Bon Voyage ~ smiling tears

Finally it was our turn. At some point in every cruising blog we’ve followed there comes a time for the “Bon Voyage Party” and over the years we’ve shared in the joyous anticipation preceding the trip of a lifetime and also the sadness that comes from leaving the ones you love.

Tate asked me about 6 months ago if we should do some kind of big party for our departure or have little parties over the holidays. We explored options until Skipper Glenn who we raced with on Quest offered to use his membership to Southern Yacht Club to rent us a room. Then it was a done deal. The crème de la crème was that we could bring Sundowner right up to the club to give party goers a chance to see her, many for the first and possibly only time.

So on Friday December 12th we were met by Tate’s Dad, Mr. Logan and his Uncle Sam and Aunt Cindy. They were joining us as crew as we moved the boat 3 miles from our marina to the tent next to the yacht club.
Sam, Cindy, Logan and Tate on Sundowner

What was scheduled to be sunny day with a little wind was actually overcast and cold with no wind. Unfortunately our attempts to sail, well, they failed. I really wanted to show our new crew how nice it was to move through the water with no engine running but they’ll just have to take my word for it.
Sam, Cindy, Logan and Tate on the way to the yacht club

Just about 2 hours of motoring put us in front of a familiar sight.
Southern Yacht Club

We docked pretty painlessly and were met by Tate’s other two aunt’s, Nettie and Charlotte. They along with Sam and Cindy had driven all the way from Iota, Louisiana, roughly 3 hours from New Orleans.
Sundowner under the tent
Iota Crew

Over the past few months I’ve been taking more pictures with friends and family. It has hit me hard that we are really leaving and may not see these folks again for 5 years. There are lots of pictures in this post.

Southern Yacht Club is one of (if not the) oldest yacht club in the country. The building is nice and new though following the flood AND fire during hurricane Katrina. It has some of the best views of Lake Pontchartrain anywhere in the City.
Southern Yacht Club plaque

Mr. Higgins (Glenn)
Sign at the party

The inside was richly adorned with nautical furnishings and decorated for Christmas complete with Christmas music. It had a warm welcoming feel as if you could spent all day there in your sweat pants drinking wine and singing carols. The best thing though were the showers. Gloriously hot water and clean towels with a mirrored wall room, it was awesome.
A wheel at Southern Yacht Club
Christmas Tree at Southern

I would say the #1 question we get asked lately is where are you planning to sail or what is your route. So taking my mom’s suggestion to give people a visual I made a large map showing our planned route around the world. For people who don’t often look at the world as a whole (like me pre 5 years ago) it’s not easy to really conceive of what this trip will look like. I imagine to some people it’s like saying we are going to sail off into a giant unmapped and uncharted ocean, of which we may never return. The map helps put things in perspective I think. It was a big hit and many people are requesting one so they can track us at home once we leave.
Circumnavigation map

This is my friend Heather and I pointing at Mexico, hoping one day to meet up there and drink our favorite drinks together (margaritas)
Heather and Dani pointing at mexico

I also printed the illustration a nice reader made for us and one of Sundowner under sail.
Robin and Dani

This is my Dad, my step mom Kate, my sister Frances and her husband Jason. Frances and Jason are having their 10 year wedding anniversary in April next year and are planning to spend it at a Dominican Republic resort. Funny…that’s about the same time we should be there. (psst, go to the south side guys).
Dani's family

Glenn is not only a Skipper who life’s passion is sailing but he’s also in a band! He and another crew mate Jim brought their band out and played for an hour or so songs they had prepared. That was so nice of them. To my GREAT SURPRISE they played and sang a song MY DAD WROTE for Tate and I! He named it “Sail Slow” and it’s set to the tune of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”. The song is really funny and also heartfelt so it deserves its own post. I’m hoping on Christmas Eve we can all sing and record it and if it’s somewhat acceptable I’ll post it on the blog.
Band at the party

