Two Girls One Boy

Jessie (Me. Hi.) Desireé (Sailboat) Luke (Fiancé)

Me and them. Him, her and I. Myself, she and he. Us and him. Them and me.

Here we are. Two girls, one boy.

I’m sitting here at my desk in Northport, Michigan. Seven inches of winsome snow lay on my deck, and they accumulate quicker than I can sort out what my next sentence will be. Luke, the man I agreed to marry, sits opposite me and researches the point at which icebergs shouldn’t be a concern in crossing the North Atlantic Great Circle Route. I’ve had my fear on boats; adding icebergs to the list doesn’t appear to be deterring my hunger to cross oceans.

It’s been just over two years since Katie Smith and I completed America’s Great Loop aboard S/V Louise. I’ve spent my adulthood making abrupt life changes in two year stints. Whether it was where I was living, what I was studying, who I was dating, or where I was adventuring – in reaching two years, some kind of fervent curiosity always led me elsewhere. Every time. By no means has this been a conscious countdown…it’s this uncontrollable enthusiasm to do, to see, to be, more than whatever I was, whatever I am.  I’ve been back home in Michigan now for… just over two years.

Staying put has always been my most difficult task. If you were to query my  multiple employers they certainly wouldn’t categorize my actions as “staying put”. However from my perspective these past two years have been my safest. My most grounded. My most sensible. But here I am again uncontrollably enthused about not just one, but two of my finest decisions. The first one joyously shattering my two year stints, and the second one holding me right to schedule.

  1. I said yes to forever. I do not understand what forever means. I don’t think many of us do. But I have discovered who I want to try and understand that with. Who I want to work for that with. Who will freak out every two years with me, dropping everything, most likely to attempt something for which we are completely unqualified.
  2. So what now?  Our first test is an obvious one: to plan a sailing trip instead of a  wedding. We will sail double handed from my country to his. America to England. It only seems practical for us to sign up for the first “forever” test.

As the list begins of how we can possibl pull this off by spring, I have ransacked Luke’s notes with full intentions of relaying them to the world without his permission. So here they are… Luke’s unedited notes followed by my italicized assessment of course.

CREW

Who’s boss? Well that’s obvious – who is legally responsible? You’d think that’s “the man’s job” but technically the boat is Jess’s and her sister’s inheritance. So she is the captain. This is correct, Smart man. I could be considered a co-skipper.

JESSIE

6000 nm “America’s Great Loop” with another sea-bird called Katie, aboard a 27 foot Cal called ‘Louise’. Made famous by their mildly entertaining blog, articles in Cruising Outpost and on Sailing Anarchy. Two landlubbers on a learn or die mission to sail the inland waterways and Eastern seaboard of the United States of America. Including Bahamas and Canada. They made it, and came home with two years  of quality live-aboard experience. 60% coastal cruiser, 40% adventurer, 0% racer. 

LUKE

Sailing everything and everywhere since 1995. 60% Racer, 40% adventurer 0% cruiser. Sailed an 18 ft catamaran double- handed 2000 nm around Great Britain because he was bored of sailing up and down the coast. Humbly not mentioning he holds a speed record for sailing  around Britain. http://www.yachtsandyachting.com/news/21288 Later sailed a 1937 wooden 15 sqm 1700 nm from the UK to Sweden for fun. Enjoys difficult situations. Likes to keep the spinnaker up too long. Thrives on danger. Has the oddest sense of humor.

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DESIREÉ

1962 Pearson Invicta 37′ ketch designed by Bill Trip Jr. Yawl. Owned by Jessica’s father Jim Wizard ( his pride and joy for decades ). Old fashion shallow draft long keeler with centerboard designed for CCA rules. I don’t know what CCA means. Won the 1964 Newport to Bermuda race. Heavily built. First GRP boat to win this prestigious race. I don’t know what GRP means either…racing stuff.  There are 20 of these hulls in existence. It has made 4 Atlantic crossings in it’s time. Our hull, No. 8, has not seen the salt water since 1975-ish. It is in pristine condition and it will be expected of me to keep it this way. AH. 

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MISSION 

Recently engaged couple attempts their first ocean crossing of the North Atlantic, sailing the great circle route double handed across the Atlantic is considered tough, very tough. It’s a long way north, its cold, its wet, and its windy. The dangers are everywhere, Atlantic storms, icebergs, huge seas, container ships, and potential Hurricanes. Sleep deprivation from being on watch becomes debilitating, even crippling as the days pass. Tempers will fray. Will this transatlantic leave their happy engagement in pieces or will they overcome the odds and become crew mates for ever. Dun dun dun.  

pilot-chartAnd there you have it. We are both making light of this situation when it is in reality quite heavy. Poking fun at a serious quest is really the only way I know how to manage the highly overwhelming preparation.  Luke and I are taking on this responsibility seriously and have a full understanding of the threats it poses, the impact it will have on our families, and on our relationship. This colossal trial will test many things aside from young love. And for some unknown reason I have my head wrapped tightly around this possibility, just as the average 27-year-old would have around her wedding. What’s wrong with me? I am consumed. I am hyper. Keen – as Luke would say.

