Friday, January 29, 2021

Almost Sailing Again: How Do We Prep to Go Off-Grid?

Our 26' O'Day sailboat in Canada's Copeland Islands, British Columbia.
Summer 2012. We moved out the day before we stepped aboard.
All our stuff fit in the combination of Wayne's Ranger truck
and my Subaru Legacy wagon.

Since mid-2012, most of the time, Wayne and I lived in a moving space that ranged between 150-300 square feet. That space included three weeks aboard a 26-foot sailboat (well less than 150 square feet!), 5 years aboard a 36 1/2 foot sailboat, a few weeks in a customized for camping but gutless Toyota Hiace van, 3 months living out of a Land Cruiser, 3 years on a 37-foot trawler, and 5 months in a circa 1985, no-pull-outs 34-foot RV. 

Wayne takes what is finally the last load of our 5 years worth of accumulated stuff off s/v Journey
in the Sydney Australia area when our Pearson 365 sailboat sold there.

Our stuff in the Toyota Hiace, before we sorted it and took off to circle Australia.

Wayne, tying down a streamlined version of the Toyota Land Cruiser we "moved" into and
lived out of for about three months. We just donated more of belonging to the Salvation Army.
They're in Australia, too.

January 22nd we closed on the sale of our next "home"—another sailboat. We're in the midst of preparing her for sailing and going largely off-grid for the next 4 months. Even after that, we'll be a moving target for who knows how long.

Lots of storage room and under-floorboard storage, too aboard s/v Gallivant, a Gulfstar 45 sailboat. 

We're able to pull this off because our friends Maryann and Don spent the last 15 years lovingly and thoughtfully upgrading the boat we're buying, while they cruised and lived aboard her. 

S/V Gallivant's galley: Don and Maryann did a phenomenal remodeling job on her.

We're also able to do it because this isn't our first rodeo. This time we're moving into someplace bigger. Other than a relatively slim box of framed prints at my in-laws, everything we own we've already moved or are about to from our RV. 

Monday morning we turn our RV over to the insurance company (more about why) and in theory they give us a nice big check for it. 

Our home since September, after another car hit it.
Fortunately, it is still drivable and unaffected by the accident inside.
Even after a heavy hit on our retirement savings for our boat purchase, we're still broke because even a cruise-ready boat needs a lotta stuff (Honda generator, a four-month supply of food, boat parts, and materials for anticipated boat work and repairs, etc).  We will also need to pony up for some COVID tests and a hefty Bahamas cruising fee. Before leaving the country is also a good time to replace an ailing laptop battery (~$285), etc., etc. We live relatively lean, but still . . . 

I can't deny that even armed with spreadsheets and to-do lists, I struggled to keep my brain on track for writing projects. I've snapped at Wayne because I'm sure my computer will belly up and I can't connect with family and friends or use my new internet-based writing and editing tools. That I'll forget something critical among the foods and toiletries do we need to buy now because they won't be an option until mid-May when we return to the US. I don't plan out meals, I buy a few ready-made meals, a lot of snacks, and a lot of ingredients. 

Did we get all the boat stuff we need aboard? How do we time our COVID tests to comply with Bahamas requirements and leave at a time the winds and waves take us where we want to go, rather than make it miserable or impossible to fight the wind, waves, and current? Do we have enough to keep ourselves occupied if we get quarantined to the boat for who-knows-how-long? Should I cough up $200 for my second shingles shot? When will we be someplace long enough so that when COVID vaccinations are more readily available that we can get one?

Even if there is plenty of room on the new-to-us-boat, where will I put everything so we can find it? How do I securely tucked away so it doesn't go flying if we get bucked while underway or even at anchor, like the time we anointed the floor of our trawler with a slick of sesame oil on a rough passage?

Admittedly, these are first-world problems, yet they rob us of sound sleep. Rather than gentle breezes, placid waters, and beautiful sunsets, our dreams taunt us with what can happen when our plans go awry.

Formerly Wayne's and my bikes. We sold them in Ft. Pierce, Florida, rather than
take them aboard and not use them until summer.

