Liveaboard Lifestyle- The Actual Costs Of Cruising

Liveaboard Lifestyle The Actual Cost of CruisingWe get hundreds of comments and questions from people and families who are considering the liveaboard lifestyle.  They want to know what it costs.  We decided to write a journal about our experiences of the last two months aboard to give our perspective.

We planned to save money while we cruised and we chose to make our life change for money and family reasons.  How has it worked out?  On the family side, very well.  We spend more time together than ever and we are all very happy on the water.  We travelled for about a month to make it 1250 miles from Galveston, TX to the Florida Keys.  We rented a slip in a nice marina until December until we can cruise to Cuba and beyond.  The Florida Keys is a wonderful place for our family and we are happy.  The kids haven’t watched TV or videos in more days than I can count and many of the dry land habits have escaped them.  We haven’t heard them saying: “I’m bored” since we moved aboard, which is a 100% change from our life in suburbia. Continue reading

I Lost My Ass In Lake Charles Louisiana (And Not At The Casino)!

Thanks to my bad memory, I already forgot this part of the journey.  Luckily, I have a wife to remind me through her mean video editing.  I hear Aubrey snickering and replaying certain parts of interviews she did with me on the boat in Lake Charles, LA.  It was a sad time.  My memory came back and I remember the fear I had when we just started out.  I remember leaving Texas and not knowing a thing about true boat navigation, seamanship or how it works on the ocean.  My beautiful wife created a video that was actually spot on, in terms of the sorrow of the first couple days.  I still love her but I am planning my revenge.

Being a boat captain ain’t easy.  At all.  The learning curve is steep and now I realize why I go to bed taxed and exhausted most nights.  I always wanted to live on a boat and I didn’t let my lack of experience stop me.  I tired to learn everything I could on the Internet and by reading books but there is no substitute for real experience.  I will always remember Lake Charles for the experienced I gained.

It’s been a couple of months of cruising for us now and I am still learning.  I know this will be a lifelong process and I look forward to it.  Enjoy the video because we did!

Goodbye Texas (I Didn’t Sink The Boat in Texas)

God blessed Texas with his own hands, brought down angles from the promised land, gave them a where they could dance, if you wanna see heaven brother here’s your chance.  I’ve been sent to spread the message, God blessed Texas.

All that being said, we left for greener pastures.  My lovely bride is finally working the video footage from our voyage to Florida and beyond and this is the first of many new videos that chronicle our epic trip.

I am writing this 7 weeks after it was taken but I remember it like yesterday.  I remember leaving Kemah (TX), where we first lived aboard our boat as a family for a week.  This delay was unexpected but prudent because our boat was delivered, un-repaired and unseaworthy.  Miss Lone Star suffered a hail storm months previous to us leaving Austin and the repair shop had 10 weeks to finish all the required work.  It didn’t happen, unbeknownst to us, but we paid for the work.  We shipped it and dropped it in the water and that’s when the trouble began.

The repair shop made right on their errors and one of the owners came to help me fix all of the problems and 8 trips to West Marine later (and 5 days) we were off.  I can say now that I didn’t know anything.  The dry land me thought 5 days was one hell of a delay.  Not so, it reality.  The dry land me didn’t know anything about seamanship but he was to learn, and learn hard- I did.  Obviously, we are alive and well and I am post-writing this journal from Islamorada, FL.  Alls well that ends well but it hasn’t ended because soon, we are off to Cuba!

We cruised the ICW through Texas to Louisiana and the following segments will detail our voyage.  It was not without troubles, high seas or pirates.  Enjoy!

Marco Island to Tavernier Key Florida- 1250 Miles in the Books!

I was so zapped from the sun and the previous days travels I forgot to check the weather when we arrived.  I got up early to take Onyx out for a walk and saw the dark thunder head in our anticipated direction of travel.  It was noticeably windy and cooler than the day before.  Oh, no!  Not another day in Marco, I thought!

I dialed up wind finder and it said the seas were no more than 2 feet in the gulf and around the back side of the Keys in Florida Bay.  I looked at the doppler and it showed a system coming through to our south around the Everglades.  It was moving at 7 knots and it was producing heavy rains. Ugh.

I checked back in after a couple of hours to see if it had moved through and it had not.  I checked back in an hour and I could see two, well-developed systems.  One was on land and the other was about to hit it.  I figured that they come in threes so I guessed that I might have to live with some rain.  Cruising is a cautious task and we all make educated guesses on our safety as we pass.  I felt that I may experience some rain and wind but all of the NOAA buoy markers indicated waves no higher than 2 feet, even in presence of the storm.  We were anxious to get to our destination and we voted to head out.  The dog and kids didn’t get a vote but me and my lovely, tired wife agreed.  I prayed I wasn’t making a mistake.  I did pray, as I do most days that God would keep us and lead us safely through to our next place of rest.

