Planing the next sailing trip on our Yacht

sailing-routes-2016

What a few crazy couple of weeks we’ve had aboard V. It won’t settle down too much either, as Mel begins her book (hint, hint) and we start to discuss how to drop the bow lines and do some sailing. After much debate and most likely even more debate, We’re making a plan for next fall.

Yes, we know all too well that making a plan while on a sailboat is like inviting Murphy to dinner, but we’re doing it anyway. For the last four years, we’ve running up and down the east coast as we finished up with work commitments and did some updating on the boat.

This is our last summer to do any of that. We’ve made a pact and pinky swears that this coming fall, we are leaving. Come hell or high water, and most likely both, we’re pushing off. I’m posting our ambitious routes right here and now.

I know it’s nine months away but time is flying, and as we prepare for a busy summer of book releases, a little dreaming goes a long way in us remaining sane. Ideally, we’d love to spend next Christmas with family and then shortly after the first of the year, January 2017, get-out-of-Dodge.

The Jet-pack (our beloved K-9) is in for a rude awakening and in order to soften the blow, and get all four of those sea legs adjusted as gently as possible, the first jump would be the 200 mile run from St. Pete to the Dry Tortugas. We’ve always wanted to see Fort Jefferson and I wanna see some giant grouper!


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Dry Tortugas National Park

The next leg would be over to Havana. Cuba has been on my “must see list” for years. Yes, I have mixed feelings about supporting the current regime but my ultimate hope is that the Cuban people will benefit from the relaxed sanctions in relatively short order.

We all know what will happen once the flood gates open and Carnival Cruise Lines gets permission to blast holes in the reef to get their massive ships in, McDonalds and Starbucks appear on every corner and Walgreens “domesticates” historic buildings so they can sell sun block and condoms. That is where I’m conflicted.

I’m aware that saying I wanna see Cuba before it gets ruined might equate to some people as me saying I wanna see Cuba while it’s population struggles and exists under an oppressive government. But that’s not what I’m saying at all.

What I’m truly saying is, that I wanna see Cuba before it’s population gets inundated with processed foods that don’t nourish them, instead poisons them. I wanna see Cuba before it gets scammed into allowing huge corporations to buy their way into an almost pristine eco system, and dash it to bits. I wanna see Cuba while it’s population has no clue about the Kardashians.

Baracoa-Cuba

If there is one positive that emerges from the way the Cuban government has chosen to operate for the last half a century, it’s that the country hasn’t been strip mined, clear cut and raped for its resources. Cuba has one of the last remaining pristine eco systems on the planet. That has to be worth something.

Their culture hasn’t been diluted. We don’t need more cruise ships dumping thousands of gallons of shit and plastic into the world’s oceans. We need undisturbed forests, birds, dolphins and clean beaches. We need less corruption and more consciousness. And we need that all over the world.

My tangent is finished. Back to the blog… the blog… breathe… 10, 9, 8, 7, …

After a spell in Havana (he says in his best NPR voice), we’d make (try to make) the windward slog east to Varadero for a few days before jumping into the stream and up to check in at Cat Cay. Up ’til now, both routes are the same but this is where we things start to change.

Plan A (in red) has us noodling around Eluthera and the Exumas for a while (possibly down to the Turks), then heading back over to Lauderdale, down Hawks Channel, around the Keys and back to St. Pete for Hurricane season beginning June 1. This could also change. Maybe we leave the Bahamas and sail to the Chesapeake Bay and summer there.

Take me to the Bridge!
Take me to the Bridge!

Plan B has us leaving Cat Cay for Chub Key and then bouncing down through the Elutheras and Exumas at a little faster clip. Not spending too much time but making way for the Turks and Caicos for an arrival around the end of April or first of May. That gives us February and March and some of April to do the 400 miles or so from Cat Cay to the Turks. Doable? I think so. The winter trades blow pretty heavily during this time and I know it can be a bit of a waiting game.

If we get to the Turks in that time frame, we’d like to make the run through the windward passage to Port Antonio, Jamaica, then to Negril and the Cayman Islands.

I don’t really care to see the Cayman Islands, it would basically be a stop off on the way to Roatan, Honduras. It’s about 620 miles from Negril to Roatan. It’s about 400 miles from Grand Cayman to Roatan. That would be a weather window decision.

At this point, we’d likely be towards the middle or end of April. The rest of plan B would be from Roatan to Belize and up to Isla Mujeres before doing the 400 miles or so to St. Pete. Or… down to Panama for hurricane season.

Very ambitious that plan B… we know. I do love the idea of the Bahamas, but I’m not a guy who can lay around all day at anchor for weeks on end. I gotta do stuff! A couple weeks snorkeling, swinging in hammocks and drinking beer and I’m about done. Get me some wind in the sails and a new port of arrival.