We are not being funded in any way and are not trying to be funded. Expenses are coming from what I have been able to save over the last several years and from what Luke will be contributing from his salary as the own label manager for Hyde Sails. We are blessed to have a solid, ocean worthy boat to borrow and if it weren’t for that we would be a long way from the ability to pull this off on such short notice. Narrowing down the list of prep-work and separating wants from needs has be tricky. Here is what we are left with :

  • EPIRB

  • SELF STEERING WIND-VANE 

  • AIS TRANSPONDER / RECIEVER FOR VHF

  • JORDAN SERIES DROGUE (or something similar) 

  • NORTH ATLANTIC CHARTS / ST LAW. SEAWAY CHARTS & BOOKS

  • SATALITE PHONE / IRIDIUM GO

  • LIFE JACKETS

  • FIRST AID

  • CANADIAN CURTESY FLAG

If you have any of this stuff laying around, know someone who might, or if you have good contacts for any of these items please email me. If you have something else laying around you firmly believe is a need not a want / are interested in selling, email me. We would like to keep things simple as possible, bringing only the items that may help save our lives if and when we find ourselves in a sticky situation.

I welcome advice, direction, and any kind of feedback as we spend the next few months running around with our heads cut off. ANYTHING HELPS. I will be blogging about the process as well as writing articles for Cruising Outpost & Sailing Mag.

WOOOOOO !!!! ! ! ! ! !   !   !    !     !       !        !          !            !              !

Thank you for finding yourselves at this “mildly entertaining” blog once again. I promise to keep the content provided honest, authentic, and as relatble as possible. I understand these kind of voyages can be difficult to wrap our minds around. Those of you who make it to the end of these posts are those who keep me motivated. XO.

www. j e s s i e t a k e s p i c t u r e s .com

It is a balancing act for anyone who attempts to shift their hobby into work. For years I was hesitant because in this lifetime we all have our own cameras in our back pockets 24/7. We thoughtlessly document our lives in some way or another – so who am I to think that I can do it better for you? I never knew. I still don’t.

To say I saw a lot of beautiful things this year is an understatement. And now I want more. Thank you to everyone who has passed on my name over the years. Word of mouth has been my magic – wouldn’t have had the confidence myself  : : :  Hyper to be B O O K I N G for any of your  2 0 1 7  p h o t o g r a p h i c needs : : :

all images © www.j e s s i e t a k e s p i c t u r e s.com 

 

G i r l c r u s h. It blew up. Down on one knee.

Desireé-4“Scorpion”

 “Cotter pin”

“Gem stone”

“Earwax”

“Pancakes”

“Wood”

“Uncle Duff”

“Saran wrap”

“Korea”

“Beyonce”

“Staple”

This is a conversation. Katie was on the bow. I was in the cockpit. We had not seen each other in quite sometime so we didn’t waste time with small talk and preferred to catch up on what was important.  After a few rounds blurting the-first-word-that-pops-into-your-head, I remembered what it was like to be on a boat with Katie Ariel Smith. Hysterical.

It had been 23 months since she and I had been on a boat together but one would have assumed no time had passed. The majority of our time sailing “The Great Loop”  was not all rainbows and butterflies as I tried to convey that through my previous word vomit. Photography and writing can be a bit contradictory as my images may have provided a delightful insight of everyday beauty while my writing typically depicted some kind of disaster. But this most recent trip was different. I’ve just spent a week on the Wizard’s (dad’s) sailboat with Katie and her puppy “Duppy” (No, captain Reggie has not been replaced. Duppy the Super Puppy is just easier to travel with these days). I unfortunately don’t have a story for you what-so-ever, simply some photos worthy of sharing. It was freaking perfect. It actually was rainbows and butterflies. I was sweating chocolate, she was shitting glitter and Duppy was barking Adele. Literally nothing went wrong. (Except for that morning we pulled up the anchor and were drifting towards rocks and I went to steer us towards deeper water, come to find out I had forgotten to put the steering wheel back on after taking it off the night before). Aside from that I am still baffled at the ease of our delivery and can’t shake the thought that I was undeserving of such a sunshiny week. I kept waiting for something to blow up.

The plan was brilliant. Katie and I to sail Desireé to a tiny town called DeTour Village on the eastern tip of Michigan’s UP … where we would switch crew with the Wizard and his Wizardess girlfriend so they could explore Lake Huron’s North Channel, his favorite waters to sail. A good family friend and his kids were to delivery Desireé back to our homeport, giving us each one week to cruise around on this dreamy yawl.

