Knock knock, anyone there?

I wish I had some grand excuse for my radio silence, but the honest truth is that Nick and I simply spent our summer and fall working, traveling and enjoying our weekends on our sailboat. Alas, we are now landlocked, and I’m back to say hello and happy almost-2017!

So where did we disappear to for half the year? Well we spent almost every weekend from April through November on the water and had so much fun during our second sailing season now that we had a little bit more experience under our belts. We also had a lot more wind than last summer, which allowed us to use our boat’s engine less and get much more practice with the sails.

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I feel truly blessed to be able to spend our time on the boat, away from our hectic work and home lives. And with no TV, we simply spent our time relaxing,  talking and making plans for the future, swimming, listening to the radio and playing games. Some weekends we explored cute little waterfront towns and other weekends we anchored in a quiet cove and spent two days alone on our 400-square-foot boat, without our feet ever hitting solid ground. Somehow we never get bored of it.

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I have to admit that it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows, and we had a few challenging experiences this year too. Strong winds all summer meant we really tested our sailing skills; I’m slowly learning to remain calm when we are overtaken by a strong gust of wind and the boat heels (or leans) heavily into the water on one side. And after dodging hundreds of crab pots, our luck ran out this summer and we snagged a pot with one of our rudders and pretty quickly came to a halt (we adjusted our sails to turn the boat and thankfully left it behind).

After a long day of sailing earlier this summer, we weathered a severe rain and thunderstorm later in the evening, which came with heavy winds from the opposite direction that we anchored, and our boat was dragged about 100 feet on our anchor. Thankfully we were pulled into deeper water and away from other boats, but on top of our exhaustion, it made for a very frightening and stressful nighttime situation.

And a few weeks later, after trying a new downwind sailing technique, we attempted to right the sails without stopping to talk and make a plan and the wind caught our sails in a not so good way (an accidental jibe, for all the sailors out there), which could have done some damage to our boat if the conditions had been worse. But through it all we keep smiling!

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Despite all those heart-racing situations, and that sailing the boat often requires us to communicate and work together and even that can sometimes be challenging, we continue to love sailing and the community we’ve found within it.

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One highlight of the summer was that we were able to sail with Nick’s family when they came to visit in May. The winds were light, but the sun was shining and we really enjoyed the day with family.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, Nick and I made the first of our furthest solo treks on the boat to date, down to the near tip of Maryland’s western shore, to Solomon‘s Island. From our marina near North Beach, Solomons is only about 30 nautical miles south (a 6-8 hour sail depending on winds), but cliffs line the shore for most of the way and once you get south of Chesapeake Beach city, if you run into weather or mechanical problems, there are no marinas or rivers to slip into and out of the open waters. Thankfully, we had a mostly uneventful trip there and back and really enjoyed visiting the area.

We stayed on a mooring ball for the long weekend and enjoyed taking the marina’s courtesy bikes to ride into town and relaxing at the pool and club house.

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Another highlight of our weekends on the water and away from the city is that we enjoyed glimpses of so much marine and wildlife. Throughout the season we spotted numerous bald eagles (they are  truly so majestic), and we’ve also seen dozens of small groups of cownose stingrays swimming right alongside the boat. The Bay is also infamous for its sea nettles, a member of the jellyfish family, which overtake the warm waters during the summer months; Nick and I both got stung for the first time this summer, which results in a red, itchy patch of skin, so we are officially salty Bay sailors (or something like that).

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We’ve also added some new fishing gear to the boat this year and have been trying our hand at trolling for rockfish (also known as striped bass), which are the official fish of Maryland (say that three times fast) and the most popular catch in the Chesapeake Bay. So far we’ve had no luck, but we plan to keep trying!

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Another first this year was that Nick and I took a week-long vacation on the boat and headed north of the Chesapeake Bay bridge towards Baltimore and Chesterton. We stayed at a marina in downtown Fells Point in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor for a few days (a lovely area close to shops and restaurants and the Oriole’s ballpark where we caught a game). We spent the rest of the time at anchor and tucked into coves; it was our furthest and longest trip aboard the boat and such a fun adventure since we had mostly great winds and weather.

The highlight from the trip was that we ended up docked right next to our teaching captain, Tom, who arrived with a new batch of sailing students. We spent an evening with them on our boat and shared our sailing stories over drinks. (I’m not sure who was prouder, us or Tom, that we were there on our own boat and actually pursuing our dreams of sailing!)

