14 October 2016 | Staunton, VA
21 August 2016 | Bert Jabin Yacht Yard in Annapolis, MD
08 July 2016 | Bert Jabin Yacht Yard in Annapolis, MD
14 June 2016 | Charlottlesville, VA
03 April 2016 | Saint Petersburg, Florida
15 February 2016 | Key Biscayne, Florida
27 December 2015 | Charleston Maritime Center, Charleston, SC
03 December 2015 | Oriental, NC
23 October 2015 | Portsmouth, VA
24 September 2015 | Cape Henlopen
02 September 2015 | Rockport, MA
27 July 2015 | Salem River, New Jersey
14 June 2015 | Oxford, Maryland
21 May 2015 | Charleston Maritime Center, Charleston, SC
09 May 2015 | Green Turtle Cay, Abacos, Bahamas
04 May 2015 | Hope Town, Abacos, Bahamas
13 April 2015 | Nassau, Bahamas
24 March 2015 | The Bight Anchorage, Cat Island, Bahamas
28 February 2015 | Staniel Cay, Exumas, Bahamas
17 February 2015 | Highborne Cay, Exumas, Bahamas

Re-Entry Part II: Land-Ho!

14 October 2016 | Staunton, VA
Yesterday, October 13, marked the second-happiest day of these sailors' lives, as the sale of our beloved Thalia was finally realized.

We had moved off the boat more than a week earlier, not anticipating one of the inevitable delays that happens in these sorts of deals. So the news came to us via text from our broker as we sat around one of the few pieces of furniture we own - a second-hand kitchen table - in our still-messy new apartment in Staunton, Virginia.

Somewhat sheepishly, I realized this morning that my last blog post was dated August 21. Of course, I had every intention of updating the blog a couple of times between then and now, but boat projects, errands, and most especially travel to the cities we were considering moving to, kept us extremely busy.

So here, in our last blog post after three years aboard S/V Thalia, is a little background on what we've been up to in the final two months living on the water.


Just one of many charming historic buildings in downtown Asheville.

In mid-August, we stayed with our son and daughter-in-law, taking care of our grandson for a week to help bridge the gap between his parents going back to work and his starting daycare.

A week later, we checked back in on Thalia in Annapolis and then took a road trip to the North Carolina mountains. It was still quite hot and humid in Annapolis, but when we finally arrived in Asheville, the air was just a bit cooler and drier, especially at night. In fact, it was perfect weather. Score one point for Asheville - the mountain ranges there have created a unique micro-climate that keeps down the heat and humidity in the summer, yet protects the area from excessive snow in the winter.

It's also worth noting that Asheville is a really lovely city. We loved it. It was quite a bit larger than we had envisioned, and full of interesting people, buildings, places to dine, and things to do.

We spent a very enjoyable evening with our friends David and Jennifer Billstrom, who had us over to dinner at their home in nearby Black Mountain. David, whom I knew from the tech world in Portland, was extremely helpful to us in our consideration of Asheville as a place to move. He and Jen co-own a wonderful bicycle tour company there, Velo Girl Rides. Definitely the kind of people we want to be friends and neighbors with.

While in the area, we met with a real estate agent and talked about our goals. The reality became pretty clear that Asheville is a little pricey for us. So we expanded our search to some of the nearby towns, including our favorite, Hendersonville, with its very charming historic downtown. Even there, though, the options in our price range were limited, especially given our desire for a large (half acre) and relatively level yard for all the fruit trees, veggie beds, beehives, and chicken coops we're envisioning. True Portlanders we still are in many ways...

Hendersonville, just south of Asheville, has a very appealing, pedestrian-friendly downtown.

Ultimately, we left Asheville loving the area, but concerned about its affordability. The 8 1/2 hour drive back to Annapolis, though, was what really tipped us away from this choice. We thought about what a long drive that would be if we just wanted to spend a quick weekend visiting our kids or grandson in DC and Baltimore. Of course, flying is an option - and an inexpensive one from Asheville to Baltimore - but also not without hassles.

Cherry Tree Farm
My Great-Aunt Grace, who was my late father's favorite aunt, owned a very large property just a few hours north of Asheville in the mountains not far from Boone, NC. I had always wanted to visit her there, but unfortunately didn't make it before she passed away at age 99 last year. As her daughter Honey and husband Thomas - whom we've gotten close to since moving to the East Coast - spend their summers there, we arranged a quick overnight visit to see them and the farm.

The drive up there was stunningly beautiful, as we wound our way through parts of the Blue Ridge and Appalachian mountains, cutting across the very northeastern corner of Tennessee and then through the Cherokee National Forest before arriving mid-afternoon at Cherry Tree Farm.

Just one of the many jaw-dropping territorial views on my cousins' farm.

Honey and Tom own a gorgeous home they built on the family property, set amidst some of the many Frazier firs the family grew for years for their business, Papa Noel Christmas Trees. Papa Noel was my Great-Uncle Jimmy, whom I adored, so it was a real treat to see his face on the signage as we toured the property on ATVs with our cousins.

I loved seeing Great-Uncle Jimmy's face on signs for the Christmas tree farm.

I have to tell you, remote as it is, that is one of the prettiest places I've ever seen. The views are breathtaking, especially as the ground fog began to creep into the valleys in the late afternoon light. It was utterly peaceful and enchanting.

Much as we loved being there, we were hoping to get back to Annapolis before the nasty Labor Day weekend traffic hit, so we took off Thursday morning to spend a night in Staunton, met Friday at lunch with a real estate broker in Charlottesville, and then drove back. Unfortunately, our timing was really bad; we spent a solid couple of hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic trying to make our way through Washington DC on Friday afternoon. We didn't get back to Thalia until nearly 7:00 that evening. Any doubts we'd had about our decision to not move to big cities was thoroughly dispelled by that experience.

The Shenandoah Valley
Two weeks later, we drove back down to Charlottesville to continue our search. We spent a night there, enjoying a farm-to-table meal at a cute place called The Whiskey Jar on Cville's charming pedestrian-only downtown mall, before strolling around the mall to the beat of a live Beck concert at the outdoor amphitheater.

We then spent a day driving around with a wonderful real estate agent, Sybil Mahanes, who has lived there her entire life. We looked at half a dozen homes, but had the same sense we did in Asheville: that we should have moved there ten years earlier, before it had gotten so built-up and expensive.

Last on our list, Staunton was refreshingly different. Here, we got the sense of a small (pop. 22,000) city just on the verge of the kind of growth Asheville and Cville have seen. Staunton's history dates back to 1746 (founded by a guy named Lewis, as a matter of fact!), and its downtown area is graced with truly lovely architecture, mostly from the 19th century. But there's relatively little traffic, few crowds, and the real estate prices are surprisingly affordable, particularly to people coming from the West Coast. Staunton is quite hilly, and sits at an elevation of around 1,300 feet.

We liked the city right away, even though it is smaller and slower than Cville - or perhaps because of that. True, there are no Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, or Costcos, but those are just a half hour away in Cville. There are plenty of local farms, including our hero Joel Salatin's Polyface Farm, made famous in Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. There's a very nice farmers market as well, plus several large city parks, and a thriving local arts scene, including a nearly exact reproduction of Shakespeare's Blackfriars Playhouse.

Staunton has a vibrant downtown full of restored historic buildings housing shops and restaurants.

So ultimately, we decided we'd rent a place in Staunton for six months or so, still consider the possibility of Charlottesville, but focus on settling down here. Phew. Huge decision made, now to get the boat sold...

On Selling a Boat
Funny how the universe works... As we packed up to drive back to Annapolis on September 22, our broker called to let us know a prospective buyer was there with his broker, and wanted to see the boat. By the time we got back, we heard an offer was coming in. And just two weeks later, our heads spinning from the speed with which this all happened, we moved off the boat for good.

Thalia's new owner, Franco, is an Argentinian-born filmmaker living in Mexico City. He and a partner decided to buy an ocean-worthy sailboat not to live on, but to keep in places they'd like to explore, to fly in and take her cruising. Franco had come to Annapolis planning to buy one of two Mason 44s on the market, but was quite disappointed in the condition of both boats. That's when he broadened his search to include Passports. He told us that as soon as he walked aboard Thalia, he knew she was the boat he'd been searching for.

Apparently they are not going to keep her name, as Thalia is unfortunately the name of a really bad singer in Mexico. Instead, they may christen her Improbable, for a number of reasons including the unlikelihood of having found her.

We were obviously delighted to have a reasonable offer on the boat, especially from someone we liked as soon as we met him. But those two weeks were among the most difficult I can remember. Franco was anxious to finalize the deal, but had to jump through some legal hoops before it could all come together. The brokers were pushing to wrap up the sale by October 6, the first day of the boat show, knowing they wouldn't have mind-share for it otherwise. We had a list as long as my arm to tick off before we could leave, but were emotionally ready to go. Meanwhile, down in the Bahamas, Hurricane Matthew was forming.

Sea Trial
Before finalizing the sale, the buyer needed to do a survey, haul-out, and sea trial, as is customary. These were scheduled for September 28, which was predicted to be a nasty, rainy day with periodic thunderstorms. Awesome.

Since we were scheduled to close just a week after that, Larry and I had to start packing, but what to pack? There was no way to know if the sale would go through until the very end, which would have been prime time for boat show visitors to tour Thalia. So we were reluctant to pack too much until at least after we knew the survey had gone well. We started slowly, packing boxes of scuba gear, craft supplies, winter clothes, and the like, eventually filling up the entire back of our Honda Element as we went.

