Why is is so hard to give up “stuff”?

When we sold our house and most of our belongings before moving onto our 37 foot sailboat, several friends told me, “It must feel so good to simplify and get rid of stuff!” Well it did feel good up to a point: emptying closets of outdated technology, getting rid of clothes that hadn’t fit in years, eliminating duplicate camping gear. Even clearing out kitchen cabinets of clutter was kind of fun. And I got really good at my downsizing mantras. Does it bring me joy? Does it fit on a boat? But eventually….. I had gotten rid of the junk, and all that was left was things that I loved, and clothes that fit me, and stuff that, darn it, DID bring me joy! And it was still WAY too much to fit on a boat.

So then sh*t got real. And we kept downsizing: digitizing photos, giving away the coffee bean grinder and any kitchen items that could be replaced at Target, giving away running clothes and cycling kits (’cause who can run or bike on a boat?) We finally caved in a bit and decided to store a few boxes at Capt. Mike’s mom’s house – our road bikes, glassware and pottery from our travels and a box of winter jackets for when we eventually leave the topics and visit Buffalo. That decision probably saved my sanity, because t allowed me to keep some belongings.

Jump ahead to the end of our second cruising season. And somehow… We still have too much stuff! There’s clothes in hard-to-get-to storage that I haven’t worn all season. We have a bag of bags – yes really. Insulated cups always sit on the counter because there’s not enough room in the cup cupboard. Don’t even ask how many pairs of shoes I have. Sigh. So at the end of the season, we downsized again. I really think Netflix should feature Sanitas on an episode of “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.”

When we moved from the boat to an Airbnb while working in the yard, the pile of stuff we moved into the condo was pretty huge.

But, to be fair, we were still cooking all our meals (with vegetables!) And using up food and toiletries from the cruising season. We downsized a bit more before flying to Colorado for a month. But packing light didn’t turn out quite how I envisioned it.

Good thing we borrowed a friend’s car! We had cold weather clothing (it snowed in Colorado the day before we arrived, plus we planned to spend time in New York in October) and running clothes and yoga clothes and going out to dinner clothes and backpacking equipment. So not too bad, considering.

But then a crazy thing happened. During the month we spent in the land of plenty, we bought more stuff! Newer cuter clothes. Toiletries. Makeup (which you sure don’t need on the boat). Gluten free snacks galore. Newer, lighter packaging gear. By the end of the month, we again had way too much stuff and had to ship some to new York. By the time we flew out from Denver to Europe, we’d once again skinnyed things down to a comfortable walking around level.

I think we’re pretty good now! I’ve got hiking clothes and gear. I’ve got everything I need for hot temps, chilly temps, and rain. I’ve got a couple of drinking-wine-and-eating-pinxtos outfits. I even packed some gluten free snacks. Why was it so hard to get here?

Who knows! Like most of us, I get sentimentally attached to things I’ve owned that trigger fond memories. And I hate the idea of re-buying something I used to own. It seems like such a waste! Plus there’s always an element of, “what if I need it someday?” But, with everything I need for 3 months traveling Europe in my backpack, I hope to channel my inner Marie Kondo and get rid of the clutter and excess in my life! And on my boat 😁

What do we do when we’re not on the boat?

For the past two years now, we’ve been “seasonal cruisers.” That means we live on Sanitas full time from approximately November to June, and then we store her in a safe place on land during hurricane season. So far, we really like this approach. It keeps things fresh – we’ve always got something different to look forward to, and it gives Capt. Mike a break from worrying about boat safety, weather, and navigation for a few months. It’s like a vacation from our vacation! But where do we live and what do we do when we’re not on the boat?

To make this cruising lifestyle work, we had to sell our home, our cars, and most of our things (Does it bring me joy? ….. Does it fit on a boat? ….) so we don’t have a home to return to during hurricane season. The good news is – we can go anywhere! The bad news is – we can go anywhere! … which involves a lot of research, planning, and an adventurous attitude. This year, we tucked Sanitas safely into storage in Fajardo, Puerto Rico and flew back to Colorado where we are blessed with generous friends and family who open their homes and their guest bedrooms to us when we visit.

