The First Three Weeks

Griffin doesn't particularly play a large part in this post, but judging by Facebook he seems to be more popular than Amy, myself or the boat, so he get's the cover. In this photo, he's out in the cockpit, looking down into the salon where Amy and I were trying to get something done without him at our feet. As you can see, he's less than happy about that.

Today's post is unusually long. What you're getting today is three weeks worth of daily journals. I was planning on publishing my daily journals once a week as a way to keep people up to date on our adventure and help support our efforts by maybe asking a small donation to receive them. I thought I would give away a few weeks for free first so people could decide whether getting them was worth something to them or not, but there was no interest even when they were free. Maybe it's the way I presented them. I don't know anything about social media, so I probably went about it all wrong. What I do know is that keeping up with them is way too much work to do for nothing. So, because I don't want to have written them all for nothing, I am publishing them as a blog post.

But be forewarned, you are not getting some watered down version of how perfect all this is going. You're getting the same honesty I've always tried to give. You are getting the good, the bad, and the ugly.

If you are one of the few that already downloaded weeks one and two off the website, you can just skip down to week three.

And without further delay, for those who are interested, here are the journals:

Week One:

Sunday September 13, 2020

We have arrived!

We pulled into the Marina about 16:00. It was really hot and we had a lot of heavy work to do. Our van, plus the Jeep we rented, were loaded with big plastic totes full of our belongings. I remembered thinking as we loaded the vehicles that we were bringing too much stuff. Now it was time to see if that was true.

We decided to stack most everything in the aft cabin and sleep in the V-berth for now. I made trip after trip to the vehicles, hauling the totes down the dock in the dock carts, handing them off to Amy, who tried to find some logical order to stack them in.

It took about 3 hours to get unloaded. We were tired from two days of hard driving and three hours of strenuous work in 95 degree heat, but we were also hungry and desperately needed a shower. We ate sandwiches and snacks that Amy’s mom had packed us for the road but could not find anyone to give us the code to get in the shower rooms. The heads on the boat were full of totes, so we were forced to go to bed without a shower. We were exhausted enough to sleep like babies after a bit of a wash at the galley sink.

Monday September 14, 2020

We slept well from pure exhaustion but woke up early and I immediately had my first major crisis: I couldn’t find the French press to make coffee. I eventually stumbled down to the Marina office where I got the Wi-Fi password, restroom door code, and a cup of warm brown liquid that she swore was coffee.

First on the agenda was to drive to Orlando to return our one-way rental car. We got it there by 11:00 and were back at the boat by 12:00.

The rest of the day was spent tripping all over each other as we tried to find places for all of our stuff. Griffin couldn’t figure out what was happening, so he was under foot every second.

Many of the storage spaces on a sailing vessel do not have convenient access, so it’s important to prioritize the stuff you need the most often in the spaces that are most accessible. Amy said I was overthinking it, and that we would end out re-arranging no matter how much thought we put in. She’s probably right. We found places for less than half of our stuff.

We couldn’t find towels or the French press anywhere. I was being eaten alive by no-see-ums. Getting Griffin on and off the boat was getting old already. We were not in paradise.

The galley was not organized enough to cook yet, so I took Amy out to a seafood place I had discovered when I was down here for the boat survey. It was great.

Just before bed, I called my dad to tell him we had made it to the boat. He was really excited for us. As we were talking, Amy suddenly found the tote with the towels and the French press.

Ok, it could be paradise. We’ll see.

Tuesday September 15, 2020

More unpacking and organizing. It really is a lot of work to fit your life into 41 feet.

The finger piers that come off the dock and jut out between the boats are too short here. They come off the dock about 6 feet which isn’t anywhere close to being long enough to reach the gate in our lifelines. I had to take down the lifelines on the starboard quarter today so that we can more easily get Griffin on and off the boat. With the increasing weakness in his back legs, he has come awfully close to falling in the water between the pier and the boat several times.

I’m going to look into building a platform of some sort on the finger pier to help him.

Still not organized enough to cook, so we went out to dinner again. Kelsey’s Pizzeria. Excellent Italian.

Wednesday September 16, 2020

There was a growing list of items that we needed to purchase, first and foremost of which was some Benadryl for the stinking bug bites. I suggested that Amy go run errands while I took some time to try to get all the tools put away somewhere. Two people crossing paths over and over in the confines of a boat was not particularly productive, so this plan worked pretty well. I have found a place for about 80% of my tools, and we now have some Benadryl and other needed items.

