I'm back from my 3 week trip up north. I've actually been back for 2 weeks now, but the sun is so sunny and the water so blue, I've had a hard time staying inside to write about it. I headed back to Minneapolis (where it was 3. Three shouldn't even be a number when it comes to temperature.) to do wedding dress shopping with Hannah, who is getting married in August, and MOH dress shopping with Amanda, who is her MOH. It was a grand time, lots of family and laughter, some tears. My little girls are all grown up.
After Mpls I headed to Phoenix to thaw and see more family, and do a side trip to Mexico to stay in my sisters lovely condo on the Sea of  Cortez. I flew back to St Thomas and we immediately sailed south. We made it back to St Croix just in time for St Paddy's day. 
For some unknown reason, St Pat's day is a HUGE here.  Personally, I think it's because it falls right in the middle of Lent and it's a great opportunity to let loose for a day. Whatever the reasons, the partying starts early in the morning and goes late into the night, or in this case, until 4am.
We watched a 3 hour parade where the spectators were just as much fun to watch as the floats and bands. Everyone was in green. Green hair, green skin, green glasses, hats, shoes, socks. Water fights were had, drinks were lifted, we all had a wonderful time under the bright, hot sun.

Love his sideburns.

There were girls twirling flaming hula-hoops...

                                                          ...and leprechauns

                                            and a bartender on every float.

                                        Green was the color of the day. These guys had wet-paint hands
                        and were trying to put handprints on various parts of the women in the crowd.

                                               Love her smile, even her bike was green.

It was hot, but the bands played on


You're going to do what???

The RaftUp this month asks these questions:

How did you get the idea to go cruising? Was it you, your partner, a friend that put the idea in your head? How long was it between when you first decided to go -- buying the boat -- actually setting sail? When you first starting telling friends and family that you were going to do this, how did they respond? Has it affected relationships on land? What was the hardest part of the transition from land to sea (this can be mental or physical)? Was it easier or harder to get going than you thought it would be? How long have you been out? Do you keep a place on land (house, storage...)? Why? Is your boat now your home or do you dream of having a normal land-life again?
Endless horizons, endless options.
The first time I set foot on a sailboat was the day we moved aboard, 10 years ago. I know it sounds like it was a lark of sorts, but anyone who has ever met Steve knows  he doesn't have much 'lark' in his genetic makeup. There was actually a lot of thought and planning involved. At the same time, we'd already done 12 moves in 20 years and we knew very well that nothing was forever. We could choose to move on at any time.

I grew up in North Dakota (AKA: Almost Canada). It's not a region known for water sports. What water we had was generally frozen, we ice skated and played ice hockey. Sailing was as foreign and exotic as fresh pineapple and coconuts. I first saw a real sailboat in Duluth MN when I was 18. It looked so easy and romantic. 
Fast forward 20 or so years. The girls are both in college. We're in Albuquerque NM with a pending Air Force assignment to Tampa FL. We start looking at houses there.  We have MAJOR sticker shock at the housing prices there. This is 2003 when even a tiny ranch house there was selling for $500K. I joke about just buying a boat and living on it. We laugh. We look at more houses.  Just for the heck of it, we check out some boat listings online.  Boats are much more affordable. They look so spacious. The water is so pretty. I'm sold.

Steve does weeks of homework and research and sees dozens of boats with the broker. We know nothing of brands or reputation. We buy a 1977 Hallberg-Rassy 41'. It doesn't have anything we were looking for: air conditioning for living aboard in Florida, refrigeration ( it had an ice box), electronics. But she's a SOLID, blue water cruiser. So, we move aboard and then take sailing lessons. I am the Sargent Schultz of sailing, I know nothing.

We start the first of many Project lists. The first biggie: new engine mounts. The engine is literally falling into the bilge. We replace the wiring, the plumbing, add holding tanks, recaulk the teak deck, re rig, remove davits and add a stern rail, add all the electronics and in mast wiring. It was all learning on the job. Steve did ALL the work himself, he knows our boat inside and out and upside down. This was about a 6 year project. We were both still working full time. After Steve retired, he took a year to add a new engine and water maker and refrigeration compressors and 100 other things that have to be taken care of before we leave to go cruising.

We've been out cruising full time for almost 4 years now. The transition from land to sea wasn't very hard for us. We're used to having to find our way around new cities/countries every couple of years, finding the good local restaurants, the grocery stores, the shortcuts. We tend to make friends easily. We accept local customs and don't want everything to be the same way it was 'at home'. The hardest part for us as family with grown children is not having that Family Home for everyone to meet at for holidays and vacations. It's much harder to make advance plans and to accommodate the girls work schedules. The work of day to day life on the boat is also much harder than I ever expected. Going to get groceries can be an all day chore. Ditto for laundry. And sometimes the logistics of planning food for a group for a few days puts me in a panic.

We accumulated a lot of art works and interesting furniture pieces from our travels and we do have a 10 x 10 storage unit in Albuquerque. It's been 10 years since I've seen most of what we have in there. So I'd have to caution anyone to think reaaalllyyyy hard about what you want to put into storage. We've probably spent $8000 in 10 years on that storage unit.

Our boat is our home. We plan to be there for many more years, but I do have to admit that after more than 25 years of continuous moving, I'm thinking more and more about having a permanent home. I'd like to paint a wall a color that I like, and plant a new bonsai tree or two.