Archives: Chicago – Mobile

Looking for a sailboat

Looking for a sailboat

July 2012 we sold our beautiful Ranger 28. Now, we are on the look out for a new boat, one that will take us around the world. We currently live in Zuleta, in a small house in the Northern Andes of Ecuador. We have been here since December 2011, getting our economic situation ready for our circumnavigation. As of now, the plan is to buy our next boat after our wedding on August 2013 and move aboard between then and December.

We have always enjoyed researching sailboats and that is exactly what we have been doing since we decided we will attempt to go around this earth by sail. Below, you will find our favorite picks. We have found a lot of the models we like through Blue Water Boats, so you’ll see that site often below.

What we are looking for:

(If you are a sailor looking to sell your boat and have any of the models below or a boat that fits our specification, shoot us an email and we will certainly consider your boat as our next home).

Our next boat has to be a blue water worthy boat. Granted all boats can be sailed in blue water, but we are looking for a full keel or center board (this latter one will only be considered if there have been other sailors who recommend this specific model, after having had sailed her in big water themselves). We want a center-cockpit, 39-43 ft. (to 45ft -maybe) long. With a v-berth and an aft state-room, preferably both with a head. The galley must be an important part of the layout and the main cabin layout has to be cozy, unlike Surkha (our Ranger 28) whose main cabin consisted of two benches facing each other. I have included a picture of the models we are considering, why and a link to a full description of the boat in Blue Water Boats.

This might be our favorite boat so far. Our favorite part of the Corbin 39, is the layout inside. It has a spacious galley, two state-rooms, two heads and a nice main cabin that can sleep 4 people. In most vessels these characteristics come in hand with poor sailing performance, a big boat and not blue water worthy. Not the Corbin though, according to what we have read. Marius Corbin, who commissioned Dufour to design the boat, states the following regarding to their circumnavigation-worthiness, “Safely and comfortably around the world…We get postcards from all over the world…what better recommendation is there for a strong and seaworthy vessel.” We have also read other reviews where blue water sailing is listed as one of her attributes. One problem we have found is that, due to the custom nature of their production there can be a lot of variation of materials used inside the cabin. Some can be beautiful teak, while others give the impression of unfinished boats. If you have a Corbin, we are interested. Please contact us. If you have any advice regarding the boat, let us know.

Review of Corbin 39 and another one from Jordan Yatchs.

The Endeavour 43, is on our list for various reasons, price, layout, space and keel. The cabin layout is beautiful, fitting all our requirements. Due to its high production since the 80s, there are a lot of Endeavor 43s and they are under $100k. The deck space is suppose to be very well designed and people love it. Now, some of the downsides are, its in water performance, Bernie Katchor a long time sailor disputes the Endevour performace saying that he has sailed his in open water for 17 years and has never found it to be a poor performant. If you are interested in this boat, here is a link to Katchor’s book, Around The Next Bend, where he talks about the pros and cons of Endeavours, plus his adventures.

Here is a link to the Endeavour 43 review in Blue Water Boat.

This boat fits everyone of our requirements, but the galley layout, which is located in a hallway – which could be nice for counter space, but not so much for…. walking. The Bristol 45 has a similar layout with a better designed galley, but its sailing reviews are not stellar, plus it is 2 ft above our “perfect” boat. Nonetheless if we find a Bristol 41 outfitted for a circumnavigation, we will take her.

The Bristol 41.1 review. 

Selling Surkha today?

Selling Surkha today?

Last night, 3 days after posting Surkha on Craigslist, 2 days after being contacted by the first potential buyer, Mike stepped from the dock to Surkha’s decks. He had brought us a bottle of wine as a welcome to Mobile and the South, as he had noted in our phone conversations, that we were both far away from our homes. We didn’t know what to expect inviting this stranger to our boat, to potentially be her new owner, but whatever expectations we had were pleasantly exceeded.