Our marina is very pet friendly. Lots of folks have dogs, so I’ve met several people at the marina’s dog park. Most are friendly and moderately welcoming, but so far don’t seem interested in getting beyond the empty chit-chat phase of conversation. It will take some time and effort to build any relationships here.

The boat is starting to reach a functional level of organization but has a way to go before I will feel comfortable in it. I require a much tidier space to feel comfortable than Amy (or most people for that matter), but I’m trying to be patient.

We’re having some issues with the toilets in our heads. A boat is not a good place to have toilet problems. Rick, the previous owner of the boat, will be here tomorrow and I’m hoping he can shed some light on the issue.

Thursday September 17, 2020

Rick came by this morning. He welcomed us to Florida and was helpful to answer several questions we had about the boat. As far as the toilets, he showed us a few things about the positioning of the valves and they seemed to be working fine while he was here. We made plans to take the boat out together on Saturday morning.

A while after he left, I went to the aft head and found the toilet full of water. Unlike the toilet in a home, a boat’s toilet should not be full of water. I pumped it out and went back to what I was doing for a while. When I went back to check on it again, it was getting ready to overflow. This is the kind of problem that can sink a boat if you’re not careful. All the valves were closed. There was no reason this should be happening.

After looking online, I discovered a few possible issues that could be causing the problem and decided to just rebuild the whole pump. That was when I discovered that this toilet was obsolete and parts for a re-build could no longer be obtained. Between that and the fact that the other toilet was having its own set of issues, I bit the bullet and ordered two brand new Jabsco toilets. Jabsco’s are by far the most common brand in marine heads and parts are easily obtained. Plus, by having the same toilet in both heads, I would have to carry fewer spare parts on board. I wasn’t crazy about spending the money, but this simply was not an area where we wanted to have issues. I couldn’t find a place locally that had them in stock but found them online for a good price and paid for overnight shipping.

Friday September 18, 2020

The two new heads arrived before noon. By late afternoon, I had them both installed and they really work great. What piece of mind knowing the heads will no longer be an issue. It was hard work, and it was disgusting work, but I did it without losing my temper and only a minor injury. We now have our first major boat project under our belt. It’s not the project I would have chosen, but we got through it.

Amy found an old Olive Garden gift card in her purse today that she had forgotten about. After a long day of hard work, it was a gift from God. We got cleaned up and had an Italian feast for $13 including tax and tip.

Saturday September 19, 2020

Rick showed up first thing in the morning and spent the entire morning with us. He answered another hundred questions that we had, and then we prepared the boat to leave the dock. I had been aboard during the sea trial before we owned her, but this would be the first time we had her out with me as captain. Exciting stuff!

When you leave our marina, you enter the barge canal that connects the Indian River to the Banana River. If you head west on the canal, you come to a draw bridge that must be opened for a sailboat to pass through, but they will only open on the hour and half hour, and only when it’s not rush hour. If you go east, and cross the Banana, you will come to the Canaveral locks that lead you to the Atlantic Ocean. Rick didn’t have time to do either of those things with us, so it was a short trip that kept us fairly close to the marina, but it was exciting never-the-less, and a great first step. Maneuvering in and out of the slip went surprisingly well, and the whole experience was a great confidence builder.

We spent the rest of the day puttering around the boat and being quite happy with ourselves. It was a great finish to our first week of boat life.

Week 2:

Sunday September 20, 2020

Some people tell me I’m a good writer. Whether that’s true or not, I’m not sure, but I can tell you that I work hard at it. I write and re-write and re-write again. Then I edit. Then I get the idea. That is why it took me pretty much the entire day until 15:00 to write a blog post for the web site. If you read it, you know it was on the shorter side, and you probably thought I wrote it in half an hour. No such luck. Seven hours for that drivel.

Unfortunately, Amy did not feel good most of the day and stayed in bed pretty much the whole time I was writing. It was a good day to stay below deck as it rained non-stop all day.

As soon as I published the blog post, we got ready to go to Rick and Fran’s house for dinner. I’ve met Rick several times through the boat buying process, and he’s a great guy, but we had not met his wife. She was wonderful, as was their dog, Daisy. They had a pet friendly house and insisted we bring Griffin. He had a great time.