That’s why I don’t see us languishing in the Bahamas for months on end. If the weather was cooperative (laughing out loud as I even dare to type that phrase), I’d like to think we’d be moving. Of course, we don’t wanna rush either. The whole reason to get over to the Bahamas is to chill out and relax. I get that.

Melody and I will probably change this plan a dozen times before next December and that’s the way it goes on a boat. It comes down to finances and what we get done this summer. The tags on our car expired next January 31. We are not renewing those damn tags. We’re not. Gonna. Do-it.

So what do you think? Drop us a line and let us know.

 

Cumberland Island… a Step Back in Time

You know, during the process of writing my new book, which is about cruising the ICW, one of the things I really enjoyed about doing this book was looking back through our notes and log books. It gave me the opportunity to revisit and relive some of the great memories we’ve forgotten about over the last few years. One such memory was our visit to Cumberland Island.

It was during our first trip down the Intracoastal Waterway in the fall of 2012. We had our friend Tommy from Nashville with us, and we had been advised by others that Cumberland Island was one of the “not-to-miss” spots on the ICW.

Once owned by the Carnegies, it’s now a National Park, and you can visit the ruins of Dungeness, the old Carnegie estate, which was destroyed by fire in 1959, and is apparently a site to behold. I had always wanted to visit there because I’d heard that’s where Tom Waits used to go to write sometimes, and it was said to feel as though you were stepping back in time.

We arrived near dusk and dropped our anchor in  about 16 feet of water, accompanied by only a couple of other boats in the nice, quiet, protected anchorage near the dinghy dock at the nature center. By the time we were set and settled, it was dark, and I hopped in the dinghy to take Jet for his nightly bathroom break and walk. We didn’t venture far, and there wasn’t much to see in the dark, so the experience wasn’t unlike other similar trips ashore. That is, until the next morning.

We headed back to the island at first light, before the ferry boat that carries tourists and bicycles from St. Mary’s. The air was crisp and scented with dirt and history. We deposited some dollars into the park service donation box and set out to explore.

Chris - Cumberland Island

Cumberland Island is a magical place. Stepping foot on the island was like being transported back to a time long forgotten. The plant life is otherworldly. From the moment we stepped off the dinghy, I felt like I was stepping into a scene from Jurassic Park. The live oaks are simply massive and spread like mythical giants. Their limbs are adorned with Spanish moss, dripping like draped silk, providing shade and almost coddling one within their reach.

cumberland-island-trail

Just a few minutes in, we spotted a few deer, who didn’t seem to be terribly frightened of our presence. The island is also home to wild turkey, feral hogs, and one of the world’s largest populations of loggerhead turtles on the island, in addition to the feral horses that roam freely.

Deer on the trail ahead

Once we arrived at the mansion ruins, we were again awed by the immense scale of the place. Even though it was mostly destroyed by fire, the remaining facade was still spectacular. The last known use of the property was in 1929 and it was abandoned during the Great Depression and sat for 30 years until it burned down.

Chris and Melody at Dungeness, the old Carnegie estate on Cumberland Island
Dungeness… looks almost like a castle

dungeness-back

dungeness-ruins-2

We imagined what it would have been like back when the Carnegies lived on the island… the parties, and the guests that frequented the island at that time. Old cars still sit right where they were parked, now rusted out, but otherwise untouched.

rusted-car-dungeness

We watched as rafter of  enormous wild turkey scattered into the brush, and after absorbing what we could, we hiked south towards the beach at the end of the island.

Wild turkey...they don't look that big, but they were huge
Wild turkey…they don’t look that big, but they were huge

The scenery changes almost instantaneously as you cross over the dunes on the path towards the beach. Rather than the prehistoric palms and spanish moss, it turns into sand and old driftwood trees — not nearly as large and magnificent as the ones on nearby Jekyll Island where we got married, but still just as picturesque.

cumberland-island-beaches

Our trip to the beach was cut short because Jet kept getting sand spurs in his paws, so we decided to head back, as we knew the ferry would be arriving shortly anyway, bringing crowds of tourists.

