Monthly Archives: October 2011

Happiness = ??

We have been spending the last week finally getting settled in our new beautiful boat. After being homeless for the last two months, I can not even tell you how good it has been to start to settle in and feel like we have our own space again! This summer has taken quite a toll on us, and even though we have tried to keep our focus on the positive, especially in our blog posts, the truth is the last few months have been incredibly stressful on many levels. Even though we have had the great fortune of staying with wonderful friends and visiting some of our favorite spots in New England, it has still been unbelievably difficult to work efficiently, stay on top of things, and feel stable with such unsettled conditions. Add on top of that the challenges of Cap’t K. getting sick with Lyme disease, the loss of a pivotal family relationship, an unbelievable number of very expensive and inconvenient car repairs, as well as a few other unexpected financial setbacks,… short, we’ve been dealing with a lot of stress. We have been experiencing the downside of our gypsy life.

I’ve even been questioning whether we are doing the right thing. Maybe we should just settle down and “be normal”. Get a life, as we’ve been told by some to do. When we were at the bank getting the money out to pay for our boat, we saw a sign in the bank that said “Nothing brings happiness and a sense of freedom like a great rate on a home mortgage.” We thought, “Wow, that’s quite a statement, equating unparalleled happiness and freedom with being in debt for 30+ years.” We were lucky enough to buy our boat without a loan, and so we are free from a mortgage, and that feels like a sense of freedom to me. However, we are seriously strapped for cash now, and that doesn’t feel so free, and that is definitely not making me happy….it’s a tradeoff either way, and some days I’m not sure which choice is best. Would we feel happier if we were settled with normal jobs and had a great rate on a huge mortgage? A few years ago, we almost went down that road. We were both working full time jobs, and we put in an offer on a house. We offered the guy the amount he was asking for. And he rejected it. So we didn’t get the house and eventually went down this gypsy boat path instead. Now the value of that house is a fraction of what he had been asking for, and we feel pretty lucky that we didn’t get it, because if we did we would owe way more on the mortgage than the house is now worth. Lots of people we know are in that situation, and they aren’t too happy about it, and they definitely aren’t experiencing “freedom”!

What is happiness anyway? It seems elusive sometimes. In the end, we are about as happy as we decide to be with the deck of cards we’ve drawn. Sometimes this whole sailboat adventure seems to be an experiment in exploring what happiness is made of. We have made our choices, taken our risks, picked our cards, and now we have to play them. Some days we feel pretty happy about it all and other days totally suck. Whether we like it or not, it comes down to the fact that for now we have chosen this road and we just need to keep going down it, even though it sometimes feels super scary and stressful. So our next move is to get ourselves south, park it somewhere, and get jobs for the winter. I’m sure you were all hoping for something more exciting than that, but hey, this is our reality right now.

We didn’t plan on getting on this boat and heading south with no money in our pockets, but that’s what is happening. The same car that conspired to keep us in the harbor back in our last post has also conspired to eat up every last cent we had been saving for our trip south. Now we just have to PRAY this boat will get us to where we need to go without expensive repairs as well!

So…we are preparing to head south. Destination, south of the frost line. Florida will enter the picture at some point. Money making opportunities will be a deciding factor. As soon as the car sells, we’re outta here. It’s getting cold! The forecast for the next week is rain, rain, and more rain. Good thing we just got our foul weather gear mailed to us from Florida! We also got all our charts, and we are starting to study them to plan our route south. We REALLY, REALLY don’t want to be stuck on the ICW again all the way down the coast. We feel more confident in our sailing skills now than we did last year, so we are planning as many legs as possible on the ocean to avoid both the cost (of fuel) and the extra time it would take to stay on the ICW. In fact, we are looking for crew…anyone out there interested in sailing part way down the coast with us? We have room now for another person!

Meanwhile, our cats are also getting settled on the new boat, and they seem pretty content about it. Here are a few pics:

Slomo in the cockpit

Standing Headroom!

the new galley!

