Tuesday, February 19, 2019

2018 - Year In Review!

Wow, I can't believe we're well into February, 2019 and another year has flown by! I'm so far behind on my blog, but I don't wanna give up on my annual tradition of looking back on the past year. Not only is it a great way to keep track of our lives, but it always makes me feel grateful when I realize just how much we've done .. 2018 was no different. In fact, it was extra-special because we had a new addition to our family!

The year started off with a baby shower for our daughter at my mom's house. We were excited to celebrate the upcoming birth of our first grandchild .. a boy!

A couple of weeks later, Orson was born .. what a wonderful day!

With a healthy baby boy & Mother, we were able to uphold our annual tradition of celebrating Mardi Gras in the French Quarter with our friend, Judy.

We squeezed in a few boat projects before our next adventure, which included replacing our galley table and removing our old alcohol stove. We then added a new propane cooktop & had extra space for a microwave and storage underneath.  Another project off our list .. boat curtains!

With these projects done, we hopped on a plane in March to meet our friend in Key West!

Charlie invited us to join him on his Hylas 47' sailboat for a 3-day passage to Isla Mujeres, Mexico!

We had an amazing trip, and were excited to get some more work done on our boat for her own passages. The first big project was being able to use our new propane cooktop, which meant installing a propane system on Nirvana.

In July we took a road trip with our daughter, son-in-law & grandson to Indianapolis, Indiana for our daughter's graduation. She received her Master's in Education while teaching first grade and raising her new son .. we're so proud of her hard work!

Once we came home to Nirvana, we tackled a very stressful project .. an entire new battery system. We were so glad when all the research and work was done on this!

After many years in storage, we pulled out our "new at the time we put in storage" inflatable dinghy & Tohatsu motor. The dinghy didn't need much TLC, but the Tohatsu required some cleaning.

We installed a new Garhauer engine hoist to make raising "Mr. T" much easier .. we already love it!

With a list of boat projects still ahead, Ken added new 12 volt circuits throughout Nirvana. Running wire in a boat requires turning removing everything out of the way .. did a tornado hit?! With this done, we installed a few Caframo fans and outlets inside our lil home. 

All of this work made us want a good night's sleep .. meaning a new foam mattress in our v-berth!

We can't just focus on taking care of Nirvana .. we have to take care of ourselves as well. I noticed an unusual spot on my shoulder, which turned out to be basal cell carcinoma (a common skin cancer). I had it cut out, which required a few stitches. Everything healed well (looks much better now), and I'll continue to protect my skin from the sun with hats & clothing!

This lil guy spent the day with us after my "surgery" .. a great way to chill on the boat. We're really enjoying being grandparents!

In August, we did a very rare thing .. dressed up! Our daughter's father-in-law was elected as our city's new Mayor, and we went to the inauguration ball. My Dad (in pic below) & Step-Mom attended too, and it was fun to wear a dress & heels for the night.


As Summer came to an end, we continued to enjoy many sunsets and great times with our dock neighbors!

Just when we thought the rigger was done with small projects on the mast, we were told that our standing rigging was looking pretty rough .. another big project!

We took the rigger's advice and had him replace our standing rigging. We also (on our own) replaced our running rigging, installed new clutches, put our main sail back on, added retractable lazy jacks, and installed our new sail pack that had been in storage for a few years. Nirvana was finally looking like a sailboat again .. a great feeling after so many years!

We also had a new stainless steel bimini frame made to replace our flimsy aluminum frame. Again, we pulled out our "new" bimini top out of storage after many years.

After years (literally) we took Nirvana out for a sail in the lake. It was such a great feeling to be back out on the water .. on our own sailboat! The engine ran great, the main sail raised easily, and we loved our new lazy jacks and sail pack! Nirvana's almost a full sailboat again .. we just need to remove our roller furler to replace the forestay, then put the roller furler and head sail back on. We feel we've come a long way this Summer!

We were sorry to see Summer come to an end, as we were finally getting Nirvana ready to sail. We HATE the cold, and were not planning on spending another Winter in Louisiana. However, we ran out of time but not projects!

We decided to celebrate Thanksgiving & Christmas with family, then escape Winter for five weeks. We spent Thanksgiving in the country at my brother's place, and were so glad our daughter & her family were able to spend Thanksgiving with us. Our lil grandson is growing so fast!

Our 1st Christmas with our grandson .. what could be better?

On Christmas morning, we loaded up the gifts and headed to our daughter's house. We just love that smile!

