Monday, July 28, 2014

The last leg to Jacksonville

Jacksonville at night from m/v Rhumb Line

Boaters can’t be lazy. We may look lazy. We may look scruffy and unkempt. We may look like we shirk work any chance we get. We may look like loafers, free-loaders, lazy bums. Sure. Maybe we are. But that’s just when we’re tied up to the dock or swinging at anchor. When we’re actually out there, boating, we can’t be lazy.

Oops. The other day, we were lazy. We decided to move our boat to a new marina, one that is much closer to Hans’s work. The trip is about thirty nautical miles in protected waters. No big deal. We estimated it would take us about four hours or so, maybe less if our tide calculations were correct. Just twenty minutes into the trip we watched the temperature on the port engine, our only running engine, steadily climb. And climb. We marked a point on the gauge and said “if the needle hits the “r” then we need to do something.” Well the needle hit the “r.” But then it stayed steady. So we putted a walloping three miles an hour, sometimes we hit four. Big time! 

Why didn’t we panic? Well, here’s where we were lazy: We knew exactly what was wrong. This engine had been running a little warm for the last 100 miles or so of our trip south. Not this hot, but warmer than usual. We knew the impeller needed to be changed but, at the time, Hans didn’t want to the do the job because we were out in the middle of marshland Georgia. But why didn’t we remember this problem before we cast off the dock lines yesterday? We would have saved ourselves a lot of headache and hassle if we had swapped out the impeller when we were at the dock, before embarking on yesterday’s boat trip. 

Don't let your impellers look like the one on the left. Check often!

 We were lazy. Dock living is easy and it’s easy to become complacent. But running a boat isn’t like running a car. You can’t just turn the ignition over and set off down the waterway, which is exactly what we did. We forgot to run down the basic maintenance checklist before leaving, which may have jogged our memories that the impeller was bad. Instead, we just drove the boat out of the slip. And nearly overheated.

So we may be lazy at times, but thank goodness Hans is handy and mechanically-inclined. After a couple hours of hanging upside down in the engine compartment and filing the bilges up with probably a gallon of sweat, he pulled out a shredded, chewed up impeller and replaced it with an intact, brand new one.* We were back on our way south, at a more respectable nine miles an hour.

Pulling into a tight slip at a new marina at ten at night on one engine, however, is no small feat. Hats off to the captain and fellow boaters who got Rhumb Line into our slip safely without bumping anything or anyone.

The reward for anchoring for hours to swap out the impeller is that we motored past the city at sunset.
All cities look romantic and exciting at sunset.

*Smart boaters also know that it is imperative to carry a full arsenal of spares.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Travel or vacation?

I listen to NPR a lot. Turning the radio on is one of the first things I do every morning. I often leave it on for hours, even though it is impossible to hear, never mind listen to the news reports over the laughter, babble, and screams of the girls. But I persist, because I usually can catch at least part of one story every hour or so.

The other day I heard a report on the Rick Steve’s radio show about travel in Albania. He’s dubbing it as the next destination in Europe - a place that has World Heritage sites, a unique culture, and a friendly population that is eager to welcome show tourists their country, as opposed to tourist-weary cities like Prague and Venice. So, naturally, I started dreaming about traveling to Albania. Give me a tiny starting point and I’ll dream about travel.

We’ve only gone on one typical vacation - the kind that you take an allotted week or two vacation from work, book a flight, book a hotel, and pack a small suitcase. We’ve done tons of traveling (I’ll always want to travel more), but it’s always been extended stints. Road trips, cruising on Whisper, car-camping around Europe, our recent cruise down the ICW.

As I was thinking about Albania, I found myself asking: how do you choose where to go on vacation? If you only have a few weeks a year for vacation, a couple of which are invariably eaten up by Christmas and family obligations at home, how do you choose where to spend that one week jaunt? Would I choose to go to Albania? To the untested, uncharted place that would undoubtedly be interesting and new, but perhaps not relaxing and perhaps sometimes frustrating due to the language barrier and preconceived notions and expectations….

My traveling itch says “yes!” But my need for relaxation and ease says, “Culebra is awfully nice. Spain has great serrano ham. And what about the pasta in Italy?”

I suppose there are different types of travel for different times of our lives. Shoestring budget backpacking, the quick getaway weekend, the family rendezvous on a cruise ship, the extended sailing trip (dream, dream, plan), the tried and tested week at a previously visited location.

That’s it. There’s travel and there is vacation.

Travel: when you have time and some resources to go to new places, dig your heels in, explore, make blunders, spend half the day waiting for a bus that never appears, try again the next day.

A nice picture, but the story behind is less than exciting.
We walked for a couple miles in hot Caribbean sun looking for a bar with cold beers only to find the bar closed.
This kind of semi-aimless wandering is only possible when you have time on your hands.