A new lady in our life

We’ve dropped hints, and for some the word is out, and here we are to declare the news: We got a bigger boat. What? The proponents of all things Wee got a bigger boat?! Yes. We did. We can barely believe it ourselves. It’s all happened quite fast, and in many ways Divine Providence seems to have stepped in and placed this boat in our path. Even though we’ve been fantasizing about a bigger boat for awhile now, we weren’t seriously shopping for one. But a friend’s father was selling his boat and suggested we come look at it. It was way out of our price range, but at his urging, we went out to the Cape to take a look. The boat in question is 37′ Islander, a fiberglass sloop of about the same vintage as Wee Happy. When we arrived at the yacht club, our car “conveniently” broke down, forcing us to seek a place to spend the night until we could have it looked at by a mechanic the next day. Well, how about staying on the boat? It would be nice to try out the bed in the big v-berth….and it was our wedding anniversary the day we went to look at it. As it turns out, it was also the wedding anniversary of Mark, the owner of boat. (he’s been married about 45 years longer than we have) Anyway, we looked at the boat with Mark. The boat is classy, with gorgeous, well maintained wood everywhere. Mark, a well seasoned sailor, has owned the boat for over 30 years and has taken meticulous care of it. It’s got all the wonderful conveniences that were missing on Wee Happy. In addition to the things one would expect on a sailboat, like good sails, intact rigging, a solid hull, gps, etc, this boat (called the Nobska Lady) also has amazing luxuries like running hot water, a stove, a real bathroom, and a table. And STANDING HEADROOM. For Cap’t K, that was a major selling point. Because, as much as we love Wee Happy and think the Albin Vega is a great boat, it was becoming literally painful for Cap’t K. to inhabit. And I had reached my absolute limit in living without a fully functioning bathroom. So those things combined have led us to the conclusion that we can not continue to be long term liveaboard cruisers on Wee Happy. At least not happily…… So anyway, we looked at the boat, and then we spent the night on the boat. We were basically impressed with the boat when we got the tour with Mark, but it wasn’t until we woke up on the boat the next day that we realized we were in love. We simply fell in love with it. The warm beautiful wood covering the interior, the space, the actual kitchen, the wonderful cockpit……we could get used to this….. Our car continued to conspire against our departure from the harbor and was not able to be fixed the next day. So Mark took us out for a sail. She sails beautifully. Does 6 knots no problem. We fell in love some more. We spent another night on the boat. We fell in love some more. And then we made an offer, and now the boat is ours. We ended up getting it for the exact amount we sold our yurt for, which felt perfect. It’s like we traded one home for another home, an equal trade. (except that now we have waterfront property!)

Getting her bottom wet after Irene

Right around this time, Hurricane Irene came blasting through. At first we were worried about Wee Happy, and then we realized the storm was actually headed pretty much straight for our new boat near Cape Cod. We hadn’t yet paid for and taken posession of the Nobska Lady yet, and happened to be way up on Lake Chaplain taking care of some other business when the hurricane approached. So as it turned out Mark did the responsible thing and had it hauled out of the water for the storm, and she weathered it just fine, to everyone’s relief. The following week we went and helped put the rigging and sails back up and got to inspect Nobska Lady’s bottom. Since the purchase we have been stuck on land dealing with the last of our car nightmares, work, and wrapping things up for our departure south. In a few days we will be finally ready to move onto the boat for good. While we have been landlocked we have continued to have the pleasure of spending time with good friends. Many thanks and hugs go out to our friends Erin, Josh, and their daughter Sasha for opening their home to us, making yummy food for us, and even cooking homemade chicken soup when Cap’t K. was sick! We are eternally grateful! And a special mention also to Cap’t K’s sister Sas, who has been lovingly babysitting our cats for 3 months now while we have been in transition. And we would also like to thank our sailing friends Mimi and Rich who hosted us in their wonderful Adirondack camp during the hurricane. (we weren’t really camping….a “camp” is a term commonly used in the Adirondacks for a big family lodge or house on the lake. We were cozy by a stone fireplace while it rained buckets outside!) This weekend we had a marvelous reunion with our sailing buddies Roark and Sherry, along with Roark’s daughter Aisling and friend Morgan from s/v Good Goose. Some of you may remember them from our journey down the ICW last year. They were some of our best friends we met while sailing on Wee Happy and we were relieved to discover we could be friends with them even on land — we spent the weekend at Roark’s family cabin in the deep woods of the Adirondacks and didn’t even see water the whole time we were together but loved each other’s company just the same!