We set off thought the long no wake zone and complicated channels to the gulf and the waves were rolling and constant.  The winds had lessened to about 5 knots.  We made an off shore passage about 3 miles out for most of the trip and it was a little rolly for an hour.  Something on the bow of my boat was making a smacking noise in the pounding of each wave and I saw one of the metal fender holders break loose.  I stopped the boat and secured it before setting off again.  The kids and Aubrey were up top.  It wasn’t that comfortable but we have a small boat that lends itself to a lot of movement if there are waves.  No Dramamine for the crew, just yet but it was getting close.  This was day 29 for us in our passage. Continue reading

Cabbage Key to Marco Island Florida- Welcome to a Big Florida Town

We departed from Cabbage key late at about Noon and we had to get some expensive fuel in Sanibel Florida on the way out into open water.  We plan to visit Cabbage Key again together with Big Pine Island and Boca Grande but it was time to bid the area farewell.  We cruised down the ICW to Sanibel and we saw huge Yachts and lots of other boats in the area.  It was beautiful but very congested.  The channel was wider than we found so far and well-marked.

We entered open water before Ft. Myers and we could see the huge buildings and throngs of people on the shores.  We were glad that we wouldn’t be stopping for a neon t-shirt and continued South, offshore 3-9 miles.  One large city combined with another and so one until we got to Marco Island.  I heard that it was once a quint little place but that is no longer the case.  Naples comes before and you can’t really discern one from the next.  The water is pretty but not as pretty as many of the places we visited.  The boat traffic is significant, for cruising anyway.

The entrance to Marco Island Channel is horrible and if you aren’t a local it is hard to navigate.  Two channels converge at the entrance to the gulf and their is a shoal or two in the middle.  We needed to be on the starboard channel which required us to take a few directional changes to navigate it correctly.  The no wake zone takes you a long time to traverse and we stayed at the Rose Marina, which was good for one night only.  The marina was a concrete jungle and the only tuft of grass was wild and grew in a 3×3 foot patch close to the full dock.  Onyx graced it with her paws and I have  feeling that she killed a good amount of it with her female dog pee.  They gave us a nice BoatUS discount on the slip and we hooked up to the power so we could blast the AC and go below deck for a cool off.  There was nothing to see topside and the entire area was unremarkable in my opinion.

We recharged our batteries and took refuge from the sun.  Anticipation was building for us because we knew that we only had one more travel day, God willing. Continue reading

Clearwater to Cabbage Key Florida- One of Our Favorite Visits So Far

Cabbage Key FloridaWe were happy to depart from Municipal Marina in Clearwater.  We stayed a few days too long but we were all rested up and Miss Lone Star started right up.  It is always reassuring when your home/transportation starts as anticipated.  We drank coffee a little later than expected and didn’t leave until about 10 A.M. We waved goodbye to the bird estuary, where we spent so much time and entered the main channel out of the city.  We travelled offshore 3-9 miles for the passage.

It was an easy trip and we saw a lot of pretty wildlife and some more jumping rays.  The kids read books topside and Aubrey got to relax on the boat as we motored South.  The day was sunny and the air was crisp.  We saw a lot of feeding birds and schooling fish so we slowed down to throw out a line to troll.  I reduced speed to 5 knots and we gave fishing a try for an hour to no avail.  I was disappointed that we wouldn’t fill our belly with fresh fish for dinner but I was happy to move closer to our destination.  We cruised at 25-27 knots as our boat drank the fuel it had in its full belly.

We entered inland through Boca Grande Pass, which was really interesting and scary.  We approached from the North and there was a short cut listed on the charts close to the shore.  It read that it was a deep channel (8 feet) and we cautiously proceeded through the remains of an old concrete pier that had been pushed aside.  Driving a boat is scary sometimes and you hope that the charts are correct, trusting your gut as much as possible.  We motored along and we saw waves breaking into the main channel that intersected up ahead.  It was massive and the water coming and going was big.  The waves were breaking at 1-2 feet and something looked off.  We the charts wrong?  Would we be grounded on a sand flat or worse?  Aubrey manned the bow and kept a look out.  The water was sandy and murky. Continue reading

Suwannee River to Clearwater, Florida Didn’t Sink The Boat

Clearwater Florida

If you believe it, you can achieve it.

