'Til the butter melts

Pursuing the cruising dream in 32' of sailing ketch

Thinking of future time

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So when are you going back to the boat?”

Simple questions don’t always have simple answers.

Having been such a vocal proponent of the “Go simple, go now” school of cruising thought, it feels a little strange to now have to write about how our “going” is – at this moment – very much in question. We just don’t know.

Which is not to suggest that we’re done with cruising, boating, living aboard, and all that wonderfulness. If you’ve enjoyed the last two years of musings, heavy on the topics of food, sunsets and poverty, have no fear – we’re not done.

But if you were looking to the crew of Sionna to provide a benchmark in time, with a known departure date for sunny climes, you might just want to find another reference.

Last winter aboard was pretty challenging for Nicki and me. Between the eye surgery stuff, the unexpected expenses entailed therein, and the broken-up nature of the season (three months on the boat, two months in Maine, two months back aboard…), both of us found that we just “weren’t having fun”.

And if it’s not fun, why do it?

Sure there were segments of last winter that were great, but there were long periods of not so good, and there were way too many times of saying – or NOT saying – “…this isn’t what I signed on for…” for both of us. After a while that thought becomes a heavy weight indeed, and it drags on your heart.

So once we realized the problem existed, it was time to look for answers, and the answer, as far as we can see, is that Nicki needs a job. More to the point, she needs to be able to see that she’s making a more tangible contribution to our over-all lifestyle than our recent “living-on-a-shoestring” track has allowed.

So we’re back in Maine, and we’re in transition. I’m working as a carpenter, as I have the last few summers, and that steady influx of cash is a welcome and necessary resource. It also gives me that feeling of accomplishment I enjoy, the same one I get from making Sionna move well and smoothly through the water. Meanwhile Nicki is studying to enter the business of real estate investment. To do that, she needs a home base, contacts, relationships with buyers, sellers, and investors, etc.

And so here we are, and here we shall remain, probably deep into the fall, possibly through the winter… we don’t know for sure. It is possible (and I would say likely) that we won’t be launching Sionna at all next season. It is certain that we’ll need to find a place to live this fall, since we can’t stay in the RV past October 15th. Maybe someone will need a house-sitter for a few months, maybe Nicki and her partner will buy a property with a liveable dwelling where we can camp out through the cold months…

We don’t know yet.

On balance, I suppose I’m mostly resigned to where we need to be, but it is not where I WANT to be. I want to go home, back to the boat, back to the water. But as I’ve said many times in these missives, it’s not just about me. It’s about us – and WE need to be here right now.

I think I’d better go find my winter coat.

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Boatless in Midcoast Maine

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The best way to share your life is in pictures!

Yes, sometimes we really do things the old way! This is “Blackjack”, a 118-year-old Freindship sloop, newly restored by volunteers at the Maine Sail, Power & Steam Museum, right here in Rockland, ME.

And here she is, about to be lowered – by human power – into the water, for her first taste f salt water in over 30 years.

Our temporary ride for the summer. A friend’s boat, our mooring, and a way to get out on the water now and again.

Smiling helms woman. She declined my offer to give her a break from the tiller…

Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse, from the cockpit of the other boat. Don’t tell Sionna we’ve been unfaithful!

The little boat doesn’t have a vang, so I was assigned the task of keeping the boom under control…

How I spent my summer. Carpentry isn’t a bad gig, actually. At least I’m mostly outside!

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That awkward age

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So what does a sailing blogger write about when they’re not sailing?

Good question, that. And I wish I had a good answer to it.

Once we’d packed up the boat and made our way back to Maine, I kind of lost my motivation for blogging. No boat, no adventures, no stories to share.

But of course there’s more to it than that. We’re in an unsettled phase.

The last two years of commuter cruising have brought to the surface a few things that had been hidden, some preferences that need attention. The act of living life in a somewhat precarious financial balancing act – hand-to-mouth – adds a layer of stress that’s thicker than we realized. It’s one thing to claim you’re going to see the Universe on less than twenty Altairian dollars a day, (with apologies to Douglas Adams) but it’s a very different thing to be out there, actually doing it. Altair is a LONG way from here, don’t you know.