The three of us ended up spending over an hour talking about sailing, poking around the boat, exploring her quirks and upgrades. After the tour, we decided that he would think it over during the night and that most likely we would meet up again this morning around 11, to haul Surkha out of the water for a bottom inspection…

And that’s exactly where we are at. Up early, we are going to clean to decks and box up our last bit of stuff. Breath held, we are hoping for a positive haul-out and sale thereafter.

Ayer en la noche, tres días después de poner Surkha en Craigslist y 2 días después de que la primera persona nos contacto para comprarle, Mike llego a nuestro velero. Nos trajo una botella de vino, como un regalo de bienvenida a Mobile y a la parte sur de Estados Unidos – el notó en nuestras conversaciones de teléfono que nosotros dos estamos muy lejos de nuestra casa. No sabíamos que iba pasar, teniendo un desconocido en el barco y un potencial nuevo dueño, pero nuestras expectativas fueron excedidas.

Al final, nosotros très hablamos por unas horas, discutiendo la arte de navegar, barcos, y Surkha. Después del tour, decidimos que el iba pensarlo en la noche y que probablemente, hoy en la mañana ibamos a sacarle del agua para ver la condición de la parte de abajo.

Y eso es exactamente en lo que estamos ahorita. Nos despertamos temprano, en un ratito vamos a limpiar los cubiertas y empacar nuestras ultimas cosas en cajas para aumentar a nuestra montaña de cartón en el muelle. Esperamos que estos próximos pasos vayan bien y que vendamos a Surkha.

Ready to head north

Ready to head north

Yesterday, we finished cleaning the cabin, scrapping the propeller and revising the electrical and motor systems. By 4 in the afternoon everything had gone back to normal. The only memory Surkha had of the mold laid on the new wall arrangement and some that we still have to clean from the deck. We will take off today before noon and our first stop will be Little and Big Alligator Creek.

Hope everything is going well for y’all.

Ayer terminamos de limpiar la cabina y la hélice, chequear todos los sistemas eléctrico y el motor. A las 4 de la tarde todo estaba listo. La única memoria Surkha tiene de los hongos quedan en el recuerdo de las viejas paredes y un poco en la cubierta que todavía tenemos que limpiar. Comenzaremos nuestro viaje al norte, hoy antes de medio dia.

Muchos saludos a todos.

Surkha’s surprise

Surkha’s surprise

“She’s still floating” Jax said, when we parked the car in front of Surkha yesterday morning. We had driven most of the night, thanks to Martels’s words which kept us awake, and seeing our boat was all we wanted. We walked towards Surkha and hopped into the cockpit. The outside looked very clean, but we could see black mold all around the hatch, ” hopefully this is not a preview of what we’ll see inside” I said. We opened her up and an earthy smell came flying out. Yes, indeed our boat was covered with a dark mold. We looked at each other and said “We expected bad and I think that’s what we have, time to start working”.

Surkha, was only meant to stay in the water alone for a month, our decision to stay in Ecuador meant that she was left floating for 7 months without the proper preparation. We looked around the cabin and saw that the moldyist thing we had, were the “carpeted” walls our boat came with, these were later torn out.

We dropped off the car, picked up some cleaning supplies and started to work on Surkha at around 10:00am. We took EVERYTHING out – because it all had to be washed. The scene reminded me of when we first got her. Some food was lost, luckily the glass jar protected most of it, and some clothes were lost to really bad mold stains. Other than that, it was all cleanable. Inside, we found spiders, lots little larvae and a wasp nest equipped with its owners – they were cleaned too.

At around 11:00pm we ready to hit the sack, so we lay clean sheets in each one of the settees in the main cabin and for the first time in boat history, we slept apart. Today I am glad to see the day is cloudy, yesterday the sun was out all day and it would be fair to say that we both sweated our bodies weight working. After Jax wakes we will continue to work, focusing on the engine and interiors a little bit more. We hope we can make it out by tomorrow, we’ll see.