Reunited and it feels so good!

Roark gets a ride in Vanny!

I know some of you out there (like Wes!) are going to give us crap for ever for getting a bigger boat. You are all invited onto our new boat for a big dance party and sleep over! But to put the “bigger” concept in perspective, we are currently using the boat as our home. On Wee Happy we were living in a space about the same size as some people’s walk in closet, now we are in the space about the size of a small living room….it’s still Wee! Not to mention that both Wee Happy and Nobska Lady combined cost less than an average new car! For those of you wondering about what we are going to do with Wee Happy, we are still in a decision making process about it, however she is being taken care of by some friends for now. We are also in the process of coming up with a new name for Nobska Lady, as her name had special meaning for the previous owners but not so much for us. Maybe “Way Happy”?? More details to follow, stay tuned!

Random thoughts by Lala

We are so glad we succeeded in our longest to date ocean passage and made it safely to Atlantic City, but now we’re stuck here! At least for a few days, and even on the weekend, the weather window is small and not super ideal. But we are hoping to make our next passage to Cape May, NJ in a few days. Until then, we are going to try to enjoy Atlantic City, although I must admit this is one of the last places I want to be stuck in for days. We are not a gamblers, and even if we were, we have no extra money to lose right now. This is not a good place to be on a super tight budget! (although winning some money would be nice, so we’ll at least put a couple bucks in some machines, I’m sure!)
Yesterday the wind was howling so strong and the weather was so dismal we didn’t even leave the boat. The anchorage here is a ways from any access to the scene of Atlantic City, and to get there requires crossing a channel with a strong current, so we didn’t venture out in our new, very wee dinghy that only has a 3 horsepower motor. We just stayed put and baked cookies, did some deep cleaning, watched movies, and rested from our long sail. I even got to weave on my new loom that I just got for our boat, which is working out great. (the one I had on Wee Happy belonged to someone else, and I had to give it back)

Random photo -- Horseshoe crab skeleton on the beach

So I will take this time to fill you all in on a bit of random news. First of all, we decided on a name for our new boat! It was quite a process to decide, and we had a long list of possible names ranging from Snonomo to Delilah to Invictus, but finally we couldn’t resist the segue of the name WAY HAPPY. It is after all, a continuation of the Wee Happy journey, only now we feel we can do it way better on this boat! Not that we have been way happy every moment on this trip….but it is all a journey, and not a single destination, right? New boat lettering is on the way (for now we have temporary lettering on the transom) and we will soon be putting up a new and improved blog site.

Just in case any of you were wondering as intensely as I was about what the heck a wren was doing way out at sea, I may have solved the mystery. Last night I was looking in the great bird guide my dad recently gave me (Thanks, Dad!) and discovered that our bird friend was actually not a wren but a sparrow. A “Seaside Sparrow” to be exact. There is a variety of sparrow that only lives along the Atlantic Coast of North America, and whose habitat is grassy tidal marshes. So we were in this bird’s conceivable range. A part of me loves unexplainable weird mysteries, and that part of me is disappointed to find such a rational truth, and there is another part of me that NEEDS TO KNOW things, and that part of me is satisfied to have the answer.