We awoke early and saw a beautiful sunrise and a quiet bayou on Suwannee River.  We fired up the normal pot of coffee that we make each day on our propane coffeemaker.  I hate the darned thing by the way and I can’t wait until it wears out in 5 years or I can sell it to another cruiser.  I wish we got a much smaller press, because we rarely drink more than a cup or two per morning.  I rinsed down the boat one last time and Aubrey set off with the kids to find new creatures that were interested in capture.  Bianca stayed in timeout while I fueled the boat because she stole her brother’s stick and taunted him with it.  Once she got locked down he promptly restore the stick and made the following announcement:

I am the fairy godmother and this stick will help you to be better- poof!

11231319_1066927279991817_2316755752511007350_nIt didn’t work but we had to get out of there while the tide was still high!  We went out on the North end of the town through the naturally “deep” river (4-8 ft.) and out 3 miles through something the Army Corp of Engineers dredged a couple decades ago.  My sonar read 2.4 feet several times but I never saw sand kick up in the prop wash or felt the dreaded bump of a sandy shoal. Continue reading

I Wiped My Butt and Touched It, I Used Toilet Paper and It Didn’t Work; I Got Poop On My Hand and Now the Sink Doesn’t Work..

The kids with their official boat uniforms!

The kids with their official boat uniforms!

Our kids light our lives and make our heart’s happy.

This was Blake’s quote of the day, that just happened now.  The great thing about living on a boat with your family is you get to enjoy every little bit of everything and it is all so real.  I’ve got to love my little man because all he thinks about is fishing.  The wakes up and starts fishing (he’s 3).  He fishes until we tell him to stop and we are driving the boat or doing something else.  He fishes before and after his nap and until the sun goes down, sometimes after.  He takes his pole with him when we ride in the dinghy and he would take it with us when we ride the bus.  He catches 8-25 fish per day and he consumes a majority seafood diet.  We think he was made for the water.

Bianca is another story.  It’s about 45 minutes till sunset and she is singing “la cucaracha” on the dock while she cleans all of her seashells that she located today.  We found a great number in a bird estuary that we reached via our dinghy and some impressive driving by the Captain.  It was only 1.5 feet in most places be somehow we found a way to get into those beaches.  B wandered around and found so many great shells.  She found several sea scallops (with live meat) and a living clam.  We almost had enough for dinner but left them for the birds because we’ve had steak sitting in the cooler for 4 nights and it was high time to eat it after high tide came in.  Anyway, this girl is a mermaid and she believes that they are real.  Christmas still exists on our boat in so many ways. Continue reading

Gulf of Mexico Crossing- Carrabelle to Clearwater, Florida?

Choose your fate, fool!

Choose your fate, fool!

It is only 160 miles and it is a straight shot.  Seems logical, but seafaring is rarely easy, logical and it never goes as planned.  Weather was great inside the barrier islands and it didn’t seem like it would be that rough.  We stayed between the markers and had a good course setting.  It was to be a long day but we had done some that were almost as long.  {key the evil and scary music}

Miss Lone Star is a Class A rated ocean gong vessel with a deep V hull and two huge ass engines with velvet drives.  She is a tough old girl and she zipped through the waves as they cut across our bow, just a little less than sideways at a Southeasterly direction.  The problem is: we were also heading SE.  It made for a miserable ride.  I tried slowing down to almost nothing and that sucked.  I put the boat into idle ago check on the crew and I opened the cabin door to observe the original Cuban boat people.  Everybody was laying on the floor, including the dog.  It was really hot and the generator wasn’t running.  I asked Aubrey if she was having a happy day and she gurgled something that sounded mean and scary.

We were traveling at around 1 knot and we were now getting hit with at least 5 foot breakers across our bow.  Life sucked and it wasn’t getting better because I had no idea what the solution was.  I continued on my SE course.  I couldn’t solve the generator problem because I didn’t want to get thrown off the boat.  It was beautiful and sunny, by the way.  It was so pretty that it made me mad.

I went a few miles farther and checked in on the crew.  They were hating me at an increasing rate.

I slowed still and opened the engine hatch to start the generator set manually.  It fired up and I figured all of the problems down below were solved.  I had been battering the hell out of the Gulf for an hour and a half and I figured it would be getting better any minute and it didn’t.  It didn’t get worse, which was good.  Sea sickness has never bothered me.

Aubrey opened the cabin door and I thought she would be bringing me a sandwich or something and she puked all over the deck.  The waves were smacking the boat so hard, I couldn’t even give her a hug.  There was no way I could take my hands off the wheel. I changed course immediately to do in the direction of the waves running a NE course.  We had gone about 50 miles into the Gulf and I had to throw in the towel and change course or face my deadly wife. Continue reading

Apalachicola to Carrabelle Florida (Gulf Crossing Fail)

Carrabelle Florida

Aubrey steals a turtle from a child who had just stole it from a person’s yard. She then tries to hide it on our boat.

