Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Mom Plans, and God Laughs

On Friday we finished the electric project, and successfully tested the system. Flipping the main switch and having all the electronics systems come online without the previous worrisome flickering, and then hearing the engine start and run was magic to our eyes and ears.

The next thing on the pre-sail-departure checklist: comfy pets.

Chloe in Mr. Toad on a boat project day

Chloe has been coming to the boat with us every day and has just about mastered getting on and off the boat from the pier. Getting up and down the companionway ladder by herself required some patience, a pocketful of her favorite treats, and a whole lot of encouragement. She's just about got it although sometimes she high-centers on the guillotine door. I'll have to put some thought into what I can drape over it that will give her some traction and protect the wood from her scrabbling nails. She picked her own favorite cushiony spots below decks, so then it was just a matter of placing washable fuzzy blankets in those areas, and we bought a small patch of fake grass for pee breaks on long crossings or other days when it's not possible to get ashore. She was first potty trained with one of these long ago so I expect she'll remember and the training on this should be easy. She already has a well-fitting lifevest with a sturdy handle so she's set for getting between boat and dinghy. And she's sailed with us on our two previous sailboats so we know she's a good little sailor.

Chloe considering her strategy for the guillotine door

The cats had never been on a boat before and I needed some time to make the transition smooth for them. A small litter box might fit under the ladder, just need to locate the right sized box and place it. By wrapping the pole that acts as a companionway ladder rail I planned to turn the bottom half of it into a Mom-approved claw-sharpening station. A spot in the window under the dodger would make a warm and stable spot to hang out, all that's needed is some non-skid applied to the bottom of a cat bed with high, stiff sides and Stewie or Starfish would have a warm, sunny spot to keep the captain company. Some hidey spots would probably be welcome if the sailing gets rough, so bedding was shuffled around to clear some dedicated space and it was lined with washable pillows. Perhaps some small hammocks hanging from the handhold rails inside would make for a comfy ride with a window view, that will require some measurements and materials sourcing, I will put some thought into that and pick that project up later. A big fish-retrieval net on the rail and a float on a line already in the water would be a good idea, in case one of them fell overboard and required rescuing.

Starfish took her snuggling responsibilities seriously

Checklist in hand we buttoned up the boat and went back to the RV. Starfish was acting weird. We had put her on antibiotics on Wednesday to address the snotty nose she would get occasionally but it didn't seem to be helping. She demanded to be let out, and then just wandered over to the neighbor's place and howled at them. The cranky old neighbor lady rather loudly announced that she was old and just needed to be put down, interesting to me how she completely missed the irony as she shouted from her trailer steps in her ancient gravelly voice, with her hands on her hips and her feet in slippers. It was Friday night of Memorial Day weekend and the vet's office was closed.

Starfish cruising the nation from her sunny window spot

Saturday she perked up quite a bit in the morning, so we gave her another round of antibiotics and some loving and went to the boat for a day of assembling and testing the dinghy. By the time we came home she had taken a turn for the worse, I tried to get her to eat something and she turned up her nose at all the food, even her favorite treats and then threw up on the floor. As the night wore on we took turns comforting her as she became more and more miserable and sometime in the night one of her eyes stopped tracking properly and she couldn't balance by herself. Sunday morning found us at the nearest emergency vet hospital over an hour away just after it opened. Filling out their checklist "does your pet have: change in personality, lack of appetite, pain, vomiting..." check, check, check, there was no box for probable stroke/completely miserable. I held her as she relaxed and then left us in the most pain-free way possible, on a quiet and comfortable couch in the back room at the emergency vet hospital.

Starfish stole my new blanket in Montana and refused to give it back

Sunday afternoon the four of us held one another tightly.

Stewie visiting the bar in the campground Keys, Christmas Day 2019

On Monday I was watching Stewie on the patio. The neighbor cats had come by to say hello and he wasn't chasing them out of our campsite with vigor like he used to. He looked so thin, and at the same time was growing a little pot belly. We'd noticed it a couple of weeks ago and put him on worm meds, despite no worm evidence, as that seemed the likely culprit. But he'd finished the first round of treatment and didn't seem to be gaining any weight back, despite eating with his usual gusto. I decided to get him in to see a vet first thing on Tuesday morning, thinking maybe we'd just selected the wrong worm medication.

