Writing this just shy of 3 days after returning from 193 days aboard cruising, I can say that on one hand my wife and I fell right back into the normal swing of things here. That includes, on the social side, lots of welcome home phone calls, invitations to dinner and drinks, and commitments to numerous regular and special functions at our two primary club affiliations. It also includes, unfortunately, a lot of work at the house.
The first afternoon's priority was to plug in the refrigerator and then diagnose and repair the home A/C unit, which turned out to be pretty simple. Then we had to remove the hurricane braces on the garage door and get it open. Next, was getting the 2 autos and the motorcycle batteries charged and ensuring that the vehicles would start and run properly. Meanwhile Diane was unpacking those items from the boat that we would need first in our transition. We were dismayed to find a certain amount of mold that had grown with the A/C off, so we realized that we should not bring anything up from the boat until we had gone room by room to do a thorough cleaning. That is half done as of now and a very tiring job, with Diane carrying most of that burden.
I was keeping quite busy, too, but not necessarily in an organized fashion. Every time I walked past an area of the house, garage, or lawn, I saw something that needed attention, so I attempted to correct it right then and there. Inevitably, I would start task A, to be side-tracked by tasks B through G, only to walk back around and realize that I had not finished task A. I think most of us have done that at one time or another. As of today, half the hurricane shutters are off and stowed away, and a major pruning/cleaning of our two large palm "hedges" is done. That was only "critical" in that we like our neighbors and felt bad that they had to look at that mess. I just got the remaining shutters off and am now starting to pressure wash the house where the insects have built large, dirty nests under the shutters. The pavers in the pool area are also nasty with biological growth and need pressure washing.
I am reporting all of this mainly to let you all know that the blessing of having a home to return to is sometimes quite a burden, too. The easiest way to have no maintenance problems is to own nothing, but that isn't such an attractive alternative for most of us.
We had our first taste of what it is like to expand our world beyond me and my mate when 6 of our good friends came down to visit us at our last stop before home. We arrived near noon and it was after 1300 when we were all assembled. It was quite a go-around about where we would eat lunch and how (with 8 people and one car) we would get there. Diane and I alone hardly ever had a problem reaching a consensus quickly, and we always had Clyde as the tie-breaker, of course. Many of the friends involved are reading this blog and I hope they understand my comments are not criticisms; it is just human nature to have the chaos expand disproportionally to the number of people involved.
You might think that 6 months is not enough time to forget your home-based routines, but I am needing to relearn where stuff is in the house. I retained a lot of it, but I still have to resort to trial and error for some things.
I find that I am about tapped out for writing at this point, so I will end the blog until the next adventure. I will still try to check for comments for a while, but any questions can be directed to my email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for cruising with us! Next, time, though, you will have to do your share of the dishes. ;-)
[photo: Lynn (right) greeting us with her sign and wine]
(statute miles are used because that is how distances are measured along the Intracoastal Waterway)
In this Internet age, sometimes too much information gets shared and perhaps I am guilty of that, too. The following statistics, however, may really serve to help another couple in their planning, so we are happy to provide them.
We categorize this cruise as fairly luxurious compared to our normal frugality when aboard. We know people who have traveled essentially the same distance spending far less money, mostly because they did it with long days underway and far fewer stops. Others simply avoided expensive marinas whenever possible, even to the point of some discomfort. And, of course, if you eat almost all meals aboard, you can save a lot of money, just like living at home.
At the other end of the spectrum, we could have stayed every night in the finest marina available and dined out quite expensively for at least one meal a day. That would have increased our costs by a good bit. If we were cruising over multiple years, essentially living on our boat, we would certainly have to get by on less.
Days on cruise: 193
Days underway: 123
Hours underway: 744
Total distance traveled: 4,578 statute miles
Avg. speed: 6.2 statute miles per hour
Days traveling North: 106
Days underway (Northbound): 60
Avg. daily travel day (Northbound): 36.3 statute miles; 6.0 hours
[We were spending multiples days at many stops on the way N]
Days traveling South: 87
Days underway (Southbound): 63
Avg. daily travel day (Southbound): 38.0 statute miles; 6.0 hours
[We came S much faster, not by averaging longer hours of travel, but by spending far fewer multiple days in any one spot. Traveling every day for 17 straight days, our longest stretch, can get quite tiring.]
Fuel Consumed: 455 gal (0.61 gal per hour; approx. 10.0 statute miles per gal)
Avg. water consumption (excl. drinking water): 5.8 gal per day
[We tried to use the current and wind to our advantage when we could, and the miles per gallon reflects that. We moved under sail alone for just a few hours, and we ran the engine without moving while tying up docklines, so those probably cancel each other out. In the Bahamas, we averaged less than 4 gal of water per day due to the high cost of water there. Using 5.8 gal per day on this cruise seemed like a luxury to us.]
Anchored (free): 53 (28%)
Marina (paid): 83 (43%)
Mooring (paid): 27 (14%)
Free dockage or mooring: 30 (15%)
[We never expected to be in marinas so much, but when the heat became a factor, we opted to pay the marina fees in order to be able to run the A/C. A really quiet generator that would allow running the A/C at anchor would have helped. There were also many places where anchoring didn't seem all that secure, so we used a marina.]