Riverside, an industrial ride

Riverside, an industrial ride

From the very first day Jax and I started our trip down the Little Calumet River, we were blown away by the beauty yet coldness of the industrial sites that occupied the river shores. All throughout our journey South, from Chicago to Mobile, factories reminded us that we were on a ride down North America’s backbone. Nature played a minimal role, as huge dredging machines maintained the 9ft controlled depth, as if it were assumed that no wildlife lived there. Young, mostly undernourished, trees covered the shore of the rivers and we did not see many fish, deer or alligators feasting in the mucky water. Yet, fisherman were plentiful, resting on their boats – I wondered if they knew not to be fooled by the trees nearby, for we were all in an industrial water slide.

Click on the photo to see more:

700 miles in an overstuffed Prius

700 miles in an overstuffed Prius

Saturday started early. Our plan was to drive away from the Dog River Marina around 7am. Of course, correcting for “cruising time”, that meant that the boat’s 4.5 inhabitants were just crawling out of cold beds around 7:30am. The next 4 hours were spent on last minute packing and the final steps of closing down and winterizing our sailboat. Around 11:30, the Prius and Thule topper were stuffed full of Tiger In Our Car’s supplies from a 3-month road trip, everything Caye and I would need to live for the next 2.5 months of traveling in Ecuador, 4 twenty-somethings and one labradoodle puppy.

Some numbers from the trip that followed:
714 miles driven
11 hours in the car
12 donuts consumed
6 cups of coffee consumed
4 gas stops
25 miles/gallon average
1 state border crossed
Dog farts…. countless

We arrived at the Vacation Village Condos in Weston, FL just before midnight and were greeted by a spacious second floor flat, with two bedrooms, three bathrooms a full kitchen, porch and jacuzzi. Three hours of dancing, sing-a-longs and imbibing followed – a good cure for cramped joints and sore car butts. Even at midnight, the temperature was around 75 F, 24 C – a very good sign.

At this point, it’s probably worth giving a bit more explanation about what exactly we are doing, considering we are not, as our tagline states, “cruising the world” at the moment. Way back in August, we bought round-trip tickets between Miami and Quito for December 13th through February 8th. We are kind of on an every-other year holiday schedule with our families and this year will be the first that I spend both Christmas and New Years in Ecuador – exciting! Buying the tickets in August was symbolic because it meant that even though we had only sailed solo once in our lives, a few weeks prior, we had committed to sailing Surkha over 1,500 miles from Wisconsin to the Gulf of Mexico. A leap of faith to say the least.

So, this whole trip, we have been aiming to arrive in Mobile, AL a couple of weeks before our flight, in order to meet up with Morgan and Jena and get in some quality beach time before they headed back to snowy WI for the holidays and we headed back to Quito’s chilly 9,350 foot elevation. Unfortunately, our arrival in Alabama coincided with a bit of a cold streak and neither cruising or swimming were options. Rather than just hanging out in Surkha’s mini-cabin for two weeks, wet, cold and cramped, we decided to start calling up friends and family, looking for a place to stay in Florida – somewhere warmer and closer to our departure airport. Good fortune was with us and Caye’s stepfather generously let us use a week of his timeshare network to stay in a Weston condo. Thanks Ivan! So, that’s where we are now. None of us have spent a lot of time in condos before and the population density and general intensity of South East Florida is bound to be a adventure. A fun and warm adventure.

Last day in Mobile AL, for now

Last day in Mobile AL, for now

We are headed off to Florida tomorrow. Yep, I know I still owe you an explanation about our trip, but I feel like my words need visual backing, which I will only get once we get there – so, you’ll have to wait to hear all the juicy details.

Today, we got everything ready aboard and on Tiger In Our Car‘s vehicle. We have an 11 hour drive ahead of us tomorrow and we hope to get an early start. Jax and I worked, worked and worked on our job and boat related projects. Morgan and Jena did all kinds of stuff, from relaxing, to working, to redesigning their car, to imagining Hank as crocodile bait. At night, we treated ourselves to a Mexican dinner, at La Cocina – a review will follow this amazing restaurant! Anyway, just thought I should check in, drop some photos, type a mini update and wish you all (or y’all) a happy 2nd of December.