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A few weeks later we were joined onboard for the long Independence Day weekend by our friends, Nick and Jessica, who own a powerboat. Three nights was the longest we’ve had guests aboard, and I’m so happy to say that the trip was a success and we all really enjoyed ourselves.

Nick and I also made an effort this year to socialize more with those in the sailing community and joined several sailing groups as well as attended a few weekend sailing gams to take courses. We are often the youngest attendees at these events (many are retirees who live aboard and cruise the U.S. and Caribbean full time), but we enjoy the camaraderie and appreciate all the tips and advice we’ve picked up along the way.

As of last month, the early sunsets and cold temperatures means our sailing season has now ended, and we’ve hauled the boat out of the water for the winter season. We’ve been bitten hard by the sailing bug, and saying farewell (for even a few months) to our boat and weekend adventures makes us a bit melancholy. Our second sailing season has affirmed that this an activity and community that we love, and it’s been so great for Nick and me to be able to share the experiences and adventure together.

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As silly as it sounds, finding sailing has been the best thing for us, and now that we know our passion for it, it has motivated and inspired us, and helped make our next steps in life so much clearer.

I’ll end this post by saying that I have a handful of updates about other life and home happenings, and I hope to share those soon!

Happy 2017, friends!

Life Lately {May 2016}

Nick and I were so excited last month when we finally got the call from our sister marina that our boat was back in the water. A few days later we made the short one mile trip down the Chesapeake Bay to deliver Houd Vast back into her slip; we were excited to see many of the same dock neighbors from last summer and meet some new friends, as well.

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Rainy weather has kept us from doing much sailing, but it’s given us time to tackle a few more projects – like reinstalling our sun canvas, cleaning and sealing our teak decking, which had weathered and grayed last season, and replacing our entire starter and house battery bank (six batteries total!).

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Nick gets kudos for doing nearly all the boat work on his own, since our first day back in the water ended with me having a broken toe.  I still have a little pain and am walking a bit slowly, but I’m back in regular shoes again!

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Nick and I are loving these ham, cheese and spinach puffs for breakfast from Eat Well; they are easy to make, are very filling, and reheat well, so they can be made ahead and eaten all week. (Vegetarians could easily substitute mushrooms for the ham).

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The lower level of our tiered backyard, also known as The Pit, and where we keep our compost bins, finally saw some action last weekend (we’ve been talking about tackling this area for years). Nick and I  defined a small space and laid down some weed blocking fabric, which we covered with leaf mulch that we had delivered from the city (and are using for another project – post coming soon!). Ultimately, our plan is to build a small fire pit down there and make it into a somewhat usable space. Stay tuned!

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Nick’s parents, sister and her husband are headed our way this weekend for a few days of visiting and fun! I can’t wait to share highlights from their trip.

A Better Night’s Sleep

Our sailboat Houd Vast is currently still on the hard, but in less than a month, she could be back in the water. Over the weekend, we removed the winter cover, and tackled the first of many spring projects.

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At the top of our wish list was getting a better night’s sleep aboard. Last year, Nick and I spent nearly every weekend on the boat, and it didn’t take very long for us to realize that the cheap foam mattresses that came stock on the cabin beds didn’t make for good sleeping.
We typically sleep in the boat’s aft cabin, which has a large and spacious (but not very comfortable) king-size bed.

 

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Unfortunately, replacing the old foam cushions wasn’t as simple as purchasing a new king-size mattress; if you look at the graphic above, you’ll see that the foot area on either side of the aft cabin is not square – one side has a cutout and the other side an angled base.

Nick and I researched many different options, including a custom mattress…which was so very costly! Also, we really needed two separate cushions in the cabin for ease of removal; if you check out the graphic above again, our engine compartment is below the companionway stairs and is accessible through panels in both the head/shower area and the aft cabin – since Nick has to routinely access the engine for maintenance, we have to remove the right side cushion. When we do that, we either stack the two cushions to the left side of the cabin or pull one out into the salon. Having one large mattress would make that process nearly impossible.

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After lots of research, we finally settled on a memory foam topper based on comfort reviews and the ability for us to cut the foam to the exact size we needed. We purchased this 4-inch Serta 4-pound density memory foam mattress from Overstock.