The day of the sea trial dawned with thunderstorms, as predicted, but these diminished during the morning as the surveyor and Franco inspected Thalia from stem to stern, while Larry and I hung out with our broker Estelle in the laundry room and tried to stay out of the way but available. Around mid-day Larry moved Thalia over to the travel lift and she was hauled out to be able to inspect the hull, keel, rudder, and prop.

Above: The surveyor scaled our 60' mast to inspect it, once the thunderstorms had moved on. Below: Thalia's new owner Franco confers with Larry as he measures for a new boom vang.

Meanwhile, the weather continued to slowly improve. We were obviously hoping not to be out in driving rain or thunderstorms, but still to have enough wind that the boat could actually sail (she doesn't like anything under 15 knots, as a rule). By the time the boatyard employees dropped her back into the water that afternoon, the rain had stopped and winds were around 18 knots. We set sail one last time out into the Chesapeake to put her through her paces, and I felt that familiar, now bittersweet surge in my heart when the wind caught the sails and Thalia heeled slightly as she gained momentum.

The Final Week(s)
From what we could gather at that point, everything was looking really good. We were obliged to wait 48 hours to hear what if any concerns the buyer had. Everything was still very much up in the air, officially, and Franco could have walked away from the deal at any point until he signed an unconditional acceptance. But we'd interacted with him a fair amount by then, and trusted that he genuinely was excited about Thalia and would do everything he could to make the sale happen.

So we continued to pack, no longer worrying about how the boat looked. And we packed, and packed, and packed... We were quite shocked that in the end, it took some 28 boxes to get everything off that boat. No one who visited us would ever have called her cluttered, so that's quite a testament to the (hidden) cargo capacity of a Passport 40.

Exhausted captain Larry catching a cat nap in between packing boxes.

Meanwhile, Franco's broker informed us they needed to extend the closing another week to deal with legal paperwork regarding ownership. At the same time, most of the various predicted paths for Hurricane Matthew showed the storm roaring right up the Chesapeake to exactly where we sat. It occurred to us that it would be particularly horrible timing to have to prepare Thalia for a direct hit from a hurricane, just a few days before the sale closed. (This would have involved hauling her out and securing her on the hard - if the yard would even be able to schedule that; removing all sails and canvas; pulling the dinghy off the stern davits and lashing it down on the foredeck; removing the radar dome and solar panels; and if she were still in the water, tying her off seventeen ways till Sunday. We were too exhausted to even contemplate that eventuality.)

Storm or not, since we had planned on leaving the 6th and had made complicated arrangements with our busy Baltimore and DC kids to pick up various items in storage with them, we finally decided to leave after all. For the next several days, we'd be no more than a few hours away, and could come back if needed to do whatever might be required, should Matthew track our way.

By this point, neither of us was sleeping at all well. The weather was nasty, we had tons of anxiety about what might or might not happen, the boat was in an uproar, and we hadn't yet secured a place to live in Staunton. We stumbled through our last full day, hauling heavy boxes up over the rails, precariously balanced, as we stepped down onto the skinny finger pier and trudged up to the 5' x 8' trailer into which Larry was miraculously loading all this stuff.

Empty and gleaming, Thalia awaits her new owner.

Our last evening, fittingly, we went to dinner at a local wine bar with cruising friends Russell and Kathy of S/V Beluga, and spent a really lovely evening relaxing together, talking sailboats and reminiscing about our first chance meeting on a remote cay in the Exumas two years ago. It was wonderful to share that last meal with close friends and fellow cruisers.

And the next day, we finished packing and cleaning, leaving keys and instructions and manuals for Franco, securing Thalia as best we could, and saying our goodbyes. Then we hit the road for Baltimore. Over the next several days, as we traveled from Baltimore to Alexandria to Annandale, we anxiously watched the predicted storm tracks and waited for word that the boat sale would in fact go through.

By Thursday, we knew for sure that Matthew was heading back out to sea after wreaking havoc in the Carolinas, so we left for Staunton on Friday morning. On the way down, I got the call from our new apartment building manager that everything was in place for us to move in that afternoon.

The actual boat sale wasn't complete until just yesterday evening - nearly a week later - when the funds finally transferred. When we sat down to dinner last night, having finally closed that chapter, it was pretty anticlimactic. We were just so tired, and had had to deal with so much these past few weeks, that we hardly felt like celebrating.

True also is this: We're vastly relieved our girl sold in just over three months, and to such a wonderful new owner who clearly already loves her. So yes, the day we sold our boat was nearly as happy as the day we bought her three years ago. But beautiful old boats like Thalia are almost sentient beings - they really do have personalities and old, wise souls, with so very many stories they have lived but can never tell. So it's sad to leave her behind.

And yet, it was time. We did over 10,000 miles in three years at six miles an hour; rather an astonishing number, if you think about it. There's the new grandson, who is such a delight to us both. And we're starting to think about Golden Retriever puppies and gardens and joining a local walking group. So now we transition to our next adventure, and cut Thalia loose to explore the world with her new owner.

The gorgeous morning view of Staunton from our new apartment building.

Re-Entry (Part I)

21 August 2016 | Bert Jabin Yacht Yard in Annapolis, MD
Caroline / 91º, scattered thunderstorms
Six weeks into our stay in Annapolis, we have made some progress in our transition to a land-based life. As with just about anything boat-related, it appears it will take some time.

We have settled in nicely here at the Bert Jabin Yacht Yard in Annapolis, the very same place where we first saw and then purchased Thalia. From this very spot, we sailed her off to start our 10,000 mile adventure in November, 2013. Three years later, sailing is (perhaps ironically) low on our list of priorities, as we work both physically and psychologically toward a new normal.

Over the course of nearly a week, we ground down the cracked old nonskid on Thalia's upper decks, then replaced it with pristine white nonskid. It was a hot, messy job, but so rewarding! She looks nearly new now.

Now that Thalia is actively listed on Yacht World, we started working on prioritizing and then tackling a long list of projects. But just a few days after we settled into our slip here, a massive heat wave descended upon us. Now, we've made it three years in relative comfort living on the East Coast with no air conditioning whatsoever, and have always been rather rather proud of that - you might even say a bit smug, in true Oregonian fashion. Less than a week of temperatures in the high 90s and high humidity here in Annapolis changed that perspective rather quickly. Being docked here in a sheltered creek is one big difference; normally we'd be anchored out on open water where we'd enjoy cooling breezes even in hot weather. Another difference is knowing we have shore power here to run air conditioning, a luxury we have not enjoyed when at anchor.

A pretty typical summer day here, with hot, humid weather broken up by some awe-inspiring thunderstorms that cool everything down.

The hottest temperature we've seen so far (actual + humidity) has been a heat index of a staggering 121º! More often the heat index is in the high 90s to low 100s, which is hot enough.

Our friend and Thalia's broker Stephen took pity on us and drove Larry to a nearby Home Depot to purchase a portable air conditioning unit, which we immediately dubbed R2D2 and installed in our aft cabin. R2D2 has been a huge blessing, keeping the boat reasonably cool even in very hot conditions.

R2D2, our air conditioning droid, has been a real lifesaver. Almost literally.

Of course, with no car, we still had to deal with the logistics of walking or biking in extreme heat. We figured out the Annapolis bus system rather quickly, and took advantage of their air conditioned buses to do grocery shopping, but even that required a fairly long bike ride to get to the nearest bus stop. My weekly physical therapy appointments downtown (for a frozen left shoulder I'm working to rehabilitate) have required a dinghy ride to the 6th Street public dinghy dock, and then a bike ride up over a bridge and through downtown. At least I arrived well warmed up for my therapy.

Another factor that started us thinking about buying a car was a psychological one. We've been used to moving, moving, moving all the time, never staying in one place more than a week or so; often just a few days. Being tied up at a dock, especially once we'd finished most of our big boat projects and our girl was ready to show, caused us to start to feel quite restless. At least for me, a big part of this has been the passivity of just waiting for the right person to come along to fall in love with Thalia. The waiting became difficult for me, and I yearned for the freedom some wheels would give us.

The Car Search
My brother Dan has owned a 2003 Honda Element about five years now, and swears he's never owned a car he loves more. My dear friend, chef, and mentor Robert Reynolds owned one, too; I have an indelible image in my head of him driving around with Thomas the standard poodle perched proudly in the front passenger seat. Elements are kind of funny looking - a boxy body on a CRV base - but are relatively inexpensive, extremely reliable, versatile, roomy, and fun to drive. Honda stopped making them after 2011, so they're only available used, most with quite a few miles on them. We did some research on used cars and, given our low budget and Dan's knowledgeable and enthusiastic recommendation, set out to find the same car.

It took us several weeks of research to narrow down exactly what we wanted, and then to find likely candidates in Virginia and Maryland. We also had the logistics of not having a car when we needed to go look at cars. So we rented one from Enterprise - a great rental agency for boaters because they pick us up - and drove down to Fredericksburg to look at two Elements at a used car dealership. We were armed to the teeth with research showing what these cars should cost - much less than was being asked, of course. We liked one much more than the other, took it for a test drive, and then drove it to a mechanic to have it checked out. There were minor issues, but it was a good car with low miles for a 2003. However, the asking price was several thousand dollars more than what we felt it was worth. The dealer was very polite and professional, but intractable, reducing the price only $500 after a long negotiation. Somewhat dispirited, we walked away, then made the long drive back to Annapolis and collapsed back aboard Thalia, quite exhausted.

