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December 7, 2008

Standing on the Cusp of a New Adventure

Go to www.cruisenews.net (one of my favorite surf sites), click on Voyage Logs, scroll down a bit and select a few that look interesting to you. Chances are, you'll find a bunch of pages that no longer exist.

What happened to the stories? Where are the boats and the cruisers? Over the past decade, I've found that in the cruising world, many things just fade away. People go on to new things and the stories of their lifetimes disappear with the expiration of their free websites or domain names. Unfortunately, there is rarely an epilogue - rarely do we find out what happened next.

That is effectively what has become of us, the former crew of Hetty Brace, then Hetty B. Moving to Iowa last year meant that very little time was spent on the boat. Yes, you can reach the ocean from Iowa via the Mississippi River, but the reality of that is not so clean cut. Eventually, we settled in here, I started a business and, the economy being what it is, we sold Hetty B to help pay for the expenses of that new business. Suddenly, I was boat-less. Worse, upon being without a boat, I found that my life was rudder-less.

For weeks prior to the sale of Hetty B, I began scouring Yachtworld for something, anything, to fill the huge void I could see looming in my existence. The economy downright sucks but if you have the cash, this is the time to buy - since my obsession with blow boats began in the late 80's, I've never seen prices this low. And it's not just boats - used boat stuff is plentiful and relatively low-priced for the most part.

Most of the cash of the sale of Hetty B went to pay the bills - but a bit of it was squirreled away. Today, even that money is gone. In its place is a Down East 32 named Dunwishin. And with that, Michelle and I stand on the cusp of a new adventure.

Dunwishin is a 1979 Down East 32 cutter. She was owned by an 80-year-old gentleman who put some serious miles under her keel according to some old log books I found aboard. Unfortunately, age apparently caught up with him as boat maintenance took a back seat over the past several years. Dunwishin is in some serious need of attention.

Now she will get the attention she deserves - and in return, I have a new rudder for my life. Since she is way up in the Northeast, she'll have to wait a few months for winter to blow by but I have a feeling the months will pass quickly - there is a lot to do. We have a deadline from the yard, we have to be in the water by a certain date early in May - which means I will have to be working to get her ready several weeks before that.

I can't wait - I also can't believe I'm about to say this: I missed being in the boatyard. There, like while cruising, my responsibilities were clear - I knew what needed to be done and how to do it. And so it goes today.

From the Northeast, we'll sail Dunwishin south - how far, I can't say. I have no idea. But then again, how much of an adventure would it be if we knew everything in advance?

All I can say is... It's good to be back.

MItch (click here to email)

Being Out There video site: www.sailingmovie.com

February 21, 2008

A Sailor in a Sea of Corn (or snow, as the case may be)

Michelle and I have opted for a slight change in course recently. After briefly flirting with the idea of selling Hetty B, we decided against continuing that moment of insanity. Actually, what happened was a broker brought a potential buyer for a look. We gave them a full tour, explaining every detail and the couple seemed impressed. They started asking the broker about surveyors and such. That was too much. Later that afternoon, we called the broker to tell him that Hetty B was no longer for sale.

But for the first time in many years, she is out of the water and taking an opportunity to dry out a bit. Michelle and I decided last year that our adventure in Florida was coming to an end. Things had changed much in our 13 years there - and to us, few of those changes were for the better.

We are now sailors in a sea of corn. We purchased an old house in a small Iowa town and have set to work building a community newspaper that we started from scratch. It's been a lot of work, but a lot of fun, too. Living in a small Iowa town is incredibly much like it was living in our Florida marina - you know everyone and there's something wonderfully quirky about it.

The plan is to be able to enjoy the wonderful summers this area offers and live our dreams during the winter cruising on Hetty B. Should that work, it is truly the best of both worlds.

We'd love to hear from you - feel free to email us at anytime. If you'd like to check out the news from the hill country of Iowa, check out the East Iowa Herald.

Fair Winds!


January 15, 2007

It was late May in 2000 – Michelle and I had just spent a glorious day flying a spinnaker across the Bahamas Banks. As we approached South Riding Rock on our westbound trek, I said to Michelle, “I think we should turn right.”