(Mi cosita (Jaxon) the master editor, has retired for the night, making this post one only reviewed by an English as a second language speaker, not good blog etiquette or reader friendly, so forgive me for any spelling mistakes. Buenas noches gente)

 

Southern hospitality, food, stories and more

Southern hospitality, food, stories and more

Before coming to Alabama, I was a little nervous. Being from Latin America, I did not want to get wrapped up in their racist laws against immigrants. For over a year, Jax and I have heard stories of people getting IDed due to their physical appearance, American born children from illegal immigrants not being allowed in school and social health services disappearing for low income families – regulations that do not show the best part of Alabama. Once we arrived in Mobile, AL, as in any other state, we were welcomed with open arms, people always ready to give us a hand and entertain us with Hurricane Katrina, Oil Spill and “rich Yankee” stories.

In the last two days, we toured Mobile looking for interesting coffee shops, pet stores, places to eat and thrift stores, in the Tiger In Our Car vehicle. Morgan drives, Jena is shotgun and Jax, Hank and I lay on their bed in the back hoping we do not get pulled over, peaking into Mobile through our blanket – this will change on our drive to Miami after a remodeling of the back seat.

In between driving and occupying the dock like gypsies, we have talked with lots of interesting people that stop by to hear our story and share theirs.

Concrete things we did today… Morgan got his hair cut and did some drawings, Jena got her applications for master school sent and cut Morgan’s hair, Hank ate 1/4 of his bone, his entire pig lung and didn’t pooped worms, Jax worked, worked, worked and I took photos and did research for an article – to mention a few.  Tomorrow will be cleaning up day and Wednesday we will taking off for Miami – the story behind this trip is kind of uncharacteristic of us, yet very fortunate! We will tell you all about it later.

Locking through, a brief tutorial on lock edicate and maneuvering

Locking through, a brief tutorial on lock edicate and maneuvering

Before our journey from Chicago, IL to Mobile, AL, the idea of traversing 40+ locks was daunting. Now, after locking through all of them in different times of  day/night and types of weather, we have realized that not knowing what to expect can make locks scarier than they actually are. So below, we have included some advice based on our own experiences.

When approaching the lock, hail them through the VHF radio. We found that the hailing channel used changes depending on the area. So, before taking off on your trip make sure you know on what channel or channels you can find the lock master. If you have no information going in, ask a tow captain or other boater by radio, earlier in the day.

When addressing the lock master, you can mention the lock name through the radio, repeat the name twice, state who is calling and where you are headed (example: Pickwick Lock, Pickwick Lock, this is Southbound pleasure craft, Surkha, over) and wait for a response. If you obtain none, try another channel. If the other recommended channel does not work, then wait because they might be busy. If communication fails, follow the red, yellow and green lights, which just as traffic signals, indicate if the lock is ready for you.

If you do get a hold of the lock master, tell them what kind of vessel you are, if you are just cruising, you are a “pleasure craft”, let them know your direction, South or North bound, state your location (river or channel mile) and your estimated time of arrival. Commercial and governmental vessels have priority always, in some locks you might have to wait for hours or even overnight, so consider that when planning your schedule. If you think your day is going to be tight, call the lock master the night before and ask him or her about their schedule and they will usually tell you when would be a good time to arrive.

Once you are inside the lock, have a line ready on your mid-ship cleat and fenders in whichever side you prefer to tie on. We had four fenders hanging on our port side our whole trip from Chicago to Mobile. Only once did a lock master asked us to tie on our starboard side. Most locks will have “floaters”, shown in the photo below, which will float down or up with you. This is where you wrap your line. When tying to the floater, make sure you pull hard, so that your vessel’s fenders are pressed lightly against the wall, this will prevent you from scratching your boat. In some states, such as Mississippi and Alabama, it is a requirement that anyone handling the lines wear a life jacket, so have one or two ready just in case. Some locks ask for your registration number, so keep it close by. During our trip, we did encounter a lock that tossed us two lines to hold on to while lowering us. If this is the case and there is any wind or current, make sure that the strongest of your crew members is at the side of the boat from where the force is coming from. In some smaller locks you wrap your line around a fixed circular cleat and hold on, letting go gradually as your being lowered.