The following weekend, we ventured back out in another rental car, this time to the DC area. We went to see one car in Falls Church, parked on one of those dinky corner used car lots. Something didn't seem quite right about that car, so we drove a half hour to Chantilly to check out another Element - a 2003 with low miles that seemed priced suspiciously low. Larry combed through that car as only an engineer can, finding nothing of real concern. So we took it to a mechanic to have it checked out, then returned to repeat the negotiating game. This time, however, the dealer countered our offer with a very reasonable price. So we ended up being the proud owners of a really nice Honda Element for $2,500 less than the first one we'd seen, which was the same year and had similar mileage. We have since had some work done including replacing worn front brake pads and rotors, but overall our "toaster" is in great shape and has been a game-changer for us in terms of mobility. We love it.

We don't have a name yet for our new Element, although brother Dan calls them "toasters." We'll come up with one eventually; meanwhile, we're just enjoying having wheels again.

The Insurance Game
Obtaining auto insurance was a surprisingly difficult process. Because we haven't had anything but yacht insurance for several years - no auto or homeowner's policies - the quotes we got for the car were outrageous. Turns out when you get off the grid for even as few as 90 days, the computers automatically consider you a high risk and that is that. We were only able to find a workaround for our dilemma with the help of our daughter Kelli, who graciously added us to her own policy. That immediately cut our rates to a quarter of what we were being quoted. Six months from now, we'll once again have a track record and be able to stand on our own.

Kelli and I had a laugh over the irony of this. As she lives in Alexandria, Kelli was also helpful in letting us use her home address as our own. Otherwise, we wouldn't have been able to register the car in Virginia as Virginia "residents." Technically, we don't even have a residence, as far as officialdom is concerned. From our point of view, we live in a lovely floating home. From theirs, we're homeless, unless we have a proper street address. This boat, this marina, and our Florida mailing address do not count. So even though we're not sure we'll end up living in Virginia, we have to pretend we already do, to make the bureaucrats happy. We had to have a bank statement mailed to that address as proof of our residence. Once one statement was received, we went right back to online statements.

We've had similar issues over the past several years trying to get health insurance, register to vote, and acquire a safe deposit box in a credit union. These experiences have been eye-opening to us. There is little room in society for those who fall outside its expectations, which obviously has much more profound implications for folks who really are homeless than it does for us. It has given us some real perspective on that, though; just part of our shift in perspective since choosing to follow a different path than most people do.

The Grandchild
Last Sunday, we drove to Baltimore and settled in for a week with son Mike, daughter-in-law Meghan, and three-month-old Max. Mike, now in his tenth year as a middle school teacher, was returning to work after three months home with Max. Meghan has already been back at work for several weeks. The daycare they've lined up for Max doesn't start until the end of August, so we volunteered to care for him last week, with Meghan's parents Dee and John covering next week.

Sweet little Max is the light of our lives. Here, Grandpa gives him his late morning bottle.

The transition from our quiet life aboard Thalia to taking care of an infant full time was rather a shock to the system. Max is a cheerful, bright-eyed, sweet little guy, but he's three months old, with very strong opinions about what he does and doesn't want. And although between us we've raised five kids, of course we are just a bit rusty.

Monday was a good day overall, Tuesday was our seriously fussy baby day, and Wednesday I awoke with extremely sore biceps from hauling around a 16 pound baby for two days. It got better from there, though, as Larry and I figured out Max and he got comfortable with us. He only naps about 45 minutes at a time, several times a day, so we had to adjust to the timing and demands of his needs and schedule. By Saturday, we were feeling pretty good about how well we'd all done. I know it was a help to Max's parents, and we were treated to a week of adoring, gummy smiles from our spunky little redheaded grandson.

The Home Search
Young Max, his parents, and Larry's two daughters and son-in-law are all very good reasons for us to try to settle close the the DC/Baltimore area. For months now, we've considered some of the favorite cities and towns we've seen during our travels - St. Petersburg, Charleston, Bluffton, New Bern, Raleigh-Durham, Portsmouth, Baltimore... the list of places we've looked at is long and varied. Recently, we've narrowed our search to just two cities and the surrounding areas: Charlottesville, Virginia, and Asheville, North Carolina.

We'll be driving to Asheville next week for a visit, having only ever driven through and stopped for dinner, three years ago on our way to move aboard Thalia. But quite a few people have suggested it, enough that we finally contacted David, a Portland friend who moved there years ago, and asked for his take on the area. The subsequent conversations have been intriguing, as has our research on the area. Asheville is surrounded by the Smoky, Blue Ridge, and Appalachia mountains, with somewhat cooler and drier weather than here on the coast. It is spectacularly beautiful country. The city has a large population of educated retirees, tremendous cultural amenities, a great farm-to-table scene, and (at least in the surrounding areas) very affordable real estate by Portland standards.

However, it's an eight hour drive to Baltimore or DC - or a short commuter flight - so that's less than ideal. Charlottesville, on the other hand, is just a few hours' drive from the kids. Home to University of Virginia and Jefferson's Monticello, it's in Virginia's lovely wine country, with rolling hills, just 30 miles east of the Blue Ridge Mountains. There's a pedestrian-friendly historic downtown, a thriving farm and restaurant scene, and really good educational, cultural, and medical facilities. Like Asheville, the city proper is relatively expensive, but just outside the city and in nearby towns like Staunton (home of my hero, the rebel organic farmer Joel Salatin), homes are inexpensive and have big yards for the vegetable garden, dogs, beehives, and chicken coop we're planning as we dream about our next phase.

Exploring Annapolis
In addition to dealing with the car, we've had some fun, too. Kelli visited for a day and we took the opportunity to tour the historic home of one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and Maryland Governor William Paca.

The two acres of gardens - including a working vegetable garden based on the actual 18th century design - were inspiring to tour, and reinforced our interest in finding our own little patch of earth soon.

Larry and Kelli enjoy a break in the formal gardens at the William Paca house.

And we've done some exploring on our own, on bikes and in our new ride, discovering some terrific little parks, residential areas, and cafés. Most notable of the latter is a place called Davis' Pub, a local hangout for nearly 100 years that features ice cold beer, delicious hot crab pretzels, and really great service.

Enjoying an ice cold Natty Bo - a local favorite - while waiting for our meal at neighborhood hangout Davis' Pub.

When it's not too hot, we've done some cooking, too, and have taken advantage of the glorious summer produce, especially the local peaches.

The Maryland peaches have been amazing this year. Some of these were eaten fresh, and some were made into a cobbler with blueberries.

Three years old and going strong, our sourdough starter makes really delicious pizza crust, a favorite boat meal for us.

Marketing Thalia
So, no decisions yet, but we're closer to knowing where we'll end up. All of this depends upon finding Thalia's new owners, which we're confident we'll be able to do as we head into the high season here in Annapolis, leading up to the October boat show. Check out the Yacht World listing to see detailed photos of the home we've occupied these past few years, including a couple of walk-through videos we just uploaded.

For now, we're content to enjoy the beauty and comfort of our tiny floating home, while exploring and dreaming about our next big adventure.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part...

08 July 2016 | Bert Jabin Yacht Yard in Annapolis, MD
Caroline / 88º, humidity 70%, partly cloudy
(Headline thanks to Tom Petty, whose song is now stuck in my head...)

The last leg of our 2 1/2 year long liveaboard sailing journey has brought Thalia full circle, geographically speaking, to the same Annapolis boatyard where we purchased her in October 2013. After 10,609 nautical miles, we're finally docked and our girl is officially listed for sale at Yachtworld. Needless to say, we have mixed emotions about this, wondering if we will regret having moved back onto land, and yet starting to get excited about where we might end up.

A freshly painted Thalia, ready to be relaunched, takes a ride in a travel lift sling at Wayfarer's Cove, NC.

Sunset at River Dunes Marina in Oriental, NC.

Those last 367 miles, from North Carolina's Neuse River to Annapolis, took about ten days. Prior to leaving Wayfarer's Cove, where Thalia's hull was repainted, we did a very thorough deep cleaning, inside and out, and then took a series of photos for Yacht World. The listing went live a few days later, when we were anchored out in the Alligator River waiting out some nasty weather. Underway the next day, we got a call from our broker asking us to meet a prospective buyer at the Coinjock Marina, which is on the ICW and the Inner Banks of North Carolina, a parallel route to the Great Dismal Swamp, just a few miles south of the Virginia border.

Captain Enzo at the helm with his morning coffee.

I confess I didn't mind stopping there in any event, as that marina has some of the best fried chicken we've had in the South, second only to that at The Glass Onion in Charleston. Our prospective buyer met us there just moments after we docked around 4:30 pm after a very long, windy, and choppy sail across the Albemarle Sound. He spent about three hours visiting with us and checking Thalia out from stem to stern. We were hungry and tired, but obviously interested in the idea of being able to sell our boat so quickly.

An offer did come in a few days later, but unfortunately fell through after we countered it. We still don't know what the reason was; the broker only said his client (who has been looking at many boats over a long period of time) got cold feet. In a way, we were relieved - the thought of being homeless quite that quickly was somewhat intimidating. Still, it was disappointing; we couldn't help but get our hopes up for a relatively painless process - and we really liked the prospective buyer. He is an engineer and would likely have taken great care of Thalia.

