What the hell are we thinking?



We must be crazy! To be fair, Shelly will always tell you I’m a little off my rocker any day of the week. But planning to sell it all, buy a boat, and cruise it into the blue waters of the Caribbean — with no sailing experience, nor the money to buy the boat…

Yeah, we’re flippin’ nuts! But it’s our dream! One we’re going to make happen!

We’ve always been drawn to the water, needed it, the ocean, the sand, the sounds of the waves crashing on the shore, the wind in our face, and the wind blowing us towards a new destination. It’s our dream and one we’re going to pursue before we’re too old to run after it, one that we’ve been cultivating for probably more than 15 years (yeah, we were inches away from deciding to raise our boys on a boat, but chickened out).

As for sailing experience, though, I can’t say that we don’t have “any”. I spent a few years in my youth borrowing the neighbor’s Laser, and my wife and I grew up on the water. We’ve been sailing a Hobie Island for almost a year now, too — but that’s no 53 foot Amel ketch.

Sailing experience isn’t the hard part for us, though. At least for right now. We’re quick studies and a lifetime of taking life’s “hard” road taught us how to adapt, learn quickly, and improvise. No, the hard part for us is explaining to friends and family who won’t understand our choice to go get out and live and see the world we live in.

SailingIntoTheBlue will be our story, our journal, of how we get there. The good parts, the bad parts, the hard parts, and the in-betweens. We’ve spent years dreaming big, but finally have the to chance to go grab it.

Welcome to day one of our dream.

Sailing Into The Blue

Sailing 101…



We’ve done it! Enrolled in the first of our sailing certification courses. ASA101. Yeah, I know… it’s not buying a boat, but hey! One step at a time and this is a HUGE one for us!

Strangely, there aren’t any ASA schools in Mobile (which is closest for us), but Lanier Sailing Academy hooked us right up. March can’t come fast enough.



It’s not you, seriously… it’s me…



Anytime I mention our dream to friends, they always ask, “But do you even know how to sail?” and my tried and true answer is always, “Sure, just hang a bedsheet from a stick and string and wait for the blow.”

In reality, the problem, right now, isn’t learning to handle a boat that size, it’s getting a sailboat that size and keeping it sailing —  something that falls into 2 categories of money:

  1. Cash for the boat…
  2. Cash to keep the boat going…

Being “newbies” to the sailboat world, we’ve spent months and months researching — not only rigging, lines, halyards, anchors, AIS, chart plotters, marine heads, sail types, and blocks — but researching the $$$$, too. When we ask friend’s who’ve sailed for years how much they spend, I almost always get a shrug and a “Don’t really know…”, but every now and then I come a cross little gems like Tate and Dani from Sundowner Sails Again. These two recorded every dime they spent of their first year cruising and the grand total of living expenses… (insert your own drumroll)

“$21,782 – total cost for 2015”


When I read that, I did a little happy dance in my head and silently squee’d like a little girl. Yeah, that’s totally doable! Between my skills and Shelly’s, we could easily make that with side jobs here and there, working our way from island to island and place to place — at least until we win that $1.3 billion dollar PowerBall lottery, or until food and fuel become free.

Now, on to buying the boat… and that’s the real dilemma! Our biggest problem at the moment is ourselves, not the cash (though we still have to figure that out, too). We can’t decide on a cat or a mono, length, setup/layout, etc… For the longest time we were convinced we were going with a catamaran. That is, until we stepped aboard one — a Prout Escale 39.

A few days before the 2016 New Year we crashed the office of a broker, Andre, in Mobile Bay. I asked him if he had any cats for sale. He grinned from ear to ear (I assume seeing commission dollars in his head), and said “Sure!” But when I asked to see it that day he glanced out the window at Noah’s flood coming from the thunderheads above and replied, “In the rain?”

“Of course!” I laughed, “That’s how I’ll know if it leaks or not!”

He didn’t laugh. He just stared at me blankly, picked up his cell and called the guy who had the keys. We listened to them go back and forth over the speaker phone and dude-with-the-keys finally said, “In the rain?!?”

To be fair, we HAD explained to Andre that we really just wanted to step aboard so we could experience a cat, see how much room there was, etc… and that we weren’t quite ready to buy. He was a trooper about it and by the end of the day we’d built a bit of a bond with Andre.

The Prout… while the bridge deck was fantastic, and there was soooo much room in the cockpit, the hulls were WAY tighter than we thought they would be. And while the Prout was a little too old for our tastes and had quite a few problems (spider stress fractures in the hull at rigging points for starters), we were stepping aboard for the experience of a cat and not to seriously thinking of buying that one anyway. The kitchen (in the starboard hull) was WAY to tight! and the storage was crappy, not to mention the “master berth” was almost as small as the head.

Andre, after hearing our disappointed comments (and I’m sure, the long looks on our faces) chimed in… “Well there’s a Hunter 41 on the other side of the marina you might like.”

I shrugged, “Okay”, and we jumped back into the truck. I wasn’t expecting much out of the Hunter, but I thought, “Hey, what can it hurt…”

“Holy Shizzzz!!!!!”

My eyes (and Shelly’s) were popping out of their sockets from the moment we stepped down the companionway! The inside of that 2005 was absolutely beautiful! I’m not going to bother with pictures. You guys can google it if you’ve never seen the inside of one before.

