Friday, April 25, 2014

Why is the Money Always Gone?

Money just flies out of our savings account (image from here)
Some days it really does feel like this.  Two years ago when we came through Oriental with a broken V-drive, the mechanics who fixed it advised that we really should address the fact that our engine was installed without proper mounts to cushion the vibration.  Over time this would create excess wear on the engine, meaning ultimately it would wear out sooner.  And in the meantime it made motoring noisier and less smooth than it needed to be.

But the job was expensive and at the time we were already over budget and behind schedule.  The engine work was important, but not urgent, so we decided to schedule it for autumn 2013 and started saving money to complete the work.  And the inevitable add-ons: "You know, while we're doing this, and the boat is out of the water anyway and the engine is out, it would be an excellent opportunity to re-route the air conditioning.  And add a cleanout tank to the diesel heater.  And then rework the companionway stairs."  And so it goes.

Well, life happened, and autumn 2013 came, but we hadn't quite accumulated all the money we'd need, so we postponed the project for this spring/summer.  By March, we had everything we'd need, both for the job itself and to rent a place to stay while the boat was uninhabitable during the process.

Or I should say, we had had everything we'd need.  For about two days.  Then we got the call from the property manager that our rental house needed a new air conditioning system, and another tenant gave notice, and our account looked exactly like the picture above.

The good news, of course, was that we had the money to do the fix.  The bad news was that we were probably going to be forced to postpone our project yet again.  And I was pretty down about that.  Down enough to start looking at other boats online.  In fact, it was even worse than that.  I was so down, I even began to wonder if we should trade in the boat for a cabin in Montana.

Thank goodness for online friends, who listened to me vent, reminded me that having had the money in savings in the first place really was good news, and best of all, made some suggestions to cobble together a solution.  The add-ons won't happen until some unspecified future date, but a combination of an unexpected tax refund, some lean living for the next two months, more anchoring than marinas on our way north, and a zero-interest credit card will get the job done.  And another unexpected benefit: I didn't find a single boat online in our price range that I liked better than, or nearly as much as, our present one.  Reminded me all over again how much I like our life afloat!

This gorgeous photo of our beloved boat by Joe McCary 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Azalea Line

Azaleas in Beaufort, SC

The endless winter finally seems to be ending.  There's more sunlight and less wind these days, and I'm starting to dream of blue water, of saying not "goodbye" but "see you later" to our St Augustine friends and places, and heading north.  We're already seeing boats coming through town, staying a day or a week but then continuing north, migrating back "home." (It's always fun to read about ourselves in the blogs of some of these folks, now new friends: Jim and Angie and Paul and Deb.)The first wave of boats that came through had hailing ports in Canada or New England and seemed in something of a hurry -- they have a long way to go.  Now those with more moderate goals in the mid-Atlantic (Annapolis!) are starting to appear.  

In the autumn, the hours of daylight are short.  There's a fairly narrow window of time between the end of hurricane season and the onset of winter and the nor'easters, so every good weather day (and even some marginal weather days) is spent underway for 7 or 8 hours to make miles southward, hoping the encroaching cold weather doesn't catch up to us.  "Grueling slog" is the way I remember that trip.  It's lucky I have a short memory or I'd never want to travel by boat again.  

But in the spring, it's a different story.  We can travel at our leisure and linger in interesting cities and towns, and the penalty for going to slow is only that the weather gets ever warmer.  Instead of the overwhelming sense of urgency we felt in the autumn, the theme of our trip north this summer is not to go too fast: never to be north of where the azaleas are blooming.

Some boats are seasonal commuters.  They migrate from their summer home, where they stay put for a few months, then a month or two underway, traveling as quickly as possible to their winter home, where they stay put for a few months, then travel as quickly as possible back to their summer home.  We've been those people, Annapolis to St Augustine and back again.  We're "home," then "away from home," then "back home again."  This year, though, we are inspired by the insights of two friends to make our trip more of a wander and less of a commute.  

Mark and Diana have a power catamaran.  They can travel faster than we can, and they don't have to wait for opening bridges like we do.  One day I was joking that they could make the trip north in far less time than the 5-6 weeks it would take us.  "Oh, no," Mark replied.  "Our goal is to make the slowest possible trip."  He went on to explain that they'd only travel for a maximum of 3 or 4 hours on the days they traveled at all.  That left plenty of time to kayak up the little creeks in the afternoon, read a good book, or explore the towns they traveled through.  Other longtime cruising friends Stuart and Nancie advised us to own nothing ashore.  If everything you own is with you, then home is wherever the anchor is set and you don't have the urgency to move on to the next place, the place where the rest of your "stuff" is stored.  

So that's our plan for this summer.  We're going to go slow, take a few side trips we've not taken before in our hurry.  We probably won't get all the way back to Annapolis, but we'll see some new things.  Maybe check out North Carolina's Outer Banks instead of sticking to the direct route.  Stay in some pretty anchorages an extra day just to watch the birds or go for a hike.  And for sure, stay south of the azalea line.