Welcome to Our Blog

Thank you for sharing in our journey of building and sailing a Fusion Catamaran! We are so excited to be able to chronicle our adventure for family, boat and land friends, and supporters, from the initial decision to our cruising life "down island". Please post your comments, questions, and cautionary tales-we love to hear from you!

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Where Are We Now? Blog Relaunch PART I

As we’ve passed our 5-year anniversary of moving aboard XYZZY, our blog publishing is finally resuming, but this time as a cruising blog, rather than a building-a-boat blog!  As you can surmise, from the long gap in posts, living aboard and cruising has certainly kept us occupied and we’ve enjoyed every minute of it!  (Well, OK, not every minute…certainly not the hundreds of minutes spent in the port engine compartment-it is too tiny to qualify as an engine “room”).  Do we still like the live-aboard life? Will we keep living on a boat and wandering the world?

The answer is an unqualified “Yes”-at least for now.  When we moved aboard, in February of 2015, we made a pact that, if either one of us wanted out (or “off”, to be more precise), we would stop and go back to being landlubbers.  So far, there has only been one time when this bridge came close to being crossed, and that was directly related to the hundreds/thousands of minutes spent with that port engine, but thankfully we seem to have worked around that problem.

XYZZY on the ICW

So what have we been doing in the five plus years since our last blog post?
Well, we did get to the Bahamas that first winter after our launch (2015), and cruised the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) up and down the US East coast for two more years after that, each time spending the summer in the Northeast and wintering in the Bahamas or the FL Keys. During the summer of 2016 we got as far north as Kittery, ME and were so astounded at the raw beauty of northern New England, that the following year we got an early start going north and were able to spend almost three months exploring Penobscot Bay before being chased south again.  After two years of the somewhat predictable stops along the ICW, the exciting tingle of exploring new places and faces struck again and we fell in love with Maine!

The Atlantic ICW Route

A Serene Maine Sunset

XYZZY in the New England Fog

2018 found us traveling back to the Bahamas for the winter, but this time with a different purpose in mind: after a fantastic Atlantis Christmas with both sons’ families and Dennis’ mom, we raced through the central Bahamas down to Georgetown, our ultimate destination that winter being the Virgin Islands.  In Georgetown, Exuma, we met a group of other cruisers intending to head south, formed a Facebook group, and started learning about the "thorny path"-basically, island hopping down through the Bahamas to Turks and Caicos, and then on to the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and the US and British Virgin Islands.  The Thorny Path earned its well-deserved name because it involves heading straight into the prevailing east-to-west winds, as you progress from island to island, not the most comfortable point of sail (see photo below)! A cruiser's bible of the same name by inveterate sailor Bruce VanSant appears on every boat's bookshelf by this point in their adventures.

Atlantis - Paradise Island, Bahamas

Island Hopping Route through the Caribbean

Why the Thorny Path is 'thorny"

 As we chatted, provisioned, learned, and enjoyed Georgetown, we kept an eye out for a weather window to cross the Turks Passage and get to Providenciales. It should be noted here that Georgetown is AKA “Chicken Harbor” because many cruisers make it that far, and then either stop and hang out for months, turn around or sell their boats! It is about as far as one can go without committing to overnight passages, and of course, the aforementioned Thorny Path. Our chance to jump came fairly quickly, and we beat feet to the Turtle Cove Marina in Provo, capital of the Turks & Caicos.  The next stop would be the Dominican Republic, but the weather gods would make certain we spent sufficient time (nearly three weeks) getting to know the Turks and Caicos first!

Passage to Turks & Caicos

Other boats from our Georgetown enclave had traveled with us on our first leg, and we jointly compared thoughts on our next move to the DR, intending to leave as a group when the weather looked good.  Our goal was to get to Samana, DR, far enough down the east coast of the island that the next hop to Puerto Rico would be relatively smooth.  We all arrived in Samana, DR within a day of each other, and enjoyed the fabulous resort marina there while we planned our jump across the infamous Mona Passage to reach Puerto Rico.  As happens with cruisers with like-minded itineraries, we formed some very tight friendships, which I knew from past experience, would last even as we all eventually went our separate ways.  The Mona Passage crossing was thankfully uneventful and we were able to arrive in Puerto Real on the western shore of Puerto Rico after less than a week in Samana. We began to travel along the southern coast of Puerto Rico, enjoying new cultures and experiences along the way. Only one more island hop to get to the US Virgin Islands!

To prepare for that passage, we stopped in Puerto Del Rey Marina, located in Fajardo, on the Puerto Rican eastern coast, to provision and tend to some boat repairs.  Here we ran into Terry and Amy, friends we’d first met on our way down the ICW the previous fall-they just appeared out of the blue in a slip two docks over!  (I know I should be over being so surprised when this happens, but it amazes me every time-this meeting people by chance we last saw hundreds or thousands of miles away!)

