On the Moat wall of Fort Jefferson, in the Dry Tortugas.
On the Moat wall of Fort Jefferson, in the Dry Tortugas.
For Connor’s 8th birthday, he had the pleasure of shooting a pirate!!
On the morning of Wednesday, February 13th we weighed anchor after spending the night near Pine Island Sound, my dad discovered we had a stow away that had looped himself upon our anchor chain. It was a rush to the bow to meet out little seahorse friend- in the frenzy a camera was almost forgotten, but remembered in a “flash” (literally), and a picture was snapped before we suffocated out new little pet of the sea. I know not if we ever ended up naming him, but if I had it my way his christian would have been Sea Biscuit, but that’s just me.
After tossing little ‘Sea Biscuit’ back into the waves we motored on to Sanibel Island and continued our journey towards Naples, Florida where we arrived on February 14th, what I later came to realize was Valentines day. We spent 9 nights in Naples, maxing out our mooring time, at the city dock, though we spent more time with our family than on the boat during our stay. But that’s a story for a later day- Farewell!
On the television we witness the lives portrayed by a screen writer, or the drama inflicted cast of a reality TV show, it has become a comfort to ease out of our own lives and slip into one portrayed before us, however on a 41 foot sailboat there’s nowhere to hide from six younger siblings, and a TV is a luxury we don’t have. A boring day has, by no means, ever been a concern upon Invincible, our floating home; from Sara, who’s 13 years old, making spaghetti and almost blowing up the galley from not checking to make sure the propane was off, to Mom, the captain, incorrectly reading the markers and grounding us in the middle of the channel, and walking three miles to the dentist to extract my broken permanent retainer, which turned into our “first medical emergency.” These and many more incidents lead to never a dull moment in our transient lives. Meandering along the Intra Coastal Water way, also known as the ICW, from Texas to Florida during this past month has given us numerous opportunities to express our love and, at times, self control for not throwing one another overboard.
The amazing thing with strangers is once introduced, they become more than just another human being, they have the opportunity of becoming a friend, and can appear in the most unlikely of circumstances. The plethora of kind thoughtfulness we have been given is incalculable. In Houma, Louisiana a man gave my dad a ride all over town to fill up our propane tank; in Orange , Al. Fish- that’s what everyone called him, offered his resources of transportation to Wal-Mart and helped fix the bilge pump line; at Pirates Cove, Alabama our savior of the day, Rick, appeared at a critical moment and helped us fix a very threatening steering emergency; ubiquitously we’ve had people sit down for hours pouring over charts with us, because they too had been in our situation at one time, and many more such situations. We’re so blessed to have good karma on our side, for we all enjoyed the home made chocolate chip cookies a woman brought us in Morgan City, La. when she heard of the crew of children aboard. I know not if I’ve ever had cookies so scrumptious before, and the best part was they were made with real legitimate butter, a scarcity onboard.
I find it funny, but when I thought of going cruising I never imagined some of the simple foods we’d end up craving the most, such as butter and cheese. With the absence of a refrigerator we have learned to substitute perishables with more shelf stable products, and modify our taste buds simultaneously, leading to some pretty “interesting” concoctions in the galley. Milk has been a favorite delicacy to have aboard and a rarity too, so one day the kids got curious (a.k.a. anxious) and decided to investigate the flavoring of ‘powdered milk.’ Not personally being brave enough to try it, I trusted the minions when they reported the flavor to be “repulsive,” I guess they learned why we only use it in cooking. For the past few weeks I’ve had it in mind to eat a whole batch of cheese enchiladas, though the rest of the family has yet to succumb to my Mexican, cheesy, greasiness, yearning, and would much rather settle for oysters on the half shell, or a hamburger. Though I assure you no matter what strange things we produce down bellow, there’s never a day we’ve gone hungry.
