Steaming full speed out of Pelican Bay. Headed for Boca Grande Pass. Up towards Venice. Anchor up. Scott is driving. I grab the wheel. Came in a few days before so know where the channel is. Beautiful morning. Life is grand, and then out of nowhere, thump, crunch, bad lurch and full stop. WTF. I blame it on the early morning brain fog, the crappy charts on my Raymarine Chartplotter, the early in the trip haven’t been on the boat in a while, inattentiveness. But really as I look at the chart later, it’s so obvious. I screwed up.

Follow the brown line over the blue tongue

Tried the engine to get us out. Could rotate her around but no forward movement.  Put up the sail to heel us over to one side to release the grip. Row an anchor out in the dinghy to kedge us off. All with no luck. Tide headed out. Lucky all of the bottom is sand. But stuck. Seriously stuck.

Called Tow Boat US. The AAA of boating. Pay your one fee per year and get unlimited free tows. Such the deal. Captain Steve there in a half hour. Racing the tide he says. Ties on to the bow. His twin Suzuki 115’s strain, pull, drag… us deeper onto the sand bar.

Had to get the anchor back up to free us to pull forward. Attach a floating ball, pulling chain. Large palaber. Anchor dug into the sand. Deep. No luck. Boat quite stuck!

Tide headed out. Long day chilling in Pelican Bay facing the wrong direction while the other anchored boats look on. Sometimes you just need to wait.

Grounded from the water
Standing in 3.5 feet.

As night time came the high time came along with it. And with both of them Captain Dwight with the next effort, saying he’s the guy the gets people out when nobody else can. Bigger boat. More horsepower. More torque. More experience.

Attach a bridle to the port side on the bow. Tow boat at full torque. Orion rolling to her side, but insistent on her place in the sand. Switch to starboard. No movement at all. Not looking good.

Start talking about if we can’t get her out coming back tomorrow to put inflatable bags all around her hull and floating her at high tide. Not easy. Not cheap.

Wait another hour until the absolute moment of the highest tide. Line on Starboard. Pull to one side. Engine running full on the towboat and on Orion. Movement? Hard to tell.

Line on Port. Pull over to her other side. Just need 20 feet. Maybe some movement. Some release. Forward bumping then onto another sand bar. Back and forth we go.

Then from a bottle pops the cork and we are floating free and at ease.

All of which is another lesson. Another day. Another learning.

Which is all part of being the Captain. The responsibility can be small on a day to day basis. But there is always a half an ear out for danger, even when sleeping. What is that thump? Is that banging ok? Crawl out of bed and take a look around to make sure the anchor isn’t dragging. That our entire home isn’t floating quietly towards destruction on the rocks. And then up on deck when all is silent to survey with a smile. All seems well. Back into bed.

Many serene moments where all systems are working well and is joy. Punctuated by the furling line jamming and headed for Governors Island at 7 knots with the only option being to crawl onto the pitching foredeck and twist into an awkward pretzel to somehow unravel the knot. All a day in the life.

So the grounding is a learning. A mild slap in the face to pay close attention, always. Because the nudge is not always so gentle. And the price of inattention, potentially immense.

Gulfport sunset
Sunset over Gulfport

Onboard Again

We’re back on Orion after 17 months. She has been sitting in the Port Charlotte Boat Storage yard waiting patiently in the scorching heat and pounding rains while various hurricanes blow by

I came back first by myself. Back to 2 weeks of solid prep. Of 85 humid Florida degrees, sweat stinking shirts, crawling, bending, breathing toxic fumes of paint and varnish. Multiple trips to West Marine, to Home Depot, to visit mom in Sarasota. To finally ride the travel lift and splash her back home. Sails on and ready to roll. Only to find that the alternator was not putting out. Another day of laying on a burning hot engine rewiring and crossing fingers. And then with great joy the engine started and showed 13.2 volts. Yes, charging! Buddy Scott in for this maiden voyage. Out the canal, sails up and headed down Charlotte Harbor. And finally to rest at Pelican Bay. Beautiful old time Florida.

