Monthly Archives: May 2012

View from the back porch

It may not look like much has changed on the blog, dear Escapees, but our crack tech team has been hard at work. First if you look to the right you’ll see a link to our spot locator titled Where are we? With any luck at all, clicking on that link will take you to a map with our location marked on it. Let us know.
We think our subscription link, having blown-up, is fixed as well.



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Slowly, surely

Thursday night we went out to Duffy’s in Stuart one last time with the plan to be on our way Friday about mid morning. On our way back to the boat we heard one of my favorite songs, Wishing Well by Terence Trent-Darby and for the rest of the night, and yesterday and today I hear “slowly, surely” and it seems to describe our week.

Sunset Bay Marina was very comfy. Stuart was fun and convenient. We probably could have become permanent residents if we didn’t have other plans and if it weren’t so hot. But life is short and we had done just about as much as we could do to get the boat shipshape, short of halving our possessions once again. We paid our bill, stowed everything that could be stowed, filled the water tank.

Then we took advantage of our last day of wifi for a while and watched NASA-TV on the iPad as the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft maneuvered toward the International Space Station. As eager as we were to leave, we couldn’t tear ourselves away from the slow-motion drama of the rounds of radio checks, the listing of possible capture times and finally the inching of the articulated arm of the ISS toward the capsule. We cheered with the mission control crews when capture was complete, and as always with anything space related, I welled up with the beauty of science and exploration.

As soon as Dragon was safely docked, Escape Velocity was undocked. We’re still working on our methods, but there came a moment when our careful plan to pivot on a bow line went awry and we were suddenly cast off, me on the boat and Jack on the dock. I started to panic and wanted to throw a line back to shore, but Jack coolly jumped aboard, took the helm and eased away like we planned it that way.

Sunset Bay is miles up the St. Lucie River and where the river meets the Inter Coastal Waterway (ICW) it gets very shallow. Our departure was timed so we would be at that point near high tide but we needn’t have worried. First of all, Escape Velocity doesn’t have the deep draft that most monohulls have, and the channel was very well marked.

And then we were in the ICW heading north and we really felt like our trip had begun, even if we’re only heading to St. Augustine for rudder rehab. This area of the ICW is very narrow so we can’t sail and motoring for hours on end is a little dull, but so far we’re enjoying the ride. We looked for inlets where we can head out into the ocean and sail up the coast but the winds are unfavorable for the next few days so we’re stuck chugging along being passed and waked by the gazillion power boats enjoying this holiday weekend.

Slowly, surely.



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Up from the ground came a bubblin’ crude


Sure sign that Escape Velocity is making ready. The bicycle rig is new and It’s something of which I’m rather proud. Refinements are in the works, perhaps something with a more Clampetesque twist. Granny in her rocker on the roof maybe.

Yes you heard me right. The boat yard in St Augustine is booked, the parts for the rudders are ordered. We gotta go.


So we thought we might be in for a spot of manual head scratching and practice, with our Raytheon chart plotter. A very grumpy Marce seen here mumbling that it doesn’t seem to know what I want! This may take awhile.


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Now it gets real


This day has been coming for a long time. Today our yacht surveyor picked up our car. That’s right, the Humble Hyundai is gone. Now that quick little 5 mile drive to Publix is really a ride on the bicycle, and is going to take a while. Where the closest bank is I haven’t a clue. Yesterday we rode up to Fort Pierce to see Marine Connection Liquidators who really do have 8 acres of boat parts. Can’t happen again without a car. Everything gets difficult. I need to get a box to mail unneeded cold weather clothing back up north. Tough on a bike, and of course then it needs to be mailed. You get the picture. Yes, there are workarounds but everything is easier with a car.

Like an unexpected drive up north. We can’t do that now, but we sure wish we could.

“Never postpone a pleasure.” Anyone who knows me has heard me mumble my mantra, over and over. Never postpone a pleasure. Its meaning for me has migrated over the years, as you might imagine. You say these things and you think you know what it means until life or more properly death has its way with you and yours.

We come with no expiration date. There are no guarantees. Marce and I have experienced what we now call the Year of Death. Nine friends or family died in the space of a little over a year. Some violently. Some could fight no more.

On the day the Hyundai left I got two text messages within 30 minutes about my two closest friends. Both in the hospital with serious heart problems. My oldest friend is in a coma. Never postpone a pleasure. Pain and disappointment will always be there waiting. Never miss an opportunity for joy. It doesn’t get any more real than that.

