Goodbye NWC, Hello Gottschalk!

The time had come to say goodbye to all of the wonderful people at Northwest Creek Marina in New Bern. As much as we would have liked to stay there permanently, the daily 2 ½ hr round trip commute to Camp Lejeune for Conor just wasn’t sustainable. We had to wait until the middle of September for many reasons, mostly because Conor had so many field ops this summer that we didn’t have enough time to make the three day trip. The good news was that because we waited, Conor’s parents were able to fly out from Washington state and help us make the journey!

DAY 1:

We left our marina around 8am on Saturday, Sept 16. The bimini and headsail were back up (thanks for the scare, Hurricane Irma), the water and diesel tanks were filled, our fridge was stocked, and our course was plotted. We were as ready as we were ever going to be! Not going to lie, I was pretty nervous. This was our first big trip with a destination, not just going out to sail around the Neuse River in familiar territory.

We said our goodbyes and cast off, heading south to Oriental. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, with 8-10 knots of wind and not a cloud in sight. The trip was going to take around five hours, and we just had to get to our transient slip for the night before five, so we put up the sails and enjoyed the day. This was my in-laws’ first time on a sailboat, and I think they caught the bug 🙂

The wind and chop started picking up around noon, so we pulled in the sails and motored the rest of the way to our spot. It was an adorable little marina called Whittaker point, the dockhouse is below:

Whittaker

As you all know, docking completely stresses me out, but with four people instead of two, it made a world of difference! The transient slip ended up being $1.50 per foot, so around $60 for us to stay the night (with power hookup). Like staying in a hotel, only you get to sleep in your own bed!

DAY 2:

This was our longest travel day, about nine hours. We needed to motor along the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) for over 30 NM and make it to Swansboro by 5pm. This was our first time on the ICW, and although we prefer sailing to motoring, it was an awesome way to see the Carolina coastline. And let me say, traveling by boat for 9 hours is wayyyyy different than traveling by car. The time flies when there is so much to see! At one point we were surrounded by a pod of at least twenty dolphins enjoying their morning feed, even little baby ones! I caught this cute moment of my in-laws that morning:

inlaws

The channel markers were super easy to follow, though it did get a little tricky around Morehead City. There was a ton of boat traffic and giant shipyards we had to navigate around. The channel also gets pretty narrow in some spots, and you have to always have an eye on your depth meter and the nav system. We didn’t run into any problems until we were in sight of Casper’s Marina, the dock we were staying at for the night. It finally happened: we ran aground. Whoops! There is a saying among boaters that there are two types of people: sailors who have run aground, and sailors who lie about having run aground. It is an inevitable consequence of boating, and I, for one, will openly admit to it!

In our case, there was an unmarked shoal closer to the ICW channel markers than we knew about. As we were heading in, we got a radio call from Casper’s Marina telling us about it, but by then it was too late! We got stuck. BUT my amazing husband, the ‘boat whisperer’ got us free somehow with a combination of reversing and wiggling. Although it was a stressful five minutes, it is just one more boating experience we can check off the list.

DAY 3

The last day dawned early, because we needed to enter New River before the tide dipped too low. We left Casper’s at 6:30 am as the sun was coming up. Today was the day we would see our new home!

Thanks to our friend/previous owner of the boat, Bob, we knew that there were a few tricky spots to navigate through as we left the ICW and motored up New River.

Tricky spot 1: “You WILL run out of water if you don’t enter the intersection of New River and the ICW at high tide.” Yep, even though we made it to the junction with plenty of time to spare, I still nervously watched the meter drop to as little as .5 ft of water underneath our keel at one point! But we didn’t run aground, yay!

Tricky spot 2: Stone’s Bay: Just after going under the Snead’s Ferry Bridge, there is a giant shoal you have to go alllll the way around before going north. Know what else doesn’t help? 20-25 knot winds and massive chop on the water. It is really no wonder why we were the only boat out that day.

Surprise tricky spot: This one couldn’t have been planned for. The Onslow bridge decided to malfunction just as we got to it, and it wouldn’t open. Do you know how hard it is to try to keep a boat in one place while you wait? The channel was narrow, the current was pulling the boat forward, and the wind was NOT our friend. Again, Conor the hero did an AMAZING job as we waited an extra half an hour for the problem to be fixed and the bridge to open. I’m seriously in awe of his captain skills, and his calm under pressure. I need to practice my steering a bit more to get on his level.

After all of this, the feeling of arriving at Gottschalk Marina was indescribable. I felt SO proud of us and happy we made it in one piece. It is crazy to think that back in June we hardly had any idea what we were doing when we bought the boat. Now, we’ve completed a multi-day journey all on our own! The best thing we ever did was jump right into this with both feet, and be okay with being outside of our comfort zones. There is really no better teacher than experience.