Food and beverage: $4,750
Dining out: $3,800
Total cost (incl. most of repairs): $20,800
Avg. cost per day: $108
[Buying food and beverage on the cruise cost us about 25% more than when we are home. We attribute that to higher prices overall in some areas, occasional purchases at high-priced convenience stores, and buying small quantities of food at much higher unit cost.
We could have saved a lot of dining out and entertainment, but we agreed that if we were going to make this trip, we were going to sample and enjoy the cuisine along the way. The repair cost listed was less than the actual expenses incurred, but much that is just part of boat ownership and not directly related to the cruise.]
Wed 10 Oct 2012
Docked at home in Punta Gorda, FL
[photo: left to right, Richard, Rob, Sue, Joanne, and Ken]
It was still dark when we got up and barely light when we departed the dock at 0750. The wind was out of the NE at first, which let us motor-sail close-hauled for a while, but we had to furl the sail and motor for much of the rest of the 5 hour passage. At least it was a comfortable temperature while on the water.
Early on, I called our friends, Rob and Sue, to update them on our ETA to Punta Gorda. I had to make an adjustment a while later when the wind shifted, of course. As we started down the channel to our home port, there were over a half dozen friends standing on the fishing pier holding welcome home signs and cheering us on. We acknowledged their terrific gesture as best we could by waving, grinning, and yelling 'thank you,' but we couldn't stop there.
We carried on for a mile to the house and docked the boat with the help of one friend, Ken. Before we got half the lines on, the rest of the gang showed up to welcome us again. There were many photos taken, of course, (Richard and Joanne were the chief photographers) and lots of handshakes and hugs. Most of these people have done some long and interesting cruises themselves, so they know what it is like to finally arrive home and 'shift gears.' Our friend, Lynn, showed up a bit late due to some communication mix-up, but she had a chilled bottle of wine in hand, so all was forgiven.
Now, for Clyde's reaction: Unlike all the other longer cruises (from a week, to up to 4 months) Clyde did not show any sign that he recognized his home region. He was in the cockpit dozing in his soft carrier, as he feels secure there, but he did not start sniffing vigorously or show any signs of awareness at all. It wasn't until I stopped the engine that he knew we were done moving for the day and then he left his carrier.
At that point, despite (or maybe because of) the crowd on the dock, he jumped off the boat and went to the grass to start nibbling away. Diane was a little concerned that he might immediately start to wander, so she put him in the screened cage over the pool where he could still see and hear everything going on. About twenty minutes later, when she opened the door to bring in a load of stuff, Clyde raced out the door, down the path to the dock, and jumped right back onto the boat. She retrieved him, and he did the same thing 10 minutes later.
Our theory is that over 6 months, he has learned that the boat was his home and refuge. He had food, water, places to sleep and to hide; it was his world. Perhaps in the flurry of excitement, he chose to return to that secure environment. There is no doubt after just 20 hours at home, however, that he is rapidly reacquainting himself with his land-based home. Now, if we would just get the rest of the hurricane shutters off so we can pull the lanai furniture out of the house and let him have access to "his" chair and other special spots...
Our home survived pretty well in our absence, but we discovered the A/C was not working. I had to first, removed the hurricane braces from inside the garage door to open it, then get the tools out to remove the shutters from the side door, then get out my tools to check the problem. I was very glad to find that a simple relay had gotten stuck, so once I fixed that (at least until I can replace it), we had A/C. Otherwise, we would have been sleeping on the boat yet another night. It is pretty nice to have that option, though.
We don't know how long the A/C was off, but there is mold on some items (mostly wooden furniture and all my leather shoes). I was going to use the 3 weeks I have before returning to work to paint the exterior of the house, but we may have to spend a bit of time carefully cleaning everything in the house, one room at a time.
Knowing that we will have lots to do over the next 3 weeks and beyond, we rapidly started doing the most critical tasks: turning on the water, plugging in the refrigerator, turning on circuit breakers, bringing food up, etc. All the vehicle batteries were charged up one at time and they all started and ran fine.
It was a tiring 3 hours, but we wisely limited the amount of self-induced torture by accepting an invitation to dine at the home of our good friends, Dennis and Karen. We all had trying days, so the libations and delicious food were of great comfort. We never even made it to "Punta Gorda midnight", 9pm. We left at 2000 and were asleep by 2100.
Tonight, Thu, we are going over to Rob and Sue's home for dinner and a long chat about the cruise. They are considering pretty much the same thing next year in their large, comfortable sailing catamaran.
We arrived home safely near 1300 today with a welcoming commitee both at the entrance to our canal system and at our home dock. It was great of them to do that.
Can't report more right now. We have had to take care of some critical stuff on the house and we will be partying tonight with friends, so tune in sometime tomorrow for the details, including Clyde the cat's reaction upon returning home.
