury, I can’t imagine life without, and vice-versa. Like any other budget, land or water, it’s really about distinguishing between “wants” and “needs.” Having said that, understand that I can’t tell you what living on a boat and cruising would cost you. I can only tell you what it costs me.

So here’s what living on a boat and traveling costs the two of us in the southeastern US: on average less than $2500 per month. That doesn’t include the purchase of the boat itself or our medical insurance, and we don’t have a car.

$500 boat maintenance -- conventional wisdom in boating circles is to budget about 10% of the boat’s value for both long-term maintenance and periodic replacement of major systems like sails or engine; as well as annual upkeep like painting.

$400 food and sundries – everything we buy in the grocery store, including shampoo, sunscreen, cleaning supplies etc.

$100 drinks – booze really should be part of our entertainment budget, instead of a line item, right?

$200 communications -- includes two cellphones, internet service, and a mail-forwarding service so perfectly suited to our needs that it deserves a post of its own. If your mail-forwarding service is provided by a family member and you are content to catch free wifi hotspots instead of having an actual data contract, you will pay much less. I pretty much demand reliable internet; lacking it is my feeling of “camping out” – fine for a weekend, but not something I want for every day of my life.

$150 boat insurance -- varies according to your cruising area, your experience & record, and of course, the value of the boat. Ours requires us to stay north of the Florida line from June to November (hurricane season) or the rates go up. Way up.

$1000 marinas + fuel + entertainment -- At first glance, it seems somewhat odd to lump these 3 together. When we’re traveling a lot, making a lot of miles during the trips north in the spring or south in the fall, fuel can cost us $400-$500 per month. But then, during those traveling months, we aren’t staying in marinas very much. Nor do we go out much in the evenings; we’re just too tired. When we’re staying in one place, our marina costs and entertainment costs may go up, but we’re not paying for fuel. So it more or less averages out. For marina costs, the places we like to stay average on $2 per foot per night when we’re just staying a night or two (varies by location and amenities, but you can see the advantage of living on a smaller boat when paying by the foot!) or $15-$20 per foot per month for longer term (again, varies by location and amenities). Entertainment is generally books, museum and event admissions, dinners out, occasionally renting a car to explore the local area.

$150 misc. -- includes taxis, laundry, clothing, all the other odds and ends of life. If the clothing budget seems small, remember that in this cruising life, you really don’t need much in the way of fancy clothes. I can go months between occasions that call for something more formal than a polo shirt and chinos!

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Nothing To Report

Posted: February 29, 3:34 pm | (permalink) | (0 comments)

barge [photo: barge and backhoe; the view from the cockpit down the (very looong) slip we're in]

The tidal range here in St Augustine is 4 – 5 feet, and well, all that water has to gosomewhere when it ebbs. Where it goes, is out the inlet, and because the inlet is small, the water goes very very fast. The current can be intense, 4 knots at maximum ebb. (For comparison, the tidal range in Annapolis is only a gentle 1 foot, and currents are only rarely even as much as 1 knot.) We can only motor at 6 knots with the engine, which means that when the current here in St Augustine is at its strongest, we can’t move against it, we just have to wait it out. When boats come into the marina unawares and try to dock without accounting for the current, it can get … interesting. The current can push the boat off course, making it difficult to get into or out of the slip or stay centered in the fairway. You can get a lot of insight into personalities by how people respond to these surprises. Some yell, some curse, some panic, and some merely abort the attempt, learn from it and try again. Sometimes we just sit in the cockpit and watch the docking drama; it’s like free entertainment. I feel sympathy for the commercial tour boats on the dock that have to come and go by the scheduled departure time no matter what the current is doing. Recreational boaters like us, who have the luxury of time, just wait for slack tide when the maneuvering is easier.

But that fast current also shifts and changes the shape of the inlet – so much so that the original Spanish colonists called the entry the “Crazy Banks” because it was so unpredictable. In modern times, that shifting and depositing of sediments clogs structures that don’t shift, like marinas … so periodic dredging is needed to keep the slips deep enough for the boats to get in and out. They float a backhoe on a barge into the right location in the marina, and dig up bucketloads of stinking muck to be carted away. We watched dredging begin last week and saw the crazy current catch the barge, laden with tons of muck, and push it off course to crash into a slip next to ours. Yikes! That could have been our boat in there! Maybe it was karmic revenge for all the times we’ve watched and smirked at boats who were having trouble with the current, but this was waaaay too much docking drama for me!

Compounding my concern, we were going to be gone for a bit. All night I had visions of coming back to find our boat crushed, ruined by a wayward barge. The marina’s pretty empty right now, it’s the quiet season, so the sympathetic manager allowed us to move the boat to a more out-of-the-way slip, although it is also rather too big for our boat. (Those who know our location in our Annapolis marina, may wonder if grossly-oversized slips are a kind of trend for us. Not by choice, but sometimes it just works out that way. In the Annapolis case, our big slip was the only one available at the time with a full finger pier on the outside of the marina.) Currently in St Augustine, the slip we’re in is even bigger than the Annapolis one. Here’s little s/v Cinderella, 33 feet long, tucked into a slip designed for a boat twice her size – rattling around in a 62-foot slip with no one on either side of her. Looks kind of ludicrous, and a bit lonely, but I slept much better with the near-certainty that no one and nothing was going to damage our home while we were gone. We even got an email from the marina manager while we were gone with the subject line “nothing to report;” assuring us that there had been no further incidents with the barge and our boat was just fine. Hmmm. You would think that a blog writer with “nothing to report” would be frustrated at the prospect of a blank page and casting about anxiously for some subject to write. But in this case, “nothing to report” suits me just fine!

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