This was the first real connection we’ve made here. I’ve had the opportunity at this point to share a bit about our former lives running a recovery ministry, and as worship leaders, but I took this opportunity to actually share what our plans for the boat were and our heart for the gospel. The conversation never progressed to Rick sharing where he was at with Jesus, but he did ask me to pray when we sat down for dinner, which of course I was happy to do. I believe this is a God ordained connection that will bear fruit in one way or another eventually. I look forward to seeing how.

Monday September 21, 2020

We had a productive day. Amy ran errands; grocery shopping, laundry, etc., while I did some electrical work on the boat. The lighting and the fans left somewhat to be desired on our vessel, so we ordered some new ones and they are a big improvement. Electrical work on a boat is bit more time consuming than the electrical work I’m accustomed to. You can’t just connect wires with wire nuts and call it good. All connections have to be crimped on then protected with shrink tube. Wires must be securely attached their entire length, or the vibrations of the boat will cause the insulation to chafe through which in turn could start a fire. We’re learning that every project takes at least twice as long on a boat.

Amy cooked our first proper dinner on the alcohol stove. Angel hair pasta with meat sauce. Very tasty! Up until now, we’ve been eating really simple meals that didn’t require cooking or could be heated in the microwave. She’s been uncertain about what would be possible in the small galley that our boat provides, but I think this was a good first step.

Tuesday September 22, 2020

I’ve been dreading doing all the state government office stuff, but it actually went pretty well. We started at the marina office where we obtained a copy of our live-aboard slip rental agreement for one of the two pieces of proof that we actually live here. I had learned online that this would be required at the DMV. Next, we went to a local State Farm office to get our auto insurance transferred. They gave us an insurance binder with our address on it, which was the second piece of proof we needed.

From there we went to the DMV. It was time consuming, but honestly, we got better customer service there that I get at a lot of stores these days. I was amazed. We left after about three hours with Florida driver’s licenses, Florida license plates, and voter registration for our new address. We were back at the boat by 13:00.

The rest of the day was minor boat projects and Amy continued experimenting with what she could do in the galley. We had a great dinner of fresh salmon and tiny purple potatoes.

Wednesday September 23, 2020

This day did not turn out at all like it was supposed to but was a great step forward in our journey anyway. We were originally supposed to take the boat out with Rick. We were going to go through the locks, and out to the mighty Atlantic to put the sails up. We felt like we needed a guide the first time we traversed the locks. On Monday, Rick and I determined that Wednesday’s marine forecast was looking a bit rough. I didn’t think 6-foot seas was going to be ideal so we decided Amy and I would head out the other way to the ICW (Inter-Coastal Waterway – a more protected body of water) without Rick. We had to take her out on our own some time.

Morning came and we began preparing for our adventure. We went over all the things that we would need to remember and double checked the charts. We were about to cast off the lines when we discover the generator wouldn’t start. This was disappointing for sure but wasn’t the end of the days plans either. We didn’t need to have the generator to motor down the ICW unless we had to have A/C, which we didn’t.

As we put the setback behind us and continued preparing to leave, we found the bow thruster was also not working. This was a deal breaker. I was not confident in my ability to maneuver the vessel around our small marina without the bow thruster. A call to Rick shed no light on either problem. I was beyond disappointed, but after pulling myself together, started working on the issues. Amy took the van to ladies’ day at the oil change station to give me some space.

A few hours later, I had the bow thruster working (it had been partly operator error, and partly a loose connection). I was glad to know the bow thruster and generator problems were not related, and it was not too late to still take the boat out.

We left the marina at 14:00 and made the 14:30 draw bridge opening at the Christa McAuliffe bridge. It was a first for us. We called the bridge tender on the VHF radio and timed the approach just right. I was nervous, but it went great.

We continued down the barge canal and just before we got to the ICW, we passed a very official looking boat with five weapon wielding men in uniform aboard. As soon as we passed them, they turned around and fell in behind us. I hollered to Amy below decks that we were about to be boarded, and sure enough, we were.

They were immigration and border patrol and must have been having a slow day. They checked us out, checked all our paperwork, were very courteous and professional, then went on their way. The whole thing took maybe 15 minutes. This was another first.