At this point, early April of 2019, we had already spent three months tiptoeing to the brink of the Virgin Islands.  How on earth would we have time to see any of the VIs and still get back to the US East Coast by June 15th, our insurance hurricane season cutoff date??  We were beginning to despair of our plan to see the Caribbean. However, one of the cruiser friends we’d met in Turks had put a thought in our mind: why go all the way back to the States, only to come back and do it again the next year??  Why not just keep going? He had hauled his boat out right here in Puerto Rico two years earlier, and it had done very well, even though “IrMaria” (hurricanes Irma + Maria) chose that summer to blast through. Hmmm….it was starting to sound like a good idea! It would give us additional time to explore the Virgin Islands this year, and post-hurricane season we’d be able to start up where we left off, and continue further down the Caribbean island chain. Who could argue with that logic?

So we revised our insurance for a plan that would approve a summer layover in  Puerto Rico, made a haulout date of June 15th with the marina, and sailed east to enjoy ten additional weeks wandering through the US and British VIs.  Our friends Amy & Terry came to the same conclusion, so we knew we’d be seeing more of them as well!

Terry & Amy on World at Bay

Returning to Puerto Rico in early June, we had XYZZY hauled out and consigned to the care of a local caretaker, who would watch over her and take appropriate action, in the event of a storm during the summer.  But now...we were essentially homeless!  What would we do all summer, until it was time to come back in October and continue our Caribbean adventure? 

XYZZY tucked away for the summer

Our plan: We decided to road-trip our way around the Eastern US, going to many of the places we’d only seen from the water, visiting friends and family along the way. And we added a life-long bucket list item: three weeks in Italy!  Off we went, to live out of backpacks and Space Bags for the next five months while our boat waited patiently for us in the blistering Puerto Rican sun.

The Traveling Jansmas - Summer 2019

Roma!  Three weeks in Italy!

Tourist Sites Galore!

They really don't smile at all!
We did have a wonderful summer, sometimes staying with friends or family, and gaining Platinum Status on Hotels.com and Hilton Honors, the Hertz President’s Circle, and many points with American Express. We spent time in Rome, Florence and Venice, and even met new sailing friends at a fabulous hotel in Florence! It was both amazing and exhausting; definitely worthy of several blog posts all on their own, but by mid-October we were happy to be back with our boat, ready to continue our trip “down island”.

Dessert as an art form

Homemade Limoncello

The canals of Venice

The Venice Seaport

We dared to drive in Italy!

A Sailing Friend in Florence
We spent the time until New Year’s 2020 in the now familiar waters of St. Thomas and St. John, and set sail to Sint Maarten (Saint Marten) the second week of January.  Our plan would be to travel slowly through the Caribbean Leeward and Windward islands over the winter, along with Terry & Amy aboard World at Bay, getting to know even more amazing people and places!

Stay tuned for PART II!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Cruising Life!

"So, you're on the boat now! How do you like cruising?" As we talk to our friends, both new and old, this has to be the most popular set of questions.  And the answer generally isn't an overwhelming yay or nay just yet, to be honest!  We know we are really neophytes, and still have tons to learn! But there are so many aspects of daily life that are just different, and definitely take some getting used to; here are some of the biggies so far:

Biorhythms: Our daily sleep/wake cycles seem to have adjusted more to the sun, and we tend to be laying awake at first light, staring at the ceiling. "You awake?" I hear.  "Yep," I respond.  "Let's get going!" Yet after a day on the water, even though it's relaxing, we are both beat, and ready for bed by 9:30. I've heard 9PM referred to as "cruiser's midnight", and now I get it! I've always been a morning person, usually falling asleep on the couch by 10PM, so my clock didn't need too much adjustment, but Dennis has always been a night owl. Before now :)

Entertainment: We grew up in the sixties and seventies, so our childhoods were increasingly defined through the years by TV after dinner.  And, like many adults our age, we regularly watched live TV on a schedule: Grey's on Thursday nights, The Good Wife on Sunday evenings, Castle on Mondays. Our evenings circled around the TV Guide.  But now that we don't have a regular CATV connection (and also because it's really hard to stay up until 11!), we watch shows streamed from Hulu or Amazon Prime, usually seeing them weeks after they aired live, depending on our schedules. We spend our evenings continuing our Backgammon rivalry (I'm currently down by 1 game).  This, I have to admit, has been freeing.  Not having to be glued to the TV at a certain time/date, and catching up on five episodes of Grey's at one time is really much more convenient.  There are times, however, like when Derek Shepherd's untimely death was plastered first on Facebook, when I feel as though I slept through New Year's and missed the ball dropping.  

Hulu, Vudu, NetFlix, Sirius, Pandora, Amazon - the new "TV"

Breaking News: Gone also are the days of listening to the same old CNN stories for days on end, paraded as Breaking News, which I always felt lent every day an air of dire emergency.  Now our breaking news tends to be that the anchor held all night, or that a weather front is passing through.  We watch weather radar several times a day, and the "real news" comes mostly from MSN headlines on our home page.  Our world has shrunk, yet also enlarged.