Under the bridge
Headed under the Tampa Bay Skyway bridge

Now the actual boat life can begin. Was wondering a little why I do this as I was sweating and spending in the boatyard. But it’s coming back. The beautiful sunset on the water. The adventures in the dinghy. The ease of movement through the water when the sails are full and the wind is right. The books. The naps. The music. The time. The peace.

It’s been a full and kind of crazy year and a half. The biggest part dictated by Rebecca the ex slowly dying of stomach cancer. Even though I only talked to her a few times in the entire course of events, she occupied my mind and affected the people that I love continually.

kids jumping
Claire (now doctor) in Med school. Ethan (now Marshall) Italy. Maxo (now Malcolm) in Canada

Then there has been the whole focus on the politics of our world right now. What a fucked up mess. And  I was completely pulled back into the daily Trump. The outrage. The horror. The addiction of the morning news.

Much time was also spent driving Ethan up and down the hill. At some point he moved in with me full time, and was without a car. Fairview High School at 7 was a common occurrence.  But honestly I consider the year driving him a rare treat. When do you get to hang out with your 17 year old son for an hour or more a day and have great conversations about music, philosophy, life. Not sad to stop the driving. But the connecting I will miss.

View out the bathroom window. 

Music, tons of music. Deeper into the bass I go. Playing with Egg Puppy, Shrimp Burrito, Leela Kirtan, All Together Now, Reverend Freakchild, Dave’s Slaves. 

Elia and I wonderfully silly and loving. Somehow keeps getting better.

Fixing and selling houses and dealing with an insane partner.

Researching and buying a mobile home park in Detroit.

Pine Grove MHP. Inkster MI.

Built a greenhouse and grew a ton of tomatoes.

Epic camping trips in Scotty the trailer.


Sold my snow removal business.

Started a handyman business.

Yoga every morning.

Life has been full.

And helpful to look at time in chunks. What just happened starting here, ending there. And then noticing the different speeds at which time moves by. And balanced by the different things that happened in that space of time. After trips I tend to check in with brother Ben, and part of the conversation inevitably goes to, “Nothing much happened here at home. Another week or two of work, or basically the same old same old”. Compared to the days going traveling, hiking, camping, with a new adventure around every corner

As I hit 60 this year I want to be able to do more of the adventure and less of the mundane. These days when another year passes I feel older, more tired, and I’m starting to feel the big slow down coming. It didn’t used to be that way. I remember when my mom was my age. She was 60 and starting a new life with Laurie. I see her slowing way down now at 91 and it doesn’t seem all that far away. I feel like I’ve got a window that won’t be open for too long. Kids are up and out. And it won’t be that many years before the energy ebbs.

So what I want to do now is live as fully as possible. Travel, explore, love, play. I’ve never been one for a regular lifestyle at any rate. But there is an urgency to push the envelope and get out there. My way has mostly been just to do it, and somehow the money will find it’s way. Sometimes that works. It’s the way I know for sure.

So for now the vehicle is Orion. The path is to explore together with my sweet Elia. Have adventures while we can. And as we get a little more ready to slow down embrace that energy as well. I’m psyched.. Let’s go sailing…

Elia and meo sarasota
Capt’n and the mate! Sarasota



Pity The Fool. This Man Has No Island

In our house April Fools Day is the holies of all high holidays. Each year it gets harder and harder to sneak it up on the kids. They are ready, prepared, perhaps with an attack of their own.