And as we navigate this great adventure, we will also be adding another crew member soon 🙂

announcement

 

Love,

Taylor and Conor

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Irma

I’m pretty sure every boater east of the Mississippi has this lady on their minds. A Cat 5 hurricane, just weeks after Harvey, is about to rip its way through people’s lives. I’ve been obsessively checking and refreshing my weather updates, but the news is only getting worse. I am worried sick for everyone in the Caribbean and fearful for those in Florida. For everyone with loved ones in harm’s way, our thoughts are with you.

We are taking it one day at a time in North Carolina, as nobody is able to predict which way the hurricane will turn. Over Labor Day weekend, Conor and I focused our energies on things we could control and tackled a ‘to-do’ list we had of stuff to get done before we move the boat (weather permitting) on September 16th. Here’s what we did to keep distracted:

  • Scrubbed/cleaned the boat and outdoor cushions
  • Checked our fuel filter+engine fuel level
  • Topped off the water in our batteries
  • Tightened the stuffing box
  • Cleaned the AC filter
  • Replaced our water hose at the dock
  • Scheduled a hull cleaning for next week
  • Plotted our route to Gottschalk Marina and our overnight stays
  • Submitted an updated hurricane plan to our insurance for when we are no longer at NWC Marina

All this kept me from obsessing over the hurricane yesterday, but now I’m left with hardly anything to do today! We haven’t done any serious hurricane prep to the boat yet (taking down sails and dinghy, etc) because we are still playing the waiting game. If Irma does head our way, I’ll do a post on everything we have to do to keep our boat safe, and then cross my fingers and hope for the best.

Stay safe.

Love,

Taylor and Conor

Much Ado About Nothing

Well folks, after all that preparation, the storm slowed down to nothing and never hit us. When Conor and I went to bed on Monday night, we fully expected to be woken up at 2am due to howling winds, but were instead greeted by gentle rain around 7am. Confused, we turned to each other like, “Did we miss it?”

A tiny part of me was actually looking forward to the learning experience of getting through our first storm, but that will have to wait. At least it was good practice getting the boat ready to take a beating.

Mother Nature can be so fickle. Our hearts and thoughts are with those in Houston right now, as they have just suffered the worst she has to offer. I continue to be amazed at the stories of resilience and survival I’ve read this past week, and saddened by the devastation. Why did it have to happen?

Love,

Taylor and Conor

Batten Down the Hatches

I’m taking a little break from preparing our boat to give you all a quick update about the first ‘real’ storm headed our way right now! There is currently a tropical storm making its way up from South Carolina that should hit sometime here in the next few hours. While this is nowhere near Harvey levels, I’m feeling a bit nervous.

Winds are looking to be about 45 mph, with gusts up to 60 mph. Flash flood warnings are in effect until tomorrow afternoon. The tide has already risen up higher than I’ve ever seen it, and I expect that the docks will be submerged at some point.

BUT the good news is that we are surrounded by boaters who have been through it all before. I’ve taken down our tarps and stowed away everything that could get blown away (cockpit cushions, etc). I’m topping off our water tanks and tucking away anything that could become a flying projectile if we get rockin’ and rollin’ tonight. We have two bow lines, two spring lines, and two stern lines secured, and the dockmasters will be patrolling the docks tonight checking on all the boats.

I’ll breathe easier once Conor gets home from work this afternoon. Thankfully, his command is understanding if he can’t get to Camp Lejeune tomorrow! I expect we will be wide-eyed all night. Gonna hunker down and ride it out–we’ll let you know how it goes.

Love,

Taylor and Conor

Pura Vida, Baby!

Today, I realized that it has been over two weeks since I updated the blog (gulp!)–time just got away from me!

These last few weeks I’ve focused on friends, community, and building a wonderful support network on side of the country. Conor was gone in 29 Palms for three weeks this August for an exercise (and just got back yesterday!), so that meant plenty of time for me to connect with friends, both old and new.

I’ve already made so many friends at our marina, people of all ages and at different stages in life: retired cruisers, veterans, parents with young children, and even fellow writers. Marina life is never lonely, and I always have to plan for 10-15 min extra time to get anywhere, as people always want to stop and chat on the docks. The staff always checks on me to see how I’m doing, and everyone is there to offer help/support/guidance. It really feels like a family. We all came together to celebrate Dawn this month, who has worked for NWC Marina for 25 years. Close to 100 people showed up, even people who no longer have boats at the marina but who just wanted to express their gratitude.

Scout and I also went on a road trip to Charleston, SC for my friend Bekah’s baby shower. We studied abroad in Costa Rica together almost six years ago and have kept in contact ever since. While we hung out over the weekend, it honestly felt like no time had passed since we were college students living the ‘Pura Vida’ life on the beach.

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From beach babes (circa 2011)…
baby shower
…to BABY!

I am SO excited for Bekah and her husband, and to meet ‘Little Man’ soon. I really believe that unique circumstances can forge unbreakable bonds between people, much like in the liveaboard community. We are all on an adventure together!