Sometimes things don’t turn out the way you planned. Today was one of those days. We left at a good time but the fuel took almost an hour to pump into our tanks. The seas were reported at 1-3 outside of the barrier islands in the gulf and we planned to make the crossing of 160 miles.

We made it along the ICW inside the barrier islands and I knew something wasn’t right. The waves were 2-3 with some occasional 4’s coming into the boat. I am still too much of a rookie to recognize a lot of weather patterns but I had a bad feeling so we dicked inside Carrabelle Florida.

We filled up at the C-Quarter Marina and I almost wrecked the boat coming in at low tide. It went out hard and the marina sits in a river that pulls a 5 knot cross current. You have to be fully committed to park your boat and I was. Luckily, we made it in OK and decided to stay after I consulted with the woman who ran the marina. The low-pressure system that had been hammering the Gulf for weeks was still lingering and the winds were kicking up larger seas than forecasted. It was sensible to just chalk up our 25 miles as a day, do some fishing and call it a day.

Carrabelle is a cute little island village. The people congregate around the shady part of this marina to watch the boaters wreck their boats. Seriously, that is what 8-10 men aged 40-80 do everyday. They sit around drinking beer and critique people. They don’t get up to help or do anything but commentate on the calamites as they occur. They occasionally award bonus points or issue loud heckles. They told me that I didn’t do that bad of a job as I went in to buy gas upon arrival. I couldn’t believe my ears because the boat almost got really screwed up and they didn’t even yell out a warning about the cross current. I told the salty old men to fuck off and we settled in for the night. No apologies were ever issued on either side but that’s OK.

Meet the 10 year old Huck Fin crime wave!

Meet the 9 year old Huck Fin crime wave!

We met several of the kids who came down to the marina and I can say that they will be in prison soon. Holy cow! We were getting the boat squared away and two little rug rats came up holding a land tortoise that weighed about 40 lbs. Aubrey’s dream is to get one of these things and apparently they live to be 100 or something. Anyway these two little boys aged around 9 came up with red faces saying they’d been pepper sprayed holding a tortious. Weird. Apparently, an older boy maced these little fools and one of the boys maced himself around the crouch area with a can that he tried to pull out for defense. Good thing we weren’t in South Central, it would be Mac 10’s.

Aubrey liberated the turtle from the boys after I got them to admit that they stole it from some man’s driveway. They wouldn’t take us back to the scene of the crime and later recanted the admission saying that they’d been carrying it around and feeding it for weeks at their house. Aubrey found out it was an indigenous species to Carrabelle called the Gopher Tortoise and it is now endangered because people love to make turtle soup.   Those stupid old men told her to throw it back in the water. She politely explained that it was a land dweller, like them and it couldn’t swim. They said that it belonged in the water and was better off there. She adopted it off to another man who said he would feed it and keep it in his back yard. He was an enemy of the other old men and they ridiculed him for taking it. I’m thinking that the turtle had a 50/50 chance of ending up as soup, but we tried to save it. Aubrey tried to hide it on the boat and we got into a fight over it. Adopting it to the old man was plan B for her, but it’s pretty hard to hard to hide a turtle of that size on our boat!

Huck Fin and his crew came back and forth throughout the day, usually wearing different stolen items that he jacked from who knows where. I saw him on different bikes, skateboards and other transportation. He asked for $1 for him and his friend to get some drinks while he was wearing some pink beats he likely stole from a little girl. I told him to drink salt water.

On the plus side, the old men who were out heckling boaters loved our kids.  Bianca went into the store to buy some gum with some boat cleaning money she earned and came back with a $30 fishing pole.  We thought she stole it, naturally.  Or worse yet, charged it to our slip.  Aubrey went to investigate and apparently the old men bought it for her because she was so cute and well spoken.  They warned us to leave before she married off to one of the crappy kids who frequented the marina.

Blake also made it out like a bandit after he lost his trusty fishing pole to a crab.  A nice old man built him one from used parts around the marina and it worked good as new.  He was truly grateful and I was happy that the old men weren’t was scary as they seemed.

We ended the night quietly fishing and a large Ford trucked pulled up. It was loaded down with nine rednecks that were coming down to the otherwise peaceful and nice dock. You guessed it; Hick Fin was in tow, sporting a huge dip in his lip. He informed us that his jaw would eventually fall off when the tobacco did its job. He brought his older kin to meet us and check out our stuff. Seriously.

Nice boat. Nice fishing poles. Nice wife. Nice guns, why do you have so many guns? Aw, shit Sir. Have a nice night. It was real nice to meet ya.  You won’t be seeing us again.

For the record, Onyx didn’t like them and she sat on the dock so they wouldn’t walk by. We told them that she hated kids and warned them that she had a real bad temper.