My stepfather Paul was able to make it back from offshore (working) in time to join my mom at the party.
Robin and Paul

My longtime friends Jared and Jason came out too, dressed to the 9’s as always. LOVE these guys.
Jason, Jared and Dani

Tate’s whole family made it out including his two sisters, Paige and Carley and their husbands Grant and Adam. I’m really going to miss this group (not pictured is a little 20 month old blonde haired nephew named Gabriel).
Tate's family

Perhaps the best part of the party was getting to show off Sundowner. We got Sundowner scrubbed, stowed and ready for guests that Tate would periodically take down to tour the inside and deck. If you aren’t into sailing and don’t know sailboats it’s really hard I think to conceptualize what living on a boat is like. We got so many compliments and as the party upstairs shut down the party downstairs ramped up. Naturally our friends stayed out the latest with us and we drank and laughed all around. Many of these people we won’t see again before we leave in just two weeks.
Sundowners friends

This is my dear friend Michele who I consider my best girl friend aside from my sister, mom and Kate. Over the past 2 years I have worked with Michele and she has lost over 60 pounds through diet and exercise which has completely CHANGED HER LIFE (at age 49). She rocks and her journey and tireless ambition to get healthy has inspired me in my own life. This journey also deserves its own post, which will come after we leave and I have more time.
Michele and Dani

I’m going to miss this smiling face, as Jared would say, Oh Darlin’.
Jared and Dani

Pretty soon everyone was hungry so we carefully made our way to a GREAT burger joint “The Harbor” (fitting right?). I love this picture as it has our close friends including Tate’s best friend Alan and his wife Amanda along with my sister and BIL joining us on a rare night away from my two nephews, Ethan 5 and Evan 3.
Eating burgers at the harbor

Then almost like the end of a wedding reception the party was over, and we were beat. I was so happy to be able to see everyone and know how much they care about us. This was evident in two ways. One in a positive way full of congratulations and encouragement, the other is a negative way filled with sadness that we are leaving their lives. Some people are happy we are leaving while at the same time sad, understandably so.

While I don’t want the party to be remembered in a negative light I think it’s important I share the impact it had on me. Instead of being filled with happiness when I awoke the next day I was filled with an overarching sadness, homesickness if you will. Even though we have been talking and planning this trip for over 5 years now, the departure is ACTUALLY TWO WEEKS AWAY. I am starting to realize that some people I see today I will not see again, for a possible 5 years, maybe less but also maybe more. This finality is hard to deal with.

I want this trip. I want to go travel. I want to be enriched and grow as a person in the way my heart and soul tell me I need to. I want to deepen my relationship with my husband and share these things together. This kind of trip is what we were made for and we knew it soon after we met. This trip ignites a fire deep inside my being and I know great things are waiting for me. But all of this means we have to leave our family and dear friends, people we have been with for over 30 years now. This is not an easy thing to do.

We’ll miss our nephews growing up, birthdays, holidays, dinners, parties, life events and who knows what else. I suppose on one hand we have been spoiled to live so close to everyone we know for as long as we have. I’ve met many people whose families live half way around the world or country or in some cases, not at all. They have moved for different reasons but all of them can share in my homesickness.

For a moment I thought of how things would be different if we didn’t leave. If we tried to relieve the pain by staying and changing our plans. But this also brings sadness. A sadness born by not following our dreams we’ve worked so hard for and a sadness for not following our hearts. In short it is a rock in a hard place or as they’ve sang many times “Nobody said it would be easy”. But isn’t that what life is all about? Pain is part of life and I believe that the happy times are so much more meaningful when we have dealt with and worked through the pain life sometimes brings.

