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We left Southport exactly three weeks ago.  While we awaited All In to get repaired, we traveled through 10 states in our little yellow rental car that actually grew on us.  Not only have we had the chance to see and experience some awesome places during this time, we have also been able to visit with  family.  We owe a huge thanks to a number of family members who have extended a hand during our temporary “homelessness”.

The Brennan family (Bryan’s aunt and uncle) in New Jersey offered their vacation home in Vermont and we took them up on their offer.  We traveled to New Jersey  (pit stop in Washington DC) to visit with them for a couple days before making it to Vermont.  While in New Jersey, the girls got to play with their cousins they have never met and swim in the pool.  It was such a nice visit and a great initial step to unwind from our travels.  We then drove to Vermont for a 9 day stay in Manchester.  We filled our days with picking blueberries, picnics, story walks, craft time at the library, farmers markets, breweries, making fly fishing rods at the museum, visiting a goat farm, and lots of playing outside.  Vermont is absolutely beautiful and we are so thankful for this opportunity to visit.  Thank you Brennan family!!!

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We then drove back down to the south with a stop over in Harrisburg, PA.  We were only in Harrisburg for a day, but enjoyed the walking bridge to City Island and the downtown area which was covered in dinosaurs for an art exhibit.  We were welcomed in Fort Mill, SC by the Davenports (Bryan’s sister and family) for a week.  This was such a fun visit with the cousins and we got to celebrate Cori’s birthday!!!  The girls absolutely LOVE their three cousins, Ella, Cole, and Grant.  Not much entertaining is needed when we are with them since they all play together and make a mess together!!  It has been incredibly hot, so we could not play outside as much as we would like, but we still made the most of it by making a homemade slip n slide.

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Upon returning to Southport, we did not exactly know what to expect.  I had terrible visions of awful smells, rodent dropping and cockroaches crawling around after being in the boat yard.  I was pleasantly surprised to find the boat just as we left it with no remnants of any creatures (at least yet!)  After one more night in a hotel, we were able to move back aboard, unpack, clean up, and be put back in the water.  It feels sooooo good to be back at home after three weeks on the road.

 

onthemove

It has been exactly one month since we moved out of our house in Beaufort, SC.  During this time, we have stayed in 6 different hotels or homes totaling 12 nights, docked in 5 different marinas/docks totaling 13 nights, and only anchored 5 nights in different locations (a source of embarrassment for Bryan) .  We have crossed 8 different states either by way of our boat or rental car.  We have definitely been on the move…it feels like a continuous road trip since we have yet to get settled.

We were planning on being “on the move” most times, but had envisioned meandering through coastal towns on our boat, staying out at anchor most nights and cooking our own food on the boat…living what we thought would be a simple life.   Being on the move this much can be an adjustment for adults (at least it has been for me!), so for two little girls it has be quite an adventure.  As we roll with the different directions our life is taking us, so have our girls.  So, what exactly have they been doing this past month?

Using their imagination-We have few toys, so it gives them little choice but to use their imagination.  So far we have had pirates and monsters onboard the boat and numerous Peppa the Pig games have been played.  Baby(she does not have a name) and Clifford have also been on a number adventures created by the girls.  It amazes me the games they create between themselves and at times can go on for hours…..definitely an advantage of having each other to play with!

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Crying and FightingYes, we have had LOTS of crying and fighting.  I know pictures can be misleading with everyone smiling and happy, but I don’t typically snap a photo of the girls fighting and me pulling my hair out trying to intervene.  I believe this just goes with the territory for this age.  A day does not go by that I do not hear “Avery hit me or Leslie pinched me”, followed by crying.  We work out each fight as it comes and cherish the times of happy play!

Chores-Leslie has been the only one to pick up and enjoy chores; Avery requires a little more prompting.  Leslie helps me dry the dishes each time I do them, which is after every meal on the boat.  When we get more settled, I hope to have some more structured chores for them and get Avery involved too!!

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Reading-Avery has a set of Bob Books and has begun to read them.  I caught her reading one to Leslie the other afternoon.  Of course, we also do daily reading with both of them and have attempted to start “Boat School”. But, this is temporarily on hold while we are displaced.  I have lots of books stored all over the boat, plus their kindles have books we can access online.

Going to the Library-The library has been such a fun place to visit and participate in different children’s activities.   Libraries typically have many children’s events going on throughout the week.  We have seen a play at the Georgetown library, participated in Storytime Olympics at the Bennington Library and completed a story walk with the Manchester Library.