But back to the “Holy Shizzz!!” We LOVED the layout, the berth setup, separate shower, and almost everything about that boat! In the back of my mind I kept thinking, “Love this, but it’s a Hunter…”. I’ve read quite a bit about them, seen the forum threads of people nearly coming to blows over them, and seen the spec’s myself. In the end….. I’m still on the fence about Hunter’s. I have no doubt we’d be safe and sound and comfy as kittens for coastal cruising, but that’s not the plan and I’m not convinced I can keep my beautiful bride safe and sound on one while we rip through the deep blue.

So, we’re back to square one. Our biggest problem right now is ourselves. We just can’t seem to decide on a path to take. We’d still love to get aboard a couple of more cats before we completely rule them out, but that Prout has clouded our view of what we thought would be our dream boat.

We’re being very picky about what we want. We have certain requirements in our minds right now because in the end, we’re not looking for a boat… we’re looking for a HOME.

Want a new…



Shelly and I have noticed a change in our buying philosophy over the past few months (almost a year really)… if we can’t use it on the boat, we don’t buy it. And instead of that shiny new (insert stuff of your choice, couch, lawnmower, Keurig, 80 inch 4K TV) we’ve been looking at each other and asking, “Can we use it on the boat?”. And if the answer is no, then we don’t buy it. No questions asked. No afterthoughts, either.

That means instead of an xBox One for my birthday so I can play the new Fallout, we’re looking at foul weather gear or good headlamps (Zebra, in case any of you crazy kids get the hankering to send me a surprise 🙂

A few years ago, when we moved from our lake home and into the city, we decided to downsize, get rid of mounds of “stuff” we really didn’t need or use anymore, and become “non-consumers”. Little did we know that was paving the way to getting back to our dream of getting off the couch and seeing the world.

So Wishy-Washy…



Yes, we’re like fickle little teenagers when it comes to boat selection these days. And though we have a year before we’re in a position to buy our future home, we keep going back and forth, back and forth, on mono v.s. catamaran. It’s really become quite frustrating.

It may surprise you that it’s not the performance specs, speed (though that’s nice too!), or the stability… It’s the roomy feel that keeps drawing us back to cats. You have to remember, our boat will be our home. A place where I have to feel safe that Shelly isn’t going to shove me overboard because I’m getting on her nerves and invading her space. But also feel safe that our new home will get my beautiful bride back to shore safely.

What have we been looking at?

Lagoon 380’s

Hunter 41’s

Beneteau 423’s

PDQ 32’s

Just to name a few. To be honest, I have about 40 different Safari bookmarks and it’s almost become a daily ritual to flip through them finding features we love, and ones we don’t.

They need to make a “Build-a-Bear” shop for boats! I would be able to just walk in and pick what features we want!


Shot at someone helping us find the right boat…



Check out what a friend of our’s is doing!  The Gift of Cruising

We’re throwing our hat into the drawing, too. Anything to help us make sense of the “great boat hunt of 2016”. It’s been very frustrating so far. Every time we think we’ve found something we like, I hear someone say something negative about that manufacturer or boat, or whatnot. We’ve almost come to believe there are boat snobs out there that just criticize anything that isn’t either a 1/2 million dollar boat, or something that wasn’t built by Rambo and honed out of trees that he knocked down with his forehead. Yes, I’ve been spending way to much time on the forums and know that trying to make a point with some of those people is like trying to make Trump happy.


But, for a chance to win something like Pam’s services to help us find the right boat, one we love, that is sound, and isn’t going to cost us 20 grand in re-rigging a month later… You bet your blue bottom we’re jumping on it!


Lance and Shelly

Sailing Into The Blue

P.S… Full disclosure: No, this is NOT a sponsored post. I just like to make fun of Trump and someone as cool as Pam Wall deserves a shout out 🙂

Hard at work…



Or hardly working…

I spent lunch today, in the middle of cubicle hell, studying for our upcoming ASA 101  in Pensacola and with my head bobbing to Marley’s “Three Little Birds”. March can’t get here fast enough!


And at the same time I’m writing this post… a weather alert goes off on my phone.


I haven’t made it to the weather chapter yet, but I’m guessing this is the part when I shouldn’t be sailing.


Sailing Into The Blue

Working on the site…



I’ve spent the last few days working on the site, tweaking a few things, getting some artwork together, and creating our “About The Boat” page. Obviously, we don’t have a boat yet, but we’re using that page to list what we’re looking for in a boat and as a place friends and family can go to see what we’ve actually looked at so far.

At some point, after we do get down to the coast and find our boat, I’ll take that list and turn it into a post as another page in our journey — what we were looking for v.s. what we ended up with and detailing what we compromised on and why.

Sailing Into The Blue

Weird things we’ve learned…

We’re putting together a list of weird and quirky things that we’ve learned about living aboard, before we even have a boat, and I plan on making a separate page out of it one day, but here it is so far:

The Weird List:

  • “If you didn’t eat it, it doesn’t get flushed”. Can’t explain. Just Google it.
  • “Don’t take camouflage clothing.” Not that we really would, but it’s outlawed in some islands of the Caribbean.
  • “In a lightning storm, put your portable electronics in the oven.” After research, I found out this actually acts like a Faraday cage and protects your digital bits from the limited range effects of lightning’s EMP pulse.
  • We’ll be washing our laundry in a tub, on the deck, by hand.
  • “Hanging plastic pom-pom’s on the rigging keeps the birds off your deck.” If not, they poop all over it and guess who’s on his hands and knees scrubbing that?
  • The best, longest shower we will get is outside, in the rain. I hope it’s a warm rain!