We decided to sell our bicycles. They're gone now. I gave away some clothes that no longer fit my lifestyle, to better reflect what I actually use rather than what I have trouble letting go of. When will I finally take the next pass at paper and photos to toss or digitize? At the last minute, I will say goodbye to my faithful Prius, which will do me little good with no home-base on land.

The hardest part is not the stuff. It's saying goodbye to our friends and family. Will we see each other again? When? Where? How?

Sunnier Palms, our hangout from late October until mid-January while we boat-shopped.
Fort Pierce, Florida.

"Wouldn't it be a lot easier if we stayed here, instead of buying a boat?" Wayne asked, wistfully a few weeks ago. Since late October until a week ago, we enjoyed our time in an RV park with a pool, hot tub, nature walking trails, a community garden. Several times a week I took a yoga class. In warmer weather, I swam laps and hung out by the pool. We were only a half-hour from the beach. We made friends. We said goodbye, again.

Yesterday, exhausted, as we finished up our boat prep work for the day, we watched the sun dip down the horizon over the St. John's River, bathing everything around us with a supernatural amber glow. This is why we do what we do.

Sunset approaching from our new-to-us boat, a Gulfstar 45,
at NAS JAX Mulberry Cove Marina.

Our life is not about whether our RV impresses the neighbors, or what cable channels we subscribe to, or who we cast our vote for President. What matters is the sun, the moon, the stars, and the quality of light and clarity of the water that comes from leaving the patterned lives we become accustomed to in civilization.

We continue to hold those friends we make along the way, dear. We hope they will be able to join us for a taste of this alternative life. We trust we will make new friends, too.

Location Location

Sunset at Mulberry Cove Marina, NAS JAX. S/V Stress Relief, the boat silhouetted in the foreground
is also a Gulfstar, like our new-to-us sailboat,
s/v Gallivant.
We have tonight and one more night on our RV "the Beast," which we hate driving but will miss the comforts of living in. Then it's onto our boat, in NAS JAX Mulberry Cove Marina, ~N30.12.980 W81.40.234. Within a few more days, we push off.

We're preparing to go to the Bahamas from February to mid-May, cruise the US eastern seaboard mid-May to December or so. Head the West Indies until mid-May 2022. Then what? We have no idea.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Turning 60: Circumspect But Still Sassy

Hang gliding for my 40th birthday in New Zealand.
Just weeks before my 40th birthday, I reluctantly filed for divorce on a long-dead marriage. 

Years prior, I joked, "Married, but not dead." At 40, I updated my new M.O. to "Divorced, but far from done." I celebrated my birthday with a solo trip to Australia and New Zealand. I walked, rappel-style, across the upper tier of the Sydney Bridge and took a tandem hang-glide in New Zealand. They were far from my only adventures.

Fifteen years ago, I asked my hairdresser "What would you say my hair color is?" It used to be medium brown. In a mid-life crisis, I dyed in burgundy, then let it grow out and shifted to a foil weave. It seemed lighter . . .

Pre-haircut, French Polynesia, 2016; I was 55.

"Gray," she said, with something between a grimace and a smile.

Our wedding kiss, Hawaii, 2007. Wayne still treats me like a goddess.
When I turned 50, my husband let me choose my own birthday gift. I picked a weekend at Sleeping Lady Resort, where I could go cross-country skiing and get pampered. I luxuriated in a thick fluffy white resort robe and Wayne treated me like a goddess.

Galley Wench—me—swinging
into the blue-green waters of Vanuatu. 2016.
A year-and-a-half later, we took off for five years of sailing, until we sold our sailboat in Australia, after sailing there from halfway around the world.

In the summer of 2019, one of my high school alums pointed out of the 100 or so 40th reunion attendees, we were the only women there with gray hair—though technically, hers was a now-fashionable blue.

Gray-haired and unashamed of it at my 40th high school reunion in 2019.
I coined my own term for the state of my tresses: earned highlights.
Today I begin my 60th trip 'round the sun.

Once upon a time, I considered 60 old, although even at 50, I bristled when others close to my age described themselves "old." I didn't then and I still don't, now. That includes when I got trigger finger after doing heavy boat work. The osteopath in Antigua said, "Oh, that's just because you're old. I'll give you a cortisone shot. If that doesn't make it go away, additional shots won't help." His didn't help much, but after two shots from another practitioner, I was good as new. That was 8 years ago. No problems since. Old, my a--!