I was lucky to be able to attend a retreat of Skirt Sports brand ambassadors from around the country during our first weekend in Boulder. It was really wonderful to meet such positive and supportive women in person after being “friends” on social media for years. We heard TESS talks from inspiring women, hiked, ran, ate, drank, and had a lot of fun together. The weekend culminated in a half marathon that I was not sufficiently trained for, but was still a lot of fun.

Capt.Mike and I moved to Colorado in 2003, so we have LOTS of friends and family here. By the time we moved onto our boat in 2017 we had mountain biking friends, road biking friends, running friends, work friends, Skirt Sports friends, book club friends, snowboarding friends, and UK friends. We tried to fit in a visit with every one of them in the past month. This involved a lot of driving, and a lot of eating and drinking!

Did I mention eating and drinking? After six months of cooking one-pot meals in my tiny galley, and eating beans and rice, the variety of food available (even gluten free beer!) in Boulder, CO was dizzying. Plus, I couldn’t resist going on taco and margarita tour.

We were extremely happy that it stopped snowing in Boulder days before we arrived – on May 29th!?! You might notice Mike and I are wearing jackets and hats in a lot of these photos, while Coloradans are wearing shorts and t-shirts. Apparently your blood really does thin while living in the tropics for six months. 🤣 Once summer arrived in Colorado, we took every opportunity possible to hike in this beautiful state. We were so lucky to have amazing trails right in the Boulder City limits, or within a 15-minute drive! I even hiked a few new-to-me trails that I somehow missed while we lived here. I love the Colorado blue skies, snow capped mountains, and variety of vegetation; everything from pine trees to cactus.

In between hikes, we fit in a few particularly fun events. Did I mention we consider this time in Colorado a vacation from the stresses and discomforts of boat life? When in Colorado, we always need to see a concert at the amazing Red Rocks Amphitheater concert venue.

And we borrowed cruiser bikes from Brittany and Erik so that we could participate in bike-to-work day.

All of our socializing involved our good friends – playing cards, doing pedicures, cycling around Boulder.

We have a leave-no-trace policy for our guest room stays. Or, as Capt. Mike says, “take only memories, leave only carpet vacuum stripes.” Since we aren’t working, and we have plenty of extra time, sometimes we can help out around the house. Mike has hauled rocks, repaired bikes, and even put together IKEA furniture.

All in all, our visit to Colorado went much too quickly. Tomorrow we head to the airport for the next stage of our land adventures. Tomorrow we fly to France and then to Spain where we plan to hike the Camino de Santiago – approximately 500 miles across Spain!

We’re committed to the nomadic life now!

On Thursday, we sold my car. Talk about a bittersweet moment. I’ve owned this cute little VW convertible since 2010, and it’s taken us on many adventures; including moving all of our belongings to Florida, and two more cross country road trips this past summer! More importantly, it’s given us the freedom to do whatever we wanted while living here in St Petersburg. Early morning trips to the YMCA? No problem. An afternoon of errands and massive provisions runs to Sam’s Club, West Marine, Home Depot, and Trader Joe’s? Piece of cake. Invitation to spend time with friends in Siesta Key an hour’s drive away? Don’t mind if I do.

Last year, we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to store the VW at Drew and Sharon’s house here in St Pete, knowing we planned to return after the cruising season. This year, our plans are less firm. We want to have the freedom to continue cruising, without having to make the long trek back to Tampa Bay. So it’s time to cut the cord and truly become cruising nomads.

We put it off as long as we possibly could, and until every hold of the boat was FULL of provisions. Then we began the Craig’s List and Facebook Marketplace dance. Is this a real person or a robot? Will he actually show up for our meeting? Will he offer me some kind of ridiculous low ball price? After several “interesting” showings, we connected with Maggie of Das Auto Haus in Clearwater who offered us less than we asked, but more than the VW dealer, and we had ourselves a deal. Goodbye trusty Volkswagen! Thanks for everything!