From South Riding Rock, we had the option of continuing on across the Gulf Stream towards our marina in Tampa Bay or we could turn right and let our cruise continue just a bit longer for a sail up the East Coast.

We continued on. It turns out, that was a pivotal moment.

Is it hard to quit cruising? For some, apparently, it is not. I read stories all the time of people who go out only to return and sell their boat. I couldn’t imagine it – I still can’t. We pulled into a slip only a few feet from the slip we had left several months before. I tried to resume a life but generally failed miserably. It literally took me a year until I was somewhat comfortable with the idea that we were back at the dock again rather than cruising.

We talked about getting out again – we were going to shoot for the next fall. September 11, 2001, changed all of that. We didn’t leave that year – or the next – or the year after that. It turns out, in retrospect, that not turning right may have been a really bad choice.

Someday, I’ll share my story with you. I wish you all a very happy and prosperous New Year! I hope to see you out there.

Mitch (click here to email me)

July 20, 2006

We managed to travel to what some describe as the most dangerous place in the Western Hemisphere and we didn't get kidnapped - not even once! What we found in Colombia was a beautiful country with friendly people - and a place in which we felt safe.

Apparently things do change and there has been a lot of change lately in Colombia.

Obviously, we didn't travel to Bogota on the boat. Sitting at an elevation of 8,600 feet, there's not a lot of water to be found in the area - except for that which comes from the sky, of course. But our experience is applicable to cruisers because from what we've been told, the situation has changed not only in Bogota but also in the Caribbean cruisings areas of Colombia.

Colombia has made a significant investment in security over the recent few years - and it is apparently paying off. We felt far safer walking around neighborhoods in Bogota than we have in other major cities of the world. It helps, of course, that there were military guys with machine guns every couple of blocks.

Colombia is a beautiful country with incredibly friendly people. Problems still exist, of course, but much is being done. For cruisers contemplating a visit to the area, research the web, take in some of the advice you read and take the horror stories with at least a small grain of salt.

As North Americans, most cruisers will always be percieved as being wealthy - and therefore a possibly easy mark. For us, the best way to go has always been to try to fit in a little. Learn some of the language, dress like the natives - but always dress respectfully. In Colombia, that sometimes means you have to leave the grubby t-shirt and flip flops on the boat. And it always means you should leave the Rolex behind.

You can't always believe what you read - the only way to know is to find out for yourself. We did that in Colombia and found a beautiful country that we will return to someday soon. That said, no matter where you are, try not to make yourself an easy mark. Not only will that reduce your chances of finding trouble but it will also enhance your visit - and a visit to Colombia is well worth the time.

Be careful out there & fair winds!

February 11, 2006

Happy New Year, y'all! I'm sitting here on the computer wearing a coat that is a remnant from another life in Minnesota - it's cold in Florida! Actually, it's not that bad but it's supposed to get worse - and I'm ready for it.

Hetty B is hard aground in the backyard (the tide is seriously low). We gave up on marinas here in Tampa Bay and, after a long and painful search, found a place with a dock. It's kind of cool. I bought Michelle an old, abandoned bass boat for her birthday - that's hanging in the little lift next to Hetty. The bass boat - known as The Pony (because of Michelle's expression - "It's almost like getting a pony!") - will also function as our dinghy for a while. Our air floor West Marine dinghy - now just out of warranty - no longer has a floor. Or rather, it is now literally an air floor dinghy because the bottom fell off. That's right - it just fell off. It's nice to watch a $1,500 investment just disintigrate like that. I spent a few weeks trying to glue the stupid thing back on but you can probably guess how successful that was.

So for the moment, we'll look like the Redneck Family as we tow a 15 foot bass boat behind Hetty.

A few weeks ago we motored The Pony into our old marina. It was an even sadder sight from the water. The development there is a nightmare. It's been nearly three years since they started tearing up that little piece of paradise and still no one lives there. But then again, who would want to? It is literally the definition of Construction From Hell. Incredibly, there are a few liveaboards there - but that's only because they drove most of them out of the neighboring marina (that they are now starting to destroy as well). The boatyard is already gone - just a few weeks ago they took apart the Trav-L-Lift and shipped it off.

