'Til the butter melts

Pursuing the cruising dream in 32' of sailing ketch

Life’s little twists and turns

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Way back almost two years ago, I wrote This Blog about “a friend” who, on the eve of leaving for an extended and long planned Cruising sabbatical, learned that he might have prostate cancer. The spoiler of that post is that the “friend” was me, the story was autobiographical, and in the end, I didn’t have cancer.

But that experience galvanized both of us to LIVE life more, to DO things that mean something to us, to really step up our game, and not just coast through life, easy as that seems sometimes. I can’t say we’ve done that, 100% of the time, but we did sell out and go cruising, we have taken some chances and reaped some rewards we would otherwise have passed up, and we’re still working at it.

Part of that original post mentioned that there were four couples (including me & Nicki) all planning the same thing, and that part is absolutely true. All four couples departed in the fall of 2016, and one of them – like us – stored the boat south and went back to Maine for the summer. Like us, they returned to the boat in late fall, did a lot of work on it, and then launched for new adventures.

Unlike us, they’ve returned to Maine, because one of them has stage 4, Metastatic cancer.

That’s bad.

I cannot begin to know how that feels. I know that just the 30% chance of having a relatively treatable cancer was enough to rock me off my foundations, but for these dear friends, who face a very grave threat indeed? I can’t know.

We can weep, we can rail against the unfairness of it, we can pray, we can offer what help we have to give, but in the end, we’re powerless to effect the course they must track. A course that will, in all likelihood, never take them back to their boat, and the cruising they were just beginning to taste.

Sometimes life doesn’t wait for the timing to be perfect. Sometimes the end really is just around the corner. Sometimes the reaper really is just outside your door. I’m not saying be reckless (though some people will claim you are if you follow a dream they don’t understand), nor do I counsel going off without planning and knowledge. But I also know how easy it is to put off dreams, to accept virtual adventures and crappy reality shows as “good enough” substitutes for real-life experiences.

Don’t believe it. They’re not.

That thing you’ve always wanted to do? That trip you’ve planned, the date you’ve never asked for or the skill you’ve never taken the time to learn?

Do it. Do it now. There are no valid excuses anymore.”


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The changing of the plans… Again.

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Marathon’s Boot Key Harbor is a generally lovely place, but it’s not cruising.

That said, it is a perfect place to prepare to GO cruising, so I keep telling myself that’s what we’re doing. We’re preparing.

Provisioning? Check.

Water and fuel? Check.

Sea legs restored? Check!

Today (March 14th – pie day!) was supposed to include a shake-down sail. It’s been almost three months since we had Sionna out in open water, sails up, rail down and making way, and it feels somewhat like a distant memory. We know it’ll come back to us pretty quickly, but still it feels like a good idea to go out and test everything once before we actually drop the mooring for the season and head out to explore.

But today the weather isn’t cooperating. Wind, yes, it’s 12-15 kts from the northwest – plenty of wind, maybe a little too much, but the problem is temperature. While the northeast US is getting ready for the 4th major snowstorm in three weeks,

Southern Florida is experiencing unseasonably cool temperatures and winds from the north and northwest – odd for this time of year when the northeast trade winds have usually begun to dominate. It’s not uncomfortable, but it does dampen our enthusiasm for a “relaxed day on the water” to test our ship. At 65 degrees and blowing, it’s not very relaxing.

So here we sit. I made my version of breakfast muffins (frimbled* egg with salt, pepper and oregano, slices of Parmesan cheese on a buttered English muffin), and lots of hot coffee, then paid some medical bills (ouch), wrote a blog post, and chilled for a bit. This afternoon I’m making Caprese, to take to a little dinner and Rum Punch competition with some boating friends tonight. Plans? What plans?

I think I’ve mentioned that we’d thought about heading up along the east coast of Florida this spring? Since we can’t really do the Bahamas this year, what with all the eye stuff still pending, we figured we’d check out that section of the ICW between here and Stuart, FL that we skipped on our trip south in 2016. But then we got talking one night, and realized that we didn’t really want to deal with getting around Miami, finding a different place to store the boat, all that stuff, so the plan changed to seeing a bit more of the Keys, instead.

We’ve yet to get out to the Marquesas Keys and the Dry Tortugas (the latter is just 97 miles west of Marathon), and both are supposed to be worth the trip. There’s a significant fort on the Dry Tortugas, actually, which you can tour – sounds interesting.

So maybe we’ll go there. Maybe. We’ll see.

* “Frimbled” – An egg which has been hard-cooked in a skillet after first being very lightly stirred to break up and distribute the yolk without mixing it appreciably into the white.

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What is a marathon? Where is Marathon? Are the two somehow related?

Well, a marathon is a long, arduous race, and sometimes the term is also applied to a process or an experience – or a business meeting… For us, it’s a pretty good description of the last few months, what with this eye thing of mine.

But we’re taking a break from all that. I function pretty well on one eye, Nicki’s got two good ones, and we’re tired of dealing with the promises and disappointments of the medical industry, so we’re back on the boat and enjoying a different sort of Marathon: Marathon, Florida.

Marathon’s Boot Key Harbor is a pretty unique spot.

First, it’s in the Key’s, so it’s warm pretty much all the time. 82 degrees on February 27th? Check.