I suppose I want those closest to us to know that we understand why you are sad and that you have the right to be. Also know though that this is the biggest dream we’ve ever had and there really was no other way for us. We need to adventure and explore the world and one day we’ll come home and share wild stories of our time and be more complete within ourselves. I can’t wait to share our experiences through the blog, email and postcards. We are bringing a little piece of each of you with us. Knowing you care about us and what we are doing makes us happy and very lucky people. I honestly wonder if the majority of the negative emotions during the trip will be because we can’t share the awesome experiences with others. I wish I had a huge cruise ship that could fit everyone. Instead I have this blog, and the mail.

Thankfully the next day was beautiful. We had to leave Southern at 9am to make way for the boat light parade so we set out into the lake. The water was so calm and wind so light I just wanted to stay out there forever. I timidly asked Tate if he minded just motoring to the middle of the lake and then turning it all off. I really needed to just sit in the quiet and think (while doing nothing). I was in a rush to go nowhere fast.
Such calm waters

We got ambitious and put the mainsail up which set us gliding at 1 knot for the next 5 hours or so. We took turns on the tiller which you could operate with one finger.
Tate preparing the mainsail
The mainsail underway
Dani sailing and helming the tiller

I napped a bit and also just sat in the cockpit staring at the water. This was the absolute most peaceful I had been in years. So quiet with only the sounds of the birds in the background doing whatever it is birds do. I could have stayed out there for weeks, just like that. I hope we get a lot of days of lazy sailing like this.
Tate relaxing during the sail

We were actually able to sail (no motor) all the way back to the marina averaging a knot. Around 3:30 we turned the motor on and headed for the slip where I proceeded to dock the boat for the first time EVER. It was perfect conditions to try and I succeeded. SLOW IS PRO. That’s Tate’s motto and it works.
Flag near the calm water

Now our days are spent getting the last bit of supplies and preparing for Christmas with everyone. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day will be the last time we see the majority of our family. My last day of work is January 2nd and we will head out as soon after that as we can. (I’m posting this again from my phone so I apologize for any funny business)

How do you other seasoned cruisers deal with the sadness of leaving loved ones? I’d love to hear about it.

Guns aboard?

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Perhaps one of the most hotly debated topics in all of boating/cruising is if one should bring a firearm aboard while travelling. Of course this makes perfect sense because gun ownership is also one of the most hotly contested issues in all of politics. Be it American or otherwise, everyone seems to have an opinion which they will express loudly. You could even say that people are “quick on the trigger” when it comes to the issue.

bring a firearm aboard

However, the topic is even more radioactive in the cruising world. Just as a gun owner may face differing laws when bringing a firearm from state to state in the USA, there are different laws in each COUNTRY that one might visit while sailing. While resources do exist that list these laws, it has always seemed almost impossible for someone planning a journey such as ours to catalog the laws of each and every place you’ll stop in. Some Countries even outright ban firearms in their territorial waters. Some Countries go so far as to ban other things like tazers, spear guns, mace sprays, etc. It seems each little spot on the globe has their own views. And it also seems that most of the world has a dim view when it comes to weapons in the hands of normal citizens or visitors.

It is my understanding that a lot of places will tolerate a firearm but will not tolerate you having it. It works something like this… When you arrive you must declare that you have a gun aboard. In the process of clearing in you must either lock the firearm in a safe aboard which is sealed or you must “check” your gun. This basically means you turn the gun over to the local authorities until you’re ready to leave. When you are ready to clear out, the authorities will give you the gun back (sometimes in the same condition it was given to them and sometimes not).

It all seems a great big hassle. It also seems to ensure that in most places in the world you wouldn’t actually have a gun at the point in time it would justify its purpose of being aboard your boat. That isn’t a political statement, its just what I see.

Now don’t get me wrong. Both Dani and I have been long time gun owners with good firearm training, practice, and use. I’ve never seen anything wrong with having a gun in my home provided that it is responsibly stored and handled by responsible people. So it isn’t some philosophical opposition to having a gun that drives our decision to NOT carry a firearm aboard, instead it is the hassle of laws and jurisdictions that we don’t understand and don’t want to inflame.