Norfolk and Portsmouth
That last leg of the southern Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), from Coinjock up to Norfolk, is a notoriously long and difficult day, with 43 miles to cover and literally nowhere to stop until Norfolk. Although the ICW shoaling in that area is relatively minor, the bridges are quite a challenge. All told, we navigated through 11 bridges that day. Three of them were navigational, meaning we could motor right under them because the vertical clearance was at least 64 feet. Eight were either bascule, swing, or lift bridges. Each of these has its own set of rules as to when it will open. Just a few are on demand. Some are on the hour only, some on the hour and half hour, and several won't open at all during morning or afternoon commute hours. Oh, and there's also a lock in the middle of all of this, which you have to hit on the hour along with up to a dozen other boats.

So we left at 0600, doing our best to carefully time each bridge to make sure we didn't have significantly long delays during what would already be a very long day. This was our third or fourth trip on this stretch of the ICW, so we knew what to expect and made good time until mid-afternoon. At that point, we were north of all the bridges we had to clear before the rush hour closures, so we thought we were home free.

A doe and fawn watch us pass by in the ICW as we head north from Coinjock.

What we didn't know is that both railroad bridges north of us were closed. They're both very tall lift bridges (more than 100 feet vertical clearance) that are normally in the open position, unless a train is coming or work is being done, both of which we encountered that day. The train at the Norfolk Southern #7 Railroad Bridge took about half an hour to clear, during which we turned our boat back south and just idled in the current to wait it out. The last bridge before Norfolk, the Belt Line RR Lift Bridge, was closed and covered with construction vehicles (nothing on the VHF radio about this). We hailed the bridge tender, and were told to wait about 45 minutes until a scheduled opening for a southbound tanker. So of course we did, taking turns to hold Thalia as best we could in the strong current and cross wind. Eventually the bridge opened for the massive tanker upstream, and we darted through before he got there, squeezing by and then making our way to the anchorage at Hospital Point in Portsmouth, right across from the downtown Norfolk waterfront.

A 1,000 foot tanker and the Belt Line RR Bridge, as seen from our stern as we continued north.

We spent three nights there, arriving Thursday and departing Sunday morning, so we could rest up, check off a few more projects from our very long list, and do some shopping at the Saturday farmers market in Portsmouth. Happily - and unbeknownst to us prior to arriving - the 27th annual waterfront Bayou Boogaloo Festival was on in Norfolk that entire weekend, with back-to-back New Orleans music concerts. We were perfectly situated to hear the concerts, without having to fight the crowds or even buy tickets. Who knew?!? That's the kind of perk we will no doubt miss in the future.

The Bayou Boogaloo Festival entertained us our entire stay in Norfolk.

The Chesapeake
Underway again Sunday morning, we sailed north over the next week in a series of short hops up the western shore of the Chesapeake. We especially love the bay for its myriad and picturesque inlets, coves, and creeks, affording hundreds of opportunities to anchor out. In one particularly lovely anchorage near Matthew, MD, a pair of kayakers paddled up, calling out, "You're a long way from home," the typical comment we get when people see Portland, OR painted on our stern. They pointed out a lovely piece of waterfront property nearby with an old grist mill, telling us that John Lennon and Yoko Ono were in the process of buying it to turn the mill into a recording studio when Lennon was assassinated. A surprising bit of more recent trivia to add to the Civil War, Revolutionary War, and even earlier history we see everywhere in this part of the country.

We arrived at long last in Annapolis on July 1. For a while we (naively) thought we might just anchor out on Back Creek, as we have several times in the past. But then we realized the logistics of anyone coming to see our boat would be daunting, so we ended up right back where we found Thalia in the first place, in the Bert Jabin Yacht Yard. It's expensive - everything is in Annapolis - but worth it to be docked in such a nice setting, with an air conditioned lounge, bath house, and laundry facility just steps from our berth.

Thalia's lovely teak salon, above, and the Pullman berth in the master cabin, below.

I also located a great physical therapist here in town, and went in yesterday to start a series of sessions to help treat a rotator cuff issue that has been causing me considerable pain in recent months. This is the first time we've actually been able to plan ahead for something like this, knowing we'll likely be in town at least a few more months. That has been a big frustration while living the peripatetic life of a sailor, never knowing when we'd be somewhere, and not being able to schedule even something as simple as a haircut, let along a series of doctor visits.

That's the good news... the bad news is that it has been very, very hot and humid here, with occasional thunderstorms but mostly just heat. Wednesday the heat index was 105º. Yesterday was a bit less humid, but still very hot, as today promises to be. Thalia, like many old sailboats, has no air conditioning. We've gotten pretty used to heat, but it's definitely worse when you're up a creek, so to speak, and at a marina rather than out in open water with cool breezes.

And then there's the emotional challenge of being in limbo right now. We don't know how long we'll be here - it could be weeks, or even months. The boat may sell very quickly, or she may not. As with a house, we have to keep her spotlessly clean so she's at her best, which is difficult to do when living in such a very small space to begin with. Any project on a boat creates a very big mess, typically.

I've always struggled with being in limbo. I know it's all part of what I'm meant to learn from this entire experience: to slow down, let go of schedules and time-bound expectations, and to learn to enjoy the moment rather than be thinking ahead and planning so much. But it's not an easy lesson to learn, and this particular one feels like a midterm exam.

In any event, Annapolis is a very lovely city. We've already figured out dinghy, biking, and walking routes to downtown, the farmers markets, and a few good cafés. We've also learned some of the bus routes and are finding our way to more far-flung places that way (bonus: the buses are air conditioned!). We're near our kids, several of whom have already visited for a dinner onboard, and we're in one of the best places on the East Coast to buy or sell a yacht. So there is much to explore, enjoy, and be thankful for. And once we get a few more items checked off that to-do list, we'll start renting cars every few weeks to explore nearby states and consider where we'll be moving next. Stay tuned!

The E Coast Shuffle

14 June 2016 | Charlottlesville, VA
Caroline / 72º, sunny
Apologies to anyone who might have been wondering if we dropped off the planet in the last couple of months. Not quite. But since our departure from Saint Petersburg was, sadly, delayed a couple of weeks by Al's passing and our unplanned trip to California, we once again found ourselves under pressure to move on as quickly as possible. We had many hundreds of miles to retrace to travel back down the Gulf Coast of Florida, around the Keys, and all the way back up to the Pamlico Sound in North Carolina by June 1 for a planned haulout and repainting of Thalia's hull.

Nearly two months may sound like a long time to cover that much ground - er, water - but in fact, it was barely sufficient. Thalia normally travels about 50 miles a day, if we're not really pushing it and the weather is right. The good news was, days were already long and getting longer, so we could log more miles on most days and still be able to drop anchor before dark. The bad news was, our hull had gotten pretty seriously covered in barnacles after a winter in Florida waters. We kept meaning to dive in and scrape them off, but it's kind of an awful job and we knew we'd be hauling her out so soon... so we sort of blew it off.

Ugh... in just seven months' time, our hull was really crusty with barnacles.

Those barnacles slowed us down quite a bit. Where we might normally make 5+ knots at a leisurely pace, we were doing closer to 4. When we were able to motor along with one or two sails out as well, we did better, but that wasn't always an option. And any current against us slowed us down even more. So our progress was slower than normal.

Weather, however, was generally pretty favorable, and we managed to avoid any significant issues over most of our trek. Once we made it all the way back down the Gulf Coast, we spent several days in Marathon on a mooring ball in Boot Key Harbor, provisioning and waiting in vain for the prevailing east wind to clock around to a better direction for heading out and up toward Key Largo. No such luck, but we finally made a dash for it on a day with enough south in the wind to be able to motor-sail with just our mainsail up and the wind about 40-50º off our nose. We did a short run (7 1/2 hours) up to Lower Matecumbe Key the first day, anchoring out on a Saturday night among a group of extremely noisy party boats, and then departed at first light on Sunday to make a very long run up to Biscayne Bay (74 miles in 14 1/2 hours). We arrived well after dark but, as we know the area and it's quite open, weren't concerned about anchoring there in the dark.

A local paddleboarder out to watch the airshow with his dogs in Middle River.

The Keys and Fort Lauderdale
After a couple of nights in Biscayne Bay, we hopped up to Fort Lauderdale, dropping anchor once again in Middle River (for the last time, as Florida is closing that and many other anchorages to recreational boats in a few weeks). We thought we'd only stay a few days, but ended up there nearly a week. One issue was that Murphy's Wind Law kicked in, and the wind blew steadily from the north that entire week. You do NOT want to head up the Gulf Stream, which flows very strongly north, when there's any northerly component in the wind. So we waited. Then we found out that the Air and Sea Show was going to be happening that weekend, and we had front row seats in our little anchorage in the middle of the city. We also heard there would be nearly a thousand boats anchored out or zooming around just off the beach for the show, and we figured that weekend would be a really terrible time to be navigating those waters.

While there, we were able to connect with our friend Lyza, spending a day shopping at local farmers markets and prepping for a dinner party we did at her house for a delightful group of her friends. On the menu was a chopped salad with local tomatoes, avocados, greens, and sweet corn; pan-seared halibut filets in spring roll wrappers with chimichurri sauce, and roasted asparagus with a balsamic drizzle. Oh, and an awful lot of really good wine that our new friends contributed to the feast.

Recovering from that party Sunday, we spent a lazy day watching planes do aerobatics and truly impressive flight formations.

A few shots from the Air and Sea Show, as seen from Thalia's vantagepoint in the Middle River.