While celebrating Christmas, we were prepping Nirvana to be alone for a while. We packed our few valuables and brought them to our daughter's house. To keep Nirvana well ventilated, we kept a fan running in the salon, raised our new v-berth mattress, & removed our settee cushions from the hull (stood them upright on bottom settee cushions). We also added a few generic "Damp-Rids" throughout Nirvana and wiped down the interior of the hull with vinegar. We contemplated winterizing Nirvana's engine, but we ran out of time! On December 29th, with two hours of sleep, we caught a cab at 3 o'clock in the morning to head to airport. Luckily, Nirvana never experienced any freezing while we were gone.

Where did we go for five weeks? We went to Puerto Rico! I'll have more posts about this soon, but we found a cheap Air Bnb in Luquillo. We'd never heard of this town, nor had we ever been to Puerto Rico. We weren't sure if this cheap Air Bnb would be a good thing .. or a bad. It turned out to be a great time, and a beautiful location! The beach and the river (photo below) is just steps away from our apartment! Puerto Rico was indeed a great way to escape Winter, end the year, and begin a new one. We've been to a lot of tropical places, but Puerto Rico is probably our favorite!

A "sand man" is always better than a "snow man"!

It's now past mid-February, Winter is almost over, and we're looking forward to more adventures in 2019 .. I think it's gonna be another great year!

Hasta luego .. until then. Mid-Life Cruising!

Monday, December 3, 2018

Struggling to Reach the Dream - An Honest Post

Sometimes we have to look at this quote to remind us not to give up. As anxiety creeps in, we get impatient and the "what-if's" take over. It's easier to be a pessimist than an optimist! But, that's why I'm writing this post. I'm keeping it real, and hoping to inspire others to hang in there with whatever dreams they have. The struggle is real, and you're not alone!

Ken & I have been working on "living the dream" for nine years now (see our refit photo album here .. and that doesn't cover earlier years!), and I'm not gonna lie .. sometimes it's really tough! For starters, we thought we'd be cruising within 3 years of purchasing Nirvana, which would have meant "sailing away" the end of November, 2012. We're about six years behind schedule!

Anyway, we continue to miss our deadlines ... the latest one being this month. We had hoped to have enough done on Nirvana to head towards Florida this month, but after an unintended inspection of our standing rigging we were told it really should be replaced before entering the Gulf. We believe the rigging is original (1987), and it did show signs of damage & age so we reluctantly agreed.

The standing rigging was completed about two weeks ago, except for the forestay. The wire has been ordered and the roller furler will soon be disassembled and removed for the new forestay installation. While we hated to miss our deadline, our safety (and peace of mind) is more important. It is somewhat of a relief to now have new standing rigging. After all, it does hold the mast up!

It seems Nirvana has had everything replaced .. except the engine, rudder and a few other things. Wait, what if after all the recent repairs our engine goes out .. or what if we run aground and have to get a new rudder?! You see what I mean? The anxiety creeps in.

It wasn't just the rigging that held us back, but our barely used Tohatsu has started acting up. Ken has spent four days cleaning, draining and replacing parts with no success .. talk about a downer! He finally decided to take a break from that project for a bit. 

We're also in the process of installing our new Raymarine EV100 autopilot, as well as connecting our Lowrance GPS to our new Lowrance VHF with AIS. This means running a bunch of wires down the cockpit pedestal and into other hard-to-reach places, which also meant a few modifications along the way. The wires have been run down the cockpit pedestal and the four components of the auto-pilot have been mounted, so we're getting close. We just need to run the rest of the wires inside of Nirvana and to the components. 

Oh, and here's a little tip .. grill covers are on sale this time of year, and they make great pedestal covers. We got this "kettle grill" cover for $10 bucks! If fits great, and gathers at the bottom. Now our new GPS & autopilot will be protected, as well as our compass.

All of this will be worth it, as the VHF/AIS allows us to see other boats with AIS and we can contact them (via VHF) if it's on a collision course with us .. or just get outta the way! Other boats won't be able to see us, but that's because we chose the less expensive AIS option. Need I say anything about the auto-pilot? Once we get it going, it will be well worth the investment. Who wants to stand at the helm for hours on end?!

With the current state of things, we weren't ready to "just go". We definitely want our rigging complete, and the comfortable weather of November that we'd been looking forward to didn't come. November in Louisiana is usually in the mid-70's .. perfect for finishing our projects and starting our sailing adventure, but Winter (and rain) arrived instead. We also found ourselves with a vacant rental this month, and we spent a fair amount of time making repairs and finding a new tenant. We finished repairs this past Friday, a new tenant moved in this past weekend .. and we have another vacant rental as of today! More repairs & interviews in December. Ugh!