The really silly thing though in my opinion is how so many sailors will openly state their views on guns aboard and talk about how they do or don’t carry weapons aboard. Now if I were going to take a gun with me on my boat I wouldn’t want anyone to know I had one aboard. And if I didn’t have a weapon I wouldn’t want people to know that either. So I might write a post like this oneand then include a final paragraph like this one to really muddy the waters while still talking about the topic.

;)

One car down, one to go

In just over a week I am going to be without a car! That’s one short e away from without a care. Tate was able to strike up a deal over steaks and wine and got my little Corolla sold! Yippee. After next Monday we’ll be a one car, or truck in this matter, family. Since Tate is still working (trying to finish a big project) we’ll be truckpooling to work until we leave or until he finally throws in the towel, which is any day now. Progress towards leaving land life has become more real with the selling of our car. There’s no backing out now! (haha as if THAT would happen).

NEWS FROM THE VACCINE FRONT: Tate successfully got the second Hepatitis B shot last Thursday without much side effect at all which is GREAT! It was the 2nd Hep B shot when he was a teenager that made him so ill doctors advised him to never get shots again thinking he had serum sickness. Well whatever side effects he currently experiences seem to be manageable which make me sleep easier.

The week before Christmas and New Years we have an appointment with the local Passport Health travel clinic to get the Yellow Fever and Typhoid fever vaccines which will be that last we get in the country. I’m still waiting for and donating money to the Mosquito Vaccine Foundation in hopes one day they’ll create something that will make me an unappetizing meal. Maybe one day.

Life on the boat really just gets better and better, granted we are just in a marina (not a very protected one though!). Things that seemed to take a long time now don’t bother me as much, I’m getting used to it I suppose which I’ve heard happens. About once a week I grind up four full bowls of coffee beans to use for our coffee. Each bowl takes about 5 minutes so all together about 20 minutes. Not a bad thing to do sitting in the cockpit watching the water plus it’s a minor arm workout.
Coffee grinder storage, Life on the boat

Making the actual coffee takes a bit longer with the AeroPress but it is oh so good. Each “round” of the Aero Press procedure yields about 16 ounces or 2 “literal cups” of coffee. Typically I will only make us each a 16 ounce cup but sometimes if I’m feeling frisky I’ll make Tate another 16 ounces and keep it in a small thermos until he’s ready for it. Men are more productive with coffee.
Tate making Aeropress coffee

At home we’d definitely drink around 32 ounces of coffee each in the morning (or more) but I don’t mind cutting my consumption in half, it’s probably healthier that way. If I want more I can just make it later…although since we turn the propane on and off at the outside tank we try to utilize the stove in “batches” to minimize the up and down out of the boat. When the propane is on we make everything we can think of including coffee and boiling water for the carafe (which stays hot enough all day to make tea with).

We have started to keep eggs out of the fridge right now in a little tupperware container or the carton they come in. Later we’ll store them in the egg tupperware I got from lock and lock. Every 2 days or so I flip the container so the eggs are turned over, which is the method for keeping eggs out of the fridge. You have to keep the shell inside saturated with the eggs protein so that it doesn’t dry out, letting air inside which spoils it. So far we’ve keep eggs for about 5 days with no issue.

We LOVE eggs. They are cheap, healthy and taste oh so good all hot and creamy. YUM, I want some right now just writing about it.
Orange and eggs

While we are talking about food let me tell you about my recent discovery. FREEZE DRIED VEGETABLES! They are the bomb. A while ago Tate suggested I look into freeze dried foods to bring on the boat to supplement our diet and help with long term food storage. I researched and tried “Harmony House” freeze dried veggies which I absolutely LOVE. These aren’t the prepared meals with all the sodium and other stuff, They are simply vegetables that are freeze dried. I’ve tried the cabbage (my favorite), bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms and celery.
Freeze dried veggies

A little bit goes a long way and I really like that you can just use a little at a time instead of having to use the whole veggie to cook something. They might be a bit more expensive than store bought fresh ones but not that much to me. A 12-16 ounce jar is around $12 and it seems like it would last months but most importantly it doesn’t go bad and tastes great. I’m kind of hooked. Of course we’ll buy fresh stuff if we can but I’ve read alot of the time it’s hard to find good fresh veggies.