The craziest part was being in a house for the first time in months—everything felt so spacious and open. I woke up a couple of times in the night, wondering where the hell I was, why nothing was rocking, and why there was so much space above my head. I wondered if the boat would feel small when I returned from the weekend, and if I would have any regrets about our choice.

Not at all. Instead, I felt an overwhelming sense of returning ‘home’ after being away from the boat for the first time since we bought it. Any other way of life simply isn’t for me at the moment, which I was pretty sure of when we bought the boat, but now is beyond a doubt.

I will say, though, that home doesn’t feel complete unless Conor is here with me. Time away from your spouse is hard, whether it is for a 6 month deployment or just a summer exercise. I wish that we could set sail already and leave ‘grown-up’ responsibilities and time apart behind, but we still have to wait a few years for that.

Love,

Taylor and Conor

À La Commode!

Our boat was nearly perfect when we bought it. Minus a few changes here and there (like the lifeline nets), we really didn’t have much to do to customize it for our needs. Except for one thing: the toilet.

A good old-fashioned ‘cruising toilet’ occupied our only head. That meant a manual pump and a smell that, no matter how hard we tried, permeated the bathroom. The previous owners had installed a freshwater spray nozzle that they used to fill the bowl instead of intaking river water when they flushed, but for a variety of reasons it was creating a vacuum and causing backflow issues.

So glamorous, I know.

While that system may have worked for them as primarily weekend sailors, it did not suit our needs as full-time liveaboards. Flushing with saltwater (like a real cruiser) might have worked, but the Neuse River water is pretty gross (hence the smell). Because we will be sticking with river and coastal sailing for a while as long as Conor is stationed here, we decided it was worth it to upgrade.

Here it is:

toilet
The little black button on the side is the electric flush

This electric toilet is a closed system, which means it draws fresh water from one of our 3 holding tanks. Plus, it flushes with the push of a button! We had it professionally installed, and though it was expensive, I don’t have to worry about a plumbing malfunction flooding our boat (gag!).

Never in my life did I think I would be so excited about a toilet, much less write an entire blog post about one. But this little beauty is going to make a world of difference with our day-to-day comfort living aboard. Yes, we might have some regrets down the line when we go long-term cruising, because it uses precious fresh water and electricity. However, we do have a watermaker, solar panels, and a wind generator for a reason!

For now, a customized bathroom is the ice cream on top of the best boat ever.

Love,

Taylor and Conor

Putting Up Lifeline Nets

This post could also be titled: “How one weekend turned into three”, and is all about how we made a project a lot more complicated than it had to be. But the great news is now we don’t have to worry about any precious cargo falling off the boat!

We knew when we bought our boat that lifeline netting was a must. It basically turns your boat into a giant playpen and gives an extra level of security if you have pets or children aboard (though they should always be supervised while on deck regardless, even at the dock). It doesn’t look pretty, but it is functional.

We asked one of our neighbors how long it took to put up his netting, and he told us 22 hours. We naively thought that he was exaggerating. Nope. Turns out, this project is meticulous, time consuming, and an all-around pain in the butt, especially outside in the summer heat. So we thought we’d do it a different way, and ended up paying the price. Lesson learned: never try to take a shortcut.

We bought two packages of 50ft lifeline netting ($50 ea) and dacron line for securing the bottom of the net to the boat. For the top of the net, we had the genius idea of using zip ties instead of running line through the diamonds, which would have kept everything much neater and less tangled. We ran the first 50ft section from gate to gate, around the bow of the boat (and had some to spare). Here’s what we ended up with the first weekend:

zip1
Freshly zip tied around the bow
zip2
Zip tied net with tails trimmed. Looked neat and tidy, right?

The zip ties were helpful in holding everything in place while we measured out the netting and secured the bottom, but we shouldn’t have assumed they would hold forever. We used white zip ties, which we soon found out had about a three month shelf life outside, because the UV rays from the sun would break them down. Talk about a safety issue! So we had to run the line through the top AFTER everything was already secured to the stanchions. Then once the line was through, we had to go back and snip off every single zip tie (without accidentally cutting the net!). We also ran another line through the middle of the net for extra security. That was weekend #2. Here’s what it looked like:

net1
Netting with dacron line wrapped around the center lifeline and through the top diamonds

Weekend #3 (this past weekend) Conor finally finished the stern of the boat. Our second 50ft piece wrapped around the back, and was trickier because of the extreme height changes and the catbird seats. Instead of stretching the net horizontally, it needed to be stretched vertically. He also had to figure out a way to tie the bottom of the net to the gates, while still making them easy to open. The solution: carabiners! He tied a loop knot at the bottom of the dacron line at the gates and hooked them to a carabiner to be easily slipped on and off when we unlocked the gate. Like this:

 

This is the lifeline netting wrapped around the catbird seat:

net2

Oh, and we also found out that you should replace your lifeline netting every two years. We’re vowing to do this right the first time around in 2019! At least we learned from our mistakes. If you’re putting up your own netting, feel free to ask us a question!

Love,

Taylor and Conor

net3
Our very scruffy puppy is happy with the results!