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D E S I R E É ::: 1 9 6 2  P e a r s o n  I n v i c t a  37′

The Invicta was the first fiberglass hull to win the Rhode Island to Bermuda race in 1964.  There are only 21 of these hulls ever built. My sister and I grew up as leisurely and obnoxious passengers on hull no. 8. Desireé was purchased by the Wizard in his early 20’s after his first attempt to sail America’s Great Loop on a Coronado 23 when he called it quits after reaching the Bahamas. Took him years to pay Desireé  off as a diesel mechanic before he and his best bud “Hawk” took off down the Mississippi in 1975 for his second attempt on Desireé , which was a success. The rest of his cruising years were spent exploring the Great Lakes with friends, family, my Mother, and eventually my Sister and me. Over 20,000 miles logged, this boat is a brick shithouse.

Now at 27 years old the Wizard trusted me of all humans to sail his first born child around the bi-polar Great Lakes. Mind-boggling, I know. I was fairly confident Katie and I would have no problem delivering Desireé from A to B. Felt similar to when she and I took off on Louise. We had never anchored, only docked a hand full of times and sailed the boat twice. My experience on Desireé paralleled my experience on Louise. This time we were just tacking on another 10 feet and 20 thousand pounds and hoping to sort it out along the way.

The differences in helming this yawl were endless but there were two particularly note worthy… the first one being… everything worked. Every button pressed did as it was told. Anything that spun, spun freely the right direction. Gauges operated in their proper zones. The plumbing worked. The stove worked. The water-pump worked. The auto-pilot worked. Battery life was abundant. The Engine turned over smooth as cracking a Budweiser. Gadgets and gizmos galore that we could actually rely on. That alone… was like a 5 star hotel.  For two gals mentally prepared for all possible malfunctions, we lived like queens for one week.

The second notable difference…was curious bystanders stopping in their tracks to admire. We didn’t know what these people were looking at cause surely it wasn’t Katie and me. We have aged. Gotten paler. Rounder. Lost our charm and ability to exude enthusiasm about most things in life unless it involves eating or sleeping. But Desireé has aged like fine wine. We were bombarded with questions about every inch of her. Questions we were not used to answering. This was odd. I accepted strangers adoration awkwardly as it was not my boat. I did not work for it. I did not varnish all of that (only a small corner). I did not put in that time, money, nor years worth of re-fitting. But it made me realize that I wanted to, and a high peak of appreciation had been met.  We were used to driving around a mast-less sailboat that casually spit out black smoke which looked like a yard-sale and typically bystanders were confused /somewhat concerned that we were even afloat. I was so focused on making sure I wasn’t going to bonk Desireé into anything that I genuinely blocked out the fact that I was helming an incredible sexy boat.

Okay that’s enough, you understand how I feel about this classic babe and I hope these images help you understand my language. Yes I am allowed to have a girl-crush, and no it is not on Katie. But gosh she makes me laugh and I will never have another friend like her.

Do me one more favor and scroll all the way to the end because I lied when I said I didn’t have a story for you.

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OKAY STOP. 

So then the engine blew up. Serious. Believe it or not I was not on board.  The crew who were to bring her back to our homeport unfortunately got handed a crap sandwich. We received a call from them upon exiting the De Tour harbor on day one, that the engine crapped out. I am not going to bore you with all the technical details so long story short, there was a massive oil leak and it had run itself dry and you all know what that means. Criticize all you want. It happens.

At this very time, Jude Law (if you do not yet know about Jude Law I encourage you to explore your curiosity) was visiting me from England. My worst nightmare is his dream come true. My nightmare – the engine quitting, relying on sails only. His dream come true – no engine at all, relying on sails only. Well, his dream came true when two days after his arrival he learned that someone had to sail this boat home with no engine. I can’t say there is anyone else I would have willingly signed myself up to do so with a smile on my face? I knew it would be good for me. Good for us.

One hundred miles door to door we smashed out an overnight 20 hour delivery purely under sail from a winding channel in the Les Cheneaux Islands, past Mackinaw Island, under the bridge and through Gray’s Reef to the mooring ball in my back yard. I fed off of his confidence and learned to be at ease with the situation immediately. I could go on and on about the e p i c – n e s s  of those 20 hours. But there are only  three things you need to know for now:

  1. I think I actually sailed a sailboat.
  2. Desireé is home safely and needs an engine rebuild.
  3. Just before Luke (his name is Luke Yeates, not Jude Law) flew back to England… my celebrity crush got down on one knee.

Lukeandjessieonaboat.com?

Swear I am not making this up.

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I don’t typically write about men…

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I don’t typically write about men. If I do it’s about my dad and if not him than it is highly unlikely that eyes other than my own would have permission read it.  I think readers come back to this blog to scroll through  a few colorful pictures and get a good laugh at something that Katie and Jessie did wrong on a boat.

This blog has been a merry-go-round of few participants – a kook named Katie, a clever mutt named Reggie, a combat tanker named Louise, and myself (The girl who records the facts) The four of us went in circles for two years, literally playing the same playlist over and over again, starting and ending in the exact same place. Allow me to stray from the merry-go-round and its minions and shift gears to what it was like to be on a small boat …with a dude.