And so we find ourselves in Maine, wondering what our next steps are. No longer can we blithely assume that we’ll be back to the boat in October – Nicki has decided she needs to become an active income earner again, and that’s going to take some training and time.

The only certainty I can see is that we’re uncertain. We’re not done cruising, certainly. We love our boat, love being on the water, and love the people who choose that lifestyle. But we’re not sure we want to go back to cruising on such a fine shoestring. I could, but Nicki can’t.

And just as we work together on the water, so we must work together on land. When we’re aboard, our rule is that the more conservative opinion rules: If one says “reef”, and the other says “Nah…”, we reef. Period.

So now, on land?

Same deal. If she thinks we need to change our financial picture, then that’s what we need to do.

Stay tuned for further developments.

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Flashback Friday

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 First tea aboard Honfleur in May, 2014. We didn’t know we would be buying a different boat (Sionna) that winter.

First tea aboard Honfleur in May, 2014. We didn’t know we would be buying a different boat (Sionna) that winter.

First tea aboard Sionna in May, 2015. Such a step up in “luxury”!

Many of my blogging friends have adopted the practice of sharing a photo of their “story” each Friday. A memory, a significant moment, a favorite place…

I’ve not picked up the habit in the past, largely because I didn’t feel like I had enough “history” to make it worthwhile. I feared it wouldn’t be interesting enough or unique enough to capture your attention.

And then I asked myself, “Why do you write a blog?”

Is it for me? Or is it for you, the reader?

Good question. With the development of social media addiction, it seems that the sole purpose of the internet has become self-promotion and ego stoking. Here’s hoping that’s not my motivation. But in the meantime, I’ll keep trying to share stuff that means something to me, and you can work out whether it’ interesting to YOU on your own.

Happy Flashback Friday! Where were you 3 or 4 years ago?

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Tucked in for the Summer

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It always feels like a mixed blessing, this seasonal cruising thing.

On one hand, Sionna is tucked away in a safe place, securely tied to the ground and well inland. She’s as safe in our absence as we can make her.

On the other hand, our home and magic carpet of nautical dreams is alone, baking in the sun, while we are waiting for summer, layering clothing, and looking for work.

And here we are, in “the most beautiful cruising grounds in the world” (as we were told by some folks in the British Virgin Islands) with no boat. It feels strange, and disjointed, and not a little disquieting.

But of course, this last season wasn’t without it’s challenges and down days. The two months we spent in Maine for eye surgery meant that we got to experience a real slice of winter again – a very good reminder of why we decided to do our cruising in the south in the first place. Being away from it made the whole season feel really disjointed though. We’d just about got used to being on the boat, the pace of the day, and then packed everything up and moved ashore. Then moved back…

So naturally we’re looking ahead, wondering how to arrange our next season aboard, but more immediately we’re trying to line up our summer work, so that we can afford to HAVE our next season on the boat.

There are uncertainties. There are concerns and quandaries, and choices to be made.

Our trip back north took 7 days, and included a visit with my (Keith’s) brother and sister-in-law at their new home in a clothing-optional community in western Florida – a very new but surprisingly comfortable experience for us – as well as visits with three sets of cruising friends in three separate cities. It was a social whirlwind from which I think I’m still recovering, but it sure was nice to see those folks again. It reminds us why we cruise.

Oh, and the sunsets, of course. We do miss those sunsets.

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That most bittersweet moment

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It is – unbelievably – that time again.

The time most cruisers approach with fear and trembling, and not a little remorse, but also some amount of relief.

It’s haul-out time.

(In this space, please imagine a fascinating video of Sionna in the slings, being gradually raised from the water and suspended in thin air. I do have the video, but it refuses to upload. I blame Google – those buggers are always thwarting my artistic expression)

If there is a more precarious thing than a sailboat suspended 20 feet above the water in a fabric sling, I don’t know what it is. It looks wrong. Add the emotions inherent in that boat being your principal place of residence, and haul-out day becomes more than just “another day”. It’s stressful.

In any case, she’s out. Nothing bad happened, no damage was done, and by the end of the day Friday, she’ll be cleaned, stripped and locked up for the summer.

Next year, we’re going to the Bahamas, come hell or high water.

Maybe.

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