A day in “The Life”
I suspect that “Cruising” has as many different characteristics as there are characters living “The Life”, and nothing is actually typical. But now that we have been at sea for a few months certain patterns are evolving. As there seems to be a lot of difference in what we were expecting, and what really is happening, I thought it might be good to lay down what a “typical” week looks like “out here.”
Monday: Up at dawn. We carry an alarm clock, but my system (and Rio’s bladder) are happy at being up and moving by 6:00-ish right now. Then we switch the boat out of night mode – turn off the anchor light and alarm, turn on the solar cells, water pressure etc. Pour a couple of cups of “Secret Stash” coffee that Jodi put in a good thermos yesterday morning. and get the computer network up and running. While everything boots, brush the fangs and wash the face. Settle into the Navigation station/chart table/office and check the weather, and email. Usually this whole process has me logged in and working by 6:15-6:30.
My work can be done either locally or using the internet so as long as I can get connected every few days or so. We have a long range wifi setup that can find us a free wifi connection in about 1 in 3 ports. When we find a free one, I do all the heavy work I can. When we can’t find good wifi, we rely on a AT&T cellular hotspot. This works great but isn’t really cheap, so when we are using the hotspot, I cache most of my work and test on my local machine only.
Jodi can write about her mornings, but I sit here and grind out concept and code until about noon. Then the cruising actually starts. While anchoring out this summer, we have had about 1 day in 5 that is too rough, too wet, or to something, to actually take the dinghy into shore, so we spend that day nestled up in the enclosure reading. Most days we load up the dink at noon and head in. The first day in a new place is always an exploring day, but first we have to find someplace to land the dinghy. This would seem simple enough, but most of the places we have been to are surrounded by private property, and landing a dink is trespassing. In major ports there may be dinghy docks, but often these are available only for a fee. Key West is $5/day for use of the dinghy dock, New Bedford is $7, and we have heard that docks in New York are $20 just to tie up a dinghy. We have also had many very nice locals offer us the use of their docks, a few restaurants or hotels have made docks available, and once in a while there will be a marina that has a corner someplace that they will let you use. Newport RI, where we are today, obviously wants boaters and their cash in town and have 2 free public dinghy docks. Some cities spend $$ on TV ads to attract tourists, and some spend $$ on floating docks. When you are out here, TV ads don’t mean much, but a dock that makes it easy to load a weeks groceries and 4 cases of soda means a whole lot. Guess which towns we spend the most time and money in ?
OK, so once we get tied up its time to check out the sites/sights. Rio can do his duty onboard, but hit the dock and it seems like he becomes this poop and pee machine! We have to carry at least 3 plastic poop bags for even a short trip to town. Before hitting the dock, we burn some hotspot time using Google maps to try and find the important stuff ashore. Is there a BIG store – Walmart or such? Is there a chandlery – West Marine or such? How about a hardware store, and then of course a grocery store. How far are they away, do they have what we need, how expensive are they, are they on a bus route… Lets go find out.
Kittery ME, was really a neat little place, but after the dock and restaurant there was really nothing for shopping for several miles, so we used the dinghy to motor up the river to get into “down town.” A couple miles in a dinghy may not seem like such a big deal, but imagine if you will being in a river full of boat traffic from idiots in inflatable dinghies to oil tankers, lobster-men, nuclear submarines, and every “go fast” with an outboard. There are wakes out there that can easily swamp our little dink, not to mention what happens if the afternoon breeze is opposite the flow of the river and it builds a 2 foot chop. We have actually motored for miles at 2mph taking cold splashing wave after cold wave over the bow. Stop and pump out the bottom of the dink and go again. We like short dinghy rides where possible!
Yesterday was our third day in Newport, RI. We had toured the waterfront, found some neat landmarks (where JFK got married), and now was time to get some real groceries and some laundry done. Laundry day is always a big day. The dink is 10′ long. Put in 2 people and a dog, then 2 bags of laundry,2 back packs, and a shopping cart worth of food… you get the idea. We do this in CALM weather only.