As you can imagine, being on a merry-go-round for two years was nothing shy of  e x h a u s t i n g. When the carnival ride was over, I didn’t step foot on a sailboat for over a year and a half. Land’s creature comforts snuck in with incredible stealth and my feet became heavy with dirt. Undoubtably so, electricity and flushing toilets had stolen my heart right up until just weeks ago, when I dusted off the dirt and stepped foot on a sailboat again. But this time it was not with a kook named Katie.

It took a 6’2’’ British man named Luke who very much resembles Jude Law (or maybe just sounds like, I haven’t sorted that out yet, anyways let’s just call him Jude) to remind me that living on land is not all its cracked up to be. It’s too easy. A life at sea…should unquestionably be in my near future (I’m sorry mom). I met Jude last October at the Annapolis Boat show. Actually Katie will kick me if I don’t credit her for the first conversation between the two of us –  which began at a bar over several tequila’s and it still hasn’t ended to this day. Clearly I was intrigued by the celebrity dopple-ganger and combined British accent but I was most intrigued to learn he holds a world speed record for sailing a 18 foot catamaran around Great Britain. Ha! Little did he know I hold the world record for who can sail the slowest around America.  Let’s just say we have been chasing each other across the Atlantic ever since. Because dating the boy next door isn’t all it’s cracked up to be – it’s too easy.

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This story takes place on the south coast of England. Hamble-le-rice to be exact. A quaint seaside town where at least 5000 sailboats alone are concentrated. If you are not a sailor,  married to one, or work in the sailing industry, you probably don’t live there. This town defined the word nautical. There are a handful of reasons I ended up there about to board “Falcon” a 1971 28 foot Viking. That’s a lie. There was one reason. Jude.

“Falcon” is a cute little thing. Narrow in the waist, and her bow points in whatever direction the finish line is. Her cockpit sits low to the water generous in size. The large companionway leads you into a space opposite of large. With no standing room in Falcon’s cabin it felt similar to the interior of my Toyota Tacoma. I believed time and again I was small enough to stand fully upright but the cabin ceiling continued to prove me wrong. Jude’s torso was bent well past a 45 degree while navigating the cabin. Falcon has more miles under her belt than I even knew a belt could hold. Impressive for a 45 year old gal, her poise is right on par.

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The forepeak  held us horizontally just fine and I insisted on taking my side – the starboard side. The right side. The best side. Oddly enough I had missed sleeping in this awkward kind of space and found comfort in its shape. He definitely had some sorting out to do as far as his cushions, pillows, and sheets (or lack there of) but I didn’t care. I was intruding on his man-cave after all. Heads towards the bow and toes towards the stern was a new concept. I had always slept with my feet towards the bow and a dog to separate me and the kook. What can I say? Different circumstances call for different supine positioning.

The toilet (why do people always ignore this subject?) located right in the center of the forepeak, just below the cushions on which we slept was actually operating. I don’t know why its operation surprised me as the makings of a marine toilet are not very complex. I used the loo cautiously not because I was embarrassed but because my hollywood movie wouldn’t have ended very charmingly if I were to become an impromptu plumber…which has been known to happen in the past. And so I remained slightly constipated.

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Jude is a racer. Everything about his life revolves around not just sailboats – but racing them. I can confidently say that his racing tactics overflow to every aspect of his life. From the moment he wakes up in the morning, to the moment he falls asleep at night, I am convinced he is racing but doesn’t even know it.  Myself on the opposite spectrum, take my time in most things I do,  especially while on a boat. Everything about my former boat life demanded more time – and so I started giving and taking more of it and applying that to all aspects of my life. Apparently I carry this with me today. Living on a boat  forced me to slow down. It literally changed the pace that I eat a sandwich. Its doubled the time I take to form an opinion. Its tripled the time I take to make a decision. And this is where Jude and I differ. This is when he teaches me how to properly sail a boat and when I teach  him how to stop and smell the roses.

F A C T : racing, and cruising – are completely different subjects.

race 1 (noun)

1 . Jude won the race: contest, competition, event, heat, trial(s). 2 .  the race for naval domination rivalrycontentionquest.

cruise (noun)

2  Jessie cruised past: drive slowly, drift; informal mosey, toodle. 2a cruise to the islandsboat tripsea tripvoyage

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When I was at the helm, Jude was down below taking fixes and old school navigating (while I was upstairs cheating with Navionics on my Iphone) he would relay to me the course  which he wanted me to hold. Right. What he meant by that was, within a 2 or 3 degree error not a 10 or 20 degree error. I did my best to hold course and made sure he wasn’t looking when I was completely off. BUT being the racer that he is… he could feel every degree that I was off course because a tiny part of the sail would flap or make a noise and without looking at anything but me I received the “are you on course” question mark eyes or “nice job darling” heart emoji eyes. I continued to strive for the latter.