Heading North to South Carolina
Monday morning's departure from Fort Lauderdale was delayed by a temporary shutdown of the Port Everglades harbor to allow a Naval destroyer and then an aircraft carrier to exit the harbor (they'd been in town and on display for the Air and Sea Show).

We were at this point growing concerned about how little time we had left until our firm June 1 rendezvous. Although we still had several weeks, we had to assume there would be weather delays along the way. Also, our intention was to travel "outside" in the Atlantic as much as possible rather than slogging up the ICW. In the right weather, it's easier and less stressful than dealing with all those bridges, boat traffic, and frequent shoaling issues. But outside travel requires the right wind conditions, as well as safe harbors we could enter as needed so we could avoid doing any more all-night passages.

Each day on our way north, we arose by first light, made breakfast and coffee underway, and used whatever combination of sails and engine power we needed to make as much progress as we could during the daylight hours.

Here's what the trek from Fort Lauderdale up to Charleston looked like:

Fort Lauderdale to Lake Worth, 10 1/2 hours outside

Lake Worth to Fort Pierce, 9 1/2 hours outside

Fort Pierce to Georgianna Beach, 10 1/2 hours outside

Decorative mosaic bridge pilings in the ICW near Titusville.

Georgianna Beach to Daytona Beach, 12 hours inside due to winds clocking to the north. No time to stop in Titusville to see our friends Perry and Irene, or Bob and Connie, as we had hoped. At this point, we were stuck inside on the ICW until St. Augustine, as we had no inlets deep enough for us to exit into the ocean.

Daytona Beach to St. Augustine, 9 1/2 hours inside, arriving at 4:25 pm just as the mother of all thunderstorms hit. The Bridge of Lions did its 4:30 opening for us under emergency power (a lightning strike had taken out a transformer), which meant it could only lift one span at a time. We had a very strong current pushing us toward the bridge, the winds were in the 30s, we were nearly blinded by the rain, and the thunder was deafeningly loud. Once we'd groped our way through the bridge, we had to circle around another 15 minutes in the blinding rain, as we couldn't even see our ball in the mooring field. Then, just as suddenly, the heavens cleared, and there was our mooring ball, not more than 100 yards in front of us.

We stayed two nights in St. Augustine, dividing and conquering on Sunday: Larry took me and my bike ashore in the dinghy and I rode across the bridge and up the road to replenish our desperately low food supplies, riding back with about 60 pounds of provisions on my back and hanging off my handlebars. Meanwhile, Larry changed the oil in our diesel engine, and did other needed engine maintenance tasks.

St. Augustine to Fernandina Beach at the northern border of Florida, 12 hours inside. Still no luck on the wind, so we stuck to the ICW. Our autopilot was by now starting to act up, just quitting at random times throughout the day. We'd restart it and it would run fine for a few minutes or sometimes a few hours, then crap out again. Hand steering a boat is, of course, considerably more tiring than letting Otto take the helm. This was a problem that slowly worsened the entire trip up to North Carolina.

A brown pelican using one of the ICW markers as a vantage point for his fishing forays.

Fernandina Beach to Sappelo Sound, GA, 13 hours outside. Finally we exited Florida! This was starting to feel like real progress. Slow, but real.


Sappelo Sound to Bluffton, SC, 10 1/2 hours outside. The perfect morning weather slowly deteriorated throughout the day, culminating in another huge soaking rainstorm that hit as we made our way into Calibogue Sound, passing Hilton Head Island on our way up to the May River and Bluffton. Although the lightning action was minimal this time, the rain was so intense that we couldn't see at all. While Larry steered and kept an eye on the radar, I sat on the starboard side of the boat, out in the rain, peering ahead to try to see any other traffic in the channel. Everyone other than a few crazy outbound shrimpers and ourselves, however, had the good sense to stay home.

We stayed in Bluffton two nights, as this was one of the towns on our short list, and we wanted to check it out. The weather cleared Wednesday night, and we took our bikes ashore Thursday morning to spend the day exploring the area.

Bluffton is a charming town, growing painfully fast but still holding onto its small-town charm and hospitality. We experienced this first-hand when, on our way to the local butcher shop, one of my bike tires went flat. We walked the rest of the way and, when paying for our purchases, I asked Adam, the third-generation owner of the shop, if there's a bike shop in town. He told us it's less than two miles up the road and gave us directions. OK, we said to each other, we'll just have a bit of a hike, at least in one direction. When he overheard that, Adam said, "Wait, you're not walking there, are you? It's hot out! I didn't know you had a flat tire. Hang on a minute." And he left the shop in an employee's hands, loaded our bikes in the back of his truck, and drove us up there, regaling us the entire way with stories of growing up in the town.

That, my friends, is not something you see very often in today's world. Score one for the small Southern town.

A shrimp boat returning with his haul in the North Edisto River attracted quite a bit of attention from local seabirds.

From Bluffton, we headed back outside one more time for 13 1/2 hours to reach Bohicket Creek, off the North Edisto River. This anchorage is just south of Charleston, and is located right near the Lotus Wellness Center on Seabrook Island, where I had an eagerly awaited appointment with my chiropractor and massage therapist to try to help me with some shoulder pain I've been having.

At some point on our way up there, it occurred to us we could just stay in Bohicket Creek, a serene and lovely anchorage, rather than in Charleston at one of the expensive marinas. We called the Bohicket Marina and asked if we could pay them a daily fee to use their dock for shore access for our dinghy. Answer: no charge at all, as long as you don't leave it there overnight. Nice! Then we contacted Enterprise to arrange a rental car for our visit. They charged us a whopping $9.95 a day and drove 45 minutes down to pick us up and take us back to their office.

We spent five restorative nights there, exploring nearby Johns Island, running errands, attending the Saturday farmers market in downtown Charleston, driving around various neighborhoods in the area to get a feel for the housing market, and of course, eating like kings.

One of our favorite treats in Charleston is the shrimp po' boy at The Glass Onion.

The Last Leg
When we finally left the Bohicket anchorage, we stopped at the marina to purchase fuel, pump out our holding tank, and refill our water tanks. Then, feeling somewhat restored after our very long two-month journey, we headed north once again. It took us six more long days to get to Morehead City, within half a day of our boatyard at Wayfarer's Cove. All of that time was spent traveling up the ICW through some really gorgeous territory, including the serene Cypress Swamp.

Some images from the Cypress Swamp: a huge alligator, a pair of local fishermen enjoying a peaceful early morning, and a row of turtles soaking up the sun.

Somehow in all that time in Charleston we didn't manage to provision well, so by the time we got to Morehead City seven days later, we were out of milk, eggs, coffee, bread, meat, and vegetables. Our last meal before docking in Morehead City was corn tortillas I made and filled with a mixture of canned black beans, canned chicken, and grated cheese. (The tortillas were good, at least, but not my proudest culinary moment.) We did an exhausting post-sail bike ride to re-provision that evening, stowed the groceries, and took ourselves out for a waterfront seafood dinner. And the next morning, we were off again, but it was only a half day of travel.

Morning and evening at Awendaw Creek north of Charleston, one of our all-time favorite anchorages on the ICW.

We actually ended up arriving on May 30, a few days ahead of schedule, and docked poor, crusty Thalia in the travel lift at Wayfarer's Cove.

They hauled us out the next morning, at which point I headed to New Bern to pick up a rental car while Larry removed our autopilot and coordinated with the various folks scheduled to repaint Thalia's hull, and clean up the boat's prop and shaft. And the very next day, after a few hours scraping barnacles, we were on the road again, on our way to Baltimore for a two-week break from the boat.

Family Time
Truthfully, the most important reason we were in such a hurry to get to Baltimore wasn't so much our appointment for the hull painting. It was to see our brand new grandson Max, born May 3. He was exactly five weeks old when we arrived in early June. Our timing was pretty good, too, as my son Mike had just returned to work to teach his last couple of weeks of the school year.

Little Max and his adoring grandmother enjoyed a solid week of bonding, and are looking forward to more time together.

We were able to help Meghan out by holding Max so she could get a few things done and get some rest (no problem for me! I loved every minute of it). While there, we also cooked meals, walked the dog, and did some home repair projects. During the week we visited, Max grew visibly (he was 8 pounds at birth and now weighs in at 11 1/2 pounds), and started smiling and noticeably interacting with us. He's slowly moving toward a more humane nighttime schedule, a huge relief for his parents. As for me, I am smitten, and cannot wait to see him again in a few weeks when we drop anchor in Annapolis.

Once we left Baltimore, we visited daughters Kristen and Kelli briefly, spending this past weekend with them before hitting the road again back to North Carolina. We stopped in lovely Charlottesville, VA for a day and night on our way down, which is where we are now. Charlottesville is also one of the cities we're considering moving to when we wrap up this adventure. It's within two hours of our kids' homes, and is our kind of place.

Swallowing the Anchor
And speaking of that, we have finally gotten to the point where we're ready to wrap up our liveaboard sailing adventure. Part of the reason is certainly the appeal of being a part of young Max's life. Having three of our five grown kids - plus two spouses - around is certainly a draw as well.

But really, the most important realization was one that dawned on us slowly: after more than 10,000 miles and nearly three years of nonstop travel, we're tired of moving so much, and ready to put down some roots. Much as we love our beautiful Thalia and the freedom of our life aboard, we miss some of the continuity of life on land, including having a garden and a dog. Hence our interest in all these wonderful cities and towns we've visited, from St. Petersburg to the eastern shore of the Chesapeake.