Stewie relaxing on the patio with us last week

On Tuesday morning the local vet took one look at him and snatched him into the back room, siphoned a sample from his little pot belly and found fluid in his abdomen.

FIP. Or a failing heart. Fatal. Soon.
Might be days and might be weeks. 

The room swam out of focus. Not again. I can't do this again. How did we go from probably worms to fatal so quickly? We have a beautiful life and Stewie is a big part of it. I have already taken measurements for his sunny window bed and expect that he will love this next phase of our journey. How long had it been since he last frolicked on the lawn with Chloe and me? A week? Days?

It will be painful. You need to make a decision to end his suffering. Now.

So for the second time in three days I pet my cat and whispered loving goodbyes to him as he slipped away from me.

Stewie frolicking on the lawn in Oriental during our afternoon walk just a few weeks ago

Lance and I went home and held Chloe tight. In just a few days we were reduced from a RVing family of five to a sailing family of three. At bedtime I reluctantly wiped "comfy pets" off the checklist and shuffled to bed where, for the first time in 15 years, there were no little furry bodies to welcome me.

Starfish the heat-seeking missle hogging the propane heater in Yellowstone

Starfish lived to be 15 and Stewie lived to be 14. Everyone we've met across the nation will remember them well. While Starfish ruled her kingdom from the sunny RV window, Stewie was always the campground celebrity as he made the rounds to visit our fellow campers wherever we went, or accepted loving pets from fans as he followed Chloe on our daily walks. Together we have traveled all across the USA - twice - and have seen some amazing sights in this great country of ours. They had an excellent life, were well loved and are greatly missed.

Stewie the Savannah cat stalking elk in Yellowstone

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

We'll do it in our underwear then

The storms have been rolling through Oriental, NC. One right after another.

Half the folks we meet on the dock act surprised, and profess that it's highly unusual for May. The other half just roll their eyes and tell us this is the way May is around here.

The new switch on the old French bracket, after a brief polish. So shiny.

We received the chartplotter, radar, and VHS with AIS system, and installed them. When we went to connect them to the existing structure of the boat, though, that's when we encountered unexpected messes. The battery bank includes two different types of batteries wired together in parallel (Lance cursed out loud about that one), and the starting batteries were not segregated from the house batteries meaning we could possibly burn up every little bit of battery by leaving on an errant light somewhere, and then not have anything at all left to start the boat. Since we can't push-start Minerva it had to be fixed.

Opening the wall behind the navigation table revealed decades of wires from long-abandoned equipment, shady wire nuts and other dubious connections. Lastly, the main power switch was original French equipment, and the intermittent and cranky nature of it left us praying it would cooperate. Lance isn't a religious man, so his ultimate solution involved less praying and more tools.

He decided the best plan of attack was to trace every single wire, remove it if it was unnecessary and replace/repair its connections as needed. After that it would be necessary to segregate and re-cable the battery bank, and replace the main power switch. Doing this meant building some custom brackets, ordering some new tools, and...

Minerva would be without power from beginning to end.

So, coming back to the storms. At first we dodged them. As they rolled through and turned Minerva into a bucking bronco in her slip, we stayed in the peaceful RV planning, ordering and assembling what we could for delivery and installation in the calm windows. Whenever she stopped bucking we attacked it together, Lance with his head in the wall or sitting on the engine elbow deep in the battery compartment, me handing him tools, labels (yes he bought a special labelmaker to get it all perfect) and cold beverages. Some wires we pulled together with a combination of Lance's strength and my little hands in deep holes here and there. I always knew that skill of being able to fit my whole hand in a Pringles can would come in handy somewhere, sometime.

And then a surprise. Out of nowhere the first named storm popped up and headed right for us. Arthur.
A whole month ahead of the recognized hurricane season.
And Minerva had no power with which to escape.

Arthur ended up slipping past us as a non-event, but while spider-webbing Minerva into her slip in preparation we came to the conclusion that we must double-time this project. Storms or no storms, Minerva can't be sitting here like a lame duck waiting for the next one to hit.