I’m so happy we moved aboard a couple of months before we planned to leave. I have rearranged things many times onboard and am finally happy with where everything is now. It won’t be hard to stow all the items below to sail yet things are still accessible and comfortable. We are also seeing just how much power we need to live. Since we moved we haven’t been hooked up to “Shore Power” at all. Our boat actually can’t even accept shore power, so shore power for us is just an extension cord with a power strip.

Yep, all of our power needs have been fulfilled with an old 50 watt solar panel… but we have yet to hook up the Engel Fridge and use many sailing instruments. We know we need more than 50 watts so the only project we are working on (which is the last major one) is getting the solar hooked up. Tate is 2/3 of the way there already and I can’t wait to show you when it’s done. I might even blow dry my hair on camera to demonstrate.

This weekend I picked up a platypus named Perry who wants to hitch a ride as the Cabin Cuddler in order to see the world. Don’t worry Perry, you can come with us.
Perry the platypus

We spend more time outside now then we have in many years under our covered cockpit drinking coffee, reading or perhaps watching the birds, water and clouds roll across the sky. It’s really relaxing and Tate and I both remark how easily hours slip away just sitting here. What is it about the water and nature that seems to draw humans in? How is it that we can just sit here totally content being on the water? It’s an interesting phenomena that I’m not the first to question.

Maybe we’ll find the answer out there, or maybe we’ll just sit here another hour.
Sunday evening hanging out

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I am really getting a taste of what cruising is like today, I tell ya what. Patience Danison…After excitedly writing an ENTIRE blog post, which I’ll attempt to recreate below, I pressed save right before I planned to upload and got the proverbial “blue screen”, or hell’s screen better known as ain’t nobody going to wipe up those tears of defeat and nobody cares as much as you do about what was lost on that screen.

OH the anguish..so much Love, so much PASSION and so many Words written on that screen that were eaten like a sock in a dryer. Oh how I wanted to throw my computer out the window and unleash my scorn fury onto the world…but no, no, I’m almost a bonafide cruiser and I need to learn to let the unexpected and super annoying events that take place in my life roll off my back and just try to persevere so my electronics and I don’t end up at the bottom of the sea. And so I am.

Back to where I started! Tate and I both feel it’s time to call the Refit, whistle blows, so that’s the end of Phase 4 and the total cost of this cruising boat refit is:

Drum Roll Please…

Nearly 100k. I know I know that’s a hellalotta money to be spent but we had a great opportunity with a cheap DIY boatyard right down the road so we replaced damn near everything on the boat and she is a VERY comfortable liveaboard and a seaworthy ocean going boat. I do believe we could have saved a good chunk of change if we had needed, I’ll expound upon that later a bit down the page.

For those of you who are new to this refit adventure we spent $30k on the obviously neglected Sundowner in 2010 and spent around $70k and 4 years fixing her up. The FINAL cost tally is down below sorted by categories. You can find a more detailed breakdown in my cost excel spreadsheets further down sorted this go around by category and not by phase:

Categories  Totals
Anchors/Chain  $         2,077
Boat Cost  $       30,248
Boatyard  $         5,883
Canvas  $         1,174
Dinghy-Motor  $         2,650
Electrical  $         5,583
Electronics  $         3,572
Engine Room  $       15,025
Galley/Propane  $         3,233
Interior  $         1,255
Materials  $         3,786
Plumbing  $         2,676
Rigging  $       15,860
Safety Gear  $         4,128
Sails  $         1,289
Spares  $            512
Tools  $            770
Final Actual Cost 12-01-14  $       99,720

Click on the links below for our detailed excel sheets.