We haven't yet decided where we'll land, but we're enjoying exploring that and will continue to do so this summer. Our next steps are to move Thalia from Wayfarer's Cove up to Annapolis, where we'll list her for sale with our friends and yacht brokers Stephen and Estelle. We'll put her on the market shortly, and will stay onboard as long as we need to - all summer and into the fall - in Annapolis, until we sell her to the next lucky blue water adventurers.

La Florida - Part 2: Gulf Coast

03 April 2016 | Saint Petersburg, Florida
Caroline / 75º, partly cloudy, winds NNE 20kts
Growing up on the west coast as we both did - not to mention raising our families in Oregon - we somehow both feel a little more at home on this side of Florida than the Atlantic coast. To us, it's a little weird (even after more than two years on or near the Atlantic) to seek the sun rising over the ocean rather than setting.

Threading our way south and then westward once we passed Key Largo, we were hoping to stop in Marathon, where we had spent more than five weeks last winter and where several friends are wintering. Unfortunately, though, this year's El Niño weather has resulted in a larger than usual crowd there. Every time we called the marina or friends for an update, we heard there were at least 30 - and often more than 50 - boats waiting for a mooring ball. The thought of dozens of boats crammed into Boot Key Harbor - a pretty tight anchorage to begin with - gave us the shivers.

So instead, we sailed up through the Channel Five Bridge near Fiesta Key into Florida Bay, the body of water that separates the Everglades from the Keys. After spending one night at anchor just inside the bridge, we crept across the very shallow bay the entire next day. The water there is only about seven feet deep, which is always unnerving with a six foot draft. Even worse, though, the sea grass there was so thick and grew so high that our fish finder display was showing just over five feet and the depth alarm was sounding repeatedly. Larry finally had to turn that off so I wouldn't have a nervous breakdown. We basically dragged our keel through that grass for miles and miles, finally figuring out that by throwing out our genoa, Thalia would heel just enough to reduce the drag and allow us to skim along.

The Everglades
It was a relief to finally round the southwestern corner of Everglades National Park and spill out into the Gulf of Mexico. Our first surprise was how green the water is in the Gulf - quite different than what we'd seen before in Florida waters. It's not quite as clear as the Keys, and is a vibrant jade green. Even a few miles from shore in that area, it's only eight or nine feet deep, still shallow but a much more comfortable depth for us.

Our first Gulf Coast destination was the Little Shark River in the Everglades, where we entertained ourselves watching a vast array of avian friends. We saw no one but several sailboats, plus a few fishing boats running in and out the river. There were no roads, no lights, and no cellular coverage whatsoever. It reminded me a bit of Glacier Bay in Alaska, which is also a delightful step back in time.

A glorious sunset at pristine Panther Key in Everglades National Park.

The next morning we sailed up to anchor for two nights at Panther Key, another uninhabited island. During the day, we walked on one of the key's narrow beaches, bordered by an impenetrable thicket of mangrove trees with their primordial air roots reaching down into the salt water to form skeletal teepees all along the shore. There were very few people: again a few sailboats and fishing boats, as well as a trio of campers who had kayaked for miles down the river to get there.

While it was nice not to have modern life intruding for a few days, we eventually realized this also meant it was impossible to access GRIB files or other weather data on our iPad to determine when exactly to continue north. The Gulf of Mexico has a reputation for being unpredictable and at times extremely uncomfortable, and this year has been a poster child for crazy weather. However, we did have older GRIB files and the generalized weather reports on the VHF radio, so we moved on and had a comfortable sail up to our next destination and our first taste of civilization on the Gulf coast.

Marco Island
We spent two nights anchored in Factory Bay at Marco Island, a small but very comfortable anchorage. Our one day there, we walked around town, getting haircuts, enjoying lunch and later ice cream, and buying a few provisions at a supermarket. The town was nice enough, but very much like many others we've seen in the Keys: a busy four lane highway runs right through town, with businesses on either side. After just one day, we were ready to move on to Naples, wanting to leave ourselves more than enough time to arrive before my sister Rebecca's planned visit.

Several years ago, when we finished our advanced sailing certification in Fort Lauderdale, we drove across the state to see Naples, a city we'd heard much about from friends Lucia and Bob, who own a vacation home there, and my Mom and Al, who enjoyed visiting there. Rebecca's sister-in-law Terri and husband Michael also own a condo there and were in town, so we booked a week, spending a few nights in the mooring field and then moving to the municipal marina for the four nights of Rebecca's visit. Naples, an extremely wealthy community, isn't exactly friendly to transient boaters, with a shifting, shoaling entrance, no anchorages whatsoever, and a strict four-night limit for either the mooring balls or the marina.

Sister Rebecca and me had a wonderful time catching up in Naples.

It's quite a large city, very clean, with many restaurants and great boutique shopping for those so inclined. The neighborhoods are extremely charming and walkable in the downtown area, which then spills out along the Tamiami Highway into large areas of strip malls and big box stores. Since Rebecca had rented a car, we were able to cover more ground than we normally do, including driving up to Sanibel and Captiva Islands, where she and I had spent some time vacationing with our family many years ago. On this day trip we walked through the J. K. "Ding" Darling Nature Preserve, did some de rigueur shelling on a beach (the gorgeous beaches on both islands are graced with billions and billions of shells), and had a superb grouper dinner at Captiva's Key Lime Café.

This white ibis fishing at "Ding" Darling Nature Preserve was one of thousands of birds we saw.

Fort Meyers Beach
Once Rebecca left town after her too-brief visit, we took off north toward Fort Meyers Beach, which has a large and very reasonably priced mooring field. The town is just east of Sanibel Island, where the Caloosahatchee River empties into the Gulf. We'd heard reports of some pretty foul water having made its way down the river right about the time we arrived, due to a release of water polluted by agricultural chemicals and fertilizer from the huge sugarcane plantations surrounding Lake Okeechobee. Heavy rains had flooded the fields, whose polluted runoff was then pumped into the Lake, causing it to rise to levels that threatened the dikes. So the Army Corps of Engineers felt they had to release the water, which was threatening the integrity of the dikes. The massive release then made its way east to the Atlantic out the Saint Lucie River, and west to the Gulf out the Caloosahatchee. As we neared the Fort Meyers Beach shoreline, the water changed dramatically from its usual jade green to a more viscous brown like you'd see in a mud puddle. A very, very large mud puddle. We assume the Clean Water Act simply does not apply here.

Polluted waters from the Okeechobee runoff lap up at Fort Meyers Beach.

So we were a little uneasy about being there right then, but booked a week in the mooring field anyway, as we were overdue for some boat projects. Turns out the town was also inundated in another way: spring breakers were everywhere, and Fort Meyers Beach is very much the kind of place spring breakers love. It has a huge bar, restaurant, and gift shop scene, not to mention a very nice beach that unfortunately at that time was temporarily awash in extremely polluted water. I was a little shocked to see anyone wading in that surf at all.

We did enjoy our stay, though, and made significant progress on several projects, including building a new charcoal filter for the holding tank, adding several coats of varnish to the exterior trim of the boat, and cleaning and polishing all the stainless.

Another highlight of that visit was reconnecting with our friends Gary and Jana, whom we had met and become very fond of during our stay in the northern Chesapeake last fall while waiting for Hurricane Joaquin. They were not onboard their lovely boat Mañana while we were in Fort Meyers Beach, but instead were staying with Jana's mom. We picked them up in our dinghy and had them onboard for dinner and a wonderful evening of catching up with each other.

Sanibel Island
As we headed north toward a long-awaited rendezvous with our friend Barbie in Sarasota, we realized as we neared Sanibel Island that it would be simple enough to anchor out right off one of the beaches there, with their tempting treasure troves of shells. So we did, taking our dinghy ashore that afternoon for one beach walk and then again quite early in the morning for another. The morning shelling walk was the best, with a gorgeous sunrise, very few other beachcombers, and a significant haul of colorful shells. And fortunately, the Okeechobee runoff had not yet ventured that far out.

Leaving our Sanibel anchorage, we rounded the north end of Captiva Island and entered the Intra-Coastal Waterway (ICW) through the Charlotte Harbor Inlet. This was our first experience with the Gulf Coast ICW, which we avoid in many areas due to various hazards like shallow water and bridges that are just a bit too short for us to clear. However, this stretch was quite pleasant, other than having to pace ourselves over two days to get through quite a few bascule and swing bridges. We saw almost no other sailboats on this stretch, which is dominated by fishing and speed boats, as well as pontoon boat excursion rentals. The last stretch of this, past Venice, was quite narrow. We had a lot of gawkers pointing at us as we motored past the condos tightly packed along the canal. "Oregon! They're a long way from home!"

The Sarasota Bay finally opened up before us, and we were surprised and pleased with how lovely it is. All of a sudden we were back in that pretty pale turquoise water we associate with Florida, with beautiful homes lining the bay and a majestic bridge and city skyline looming just north of us.

Barbie at the helm of Thalia on a glorious day sail around Sarasota Bay.

The mooring field there at Marina Jack's is spacious and extremely well run. We never once used their facilities the week we were there, however, because Barbie picked us up at the dinghy dock shortly after we arrived and whisked us back to her lovely new home about half an hour northeast of downtown Sarasota.

Our first ever polo match was quite exciting to watch!

Of course I was absolutely rivited by the Clydesdale team, which I followed around the field during a break in the game.