Granted, I'm lucky. Fate and heredity treated me kindly. Or, as one of my Hewlett-Packard colleagues quipped, "Good genes and immaturity go a long way."

Even as a teen, thanks to my small, deep, close-set eyes and prominent nose, my dad bluntly informed me modeling would never be a viable career option for me. 

Today, add to that my COVID Budda-belly, less hair on my head but more sprouting from my chin, distinct wrinkle marks on either side of my nose and across my forehead, cellulite on thighs, gravity's impact on my tits. raised veins on my hands, and the indisputable need for reading glasses. The physical evidence of my appearance drives home the point that I can no longer pass for what our youth-and-beauty-worshipping society considers young.

Despite—or maybe because of that—my birthday wish was to get a professional body paint job.

Body painting. Not necessarily like this.
Phote credit: Gerhard Lipold

I thought I'd spend my glamorous 60th birthday applying bottom paint to our boat in the boatyard and instead of getting my body painted for my 60th, I'll try to avoid getting bottom paint on my body. That struck me as a reasonable trade-off for heading to the Bahamas by sailboat from February to sometime in May.

A sudden change in plans prompted us to decide to delay the bottom job on our boat until this summer. Instead we'll move our boat to a spot that we can more easily transfer everything we own onto the boat from our RV, and whatever we want to bring from the US for the next 4 months in the Bahamas.

Beyond that, I haven't made alternative plans for my birthday, though Wayne's promised to treat me with TLC. It won't take much arm-twisting for mw to take him up on his offer.

I agree with what John Lennon told his teacher he wanted to be when he grew up: 

2012: The last time I painted a new-to-us sailboat's bum, in St. Lucia, a 36 1/2 foot Pearson 365.
The boat we're buying, a 45-foot Gulfstar, should be far easier to prep, but is significantly larger to paint.
I do, however, fully intend to take a raincheck on my own personal paint job—the one where my body, in all its glorious imperfections, provides an ample canvas.

"Half-birthdays," my friend Connie suggests. Maybe not that long. I'm willing to celebrate as soon as I'm in the right place at the right temperature with someone willing and able with a paintbrush.

Meanwhile, there's some work to be done (so I wrote this post ahead of time, and pre-set the post date)!

My message to you:

Only you get to decide when you're "old." It is not a year. It is not your physical limitations. It's definitely not how you look. It's how you feel, in your heart, mind, and spirit. As long as you're full of adventure, you are young, IMHO. Adventure away!

Location Location

Our boat is in Mulberry Cove Marina, in Jacksonville Florida's Naval Air Station base ~N30.12.980 W81.40.234.

We're targeting early February to be on our way to the Bahamas. 

Friday, January 22, 2021

It's Official: We've Got a New Sailboat!


View off Straight from the Heart while underway, leaving Jacksonville at sunrise, January 21, 2021.

Yesterday, Don, Wayne, and I left Ortega Landing Marina, bound for Green Cove Springs Marina for a haulout. We needed that for a final hull inspection, required for insurance. 

With a 21-mile run to Green Cove, and a "be there first thing in the morning" request from them, that meant getting there the day before.

Aboard Heart, just outside Ortega Landing. approaching the bridge lifted for us to pass through.

We had a little trouble.  

The area just outside Ortega Landing is quite shallow, and our departure time was close to dead low tide. We got a soft grounding we were unable to break loose from on our own.

Our TowBoat US rescuer: prompt, professional, and efficient. He got us going in a jiffy.

We tied off to a mooring ball at Green Cove Springs. 

This morning we hauled out. 

There were no insurance showstoppers, so we are now officially the proud owners of a Gulfstar 45 Hirsh sailboat. We can from now on officially refer to her as s/v Gallivant, though here I chose to describe her by the name that most accurately reflected her ownership at the time.

The boat is back on a ball in Green Cove Springs tonight. Tomorrow we'll take her to JAX NAS marina, then celebrate my birthday—it's one of those major milestones.