A major concern we had, which for the most part has dissipated, was the worry of storing enough food to feed nine hungry mouths- and a canine who finds it enjoyable to loot our pepperoni, and cheese hoard every now and again. The never ending plea of “I’m starvingggggg” would get on the nerves of even the most patient saint, but we manage to keep peanut butter, bread, and some jelly, within easy reach, and a handful of almonds, or a crisp apple seems to quell our tummies for a short while. We’ve had to become careful with the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables we take on when provisioning as some spoil quickly. We creatively fabricate our own edible delicacies using eggplant, potatoes, squash, tortillas, and whatever else hasn’t rotted or grown mold. We also experience some water concerns because of our potential high consumption- so along with restocking our pantry we make sure to top our water tanks off at every marina and fuel dock, and have yet to run out of our 200 gallon fresh water tank. A salt water foot pump was a vital addition to life on the boat; as we now have unlimited sea water at the tips of our toes for all cleaning and such. Though drinking salt water is a horrid idea it is a perfect compromise to conserve our precious fresh water, especially when we get to the Bahamas where a single gallon usually costs 40 cents or more.
While we trudged through a part of the ICW we passed a high concentration of chemical plants and it became a joke amongst the crew that if you were to go swimming you’d emerge glowing, due to all the petro chemicals in the water. When not stepping on solid ground for days, we could get quite artistic, so now whoever gets stuck doing dishes makes a pun about growing an extra finger or eyeball, or another odd occurrence, all in the fun of entertaining ourselves of course.
One of the best investments, for memories sake, thus far was spending $3 for an all day bus/trolley pass in New Orleans, Louisiana; it was both an entertaining and inexpensive way to view this historic city. I know not what my parents’ were expecting by taking myself and six younger siblings on Bourbon Street, but we sure did get an eye full, even with it being the middle of the day. We became the “adopted ‘white’ family from Texas” by the local Queen of drag, Ashley. “She” became our impromptu tour guide, and history buff sharing with us the history of Monsieur Lafitte, the famous pirate, and taking us to the best po boy sandwiches around. Nevertheless it was a bit unusual to be lead by a black drag queen not actually dressed fully in drag; I guess that’s just another outing on Bourbon Street. We furthermore ventured through the French Quarter Market, visited sporadic shops along Canal Street, and saw more housing for the dead than that of the living; the trolleys and busses gave us an eyeful of the copious cemeteries in New Orleans, which seemed to be on every corner. After filling up our diesel tanks and checking the charts we were ready to start across Lake Ponchitrain, and onto the next leg of our journey.
Since our becoming “land hobos,” as I like to call live-a-boards in general, due to the fact we are completely on our own when it comes to anything on land, going out to eat, and buying groceries becomes an adventure all its’ own. When the recommendation for “fabulous Cajun cuisine” that’s “just up the road” sounds promising to a hungry child, only to discover that in reality it is a 10 mile hike, it tends to lose its’ charm. In honor of the variety of places we’re visiting, tasting a bit of culture is always fun and an educational experience, especially when it’s a 20 piece assortment of the greasiest fried chicken, EVER, in the heart of Louisiana! When setting up anchor along the Alabama coast we were visited by a passing sailboat inviting us to go down the waterway a bit farther to a little place called “Pirate’s Cove,” that boasted the best cheeseburgers around, (so good Jimmy Buffet felt inspired to pen his famous song “Cheeseburger in Paradise”) how could we refuse such an offer? After eating them three meals in a row I can candidly concur, they were pretty darn fine. Pushing a grocery cart, loaded with provisions, through Apalachicola, Florida was full circle to “land hobo-ness” and we have the local grocery store, Piggly Wiggly, to thank for their permission to utilize their four wheeled contraption so we could make it back to the boat without feeling like a pack horse. We often find ourselves wandering along the side of a highway, or neighborhood, searching for a laundry mat, market, or restaurant, wandering into local convenience stores and asking for directions. The amusing inquisitive looks never end, and nor does the fun, though after the third mile our legs begin to resent the fundamental way of “getting around.”