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Visiting placesWhile still in Charleston we were able to visit many friends and family.  We also went to the movies (Finding Dory), rode on a carriage ride, and visited Charles Towne Landing. Since then we have visited the Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C, a blueberry farm in Vermont, Vacation Bible School in Georgetown, Barefoot Landing in Myrtle Beach and dozens of restaurants.

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Eating.…lots of eating-My children eat all the time.  They get plenty of exercise, so we have not curved this eating, but they are habitual grazers.  We try to make this endless food eating healthy with fruits and vegetables, but chips and crackers are also consumed.  When I need to help Bryan with the boat, I always make sure they have a snack and a drink in order occupy them for a few minutes while I am away!

Playing on their Kindles-Both girls have a kids kindles and they enjoy playing games, reading books, and watching short videos.  While we are away from any Wi-Fi signal, they only have access to some of the apps and books.  The Daniel Tiger emotions game is their favorite right now and I have heard the songs endless amounts of times…..just wished they would practice the lyrics when they are fighting (take a deep breath…. and count to four)!!!

Making things-I have not had a chance to get out even half of my crafting supplies on the boat yet, so I am excited to start making more crafts when we get back on the boat.  So far the girls participated in a shark art contest by making a collage of a shark and of course daily coloring.  Avery has also been drawing pictures for her preschool teacher back in Beaufort since they are going to be pen pals.  The girls have also made cookies with their cousins and blueberry pie with the blueberries they picked.

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Meeting new friends-In almost every town we have visited, we have meet new people or reconnected with old friends.  It has been alot of fun see our friends kids who have never meet each other play together.  I have been impressed by the way they girls connect with other kids and start playing almost immediately.  If their is a child around their age, they seem to gravitate towards them.   They have also had the opportunity to meet many generous and kind people who have helped out along the way.

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Swimming-If it is a pool or a sandbar, the girls will be swimming.  Avery is a little fish and never wants to get out of the water.  She is learning to swim and just jumped of the diving board this last weekend.  We have been lucky to have been to so many places that have pools and it is has been an easy dingy ride to sandbars.

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Being outdoors-While on the boat, the girls will sit in the cockpit and help navigate or bring some of their toys to play with in the cockpit. While on land, we spend as much time as possible outside either playing games, swimming, at the playground, or walking around.  Today we had a fun experience at the local park on a storybook walk.

Overall it has been very rewarding to be with the girls each day over the last month.  It has also been tiring being on the move with a 3 and 4 year old, but I feel it is also tiring living with a 3 and 4 year old, it is just part of this time of our life.  Each days planning (which is usually done the night before!) revolves around activities that would be child friendly, but we also sneak in some adult fun too!  Just yesterday, between blueberry picking and story time, we went to a brewery!  When we are back on the boat, we will continue to plan each day with time for them to either explore in the dingy or in a town checking out the local community events.

 

navigational becons

We’ve been asked a few times how it happened.  How did we hit something with our boat that caused damage significant enough to require a haul-out and repair?  Some of the questions came from other boaters, who understand how it happens, but were just curious as to where it happened and looking for information about the area so that they might avoid a grounding themselves.  Other questions came from people not as familiar with boats and were trying to understand exactly WHAT went wrong that could cause your boat to hit bottom.  Others still, including the person who answered the phone at the insurance company, didn’t even understand what caused the damage, only that we hit SOMETHING.  So Laura thought it might be a good blog post to explain how it happened that day.

Before I go on, I should interject a saying I’ve heard about running aground while cruising in a boat.  It goes something like, “There are two types of cruisers…those who have run aground and those who are lying about it.”  Another one ends with “…those who have already run aground and those who will.”  Either way, the point is that it is a common occurrence if you spend enough time cruising. I even heard it referred to as losing your grounding virginity.  Do I sound like I’m defending myself already??  Ha!

Anyway, we’ve been traveling on what is called the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, which is a series of man-made canals and natural rivers, creeks, inlets, sounds that are tucked in behind the land along the East coast.  The AICW runs from Norfolk, VA to Southern Florida and the idea is that you can travel much of the East coast in protected waters and have access to cities and towns, anchorages and marinas, attractions and culture as you travel.  It allows you to move as slowly as you like and saves you a lot of the preparation that is required for longer passages offshore.  It suits our needs right now as we grow accustomed to cruising life and work to get our processes and crew squared away.  The disadvantages of the ICW, however, are that most of it is narrow and shallow.  You also have to be incredibly vigilant at the helm because of the amount of boat traffic you will encounter.  There are navigation signs to follow very closely, and bridges to pass under, and tides and currents.  Honestly, it can get a little hectic, particularly on weekends, and even more particularly on holiday weekends….much like the July 4th weekend when we found ourselves entering the area behind all of the beaches of southern North Carolina.