Yesterday, I did my first round of errands as a walking person. Grocery store, post office: it really makes you think if you need BOTH almond milk and bottled water at the same time – heavy!

Conch. It’s what’s for dinner

Have you tried conch? I don’t mean conch fritters….. those little fried balls of who-knows-what dipped in catsup. I mean REAL conch, Queen Conch, strombus gigas, straight from the ocean, maybe served ceviche style raw with lime, maybe cracked battered and fried. Well, I have had the honor of eating the best conch in the entire world on Cat Island.

On our first day in New Bight, we stopped by Duke’s Conch Shack for some cold beverages, and spent a couple of hours shooting the breeze with Duke (Or “Dukie” as the local ladies call him, although I never felt quite close enough to be on nick-name basis). Duke’s place was a huge step up from the takeaway shacks surrounding it. He explained how he made the coconut palm thatched roof by hand; what kind of wood to use for the supports and how to soak it in salt water to keep out the bugs. He explained that this type of roof is perfect, because every time a storm destroys the restaurant, he walks out into the woods and gets new building material for free. He explained that he found all of the sailing-themed decorations and light shades washed up on Ocean Beach, “you can find anything in the world over there!” And he told us the Whitty K sign is a piece of the hull of one of the champion Bahamian racing sloops. Oh! And he acted out the story of when the shark bit him on the butt and he had to get 50 stitches. After we were buddies, Duke even gave us a ride a couple of miles up the road to the best grocery store in the Bahamas.

Amid all the chatting and story telling, Duke found time to whip up the most amazing conch salad ever; ocean fresh conch “cooked” in lime and orange juice, mixed with tomato, onion, and hot peppers. I protected my treasured paper bowl in a plastic bag, on the bumpy dinghy ride back to the boat and had a divine dinner served with tortilla chips and rum punch.

Nice photo bomb, Laura!

The next day, we returned to Dukes’s after our island tour adventure, for cracked conch. Since Capt. Mike and I need to stick to a gluten-free diet, we ordinarily can’t partake of this breaded and fried delicacy. But …. after hanging with Duke all day yesterday, he told us that if we brought our own gluten-free flour, he would use it to make cracked conch just for us!

We placed an order for three portions for us and our friends. Duke said, “Let me go get the conch from the freezer”, and walked across the dirt road to the beach. Sensing something awesome, I trailed along behind him. Duke crossed the beach, waded into the choppy ocean waves, took his shirt off, and dove under water. One by one, he pulled conch shells out from the water, and threw them onto the sand. Three… six … nine … twelve. Wow! That’s a lot of conch for three portions! By the time Duke returned to the beach, the crews of Sanitas, Z-Raye, and Orion were all on the beach watching. Duke walked us through the process of cleaning and prepping conch.

First, use a hammer to pound a hole in the shell to release the suction so you can pull the conch from its home. Rinse the conch several times to clear the sand. Remove the conch “pistol”. Depending on who you ask, this is either the semen sack, which has special sexual-strength-inducing powers, or simply part of the digestive system. Either way, it’s pretty badass to swallow it hole, as Laura and I did, lol.

First taste of conch pistol

I like all the puzzled faces in this picture…

Next, you need the remove the operculum… a shell like covering that assists in locomotion, aka: a thick skin covering the conch. Cut it off with a BIG knife. Also cut off any dark of discolored pieces. Rinse a few more times.

Once you have coaxed the critters out of their shells, and removed all the nasty bits, the next step is to pound the heck out of it. FYI, this is why I don’t clean conch myself on my boat. (Picture slimy conch bits all over the walls)

After all of this extremely labor intensive cleaning and prepping (not to mention actually catching the darn things!) comes the civilized part or dipping the strips of tenderized conch in egg, cream, and flour and then frying. Add salt, French fries, and hot sauce (and a rum punch) and you have a meal fit for a queen…. conch (see what I did there?)