The days of waiting lists for a slip there are long over.

Another nearby marina was recently purchased by a developer and - it's unbelievable - they actually seem to plan to keep it a marina! Who would a thunk it? Perhaps they took a peak down the road to see how the one developer is literally bleeding cash - they drove a few million in slip fees out by treating them like crap and now have a development that no one wants to live in. In other words, they are not on the road to profit. Apparently the next marina developer decided that keeping those slip fees is actually not a bad thing. Regardless, I'm glad to know that not all of the marinas are going condo around here.

Being Out There is selling well - in fact I think we have now sold in every state except North Dakota (Utah was also on the list - but a few sales came in over the past few weeks). I think we've even managed most of the Canadian Provinces (at least those that have people in them). If anyone reading this lives in North Dakota and would like a cruising video that show what's it's like to be out there - shoot me an email. I'll cut you a serious discount just to complete the states. Besides, it's got to be what? Minus a billion degrees there? Even for non-sailors some scenes of the Bahamas couldn't hurt when enduring that.

November 7, 2005

My feet, legs and brain are all numb - Michelle is afflicted in much the same way.  We just survived four days at Strictly Sail in St. Petersburg, FL - a boat show in which we sold our video.  It was fun but, wow - we are worn out.  More often than not, however, I managed to sneak out to watch the sailboats come and go into the basin or to chat with Eileen Quinn (who was there selling her CDs).  Of course that meant leaving Michelle to handle the booth alone.  Incredibly, she never once tried to kill me when I would say, "I'll be right back..."

Bob & Jody Bitchin of Latitudes & Attitudes magazine seemed to literally own the show - as big a presence as the boat manufacturers had, the Lats & Atts tent was always jamming.  On Saturday night, they threw a pizza party after the show ended - it was packed.  From their beginning not all that long ago, they have really had a major impact on the sailing industry.  For any vendors at the show wondering where the people were with fistfuls of cash, all they had to do was check out the Lats & Atts tent.

Next week we are going to be at the SSCA GAM in Melbourne - we've gone several times over the years but this will be our first as exhibitors.  I love going to the GAM - it's a great time with great people.  It is really hard, however, to see all of the cruisers anchored out in the ICW across the street from the convention center - and knowing that we are not out there with them.  Hopefully next year - or the year after that...

Meanwhile, back in the formerly small and quiet town of Ruskin, the weather has taken a turn for the beautiful.  Just after Hurricane Wilma blew by to our south, it was as if someone had flipped a switch labeled "Autumn."  OK, so the temps still have been climbing into the 80s but they don't stay there too long - and the nights have been wonderfully cool. 

And speaking of Ruskin, we may have found a solution to our disappearing marina problem.  No, the marina is still disappearing - in fact it is doing so much faster than we had expected.  But we may have found a new home for Hetty B.  We'll hopefully know very soon.  I am literally in shock as to the rate at which marinas are being paved over in this state.  I am certain that there are going to be very long-term ramifications for everyone from boat manufacturers to retailers.  Not to mention all of the people hoping to move to paradise and have a boat - it will be a rude shock to find out there is no place to keep one.  Some communities are starting to figure it out and there is some great news.  This county, however, has a big time bulldozer mentality.  Pave The State is their motto and they are going to stick with it.It's too bad.  But I have a feeling that more than a few developers are going to find that not everyone is interested in a 1,000 square foot cheaply built condo for a half million bucks.  Maybe when that starts to happen, some sanity will return.  At least I hope it does...Take care everyone & fair winds!

October 8, 2005

It's been a bit busy lately.  Our new DVD is getting ready to go up for sale at West Marine stores, it's already up on Amazon.com, Target.com and on our own website.  We are also getting ready for the Strictly Sail sailboat show in St. Petersburg on the first weekend in Nov. - and we'll have a booth at the SSCA annual party in Melbourne the following weekend.  It's been a lot of work, a lot of fun but I'm not convinced yet that this is going to be a means for us to cruise for six months, make videos for six months - but I'll keep my fingers crossed. Fortunately, living aboard the boat is a more simple, less expensive way of life than living in a house.  Even with today's marina prices.

