“Tuesday January 6th, 2015:
Today we left on a round the world trip. A sailing trip that we have worked, I have worked, so hard for. The last few weeks getting ready to leave was absolutely insane, so much work…Provisioning the boat, getting the vehicles sold, saying goodbyes and quitting my job. All very difficult. Today was particularly difficult since we left the dock. I was so busy. So busy yesterday and so stressed Tate and I had some “disagreements”. Last night I was so tired around midnight but I still had hours left of work to do packing the boat. I felt as though I might explode tearing the boat to pieces, but the night passed and today came with a new found sense of adventure.

We have worked for over 5 years at this trip. Blood, sweat and tears were poured into our project boat “Sundowner” and finally she is ready to go. It’s hard to comprehend actually. I no longer have a regular job. My job is the boat. My life doesn’t seem to understand. I live a life of work. I work in many ways, that is what I do. But now…a whole new world is out there.

The goodbyes at the dock were hard. It hit me then more than ever that we were really leaving our families, our whole worlds behind. My sister Frances, Ethan and Evan (nephews), Dad, Kate (stepmom), Mom, Paul (stepdad), Paige and Carley (sister’s in Law), Gabe (nephew), Grant (Paige’s husband) and even Skipper Glenn came to see us off.
People on the dock at our departure
Tate and Dani aboard Sundowner at departure

As we were saying our goodbyes a Bald Eagle flew right overhead. Half the party saw it and half did not. It was undeniable with its bright white head and tail and black body. I’ve never seen one in Louisiana before. I can’t believe it. I think it is a good omen and how lucky are we to get to experience it? The trip away from the marina was sad and I cried waving goodbye to everyone on the dock, trying hard to burn the image into my mind to always remember it. As we left though a new found happiness emerged. We are beginning to live out a dream” (excerpt from Dani’s journal)

Sundowner pulling away from the marina (courtesy of Paige, Tate’s sister)
Sundowner leaving the marina

We motored away from the dock with the staysail partially filled, giving us a little speed. The middle sail is easy to raise and handle, I imagine we’ll use it quite a bit. The day was ABSOLUTLEY BEAUTIFUL and the calm lake was easy to move through. I took one last picture of New Orleans as it got smaller on the horizon.
New Orleans skyline as we were leaving town

Without issue we were making over 6 knots (with the help of the current) and at about 3:30 approached our last bridge, the Rigolets railroad bridge, leading out into the Gulf of Mexico. We were eager to get through in order to make it to our anchorage well before dark to give time for any changes in plans, such as a sailboat already anchored where we wanted to. But the opening of this creaky old rusted swing bridge took over an hour with the passing of a train and what seemed like a manual intervention to get the thing open. We were worried for a while that it wouldn’t make it all the way but finally it did and we were through, heading fast towards our anchorage just to the right of this bridge down the ICW.
The Rigolets bridge our last stop for quite some time

We approached our old anchoring honeymoon spot but saw on the GPS (thank goodness for technology) that a horseshoe area a bit before our planned spot was oriented with land to the northeast and was deep enough, perfect for the 25-35knot NE winds that were expected. We anchored here, in 10 feet of water instead. I helmed the boat while Tate dropped the anchor, manually counting the feet. We reversed the engine a good bit to make sure we were stuck.

At last we had made it! We could finally relax and hunker down for the freezing temperatures that approached. You can see how close we are to the Rigolets bridge in this photo. This is us on the first night of truly being a cruiser.
Tate and Dani First night hanging out

The sunset was comforting. This is a familiar sky pattern here in Louisiana and I love it out on the water even more. We are still at home in our home state, resting and preparing for our next leg.
First night sunset
Clouds sunset on the first night.

Back on land Tate and I voted and decided instead of champagne we’d have Chimay “champagne”, Tate’s favorite beer, to celebrate our first night out. He saved the best cigar from a Christmas care package from my dad and smoked it like there was no tomorrow.
Tate smoking a cigar on his first night

The stars out here are magnificent, the brightest I’ve seen in a long long time but still polluted from the cities nearby. I imagine the stars in the ocean far away from land will knock my socks off. I only pray the boat is steady enough for me to photograph them.

I went to sleep around 11pm and naturally woke up at 9:30am feeling refreshed. It was incredible to just sleep until whenever and wake up energetic. This is a feeling I am NOT used to. For years it seems after college it was just work, work, little sleep, more coffee, so much coffee and now I think maybe…maybe I’ll be able to catch up on sleep. But really, I’ve had it easy compared to people with kids. How on earth do they do it??

