Preparing for a hurricane

By Kevin 

On our drive down to Florida, just after leaving the Smoky Mountains, we got news that tropical storm Isaac had formed and was possibly heading to south Florida. (Thanks for the news, Canadian family!) Unfortunately, this is also where we have Real Life berthed in Fort Lauderdale.  


(Just another day at my new office, Real Life‘s engine room.)

So, we knew we now needed to head down to Fort Lauderdale to secure the boat and prepare for our first big storm. We arrived about 4:00 PM on Thursday and quickly got a room at our favorite Holiday Inn Express on Commercial Blvd. The front desk clerk even recognized Jen and gave us a discounted upgrade to a suite. (Sweet!)

The next day and a half we spent getting the boat ready to meet Issac. We figured out how to drop the three sails, which are all equipped with roller furling gear. Although we’ve sailed on boats with similar gear, we’ve never had the need to do anything other than furl and unfurl! We learned that the trick is to WD-40 any screw or fastening before you try loosening it.

Next we cleared the deck of all the loose stuff. Diesel and gasoline canisters, canvas awnings, even the large bimini enclosure over the center cockpit. We left the dinghy and engine on the davits but secured it to the transom with an extra line, so it wouldn’t be blown or slammed against the boat.


(The whole crew pitched in before the storm clouds arrived.)

We tied down both anchors. We secured halyards so they wouldn’t flail in the wind. And, we added additional (new) 5/8″ double braid lines and fenders. Unfortunately the slip that we are in doesn’t have great pilings for securing aft spring lines but we made due.

In the end, according to a phone call from a neighboring sailor, it got sloppy during the storm but it didn’t do any damage. We’ve yet to see for ourselves and I’ll be anxious until we return to Fort Lauderdale in a week or two to check for ourselves.

Pack for a year

By Kevin

We’ve read many how-to-sail-around-the-world handbooks and manuals in the past 6 monnths as we’ve been getting ready to move aboard Real Life. One of the to-do items on our master checklist was “Pack personal items.”

Ok, then. So, what exactly does one pack when planning to be away from home for a year? The sailing manuals had lots to say on the topic, beside telling hopeful cruisers which spare parts to carry to the Bahamas (surely a future blog post here) or how to preserve your fresh eggs for months (slather them in petroleum jelly!).

Here is what I’ve packed. (Each of us had slight variations of this list.)

  • sturdy flip-flops (they’ve been across the Atlantic with me)
  • Sperry boat shoes
  • foul weather boots
  • boat-friendly sneakers
  • foul weather full-hand sailing gloves
  • 4 pair of athletic socks
  • 1 belt
  • 7 pair of underwear
  • 3 undershirts
  • 5 t-shirts
  • 3 button-down, short-sleeve shirts (dinner shirts!)
  • 1 pair of cotton trousers
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 5 pair of shorts
  • 2 pair of swim trunks (I may buy 1 more pair, as this will be a daily item)
  • 2 swim shirts/rash guards
  • 1 pair of long pajama pants
  • 1 pair of pajama shorts
  • 1 track suit
  • 1 light wind breaker
  • 1 light fleece jacket
  • 1 rain jacket
  • 1 pair of rain over-pants
  • 1 set of foulies (lined jacket and trousers)
  • 1 baseball cap
  • 1 broad-rimmed hat
  • 1 fleece cap
  • 2 pair of prescription glasses
  • 1 pair of prescription sunglasses
  • 1 pair of non-prescription, wraparound sunglasses (polarized)
  • 90 pairs of disposable contacts (enough for a year)
  • toiletries for a few months (we’ll really stock up before leaving Fort Lauderdale)
  • 15+ books (no technology or startup books allowed on this trip)
  • Chess board and clock (you never know where you’ll find an opponent)
  • Digital gear, including cameras, iPod, laptop, chargers, cables, etc.
  • Automatic inflation PFD (Personal Inflation Device)


Smoky Mountains

By Jennifer

On our road trip to Florida we decided to take a detour through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that straddles the Tennessee and North Carolina stateline. I wish we could have stayed there for a couple days to explore the fun mountain-side boutique towns of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. But, we were fixated on traveling along the one, and only, main road that bisects the ridgeline of the Smoky Mountains to reach the crest before sundown.

You’ll see in the slideshow beautiful vistas, the stone wall where Franklin D. Roosevelt designated the park in 1940, an entrance to the Appalachian Trail, Clingmans Dome — the summit at 6,643 feet — and a herd of elk that was settled alongside the road at the base of the mountain. One side note about the entrance to the Appalachian Trail there. Right after we snapped the picture of the kids at the sign, a couple who looked in their early seventies came hiking by me adorned in their outdoor gear, walking poles, and overstuffed backpacks. I stared at them as they gently disappeared beyond the trail marker. I was speechless staring at this trail-dirty couple doing their thing on the Appalachian Trail. I have no idea how long they had hiked. Boy, I wish I would have stopped them and asked. I have been kicking myself ever since. Anyway, I was in awe.

Departure day


By Jennifer

The day we left was crazy. We had a very long list to get through that revolved around closing up the house. We completed most everything. Mixed in was a call to the Wheaton Police Department to report a neighbor girl’s brand new bike stolen from our driveway by a suspected wayward teenager. We filed the police report, wiped tears and, unbelieveably, the bike was found ditched in a Wheaton subdivision several hours later by the girl’s mom. Thank God! We were on the road by 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 20. Enjoy this photo gallery from Departure Day.

Good-byes for now

By Jennifer

What a hard, heart-warming week it has been. I can’t begin to say how touched we are by the people in our lives. Thank you all for your kind words and thoughts. We’ll be thinking of you always. (Now, only if my camera’s battery didn’t die, I’d have a few more pics.)


Welcome to Casa Del Sol

By Jennifer

Here’s a preview of where we will be docked through Nov. 1 (or so). This is a small boutique resort on a canal in Ft. Lauderdale. The resort features about eight guest suites, shaded outdoor area, pool, bikes, and about five slips for boaters. The property is situated snuggly in a residential area with multifamily housing and single-family home neighborhoods (looks like a nice trick-or-treating area). It is located within walking distance to the Publix (the Jewel-like grocery store), an upscale mall, Target (!!), and the beach. You’ll see in the slide show the slip where we will be tied up, the dock area and other boats, the pool and patio area, the bikes available for our use, and the entry to the property.

We chose Casa Del Sol because of its walkability to everything, the pool, the shade, and it’s a good hurricane hole.

Jen’s Bookshelf

By Jennifer

One of the joys I’m looking forward to on this trip is reading. I’m imagining that I will have the luxury of time to not only keep pace with my book club selections, but also to get through a small stack of books I’ve been meaning to get to. In the few weeks leading up to our departure, here’s what I’ve read so far:

(Personally rated on a scale up to five stars, five stars being the best)

The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht. ** My August book club’s selection. This book I’ve seen on many book club lists, so I had high expectations. Unfortunately, the book fell well flat of those expecations. I struggled to get to page 100 and went around town begging anyone I knew if they’d read the book and if it would get any better. No one had. Anyway, I slogged through it. I won’t spoil it, but here’s my two cents. The author is a good writer, but she’s like 12 years old if you judge the picture on the back cover. The text is weighed down by too much description. There are too many tangential characters with more really lengthy descriptions. What I found interesting were the stories of the tiger and the deathless man. (Read Aug. 2012.)

wild by Cheryl Strayed. ***** BEST. BOOK. I. EVER. READ. This inspiring memoir can change the trajectory of your life. (Read Aug. 2012.)