When we hit the dock we helped another couple get a hole in the solid raft of dinghies so they could tie up to the dock. Turns out they were on a CT 54′ in from Key West and there to do laundry too. With 2 machines and 3 bags of laundry between us, there wasn’t much else to do but swap stories and become friends!
Walking through town, we poked our heads into a little artists shop, and the man inside said “Oh look at the cute Schipperke, I have one just like him.” Turns out that Johnny and his partner Scotty had already seen us in the anchorage, and we ended up making a play date for their Schipperke and Rio. Met them on the dock, the dogs played and we walked to a local pub for lunch.
Our first trip into town netted us a grocery store, but it was anything but cheap! Further talking to people and locals turned up a “Stop and Shop” only about 300 yards further than we had gone, so today we walk 1.5 miles instead of 1.4 Sure enough, groceries. Rio can’t go in the grocery stores, so I usually hang with him while Jodi enjoys the A.C. Today there is another dog waiting outside, and his collar says he is from “Duluth”. Interesting. When his pack returns, we find out that they are from Connecticut and traveling on a Albin 32′ sailboat. They shared some ice cream with us while we walked back towards the dock, and we chatted about places we have been – and places that we should go. Tonight we will have them over for Jodi’s “Chicken Bomb” dinner.
Some days at anchor are not nearly as social or fun. There is an endless list of projects and things to do on the boat. WAXING is the biggest and most constant. We do oil changes, and battery checks, and drain cleanings, but the waxing just never seems to be enough. The stainless isn’t stainFree, so it has to be polished, and the sun eats the wax almost as fast as you put it on. Without wax, every little thing leaves a stain and the hull develops a “beard” where the bow wave rolls down the sides. And in a place where the seagulls are bigger than the turkeys we have at home, protecting the topsides is a BIG deal. We won’t even talk about what happens under the holding tank vents – yuck! So the top item on every days todo list is “clean and wax”… not that we always do it, but it is always there.
Sailing Days: Currently, we are trying to sail on the weekends, and work during the week. Saturday morning, up just before sun-rise. We need a route to follow and since we had company for dinner again last night, its now last minute Routing Time. Because we are almost completely electronic for our charting , I can use the iPad to build and closely examine our route. This one has a few reefs to worry about, and a nasty “race” if we are going against the tide, so we calculate that into the mix. Looks like 40 nautical miles to Mystic SeaPort, so lets get some sails up and get moving. Power up the windlass, hoist the engine off the dinghy, put the dingy on the davits, secure the loose stuff, raise the main, haul up the anchor and we are Out of Here!
This is always a mixed bag. If we have been in a place (Newport,RI) more than a couple of days (5), we have probably made some new friends (3 couples), found most of the stores (liquor,grocery,hdwr,marine), and feel good about how our anchor is holding (it did). In short, we have become “comfortable” with this place.
Now we toss all of that over, and strike out again for a place where we know no-one, have no clue if there even are any stores, let alone ones that have what we need, or are within hiking range. We don’t know if there will be fuel, or water, or a pump out station, or even room for us in the anchorage. We may get there and find that we have to pay $40+ a night for a mooring ball because the anchorage is full, or too small. We normally plan to travel from about 6AM and drop the anchor before dark which means somewhere under 70 miles per day. What happens if the wind is too light, or fog rolls in and we can’t get anchored up before it gets dark? Nothing is more frightening than entering an unknown channel in the dark and/or fog! Makes the hair on my neck stand on end just describing it.
But today works well, as most days have. We get a nice sail south out of Newport, and since the wind doesn’t want us to turn west to go into Mystic, we just continue south and drop the hook in Block Island instead. 25 miles will do for today. There is plenty of room and in a few minutes we will have the dink in the water and see what town looks like. Just another week in “The Life”.