It was supposed to be a smooth passage …

On March 10th, we finally headed south from the Sea of Abaco. After 10 days in Marsh Harbour, hiding from nor’easters, we had staged ourselves off Lynard Key, watched the weather, and listened to the cruisers net every morning to hear the status of the cuts. The cuts are gaps between Bahamian islands that allow you to pass from the protected waters of a sea or bank (such as the Sea of Abaco) into the open ocean. They can be tricky; narrow with rocks and reefs on either side, and a strong current either pulling you forward or fighting your progress. You need to time a cut passage properly, preferably at slack tide, when the wind is not working again the current and building up strong, high waves. I have a goal for cut passages, and that goal is “No stories.” There are many salty sailors who take pride in their horror stories, “I was passing through Whale Cut in northerly winds of 35 to 40 knots! The waves were as tall as houses! Only my arcane skills as a sailor and my brave heart enabled me to make it through unscathed!” Well personally, I prefer the uneventful, safe passage. Oh, and I passed through Whale Cut a few days ago. It was fine. Nothing happened. That makes for a boring blog post, I know. Sorry!

Anyway …. We had listened to the cruisers net hosted out of Hope Town every morning. The net coordinator shares a weather report from Barometer Bob, and invites folks to describe the conditions they are observing in the cuts. We decided to head south when the Little Harbor Cut transitioned from a “bouncy 3 out of 5” to a “very passable 4 out of 5 and improving” We had mapped out a course of approximately 60 nautical miles to Spanish Wells at the northern tip of Eleuthera. The trip was supposed to be calm and uneventful. We might even need to motor if the winds were too light to sail. We departed the anchorage just at sunrise, giving us almost 12 hours of daylight to make the passage. I had a book ready.

And the weather man was wrong! Winds were as high as 25 knots. Seas were 6 feet in the wrong direction to the wind. On the positive side, we sure had enough wind to sail! We spent the day heeled over at 15 to 25 degrees and sailing at 5 to 6 knots (fast for Sanitas). The wind was on our bow, as it always seems to be, and the seas were on our beam, so it made for “uncomfortable” conditions. I claim that I don’t get seasick, but I put that claim to the test today! At one point, I built myself a little nest of pillows in a corner of the salon, and wedged myself into the small space to avoid being tossed around.

All three ships in our tiny flotilla were battered today. On SE of Disorder, a bail broke on their main, causing lots of noise, and tangling the main sheet in the rigging. On Sanitas, the bilge pump stopped working, and the propane sensor broke so that we couldn’t use our stove. But Orion had the worst luck of the passage. They had sailed all day, bearing west of our rhumb line because it provided a better angle to the wind for a close reach. We could just barely see them on the horizon when they started up the engine and planned to motor straight into the wind to reach our destination for the evening. Over the radio we heard “Orion is having a very bad day.” They were getting absolutely no thrust from their motor, and feared the prop was missing – the victim of a large patch of seaweed they’d sailed through ten hours earlier. Bob had to get in the water, in those high seas, out of sight of land to check on the prop. (There would have been a lot of tears shed if that happened on Sanitas) Bob diagnosed that the prop was there, but the prop key was missing, allowing the prop to spin freely. Essentially, Orion had no working motor, and could only proceed under sail. That meant they couldn’t make it to Royal Island which was directly into the wind, and couldn’t get to Egg Island Cut and the hopefully calmer waters on the other side. Instead, they sailed all night long in deep safe waters, until they saw the lights of Nassau, and headed back north to join us in daylight and under better wind conditions. Capt Mike and I felt terrible as we watched them sail further away from us, and we instead made our turn toward Royal Island. We knew they’d soon be out of radio range and on their own for the night. And I have never been happier to hear Bob’s voice than when he hailed us at 6:00 am the next morning, after making it safely through the night, and only about three miles from our anchorage!

We’ve nicknamed Disorder “Toolbox” because Stan, a retired fire fighter, has every tool and part and spare you could possibly need aboard. Between our three boats, we had everything Bob and Mike needed to replace the prop key with Orion in the water. Even a small dive tank to facilitate the underwater repairs. The trip that took 12 hours and 60 miles for Sanitas took 120 miles and 30 hours for Orion, but she was finally anchored, repaired, and safe. And her crew could get some much needed sleep.