Getting to our next major destination, Naples, Florida, which we arrived on the 14th of February, we once more had to travel into the Gulf of Mexico. We had done a wonderful job of avoiding the nightmarish days we had experienced in our first outing in the Gulf, thus none of us were ecstatic to hear that the fixed bridges in the next portion of the ICW were not high enough for our needed, 53 foot, clearance. Leaving the protection of the ICW through the “Pensacola Pass” on February 2nd, we were gracious for the sunny skies and decent wind; not excellent for sailing, but motor-sailing was feasible. Continuing on our path South, South East heading, and hugging the shoreline within 20 to 50 miles, we went along without much incident that was until the 5th of February. It wasn’t just the bad weather, heavy seas, or seasickness running rampant amongst the crew that turned the day sour. No, all of that would have been bearable, for we were all safe, if not a little uncomfortable. The hardest thing about that 20 hour day was not being able to lay anchor, and getting to bed, till 3:30am on that miserable morning. Somehow our lovely navigator, *cough cough* mom, hadn’t noticed that our destined entry channel was neither deep nor wide enough for comfortable passage in big swells, so we had to venture on down the unforgiving coast till reaching Apalachicola Bay, 22 nautical miles farther, travelling about 4 nautical miles an hour.
So far we’ve run aground, lost control of steering, been as sick as dogs, haven’t showered in over a week, experienced fists flying, and words of hate, yet even in all that chaos we choose to continue on together, figure that one out! It’s the little acts of kindness, a fresh batch of cookies, or an extra hand in the engine room, given to us by total strangers that keep our hopes high for the future to come. Though at times the lack of personal space can drive a person barmy it’s amazing how the kids find ways to entertain themselves, and us. It’s safe to say there is always something of interest occurring on our little vessel, the absence of a television and some creature comforts is a small price to pay when we find ourselves listening to Jimmy Buffet and enjoying another “cheeseburger in paradise”.
Dear Cyber family, and world,
Seeing as my wonderful mother has many a thing on her mind, I have (without her permission) decided to, in a way, take over the blogging process! Honestly she should have seen this coming when she bestowed upon me the all powerful password, therefore I claim no responsibility for what may occur.
It would be hard to catch y’all up on all we’ve done in such a short allotment of time, as I have been given for wi fi at this present interval, but starting with this morning and working backwards- as well as forwards- when time is at a leisure, is as good a place as any to begin.
The ICW has been a great adventure and the weather, for the most part, has been beautiful! As of this moment we are in Pirates Cove, Josephine, Alabama- just across the bay from Pensacola, Fl. Are plan was to leave today, but as a problem with our steering capacity wavered, we have decided to have an emergency tiller installed for us, as a safety measure! In the 3 days since our arrival at this little piece of paradise we’ve encountered the care and hospitality we’ve been blessed with all along the waterway. Our newest friend, Daniel, was kind enough to show us a tempting spot to anchor, if we ever decide to leave our current position, which is boasted to have beautiful beaches- which whom could really complain about. This anchorage would also cut our, very long day, of motoring in half, with the weather blown cold, and the wind on our nose, it would be a much sought after median.
Though due to the issue encountered this morning, as I have mentioned previously, I know not if we will be leaving today. It is also supposed bad luck to “start a journey on a Friday,” so maybe our supposed problem is a blessing in disguise…. who knows!!
We all send our love, and happy thoughts through the satellite system. May your smile be forever contagious, Farewell 🙂
Each day we experience has the value of what we presume it to have, and every day holds a new adventure just waiting for us to discover. Making the most of the 24 hours allotted is sometimes a hard feat to accomplish, especially when one finds themselves on a sailboat with seven kids, two adults, a dog, a cat, and the local mildew population exponentially growing wherever moisture is left unchecked (aka EVERYWHERE!!) After spending almost a week amongst some of my landlocked friends, saying farewell, creating memories, sleeping at anomalous hours (if deciding to sleep at all) and promising to write frequently, it was time for me to set out to the water once more. Finally, I reached my own bed and, of course, my charming family, who had now left Clear Lake Shores, Kemah, TX, and had motored Invincible, our 41ft sailboat, down to Offatts Bayou, near Galveston, TX. I arrived with early Christmas presents intended for my six little minions, another pair of helpful hands for my parents, a reverie of warmer Caribbean waters, and a gut full of junk food for the head (the toilet on a boat). My desire for the potential reality of our cruising down to the Islands emerged as genuine as ever- and I couldn’t wait for the day to materialize when it became a reality.