We were then treated to an extraordinarily restful week of great food, wine, music, and conversation. We watched a polo match with Barbie's friend Beverly while enjoying an elegant picnic with VIP seating. Barbie and I had a girls' day shopping and lunching on my birthday, while poor Enzo finished our taxes back home. We all spent a lazy afternoon swimming in the pool and hanging out at the jacuzzi. We visited the fabulous Ringling Bros. museum. We had a great evening of beer and appetizers and really good live music with several other friends on St. Patrick's Day. And Barbie drove us to Whole Foods on our last day so we could re-provision before moving on. Sarasota is a lovely city and we really had a delightful time.

Wonderfully funky wall art outside a bar and café in Bradenton Beach.

Gulfport and Saint Petersburg
Continuing on up the ICW, we finally arrived at our furthest-north destinations, first spending several nights anchored at the sweet, funky little town of Gulfport, and then sailing up Tampa Bay's west side to Saint Petersburg, where we are now moored.

View from Thalia's mooring in the basin at Saint Petersburg, with the majestic Vinoy Renaissance Hotel rising in the background.

We couldn't believe it: what a beautiful city this is! While both Naples and Sarasota are very nice, St. Pete really stole our hearts. The entire waterfront is a huge public park of green space and beaches that stretches for miles. Tropicana Field and the Dali museum are clearly visible, the latter looking like a melting glass geodesic dome wedged between two enormous concrete blocks. Huge banyan, kapok, live oak, and palm trees grace the lawns of the city park, along with an extensive network of sidewalks wide enough to accommodate bikers, walkers, dogs, and Segway riders. The tiny harbor where we're moored is surrounded by parks, with the lovely historic pink Vinoy Renaissance Hotel looming over the north side. High rise condos, office buildings, and the many beautiful homes are all back several blocks from the public waterfront.

A peek of the Saint Petersburg harbor from the interior of the atrium at the Dali Museum.

Captain Enzo showing off his new haircut outside the terrific old-time barbershop he found in town.

We enjoyed several days here, wandering around the city, visiting the Dali museum and the farmers market, and taking long bike rides to explore downtown. We had a wonderful and very reasonable dinner at Mexican restaurant Red Mesa. And then we decided we'd better start heading south again, given that we need to get all the way back around the state and then head up to North Carolina by June 1 for a rendezvous with the yard where Thalia's hull is to be repainted.

The City regularly prunes the air roots of these monstrous banyan trees, which we overheard a tour guide say would eventually otherwise grow to the size of a football field.

A Sad Turn of Events
We had only made it one day south and were anchored out, planning our next day's travel, when the call came from my brother and sister that our beloved Al Haussener - Mom's full time companion and our virtual stepdad - had had a massive cerebral hemorrhage and was not expected to live. What followed was a pretty horrible - and sleepless - night, communicating as I could with my siblings, both of whom were driving from opposite ends of California to get to the San Francisco hospital where my Mom sat vigil at Al's bedside. Larry and I also managed to track down Al's son Mark, who was aboard Blue Star in a remote spot in the Virgin Islands, and who then had to scramble to try to get home.

Nancy and "Albear," as we knew him, during our trip together to Kingston, Ontario.

The call that Al had passed away came in the middle of the night. We had slept a few hours but both awoke about 1:10 am. Five minutes later, Dan and Rebecca called to let us know Al was gone. Our hearts broke. As I wrote in a Facebook post a few days later, Al was the closest thing Larry and I had to a father since our own Dads passed away. He was wise, compassionate, witty, deeply caring, and more full of intellectual curiosity than anyone I've ever known. We are deeply saddened.

Because of this turn of events, we decided to return to Saint Petersburg so we could leave Thalia in a safe harbor to fly home to be with Mom. We're back on a mooring ball now, moving to the marina Monday to secure Thalia, and then flying out Tuesday early morning to spend ten days in Tiburon with Mom. Once we return on the 15th, we'll restart our voyage south with heavier hearts.

Sunrise this morning in St. Pete was all the more glorious after a stormy day yesterday.

I do believe we'll be back here. Saint Petersburg has even made the short list of cities we're considering moving to when we wrap up our travels. We really like the city's vibe, its size, its energy. Another thing that just feels right about Saint Petersburg is that even though we can watch the sun rise over Tampa Bay, we can also see it set to the west. And to a small degree, that makes us feel a bit more at home.

La Florida - Part 1: East Coast

15 February 2016 | Key Biscayne, Florida
Caroline / 71º, overcast, winds 20+ knots ESE
The weather patterns in 2016 have made it a challenging year so far for sailors. To us west coasters, the idea that El Niño would have more apparent impact over here than in California or Oregon seems crazy. But impact us it has, resulting in much cooler than normal temperatures, complete with cold fronts coming through about every six days. The normal steady easterly trade winds are nowhere in sight, and rapidly shifting winds conditions have made it difficult to plan passages. We heard that Boot Key Harbor down in Marathon (near Key West) has a record number of boats - as many as 49 - waiting for mooring balls as the several hundred remain occupied with sailors who've decided to stay put until conditions change.

For our own part, the uncertainty has caused us to slow things down, and to decide against making the 700 mile trek next month over to New Orleans from the gulf coast. Instead, we plan to spend our spring exploring Florida's west side. Right now we're in Biscayne Bay, heading further south tomorrow (weather permitting, of course!). This seems like the perfect time to recap our experiences on the east side of this state, where we've now been cruising nearly six weeks.

St. Augustine

The lovely St. Augustine waterfront, as seen from our mooring aboard Thalia.

We had originally intended to spend Christmas in this lovely city - the oldest in the United States and one of our favorite destinations - but didn't end up arriving until January 8. As with most things, once we let go of our disappointment over thwarted plans, it turned out just fine. Ironically, my concern over having missed the gorgeous Christmas lights was unfounded - we had a front row seat from our mooring ball just off the city wall, minus the Christmas crowds in the city.

Thalia peacefully moored in St. Augustine harbor.

Following the sailor's Murphy's Law, we no sooner arrived than our dinghy outboard's carburetor died, causing Captain Enzo to spend a couple of frustrating days attempting to repair it and ultimately having to order a new one. We felt very lucky the marina provided a free launch for the mooring field, allowing us to go ashore. For $5, there's also a convenient shuttle van for cruisers, run by a very gregarious woman named Sandy. She cheerfully drove a van full of folks to two grocery stores, a fish market, a produce market, West Marine, the Sailor's Exchange (a funky emporium of used boat accessories, tools, etc.), and a wonderful food cart.

A view of part of the harbor from the top of the Castillo de San Marcos fortress.

In addition to provisioning and repairing the outboard, we spent our eight days there walking and riding bikes all over town, exploring the 17th century Castillo de San Marcos, touring the Whetstone Chocolate Factory, and visiting the Lightner Museum in the gorgeous historic Alcazar Hotel (shown above). We also caught up with cruising friends Candace and Kenny, who were enroute to Marathon, and Diane and Bob, who like us were heading further south to try to escape the very chilly weather.

Best of all, on our last night there, we were able to connect with Dan, an old Marin friend and the younger brother of one of my closest friends. I hadn't seen him since Ilana and I graduated from high school - nearly 40 years ago! He's living in St. Augustine and working in Jacksonville. We dined at a local Cuban café and caught up on decades of life.

We spent a couple of nights moored outside of Titusville so we could connect with old friends Bob and Connie, who live there, as well as Perry and Irene, friends we met in Bimini last year who were getting some boat work done before heading back to the Bahamas.

Setting out the next morning, we stayed in the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) rather than exiting the inlet at St. Augustine, due to very rough conditions in the ocean. It was plenty windy and quite cold (in the low 40s) even "inside" as we motored south toward Daytona Beach. We had the considerable current with us as we and several other boats approached a bascule bridge in 30-plus knot winds. We hailed the bridge tender, who told us we'd have to wait 45 minutes or so for an opening so a bunch of marathon runners heading his way could clear the bridge. So the captain got to practice his boat idling skills in a narrow channel, with strong current pushing us toward the bridge, and winds now gusting to 40 knots. The sailboat crews were all delighted when that bridge finally opened and we could move on.

From our anchorage in Daytona Beach, we were able to coordinate meeting up with Oregon friends Libby and Joe, who have been spending the winter in central Florida with their RV and sailboat. We met for lunch, then took them back to Thalia in our dinghy so they could see her in person.

By this point we were starting to realize that we have a lot of friends in Florida, those who live here as well as those who pass through along with us.

Framed by mangroves, the Vero Beach mooring field at seen at sunset.

Vero Beach
Situated just north of Fort Pierce - our favorite channel to exit the ICW in heading down to Fort Lauderdale - is this charming seaside town. We'd never visited before, but had heard it referred to as "Velcro Beach" for its allure to cruisers, so we motored down in time to snag the last mooring ball in the crowded harbor. Most mooring balls had more than one boat on them - rafting up is mandatory here, to accommodate more boats. Perry and Irene arrived a couple of days later and rafted up to us, making it very convenient to continue the party.

The harbor may be crowded, but it's very picturesque and the facilities are wonderful. In addition to the usual cruiser's lounge, laundry room, and showers, there are several outdoor areas to congregate, and the free city bus stops right outside the lounge. We rode it one day to the local farmers market, which was disappointingly small and more oriented toward crafts than local produce. And we took the bus another time to run some errands. But otherwise, we rode our bikes - the marina is only a few miles from downtown, and it's more bike friendly than a lot of Florida towns.