What quirky/weird things have you guys learned?

Sailing Into The Blue



, ,

5149596_20150710124600400_1_XLARGEShelly and I have spent the last few days digging deep into Tartan yachts, the 3700 and 3500 specifically, and Internet-stalking the crap out of them. We really like the layout. It’s got a lot of features we’re looking for in the layout: separate shower, and nav station, a good sized water tank, good galley setup, and a good sized engine for the weight — seemingly. We also like the berth setup, and from the photos they look fairly roomy with plenty of storage.

Tartans also seem to have a good rep for being strong boats from what I’ve read (so far). The worst I’ve found is that the cup-and-lid design of the deck mounted to the hull seemed to bring some concerns to critics when the model first came out, but time has since shown that Tartan got it right. And for the most part, I really can’t find many people being critical of this boat at all.


We really do love the main salon, too. They claim to have “furniture grade main cabin settees…” and it really looks like they do. We can easily picture ourselves stretched out and sipping on margaritas with friends, or cuddled up watching a movie.


Obviously, we haven’t stepped aboard one yet and our “lusting over photos love affair” may quickly turn into a teak-masted “Fatal Attraction”, but she’s the boat de-jour (as a good friend called it messaging me from St. Maarten yesterday). Who knows, tomorrow we may have our eyes on a new lady, but for now…

There are tons of “for-sale” videos on youtube that showcase the boat, but we like to find clips of people actually living aboard and we found a pretty good one if you’re interested:

And the search goes on…

Sailing Into The Blue

Patience is not something we’re good at…



It’s really not! We REALLY want to be in a new boat (new to us) tomorrow, setting sail for the Keys, Havana, skipping down the Bahamas and into the BVI’s. But patience is something that’s becoming an acquired taste. We have a lot to get done this spring and summer before we can start transitioning to the coast. And constantly watching YouTube videos of others making the leap to living on the water, or people already cruising, isn’t helping to ease that yearning either!

But, all good things come to those who have a little patience, so for now, we’re banging hard on the books, studying and soaking up as much as we can. Things like this little tidbit: I always assumed the shower and sinks, along with the head (toilet), drained into the holding tank. Wrong. Apparently, only the head drains into the hold on most sail boats. The sinks and showers drain into the bilge. On one hand that’s odd to me because I’d want to keep my bilge as dry as possible, but on the other hand I guess that would fill up the hold quite quickly and you just can’t dump the hold into the sea at the marina. Well, some people do, but it’s nasty-wrong!

You guys correct me if I’m wrong here on the plumbing!

Until then, we’re counting the days until our ASA 101 course in March and longing for warmer weather so we can get our Hobie back in the water.


Sailing Into The Blue

Been quiet…


So I haven’t posted in a while. We’ve had a lot of sickness floating through the house for several weeks: mono, walking pneumonia, upper respiratory infections, the plague — well, not really the plague, but it’s felt like it. So I haven’t really felt like pounding on the keyboard for an hour while hacking up a lung, but we’ve been keeping busy boat searching, studying, and watching YouTube vlogs while popping handfuls of Advil.

Fear not, though. We’re finally on the mend (we hope!) and Shelly and I sat outside on the patio this afternoon soaking up some sun and whittling away at our ASA 101 handbook studying tacking and jibing, sail foot and clew, bowlines and sailing “in the groove”. Our class is getting close, only a few weeks away now, and we’re getting excited and making plans for “downers” with friends at the end of the day on their boat.

Sailing Into The Blue

Buoy’s and Boats…



With our health department mandated self quarantine over from the Whooping Cough (yeah, I was shocked to find out that damned disease is still around, too!!) Shelly and I jumped in the “X” and took off to the mountain for some much needed out-of-the-house time. We strung our ENO up between two trees and whipped out our ASA books to dig back into buoy’s, signals, slowing on a reach, and heaving to.


The slowing and heaving we get pretty easily since we’ve had quite a bit of experience with it sailing our Hobie (even though we didn’t know that’s what it was called then), but I do have to admit that buoys and markers confuse the crap out of me. Well, the both of us really. But I guess that’s just one of those things that we’ll just have to memorize and make flashcards for.

I can’t say the 3 hours on the mountain top was all studies though. We did spend a while playing footsie and talking boats.


I could feel my face burning though so we drove back down the mountain and crashed a local Mexican restaurant for chips, salsa, and queso dip. And more boat searching.


That’s a new listing for another Tartan on Yachtworld. We just keep coming back to that boat for the layout and numerous other reasons. What we don’t know is how well she holds up at sea. Digging around on the Internet yields mixed reviews — like every other boat we research. We need an expert!

Sailing Into The Blue

P.S. Give us a “Like” on FB to keep up with the latest posts and what’s going on!



What about Bob?



Lots of people have asked, “What about Family? How can you leave your family?”  We have really thought about that question for some time now and here’s what it comes down to for us: Lance and I have a very large family, and are all very close, so it will not be an easy transition for us, or our families. However, today’s technologies are wonderful tools to keep in touch with almost anyone.  We will always have Skype, FaceTime, and cell phones, but also through our blog and YouTube videos we plan on sharing our adventure with family and friends.

We hope that everyone will follow along on this incredible journey. Stepping onto a boat and sailing into the blue doesn’t mean never coming back, nor does it mean being out of touch.  Of course, on special holidays we will leave the boat and be with family, and in emergencies we will definitely make every effort to come back home.

