St. Michael’s and Oxford, MD
If Mystic, Annapolis, and Washington were all characterized by rushing, running and trying to get one more thing done, St. Michaels and Oxford would be the relaxing vacation which followed. For the past week or two we have been getting caught up on rest, homework, boat chores and otherwise relaxing. St. Michaels and Oxford are the perfect places for this. Each town is, in it’s own right, adorable but completely different. Right now the Star Worlds are happening here in Oxford, MD. Think Olympic trials for the Star Class sailing boat – in fact it is probably just 1 step below the Olympics. If you are a Star sailor, this is a big deal. With12 countries here to participate and represent their flag we are able to watch it happening right in our back yard so to speak.
This respite has given me the opportunity to reflect on the past 4+ months of cruising and all that we have seen and done – and to look to the trip home and what that will entail. At the start of this, we had no idea how our boat would perform. We certainly felt as though we had done all that we knew to do to prepare her but ultimately, the test would be in the months to come. Also, we had no idea how we would handle the time underway. 5 months is a long time to be rarely farther than 64 feet from one another. Well, the jury is in and we all can say with confidence that we have the experience to go boldly in the direction of our European dreams.
Gratitude has performed admirably – truly remarkably. Buying a boat from someone else assumes the whole of the work that they have either done or failed to do for the past 11 years. Thank God, She has been amazing. We couldn’t be any happier with her mechanically or functionally. All of the items that were on our wish list for a live aboard were met with her and we are all so happy to say that we haven’t felt cramped or uncomfortable in the whole 4+ months since we left. We have certainly made her our home this past summer and while she definitely looks well loved and inhabited, she has held up beautifully. Each of our kitties on separate occasions have gotten ill and left evidence of that all over the carpet. With the exception of the mishap with Alec’s toe, it has cleaned up perfectly. We had one small issue with the seam on one of our salon settee’s but that will be cleared up as soon as we get home. Aside from that, Gratitude looks as lovely as the day we moved aboard.
In terms of the Gratitude crew – We all love it. Certainly there have been times that Jack (more so than either of us) has missed his bedroom or toys at home. He has missed his swimming pool and the space of the house. He loves experiencing a new town every week and having Pratt and Whitney with us and of course, he loves us. Having Uncle Paul and Aunt April has been a terrific addition to our summer cruise that we hadn’t planned on and they are coming for dinner tonight and Jack is always happy to see them. We have made friends, and spent time with family and friends along the way. In fact, an interesting fun fact, since we left Stuart we have seen 15 family members and 3 friends whom we may not have seen but for our trip. We met a terrific family and we cruised with several others whom we wouldn’t have ever met. Before we left, I might have thought that this could possibly be isolating but the truth is, we are actually far more social than we are at home. It isn’t at all unusual for a perfect stranger to come knock on the hull to say hello while at home that would be unheard of. It is not unusual to have an impromptu cocktail party with some fellow cruisers and share experiences about what we each have seen and where to go to next and the moment we arrive in any marina we instantly have a kinship with all of the other boats there – regardless of size or type. It isn’t at all that we aren’t social at home, its just that we are all on a different “schedule” at home. There are so many more “things” competing for our family time. With the typical school day ending at 3 and any after school activities ending at 5, there is little time for more than a quick meal and kiss goodnight – and this isn’t only our reality at home, but most of our friends have an even more scheduled week than we do with multiple children and 2 working parents. There is no question that in terms of quality of life, this cruising life ROCKS! If there is anything that has “suffered” it would be my alone time with Alec and all of our “alone” time with ourselves. I have found – interestingly enough – that I don’t depend as much on my alone time. I haven’t felt that if I didn’t meditate AND SOON someone was going to get hurt! Alec and I have found times to be alone and to spend time together and while it has changed – the trade off I believe is worth it. Also, another “down side” has been the absence of a real mirror and a working scale. Without scrutinizing any change to my body in a large full length mirror, I hadn’t noticed until looking at pictures taken a couple of weeks ago that ooops – the river of denial has indeed run deep this summer. All of those trips to the ice cream shops up and down the Eastern Seaboard to see which city has the best was indeed showing up in the dress size. Time to get that under control and make sure we fix this going forward. What has worked incredibly well though has been the elliptical machine! It has been used underway and at the marina or anchorage. It has been used in cold weather and warm weather and it has done beautifully. Thank God! I would hate to see what the scale would read without it and probably that has fit the bill for the “alone” time as well.
So it is with great anticipation and excitement that we confirm our plans for Europe in May. Roughly, we plan to leave May 1 (totally dependent on mother nature – we will go when she says go). We will head to Bermuda (5 days running non-stop) refuel, spend a week, leave with the weather for Horta, Azores, (another 12 days of running non-stop) spend another week or two, then head to Ireland (7-8 days non-stop), Scotland, and England for the summer before running in October/November for Porto, Portugal for the winter. We have done a lot of soul searching and this is tough but we have decided NOT to bring Jack on the crossing. The ONLY reason to bring him is because we will all miss each other. Not a good enough reason! The trip is a working trip. We will all need our heads in the game and we will all have a job (or more accurately, several jobs to do). Jack has had intermittent sea sickness and this really added to our thought process. Him getting sick takes one of us totally out of the loop. Plus, this isn’t on his bucket list – its our dream not his. No reason for him to suffer through it if he isn’t really doing the work. So, Kelly has volunteered to bring him over to Horta after we arrive and spend a week. Speaking of visitors and crew members….
We are hoping to have 1 or possibly 2 others do the crossing with us. We will train anyone interested but we fully expect it to be challenging and fulfilling. Since everyone will be keeping watch for a minimum of 2-3 times per day, we will be operating a “dry ship – no alcohol”. All crew members will assist with galley and cleaning detail. We will be in daily contact with our weather router for any updates or changes and we will be able to send basic text messages so that anyone interested can see where we are. This is definitely NOT cruise ship stuff! and I would not expect this to appeal to any but a couple of readers of this blog. Please let us know if you are interested though and we will talk more about it.
Visitors, however, are also welcome on the non-passage type cruising. During those visits it is fun fun fun and all are welcome. Let us know asap if you would like to come to visit us. We have 2 extra cabins aboard each with 2 bunks so multiple family members are welcome!!!
Phew! That was longer than I thought it was going to be but my fingers just kept moving while my mind was spinning so I went with it. It has been so much fun this summer doing all that we have done and sharing it with all of you. We love you so much!
Here are a couple of shots of the Museum in St. Michaels, the lighthouse and some ice cream stops and boat trips here in Oxford.
Tons of love,
Laurie, Alec and Jack