Then we'll get everything moved aboard we'll need for 4 months in the Bahamas, head down Florida's Coast to where we'll jump off for the Bahamas, then go. Weather permitting, we're on track for the Bahamas in early February.

Special thanks in this big transition go to 

  • Our friends Larry and Nancy, whose generosity made this possible
  • Patrick, for selling us his RV to get us to Florida and give us a place to live until we found our sailboat and she's ready to move aboard.
  • Chip Cramer of SJ Yachts, who helped us out with great resources even though he wasn't repping any boats that fit our needs
  • The folks at Sunnier Palms, who gave us a fantastic place to live and a warm welcome while we boat shopped
  • Cecelia "Ceal" Potts, our amazing surveyor, who we can't recommend highly enough
  • The folks at NAS JAX, who simplified our life as we arrived in are preparing to depart Florida. Who knew we'd get such awesome customer service from a military base? We did.
  • Chris and Chris of s/v Scintilla, our cruising buddies and favorite problem solvers
  • Deb Blakewood for providing support for our nomadic life by handling our mail, and a true friend, besides
  • West Marine, as one of the best employers to work for when you need to support your boating habit, and Nik Bottkol, my Portland Oregon manager, for all his support
  • Aaron Tice, our financial planner who continues to help us work the financial end to make our wild and crazy dreams possible
  • Don and Maryann, for selling us their beloved boat so we can each begin our new adventures on the water

Location Location

s/v Gallivant is currently on a mooring ball in Green Cove Springs, approximate lat/long is 29° 59' N x 81° 39' W.

Monday, January 11, 2021

And the Winner Is . . .

Ok, maybe this is a little over-the-top for picking a boat name.
Photo by 
Vlad CheČ›an from Pexels

Thank you, all of you who contributed and offered your feedback.

Our friend Reed suggested the name that was chosen as the winner.

This is the Survey Monkey boat name results.
Additional votes came in from Facebook and in email, the winner was still the same.

The winner is Gallivant—traveling for Pleasure.

This is the graphic treatment we'll use from BoatUS's options.
We'll order the stencils once we look at what size we have to play with on the boat.

Special credit also goes to . .  .

Chris of Scintilla, who offered a staggering amount of terrific names. Chris, you get partial credit for one of the top three, as you suggested MoonSong and Luna Canto is that in Spanish.

Steve and Patty, as Kelefesia—many islands—also made the top three. It will always be a winner in my heart even without making its mark on our transom. After all, you led us to Kelefesia, and it will remain one of the most magical places we stopped at, and one few cruisers will ever see. We're delighted we spent our time there with you.

AJ and Deb, for getting your family involved in the project and coming up with an impressive quantity of quality names.

The names that cracked me up the most with their naughty cleverness: Deb's Over Exposure and Susan's Buck.

Anna wins the prize for the most melodic names, especially those in Spanish. Vela Desanuda and La Soltura definitely were in the top ten.

Seriously, there were a crazy amount of great names. If you want to see the entire list of names suggested, let me know and I'll post them.

Ultimately I went with a name that was short, simple, unique enough, and fits both us and the boat. It also rolls off the tongue well when we'll need to say it three times in quick succession over the VHF radio.

As for Wayne, he's just glad I finally picked a name so he could fill out the paperwork, register our EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon), etc.

Location Location

We're currently in Fort Pierce. The boat we're about to purchase is in Jacksonville. Our haul-out will be in Green Cove Springs. All are in Florida, on the Eastern/Atlantic side.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Naming Our Gulfstar 45 Sailboat


Names with sample graphic treatments.

It's a nice problem to have—too many good names!

I'm still having a tough time making my mind up and those of you who've voted here—thank you. The votes are relatively evenly split.

By sometime this Wednesday I need to finalize the name so it can get programmed into the EPIRB aboard the boat. I also need to order decals for our boat name and homeport, though the turnaround is fairly quick. Playing with Boat US's decal design program for boat names, hailing ports, and design decals, I found certain names suggested font colors and treatments to me. I'm not sure that I'll use any more than the name and hailing port but still liked putting them in to give a bit more personality.

This is where the boat name and hailing port will go.
I will place the name closer to the top of the transom,
 and the hailing port will be smaller rather than larger than the boat name.
Photo credit goes to Cecilia "Ceal" Potts who is our outstanding surveyor.