We hope to have family join us from time to time, too.  What a way to share the experience — one on one with our friends and family.  So I guess, all in all, we really aren’t leaving our family, we are taking them with us on every bit of this journey!
Sailing Into The Blue
Shelly & Lance

Off to sailing school!



The SUV is almost packed and we’re about to mosey down to Pensacola for the first of our sailing classes, the ASA101. The weather forecast is not that great, but after a phone call with the instructor this morning we’re going to give it a shot anyway. Tomorrow should bring us lots of rain, but Saturday is threatening thunderstorms on us. Out on the open water isn’t such a great place to be in a 22ft Capri with a big metal stick aimed at the sky. Sunday will be sunny, but 25-30mph winds. Again, not so great at learning to sail when the whole time you’re just fighting to keep the boat under control. But we’re gonna make a go at it anyway.

Besides, this Friday night is Gallery Night in P’cola and we’re looking forward to walking the shops, eating street food, and catching up with great friends!

Keeping our fingers crossed!

Sailing Into The Blue

Learning to sail weekend… Friday


, ,

Day 1: Friday…

“WOW!” (because “Holy Shizzz” isn’t quite kid friendly) is the only way I can describe the incredible weekend Shelly and I had down in Pensacola. It really could NOT have been more perfect.

First, I have to say that Kathy and John at Lanier Sailing Academy were absolutely the best instructors we could have possibly hoped for. They were patient with us, so very encouraging, and all around great people. The kind of folks we hope to have as great friends on the water beside us someday soon. Both are long time experts at sailing and have some kind of superpower way of conveying that knowledge to others in such a way that you feel like they’re just reminding you of something you already knew. Seriously, we can’t recommend these guys enough. If you are looking to get your ASA certs or just wanting to learn to sail, these two are your peeps!

Second, the BnB that we “camped” out in over the weekend, The Noble Manor, was simply beautiful and the owners, Bonnie and Bob, were as welcoming as old family friends. Bonnie’s breakfasts were fitting of a 5 star restaurant and we loved hearing stories of her oldest daughter traveling the world to help war-torn countries rebuild.

Note: None of the above is paid or sponsored in any way. We just really want to give props to those who deserve it!

So, on with the story… Friday morning we woke in Pensacola with more than a little trepidation about the day. Not only were we unsure of how the “schooling” would go — would it be more info than we could process, the sailing skills too hard to master, and stuff like that — but lightning storms were also looming on the western horizon and threatening to cancel our whole weekend.


John, the day before, had even called me to tell me about the weather and ask if we were really sure we wanted to give it a go this weekend, but I told him that we had so much planned for the weekend (meeting up with friends, boat shopping, etc…) that we would just give it a shot anyway. He said that if the weather didn’t cooperate we could still get our written course work done and finished and just come back another weekend for a quick day of sailing instruction on the water and our sea trial that afternoon.

But as soon as we stepped foot onto Lanier’s floating classroom in the harbor Kathy’s warm personality quickly put trepidation at ease and we spent the next 2 hours learning to tie cleat hitches, bowlines, square knots, hitches, and going over the different types of rigging (running and standing) on a little wooden model sailboat that was surprisingly accurate.

IMG_2596She eased us through the types of sails, parts of sails — the clue, tack, foot, head, leach, and luff — and parts of the boat like bow, stern, port, starboard, beam, abeam, astern, and on and on.

And as we were going over the “stand-on” and “giveway” rules, John poked his head through the doorway and asked if we wanted to give it a shot on the water for a bit. A weather window was opening up for what looked like an hour or so. Needless to say, we jumped at the opportunity for some sea time — and to ease our overloaded minds.

On the little Capri 22 Kathy walked us through rigging the boat for departure, attaching the main and jib halyard, attaching the jib sheets, lowering the little outboard motor on the back, connecting the fuel line, and getting it cranked. That’s when John hopped aboard and took over and gave me instructions on getting us out of the harbor. And like Kathy, John’s approach to teaching was just as smooth and calming, and he was constantly encouraging us when we seemed flustered with one maneuver or another and always very complimentary when we finally got things right. He had a wicked sense of humor though, too. As I motored us through the harbor fairways and slips he kept making jokes, “Careful not to get too close to that boat. If you dent her it will cost you your car to fix the fiberglass. Oh, and you don’t want to hit that one either… it’s so expensive it cost $25,000 to just fill it with fuel.”


Once we were out in the open water of the bay, though, he walked Shelly through raising the mainsail and jib sail and though we only had 5-10 knot breezes (the next day was more like a hurricane though), it felt great to be back on a boat propelled only by the wind through the calm-ish water. The little Capri quickly reminded me that she wasn’t a Hobie like we were used to. I was shocked at the differences in how the two craft sailed, the complexity of the Capri’s rigging and sail configuration. I guess we were just spoiled to the simplicity of our mast-furling Islander.

IMG_2597Shelly and I took turns at the helm and the sheets as John walked us through several repetitions of tacking and jibing, sailing on the beam and close hauled, and a dozen other maneuvers including heaving-to. He also taught us to feel the wind points on our face to easily keep track of the wind direction — instead of having to look at the instruments. But sadly a thunderhead quickly formed on the western horizon of the bay and we had to head back only and hour and a half after we started out.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any GoPro footage of Friday because we were just so overwhelmed with everything going on and were in a rush to get out to sea. But I got plenty on Saturday and Sunday and that’s a whole different story.