But the storms never stopped. After Arthur they just got wetter. Buckets of rain, one storm after another.

So, a rainy Wednesday found us shuffling down the dock being pelted with fat sideways rain, arriving at Minerva soaked to the skin. I found and installed the bimini, giving Lance and the engine protection from the heavy rain (why hadn't I figured this out before?), and I settled in with the laptop to work. Every now and then Lance would call for tools or a label, and I would pause my client timer, deliver them to him and get back to work.

The second time I appeared at the companionway door and handed him a tool he did a double-take to see me standing there in my underwear. My clothes were all hanging up inside drip-drying. He laughed as he stripped off his soggy shirt to hang alongside them.

Ah yes, Flexibility. Your lessons have been well received.

We made good progress and she should be up and running soon. We're 70% of the way there now. Clothes or no clothes. Storm or no storm.

Standing on the step handing Lance yet another tool, I had this strange moment of... wonder? reality vs expectations met? It's hard to put a name on it. We have always been boaters and expected our boat life to look like this. Well, maybe with more sunshine but not necessarily with more clothes. The popular saying "owning a boat is fixing it in exotic places" is definitely true. We came in expecting that. There's a work/fun ratio I expect to meet, and as long as they remain in balance I'm content.

People ask us when we are leaving. We know better than to put a date on it. We'll go when she's ready, when we're comfortable with her, when the weather is right and when Loretta and Mr. Toad have been tucked away safely.

Tools loaned by a friend made short work of the bracket upgrade

I wonder about people that buy a boat and just go. Or are expecting the turquoise waters of the Bahamas and fail to fully consider the bumpy Gulf Stream on the way there. Endless instagrammers can be seen posing with surreal backdrops, but that life doesn't seem real to me. To me, standing in my underwear with wet hair stuck to my back, waving a tool at Lance who can't quite grasp it because the boat is getting tossed around and giggling while he misses it again, both of us soaked to the skin... this is the life.

This. This is truly what we signed up for.

Good times are coming soon. We'll find that magical turquoise water. There will be lots more days of tools coming too. And that's also pretty OK.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Living in Limbo

Princesa Mia in Oriental NC, as seen from our dock

I wrote this last week but never pushed the "publish" button:

The boat's ours... sort of.
We're free to roam... sort of.
We're NC locals... sort of.

The bank is taking its sweet time releasing the funds for Minerva, and the seller will not release any paperwork until the funds are released by his bank for his use. So we know where Minerva's hide-a-key is and we've sort of got possession of the boat but not completely.

In the meantime she waits in a slip close to the Seller's house at the Oriental Harbor Marina, which is quite exposed to the South winds which have been epic lately. Last night's wind was a steady 45 knots with expected gusts to 65. Gale force. That was enough to snap the mast of a smaller boat at a nearby marina. It's a wild enough rodeo that we cannot jump from the dock onto our boat deck because she is bucking like a wild bronco, and Chloe stands stiff-legged and barks at the bouncing docks with real aggression. We've spider-webbed Minerva every which way so she stays put, I expect the first thing to let go will likely be the dock.

Because of Minerva's ours/not really ours status, we have been ordering the electronics goodies to be installed but keeping them in the RV with us until we have the keys in hand. It's getting kinda crowded in our little 272 square foot home.

Lance delivers the new electronics to the boat.

The NC governor has extended the stay at home order a little bit longer for most folks, and at the same time lifted the limitations for some businesses. There is definitely a feeling of Spring freedom in the air as a few more folks emerge and return to their routines. Some of the marinas along our planned Northerly sail are open for visitors again, and a summer harbor-hopping route is starting to make itself clear. Rough plans include: swimming with the ponies of Chincoteague, sailing a lap around Lady Liberty, and spying on puffins in Maine.

Minerva at rest between storms

I really must pause here and give a huge shout-out to Facebook. When we were putting in our bid on the Tartan in Florida last December I made a Facebook friend (Mark) with a sister ship and his advice on common problem areas became immensely valuable during that process. Alas, the Tartan repairs were more than we were willing to tackle so our shared dream of sailing the sisters side-by-side was not to be. But we stayed friends anyways, and as an Oriental native he chimed in again with locals' guidance when it was clear we'd settle in for a spell. 