The ICW has areas known for shoaling, which means that the sediment has shifted around and begun to build up in certain areas, making the water shallower and shallower year after year.  Areas that are known to experience lots of shoaling are ocean inlets, places where there is an access to the open ocean from the waterway.  Shoaling can be even more dramatic as a result of strong storms in the area, churning up the water, increasing wind and waves.  There are two inlets near Ocean Isle Beach, NC and Holden Beach, NC called the Shallotte Inlet and the Lockwood Folly inlet.  We slammed into the bottom at the Shallotte Inlet.

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A view of the Shallotte Inlet. The ICW is the narrow waterway that runs across the picture, near the top.

I was following the markers traveling north on the ICW, which means keeping the red markers to port (to your left) and the green markers to starboard (to your right).  The tide was outgoing as we approached the inlet, which really means that the inlet was an outlet at the time.  The tide was dropping and the water was rushing out to sea.  That’s a lot of water all making its way out to seathrough one narrow passage.  In other words, the water was moving fast.  We were loving it of course, because we were riding the current toward the inlet, moving fast without running the engine any harder or using any extra diesel.  Better gas mileage.  As we began to enter the area of the inlet, I was sure to align the boat between the markers, as I’d already read plenty of information about the regularly shifting bottom in these inlets.  It didn’t matter.  We slammed into the sand right in the middle of the channel.  Laura was standing on the steps when we hit, almost throwing her forward into the cabin.  I heard the girls scream down below and start to cry when all of the contents of our cabin fell off the shelf and onto the floor.  We hit so hard as a result of our increased speed that it felt like the boat was going to do a front flip, end over end.

When the boat settled into place, I checked to see if anyone was hurt down below.  Avery and Leslie were clinging to Laura and whimpering, but unharmed.  I went back to the helm and attempted to back off the shoal, turn away from it, even raised a sail and tried to lean to boat over so we might float off of it, but it was clear we were stuck.  Our TowBoatUS insurance that I’d purchased back in March now was certainly the best purchase I’d made, as uninsured towing can cost in the thousands, even tens of thousands of dollar range.  We hailed TowBoatUS on the radio and they came to our aid in no time and at no additional cost to us.  As we were pulled off of the sandbar, I attempted to steer the boat to safety, only to find that the wheel was locked up.  Only later, when I had a moment to breathe, would I be able to diagnose the problem as a bent rudder post that probably resulted when we were pulled from the sandbar.

So in the final analysis, was it my fault that we hit bottom even though I was steering directly between the navigational markers?  You damn right it was!  I am the captain after all, and everything that happens to “All In” is my responsibility.  But what could we have done differently?  Plenty.  For one, go slow.  With any uncertainty at all, going slow is always the prudent choice.  Reaction time improves, you’ll have extra time to assess the situation, and if something DOES happen, the damage will be minimized or even avoided.  Another thing we could have done was to stop and ask local boaters with specific knowledge of the area.  Even TowboatUS said that they’d be glad to assist people with navigation questions.  As it turns out, at the Shallotte Inlet, you should really hug the red markers on the mainland side of the passage.

So there you have it.  Not the story of the entire day of course…hitting the bottom was only the beginning of our day from hell.  We battled insane boat traffic and tremendous wakes as a result all day long while at anchor with no steering because of the bent rudder from the grounding.  Each wave and wind gust pushing us closer and closer to bashing into the docks on the side of the waterway.  The heat beating down.  I’d rather forget.  But that’s the way it happened and the reason our boat is now hauled out in Southport, NC for repairs, the reason we are now nestled into a mountain condo in Vermont (this ain’t so bad!) and the reason I’ve got all this time for writing a blog post.  We hope to be back on board sometime during the week of July 25.  Check back for updates!

 

homelessAfter pulling into Southport at the last minute and having All In hauled out, we awaited the news of the repairs and the amount of time the repairs would take.  It turns out we need a new rudder which has to be custom made and will take about 3 weeks.  One of the disadvantages of a spade rudder is that it can be exposed and damaged more easily than, say, a keel mounted style.

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Southport is a beautiful “all american” town.  Everything is in walking distance and we even found a condo right between the boat yard and the town.     However, we cannot stay here for 3 weeks, so we found ourselves contemplating what to do.  The boat yard does not allow owners to stay on their boats and honestly I do not think I would want to.  The climb up and down the ladder seems a little to perilous for the girls.