I cranked the engine while John quickly snatched the sails down and secured them, and told me to floor it back to the harbor. “Being caught out in a lightning storm with a tall pointy stick pointed at the sky isn’t the safest way to teach people to sail.” I IMG_2592agreed, not wanting to end up looking like a charred and smoking pork roast (insert your own mental image here) and did indeed “floor it”.

We broke for lunch and ended up at Jaco’s on the bay front enjoying the view of the boats in the harbor as the storm passed overhead, eating a cuban and margarita pizza. It’s a great place, but the food is just a little too hipster for me. But again, you can’t beat the view!


Appropriately named!

Once back in the floating classroom the storm gently rocked the room back and forth (I love that motion! and for most of the weekend kept feeling myself swaying back and forth even with 2 feet firmly planted on land) and the wind whistled through the stainless steel rigging of the dozens of sailboats in the harbor.

Kathy reviewed the morning’s lessons and rope knots with us and we went over “rules of right-of-way” in much more depth. But having covered most of all the classroom material so quickly that morning gave us a chance to break early that afternoon.

We ate an early-ish dinner at The Fish House and split a seafood platter between us and drove back to the BnB where we intended to study up some more and practice our knots, but ended up crashing asleep by 9 from exhaustion.

More to come and hopefully this week I’ll have time to edit down the hours and hours of footage we have and start putting together a YouTube vid to share with you guys!

Sailing Into The Blue

Lance & Shelly

P.S. We’d love to hear your comments and thoughts. So don’t be shy! Comment, share, and give us a “Like” on Facebook!

Learning to sail weekend… Saturday


, ,

If you missed the post about our first day of sailing lessons: Learning to sail weekend… Friday

Day 2…

Despite being exhausted from the day before, Shelly and I woke a little early and headed to the marina after a delicious breakfast of Bonnie’s famous french toast. We walked the docks for about 20 minutes and came across this gal. I’m not sure what IMG_2595the skeleton in the rigging is for (maybe to keep the birds off the deck? or just a joke?) but she was a beautiful boat and very well taken care of.

We even came across a boat that was “home ported” (the city and state listed on the back of a boat just under the boat’s name) from our hometown of Birmingham.


We also came across a beautiful Beneteau Oceanis 45 on another fairway. The guy that came up from below was pretty grumpy, but the young lady who emerged from the companionway was super friendly and full of smiles. I’d be giddy too if I were taking out this $400K, transom dropping gal! We’ve seen lots of interior shots of the Oceanis in our boat searches and I have to tell you, no matter what people’s opinions are about Beneteau, those people DO know how to build a beautiful boat!!

In the classroom, we found John hunched over his laptop and staring at the weather radar. His smile told me we were going sailing that morning. A smile crept across my face, too!

Again, Kathy helped us rig the boat for departure (attaching the halyards, un-bagging the jib sail, engine prep and testing, and so on). When John stepped aboard he asked Shelly to take the helm today first, since I took us out of the marina the day before, and vlcsnap-2016-03-24-13h49m21s801asked me to hang out on the bow as our lookout — someone has to be at the front of the boat as we round the fairway corners since the person at the helm, in the back, can’t really see what’s crossing the lane until it’s too late. And I have to say that my beautiful bride did fantastic on her first time using an outboard engine. She effortlessly motored us around the barrier walls and out of the marina like we were gliding smoothly on a calm pond. It’s no small feat either using that clumsy tiller — for those who’ve used one, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

vlcsnap-2016-03-24-19h12m26s196Once out in the open, John had me raise the main and jib sails while Shelly kept us pointed into the wind — so the boom wouldn’t swing around and knock me off the boat — and though we had very light wind that morning (no more than 3-4 knots) the little Capri moved quite nicely through the calm water.


It was so calm at times that John and I got into a game of “lasso the wench” while Shelly ran through her points of sail drill. She had us on a nice close reach into the wind here.


Above, we are taking a break and having some laughs while “hove to”. It’s a technique John taught us that has always confused me — until we actually did it. The simple explanation is that you just put the boat in “park” on the ocean. The reality is that it’s not that simple. To successfully do it you have to ease the boat across the wind direction while letting out the line on the boom and keeping your steerage pointed towards the tip of the boom until the wind pressure is off the mainsail and on the jib sail. The rudder is angled in a way that the force of the water on the rudder balances out the wind force on the forward jib. The result is that the boat stays stable and slowly drifts away from the wind and you can take a break from the work of sailing and go below to cook dinner, get a drink, or whatever.


After our break, John walked us through reefing drills — dropping the main sail a little, hooking in the first reef, and re-tying the out-haul line at the end of the boom. For those who don’t know (which included us until we took this class) reefing the sails is just a fancy term for bringing the sails down some, shortening them, so that in higher winds there is less surface area for the wind to grab. Reefing is something you would do in storms or when the wind is blowing 20+ knots — like the next day, Sunday. And just as a little teaser for the next post… Sunday’s winds were insane! The seas were like riding a rollercoaster and we seriously almost lost the little boat TWICE!

But today’s winds were light and calm, thankfully! Because the other option was a massive thunderstorm system that had been threatening to come into the Bay from the southwest all morning. Kathy had been keeping an eye on the radar all day and had her phone beside her and ready to call us in if it started turning north, but it never did.

Note to self: Put on sunscreen even when you think you’ll only be out on the water for an hour. (insert “moron” comment here.)

Second note to self: Check the expiration date on said sunscreen. DOH!