Gotca PicThere was the time we were coming back from a Florida on the night of March 31st. I remember sitting on the plane planning the strategy. We got in after midnite. The sacred day was upon us, but luckily they were too sleepy to realize it. We picked up the car from the airport and on the drive back to Boulder there was a strange hesitation with the engine, sort of a jerking motion. I grew more concerned and let them know that it wasn’t running right. We started heading up the canyon, and the jerking got worse. Hopefully we make it home. It was cold, snowy, at 3am, and wasn’t looking good. Just as we pulled in to head up Magnolia it died, and wouldn’t start. What to do. The best idea that I could come up with was for them to get all dressed up, and stand outside hitchhiking while I put the headlights on them as the next car came by. The coats and gloves were on, they were headed out, April Fools.

Elia PicThe tricky part now is how to get them when they are not close by. Last year I wrote a long email to young Malcolm in New Zealand talking about my boating plans and how it was looking like the best option available was to pick a sailboat in Australia, and wondering if he might be willing to sail it back for me. He reported back that he was reading it aloud to some friends and got more and more excited until he got to the line at the end saying that maybe he should look over at the calendar and see what day it is. Got cha. First email back he was ticked, then the respect grew.

Last year Ethan knew it was coming but wasn’t sure from what direction it would arrive. I woke him up at 1:30 am to take his morning shower. It was dark like usual, and he stumbled in to get ready for school. I heard the water running and hovered around the corner. He came out of the bathroom, and I just started laughing. Score another one for dad.

They do retaliate. There is the stamp taped on to the bottom of the computer mouse. Why won’t it work? The saran wrap across the toilet seat. Slowly they are maturing.

All of this to say that the recent post about Elia and I buying an island perhaps needs to be understood from the background of the fool. The hints were there. Come back on April 1st of next year to see how it all plays out. I hope this wasn’t a foolish move. But word came back of true excitement and admiration for our bold new move.  Ah well, not this year folks.

At this point we are in the Bahamas, heading back towards Florida. Lots of long sails behind us, a few ahead. Switches in the brain are slowly being turned back on to Colorado time and reality. Trying to plan the next phase. Not sure how work will look.

Do I sell my snow business and start something else? What will have changed internally to bring to the game. Thinking it would be fun to play bass in an old guy band. Play the rock and roll but no gigs after 9.

Then there is the changed world of Mr Carrot top in charge. How to plug in to the ridiculousness of that. Looking forward to the drive up Magnolia, and back to the old homestead. What will be the same, what different. These are the thoughts that fill a portion of the brain as the miles drift by under the keel.

The Cruiser

The Captain’s New Look

Everywhere we go there are other sailors. Very rarely are we on our own. These are our people, the cruising community. Who are they?

In general cruisers are people that  have been able to carve out a chunk of time away from the responsibilities of land and have made the effort to figure out how to live on their sailboat. They are all into sailing, and just by having made it this far into the Caribbean, have proven that both they and their boat are at least adequate for the task.

Most are couples and in many cases the men were the driving force behind the decision to take off. Perhaps they had been sailing forever, it was their dream, and many of the women have come around to either loving it, or tolerating it. There is always some talk of the men doing the long passages, and the women flying down to meet them there. The guys get together and talk about solar panels and power loads. The women cooking, and books they’ve been reading. Many guys call their partner, “The Admiral”, i.e. if you ask them on the VHF about plans for the day they say they will check with The Admiral, and let you know.

Some are in their 50’s, most in their 60’s, with a very few on either side of that. They are quite varied in their pasts, and their plans. Some have been on the water for years and are ready to head home. These are more jaded, with less of the the enthusiastic glow, and a little slower to jump into the conversations about how many amps your battery bank holds. There are newbies, quite wide eyed and open. There are a few single handers out there, almost always men. They are an interesting lot, with crusty beards, a slightly crazed look and an endless need to talk. So far everybody we have met has been white.

People take to the lifestyle in different ways. Some have become quite sedentary and rarely leave their boat. Others embrace exploring land whenever possible and go on long hikes. At times people rent cars, hire taxi’s, or ride busses. Many of these choices seem to be determined by how much money is available, but also by peoples levels of comfort. One woman told Elia that she would never consider riding on the local buses. We, on the other hand, choose that whenever possible, as much for the local experience as for the transportation.