We spent three days cruising (I was cruising, he was racing) alongside England’s south coast and I certainly learned more sitting at the helm watching Jude hustle around the deck making constant adjustments to this and that, than any youtube video my dad has ever forwarded to my email. It was fascinating. What was second nature to him, was a lesson for me. Amidst my admiration, I knew my level of interest to make Falcon go 1 knot faster was minimal, but I admit to it sparking my interest. I could have cared less how fast we were going. Mostly because I enjoyed every minute of simply helming a boat again. Getting there faster was not on my mind. But it should have been because we were actually crunching minutes and miles to enter the Solent before the tide changed.  If we did’t make it through in time, the venturi would have spit Falcon right back into the sea. Part of me that was okay with that option.

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Jude hates engines. Sails are his engine. Sometimes I don’t fully appreciate the concept of a sailboat. I quite like engines as they are similar to my relationship with most men – they piss me off and I will relentlessly attempt to figure them out. I still firmly believe that if I stare at one for long enough I can fix it (works better with engines – not so good with men) His grin turned south when cranking over the engine where as mine turned north because its’ purr alone brought instant nostalgia. I went out of my way to make sure he saw that it was making Falcon go faster. Isn’t that what he wanted?

Having someone else, other than Katie, witness my strengths and weaknesses on a small boat made me re-think what they are… I think Jude would agree with me on this one:

Strength number one – to sit at the helm in silence and not give a damn where I am. My quietness is not to be mistaken with discontent. It is directly related to sorting out thoughts that I don’t have time to sort out in my normal life on dirt. Next comes putting on my cheekiest smile when it stars pouring rain and not bitching about it.

Weakness number one – sailing terminology. I was tempted to write down my personal sailing glossary so he and I could be on the same page. Like when he was setting us up for “wing on wing” all he had to say was “two dogs f&%$ing” I would have totally understood. Next comes the handling of fenders, lines, and of course relying on electronics.

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Jude is completely tenacious. I don’t know what I am. I yam what I yam. A dreamer who has a lot of nightmares. But it didn’t take more than a few days to taste the boat life I once had. In comparison to my current life on land – one is not better or worse. Land and sea, similar to racing and cruising are two c o m p l e t e l y different subjects. It’s just a matter of figuring out which one you thrive in. Maybe there is a way to thrive in both? I think I need to become more tenacious.

Let me attempt to bring this full circle real quick because writing about Jude does indeed have a purpose. The difference in our boating experience, our motives, may be black and white. But it didn’t matter. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. We drank warm Budweiser, ate stale noodles from styrofoam cups, got caught in pissing down rain time and again, stuffed ourselves in the soggy dungeon to have picnics at anchor, sailed with the ripping tides, and found ourselves one mile shy of National Geographic caliber bolts of lightning. Not once did I feel uncomfortable, timid, worried nor did I feel I needed anything else other than what was right there. I  a b s o l u t e l y  loved it. Every little bit. I felt safe. Was I actually safe? I don’t know but safety is nothing but a matter of perspective anyhow. Jude even boiled me water for coffee before I got out of bed in the morning – Katie please take notes. I completely forgot about those assholes (electricity and plumbing)  who had once stolen my heart. Didn’t miss them one bit. What had stolen my heart was the joys and ease of simplicity, and that, I missed madly.

P.S. If anyone wants high quality sails at a good price… I know a guy. H Y D E  S A I L S

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I am back in Michigan gawking over the Wizard’s (my father’s) 1962 Pearson Invicta. At the end of this month, that kook named Katie, that clever mutt named Reggie, the Wizard’s 37 foot castle named Desiree, and myself (the girl who records the facts) will be sailing to Canada. For too short a moment, the band will be back together – I know, best news since Budweiser cans have been relabeled “America”. Hah. Stay tuned for that story and pray for us not to hit any rocks like the last time. If we do I will make sure you all hear about it and that the Wizard does not.

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I should probably mention we hired a Morgan, and in it we toured Cornwall. Ahhhhhhhhh.

Five. Miles. Per. Hour.

“WHAT I LEARNED TRAVELING AT 5 MPH FOR TWO YEARS” 

“Life-lanes” by Progressive Insurance asked me to answer a few of my most common questions. A very common series of questions sounds like this… “What did you get out of it? What did you learn? Why would I want to do it?” Every – damn – time I freeze up because the answer is lengthy, intense, and actually requires emotional effort to respond in a fashion that I care to have it understood.  I stutter at the task of trying to sum it up. Most people regret asking this question because I either A) Go on a tangent or B) tell them that I perfected shitting into a bucket.

Anyways. Here is my response in a nutshell. Or in a bucket.

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There is something to be said about traveling slowly. Something magical. Something that as far as I am aware, can be not be earned elsewhere. There are many ways one could choose to travel slowly, and in this particular story it was by sailboat.

It took my best friend and I 87 days to get from Northern Michigan to the boarder of Florida in a 27 foot sailboat. Averaging 25 miles a day and 4.5 knots. Together we sailed down Lake Michigan and entered the seam of America, stitching our way south along the Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, and Tombigbee rivers until we met the Gulf of Mexico. I could have driven that distance in 18 hours. I could have flown it in 4. I could have roller-skated faster.