We're still trying to find a new home port for Hetty B.  We really, really, really want to get back aboard but the marina situation in Tampa Bay is not good.  In fact, it's now so bad that the nearest haul out location is in Charlotte Harbor - a day's sail away.  I can't believe what is happening here - virtually all of the marinas are being developed (destroyed) and project-style condos are going up for a bazillion dollars each.  It is really a shame to see what's happening to this great way of life. 

Fortunately some places are starting to fight back - a few communities in Florida are putting a moratorium on marina development and others are considering it.  There are a whole lot of businesses in this state that depend upon the wave of cruisers coming down each year - and those businesses are starting to hurt.  I'm hopeful that coastal communities will wake up to the fact that few jobs are provided by the condos - but a whole lot of jobs are created by the visiting cruisers. 

Maybe I'm naive but I'm hoping that things will change.  In my own little town near Tampa, the public outrage is rising - and the residents are beginning to fight back through letters to commissioners and attending county commission meetings.  There's a glimmer of hope that they may be successful - I just hope it's not too late.

I really miss the life we had.  But I'm determined to find it again - I know that it's out there somewhere.

September 18, 2005

UPDATE:  For nearly a year now we have been working on a new venture - a production company to make DVD videos of the cruising world - both boats and motorcycle.  Our first production is now complete!Being Out There is a feature length video about cruising and life in paradise.  It includes great imagery from around Florida and the Caribbean and also includes fantastic music from recording artist/cruiser Eileen Quinn.  If you get a chance, please stop by the movie website at www.sailingmovie.com.

The video incorporates some of the stories from Michelle's 2000 cruising journal.  It also gives you at least one good reason to stay at a marina in Nassau...

September 1, 2005

Months have passed by like glimpses out of the corner of my eye.  I don't know where the time has gone.Nor do I know where we will go.  The last time I updated, we had two boats in the yard - our true home, a Catalac 34 catamaran and an old, beat-up Hunter 27.  The Hunter has been sold and our Catalac, now renamed "Hetty B", is in the water.

Unfortunately, we don't know for how long. 

Development and destruction have taken hold in this part of the world.  The waterfront, it seems, is rapidly becoming the exclusive domain for those who can afford it - the "dirty people" in the marinas will soon no longer be welcome.  Our original home marina, one in which we spent eight years and have racked up thousands of great memories, is already almost empty.  Apparently the boats and liveaboards do not create a desirable view for the smarmy developers and sales people hoping to fleece the wealthy into buying cheaply built project-style housing for huge bucks.

The horrible bottom line is this: What was once a vibrant, friendly, happy community of liveaboards has forever ceased to exist.

So we, too, are leaving - hopefully before we are forced out.  I don't know where we are going yet - hopefully there is still a place where decent people can live quiet, simples lives afloat.I think it's all over in Florida.  The laid back, semi-tropical lifestyle that attracted so many is rapidly being replaced with wonder-bread generic planned developments.  The life we had here is gone - it is just taking us some time to admit that to ourselves.We are facing north right now. M&MP.S. 

Check back soon - I will be updating this site.  And this time I mean it.

February, 2005

It has been months now and we still have two boats in the boatyard.  Needless to say, we are still living on the poorly anchored, odd-shaped vessel on land (otherwise known as a house). 

In some ways, that might be a good thing.  I am involved in a video production project for cruisers and everyone who loves the ocean and the freedom of wandering the seas.  All of the computer equipment involved in this project would cause a serious list even to our catamaran.

For the moment, we'll just bite down and live with it.  Both Michelle and I know that soon we will be back aboard and living the life that we love so much.  In the meantime, our yardboat Hunter 27 (now named Orion the Hunter) will soon splash and we will at least have something with a mast waiting at the slip.  Orion was seriously neglected and it has been a serious project bringing her back.  When the travelift finally lowers her into the water, I'm sure that I won't begin breathing again until I see for myself that the ocean won't be rushing in to destroy all of our hard work.

Speaking of work, I really will try to get this site updated with pictures and information about our upcoming documentary.  Thanks for stopping by - we'll see you out there!

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