Tue 9 Oct 2012
Docked at Tween Waters Marina, Captiva, FL
[photo: the Diva being served a frosty Pina Colada]
The temperature stayed lower than usual throughout the night, and Clyde got some unexpected time topside in the middle of the night. That is when I awoke and decided that with all the cloudiness of the past few days preventing our solar panels from keeping the batteries charged, I needed to connect the second power cord that services that portion of the boat's electrical needs. After a while, we both went back below to resume our sleep.
Following breakfast, we took the bikes to the S for a few miles and finally got to Blind Pass, where we stopped to do some shelling and got a few common ones to add to our collection. After returning to Diva Di, we got ready for the beach. Diane got there early and I joined her after a while. There was a delightful, if light, breeze off the water and the shade of the umbrella kept it nice.
When over an hour had passed, I went back to the boat to read and make some notes. The Captain of the local charter sailing vessel, New Moon, came back in from his charter and he came over to sit below in the A/C and rehydrate. Following that, we shared a few beverages and snacks and caught up on the 10 years since our last meeting. Captain Mick was one of the first to give me primary instruction in sailing and I appreciate and apply his teachings to this day.
After Mick left for home, I got a beverage and snack ready for Diane and walked up to the beach. I went into the surf and had a nice conversation with a couple visiting from CT. We finally got off the beach around 1730 and walked back to the marina. I stopped to hit the showers, while Diane continued back to the dock. When I got out a few minutes later, Diane was sitting under the pavilion at the dock and chatting with fellow club members, Paul and Barb.
They had returned recently from their travels up north and taken their fast trawler here to Tween Waters for a mini-cruise. What a great coincidence and pleasure it was to see them. After chatting for a while, we went back to our boats and agreed to meet on the beach for sunset. More great conversation followed at the beach, but what was most amazing was that we saw our second Green Flash! All 4 of us, who had not been drinking much at all, confirm that it was definitely a Green Flash.
For those uninitiated, when the bright yellow sun finally becomes a sliver over blue water, in very clear conditions, the last vestiges of bright light can (only rarely) become a distinct green color for less than a second. This was the second time for Diane, Paul, and me, and the first for Barb. Keep in mind that as couples we have collectively watched thousands of sunsets over water, so this is a big deal. No, we do not have a photo, but we have no doubt about what we saw. Barb said it was a magical moment to commemorate the end of our cruise and she was right.
Following sunset, we all went to the Crow's Nest for dinner (I can't recall ever dining in the same restaurant 3 times in a row). Each couple ordered one entrée and one appetizer, which was free with our coupons. Everyone really enjoyed their food, and the bill was very reasonable.
We plan to leave at or before 0800, so as to be home near 1400. We have a few friends who are planning to greet us upon arrival. We will report on that in the next blog entry.
Mon 8 Oct 2012
Docked at Tween Waters Marina, Captiva, FL
[photo: sunset from Captiva Island, FL]
Believe it or not, we both got up before dawn today, which is not hard to do when sunrise is so late. It is always nice on those days when you are not moving to be able to dawdle a bit. After breakfast, we got out the bicycles and rode with overcast skies to the northern end of Captiva Road to the beach access, where we walked and shelled for a bit. Then we biked back and made some diversions to check out some of our old restaurant haunts from when we owned a rental property on the adjacent (bridge-connected) island of Sanibel.
We met a couple visiting from MN who picked our brains quite a bit when they learned that we lived in Punta Gorda, as they are looking to buy a home there soon. When they left, we carried on back to Tween Waters and Diva Di and had our leftovers from last night's dinner for a light, early lunch. Diane got her beach gear ready and I headed to the pool where I could stay out of the sun more readily.
After a while, I got my stuff together to walk down to the beach to visit with Diane and just as I started walking, she arrived at the pool so she could visit with me. We both laughed at the timing, and noted that we are obviously not sick of each other yet. The pool patrons numbered fewer than a quarter compared to yesterday, a Sunday. The sun peaked out frequently and briefly, and it was blazing hot when it did. Many folks here are talking about how hot it still is as we near mid-Oct.
By 1600, it was time for a nap, one of the first for us in a while. After we awoke and got ready for the evening, we prepared a beverage and strolled across the road to the beach, where over the next 30 minutes a number of people gathered for the sunset. It was looking very iffy with the cloud cover, but it appeared to be improving rapidly.
We took some group photos of 4 women enjoying a multi-generational "girl week" and had a lot of very interesting conversations with them. Our praise for the Crow's Nest food caused them to dine there before driving back S to their accommodations on Sanibel. The sunset turned out to be very pretty, and then we walked over to the Crow's Nest for our dinner.
Quite a few years ago, shortly after we bought the boat, we found ourselves here during a multi-week cruise. We vividly remembered ordering the Philly Cheesesteak pizza and loving it, so we were glad to see it on the menu and ordered it. It was really yummy! Back at Diva Di, we enjoyed a nightcap beverage with Clyde - all of us enjoying the night air on deck. It was the first time we have had anything approaching a cool, low humidity evening in quite a while.
We are still very much on track for a Wed morning departure and getting back to our home dock near 1400.