Our life has changed and we can’t respond to events like before, like jumping in the car and driving to be with friends in need. But we never postponed a pleasure with them. And we’re not postponing it now.

Fair winds, my friends.


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Dock glue

I know everyone’s waiting for us to actually leave the dock and go somewhere, so let me explain what all is happening here at Sunset Bay Marina.

We wrote several times about moving aboard from our storage locker. This involved some serious weeding out of clothing, household items, tools, parts, lumber, etc. etc. We got through that, but of course, there’s still too much on board and we really don’t know yet what we need and what can get pitched.

Yesterday we made what will probably be our final road trip in the car when we drove across the state to Naples to meet our friend Frank who had two big boxes, a boat bag filled with hiking boots and shoes and two folding lawn chairs that we bought for watching the launch at Cape Canaveral. When we drove up north the last time we knew we needed to reduce the volume of stuff in the car to make room for Izzy so Frank graciously let us park this stuff in his garage.

Before we opened the boxes yesterday we couldn’t even remember what was in them. This morning we unpacked more clothing, winter jackets, sweaters, more shoes, toiletries, and — sit down — the remaining ashes of our parents. We each kept a little of our parents’ ashes to take with us on our journey but we saved them from another car trip north and they had a short vacation in Fort Myers. I don’t think they minded and they’re back with us now.

So again we have to sort through a pile of stuff, dispose of what we know we don’t want and pack away what we think we’ll need. That means reorganizing and rethinking what we already have. Most people have their boats for months or years before they head out, so it was a little unreasonable for us to think we could move from a house to a boat and take off right away. Do we have too much stuff? Absolutely. But we aren’t experienced enough to know what can go and what can stay. And we just can’t sail away until everything is shipshape.

Our final tie to land life is our car. We kicked around the possibility of keeping it for a few months but we can’t figure out how to shuttle it forward as we move along the coast, not to mention where to park it. So today Jack emptied it out and got a good washing and vacuum and after some last-minute errands that will be easier with a car we’ll post it on Craigslist and put a sign in the window.

While all of this is happening today, I also cranked up our clothes washer for the first time and it works! We had to clean out the gross filter that looks like it hadn’t been touched for a while, but after that it’s been running like a charm. Life is good.



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Silver and gold

We’re in awe of our son, for many reasons of course, but particularly for his knack for making and keeping friends. He has friends from all periods and realms of his life, from all the states and cities he’s lived in, from every job he’s ever had, from every organization he’s been involved in. We admire that.

In our old life in Pittsburgh Jack and I, on the other hand, seemed to make fewer friends as we got older. A lot of that is because we no longer worked in the extremely social environment of video production and we no longer belonged to any boating clubs or other organizations. Our Pittsburgh sailing friends had all either moved away or sold their boats. We still had our old friends, but as we focused on our future plans we were less and less inclined to seek out and nurture new friendships, knowing we’d be leaving before long. And frankly, we often felt like we were living a double life, the one our friends knew in Pittsburgh, and our increasingly private inner life of working towards escape velocity.

Flip wipe (tacky video transition) to December and the beginning of our lonely boat shopping saga, and here we were spending a lot of time in Florida. We visited lots of family whom we usually only see at funerals, and we looked up old friends and cemented new relationships with them. Everyone was encouraging and supportive, and that got us through our depressed no-boat months.

Now that we’re living on Escape Velocity, we’re experiencing one of the best benefits of the boating world: new friends. It helps that we all have one Very Big Thing in common, but it seems that people on boats, and particularly cruisers, are eager to connect with fellow travelers. It’s not unusual to be having coffee in the morning and hear a tap on the hull.

“Hey, are you from Annapolis?”

“What hull number is your Manta?”

We get into long conversations all day long about where we’re from, where we’re going, and always, always, about our boats. Just walking down the dock to the laundry or the lounge ends up with a beer in someone’s cockpit or a paperback book or the recommendation for a store or workman. Boaters have calling cards with their contact info on them and we’ve already collected quite a few and had to write down our blog and email for people because we don’t have cards yet. (It’s on the list.)

And the stories! I love hearing all of the back stories, how all these different people ended up on boats in this place. As we start to cruise I know it’ll continue this way, but we like to interact with the locals, too. We don’t want to be the sort of cruisers who travel in a kind of floating village, only hanging out with other boaters and never fully appreciating a place from the inside. It’ll be a balancing act, but for now we feel lucky to be a part of the community we dreamed about for so long.


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Changing of the guard

Nancy and Jeff Sternberger with Jack and our Fatty Knees dinghy.