Yeah, we didn’t and ended up looking like lobsters.


With the day winding down, John had Shelly crank up the little outboard so we could head in. Just look at those muscles!!


Shelly kept us pointed into the wind while John helped me take the mainsail down.


Yeah, she’s so good at the helm now she doesn’t even worry about hitting that multi-million dollar cruiser on the starboard side (the one that takes $25,000 to fill the fuel tanks).


At the dock, Kathy and crew were waiting on us to help dock the boat. Above, Kathy (on the far left) is waiting with the stern line while I was up front cleating the bow line.

And with our full day of sailing instruction over, Kathy took us back into the classroom for a short review of what we learned. It was amazing to be out at sea all day and finally have actions and “doing” associated with what we had been reading about. You can only learn so much from reading, but until you do it you never really fully understand. It really drove home all the classroom work we had the day before.

That night we went out for dinner and drinks with friends, Annie and Phillip, of HaveWindWillTravel.com and heard all about their refit of “Plaintiff’s Rest”. I can’t imagine how much of a challenge it’s been for them to pull their mast, have the rigging and supporting stringers replaced, but she’s going to be a better-than-ever boat when they’re finished.

At Phillip’s suggestion we tried the “seafood corndog”. My first thought was WTF? But the shrimp and grouper filled deep-fried goodness wrapped in a cornbread shell was heaven! We told them about our day sailing (while Annie was probably secretly laughing at my sunburned face and thinking “newbie!”), drank margaritas and Julep cocktails, and talked sailing.

12814197_824390184338428_2076450334053937199_nI have to say that the food at The Union Public House was fantastic! The story is that a local top rated chef and a creative genius bartender got together and opened the place up. They have such a unique menu that at first glance I was thinking what in the world?, at things like the scallop and shrimp pot pie, but Shelly ordered it and it was seriously delicious!!

And at the end of the great evening, we hugged Annie and Phillip goodbye (sadly, none of us thought of snapping a few pics) and headed back to the BnB where we showered, coated ourselves with Aloe, and flopped face first into the soft pillows.

The next day would be our “sea trials” test and written test — something we were both nervous about — but little did we know the weather would be the absolute worst conditions we had ever sailed in. EVER!

Sailing Into The Blue

Lance & Shelly

Learning to sail weekend… Sunday – The Tests!


, ,

Day 3… Best Day EVER! (Part 1)


Yeah, the seas look a little different from the day before, don’t they.

The morning started out with Shelly and I not only very nervous about passing our sailing drills and the written test, but when we got to the harbor, hearing the wind whistling through the wire rigging of all the sailboats and seeing the rough sea state beyond the safety of the harbor walls, we quickly realized that we would be sailing into the absolute worst conditions we have ever sailed in. EVER!. Wind speeds were at a constant 20-25 knots with gusts up to 35 at times and it was ripping the tops off the wave caps.

vlcsnap-2016-03-27-10h42m53s331In the office we met Darren (on the left) our sea trial instructor for the morning, and he warned us that conditions on the water were pretty rough, but he had confidence in our ability to handle it.

Once on the open water and away from the shelter of the harbor walls, I turned the boat windward so Shelly could raise the mainsail (no jib sail today because the conditions were so extreme that a second sail would have completely overpowered us and capsized us into the 55 degree water). That was when the power of this wind truly sank in for me. I had to fight the wind with the motor, revving it up to full speed, just to make incremental adjustments to our heading because the wind was pushing the bow hard to the left or right (which ever part was exposed with the most surface area that moment) and making it nearly impossible to keep a windward heading. It only took a few inches this way or that to give the wind enough purchase to shove us hard to the left or right.


It doesn’t seem like a big deal until you factor in a swinging aluminum pole (the boom) that was whipping back and forth with enough force to snap someone’s neck like in this picture.

With the main raised to the first reef, Daren had me execute the first of our test maneuvers — a downwind jibe from starboard to port (right to left). Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite prepared for such high winds hitting our port side so quickly and forcefully and I almost rolled our little sailboat over on her side.


Pucker moment #1 of the day. You really can’t tell from this GoPro shot but the starboard side of the boat is under the water and Shelly is grasping to stay in the boat. There’s nothing like a really good “Oh Shizz!” moment to remind you that you’re alive and loving it!

Daren kept his cool, though, and told me to remember to “dump the main” (letting the mainsail loose and away from the wind) when we were overpowered and gave me a few minutes to regain my wits before asking me to repeat the maneuver — which went a lot smoother this time. With that lesson learned, I was way over cautious the rest of the morning when seeing gusts coming up on us and kept my hand on the mainsheet ready to let the sail loose at any moment.

Later on we figured out that Daren was a racer, and a winning sailboat racer at that, so he loved the extreme conditions for the wicked speed.


After that I ran through a series of sail pointing skills: sailing windward, on a beam (perpendicular to the wind), and on a reach (almost downwind but not quite). We couldn’t make a downwind run because the winds were just too overpowering.


You can see the waves breaking over our bow here as I tack to the portside across the wind and the boom swung out violently (did I mention with enough force to snap someone’s neck?).

vlcsnap-2016-03-25-14h27m47s972Soon it was Shelly’s turn so I put us in a windless state (hove to) and we all enjoyed a break from the work for a moment while Shelly took over the helm.



As a side note, Shelly and I have been watching a lot of YouTube videos over the last year. People like HaveWindWillTravel, s/v Delos, LaVagabond, FollowTheBoat, and many more, and with the conditions on the water this day it really gave us a new appreciation of what it’s like when they mention rough seas and heavy wind days. It’s something you can’t really grasp until you experience it.