Next was going under the fixed bridge of Florida A1A. The fixed bridges down the ICW are all supposed to be 65 feet above the water or higher. The gauge on this one said it was 62½. Our mast is 61. The view from the boat makes you absolutely certain that you are about to lose your mast. It is beyond scary the first time. Which it was…our first time.

We motored along for a few miles and went under another fixed bridge that scared us to death. We had to kill at least 3 hours before we could head back because the draw bridge does not open during rush hour traffic, so 18:00 was the soonest we could get back through the barge canal. We didn’t want to just burn a bunch of fuel unnecessarily, so while Amy took the helm (another first) I prepared the anchor.

We found a spot in about 9 feet of water, a couple hundred feet outside the channel and dropped the anchor. For what seemed the hundredth time that day, we were doing something for the first time. It wasn’t pretty, but we got it done, and the anchor held well in a strong breeze. We stayed there for about an hour, figured it would be 18:00 by the time we got back to the draw bridge, and left to do it all again in reverse. We timed the drawbridge perfectly and motored back into the marina about 18:30. My re-entry to our slip was less than beautiful, but didn’t do any damage to person or property.

After the stress of the day, I fully expected to get a peanut butter sandwich for dinner, but my wife, fresh off a couple wins in the galley, cooked up some truly delicious tacos and I washed them down with my last remaining non-alcoholic beer.

At the end of the day, I felt like we had learned much. The day had not gone perfectly, nor did it even look anything like we had planned. Sailing and schedules don’t mix. These were exactly the kind of things we needed to get accustomed to. Most of the new things we did were not executed all that well, but we did everything we set out to do and survived it without catastrophe. It was a high-stress day, but I have no doubt that everything we did today will be second nature before we know it.

I’m calling this day a win!

Thursday September 24, 2020

After going at it hard for a few days, we made a decision to take half the day off. After a breakfast of scrambled eggs and hash browns, we did normal, mundane boat chores all morning and prepared to take Griffin to the dog beach in the afternoon.

The only beach that allows dogs was about 20 miles south down A1A. We’ve been trying to gradually explore our new environment, but we hadn’t been down this way yet. September is the slowest tourist month of all in Florida, so it wasn’t too busy, but I could imagine what a nightmare this drive would be in January at the height of the season. Today it was pleasant and enjoyable.

The dog beach turned out to be less than relaxing for Amy and I, but we had mostly chosen this outing for Griffin. He’s been having a hard time adjusting to his new life and we wanted him to have a great time for a couple hours. Lots of ankle biters that wanted to pick a fight with him, but he was tolerant. He didn’t seem to consider them enough of a threat to bother noticing. He got in the water some because I did, but he didn’t know what to make of the waves. He loves swimming, but the waves were a new thing.

We stopped at DQ on the way back and got all three of us some ice cream, then we made Griffin wait in the car while Amy and I went into a beach-wear shop to buy stupid hats to protect us from the sun.

When we got back to the boat, the water pump was running momentarily about every 3 or 4 minutes. If the water pump is running and there’s no water on, it means you have a leak. I found it under the galley sink. I had done a quick fix on this leak a few days earlier, but apparently it needed more attention.

I turned the water pump off and we went to bed.

Friday September 25, 2020

When we bought this boat, there were a few projects that we knew had to be done before we would sail her away into the Caribbean. One of the biggest of those was to clean up the plumbing/electrical mess under the galley sink. I didn’t feel ready to tackle it yet. There were a lot of other things that needed to be done and I had just completed the new toilets project. Yet here we were with a small leak under the galley sink. Should I do another quick fix, move on, and come back to the big project later, or is this a sign that it’s time to do the big job now. I went back and forth in my mind and eventually, when Amy weighed in that she thought I should tackle the big project, I decided to go that route.

I can only count this day as a personal failure, not as a plumber, but as a follower of Christ who continually has to repent for losing his temper. After a couple hours of work, I was ready to make the first hardware store run. I showed up at Ace Hardware equipped with photos and drawings of my grand plan. A very helpful crew spent an hour getting me every little piece and part I would need. I returned to the boat, cut the supply line to the main water storage tank and grabbed the fitting that was supposed to close it off. It didn’t fit. They had misjudged from the photo, the size of the obscure Quest pipe that I was having to connect to. We clamped a pen in the cut pipe to slow the water running out and I headed back out to the store.