Once your lines are secure, call the lock master and let them know you are ready, some will wait to close the lock door until you are ready, some do not care. A whistle or horn will sound once they start dropping or raising the water level. Once the process is done and the doors open, another alarm will sound. Remember locks are no wake zones, so keep your speed down coming in and leaving. It is always good form to thank the lock master when exiting. If its foggy, dark or you a do not have AIS onboard, you can ask the lock masters if they know of any tow boats coming your way. They will often tell you locations, names and speeds for up to 30 miles of traffic.

From Chicago to Mobile, we met only three female lock masters, so make sure you let them know how cool it is to hear a female voice on the radio, for the majority of tow captains and lock masters are men.

PS: Do not forget that next to every lock there is a damp and if you go closer to 800 ft, not only will you be violating the law but endangering yourself.

overwhelming sea and tiger in our car

overwhelming sea and tiger in our car

We have been in Mobile Bay for a day and half. What we thought would bring a huge feeling of accomplishment, has become an ocean of uncertainty. We left our anchorage at around 8am, with a Southeast wind on our bow, the waves were present yet not intimidating. Within a couple hours we were in Mobile Bay, which is nothing like we expected. The international port, what appeared to be a robotically controlled operation was flooded with HUGE cargo ships. We got to see raw metal being unloaded from a Panamanian ship, remembering that only three months before we had seen barges being loaded with shredded metal waste near Calumet, IL.

As we left the industrial area, we met the ocean. The ocean… well, the sea… well the bay… but I cannot describe how immense it felt! That feeling of “WOWWW!, we did it” slowly became, “Jaxon? how do we do this?”. We sat down, trying to ignore the wind and attempting to learn how to navigate the sea. Relearning charts, buoys and navigation. We were hungry, so I went below to make quesadillas and then I heard, “Caye, you know I don’t know about this, you know sailing, having to think about so much” there was silence, I stopped working on our meal and sat by Jax, trying to help with navigation while the waves washed our deck. Jaxon’s uncertainty weighted my heart to the bottom of the sea and I was speechless, we were once again humbled.

Two hours later, we got to the Dog River Marina to fill our diesel, trying to plan our next anchorage. While filling, we started to chat with the dock master and a tenant – conversations about anchorages, oil spills, politics of the South, Anchorages of Florida or lack of them, filled the air. Two hours later, before leaving the dock, we realized that our membership to the American Great Loop Association granted us a free night at the marina.

Once tied up in our slip, we cleaned up the boat and waited for our friends Morgan and Jena, who arrived at 9:00pm. After meeting their cute puppy Hank, drinking wine and chatting until 2 am we tucked our confused selves into bed. We lay there remembering that adjusting to the big water will take a while and no decision should be made until we have tried it – a step at a time. For now, we will sit back and enjoy our friend’s company and slowly explore the area.

Feeling the ocean breeze

Feeling the ocean breeze

Another 4am morning today, third in a row. The fog was heavy again – heavier than yesterday. We were docked near a Canadian trawler, Last Chance, who was also awake early. We decided to sail the 3 miles to the lock together, relying on their instruments to get through the fog. By the time we arrived at the lock, the fog was so thick that the lockmaster decided to pause all locking until it lifted.

Taking advantage of the break in a long day, we invited the trawler to raft up and enjoyed pleasant conversation, toast and tea in their stateroom. Alison and Martin (who’s actually Dutch originally) have been living aboard for a couple years with their 13 year-old dog. We really enjoyed our time with them and it was officially the first experience, of more than a couple minutes, that we’ve shared with any other south-bound cruisers.

The rest of the day was easy and very similar to yesterday. The late start meant that we had to night sail in order to make our next anchorage. I am writing this at 7:40pm and we have another hour or so to go. We started today around mile 116. We will start tomorrow at mile 20. That’s right, 20 miles to go before Surkha gets her first taste of saltwater! We can smell the sea air already.