Our break was over a little sooner than we hoped and Daren had Shelly start her drills by running through the same maneuvers — starting with the dreaded downwind jibe.


Yep, you guessed it. Pucker moment #2 of the day. We almost rolled the boat over again and we all ended up with cold, wet butts!

Shelly righted us like a pro, though, and we exchanged smiles and laughs. She told me later that she didn’t feel so bad about it since I had done the same thing less than an hour earlier.

So with the dreaded jibe behind her, Shelly began her sailing point skills test and while she was holding a good beam reach (sideways to the wind), Daren noticed the jibsail coming out of it’s storage bag on the bow.


He had to go forward and secure it and while it wasn’t in any danger of happening yet, it had to be secured because if it had popped out, it would have either went into the ocean or opened up in the wind. Either outcome would have disastrous results: women and children screaming and thrashing, the ship sinking to the bottom of the bay, cats and dogs sleeping together… Well, not really, but it would have been bad either way.

When she was finished with her skills test, which she completed fantastically!, it was time for the MOBD — man overboard drill. Our little friend, “Bob” (an old and broken lifejacket) would be the sucker for the day and spend his time in the cold drink for us to rescue.

vlcsnap-2016-03-25-14h40m39s261Once we were set and ready, Daren threw Bob overboard and with Shelly already at the helm, she was first to test her figure-eight skills.



“Man overboard!” she yelled. “Throw the type-4 (a form of life preserver)! Daren keep sight of ‘Bob’ and prepare to tack!”

I have to say, though, with the wind blowing as hard as it was, it was extremely difficult to not only keep track of “Bob”, but to keep control of the boat, to maintain heading to make sure we were setup for the figure-eight maneuver, and keeping an eye on the wind to make sure a hard gust didn’t capsize us (like it had been trying to do all morning)… I can see now how people sometimes loose their boat in conditions like this while trying to rescue someone who’s gone over.

vlcsnap-2016-03-25-14h43m54s708At one point we actually did loose sight of “Bob”, but Shelly quickly found him again. And though I hate to say it, I couldn’t have seen him in that choppy water unless he had been holding up a flair with his stubby little lifejacket arms. But, a few minutes later Daren had “Bob” rescued with the help of a gaff hook.

With “Bob” safely back aboard, Daren clapped his hands together and with a grin on his face, told us, “Alright! Congrats! You guys did great! Let’s head back to the harbor and get out of this chop.” Shelly and I exchanged big smiles and headed in.

When we got back Kathy congratulated us, too, and did a quick review of the academic material before giving us our 100 question tests. Thankfully it was multiple choice and matching — something we had been worried about and afraid it would be blanks and essays. She told us to take our time, there was no clock to race or time pressure, so we took deep breaths and dove right in.

We honestly thought it would be harder than it was, but I guess it’s something that we had built up in our heads… “Ohhh, the dreaded test!” (not to mention that we haven’t taken quizzes since college — and NO I’m NOT telling you how long ago that was!)

Not that it was actually easy, though, but Kathy’s teaching made it easy. With almost every test question about sails, rigging, and rigging the sails, I could picture in my mind that little model sailboat she used to teach us with and remembered her voice going over the clue, foot, tack, luff, and head. Honestly, her fantastic style of teaching made the test easy to take.

It only took us about 30-40 minutes to get through the test, another 5 for Kathy to grade them both, and by 3:00 she was walking back through the door with a big smile on her face. We had passed! And passed with flying colors, too!!


Our ASA101 course certifications!!

To add more excitement to our “Best Day EVER”, at that same time (literally while Kathy was congratulating us) my cell phone rang. It was Kevin, our boat broker from Edward Yacht Sales calling to see how our afternoon was going and asked if we wanted to celebrate with drinks and some “real” sailing on his own 36ft Pearson Yacht.

A chance to experience the same weather conditions as we did that morning on the same size and style boat we were going to buy and be living on for the next few years? Plus our first chance to get out on a real sailboat and see how it’s done by the big boys? Not just step aboard in a calm marina, but the chance to really get out in the action?

There was only one answer. Shelly and I both gave a resounding, “Hell YEAH!”

So Shelly and I hugged Kathy goodbye, thanked her and John for such a fantastic weekend and for being such great instructors, and we headed back to the BnB to change into more relaxed (and dryer) clothes and ran back to marina to meet Kevin!

Part 2 coming soon… (I get to sail a 36 foot yacht)

Sailing Into The Blue

Lance & Shelly

Learning to sail weekend… Sunday (part 2) Sailing a Pearson 36


, , ,

Day 3… Best Day EVER! (Part 2)

Shelly and I were already floating on clouds from passing our ASA101 when Kevin (our boat broker) called and invited us out for an afternoon sail on his Pearson 36 Cutter. It was the perfect way to finish a hard and stressful, but great day.

We met Kevin at the marina and he lead us aboard his beautiful boat. And while this wasn’t the first time we had been aboard a cruising class sailboat — we’ve been inside quite a few sailboats in our search for a new home, even a great Beneteau 423 on the day before — but this was the first time we would be going to sea and sailing a cruising class boat. Our experience so far handling anything under sail has been limited to Hobie and Capri — small, recreation crafts.