Through the Women Who Sail Facebook group I met Janet and later her husband Joe, who have a home and a boat in the Oriental area. They have a wood and metal workshop nearby which they have graciously offered to share should we need workspace. Having instant friends with local knowledge has been immensely helpful through the boat-buying process, and it's been a lot less isolating with like-minded allies at our side. While we were visiting Janet and Joe on their boat one day Mark came by, come to find out he keeps his Tartan 40 in the same marina, it's only about 15 slips away from Janet and Joe's Southerly 42. They have been neighbors for some time but hadn't really spoken until the point where I looked up from Tango as he was walking by with an armful of teak for the latest boat project and said "hey aren't you Mark with the Tartan?".

Janet on the deck of her boat Tango, a Southerly 42

Finally, a Facebook group I recently discovered Bob423, which is all about crowd-sourcing the latest ICW knowledge. Garmin ActiveCaptain tracks are shared and updated regularly, and this has greatly eased my concerns about the shallow waters, shoaling and bridge quirks of the East Coast ICW. Tips I learned from this website helped us finally pull the trigger on the right chartplotter system and radar system, a daunting task which was causing choice paralysis.

So we're here with our boat, but not really.
We're free to roam, eventually.
We're locals, technically.

The electrical rat's nest. It looked much better after the dead wires from decades of nonexistent equipment were removed.

All this has been an exercise in frustration for me. It may come as a surprise... but I'm a bit of a control freak. Gasp! Every day I wake up and look for some small way I can move us back towards our free-roaming lifestyle but overall, I must admit I am not in control of most of this now.

Shawna sorting the charts, the radar and chartplotter wait in the background

Realizing that, and surrendering to it, has been difficult.

Yeah this is as far as I got last week.

Two days after I wrote this, a full two weeks after I fell into a profoundly deep funk over it all, we finally got the banking and the final paperwork squared away and officially got the keys.  Lance delivered the new radar and chartplotter to the boat and started tracing every electrical wire with the goal of bringing it all up to his standards. I've been going through every nook and cranny, taking note of the location of every tool, spare, and gadget, and deep cleaning it all.

The key. At last.

There are SO MANY nooks and crannies on this boat. She has been around the world at least once, and the previous owner and the owner before him did all of their travel with minimal electronics. So that means mountains of paper charts, many with handwritten notes. The owners who cruised from 1988-1992 included maintenance concerns on their chart notes as well, an interesting idea in lieu of a separate logbook. I sorted them all, keeping the ones to be used between now and December handy and archiving the Caribbean, Africa, New Zealand, and Pacific Islands charts under the bed for now. The Caribbean is definitely on our radar for 2021, the rest... who knows?

The bridge between us and our friends on Tango

With this boat we can go anywhere that is touched by the sea. Literally anywhere.
She's that kind of boat.

The archived charts of the Caribbean, Africa, and the South Pacific will wait under the bed, fueling far-away dreams

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Thousand Trails Year Two

Our second year of Thousand Trails expires on June 30, 2020. The program has worked very well for us again, as it would for most traveling full-timers.

Little Diamond WA campsite overlooked a large disc golf arena.
There was an indoor hot tub and ice cream socials once a week.

This year I am closing out this record-keeping a little early because we bought a boat in April and hope to be sailing the rest of 2020+ and into the forseeable future. Therefore we will not be renewing our Thousand Trails membership for a third year in July.

Cherokee Landing TN was a quiet park with an abundance of wildlife

But, if we were to remain full-timers I definitely would renew it.  Even with only 9 months of use we still came out way ahead. 