Provisions: Moving constantly from one place to the next means that I can't really run out to Publix if I'm out of a key ingredient; I just have to make do.  It also means that when we do land somewhere, I have to settle for what I can find.  I may not find the same brand of toilet paper or milk that we've bought for all 35 years of our married lives; I might need to use substitutes or go without for a while.  Living on a (moving) boat also means that we try to shop in bulk when we have the chance. Grocery shopping can take the better part of an entire day, if I count going ashore in the dinghy with our bags, walking or finding transportation to the store, the actual shopping, reversing the trip, and then repackaging everything once back on the boat.  One thing that has really struck me is the amount of unnecessary packaging that is used; we remove everything excess so more things will fit better in small spaces, and make less garbage while we're underway.  And a side note: most marinas we've encountered do not offer much in the way of recycling, which truly took me by surprise.  I've been accustomed to recycling almost everything in the last few apartment complexes we've lived in, and now feel really bad putting plastic right into the trash bins. 

New Mode of Grocery Shopping!
Water and Power Management:  This may be the most challenging area for us so far.  With the recent addition of almost a kilowatt of solar power, and our 30/gallon per hour watermaker, we can really stay "off the grid" until we run out of food or fuel.  But even so, life now is a careful balance of when to run the generator, when to do the laundry, how much to use the air conditioning, and whether there's hot water.  Just this morning, as we rolled out of bed, I heard an ominous "click" as the entire boat shut down, the batteries having hit their "minimum low" of 39%.  We have a lot of options, and the consequences are by no means second nature to us yet.

Our new 12v DC 30 gal/hr watermaker
Internet and Work: Running a GoToMeeting and suddenly losing cell reception has happened already more than a few times.  Although we have cell phone boosters, hot spots and Wifi extenders through both AT&T and T-Mobile, we still find ourselves in sparse areas, or having to plan an offshore crossing during the business week.  This has necessitated more juggling and planning of our travel plans, dependent on scheduled meetings and available signal.  More than once I have been grateful for my covered webcam, as I stand in a heaving vessel, sweating profusely, while trying to conduct a demonstration and sound professional.  As we head up the southeast US coast, I think we will have to add Verizon in to our mix as well, for the most overall coverage.

The Office!
Maintenance: Coming from ten years of condo living, this has been a big change for us (mostly Dennis).  Cruising has been laughingly referred to as "fixing your boat in exotic places", and I can see how that will be true.  Even with a new boat, even with most things under warranty, there is an inordinate amount of cleaning and fixing, stowing and testing.  The difference is that, on a boat, one lives constantly on a more precarious edge than in a house or condo.  The elements wear constantly on our home, and we are at the mercy of the wind and weather at every moment.  Not to mention the other boaters out there on the waterways!  If our equipment isn't in top shape, if we forget to do a scheduled engine maintenance, if we don't tighten a loose line, the consequences are much more far reaching than forgetting to rotate the tires on the car!  

There are NINE strainers on the boat to keep clean!

Washing the "car" takes on a new dimension
Mostly the biggest difference is that life now is never boring!  We've been yanked from serene complacency and flung into the pot where every day is a new place, a new adventure.  There are certainly moments when we wish for the predictability of the past years, but the joy of looking at a chart each morning, of plotting out our course, of figuring out each day afresh has been rejuvenating and invigorating. Being so close to the outdoors, the weather, sea, and sun has brought a spiritual side to our lives that we'd lost long ago - the recognition that we exist and succeed only by the grace of something larger than ourselves and that the trappings of our lives are self-inflicted. 

Since March began, we made it back around Florida through the Keys, and spent April and May in the Sarasota area, while Mondo finished installing the last few final touches to the project that has consumed the last 3+ years.  

Fixed the first cracked window and Mack promptly dropped a piece of furling gear and broke another...ouch!

Last dinner with good friends and a great team

A Little "Dom" for the celebration

We took a three-week hiatus and headed up to NYC for our grandson's birthday and a business conference, a welcome break from the impending FL summer. 

Happy Birthday Two-Year Old!

Took in a Broadway Show
 Yesterday we set out from Marina Jack Marina for the last time for quite a while, and we will be heading again through the Keys, and then up the ICW for the summer.  We plan to be back down in Annapolis for the Boat Show in mid-October, where we'll once again be on display, and then...who knows?  

Our AIS is working so you can track us at www.MarineTraffic.com, just search for XYZZY.  Yep, we're the only one! See you out there!

Our AIS track

This is for the one who has  found her way, 
and the one who is still searching.

For the one who counts her blessings, 
and who is a blessing to others.

This is for the dreamer, and the dancer, 
and the music maker.

For the ones brave enough to jump, 
and the ones still standing on the edge.

This is for the one who takes the path,
and the one who creates her own.

For the one who fights, believes,
creates, inspires.

This is for you.

Breathe in, Breathe Out, Move On.
~Jimmy Buffett