Vacation: when you have a finite period of time to get away from your normal. A finite period of time to be with your family (or chose traveling companion, or self), a finite period of time to unplug, read a good book, disconnect and reconnect.

This is easy living.

Is there an in between? Is there a place in the middle where you can go on vacation but also travel? If you only have a week out of every year to actually go somewhere, do you set off down the overgrown path, where you might end up at shangri la or you might just as easily end up with Lyme disease? Or, do you set off down the paved road where you’re guaranteed a beach chair and a cold margarita, but you might also end up feeling slightly bored and unsatisfied at the end of the week?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

goodbye stroller

Our stroller was stolen. Yes, someone stole two little kids’ stroller. Five years of living at a marina in Philadelphia - big, dirty, crime-ridden Philadelphia - and we never had anything stolen. Less than two weeks of living at a marina halfway between Jacksonville and Jacksonville Beach, Florida (for all intents and purposes, the suburbs) and our stroller is swiped. WTF indeed.

That's our stroller, the red Phil & Ted's double that masquerades as a single.
This photo was taken at the zoo when Matilda was only a few weeks old.
You can't see her in the photo, but she's in the bassinet lying under Freja, who is up high in the jump seat.
Being pushed by their Meme and spending time with pals Harvey and Ander.

It’s not like we really need the stroller. Pushing two kids around in 90 degree heat and 90% humidity is not that practical. We’ve talked about selling it and buying something smaller. We’ve talked about how we’re happy with a small umbrella stroller and the Ergo baby carrier. We’ve talked about, and subsequently bought, a bike trailer to tow the girls. But still. 

Someone stole something that is mine. And now I’m doing the cliche things that most victims of theft do: I’m locking everything. I leave the bike and trailer on the dock next to our boat - locked. I leave the boat - locked. We leave the car - locked. (Okay, we have always locked the car when we leave it, but I used to regularly forget to lock our bike at the bike rack at our marina in Philly and we never, never, never locked the boat in Philly.)

So beyond the actual fact that we’re short a nice stroller that was pretty handy to have, I’ve changed my behavior. Not out of choice but out of . . . persuasion, you could say. Maybe that’s not a bad thing. Year after year of not locking up my personal belongings was eventually going to end up in theft. I suppose.

Yet, it was at the marina. I will wax poetic about the tight-knit boating community, and the interdependence and trustworthiness of boaters.  I lament that the social capital that is evident among boaters is sorely missing in the general public. I sing the praises of living at a marina for the neighborly feel. My fondness for marinas and boaters makes this theft that much harder to deal with. Everyone we meet here is nice, friendly, generous, but it’s hard to shake the idea that a stroller (a stroller!) could go missing so easily and so quickly from the marina property.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

two weeks

We've been Florida residents for two weeks. I was commenting to Hans and to a friend that my life here isn't obvious, at least not yet. When we first moved to Philadelphia we lived without a car for the first 18 months. We explored the city via foot and public transit.

Jacksonville and surrounding area, on the other hand, is so big and so car-centric that it's hard to know where to go and what to do. The marina where we are staying is close to the beach but also on a busy 3-lane road lined with strip malls and box stores. The neighborhoods are big and appear to be mile after mile of houses. Yep. We're in the suburbs. I can't exactly take the girls out in the 90 degree heat and go aimlessly biking or walking. I've been spending a lot of time on google maps and searching Jacksonville blogs looking for things to do and places to go.

Our second car. Let's go exploring!
Of course the beach is obvious. And fun.


Freja calls this her surf suit.
And this is how she walks from the beach blanket to the shower when it's time to go home.
One cool kid.

Today I found a park with a playground just one mile away. The girls both ran straight for the swings. I'd love to think of them as such hippy kids that they'd shun the playground in favor of wild nature but, nope. They love the playground.

And we've been taking advantage of the public spaces at the marina.

Freja loves the idea of going to school. So the other day we packed her backpack with her school supplies and found a little desk for her at the marina lounge. And she diligently wrote letters and numbers.

We all ate lunch in the "cafeteria."

There's a little wooden ramp that Matilda loves. We call it the ramp game and we have to play every time we walk home from the pool. Up and down the ramp. Yelling and screaming in delight.

And the pool. I think today was the first day we didn't go to the pool.

This kind of unknown and exploration is good for me. I'd gotten into such a routine in Philly with planned activities every day of the week that I often wondered why I was a stay-at-home mom if I was constantly rushing off to go places. On the other hand, I'm a social person, not at all an introvert, and I need that stimulation to keep me energized. I'm excited to see how I can bridge the gap of getting a healthy dose of social interaction while still having a flexible, free-wheeling schedule.