Also, for those of you reading this who aren’t experienced super-sailors (including myself), let me add that today’s weather conditions were not normal sailing conditions either. Most cruisers who are sailing their homes around the world are very protective of those homes and heading off deliberately into 20-25 knot winds with gusts up to 35 isn’t something most would do. Especially since wind accelerates on the open water so 35 could easily become 40 and 45. Most cruisers (like us) would rather stay at anchor in a protected harbor for another day — chilling with wine (or beer) and some fried fish and a hammock.

mr-burns-wallpaper.gif.scaled1000But today was no ordinary day. Our sailing instructors wanted to see what we were made of that morning and now we wanted to see what a true cruising sailboat was made of. I wanted to see how a 36ft, 17,000 pound boat handled conditions that, quite frankly, scared the crap out of us at times on a small 22 foot, 4,000 pound day sailor. And the Pearson did NOT disappoint!

I want to point out that Kevin’s skills on his Pearson are beyond impressive. He told Shelly and I to make ourselves comfortable and just enjoy the ride while he singlehandedly brought us out of the double-bend harbor, locked in the autopilot while pointed upwind, and raised all three sails by himself — the main, jib, and headsail. And once under wind power, he cut the engine and turned us west across the bay.

He asked about how our weekend went and Shelly, with a beaming smile, told him all about our classes, learning to handle the little Capri, and the rough seas and winds this morning.

“You took a little 22 foot’er out in this?” he asked, pointing to the sky.

Shelly and I both laughed.

“That’s crazy!” he laughed too.

A moment later he asked me if I would take the helm while he went below to make us drinks. “Ummm… Hell YEAH!”

This was the opportunity I’ve been dreaming of for a long, long time! And while we’ve looked at quite a few cruisers, stepping aboard at the dock is NOT the same thing as taking her out. Boat buying isn’t like car shopping. You can’t just stop in for a look-see and take her out to kick the tires and see how she handles.

IMG_2625Kevin’s Pearson handled like a dream though! She was so very responsive on the helm, steering easily through the swells without me having to fight the wheel, and as the winds kicked up and gusted she didn’t veer off at all like our experience with the little, lightweight Capri just hours earlier. The Pearson cut easily through the choppy seas, too, without giving you that feeling that you’re just getting tossed and beaten. The best description I can give is she seemed to glide rather than jerk around like you’re on a wild rollercoaster.

Kevin brought up drinks for us, rum and ginger beer, that he had to make on the gimbal stove since the boat was heeling so hard. I started to move aside and give him back the helm, but he waved his hand and told me I was doing fine and to keep it as long as I was comfortable and to just keep heading towards the old lighthouse.

I did, and with a BIG grin! I was at home, in my element, and loving it!

For a while we talked about boats, some he knew of for sale in southern Florida, a couple locally, and the different systems each had aboard. We went over again what Shelly and I were looking for, what our priorities and preferences still were and if any had changed. I did admit that a few of mine had changed. Not that I didn’t want them anymore (or think that we didn’t need them anymore), but that I’ve come to accept that a few of them don’t have to be aboard when we buy. I can add them later during 6 months to a year while we’re living aboard in a harbor and getting used to the boat, learning her and her systems.

We talked about his Pearson, the cutter rig configuration and what made it so different from the typical sloop rig — a cutter basically has a second stay (cable from the deck to the top of the mast) so she can have 2 sails up front instead of a sloop’s single sail). The cutter setup has some huge advantages like being able to point towards the wind more than a sloop, having a shorter mast to get under bridges while not losing any sail surface, and more.

vlcsnap-2016-03-31-10h21m48s656Soon the wind started gusting up higher than we were rigged for so Kevin took the helm back and we trimmed the sails out to let off some of the air pressure on them. Over the next 2 hours we saw gusts up to 32 and 35 on the wind gauge and the boat’s max speed topped off at 7.8 knots. It was exhilarating!

Correction: Shelly reminded me that our top wind speed was 38 knots. That’s 43.7 miles per hour winds.


Sometimes we heeled over so far we slid out of our seats and onto the cockpit floor, laughing!


7 knots on this gust!


I could literally reach out and touch the water we were heeled over so far.

Unfortunately, our day had to come to an end and Kevin took us back into the harbor. Again, with his superman-singlehanded sailing, he furled the headsail and jib, and pulled the main down into it’s stack pack.

In the harbor, he made it look so easy to motor a 17,000 pound boat into a slip no bigger than 20 by 36 feet and tied her up all by himself. I offered to help, but he had a method and rhythm that he was used to.

With his boat secured, he took us on a walk through the marina and showed us a couple of boats for sale there. A beautiful 2006 Beneteau 423 (42 feet) that I had cyber-stalked on the Internet for a few months. She was more impressive in person!


He also walked us aboard a Sabre and told us about a 30ft Hinterhoeller Nonsuch, but by this time it was getting close to 7 P.M. and he wanted to get back to his family and we were getting hungry. We thanked him for taking his afternoon to take us sailing and said our goodbyes.

The day was so incredible and packed with so much that I honestly can’t remember what or where we ate dinner that night, but after another wonderful breakfast by Bonnie we packed the SUV and hit the road. We talked endlessly about the entire weekend, but more importantly about what we are looking for in a future home. The experience with Kevin, and all the great info he gave us, gave us a new perspective and new focus on making our dream happen!

Sailing Into The Blue

Lance & Shelly

P.S. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook by giving us a “Like” and drop in your email address in the subscription box, above and on the right, so we can email you when new posts about our adventures come out!


%d bloggers like this: