Monday, December 14, 2015

The Place We Keep Coming Back To (Annapolis, MD, -- again!)

As we wound down from our incredible, spectacular summer on El Galeon, it was time to get back to everyday life. Being grownups, we knew that we would now have to get after the chores and errands we had postponed in order to go exploring.  One of those chores was the dreaded "medical monitoring marathon" with our specialists in Annapolis.  The second chore, long delayed, was the sorting and emptying of our storage unit in the same city. And while we were in town, not a chore but a treat, was the chance to check in with several of our area friends.

Annapolis! (Photo by Rdsmith4 under creative commons license, image from here)

We spent 6 years living aboard and working in Annapolis, then after retirement and becoming snowbirds, we came back most summers after wintering in warmer climes.  I love the amazing sailing and gunkholing available in the Chesapeake, one of my favorite places for spending summer and early autumn afloat.  I think of misty sunrises and miles of shoreline with intricate sheltered coves for anchoring, no tides or currents to worry about, pretty towns and old brick streets and colonial architecture. But those are summer memories.  The medical marathon as well, is usually a summer project, while we are in the area; but this year we were going to make the trip in (gulp) dark, chilly November. This trip was going to be by car, not boat, and we'd be staying in a motel, not at anchor. On the other hand, a trip that generally takes us 6-8 weeks of ICW and offshore sailing, would take only about 13 hours by car.

All my Chesapeake Bay icons in one photo: misty dawn; heron on a daymark fishing with the Bay Bridge in the background

Of course, not even delicious ease of cruising or pretty scenery is sufficient to make a place "home," though Annapolis has as solid a claim to the title as anyplace we've ever set the hook.  Add in our many wonderful friends there, and an environment more congenial to our left-of-center political leanings, (let's face it, north Florida, while interesting, and warm, isn't exactly a hothouse of liberal intellectualism), and Annapolis wins front-runner status. Then, add the just flat-out convenience and freedom of having a car again for a while, and the chance for some silly stuff, like stocking up on some of our favorite specialty food items (Trader Joes and Whole Foods and Fresh Market, all within a few blocks of each other!) to the feeling of going "home" and suddenly instead of being overwhelmed with errands, we're looking forward to a road trip.

One warm Saturday we were busy playing pirate in St Augustine, next morning we got in our rented mini-van and drove 13 hours, with stops for indulgent waffles for lunch and broiled fish for dinner, (at the last minute gotta eat healthy before our blood tests) before checking into a comfortable motel just outside of town for the night. Early Monday morning began what was destined to be our pattern for the incredibly tightly-scheduled week: every day had one (or more) doctor's appointments; numerous afternoons included shopping for things that we just haven't been able to find in Florida or that were simply easier to get while we had a car; every evening -- and a few lunches -- our reward for our work was meeting one or more local friends for a meal at a different restaurant, mostly our old favorites but also some new to us.  Also on that crammed and confining schedule were several blocks of time dedicated to the dreary task of cleaning out our storage unit.

Originally the storage unit held a sparse collection of cruising gear like jerry jugs and spare dock lines; and off-season stuff like our winter enclosure and space heaters during the summer, the sails and inflatable kayak and snorkel gear during the winter; and some practical stuff like tax records that we have to keep for 3 years. But over time it also accumulated souvenir t-shirts, books we had read and wanted to keep (but not necessarily keep on board), leftover materials from boat projects, and other randomness. We planned to sort through it all, bring the good stuff back to St Aug with us, and jettison the rest.  

Boxes of books and papers and tools and clothing came to the motel room to be tried on, sorted, repackaged as compactly as possible.  We had a large stack of cardboard boxes at one end of the room "to be sorted," and another stack of (mostly) plastic boxes at the other side "finished."  Slowly the "to be sorted" stack decreased and the "finished" stack grew. Some of the stuff we revisited was greeted with incredulous looks, "Why did we save this?"; some clothing to my delighted surprise fit me well and looked good again after the weight I lost over the summer. We had a competition to see who could find the silliest, most useless thing we had wasted storage space on.

Pizza with a subset of our Annapolis boating friends ... and "adult beverages"
Then we'd go out to lunch or dinner to meet with our sailing friends, or or meet someone's new baby, or shop for favorite foodie items.  For all that it seemed we hadn't been away that long, there were lots of minor changes in town -- a new restaurant here, a road there -- and more changes in our friends' circumstances -- Juan and Maria were selling their boat; Bryan and Sharon had a new baby for us to meet; Jen had a new business; John and Penny were going on a ski vacation while John and Diane were going on a tropical vacation; Keith and Kim were talking retirement; "S". was getting divorced; "J.'s" cancer was in remission; Eric and Carleen were all about their grandchildren; it was like we'd never left and simultaneously hard to believe that all these changes had come about in just a little over a year since the last time we'd been in town. It occurred to me that the cliche "ebb and flow of life"  was a cliche for a reason. The phrase was used a lot, because it was, well, true.  The results of our own medical monitoring marathon were coming back excellent, but it was good that we had done the blood tests on the first morning of the first day -- over the course of the rest of the week, all that catching up over meals, eating out and drinking was putting on weight.

The week was winding down but what wasn't decreasing at a parallel rate was the volume of stuff we were planning to move to our newly-rented storage unit in St Aug. We were sorting, packing, repacking every day.  We made multiple trips with boxes of donations to The Clothes Box, laughing with the volunteers there that we could donate winter coats and boots and heaters because we were snowbirds now and headed to Florida.  We also made multiple trips to Office Depot to buy more plastic storage boxes for things we were keeping, and multiple trips to the dumpster to throw away things that we could neither keep nor donate.  We were feeling the pressure and the space constraints. In the chilly dark on the last evening we started making bad decisions: at one point Dan declared a carton of odds and ends "trash" but fortunately before we pitched it I noticed that it was strangely heavy. In the dark neither of us had noticed that our router (power tool, not the tech item) was in there -- saved just in time! But speaking of tech, he also handed me a rectangular item just after we'd been talking about the dead old netbook computer that we had kept, and I hurled it into the dumpster. 1,000 miles later when we were unpacking in St Augustine I found the netbook ... so what did I throw away there in the chilly dark in Annapolis? A month later and I still can't identify anything missing; what does that say about the nature of our storage?

Van interior on arrival in St Aug. Stuffed!

The van was so packed (thank you Chrysler "Stow and Go" folding seats) that I'm almost afraid to post a picture of it lest Enterprise revoke our rental privileges for misuse -- but here's a picture anyway. Still it was seriously the most comfortable vehicle we've ever rented. The van was so full that the passenger had a backpack in their lap (no other space for it) and our box of marine stainless steel fasteners between their feet. And Jaye drove the entire way because we couldn't push the driver's seat back far enough for Dan's long legs. But we made the trip without incident and within a couple of hours had everything offloaded into the storage unit. We used the now-empty van for a trip to get groceries and to just gaze at the ocean for a while, and then settled into the feeling of being "home" with our stuff, missions accomplished.

So why are we moving our stuff to St Aug, changing our drivers' licenses, and giving every indication of settling here if we think of Annapolis as home? All other things being equal, there are tax advantages to declaring ourselves Floridians instead of Marylanders, and we legitimately have equal claim to both states. In our minds, Annapolis is our long-term home, St Aug is home-for-now. In past years, we spent 4 months of winter in St Aug, 2 months traveling north, 4 months of summer in Annapolis, and 2 months sailing south, so we have equal claim to both cities, some summers we didn't make it to the Chesapeake, and some winters we went further south than north Florida.  Both cities have a good access to water and a supportive boating community, a nice mix of educational and entertainment options -- what we consider and at the least the right ratio of bars to bookstores -- the ambiance of being a university town. Both have all the characteristics of a place with a high comfort level that we will keep coming back to.


  1. Hello. I've been following your blog ever since you wintered over in MD on the boat. I also especially liked your closet challenge post. This summer we'll be selling our land home in CO and buying a boat in Annapolis. Can I ask you, with this move to FL will you register your boat there and pay the FL use tax? Or leave the boat registered in MD? I'm unclear whether I need to or should register the boat once I buy it since we'll be moving around quite a bit.

  2. Hi Shelly and thanx for being such a loyal follower, and CONGRATS on your big upcoming life change! To answer your question, yes, we did register the boat in FL. Older boats like ours, any boat over 30 years old, is classified as an antique, "maritime heritage" in FL; if you register your boat in that category the fee is $7.50 for 2 years, such a bargain. And here's how the sales tax works: you pay it, generally, to the state in which you buy and will use the boat. When you move to a new place and want to register in that state, you show your bill of sale to prove that you already paid. As long as the first state's tax rate is at least as high as the second state, you are exempt from paying further sales tax. This can be greatly to your advantage if you buy a fixer-upper boat because you pay tax on the original price, not the improved value from all your work. At the time we left, MD only required you to register with the state if you were going to be spending more time in MD waters than any other state. FL gives you 90 days before you have to register. If you're moving around a lot, they don't really enforce this, but since we had been in the same marina for a year, it was pretty obvious. Will your moving around bring you down this way? It'd be fun to meet in person. BTW, I haven't blogged about it yet but we're moving again next year. Southbound!

  3. That's very interesting. Thank you. There is a 1990 on my radar that would be 'antique' in just a few years. I suspect we won't leave MD until late 2016 and maybe even later depending on how much work we have to have done. We're both hi-tec workers so we can work remotely while having the work done. I figure income coming in while paying for big repairs might be good.... However, we'll catch up with you southbound at some point in life!

  4. Hoping to see you "out here" soon! BTW, you might want to look into getting Coast Guard documentation for your boat if that moving around you mention includes leaving the U.S.