The anchorage when I awoke was so calm and beautiful with mild temperatures. It was actually warm in the sun! The dodger, bimini and other canvas blocks most of the wind at anchor since the boat faces into the wind. This is something we haven’t experienced yet in the marina with winds coming at all directions. We relaxed and felt we could stay at this place for weeks, or at least days to regroup.

The animals must have felt the same way we did. As Tate and I sat in the cockpit throughout the day drinking our one cup of coffee and many cups of tea we watched a multitude of critters in various states of activity. The coolest thing we saw was a group of 5 otters that made their way from one marsh grass line to the other, playing and swimming in the water in between. The suckers were so fast and slippery though so photographing them was difficult, especially at such a distance. I apologize for the low National Geographic quality of some of these photos but I’ll get better with time. (The camera zoom is unwieldy).

Otter head and one jumping back into the water:
Otter head
Otter about to swim in the water

Many ducks also hang around here, diving under the water every 30 seconds or so. How do they deal with the cold? Forget leather, I need a duck jacket.
3 black and white ducks
Mystery group of ducks

An Osprey got hungry and hovered over the water nearby before scooping down to grab a fish.
Hawk in the sky soaring high
Hawk with fish

There are many pelicans around these parts (It’s the Louisiana State bird for you non-locals). One even landed right on our lifeline, swaying the boat back and forth.
A pelican sitting in the water
A pelican landed on our lifeline

As the wind began to howl and the temperature started to drop I went below to make our first two loaves of bread on the boat. I’ve been practicing over the years and plan to make A LOT of bread on this trip. The oven warmed the boat a bit. To go with the bread I modified some canned soup with canned chicken, freeze dried mushrooms, celery, lentils and onions. It was hot and delicious.
making bread down below
Eating Bread and Soup

The night brought heavy winds and freezing temperatures but as the boat swayed in the wind it stayed relatively calm in this anchorage. I kept an eye on the depth which hovered around 10 feet, probably because of the horseshoe shape. New water was being pushed in and then was being blow out the other side. The next morning, Thursday, the temperature inside the boat read 33 degrees! That’s 12 degree’s colder than the 45 degrees I noted in the marina. The vberth however was very warm.

We don’t use a heater but I do heat water on the stove used to fill a coveted hot water bottle that passes between Tate and myself, although mostly to me (since he’s so nice <3). We basically live in long johns (pants and shirts), multiple layers of clothes on top of that, wool socks, sherpa slippers, hats, scarfs and sometimes even gloves. As I write this I have 6 layers of shirts/sweaters. We also live under wool and down blankets. It's comical really but it's working. I started my workout routine, 45 minutes each day, of pushups, crunches, leg exercises and arm exercises...this helps with the cold and in fact last night before bed I did some just to warm up. It got so chilly at one point we tried an old Russian method for staying warm...I won't say we got drunk, but we got warmer. We've been reading a lot and I just started a new book, "The Dragon Rider's of Pern". This book is pure fantasy, something I've never read before and is starkly different from the book I just finished, "Unbroken", which btw is an AMAZING read and I highly suggest it. It's essentially a WWII survival story to put it lightly. Tate and I are both huge history buffs so he is reading it now (Thanks Dad). It's nice to have the time to read. We also tried to fish with our Cuban Yoyo but to no avail. We are short on fishing line (I didn't remember to bring everything) and don't have the right tackle set up. Soon we'll arrange this better, it'll be easier when my hands aren't so cold. So far we LOVE cruising, or anchoring as it were. I can't help but feel the twinges of guilt for experiencing so much free time and joy but I'm getting there ;). This brings me to today Friday, still chilly but warmer than yesterday. Fully refreshed from enough sleep we started various projects on the boat getting her ready for the next leg. I reorganized the boat for the umpteenth time and Tate got the windvane operational. We still need to rig the reefing lines on the staysail but after that we are pretty much ready to go. Right now we don't have a day targeted but when the weather warms up our first choice will be to head across the Gulf, as east as possible. Tate says the winds come from predominantly the north or east this time of year so if we set our course to as East we can we'll probably get blown south east and towards the Keys. If this plan doesn't look feasible though we'll hug the coast to the panhandle of Florida. If you are curious the DeLorme only seems to post our position if we are moving. Like currently the last update was days ago but we are in the same spot it shows on the map. When we are underway it should post an update every 4 hours as to our position. I am writing this post using my cell service that I'll only have another month. The next blog post will probably be from somewhere far away. Until then throw another log on that fire, just for me.