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I have never lived one day to the next like this…..truly not knowing what the next day holds or where we will find ourselves.  While at first it seems rather scary, now I am becoming accustomed to it and excited about how each day ahead may unfold.  I have everything that is important to me to with me right now.  So, after weighing all our options, we decided to take a road trip.  Bryan’s aunt graciously offered a house in Vermont that was not being used and we figured why not?  We have three weeks ahead of us until our home will be ready and we have never been to Vermont.   We secured the boat, packed our bags and headed out to rent a car.  When we arrived at Enterprise, they had no cars available (we called ahead and were told that there would be plenty of cars!).  Thankfully, Hertz is right down the road and there was one car left, a bright yellow Kia.  For the next two weeks our feet will be planted firmly on the ground and this will be our ride!!  I’m excited to see what the next chapter will hold for our family!

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tomorrow is another day

Our sweet friends, Claire and Aaron gave us a book describing the different flags used to communicate with other vessels when we visited them in Charleston.  We thought this would be a fun book to look at with the girls.  Little did I know that I would be flipping through this book 2 weeks later wanting to pull out the red diamond and display it to all passing boats!!

We had just had a fabulous time with friends in Georgetown and were making our way to North Carolina.  We anchored for two nights and were starting to get into the swing of things.  I was starting to get into a “Boat School” routine with the girls and Bryan and I were starting to feel more confident (despite the five foot wake we took through the front cabin that drenched the inside of the boat which is another story).

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Then as we were passing the Shallotte Inlet between Ocean Isle and Holden Beach…. BOOM!!!  We were following the markers perfectly, but we ran aground on a sandbar HARD.  The whole boat jolted forward and everything went flying. Thankfully, the girls were in their berth which is very protective and only a mess was made from everything toppling over in the cabin.

We called Tow Boat US which now tops the list as one of the best purchases we have ever made to assist us.  Captain Brad from Tow Boat US arrived and pulled us out of the sand; however, in the process our rudder post bent leaving us without steering and completely disabled.  The 4th of July boat traffic is absolutely insane here.  Far more boats than I have ever seen in Beaufort, even during Waterfestival.  Since the traffic was so heavy and another sailboat was also stuck in the same spot and needed assistance, Tow Boat US took our boat beside a dock on the ICW to drop anchor until it would be safe to tow us to a place that was yet to be determined.

I had no idea we would be here for the next 7 HOURS.  During this time the tide dropped and we were getting hammered into a dock with each wave from passing boats.  These hours were extremely tense, as the boat was again stuck in the sand.  I eventually came to a breaking point when a large motor yacht would not slow down and proceeded to cuss us out and turn back towards us, as if to ram us into the dock….simply crazy!  The girls and I exited the boat to land.

A sweet man, Mr. Billy Street, who owned the dock we were threatening to destroy, offered for us to come to his house.  Mr. Billy and his wife Ms. Helen feed us, gave us water and drinks, and even ice cream over the next couple hours. Bryan stayed on the boat trying to fend us off the dock, but eventually his body suffered heat exhaustion.  He barely made it up the dock before collapsing at the Street’s house.  This was scary.  We used ice and rags to cool his body down.  After he regained strength, we headed back to the boat and waited for Tow Boat US.  In this area the current is extremely harsh and we had to wait another couple of hours to be assisted to the closest safe area.  We regained limited steering and we were escorted to Inlet View Restaurant in Shallotte, NC which is where we stayed the next 3 days until we could make it to a marina that could haul out the boat to assess the damage.

This experience was terrible and scary, but it taught me there are so many kind and caring people in this world.  The Street family took us in as their own family and even offered up their house for us to stay for the next couple days.  They came the next morning and checked on us and gave us a ride to CVS to pick up a prescription for Leslie who was sick.  The owner of the Inlet View Restaurant not only allowed us to stay at her dock, but provided us with a ride to a hotel (we stayed in hotel that night in an attempt to clear our mind for what was to come ahead).  The wonderful women on Women Who Sail Facebook group not only gave me tips and assistance, but also words of encouragement along the way.  I have also witnessed the strength within my family of four.  Avery and Leslie have been troopers, as we, their parents, attempt to figure out our next step sometimes hour by hour.  I have seen more physical and mental willpower in Bryan then I ever knew existed and I feel so lucky to have him by my side leading us in this journey.  We set out for an adventure and we have no doubt had one so far.  Once again having very little expectations continues to make each day easier to handle and enjoy! Our next adventure will take us up the waterway to Wilmington Southport (things change quickly) to get hauled out and we will probably be staying here for awhile!  Fingers crossed there is not too much damage.

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