Sailing 100 miles, 14 hours on Thanksgiving

Sailing 100 miles, 14 hours on Thanksgiving

Today was the big day – our first “century”. We spent last night near a Coast Guard cutter station in Demopolis, AL. The next morning we were up at 4am for the second day in a row. Shortly after, we were on deck, in 30* temperatures, a flawless starry sky above and ready to get wet and muddy. Anchors stowed and transmission coaxed into forward, we headed out into a deep fog.

The morning’s fog lasted for three hours. In this time, we passed three oncoming barges. Needless to say, we had every forward and rear facing light on the boat turned on, air-horn at the ready and eyes peeled forward. After finding the first barge, we were in a better situation because we were able to ask him for the positions and names of the next barges behind.

The fog lifting off the river on Thanksgiving morning was a sight to see and we soaked up every beautiful moment. Orange sunrays escaping from the holes in the trees along the bank cut swathes from the dense fog. Herons called out from the shoreline and every so often we would find ourselves alongside some towering loading dock or derelict pier.

The next 8 hours of sailing were uneventful. Hour after hour of humming diesel engine setting the mood. Around 6:00pm, just as the the sun made its last valiant stand, we saw an outlandish sight – captain Jack Sparrow. This Captain Jack looked to be in his mid-twenties, had dreadlocks, a raggy vest and 28-foot schooner made entirely of bamboo, old plastic soda bottles, blue plastic tarp and string. He had obviously been on the water for weeks or months, based on the condition of his craft and accumulation of garbage in the boat – two things we can relate to. Dumbstruck, we doubled back for a chat.

Jack turned out to be Zachary. Without home or job in Tuscalusa, AL, he happened upon a stand of bamboo and decided to build himself a boat. After its completion, he hit the river, planning to sail to Mobile, AL. Three months later, winds have been against him all too often and the current, which changes seasonally, is extremely slow – about 1 mph. Intrigued by Zachary and the boat, we offered a tow to the next dock. Towing the somewhat fragile boat meant that we could only do about half our previous speed, effectively doubling the length of the very last leg of our 100 miles, 14 hour day. The slow speed did leave time for good conversation, stories and some singing.

In reflection, 100 miles did not feel that long. Shifting our much anticipated arrival time at the end of the day did stretch us a bit thin, but it was well worth the odd meeting. Our Thanksgiving meal? Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the last few minutes before passing out for the evening.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

What Inspired Us To Take Off

What Inspired Us To Take Off

As recent young graduates, Jax and I are often asked why we decided to go sailing? And how can we afford it? Below I (Caye) will attempt to answer these questions (With Jaxon’s input, of course)

The night of the third day we had known each other and my third day at Beloit College, Jax and I decided he was going to wait for me to graduate (he was a junior and I was a freshman) and sail the world. Without realizing, that night we had made a “deal” that for some reason we both took seriously, leading to the solidification of our relationship. Within a couple weeks we had moved in together and were committed to make it work and get to know each other along the way. As we continued our studies and life together, it became very apparent that traveling by sea, was exactly what we should do.

During college, I studied public health, with an emphasis on maternal health in “developing countries” and graduated with honors, loving my field, in only three years. Jaxon, studied environmental studies, with a focus on emerging technologies, but spent most of his days starting businesses on campus. When I first met him, Jax and his friend Paul were starting an online general store, that included full-on delivery to your campus mail box of any imaginable needed good, Beloit General. The store was hosted in our shared 7 x 15 ft dorm room. Throughout all of his college years, Jax continued to do web development, which later became our company, AndandoMedia.