Scrutinizing the weather report two times daily, for news of rising winds or calmer waters, my parents came to the consensus to remain until after the Mayan calendar ended, December 21st, and thus the prediction to the end of the known world, before we hoisted our anchor to sail away. Beseeching the weather to clear, before we all turned to zombies, I nearly had it in mind to perform an anti-rain dance, in the hopes that it would grant us a week of perfect sailing weather straight to Florida. This ritual would have encompassed Tupperware bongo drums, hands cupped over our mouths, and sacrificing Bella (our youngest sister, 6 years old) to Poseidon. But alas, I’ll never discern if my ingenious proposal would have worked, for my younger siblings have more sagacity than I at times, and preferred to watch a movie instead of becoming involved in my elaborate superstitious scheme. So day after day the rains came and the cold, gale force winds blew, and still we lay at anchor awaiting our chance for an escape into paradise.
Christmas Eve found us still sitting in Offatts Bayou awaiting our out of grasp weather window. While the children dreamed of sugar plums and fresh coconuts, Santa swung down our mast, drank our eggnog, and arranged the candy canes into pretty heart shapes, though how he and the reindeer were able to come and go in the gale force winds that had arisen from the north, is a part of the enthralling Christmas mystery I’ll never know. The gift of clean hair would have been the most marvelous of all, but alas, showers would have to wait for another day, for at that moment we were cuddled in the cabin with five foot swells, wind gusts of up to 50 knots (about 60mph), and a tornado warning in surrounding areas. In honor of the holiday season, when the chance arose, we went and walked The Festival of Lights, at the Moody Gardens. Seeing that we were arriving by water, we tied off on the dinghy dock, which just happened to be conveniently situated in the middle of the light display; due to this position we had the opportunity to experience the fun for no cost, repeatedly! With our prime site in the Bayou on New Year’s Eve, we saw a spectacular display of sporadic fireworks from the land near us, and we were able to just sit there, reminiscing on the year that had vanished, and the new one bursting with adventures about to commence.
In the midst of this long wait, I finished Maiden Voyage by Tania Aebie, and the writings of Robin Lee Graham’s circumnavigation in Dove and the dream of doing my “own thing” continued to flourish. I saw no raison d’être why I, a small town girl with absolutely no experience on the water, couldn’t just “Do It.” As soon as the ignorant notion crossed my mind though, I became instantaneously embarrassed of my blatant adolescence and stupidity. Here I was, not even reading the Sailing Fundamentals book my mom had all but shoved down my throat, and just because I’d read some inspiring accounts and peeked through various articles in Cruising World Magazine, I’m all of a sudden equipped to “take on the world”- I don’t think so. In an optimistic light, the idea of departure is what sustains me to sit through the screams, banging feet, and broken CDs with my lovely family- so I can get the experience I need to one day…. But even overcoming the immediate future has yet to deter me from spending what limited internet access I have from scanning the World Wide Web for a humble vessel that could carry me away, when I can actually sail unassisted, and opt to jump ship.