I would spend 8 hours a day sitting in the cockpit holding a beautifully handcrafted wooden tiller, doing absolutely nothing but steering the boat and dodging unidentified floating objects. Months passed. The time that passed had absolutely nothing to do with having to be at a certain place at a certain time, but everything to do with substituting the the only way in which I ever knew how to spend time (work, family, friends, relationships, school, recreational activities, other miscellaneous non-sense like shaving my legs and organizing my underwear drawer) with the following :

Time to think back // You have time to rewind. Push play. Think back to all the reasons you are where you are. Think through all those decisions you made in the past that were never actually thought through. You get stuck on the things you hate thinking about the most. The things you stowed away in a very secure place years ago, with no intentions to ever look at them again. You peel back the years, the layers, and toss the clutter you no longer need. You recognize your wrong doings and rejoice your attributes. Clearing space in your mind for the following :

Time to be present // You don’t miss a beat. It’s merely impossible. You see every bird, every animal, every type of tree, every cloud formation, every bend, every movement of the water. You look at it for more than seconds, because you have minutes, maybe even hours. And you don’t just look at it because it’s all that’s in front of you, you even have time to be fascinated with it. With the fascination comes curiosity. With curiosity comes questions. Your still left with time to try and find the answers. Are you catching my drift? The art of being present is rather educational. Your mind has then made room for the following :

Time to discover // By being in a constant stream of odd situations, you discover things you’re great at and things you’re horrible at. You discover Resource management. You discover how to budget. You discover how to be a jack of all trades. You discover the side streets. You discover how to talk to strangers. You discover beauty in everything- even mud. You discover your priorities. You discover exactly how little one requires to be happy. And eventually you discover this large compartment stocked with the following :

Time to appreciate // And I mean truly appreciate. Allow me to take the word appreciation to a whole new altitude. I am taking it off a rolling hill in Iowa and putting it on top of Alaska’s’ Mount Denali. From the simplest of amenities like running water, electricity, refrigeration, controlled climates, and plumbing. To the clouds that block the sun even if it’s just for a moment. The brief rainfall that is your only means of cleanliness. The wind that cools you off at night and moves your house free of charge by day. The spider who lives in the cockpit and feasts on intruding insects. The power-boater you met that day who offered you ice. The couple anchored next to you who has the right size wrench. The family you met while aimlessly wandering town who took you in and offered a square bed and a hot meal. You get caught up in a state of gratitude and can’t help but to start thinking about the following :

Time to pay forward // I began a list while traveling down those rivers, and keep it going till this day. I wrote down every person that went out of their way to do something for us. Whether it was lending us a tool, cooking us a meal, towing us off the ground, passing down their charts, or spending hours in our ridiculously small engine room we referred to as “the basement”. The list is long. There is a good chance we will never be able to re-pay favors to these particular people. Helping hands, encouragement, and willingness to teach can be passed on. The rest of my time on that boat entailed trying to figure out how I was going to spend the rest of my life – doing exactly that.

 

Thirteen states, three countries, and nearly two years later I was still sitting in that same cockpit. Holding the third beautifully handcrafted wooden tiller (after splitting the first two) dodging unmarked rocks in Canada and days away from sailing into the same bay in northern Michigan I once left from. One huge circle taught me everything I ever wanted to know.

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Disclosure: I was compensated for content provided to Life Lanes from Progressive. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The best bits…&…the worst bits

Once upon a time my house was 27 feet long and 9 feet wide, space was tight. Amenities minimal. When our daily lives weren’t frustrating, they were hilarious. Progressive insurance got a kick out of this and asked me to answer some of my most common questions. One of them being – What was the best, and the worst part about living and traveling aboard a 27 foot sailboat for two years? 

best & worst -10.jpg(ABOVE: How to stay warm in Canada)

So I present you… the glitter and the shits.

I began writing a simple list: The best things about living aboard a tiny sailboat. I shocked myself with the amount of bullet points that dotted this category. It was as if they had been pent up in my brain waiting to be released onto paper. I then began my second list: The worst things about living aboard a tiny sailboat. My brain fired again, and the bullets struck the exact same points as the first.

Every reason that was the best was also the worst. My lists were nearly a perfect match. Contradicting? Well, kind of, yes, let me explain:

BEST

Simplicity // You have with you one of everything you need and nothing more. You have left all the clutter behind. Your diet is simple. Your wardrobe is slim. You might have two pairs of shoes, if you haven’t lost one overboard. You sleep when the sun goes down, and you awake when it rises. You stop paying attention to time, calendars and all of numbers that once defined you. When you have no Internet, you read a book, and when your phone dies, you write letters. You perfect the art of sitting still. You find joy in the simplest of things.

Take your home anywhere // The longer you live aboard the boat, the more foreign a square house in a cement neighborhood begins to feel. This vessel becomes your home, your safety zone, your friend, your transportation and your ticket to explore the world. Restrictions are slim, and opportunities are endless.