So anyway, things have been a bit of a bummer for the past month. The weather pretty much sucked, our projects aren't finished, and we're still at the dock. Once we finally admitted to each other that we weren't gonna make our goal, things were pretty somber. We didn't wanna spend another Winter on the boat. We hated last Winter on Nirvana .. the condensation & the cold really sucked! I want to keep this blog as realistic as possible, so I'm not gonna say it's all about the journey. We're ready to sail to some sort of destination after all these years, and we're getting impatient. We wanna start having some fun with Nirvana!

If another person tells us to "just go", I'm gonna scream! I know plenty of folks seem to buy the perfect boat and start cruising a couple of months later, but that's not our reality. We bought a project boat and had no idea what we were doing. We also needed to keep working full-time (until recently) to keep up with the boat expenses .. you know BOAT stands for "Bring Out Another Thousand"!

A reader who meant well told us to "just go" and not worry about having "so much stuff". The thing is, we're not going with all the fancy stuff. We won't have a windlass, a water maker, hot water, radar, or davits. We may leave without solar panels! 

The thing is, we're new to all this sailing & cruising stuff, even though we've been at it for 9 years! We had a lot of projects to make Nirvana safe on the water, and a ton of projects that required hours of research .. everything was new to us and we wanted to do it ourselves. Even with doing everything (except standing rigging) ourselves, the expenses have mounted up.

There have been times we've felt like giving up, moving into one of our rental houses and enjoying the conveniences of mainstream society. A warm shower just steps away, a comfy bed that doesn't require climbing in & out of, no long walks to our car in the cold and/or rain, room to spread out or walk around inside when it's bad weather, a dishwasher .. hot water! But you know what .. we couldn't live with ourselves if we gave up on our dream after so much time and effort. We think the sacrifices will be worth it once we start traveling .. and sailing. Unless something unknown throws us a curve, we're gonna do this! 

It's easy for us to get impatient & depressed, dwelling on the money & time spent and the sacrifices we've made. That's human nature, I think. So, we have our down days but we never forget how lucky we are. We celebrated Thanksgiving with family, and we're looking forward to Christmas with our grandson. It will be his first Christmas, and we're excited about being around at this special time. Our little guy will celebrate his 1st birthday the beginning of February, and we're really glad we won't miss that either. Is he cute or what?!

We spent Thanksgiving in the country .. at my brother & sister-in-law's place in Mississippi. We were lucky to have a break from the crappy weather the days before, and the day after. The weather was perfect! Here's my brother with us, our daughter, son-in-law, grandson, and my mom & step-dad. My dad & step-mom were there too .. wish they were in the photo. My brother and I are thankful that our mom & dad still get along after being divorced since I was an infant. It's nice to spend the holidays with both of them!

Another silver lining ... we're around to repair and rent our properties ourselves instead of hiring someone else to handle it. One more rental to repair, but it should be occupied by the end of the year. We should also complete our auto-pilot & AIS installation, our rigging, and a few other projects (like installing our new Mantus anchor) on Nirvana. I sure hope we get that Tohatsu running! We'll always have projects waiting, but we're focusing on the "must-do's". So, everything always works out as it should.

We've licked our wounds and .. we're escaping to somewhere warm after Christmas! We're headed to a 5-week adventure, and that's what our goals are really about .. making the most out of life. We'll be back on the boat the beginning of February for our grandson's birthday party, then we'll finish up any "must-do's" on Nirvana (shouldn't be much) and leave the dock the end of February/beginning of March. We'll avoid freezing our asses off this January and we'll get to visit a new tropical destination. Yep, things always work out.

When we expose ourselves to so many folks "out there", we sometimes feel vulnerable. We sometimes feel like we need to "just go" this Winter and freeze because ya'll are "watching us" and judging. Not just ya'll, but so many co-workers and friends ask why we're still here. But, I often tell Ken that we're doing what's best for us. Most people who ask what's taking so long don't have a boat and don't have a clue what's involved. We sure didn't! Anyone who judges will be eating their words once we finally do leave. If something tragic happens before then, they'd be cruel to judge us.

If you're reading this and are struggling with turning a dream into reality, know that you're not alone. It may be more difficult than you anticipated, and it may take much longer than anticipated but every baby step forward is progress. As Helen Keller said, a pessimist never "opened a new doorway for the human spirit". Hang in there!

So, we still have our down days but we're looking forward to the holidays with family .. and our getaway after Christmas. More about that later!

Hasta luego .. until then. Mid-Life Cruising!
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