There is lots of alcohol involved. The standard greeting is delivered by dinghy in the afternoon, come on over for drinks around 5:30. Painkillers, sundowners, black and tans, rum punches. Island drinks. As would be expected the conversations get sloppier and more animated as the evening progresses. From my non drinking perspective it all gets a little old and tiresome.

Cathy and her crew

There are dogs, cats, even a bird on board. We’ve heard tell of a monkey but haven’t seen it. The dog owners tend to be slaves to their pets. They modify their plans around which countries can take them easily, which beaches are safe. In most countries they need to have a vet sign off that it is healthy. Fears of going ashore and having their dog attacked by local dogs, or possibly shot, because they haven’t checked in are real. The cats curl up safely in a cubby below, except for the rare marina stop when they saunter down the docks.

One of the joys in this lifestyle is the ability to move on whenever you want to, or stay as long as things are good. Everybody is moving, transient. You get used to lots of goodbyes, then often unexpected friends turn up in another anchorage. We are all on a similar groove, with a limited number of places that cruisers tend to stop. Many people will be seen again, but you never know who or where.

The Oyster

The boats vary like the people. One of the big differences is the amount of money spent to pull off this dream. There are many that cost well over a million dollars new. They tend to be shiny, larger, newer, with more gadgets. The people on them, come from backgrounds that generated large sums of money. Investment banker, sold their business, sold their house in Nantucket. Women wearing nice jewelry, white polo shirts, gleaming teeth with a real estate smile. The Oyster, Hylas, Outbound, Halsberg Ralsey. Truly beautiful blue water boats.

Cantana Catamaran

There are the catamarans either bought as high level sailing machines, or bought from the charter industry, that needed some TLC (read MONEY) to get them in cruising shape. Much more room than a monohull, don’t roll in the anchorage, great for entertaining, and gives a feeling like a condo on the water with sliding glass doors and a large back deck. and lots of space for guests. Fast, but expensive to own with 2 engines, and much more cost to haul out and to dock.

Many smaller solid monohulls made to cruise around the world. These tend to be funkier, older, the people a little crustier and willing to have more of a camping experience. As the people on the less expensive boats tend to tell each other, when talking about the larger, shinier ones, “We all have the same view”.

And what are our plans? As I write this we are in Les Saintes, just south of Guadaloupe.  Our turn around point was last week in Dominica. We are headed back. But back means  2 and a half months of slowly working our way to the left coast of Florida where we will leave her for the summer and a good portion of the fall. Back to Colorado to make a garden, to invite a cat into our lives, to hang out with Ethan while he gets back into high school in America. (Check out his blog on tumblr at Under_Brazilian_Skies if you get a chance)

And our future on Orion? Still to be determined. I kind of like mustached Mike’s version. 4 months on the boat, 8 months on land. Or then again does it make more sense to do 6 weeks on, with a big space between. Right now going around the world and living on her full time doesn’t look like the plan. But then, who really knows. We would love to go to Europe, sail around Britain, up to Norway, the canals of France, the Med. There is the western side of the Caribbean with Belize, and down to Panama. Cuba is opening up to sailors. And then a whole world in the Pacific. So many places to see, and nice to feel like we have the illusion of unlimited time. Our plans remain flexible.

My New Mistress

It started out as infatuation. We had been introduced through the internet, She wasn’t the most beautiful to look at. Hadn’t been taken care of recently. Hadn’t felt loving hands for quite some time. I had a chance to do some research. Her family tree was strong. She came from a long and respected lineage. Somewhere she had gone wrong, was a little off. Couldn’t be sure just how far she had strayed by looking at her pictures online. The only way to really know was to meet her in person.

At first glance my heart started to tingle. She was lying still in the morning mist. Wisps of dew clinging to her lines. From the outside she looked as expected. A little tired, needing a little love. But what about when she opened her hatches to let me inside. There the truth would be much more obvious.