As long as I’m talking about needing to know the identification of things, here is another mystery. We found a strange fruit on Block Island that I have never seen before. Green, brain like hard tissue about the size of a large orange. The tree was bigger than an apple tree, maybe related to a walnut tree. In fact the smell kind of reminded me of fresh walnuts. A fresh, grassy citrusy smell. I asked some locals and they called it things like “ugly fruit” and “bitter orange” and recommended that we don’t eat it. One guy said that this fruit is found no where else but Block Island. We tried looking it up on the internet but only managed to find a few other people asking what it was and no answers. Do you have the answer? Does anyone out there know what this fruit is?

Block Island mystery fruit

Last on my random bits of news list, yesterday Slowmo was the winner of the daily cat fight. Our two cats are brothers from the same litter, and they love each other dearly. Every day they fight as a form of play and they can get quite rowdy. But Mojo almost always “wins” because he is way bigger and fatter than Slowmo. But yesterday Slowmo prevailed, and here is the video. Feel the tension….

Ok, that’s enough rambling for now. I’m going to go help Capt K climb up the mast in his attempt to stop the banging of the mast cables. This morning it is very calm in the anchorage (in fact, the first thing he said upon waking this morning is that it was so calm it woke him up! We’ve been getting used to constant rocking and banging for a week now!) Will report back later on the success of that project.

Shakedown! We made it to Atlantic City!

Here we are in Atlantic City, after a nearly 40 hour trip from Block Island. Whew!! We did it! We got here just in time, too, because the now the wind is starting to really howl and rain is on the way.
We had smooth, calm sailing most of the way, although the last 60 miles or so was a downwind run that caused the boat to rock uncomfortably for most of the day. I got a little seasick for the first time ever and felt pretty green all day.
We had hoped to make it in just before dark, but as it turned out we approached the inlet just after dark, and it was incredibly stressfull navigating our way in with a crosswind and 6-10 foot waves on the beam. The anchorage here is really sketchy with minimal markers, and was it not fun getting in here in the dark. With all the brightly lit casino buildings here, the anchorage sure is dark!

A few highlights of our sail were a large pod of dolphins who played and swam in our bow wake under the silver full moon light at 3 am. They were magically delightful, and a sweet surprise!

We also had a unexpected hitchiker who accompanied us for a good portion of the trip. A tiny wren found our boat 15 miles off the coast of Long Island and stayed on and around the boat all day and all night. He hopped around the deck taking a break from wherever he was going…..where was he going? What was a lone wren doing way out at sea?! Migrating perhaps….
Anyway, I gave the wee bird some water and crumbs and they were much appreciated.

Our cats were too busy with their itinerary of napping and lounging inside the cabin to even notice our visitor out on the deck. But at about 7 am the bird flew inside the cabin and did those cats wake up fast!! (as did I, who was sleeping at the time) There was major commotion inside for a few mintues, with the bird flapping wildy trying to escape, and two cats having the most exciting time on the boat EVER. Amazingly, the wren escaped, and disappeared for quite a few hours. But later in the afternoon I saw him return, circle our boat a few times as if the say goodbye, and then flutter off alone over the vast sea.

Other than our few visitors, it was pretty uneventful out there. Here we were all nervous about going out to sea, and once we were out there, there really wasn’t much to do or worry about! (except for the inlet). We had lovely mild weather and light winds, so it was a breeze!

We have now expierienced our boat in a pretty wide variety of conditions, and are getting to know her better. The shakedown cruise is shakin!!

– Capt’n K & Lala

Considering departing for big jump to NJ tonight

Sitting here in the old harbor at Block Island. Day is waning. Winds are northwest and steady. We wanted to wait for them to shift to north before leaving, but it looks like our weather window is shrinking. So, now we are tentatively planning to leave tonight to head to Atlantic City or Cape May, NJ. It’s a clear sky with almost a full moon, and the temperatures are nice and warm. With this northwest wind we should make good progress through the night to the southwest. Then tomorrow the winds are supposed to shift to the north and lighten up. That means we’ll make slower progress but make a more westerly course. Then Monday night and into Tuesday the winds are supposed to shift to the northeast and then east, which should make going west or south a breeze.