  1. Sept-2011 $50,885 End of Phase 1 (Initial price, engine and related systems replacement)
  2. June-2012 $61,240 End of Phase 2 (Electrical, dinghy and outboard, anchor, air head)
  3. Mar-2014 $82,298 End of Phase 3 (Rigging, Interior improvements)
  4. **Dec-2014 $99,720 End of Phase 4 FINAL REFIT COST (Windvane, Solar, Propane, Spares, Misc)

Some of the highlights and big money replacements/refits:

  1. The engine, fuel tanks, filters and a dripless shaft seal (totally worth it)
  2. The electrical, all LED lighting, electronics, batteries and solar set up
  3. The standing rigging including a new SS bowsprit, SS boomkin and tower, chainplates and tangs, mast refit,wire rigging and winches
  4. The running rigging with all new halyards and sheets
  5. The anchor setup with new chain
  6. The plumbing with the airhead and new water tanks
  7. The interior with all cabinets painted with bilgekote and other various projects
  8. The propane system with a new stove and tanks
  9. The dinghy and outboard
  10. ALL new canvas including a dodger, bimini, sail covers, hatch covers and slip covers for the cabin (my mom sewed most of this but it deserves it’s own post)
  11. A new monitor windvane
  12. An offshore 4 person liferaft with cover

I fully believe we could have spent at least $20-$30k less if we had forgone some improvements:

  1. The engine- the one we bought the boat with worked and may had been just fine after a rebuild but it had 6k hours on it and we had to remove it to get to the leaky fuel tanks so we felt it was a good time to make the jump. The PO Roger also suggested we repower if possible, and he would know what that engine had been through best.
  2. The rigging- the wooden bowsprit and boomkin could have been rehabbed for much much less but “while we were at it” we decided to go all out and get the less maintenance stainless something I do not regret ESPECIALLY the boomkin area, wow what a difference that made for the cockpit. Also we were lucky enough to have Bud Taplin with the Westsail Parts Company fabricating all of these improvements for paint by numbers installation.
  3. The anchoring setup- the boat came with two 45lb CQR’s, a Danforth and a boatload of rusted chain that could have been regalvanized. We went with a 60 lb Manson Boss and new chain to feel safer at sea.
  4. The galley system- Sundowner had a functioning Kerosene stove which could have been left. We didn’t want the smell or hassle of dealing with Kerosene so went with Propane. This is one of the things I remember most about our conversation with Roger and Molly. She said if they had kept cruising she would have definitely changed the stove and so we for sure did!
  5. The canvas- the original dodger, bimini and sail covers could have limped their way around the world but since my mom had a canvas shop 40 minutes away I took advantage and helped her redo everything.
  6. The windvane- Sundowner had a Monitor windvane already installed that may have been alright especially if bumming around the Caribbean, but we couldn’t trust it for ocean crossings with the crevice corrosion so opted for a new one.
  7. The liferaft- If we were cruising the Caribbean we probably wouldn’t have gotten one or spent so much, but this gives us piece of mind for the longer voyages.

This is the last Refit Cost post but I will start keeping a detailed account of the money we spend cruising once we start. We are budgeting roughly $1,500 a month.

Things are really in a whirlwind lately and time is slipping by faster than I can utilize it. Just next week we are going to move the boat to Southern Yacht Club so it will be close for our friends and family to tour during our Bon Voyage Party. We will head out just 2 weeks after that East through the Rigolets as soon as the weather is good after the first of the year. Currently in New Orleans it’s around 75 degrees in the daytime. Much better than the 30’s and 40’s we were getting used to.

Not sure how this post will turn out as I’m writing on my computer on the boat which I’ll transfer to my phone in order post via cell phone service over the WordPress app…God help me.

Check out our COST page for more detailed accounting of the refit and updates on actual cruising costs. See ya!