January 3, 2013 brought the daybreak we had all been anxiously awaiting. With the heaving of the anchor, starting the motor, and informing the drawbridge of our departure, it made the actuality that we were finally leaving a buoyant realization. We hadn’t a notion that when we arrived in Offatts Bayou on December 14, 2012 it would be such an extensive wait just to begin our first leg of the journey to Florida. But there always seemed to be another unresolved predicament just waiting to be exposed. Ours, at the moment, had been a faulty wiring situation that was incorrectly charging our house batteries. After some inexorable troubleshooting, the cord had been upgraded and the battery banks stimulated, thus we were, mechanically, in the clear for the present moment. That’s when the weather resolved to turn against us, and the Southeast coast of Texas was battered with five cold fronts concurrently in the frame of two weeks, making it materialize into what seemed an unpromising situation that we would ever leave. But all these pessimistic aspects seemed to fritter away on Thursday the 3rd of January, when we entered the Gulf of Mexico with the intention of sailing in 3-5 foot swells and 10-20 knots of wind coming from the North just as the weather forecast had predicted, and of course how could that be incorrect. It was terribly wrong.
After 56 hours at sea, 36 of those hours with a bucket being used by eight of us to catch the effects of seasickness, which even the dog succumbed to, with nine-foot swells crashing over our bow and gusts of up to 28 knots, we found ourselves with a non-running engine, a bent sail track for our main, and awaiting the arrival of a towboat to take us to safer waters. The morning of Saturday, January 5th found us at the Galveston Yacht Basin Marina, only 57 blocks from where we had been formerly anchored. With unconstrained hot water, Wi-Fi at the touch of our fingertips, and ground that was not bucking under our bare feet, none of us were found complaining about the turn-around, except maybe the bank account, which had to pay for repairs and nightly slip fees.
If knowledge is power, then my mom and dad have total supremacy over that lovely engine of ours. With the decision to go through the Intra Coastal waterways (ICW) from Texas and reaching Florida in about three weeks, the workings of the engine are vital. Wanting to avoid the ICW is what prompted us to face the wrath of the Gulf, of which we had been previously forewarned, but I guess we just needed to test the already proven theory out for ourselves. With the conclusion being drawn that the Gulf of Mexico “is a bathtub, in which all you do is wallow,” we are to go through the ICW. Though we will be paying a pretty penny for diesel, and the obnoxious hum of the never ending engine will get annoying, traveling strictly during daylight hours and anchoring every night to sleep sound better than the nightmarish alternative of the Gulf. With that in mind, on Monday January 13th we left Galveston, again, and headed inland to discover the ICW for ourselves.
I’ve come to fully realize, and only begin to comprehend, that even though the timing is not always in our favor, there is no reason to be ashamed of not reaching a destination within an expected time frame. Because of our engine problems my parents have learned more about the upkeep and maintenance of a diesel engine than ever before, we were able to get our sail fixed for free by the company that made it, and with the decision to go IntraCoastal it gives Connor (7), Hannah (9) and Bella (6) a chance to steer with no parental fear of dramatic wind changes or sail malfunctions. Since the plans we had initially made for the first leg ended in a return to Galveston, we have the chance to start anew, refreshed as a more experienced and cohesive crew. We’ve learned that the brightest way to start an excursion of this sort is with a framework of desired destinations and an open, easy time-frame that plays out at the start of each day. Henceforth, day by day is how we shall live our lives, hoping for the best, and ready to overcome the worst as a family, with the mutual dream of adventure and a sailboat ready to take us there.
Chillin’ eating oatmeal for breakfast
WOW! We were woken up at 3:30 in the morning by gale force winds. The boat was rocking side to side, shuddering, the anchor was POPPING and the waves were splashing us. It was cool. We turned around and tracked back and forth, it was scary. I woke up and the wind was like a lion roaring in the night. The wind was whistling through the mast. I ran up to the cockpit to see what was happening and it was cold as Antarctica! I went down and laid back in bed to fall back asleep after about 20 minutes I heard the anchor popping, it was really annoying. I finally went to sleep. When I woke up AGAIN it was about 6:00 am and it was still blowing about 40 knots. It was blowing very hard so I got a blanket and curled up in a ball in the cockpit and fell back asleep, that was nice. When I woke up again I just sat there for a little and then went down below to eat breakfast, a cinnamon raisin bagel mmmmmm yummy. When I was done I did my school and now I’m here writing. Man it has been a very EXCITING trip so far!