A year into our relationship, he was managing the sales of the recycled goods I made and sold to local stores, Yapa. Within two years, we had a crêpe stand that served warm food to drunk college students every weekend, The G Spot. As I hurried to finish school in three years, so we could take off, Jax came up with a new business idea every week, he would present the plan to me following it with “remember that from every 1,000 ideas, only one is good”, while his friend John and I tried to convince him to rather finish his papers and focus on school.
As we both explored our passions for sociology and entrepreneurship, we continued to make films, which kept us busy while the sailing idea was on the back burner. During college we produced a short film about eating disorders and a short documentary about teen pregnancy in Beloit, WI, both of which were mentioned in and admitted to various film festivals around the US. With a shared passion for traveling, people, cultures, community and this world, Jax and I decided that we needed to experience it first hand. I had (and have) a special interest in learning how the theories I was taught in school, regarding public health, sociology and environmental conservation, fit into the “real world”. Being passionate learners, observers and analysts, we both wish to be an active part of this world, learning as much as we can from it.
Having graduated with very good grades and with a good critical mind, yes, I could have gone to get my masters and PHD in global public health and further my academic and career endeavor. Jax, I am certain, could have started incredibly successful companies in a much more stable and reliable environment, but what would that have done? Created two new modern-day, socially successful people out of the millions that pursue a “normal life” annually.

But, where would that leave us in life?

How could we settle down, knowing that there is so much to see and learn from in this world?

What does it mean to be an expert in public health, if I can afford private insurance?

How can I talk about maternal mortality, if I have never known a family touched by such sorrow?

How can we learn about this world from an office?

How can I advocate for those women, who do not have a voice in the public sphere, without knowing if they actually want me to dedicate my life to their cause?

How can we aspire to do some good in this world, if we do not go out and get to know it well, or at least attempt to?

Too many questions have not been answered in our lives to assume we know what we want to do for the rest of them. That goes for sailing as well, but we are eager to explore.

After discussing why we craved traveling this world, we realized that Jaxon’s passion for entrepreneurial adventures would allow us to live life as we wanted, which so very few people can find the means to do.
Prior to June 2011, when we got Surkha, neither of us knew how to sail big boats. But we decided that we would make our trip by water to be more conscious of the environment and it would also allow us to stay longer at each port. Now we sit in an old barn in the Northern Andean range of Ecuador, still exploring our life, starting businesses, making films and having lots of fun.

How can we afford it?

Well, as I mentioned before, our pack of two is completely blessed to have an entrepreneurial soul in it. Jax founded the company, Reneweb.net, that makes most of the money that helps us survive. Reneweb.net is a environmentally friendly WordPress hosting site (now Inventando.in – part of the AndandoMedia family). During college Jax taught me CSS and HTML coding and I started designing most of the websites, integrating me into the company in my sophomore year in college. In the past we have also done website development, but when lots of job started coming in, we were faced by the question of expanding the small company and losing what little free time we had or not taking in more development projects. We decided the latter.

Occasionally, we still do some development work depending on the nature of the project. We also have money invested in a few companies in Ecuador, my home country, and some assets. However, although the words investments and assets are in the last sentence, I have to clarify that in between paychecks, we barely have enough to afford our monthly expenses, which as liveaboards with very few luxuries, is very small. This paragraph would not be entirely honest, without mentioning the help of our parents, who are always willing to lend us a hand when every debit card is rejected. That said, striving for financial independence has been an important part of our development and we have learned much through a constant need to find new income streams. We are certain that our financial situation will improve as we continue this journey. We are resourceful people and love food too much to go hungry.

This is what we think:

The time is now to live your dreams! We are certain about that. If you cannot afford them, then scale them down, but do not keep working to have “enough”, because you will likely never be satisfied. Take a break if you do not feel content and analyze your days and adjust your situation to be happier. Remember that no life is easy and that we humans have a tendency to envy other peoples’ lives, even when we have achieved what we think would make us content. Dreams, do not always have to be big, luxurious or stereotypical retirement plans, just think what really makes you happy?

Acknowledge that if you are reading this text, you are already more fortunate than many, not because you landed in our site, but rather because you have access to a computer, electricity and the possibility to be an agent of positive change. We live in a world full of people of different ethnicities, that speak different languages, that worship at their pace and desire, that dress differently and conceive of this world in their own unique way. We are different, yet we are all human and by being human we can change our situation for the better, especially those in socially democratic republics. So, do not pity “Africans” do not devalue “Latin Americans”, do not fear “Middle Easterns”, do not envy “Europeans”, do not hate “Americans” and do not think “Asians” are one ethnicity, for the words I have used to describe people are used way too often and are worthless. Admire us as one, as a species and remember that generalizing is antiquated, we are one of countless species in this world and they too deserve to be respected just as you and I.