Second, it’s cruiser and live-aboard friendly, meaning that when you tell someone that you live on a boat, by choice, they don’t automatically assume you’re either insane or running from the police. (Granted you MAY be both, but you’re given an opportunity to prove it. This isn’t the case in some areas of the state…)

And Third, there is a spirit here since Irma tried to erase it last summer that’s almost tangible. It’s throughout the Key’s, actually. Shit got real, a lot of people lost pretty much everything, but they didn’t loose hope. They took care of each other, took care of business, and they’re still standing. That’s worth a lot, and you feel it.

It looks like we’re here for about a week this stop. We need to make the 170 mile drive back up to Bradenton on Tuesday, for our court appearance on our Anchor light fiasco , then drive 170 miles back, but once that’s behind us we’re thinking to work our way east, along the Keys and then north along the Florida east coast. It’s an area we never really intended to visit, but without time to head to the Bahamas as we’d originally planned, and with an inclination to revisit a couple spots we enjoyed (Vero Beach and St. Augustine), plus a desire to be in position for the Bahamas NEXT winter, it seems to make sense.

That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it.

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The time has finally come to move again, and we’re pretty happy about that. Winter is – in our opinion – over-rated generally, but for Nicki and I, it’s just old news.

Thursday we packed up the little apartment which has served us so well, said good bye to dear friends who have loved us through the last two months, and pointed our noses… West.

No, not south, west. We needed to check in with some family (my mom & brother, and Nicki’s brother and nieces, all in Vermont) so we traipsed off to the land of colder and deeper for the weekend, proudly sporting new snow tires on the little red car. Here’s hoping we don’t have to test them out on this trip!

Sunday it’ll be a six-hour drive back to Rockland, put the car back in storage at the RV, then fire up a friend’s car for the two-hour drive to Portland ME. We’ll get a room for the night, and board a 5:30am flight to Tampa.

I have a feeling it’ll be an early-to-bed evening once we get there.

But there’s lots to look forward to! We’ll rent a car to drive back to Sionna in Marathon on Tuesday, and once there, we’ll start putting her back together so we’ll have a place to sleep, food to eat, etc. Local knowledge says that there’s little or no waiting list in Marathon for a mooring, so we’ll probably try to get one to make the departure preparations easier.

But there’s one more thing to do before we leave, finally, to resume a bit of cruising. We have to go to court.

You’ll remember, perhaps, Our little run-in with the Law back in December? Well that case is finally going to court on March 7th. Appearing in court will require renting a car and driving six hour up, waiting around, then driving six hours back. Which – I’m told – is why officers tend to target visiting boats for their tickets, rather than locals. What boater would be crazy enough to go to all that trouble and expense to challenge a $90 fine?

Well, I guess that would be me. We’ll let you know how it goes…

In the mean time, we’ve seen Robins and Cardinals in Rockland, Maine, so if you’re spending this winter in the frozen North, take heart! Spring really is somewhere around the corner.

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In the beginning…

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Set the way back machine for January 13, 2016!

'Til the butter melts

… There was a dream.

That dream’s first expression was detailed in my previous blog, (see A Yacht Reborn for that story of the boat we began to restore and then abandoned).  It was – and is – to spend a large chunk of time cruising on our own boat, spending winters someplace warmer than Maine, and living life as though it was something finite and precious.

That dream hasn’t really changed much since the days of Renaissance,  the boat we intended to restore and take cruising, but it has certainly accelerated.  In the last year, Nicki and I have sold all real estate, begun the agonizing task of sorting through and distributing or discarding anything we can’t fit on the boat and don’t want to pay to store, bought a 35′ RV as our summer home, closed our small home maintenance business, and just generally been really weird and…

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The Complications Poster Child


It was supposed to be straightforward.

Of course it wasn’t. “Challenging” is the term used by the doctor to describe my last surgery, but he said it with a smile and a slight gleam in his eye – I got the impression he’d enjoyed himself.

This latest news, however, is just plain disappointing. Yes, the retina is well healed (except one little spot which has been tack-welded back in place with laser to make sure it doesn’t become a problem later). And yes, the new lens implant (one very expensive piece of plastic!) is in place and is beginning to settle in. The stitches on the surface of my eye have begun to dissolve, too, which is a relief, as they’re quite uncomfortable, rubbing against the inside of the eyelid.

But I still can’t see anything useful from that eye, and won’t be able to for at least another 3 months. Complications have begun.

Nicki’s research has revealed that development of a hazy layer next to the new lens implant is a fairly common (10% of patients) side effect of the cataract replacement procedures, and naturally, I’m sticking with the minority 10%! This layer is – they say – dead easy to remove, Star Wars fashion: It’s blasted away with laser, takes abut 10 minutes, can be done right in the clinic, out-patient style.

But it can’t be done now. Nor next week, nor next month…

“Just ride with it!”, he says. “Three or four months before we dare touch anything in there, we need to let it heal and stabilize, then we’ll take care of it.”

You may remember that our original intent was to wait until June (and the end of the cruising season – there see, this IS about cruising!) before we had this final eye surgery. But then there were complications… Looks like we’re on that schedule again, in spite of our best intentions.

Disappointing? Yeah that. Not a serious health complication, as such things go, but it has become a significant quality-of-life issue. We’re both completely sick of my being “The guy with the eye”, and from a practical standpoint, that hazy white view out my starboard port interferes in no small way with my total vision. Being right-eye dominant, my brain still tries to use the information from the right side first. It takes a constant effort to ignore that input, and the effort is surprisingly tiring.

I’m thinking of having a button made for my lapel. It’ll say:

It’s Complicated: Please don’t ask.

Would that be rude?

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