So, we are estimating that it’ll take us 36 hours to make it to Atlantic City. If we leave tonight and then show up on Tuesday morning, and if the winds are still fair and we are not exhausted, we may continue on southward to Cape May before pulling in and anchoring.

A slight chance exists that we will find our progress and stamina good enough that we might continue on from Cape May NJ straight south to Ocean City or Norfolk. This chance looks slim, but is a possibility. If that east wind is fair on Tuesday and Tuesday night and Wednesday, then it is remotely possible that we could arrive at Norfolk by Wednesday afternoon or evening.

This is a big jump for us. To date, we have not made any passages longer than 60 miles or so. The jump from Block Island to Atlantic City is 165 nautical miles. It’s the next logical step in our cruising curriculum, so to say. We’ve made overnight passages before, but we have not yet done a 24 or 36 hour jump. So, this is pushing our boundaries again. It makes us nervous, but it is what we have been talking about for a month now.

We are more experienced sailors than we were with wee happy. We have made a few offshore passages and overnight passages. We are ready for a 24-36 hour run now. Just a bit nervous. Wish we had a buddy boat to go with, but that hasn’t lined up for us even though we’ve been looking.

So we’ll be without internet and cell phone access until we make it to the NEw Jersey Coast. Then we should be able to get online with our iPad to make a post. Alternatively, we will be monitoring VHF channel 16 the whole way incase any of you are on a boat in the same area as us.

Now, I’ve made an interactive google map of our planned route. It is totally rough and estimated on the fly with my hand on a mouse. The points are not accurate waypoints or GPS coordinates. We are going to sail based on wind conditions, not this estimated path, but it is a good way to visualize the passage on this blog. So click on it and explore the points and route line if you like.

View Planned Passage Block Island to Atlantic City in a larger map

The sights of Newport

We were only in Newport for a very short time, just enough to wander around the town a bit and get some pizza, and dinghy around the crowded harbor and gawk at the gorgeous sailboats there. Newport is after all, the home of America’s Cup, and some mighty racing boats are based there. These shiny, sleek, sexy boats who live up to names like Glory and Gleam are something to behold! There were also some other fun and unusual boats, and here are a few of our favorites for you to see:

A small "cruise ship" charter sailboat with the wonderful name of Arabella

A most awesome pirate ship!

What is it about these ships that stirs the soul so?


Gleam, a sleek racer

The winner of the most unusual boat....what is this? An oriental boat of some kind with marvelous dragon carvings

SloMo checked out the great boats with us, but wasn't as excited as we were

Made it to Block Island

Quick entry. Went to Newport last night. Keeping true to its trend, the wind was dead against us again! So we beat to windward all day today and just anchored off the east shore of Block Island in the “old anchorage”.
Rolly, but nice moonlit night. Tired but alive. West winds all day tomorrow, so we’ll stay here and hang out until they turn north.

– Capt’n K & Lala

P.s. There is one REALLY annoying thing about our new boat.
There are cables inside the mast that bang around when the boat rolls from side to side, making tons of noise. In this rolly anchorage, the sound is enough to drive us totally crazy. I dont know how we are going to sleep tonight! Actually it has been bothering us for a few weeks now. We need to remedy this situation ASAP, but doing it without taking the mast down or climbing up the mast in the dark in a rolly anchorage is near impossible. Aaargh!!!!

Plan? What plan?

Today was a disaster. (but we are alive and well to write to y’all about it, so I guess it wasn’t that bad)
It started out first thing in the morning with both of us having near heart-attacks when I almost crashed our boat into another boat in the mooring field while exiting Cuttyhunk harbor. It was a terrifyingly close call, and an epically stupid move on my part due to losing control of the steering because I thought the engine was in gear and it was actually in neutral. Some angels must have been helping us out on that one, I still am somewhat in shock over how close we came to hitting that boat.