 

We are flying! Estamos volando!

We are flying! Estamos volando!

Our last update was mid-evening two days ago. To recap, the anchorage we wanted was too shallow, so we had to night-sail for 2 hours or so. We ended up finding another anchorage in about half the distance we thought we would need and dropped anchor around 8:00pm – it felt like 10pm with the 3 preceding hours of darkness and tiredness from waking at 4am.

The following day (yesterday) was a short one. We had the option to travel 36 miles or over 100. We obviously opted for the first option, thereby putting our estimated arrival in Mobile, AL at Saturday, rather than Friday – still 4 days earlier than we’d thought a week ago. It’s funny how little we can accurately predict when we will be in a given spot on this trip. Cruisers are notoriously bad at keeping schedules or even having plans, sailing cruisers are even worse because their travels are so weather dependent. Add the rivers’ limited anchorages to the equation and a broken transmission and our schedule has been varying by weeks or months, but I digress…

The 36-mile day was a welcome respite between the previous 16-hour day and today’s 11-hour day. We found our anchorage around 1pm and it was just about everything we could wish for.  “Cochrane cutoff” is a loopy bit of the river that was bypassed by a man-made canal – a cutoff. For us, it offered perfect 9-foot/3-meter depths, not a bit of civilization in site, incredible vine-covered trees and foliage bathing in the shallow shore waters, a full accompaniment of birdsong and best of all, temperatures pushing 80 degrees F/26 degrees C.

Caye was overjoyed by the temperature and location. I, in the meantime, was having a bit of a grumpy-attack and couldn’t quite seem to appreciate the situation or say anything positive. In colloquial English, we would call this “being a wet blanket”. The funk was of course totally unfounded and inexplicable. With a bit of poking and prodding from Caye, I quickly recovered and opened my eyes to the incredible situation in which I found myself – in the most awe-inspiring anchorage of the trip and in love with my best friend. After this episode passed, we put on shorts for the first time in three months and got straight to work on the multitude of internet projects that occupy most of our free-time. Fast internet and our new battery meant that we were able to put in a good 5 hours working. We were ecstatic – the projects are fun and challenging and it feels so good to be productive. Both this site and our web hosting and development company are improving and expanding – the fruits of some of this work will be rolled out over the next weeks.
Stay tuned

Heading South Fast

Heading South Fast

Our last two days have brought with them some change. For starters, we are in semi-warm humid weather, big plus. Second, due to the large spacing in between adequate anchorage, we are putting in very long days – 13+ hours. We have entered the Tombigbee River and finally we are using Señor Tutti again, our auto pilot, whose main goal is to hold the tiller straight, giving our hands a break and making our trip more efficient. Regardless of the changes, we are still meeting very interesting people and listening to amazing literature like South, The Story of Shackleton’s Last Expedition by Sir Ernest Shackleton.

South, is the first-hand account of an epic and inspiring adventure of the Endurance‘s 22-man crew, who in the pursuit of crossing Antarctica by foot/dog are frozen in pack ice with their vessel and have to find their way back to civilization. Sir Shackleton, a detail-driven writer, does a fairly good job at inspiring us to keep pushing our miles as we cruise through these warm, calm, iceberg-free waters.

This morning we woke up at 4:10 am and left the Midway Marina, were we restocked Surkha, at 4:35 am. We went through five locks and reached our anchorage at 4:40pm, only to find that it was not deep enough. After “bumping the bottom” a number of times, we were forced to continue 30 more miles in search of deeper water. Tomorrow, we will leave Mississippi State and enter Alabama and at this pace we might even make it to Demopolis, the last big city and marina before Mobile, AL and the Gulf. This means that by this time Friday, we might be bathing Surkha in salt water for her first time.

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