Downtown Vero Beach is a shopper's paradise - Irene, who loves shopping and antiquing - was in heaven. Larry and I aren't shoppers, so there was not much of interest to us there. We did enjoy walking along the boardwalk that fronts the beach for about half a mile on the north end of town, but found when we cycled several miles further north that any views of the beach were almost completely blocked by high rise condos and the walls and hedges of luxury homes.

An individual Grand Marnier soufflé stood in for the Captain's birthday cake.

We celebrated Larry's 64th birthday onboard with a quiet dinner of homemade ricotta and prosciutto tortellini in tomato cream sauce, salad, and individual Grand Marnier soufflés.

Before we left we visited the local art museum, which is very small but had a couple of fascinating exhibits, one by painter Oscar Bluemner and the other a collection of American Roadside photos by painter and photographer John Bader. There's also a nice sculpture garden on the premises.

Fort Lauderdale
It was only 20 miles the next afternoon down to Fort Pierce, where we anchored overnight so we could leave at first light for Fort Lauderdale. Timing in Fort Pierce is important; the currents are extremely strong, and it's much easier to exit on an ebb tide if possible. We ended up having a really nice sailing day, still quite chilly but with good wind and pods of friendly dolphins to keep us company.

The clarity and the color of the water from this latitude south are indefinable, and almost as difficult to capture on film as are the many dolphins. But we keep trying!

Fort Lauderdale is starting to feel like a homecoming to us, given how many times we've sailed in and out of there. It's around here that the ocean water turns that unbelievable turquoise blue, and the weather (normally) is deliciously warm in winter. Even though we arrived on a Saturday afternoon, there was far less traffic in the harbor than usual, other than six (!) cruise ships docked there. This was probably because it had gotten quite windy by then, gusting into the 30s as we rounded the corner to wait for the 17th Avenue bridge opening.

In the past, we've always stayed on a mooring ball at the Las Olas Marina, but this time we took our friend Kenny's advice and motored past the Las Olas Bridge and up into a small anchorage in Middle River. We'd never considered staying there because the charts show depths of only three or four feet in the center of the anchorage. Kenny assured us it was closer to 20 feet, and he was absolutely right. Good thing, too, because there were no mooring balls in any event at Las Olas, and we got one of the last spots at the anchorage. Many boats were there longer than anticipated, again waiting for elusive weather windows for crossing to the Bahamas or heading down to the Keys.

It turned out to be a very social week indeed, with a visit from our good friend Curt, who lives in the DC area but was in Florida for some Naval Reserve training. Curt spent part of his childhood being homeschooled on a sailboat with his parents and brothers, cruising the waters of Hawaii and the South Pacific, so he's kind of the perfect guest to have onboard. He was kind enough to drive us to Whole Foods and West Marine for some provisioning, and then we had a wonderful meal at a local Greek restaurant.

While there, we also spent a couple of evenings with our dear friend Lyza, cooking dinner at her house one night and then going out for a movie and a casual dinner another night. Lyza, as it turns out, had an extra sewing machine she was thinking of getting rid of, as she'd bought a larger one. I was really excited when she gave it to me! It's compact and perfect for the boat, and will mean I don't have to do all my canvas and other repairs by hand.

And finally, we were able to connect with Stephen and Estelle, friends who were our first sailing instructors and are now yacht brokers with a focus on catamarans. They were our brokers when we bought Thalia, and we've remained close. We had brunch together, and considered ourselves lucky to be able to see them, with the big Miami boat show looming.

Other than as a departure point for Bahamas crossings, we'd never visited Miami. We sailed down from Fort Lauderdale about ten days ago to a new-to-us marina at Dinner Key in Coconut Grove. We tied up to a mooring ball, which seems to be the norm here in Florida if you want shore access. We didn't know what to expect of Miami, but it turns out, we had a wonderful time. And the weather finally started warming up, gifting us with several lovely, sunny days in the low 80s. The water here is so clear, when we get into our dinghy, we can see our boat's entire keel and rudder. The bottom of the bay is only about 7 or 8 feet deep.

When the Dinner Key Marina maintenance crews harvest the trees - to keep the coconuts from falling on people or cars - they leave them heaped in maintenance vehicles for anyone to take.

Coconut Grove is a suburb of Miami, a really cute town in its own right, with very nice parks and a lively restaurant scene. As we have no television on board, we were happy to be able to watch the Super Bowl in a local sports bar. The Miami boat show was also going on while we were there, and Stephen and Estelle got us free tickets. So on Friday, we took the water taxi across Biscayne Bay to the show and spent the day wandering around ogling a mind-boggling display of yachts and accessories on which one could spend a very large fortune.

The west side of Domino Park on Calle 8 in Little Havana is bordered by this long, colorful tile wall.

The highlight of our Miami visit was Saturday, when we took a city bus up to the famed Calle 8 (8th Street) in Little Havana to meet up with a small group for a culinary walking tour of the area. This was our third such tour - we've done them in Greenwich Village and in Fells Point in Baltimore - and it was wonderful.

A visit to an authentic Cuban cigar factory was part of our tour. Although the cigars are made here by several generations of a Cuban family, the tobacco - from Cuban seed - is grown in Central America and imported here.

It included stops to watch old Cuban men playing dominoes in the shade of black olive trees in Domino park, utterly delicious empanadas and "media de noche" (midnight) sandwiches at a traditional Cuban café, a visit to a tiny cigar factory, and an amazing mojito at the recently renovated Ball & Chain nightclub, where the likes of Billy Holiday, Louie Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Duke Ellington once played.

Exuberant colors and wonderfully funky signage reflect the personalities of the neighborhood.

Tiny, sweet, intensely strong Cuban coffee is a delicious pick-me-up, at only 75¢ a cup.

Arguably the best part of our tour was the wonderful mojito we were served while listening to live jazz music at the historic Ball & Chain club.

We're now anchored across Biscayne Bay on the east side, near No Name Harbor, waiting for the latest cold front (which isn't all that cold at all - just very windy and showery) to blow through. Tomorrow we'll head down to Key Largo for a couple of nights to do some provisioning, and then thread our way through the Keys toward the west coast of Florida. Neither of us has ever sailed there before beyond Marathon, so we're looking forward to new adventures, more visits with friends, and hoping to see a glimpse of Old Florida while it's still around.

Vessel Name: Thalia
Vessel Make/Model: Passport 40
Hailing Port: Portland, OR
Crew: Larry and Caroline Lewis
We retired from our urban organic gardening business in early 2013. We're both originally from California, where we grew up sailing and playing in the water. We have lived in Portland, Oregon the last few decades. [...]
I do not offer the old smooth prizes, but offer rough new prizes, These are the days that must happen to you: You shall not heap up what is called riches; You shall scatter with lavish hand all that you earn or achieve. However sweet the laid-up stores, however convenient the dwellings, you [...]
Thalia's Photos - Main
For our final blog post as owners of S/V Thalia...
16 Photos
Created 14 October 2016
13 Photos
Created 21 August 2016
Thalia's last leg of nearly 400 miles from North Carolina to Annapolis.
13 Photos
Created 8 July 2016
Travel back up around Florida to North Carolina, including visiting our new grandson Max in Baltimore.
17 Photos
Created 14 June 2016
From the wilderness of the Everglades to the beautiful city of Saint Petersburg...
20 Photos
Created 2 April 2016
From St. Augustine to Miami, our travels down the Florida coast in 2016.
21 Photos
Created 15 February 2016
From a boatyard in Oriental to the decked halls of Charleston mansions, December was an eventful month.
23 Photos
Created 27 December 2015
Travel around inland North Carolina and Thanksgiving in Baltimore.
8 Photos
Created 3 December 2015
We didn't take many photos - too busy trying to keep warm - but here's what we have from our trek up the Delaware and Sassafras rivers to Georgetown, MD to wait out Hurricane Joaquin.
6 Photos
Created 23 October 2015
18 Photos
Created 24 September 2015
We're spending most of the month of June wandering around this enormous and wonderful area, checking out all those little towns and creeks we've been told about. Here are some of our shots.
26 Photos
Created 14 June 2015
Scenes from Marsh Harbour - including diving shots - Hope Town, and Treasure Cay.
26 Photos
Created 9 May 2015
Travels to two of the more remote - and beautiful - Bahamian islands.
No Photos
Created 13 April 2015
Some of the cays we've visited in February and early March, 2015, from Bimini to the central Exumas.
24 Photos
Created 2 March 2015
Traveling from the lower Chesapeake Bay in Norfolk, VA out into the ocean and up to Nantucket.
17 Photos
Created 15 September 2014
Photos of our new mast as well as repairs to Thalia's decks and interior.
9 Photos
Created 19 August 2014
Three generations of a family enjoy a Baltimore tradition.
7 Photos
Created 28 July 2014
Travels from New York City up the Hudson River and through the Erie Canal, Oneida Lake and Oneida River to Lake Ontario.
32 Photos
Created 13 June 2014
A screenshot of our planned and actual routes, and a shot of Thalia with her sister, Sea Escape.
2 Photos
Created 10 May 2014
Impressions from a week spent in this lovely city.
20 Photos
Created 14 April 2014
Our impressions of this lovely city - with a focus on its architecture - as we explore it during our March/April 2014 visit. We added a few shots of the lovely blooming flowers as well as a bit of sailing to round things out.
33 Photos
Created 22 March 2014
Our first days onboard Thalia, including the first meal we cooked.
5 Photos
Created 10 February 2014
The first photos of our new boat, taken where we purchased her in Annapolis and then heading down to her temporary home in Oriental, NC.
7 Photos
Created 17 November 2013