Jack of all trades // You get to try on a lot of different hats. When something breaks, you take the time to figure it out on your own before making a phone call. When you are on a tight budget with plenty of time, you will be amazed at what you are capable of fixing, much the opposite of those who have a plentiful budget and are tight on time. You suddenly find yourself to be a bit of a mechanic, plumber, electrician, craftsman, sailor and a navigator. At this point you lose your mind a bit and start to think you are really funny, this is the best part.

Mother Nature // As you can imagine, this reason is self-explanatory. Sunrises. Sunsets. Harvest moons. Wildlife. Eagles. Pelicans. Herons. Otters. Dolphins. Alligators. Manatees. Sharks. Spiders. The brightest of stars. Incredible cloud formations. Thrilling thunderstorms. Blinding rain. Flowing rivers. Fresh water lakes. Vast salty oceans. Ever changing scenery. It never gets old.

Uncertainty // Every day your goal is to get from point A to point B. You don’t really ever know if you are going to make it. In my opinion, there is nothing more thrilling nor motivating than a good challenge. There is a perpetual flood of unanswered questions, and you are constantly educating yourself simply by being curious.

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WORST

Simplicity // When it rains, you get wet. When it’s unbearably hot, there is no air conditioner. When the deck frosts over, you have no source of heat. When all of your clothes are dirty, you have no laundry. When you are starving, you open a can of tuna with a side of brown avocado. When you are filthy, you jump in a salty ocean or a muddy river for a bath. When the sun goes down, you turn on your headlamp. Above all else, there is sometimes never-ending physical discomfort.

Take your home anywhere // Once you are used to constantly being on the go, it is very, very difficult to flip that switch off. You are never settled. It’s hard to stay at a job. It’s hard to stay in a relationship. It’s hard to stay in one place—period—knowing you can untie the lines at any time you please. The ability to move your home trumps everything. So you go, and you keep going, and you are constantly saying goodbye.

Jack of all trades // When your engine quits, you will sit in front of it for countless hours praying that your intense stare will fix the problem. When you can’t fix the engine, you become the sailor who sails in every direction besides the right one. When your head breaks, you are the plumber. When salt corrodes your electric wires, you are the questionable electrician. When you are lost, you are still the navigator. The dirty jobs cannot be pawned off to highly-qualified tradesmen.

Mother Nature // There is no negotiating with Mother Nature. Quite frankly, she couldn’t care less about you and your needs. She will change her mind at any moment, day or night, forcing you to alter your route, take shelter or ride it out. You are always at her mercy. She is your mother-in-law who you secretly despise. You are nothing but a game piece on her game board while she deviously deals the cards.

Uncertainty // Again, you are never certain if you are going to make it to where you are trying to go. The variables and obstacles that could be chucked at you throughout your daily travels will keep coming, but you will never know when. Having to re-route, seek out plan C or backtrack is common. Nothing is certain. Even when you have firm plans, you must understand that things may not go accordingly.

You see what I am saying? It is merely a matter of perspective. If your glass is half full, you understand list one and might consider this a lifestyle for you. If your glass is half empty, list two is enough to make you cringe every time you see a sailboat hereafter. List one wins in my opinion, and if list two hits home for you you probably shouldn’t live on a boat and I apologize that you just read this whole article.

best & worst -1(ABOVE: How to shower in your living room)

C-O Canada -19(How to successfully beg for food)

Life-Lanes-1(How to successfully be a bed hog)

best & worst -7(How to pretend you are going faster than 4.5 knots)

best & worst -11(How to park your house)

best & worst -12(How to … live)

Disclosure: I was compensated for content provided to Life Lanes from Progressive. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Turn that ridiculous drawing on your fridge into reality

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HI, welcome back. For those I am welcoming for the first time, HI  – quick backstory for ya

I was 23 years old  (4 years ago… mmm) when my best friend Katie Smith and her pup Reggie, decided to buy a 27 foot sailboat and spend two years sailing America’s Great Loop. A lot of people asked how & why and at present I didn’t have much of an answer besides “why-not?”. The idea began as a joke. Neither of us had any qualification or prior knowledge on the subject-matter. It wasn’t until later that I found it’s meaning and I understood how the decision to travel this massive circle was the most educating adventure I could have ever signed myself up for. It completely re-routed the way I think, see, live, and move forward with every decision I make. In documenting this story over the years, I continue to receive emails of ambitious adventurers who aren’t quite certain where and how to start planning their own…  Over the next few weeks I will be answering a few of the most common questions asked. Beginning with –

” 5 Things to know before un-tying the lines “

1 – Draw out your plan

Literally. Get out a paper and a pen and start drawing. Most likely it is a map. Draw in your boat, your airstream, your motorbike, your vehicle of choice. Mark prospective waypoints. Jot down miles, dates, landmarks and goals. How does it look on paper? Do you look good on that map? I bet you look fantastic. Add to your drawing over time. Scribble all over it. Keep it vague. Grey areas are important. A plan is necessary yes, but make sure to factor in the ability to work around those plans when your plan – does not go to plan. When your artwork turns into reality it’s going to look a lot different than the masterpeice hanging on your fridge.  Allow yourself a daily visual of your adventure. You probably don’t know what the end reward is yet so wait to draw that in – that is, after all, the whole point of starting in the first place.