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It’s ok, you know the owner

I was nine, carving vast fleets of Man-O-War out of blocks of my mothers Ivory soap. Round tooth picks for cannon and masts, small squares of my fathers hankies glued to the tooth picks, for sails. We lived in Pittsburgh. This was not normal behavior in “The Burgh.” I honestly don’t know where this came from, but I saw an ad in Popular Science for a DIY sunfish-type sailboat. A sailboat of my own! I think the seeds for this were sown reading a kids book called Swallows and Amazons Forever. Its surprising but several blue water sailors I’ve talked to also mention this book as being influential.

The next few months couldn’t have been pleasant for my parents. Once I commit to a heartfelt concept, well… let’s just say that I can get a little focused.

To shut me up my dad relented and said ok but you’ve got to pay for it yourself. Great, my allowance would net me 50 cents a week, my other expenses were covered, and the plans estimated I’d need about $20.

I humbly submit to you, dear Escapees, that one of my major talents is the ability to communicate my enthusiasm and passion for a particular idea or project to others. I soon had my mom sewing up the sail in a fashionable cotton sheet with black and white stripes. She remembered seeing a picture once with the sail full bodied and round, and she knew how to get my sail to look just like the picture. She ruched the foot of the sail and sewed in elastic just to be sure!

Sure enough the plywood appeared along with lessons on my dads new jig-saw, and I just knew that I no longer had any budget worries.

A short aside about budgets and boat building. It’s really simple. Just take the budget and throw it away. If you budgeted one week simply go up to the next interval, one month, now double it, that makes it 2 months to do the project.
$20 becomes $100. It seems to help.

About halfway through the Speedy project (I was 9) my Dad asked me where I’d learned to sail, I hemmed and hawed and he knew I hadn’t a clue. The next time we were in a book store I saw this little book and he had to buy it for me. I learned to sail by studying this book for weeks on end.

I just dropped off my beloved Fatty Knees dinghy on semi permanent loan, to good friends in Surfside, FL. I gave them my how-to-sail book too. So if you see a jaunty, spunky little dinghy with a red heart on the sail around Surfside, stop and say hi. You know the owner.



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Just like Dolly Parton says

Just like Dolly Parton always says, “when you try to stuff 10lbs of mud into a 5lb sack, somethings going to stick out somewhere.”

Today was a significant milestone. The storage unit is empty but Escape Velocity is sticking out everywhere.

Sadly my beloved Fatty Knees sailing dingy, built in Lyle Hess’s boatworks, will soon be on its way south to teach someone else how to sail. A great dingy’s work is never done. I guess you can stick out too much but Dolly seems to get away with it.

Stowing all this stuff is driving us both crazy. I’m still having issues transitioning from boat builder (Spellbound) to boat owner (Escape Velocity). I can’t conceive leaving land with out my trusty Bosch Orbital Sander but I couldn’t tell you today what I intend to sand with it.

While working for 20 years towards our vagabond sailing life goal, we picked up some bad habits. Cycling is just one of our passions. Just where do you put two bikes aboard a 40ft catamaran? And it’s not just the bikes. Four-season riding gear, helmets, maintenance kit, it goes on and on. And painting, jewelry-making, books, cooking, and the aforementioned woodworking all need copious amounts of space that we don’t have, even though EV has the best storage space we’ve ever seen but it’s no match for our life.

Something has to give.

Dolly how do you do it?



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Getting up to speed


It took nearly two weeks from the day we first started de-naming Chocobo, but today we finally got the first part or our re-naming done. Escape Velocity will eventually have the name on the stern and on each side near the front, but for today we’re just happy to have the name and hailing port on the back. We did a 10-foot job, meaning from ten feet away it looks pretty good.


We had to work from the dinghy, and on a busy Mother’s Day it was a little bouncy as boats went by every few minutes on the way to the very popular marina restaurant. We’re pretty happy with the result, and I think we both felt a little welling up that we were actually naming our actual boat after actually imagining this actual moment for so long.

Paul and Shannon from a few slips away invited us for a beer to celebrate and we also met the owners of the Manta 38 two boats down who just arrived today. Both couples are leaving soon, and we will too, this week we hope.

We’ll miss Stuart. It’s a cute little walkable town with a comfy cafe and two ice cream shops, live music nearly every night and a craft and farmers market on Sundays. We’ve enjoyed our stay here and we’ll probably visit on the way back down in November. For now, we still have a lot of work to do getting all our things sorted, reduced and stowed.



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