Then we proceeded to leave the harbor and face 20 knot winds on the nose with turbulent waves coming across Buzzards Bay. We had to head straight into the wind for aways to get out of the harbor, and we bucked like a bronco making very slow headway. It was a wild, rough ride. Some people find sailing like that pure bliss and fun, but I found it pretty stressful. We were motor sailing into the wind until we reached open enough waters to alter our course for better sailing. And then our engine died. Just like that, the engine suddenly died. We had no idea why. It happened so suddenly and without warning….

Ok… problem….we’ll sail. There’s definitely enough wind for it! So we sailed across Buzzards Bay until we reached the mouth of the New Bedford harbor. We contemplated continuing on our planned route in the direction of Block Island/Long Island and figuring out the problem down there, but it seemed more prudent to find out what the problem was sooner rather than later. We couldn’t go all the way into the harbor under sail alone because it was straight into the wind and the entrance is very narrow. So we thanked God that we have a membership to TowBoat U.S. and called them for a tow.

That was a new experience, getting towed in a sailboat by a tiny little tow boat! The guy who helped us was wonderful. He towed us right into a narrow slip (that was impressive) in a marina that was right across the street from a West Marine and several other boat supply stores. Cap’t K. tried trouble shooting the problem and could only determine that it was a fuel supply problem. Luckily within a few hours we had a diesel mechanic on board who knew way more than us. We almost had another heart attack when he suggested that it looked like a problem with the fuel injector pump (the main reason we are so stressed out about money is because we just spent $2,000 on a fuel injector pump for Cap’t K’s car)
But on further investigation, he discovered that it was a clogged fuel pump. Apparently the wild ride we were on bucking the giant waves stirred up a bunch of sludge that had been resting at the bottom of our 40 year old fuel tank, and to make things even worse, some water seeped into the fuel tank somehow. Those two things combined clogged our filter in jiffy! With a new $30 fuel filter, he got it running again, and gave us a bunch of helpful tips on the care and feeding of our engine. Brian was another wonderful angel!We still have some trouble shooting to do on our water in the fuel tank problem, but that is another story. For now we are back in business.
So, here we are tucked into a marina slip, enjoying hot water and full electric hookup, feeling both grateful that things weren’t as bad as they could have been, and also feeling major regret for having missed the wind window we had been counting on to get us west. Tomorrow the wind is going to turn west AND die down to light and variable. So we will be waiting for better wind to make it to New Jersey.
Our plan right now is to try to make it to Block Island tomorrow, and enjoy ourselves there until Monday, when the wind is forecasted to be in our favor once more.
But who knows what will happen!!! Planning is starting to feel pointless….

Made it to Cuttyhunk.

What a ride! 2 seconds after the last post we got hit by a storm and had to drop sail and don our foul weather gear. Spent the next half hour keeping the boat’s nose into the wind and getting doused with spray. Woo hoo! Our first storm!

The rest of the trip was nice on a broad reach flying just half of our jib under mostly clear skies with brisk winds gusting occasionally to 30 knots. Then we saw a lone race sailboat on the horizon. They were flying a spinnaker! Crazy, those racers, but we opened up our jib all the way after seeing how they were doing. Sure enough we sped up a full knot and the ride was no more or less comfortable

Lala brought us all the way into Cuttyhunk pond an hour before sunset, and then we failed to set anchor three times. Too much mud and grass here, so we tied up to a mooring. Now the wind is gusting to 35 or 40, and we are glad to be tied up for the night.

There is suppod to be a boat that goes around selling oysts from 5 to 7, but they arent answering on the radio. Probably too late in the season. Darn! Well at least we are off on our trip now! Hope to make it far to the west tomorrow. Probably not just jumping out to Atlantic city. We are pooped.

– Capt’n K & Lala