Most memory foam mattress toppers are 2 inches; since the cabin cushions on the boat rest on wood (with no box spring) we went for a thicker 4-inch mattress (we also opted for pure memory foam; many come in memory foam/basic foam combos). Also, the denser the foam the firmer it is; 3-to-4 pounds is recommended for stomach/side sleepers and 4-to-6 pounds is recommend for back sleepers.

Below are the original foam cushions after we removed them from the mattress covers.

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You can see in this closeup that the previous mattress was just cheap foam padding.

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After we received the new memory foam mattress, we unrolled it and let it expand for almost three days. Before we decided to cut it into pieces, Nick and I carried it up to our bedroom and slept on it, right on the floor, for a night! Thankfully, while sleeping on memory foam does take some getting used to, we both found it to be very comfortable.

After letting the mattress fully expand, we laid out both mattresses and used the old foam cushions as a template.

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After we had the cushions traced, Nick used an electric carving knife to cut away the extra foam. (It’s hard to tell below, but we set the new memory foam mattress on top of the old cushions, so the knife cut into those rather than the wood floor.)

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Since the memory foam mattress was nearly the same thickness as the original foam, they fit perfectly back into the original mattress covers.

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It only took about half an hour before we had both mattresses cut and back into their covers. It was an inexpensive and simple project, but I think it will make a world of a difference and bring us a much better night sleep, especially since we are looking to take a few longer trips this summer.

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Since we had great success with this project, we may tackle the bed in the V-berth cabin later this summer.

Until then, happy resting 🙂

Life Lately {October 2015}

With only a few weeks left in our sailing season, we’ve been trying to spend as much time on the boat and water as we can. We haul out for the season at the end of this month.

A few weeks ago, we enjoyed our last warm weather sailing weekend (thankfully we had a feeling that was the case, so we really soaked it up). Sadly, since the beginning of October we’ve had to trade in our shorts for coats.

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A few weekends back, we had a great day and sail on the Bay with our friends. The following weekend they invited us out on their power boat, and we headed to Baltimore and docked right downtown for lunch in Fells Point. While I love our sailboat, it was so much fun to hop on a higher-speed powerboat and head somewhere for an afternoon…that trip would have taken us 6-to-8 hours to sail! 🙂

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A few weekends ago Nick and I headed to Kitty Hawk, a quaint beach town on the outer banks of North Carolina for a colleague’s wedding. A storm front had settled over the area, and we were pelted with rain and 20-to-30 knot winds all weekend.

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The wedding reception took place at the Kitty Hawk Pier, which was pounded by high waves and heavy winds the entire evening, causing the building to literally shake beneath our feet.

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The weather followed us home to D.C., and while we thankfully lucked out when Hurricane Joaquin headed out to sea, a Nor’easter took its place, and we were once again hit with several days of heavy rain and winds.

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Nick and I visited the boat for a night to make sure it was properly tied down and spent the night rolling around in the boat from gusts that reached more than 40 knots.

All that rain caused super tides, several feet higher than usual, and the water was nearly lapping our dock.

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The next morning we had to leap down from the boat deck to the pier since the boat was sitting several feet higher than usual – there is no way we could have made it back onto the boat without a ladder!

NickdockNearby Annapolis, Maryland is known for being a sailing mecca, and we are lucky that it’s also host to the country’s largest annual sailboat show. It would take days to tour through all the boats and vendor tents that come out for the four-day show, so we spent a few hours hopping on and off new boats and visiting with our dealer, and we left without buying anything new for the boat. (We did pick up some really nice windproof and waterproof coastal sailing jackets that were very well priced for the show). boatshow1

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I love to decorate our house for the holidays, but with limited closet space, especially now with the boat (there is currently a rolled-up dinghy under my office/craft room daybed), storage is always an issue. So I always look for ways to decorate with natural elements (that eventually get composted) or with things I already own.

Nick bought us pumpkins a few weeks back, and I painted their handles gold and spent $3 at craft store to buy glittery spiders along with craft eyes and gauze, which I made into these mummy candle holders on our fireplace.

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We also started work recently on another house project, and I’ll leave you with this photo as a hint: we need a new, and bigger, hammer!

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I hope everyone is enjoying the start of fall!  Xox