Here's how the math broke down for our second year of  membership:

Date Description Value Balance
7/1/2019 Basic Program Dues w/1 zone (NorthEast) ($585) ($585)
7/1/2019 Trails Collection ($214) ($799)
7/1/2019 Two Additional Zones (SouthWest, SouthEast) ($108) ($907)
7/1/2019 Zones - One more zone (NorthWest) ($54) ($961)
7/9/2019 Portland Fairview Encore (4 nights @ $20 vs $63.60) $174 ($787)
7/21/2019 Birch Bay WA (4 nights @$0 vs $68.11) $272 ($514)
7/26/2019 Little Diamond WA (14 nights @ $0 vs $44/night) $616 $102
9/24/2019 Cherokee Landing TN (14 nights @ $0 vs $44/night) $616 $718
10/16/2019 Natchez Trace TN (10 nights @ $0 v $44.61/night) $446 $1,164
11/12/2019 Crystal Isles FL ($0 v 1@$63, 10 @ $47) $533 $1,697
3/19/2020 Goose Creek NC (12 nights @ $0 vs $80) $960 $2,657

As we discovered before, the Encore resorts are swankier, and some of the older basic TT resorts are in need of significant maintenance. Thousand Trails can always be counted on for at least the basics, and we always go in expecting just that and let ourselves by pleasantly surprised by any extras.

Goose Creek, NC, has a stocked pond in which the kids fish all day

We did not have any problems getting into areas we wanted to visit; we didn't always get the exact resort or the exact dates we wanted but we could always land close enough with some flexibility.

So, our annual investment for this second year was $961, which we turned into $2657 of free camping, which worked out to be an average of $13.93/night for our year's investment. We'll be parking the RV in storage soon after transitioning onto the boat, otherwise we would be seeking additional campsites through the last quarter of our membership and these figures would be even more favorable.

Crystal River, FL has boat ramps and manatees

Closing out our account was a bit of a hassle, they want it in writing as well as by phone call during which time they tried to talk me out of it. Because I'm a belts-and-suspenders type of gal, I also did a website chat and then followed-up by e-mail which they confirmed over a month after receipt. Time well tell if it has all been cancelled properly. I'll let you know in July.

Natchez Trace Campground in TN winds around a large pond.
The park also contains a fabulous rec hall with pool tables and a foosball table.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Oriental NC, a Sailors' Town

The town of Oriental brags that it has three boats for every human being. So as expected the town is set up well for cruisers. The local grocery store is a Piggly Wiggly and it has a shuttle van: for now it delivers groceries to the dock, in better days it shuttles cruisers to and from the store.

The OiNC shuttle

The adorable restaurants along the waterfront, shuttered for now, have wooden patios that look quite dog-friendly. I can't wait for the day they are populated and I can taste the goodies listed in the window menus. Everybody we meet around town shares a friendly wave. I imagine they are smiling beneath their masks.

The wind here is fairly constant; we're not that far from KittyHawk after all. I can see why the Wright Brothers chose this region for plane development.

The whole town follows a central essential website daily. It's a tidy way of keeping a community together, something I have not seen anywhere else in the nation. Check it out for a glimpse into this small town life:, it's got everything from the local gossip, to restaurant and business hours, to swap meet locations, to weather reports with a slant towards boaters' concerns. This morning a neighbor told us copperheads have come out of hibernation and are being seen around town, he read it on "the website". 

Here on the East Coast there are two tides to worry about. The normal moon tide that we are already familiar with, and also a wind tide, the latter of which being far more prevalent here. The wind blows water in and out of the rivers and since Minerva draws over 6'6" of boat draft when fully loaded, this greatly affects the windows for getting her into and out of the repair yard and some marinas. For now she is low on fuel and low on water so she can make it around town to her various appointments, she looks a bit cork-like riding a full foot or so above her usual waterline.

Minerva at rest in her Oriental Harbor Marina slip 

Buying a boat is a process, and we are now in the phase where repairs are being made to satisfy the insurance company, pursuant to surveyor recommendations. The things the insurance company is concerned with have to do with safety of vessel and crew, Lance has his own checklist above and beyond that. He loads the daily tools into the Mini almost every morning while I work at my desk and spends the day alongside the owner wrenching on this or that, both of them decked out in stylish N95 masks (we dug ours out of  the first aid kit). Later this week a different surveyor will come by to approve completion of the insurance company's checklist, next will be the sail test. Assuming all of that goes smoothly we will be trading keys and signed documents for our life savings. Hopefully soon.