2 – Talk to people – real living people

Do your research. And by research I mean talk to people. Face to face, like we used to back in the day (Iphones’ Facetime not included). Pick as many brains as you can – people who have done something remotely similar. Retain that direct and firsthand knowledge before the information you may find on the internet machine. There is value in hearing as well as seeing one’s emotion behind their personal experience and words of wisdom.

We all know the word ‘naive’ is typically used in a negative context and is not how one would care to be categorized. But I am 100% certain there is a bit of magic that comes along with a teaspoon of naivety and I am here to tell you that it is okay to be naive – in small doses of course. One who is slightly naive does not share the same fears and resistance as the well-polished professor (I love you sister, this is not referring to you).  It’s okay not to know every detail, statistic, and hazard about what it is you are going to do. There is however, an art to being naive – the art is knowing exactly when you are being naive and to heighten your senses to everything that is happening around you. Without this art, your dose of naiveté is that of a tablespoon instead of a teaspoon and you might get yourself into trouble. That’s fine too, it will make for a better story.

When you talk to people about your plan, face to face that is, you will most likely find that they too didn’t have much of an idea of what they were getting themselves into. Carry on with your research. Learn what you can. The real learning won’t happen until you leave.

3- Pack light 

This is very straight forward and very important. The less you bring the less you have to lose. The less you leave behind the less you will miss. The less clutter the more space. The more stuff you have that can break, you more you will have to fix. We as humans require a fraction of goods we own to remain perfectly healthy and happy. Think simple. Pack light. (Katie was great at this, until it came to toiletries)

Invest in a “Spot” device. This satellite GPS tracker will send your location via email to your friends and family every day with the press of a button. Should you find yourself in an emergency situation it can also contact the Coast Guard. We pressed the “safe” button when we were securely anchored at the end of each day or after we successfully navigated an overnight passage or a long crossing. Only once did we have to use the “sort-of-an-emergency” button when we broke down on our way home from the Bahamas and had to get towed back to Florida.

Think seriously about what’s in your tool box. You are only as good as your tools and when something breaks – and I promise you it will – you are going to be the one to fix it. Investing in a good set of tools is priceless. We learned this the hard way time and again. We needed a very specific wrench to adjust part of the propeller shaft known as the “stuffing box” to prevent water from leaking into the boat. I could never bring myself to spend $30 on that stupid wrench, but every single time we were in a “slowly sinking” situation, I would have paid triple to have it.

Mmmm lets leave behind “Shades of Grey” and make room for guide books. Guide books often become your only source of information when you have no cell service and find yourself alone, possibly lost, and miles from civilization. Dozier’s “Waterway Guide” and “Skipper Bob” cruising guide series saved us a time or three. When you do have cell service and/or Wi-Fi available, I insist you download “Navionics.” You can pre-download incredibly accurate and detailed charts to your phone or tablet and still use them for navigation when out of touch.

4 – Leave your list incomplete

Don’t let an incomplete list keep you from leaving. Even when you think you have checked everything off there will be a never-ending psychological list patiently waiting. You will learn along the way what you need and more importantly what you don’t need. How does one gain experience without experiencing? You will make mistakes and If you already know you are going to make mistakes then listen, these are the 3 things to be certain to check off your list before departing :

1) Insure your boat – or whatever kind of vehicle it may be. When we left, I barely knew how to sail, nor motor Louise our 1979 Cal 27.  Having it insured freed me of the never ending anxiety I had every time I ran around (frequently)  hit a rock (twice in Canada) rammed a dock (when the shift cable snapped in the Bahamas) or backed into another boat, etc. (For the record I never backed into another boat).

2) Pre-flight. Every single morning before departing from point A, check the status of every working part in/on your boat to ensure it’s ability to get you to point B. When something goes wrong it goes wrong at a time of severe inconvenience, better to diagnose any potential problems while stationary.

3) Check your mental state. I am being completely serious. Your attitude and mental health is equally as important as the boat you are to rely on. Just like you rely on it, it relies on you. Don’t hesitate to wait a day, take a break, or call it quits early if you are not feeling up for it. Chill out mate. Tomorrow will be better.

The rest of the list will sort itself out. Carry on.

5 – You are superhuman 

So you have this idea…this grand plan…this wild adventure… it’s brewing thick as lava that molds to the mountainside while it cools. In your mind, acting on this possibility, is set in stone but in reality you are terrified to reach out and touch it because it might be unsafe. You spend your mornings justifying every reason under the sun to go for it and pass your afternoons shooing away the obnoxious list of reasons it’s not possible. This silent battle is your first and largest mistake. Put down your damn weapons and go. Make that first Progressive decision. You have the power over, and are in control of,  every decision small or large that you make. You will hold that power as long as you are alive. You are not stuck. Use this power to your advantage. This power is superhuman when you understand how to use it. You are superhuman. Turn that ridiculous drawing on your fridge into reality.

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