Turns out, the 3/8” Quest pipe I had, was even more obsolete than the ½” Quest pipe they thought I had. “I’m sorry sir, we don’t carry any fittings for 3/8 Quest. Maybe you could try Home Depot.” I’ve been to Home Depot here twice already and decided I was not going to be doing business with a store who provides such terrible customer service, but I was stuck, so off to Home Depot I went.

When I got to Home Depot I was told, “I’m sorry sir, we don’t carry any fittings for that pipe. I believe Mobile Home World carries a good assortment of those fittings.”

Mobile Home World did indeed have what I needed, but by this time I’ve been running around for three hours in addition to the first hour long trip to Ace. I’ve got six hours into this project and haven’t even really begun. By the time I got back under the galley sink, I was a time bomb, and after a few mis-steps, I exploded. I put everything away that pertained to the project, angrily slamming things around all the while and sat down to sulk. It was a shameful display that I regretted shortly thereafter.

I read my bible every weekday morning. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings, Amy and I take some time and pray together. This was Friday, and as I sat there feeling sorry for myself, I realized I hadn’t done either of those things in the morning. In that moment, I heard God say, “Russ, you said you needed me for this new journey you’re on, and yet as you got ready to tackle something that you knew would be a struggle, you didn’t seek me at all. You forgot all about me in your hurry to do this in your own power. You were right, you do need me, and when you forget about me, you will fail just like you did today.”

We watched a movie on the laptop from Amazon Prime that evening. I just needed something to take my mind off the project. I went to bed exhausted and defeated.

Saturday September 26, 2020

Determined not to have a repeat of the day before, but knowing the most difficult parts of the project were still ahead, we started out the day in God’s word and in prayer. It was not an easy day by any means, but as I was more thoughtful and controlled, Amy became willing to help. It wasn’t just me against the boat anymore; it was me, Amy and Jesus!

Slowly but surely, hour by hour, all the old, failing, messy plumbing was replaced by nice, new, properly routed Pex pipe. There was some old quest pipe, that I couldn’t gain access to, so I just had to connect to it, and there were some sections that had to be ½ inch reinforced hose because that’s what the water heater and the water pump required, but everywhere I could, I went right back to Pex. I even replumbed all the pipe through the engine room to the sink in the aft head. I had to fight to control my temper several times, but I did not lose it.

When it was all done and we turned the water pump on, there were some leaks. I asked Amy what time it was. She said it was 4:45. I told her she had 15 minutes to find and fix the leaks because we were quitting at 17:00. She found and fixed two of them. The third would just require a new O-ring in the water filter housing. We could pick one up next time we went out.

There’s still a little electrical work to be done under that sink, but the hardest part of a very intimidating project is complete, and was done right. When we closed on the boat, I was given an $800 concession for that work. It cost me two days and about $100. I can live with that.

I went to bed early with a feeling of satisfaction and a grateful heart.

Week 3:

Monday 9.28.2020

The first two weeks of journal entries were all written yesterday. I did it by memory, and by looking back at Facebook posts and by asking Amy the things that I couldn’t remember. I believe those entries to be quite accurate, but probably lacking a lot of what you will start to read in the journals beginning today. As events will now be fresher in my mind, you’re likely to find more detail and more commentary, and they’re likely going to read more like my blog posts with a little more color and maybe some photos.

My routine will go like this: wake up when I wake up (anywhere between 4:30 and 7:30), drag Griffin’s sorry butt off the boat and over to the dog park to do his business, come back and feed and medicate him while my coffee water heats, sit down with my coffee and my bible for some time in God’s word, then write my daily journal entry.

The journal entries then will contain: any commentary I might have from the morning’s bible reading, any plans that we might have for the day, and the events of the previous day. In this way, you can see how frequently our plans change and why.

So, as I write this, it is Monday morning, I have read my bible (2 Kings 9-10, Psalm 49, Matt 7) and drank my coffee, Amy has made me a delicious breakfast of eggs with cheese and avocado, we are getting ready to pray together, and then we will look at our list of things to do and see which we want to try to accomplish today.

As for yesterday, I’ve already told you what I spent the majority of the day doing: writing 2 weeks’ worth of journal entries. But there were a couple other things of note that happened.<