New Friends in Times of Plague

We found covered storage for Loretta in nearby New Bern. Lance still wants to drive her home to California so my Dad can keep an eye on her but considering the state of the nation the trip might not be wise. We have completed quarantine here and there may not be services to support Loretta on her journey across the nation now, also he may not be able to make it back by public transport. Importantly, we'll lose sailing time while he makes the round trip, which becomes more precious as hurricane season approaches. So we'll wait and see on that for now. Oriental is a good spot to ride out the plague, and it would be safe and dry enough under cover for Loretta to wait out the summer while we sail up to Maine and back. Mr. Toad is not part of our long-term picture so we'll be looking for a new home for him soon, it makes more sense than storing him.

The RVers' world is beyond crazy right now. Some states have simply closed parks, cancelled incoming reservations and kicked everyone out who was already there. While this makes sense if you have a home to go to, or if you are just camping for fun when you should be sheltering at home, it doesn't make sense at all for full-timers. Forcing someone to move around who had been safely quarantined in place is the opposite of helpful, but that is exactly what has happened in many places. We barely made it into Oriental before the lockdown went into place by order of the NC governor, the park we left made it clear we couldn't come back once we had left, and we were one of the last allowed in before the town locked down on this end too. It made for a stressful transition, others haven't been as fortunate as us. Many full-timers we know have been bounced out with nowhere to go, roaming between WalMarts and private parks, always in quarantine since they are never allowed to stay anywhere for long. I'm grateful we made it into this private park just in time, it's within bicycling distance of most everything we need, which right now is an endless loop of boat,  chandlery, and groceries. The RV faces a huge lawn area, Lance thinks it is sod being prepared for sale. Chloe and Stewie frolic daily on it with the neighbor dogs and I enjoy the stunning green view outside my office window.

Chloe frolicking on the lawn beside the RV park. The light is magical here.

This is probably the last view I'll be enjoying from this window for a while. The next round of stunning views will all be from the water: Annapolis, New York, Maine. Maybe the fjords of Nova Scotia if we can get moving in time.

Internet Speed Comparison
Oriental RV Park, Oriental, NC
Sampled 3/31/20 at 11:41 am

MB down
MB up
Calyx (Sprint)
Google Fi
Jetpack (Verizon)
Park wifi

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Minerva, a real head-turner

A few weeks ago we were driving to meet another boat broker. This time we were headed to Brunswick, GA, a town that we liked, to see a catamaran we had high hopes for.

Prout Snowgoose 37

Here's the thing about catamarans. Yes they would be better for Lance's lame foot and balance issues. Yes they often have sliding doors and are easy to get around for the pets. Yes they have lots of top-side sunning area, room for wrangling dive gear, staying out of the sun, etc. Yes they are shallow draft and can therefore skitter into really shallow water places where the monohulls can't get. All of that is true.

They also don't sail as well as a monohull, all that space does not shake out to efficient living space like it should, and the bottom line is...

they are ugly.

There, I said it.
I hate the way they look.

The catamaran vs mono subject will be debated to the dying breath by any sailor who has owned one or the other. If you think I'm exaggerating, ask any sailor you meet. Type catamaran vs monohull into YouTube, pull up a chair and relax. You're going to be there for a while. You might open a beer, better yet... drag over the cooler.

Stern deck of the Endeavor

Anyhoo... we were driving to Brunswick to look at the Endeavor catamaran. I was hoping she would change my mind. From every logical standpoint, an Endeavor would make the perfect liveaboard  for the shallow waters of Florida, the Carribean, and the Great Loop. On the way to see her we crossed a bridge and drove along the high road next to the marina and my head nearly snapped right off my neck.

What was that... down in the marina... there with two masts and two roller furlers... what a beautiful boat! I have never seen one like that before. Focus... we have a date to keep.

Somehow I managed to keep the Mini on the highway and we met the broker as agreed. The catamaran was exactly what I expected. Large. Inefficient. Plenty of dive gear space. No actual living space. Kitchen impossible. Sigh.

The broker sensed us slipping away. He started talking faster and faster, and I suddenly realized he wasn't talking to me at all, he was solely focused on Lance, so I used my new superpower.