Her clasp was opened, her door slid back, and I eased myself down her ladder. Her open inner spaces were full, to the brim, with the treasures, of another man. I could see through the mess that she felt dirty inside, soiled, and it was out of her control. She needed to feel special, clean, proud, and I knew right away that this had been taken from her. I instinctively knew that I could bring the touch that would bring her inner light back out.

She wanted to shine, to fly free. It felt like a plea. Help me to be me. Help bring me back.

I heard her cries, but needed to be sure I could trust my instincts. I called in others to assist in my evaluation. There was agreement. She once was a thorough bred. and could be again. With some love, some patience.

She purrs, and keeps running till I push her button.

We needed time together. I slept in her that 1st night. In the forepeak, another night in the aft cabin, in the salon. It all felt so right. I opened her drawers. I looked through her most private places, read her history between the lines. She opened up to me fully. She needed no coaxing.

I decided that I would make her mine.

Since that fateful day I’ve always treated her like she deserves. I lavish money on her, and swell with pride when she shines in her sparkling, new, digs. She has needs, I know that. And as her needs get met, she is more appreciative and it shows. In how she reaches down wind, in how she holds her charge through the night. Of course she has moments when she struggles with her old ways. She will break down, sometimes covered in salty tears, and at those times it takes patience to listen, to feel, and finally to help to find the answer to her distress.

I pull out of the marina, my hand firmly on her wheel, and can feel the stares, the envy of those that I pass. They wonder who was I to  have tamed such an enchantress. What must I have to entice her to give herself so fully into my care.

And for me, it’s not about the envy of others. It’s about bringing her back to her true self. Letting her see and feel her youthful exuberance for life once again. I am merely along for the ride.

The 1 Percent

I sit writing the day before new years. Bitter End Yacht club. Virgin Gorda. The British Virgin Islands. Playground of the rich and beautiful. We get to park our little Orion for next to nothing and wander in and mingle. Truly phenomenal displays of wealth. The white plastic gleams. The stainless is always shiny. The toys come out. The inflatable slide from the top deck. 3 jet ski’s on the back. Yacht pulling powerboat, pulling dinghy. Money pouring down the drains and away. Inconsequential it seems.

Our neighbors

And why do I rant. There is a part of me that admires people that have done well in their lives, taken the money to do extravagant things with their families. Introduce their children to new countries. What is money for really anyways?

But here, today, something feels different about the extreme decadence and the seeming ignorance of anyone else around. Drive that dinghy full speed through the harbor. Don’t give a thought to the boats bouncing around in your wake. Let the nice man in the clean white shirt bring you your orange juice. Life is as it should be. There are masters, there are servants. The world has always been this way. Some own the plantations, and then there are slaves to do the ahem, work. In so very many cases there is no connection between the two. The rulers rule, the laborers sweat. Why question your place in the grand scheme when it’s on top. Off to the vacation where the water is blue, the toys many. Rub elbows with your people. Life is beautiful.

Today I’m surrounded by the 1 percent. I’m not impressed.  For the 1st time in my life I am truly scared and sickened by our government and the people that are about to start running it. To me it’s always seemed relatively benign. I haven’t felt threatened. Me, personally, my world. White guy doing ok. And it seemed like things were essentially beyond my control anyways. Head down in the sand. My world was fine. Me, mine, me. No need for real worry. For Me.

I don’t feel that way today. At a deep down level, I feel like we are heading into a dark and frightening place. Maybe it’s gotten to the point where me and mine feel threatened. Is it the possibility of economic collapse? Or of my kids having to fight in a war because of an idiot pushing a button? My money, my security, my family. Too damn close to home. Me has expanded to my country. Took me long enough. And as I look inside at my barometer and take a reading my sense is that I am not alone. I feel a revolution coming on.

The hood…