The Contenders, Pros & Cons


I like the way Kelefesia looks, particularly the one dead center. It's my sentimental favorite. Pros are that and its meaning, "many islands." Cons are that it's a little harder to read, pronounce, and requires a bit of an explanation. Kelefesia is also someplace we're not likely to make it back to, much as we loved it.


Gallivant—traveling for pleasure—fits us and the spryness of the boat. For some reason, it begged for plainer design treatment. It doesn't please my eye as much but the non-script versions are very easy to read.

Luna Canto

Luna Canto—singing moon, implying the song is a birdsong, is a beautiful name. It spoke to me in clean and elegant tones. The two reservations: it needs to be translated and in English, I'm not sure I want a name that sounds like "can't." Silly, but I like to think of myself as a can-do person and the boat equally or more capable.

My Current Inclination

Given that I'm leaning most toward Gallivant, the first one in the second row.

Your final feedback is welcome! If you want more background, check out these prior posts:

boat name criteria

what the boat looks like (line drawings) & how to vote

As for Wayne? All he wants at this stage is for me to finally pick a name and get on with it! Can't say I blame him.

Location Location

Until the 18th, we are in Fort Pierce, the boat is in Jacksonville, and our haulout is scheduled for January 22nd in Green Cove Springs. All are in Florida.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Boat Names: Cast Your Vote!

Your help wanted!

For everyone who made suggestions for boat names—thank you! I stopped counting at 100 suggestions. Let me know if you'd like to see the whole list and I will post it.

When we first started out, we were looking at a Pearson 365, like the one we sailed halfway around the world in, spending 5 years living aboard her, before we sold her in Australia. After living the last 3 years in 300 square on a trawler, I just wasn't up to committing to spend another 5 years living in 150 square feet of living space, especially if we found ourselves quarantined aboard for some indefinite period.

When I asked for name suggestions and gave our criteria, we'd made an offer on a big sister to the Pearson 365, a Pearson 424. We were concerned about how much work the 424 would require.

Here's the boat we decided on. We're a bit nervous, the boat we picked is a lot more boat than we initially planned on, but we're excited. Maryann and Don are friends, and they put a lot of thought and love into the many improvements they made on the boat.
Gulfstar Hersch 45' exterior image from

Yesterday, we completed our in-water inspection.  There are a few items to attend to and some of the reports are still to come but no showstoppers. We also still need to see the boat's bottom side out of the water, though we're reasonably confident there will be no show-stoppers when that happens.

The boat name needs to not only fit us and how we expect to live on the boat, but the boat name also needs to fit the boat, too. Some names that seemed perfect for a fixer-upper boat aren't right for a well-maintained boat, which is what we're buying. The Gulfstar is a zipper sailing craft than a Pearson, and her interior is more elegant. 
Gulfstar Hersch 45' interior layout from

We've decided to make Collins Beach our homeport—the location posted on our transom (the back of a boat). We anchored the last three summers off Collins, on the Columbia River between the Oregon and Washington border. Collins is more than just a place, it's a lifestyle. With Collins already on our transom as our home port, we wanted the boat name to speak more to our boat's personality and our sense of travel. Our plans are to sail to the Bahamas in February, the US eastern seaboard mid-May to November, then the Caribbean West Indies after that.
Me and Wayne in a hot spring at the ocean's edge in Guadeloupe, 2012.
We plan to return to this area in about a year.
We also wanted a name that rolled easily off the tongue when we needed to repeat its name three times, back-to-back.

Given that. we've narrowed the names down to these three (or you can suggest an alternative):
  1. Gallivant: traveling for pleasure
  2. Kelefesia: a magical place we visited in Tonga (click here for a 5-minute video of that), which translates to "many islands"
  3. Luna Canto: singing moon
Or—you can suggest an alternative—though we've already received over 100 names.

Off St. Martin, 2012. We plan to return to this area in about a year.
Location Location
The boat is in Jacksonville, Florida at N30 16.646 W81 42.774. We're in Fort Pierce, Florida, ~ 3 1/2 hours drive south of JAX. We plan to haul out in Green Cove Springs, Florida.