As we slowly walked back, we stopped suddenly when we saw two wild horses heading our way, seemingly a mare and her foal. We didn’t want to frighten them, but we were definitely glad for the opportunity to have a closer look. Jet, like us, sat completely still and mesmerized, ears up and on full alert, but as quiet as a church mouse. Melody, never wanting to miss a good photo opportunity, but not wanting to make any sudden moves, slowly took the lens cap off the camera that was hanging around her neck, and without lifting the camera from where it hung, started quietly snapping photos.

wild-horses-cumberland-island

The horses continued towards us — they were thin and lean, with ribs showing, but not so much that they looked as though they were starving. They looked as what I imagine wild horses would look like. Their heads were down as they walked, indicating their shyness, but they didn’t seem fearful. This was proven when they came within inches of Melody’s sleeve for a quick sniff before continuing on their way.

wild-horses-3

Today, Cumberland Island is home to over thirty homesteads that were built by decedents of the original island settlers. They clustered the homes in small compounds that tend to face the marsh areas so as not to disturb the rest of the island.

Wanna Visit Cumberland Island?

If you want to visit Cumberland Island, I highly recommend doing so by your own boat, and exploring before the 10am ferry. The anchorage is protected and gorgeous. There is a dinghy dock for landing and the ranger station has a donation box for your contributions. The suggested donation is $4. Chuck some dollars in there and help preserve the place. If you don’t sail in, you can arrive via the National Park Service ferry. There are numerous camp sites on the island as well as the historic Greyfield Inn. For more visitor information, check out: cumberlandisland.com.


 

New book on doing the ICW coming out soon!

New book on traveling the ICW coming soon

It’s getting very exciting around here. The teaser alert a couple posts back was just a tiny hint at what’s coming and now I think I can let the cat out of the bag… my new book is almost done. I’ve revised and rewritten it, and now Melody is working her way through the editing process. She’s got her hands full on this one and I’m not quite sure there’s enough red ink on the planet, but she’s awesome at what she does so I know I’ll have my work cut out for me on the re-write.

If all goes well, the drop date will be April 1. Yep, April Fools Day, how appropriate! But this is no joke. I’ve been wanting to write another book after the release of You Gotta Go To Know two years ago. I can’t believe it’s been two years!

As you know, Melody and I have become ICW warriors of sorts, having done it a whopping six times! Some of those trips were not by choice mind you, but on each one, we learned something new or discovered something we hadn’t in past trips, and that made it worth it. So why not write about it?!

I can’t spill the beans about the title yet… sorry. I wanna tell you, but you know how it goes. Nothing is done until it’s done. It’s not released until it’s really released. And, being from Philly, there is a tiny sliver of, “Oh crap, something’s gonna go wrong” that still swims around in my noggin. I can’t help it. BUT… those of you who on our mailing list will get a sneak peek before it’s released, so sign up!

Because we’ve done the ICW so many times, we get tons of inquires from readers, asking all kinds of questions about the gear needed, the tides and currents,  traveling with pets, or the wifi situation. They ask about those big, highlighted “Warnings” in the guidebooks that scare the living hell out of you, and many, many other things.

So, I’ve gone back through all our old charts, guidebooks, notes, and logbooks. I’ve contacted the Coast Guard and the EPA in an attempt to break it all down for you in a practical, straight-talk sort-a-way. I hope to dispel some myths and take the guesswork out of what is involved with doing the Atlantic ICW.

I talk about the boat, the budget, the rules, tides and currents, tugs, bridges, radios, pets, anchoring, poop, and much more. It’s not a guidebook but it works alongside your guidebook. It’s a “Let’s get down to brass tacks and get going” kinda book. We’ve done some pretty dumb things, and I talk about them throughout the book as those incidents related to the topic at hand.

Each time we’ve traveled the waterway, we’ve discovered a new town, new pub, new restaurant, or new anchorage. Every year we say we’re never doing it again! And, every year, somehow, we end up doing a portion, if not all of it. We always have fun and we always learn something about ourselves or our boat.

So there you have it. The big news. Mel and I are totally pumped, and we look forward to your feedback. Drop us a line here and let us know your thoughts! Unless you think it sucks. Keep those thoughts to yourself.

We’ve got a few other things in the pipeline and our noses to the grindstone. We’re hoping to drop the lines next fall and head for distant waters. Fingers crossed.

 

 

Unending Apple

Gwyneth, my unending apple

Hey everyone!

This post is our 100th post and I had to come up with something special for the occasion. I thought long and hard on this and finally decided to write about my granny smith apple named Gwyneth Paltrow.

Yep. I have an apple. And I named that apple Gwyneth. She named her daughter Apple, and I’ve named my apple Gwyneth. It’s a beautiful apple indeed. I don’t think she’ll take offense if she were to discover this quirky, strange, and wee-bit-creepy story about her namesake.

“What’s so special about this apple named Gwyneth, that it deserves the 100th spot on the Vacilando page,” you ask? This apple is special because it won’t rot. It was purchased sometime around Christmas or New Years and it looks exactly the same today as it did the day I put it on the shelf in the galley.