Didn't I tell you I have a superpower? I just discovered it recently. Here's how it works... people that talk loudly without pausing for air and don't invite a word in anywhere are really just talking to hear themselves talk. They are not interested in a conversation or an actual exchange of ideas at all, and they can simply be ignored. My presence is not required; I can walk away. People talking like this don't get upset about it, in fact they don't even seem to notice. How did I make it to age 47 without figuring this out before? Now it's my new favorite thing.

So... with the broker speed-talking at Lance who seemed to be enjoying the opportunity to engage, I took a big step backwards, and then another, and when nobody tried to rope me back in I started speed-walking down the docks. I had to see what that boat was. The beauty from the bridge. It's like she was calling me.

She was 10 docks down. She had a sister parked alongside. They were unbelievable.
The name rolls off the tongue.
It felt like wine. And good cheese. And stunning sunsets.

I stood there gawking for a little while when a curious face popped up from down below. Barbara said "are you oogling my boat?" and then started giggling.

She told me all about Amels. How the company was built by a Henri Amel and when he died he bequeathed the company directly to the employees and how they still make boats today. And how they are popular in Europe but rare in the USA, and against the odds somehow there are 6 in Brunswick marina on any given weekend, all of them world cruisers which probably represent the sum total of all the Amels in the USA. She told me how the company brags that their boats will hold 400+ bottles of wine.

I was totally smitten. Then Barbara started spinning yarns about the places her Amel had taken her. I was still standing there on the dock mesmerized, perhaps hours or days or maybe even weeks later, when Lance came to fetch me and reluctantly dragged me home. Barbara's Amel is 53 feet long. It's called a Super Maramu and it's way more boat than we need.

I could hardly bring myself to focus on the catamaran we'd gone there to see that day, or the other boats we had lined up to see afterwards. It's like getting a glimpse at a Rolls Royce then going back to a Ford existence.

A few stops later we were close enough to reach Wilmington, New Bern and Oriental NC. We toured an impressive Gulfstar 44, which was in excellent condition but too short for Lance. He waved his bloody hat at me with a frown. Hard no. I cancelled the other tour scheduled that day - a small catamaran in which I could not muster up any interest at all. I just couldn't imagine seeing it in the marina and being proud to call it mine, it made me sad just to think about it. So we thanked the broker and went home. It was Saturday.

We had lined up some serious contenders on Monday, and found ourselves with nothing to do on Sunday. I was musing over breakfast to Lance about the Amel we'd seen back in Brunswick, and said "too bad they don't make a smaller one". He poked around on the internet for a minute, and guess what... Amel did make a smaller one; an Amel Marimu 46, with standard sails instead of roller-furlers (another neverending debate, hope you dragged that cooler over). And there was one in Oriental being offered for sale by its owner, which is how it had escaped our search efforts before which had been primarily focused on YachtWorld, a brokers' website. We called the owner. He was keen. So we popped down there at Sunday midday.

Minerva on the hard in Oriental NC

From the moment we pulled in and saw her on the hard we were in love. She was just like the one we had seen in Brunswick but a little smaller; but still frighteningly large with her whole hull exposed to the elements and a fresh coat of bottom paint. There was a huge ladder tied to the stanchions on her port side. It seemed to go all the way to heaven. Her name is Minerva.

She was under contract with another buyer at the time we met her. But that contract was contingent on the buyer selling his condo in Florida first. And the economy is scary... coronavirus and all... and we have cash stashed away from the house sale for this very purpose... I buckled in and did my very best negotiating while Lance paced nervously outside.

Our offer was accepted, and we are working through the process of making her our own. It'll take time. We are safe in Oriental with Loretta, Mr. Toad, and Minerva while we get it all worked out.

She is ours. The rest of the world can go totally haywire if it wants to, we found our boat and she is ours.

Enfin. Finally. Our long, long search is at an end.

Internet Speed Comparison
Goose Creek Resort, Newport, NC
Sampled 3/19/20 at 2:50 pm

MB down
MB up
Calyx (Sprint)
Google Fi
Jetpack (Verizon)
Park wifi
Additional $ didn’t test