Beautiful? Yes. Scary? Also, yes. Let me back up a bit.

When we still lived on land, back in Nashville, Gwyneth Paltrow would frequently visit the city during the filming of her movie Country Strong.

I had occasion to see her in the Whole Foods store in Green Hills one day. I passed her in the frozen food isle, and I was struck by two things: she smelled terrific and… her hair looked like spun gold.

I wanted to touch it (that’s the “wee-bit-creepy” part), but then the image of me lying prone on the cold cement floor, a wilted celery leaf stuck to my cheek as police zip-tied my hands and read me my rights snapped me back to reality.

No… I didn’t touch Ms. Paltrow’s hair that day. Yes, I’m admitting a lot here. It greatly affected me. Obviously, if I’ve named my granny smith apple after the woman.

But I digress… this apple is now approaching three months on the shelf and nary a blemish. Not a single bruise, smudge or spot, and that scares me.

We usually purchase organic anything when we can. We buy from our local farmers market but somehow, this gal snuck through. I know apples are among the highest fruits that contain pesticides. I also know they contain a fruit wax, which is sprayed on to make them look pretty. Really? Screw pretty… Sorry, Gwyneth – just give me an apple that I can eat. And I mean eat now, not in a hundred years. Crap man… this apple has a longer life span than Cher.

When this world ends, four things will remain. Cockroaches. Dry cleaner bags. Cher. And my apple, Gwyneth.

To Melody’s dismay, I’m leaving Gwyneth on the shelf (nobody puts Gwyneth on the shelf!) until I see a flaw. Any flaw. A pock mark, age spot, wrinkle… anything. A sign of dehydration! How ’bout a simple a smudge for Christ’s sake?

I can wait, Gwyneth… love. All I got is time.

gwyneth-unending-apple

 

More Than Just the Normal Noises.

More than just the normal noises - what we've been up to lately. Greetings from the Bay!

As I type, “Spring is just around the corner, February is over, and spring training has begun here on the Gulf Coast,” the weather channel broadcasts an update for the winter storm that’s about to hit the upper east coast.

Sorry, friends. Down here, the cold weather has departed, the Boys of Summer are ramping up, and the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg IndyCar race kicks off next week.

And St. Pete’s not the only thing buzzing, Mel and I have been super busy working on some new projects as well. We’ll be spilling the beans shortly (I hope), but in the meantime, here’s what’s been going on.

Not to get off on a sad foot, but my father’s health has not been good. We’ve chosen to sit in St. Pete because it allows us access to Tampa International Airport, and inexpensive flights to the northeast. We’ve made some trips home to see him, and I’m sure we’ll be visiting again in the near future.

While we’ve been here, we’ve been taking advantage of all St. Pete has to offer. We’ve become members at the Dali Museum, discovered some amazing little pubs and eateries, and made some incredible friends.

Salvador Dali Museum - St. Petersburg, FL
 

We had a wonderful visit from some old friends from Nashville who sailed in on their way to the Keys. They stayed long enough to catch the Beyonce Bowl… I mean the Super Bowl. And that was awesome. The visit of course, not the half-time show. So nice to see folks from Harbor Island Yacht Club again.

Mel did some travelling to Portland, OR for a company trip, where she got to meet her co-workers for the first time (they all work remotely from around the world), and got to do serious work things like an NBA game, indoor skydiving, and an escape room.

Jet-pack (the dog), is as spoiled as ever. As I type this, he’s at his favorite doggy-daycare, running around, playing in the mud with several other pampered K9’s. His winter coat is quickly deserting him. All over our salon. Dog hair. Nothing but dog hair.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, we got to attend the gorgeous wedding of our dear friends, Will and Jessica. We flew to D.C., rented a car, and drove out to Virginia’s wine country. Nope, I had no idea Virginia had a wine country either.

creeks-edge-winery-va

But on February 18th, we gathered with many of our Chesapeake Bay friends at Creek’s Edge Winery, and sent Will and Jess off in fine fashion. The sun was beaming, the winds were chilly, and the vineyard glistened under a blanket of white, crunchy snow.

While there, we got to see one of our Fort Lauderdale friends, the legendary John Kretschmer, who is also Will’s uncle. You sailors probably know John from the many books he’s written, speeches he’s given, and trips he’s survived while sailing his Kaufman 47, Quetzal, around the world.

John Kretschmer, Chris, and Will
John, me, and Will. And no, that’s not a halo on John’s head.

John and I put away some scotch, and I believe my headache has finally subsided.

I know there isn’t much meat to chew on here in this blip of an update, so here’s a little teaser for you.

Book teaser alert

Stay tuned the next couple of weeks when we’ll let you know all the details.