The Kindness of Cruisers

IMG_0542Sorry for not updating in a while. It’s been a busy time for us. We were able to spend about six weeks in the Harborage Marina in St. Petersburg, FL while we were getting settled into our new boat. It was a great location, in easy walking distance to restaurants and the grocery store. The Harborage is right next to the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg campus, which was nice. There were always a ton of people walking and biking everywhere. The city has a lively feel to it.

Saturdays in St. Pete feature a downtown farmers market with lots of fresh produce and art with a variety of amazing smelling food booths as well. We found some amazing fresh honey which is the most flavorful honey I have ever had. Thomas was even trying samples of the amazing food options. We found some mixed spices by a local company, Kitchen Fusions, that are amazing. Thomas insisted we buy 4 different mixes. He even liked the way they had their samples set up, with little wedges of cucumber, drizzled with a little extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of the spice mix over the top. For those of you that know how picky Thomas is about his food, it’s amazing that he actually asks for that now. The “original” mix is already half gone. The city of St. Pete has a fun spirit and was a great place to spend some time while getting used to the boat life.

It was also nice being in the marina, for the community and support that we were really looking for as we adjusted to living on-board. We were able to talk to a lot of people about our plans and various projects. We got a ton of advice, often opposite advice, but it was all good advice based on the experiences of the people around us. Everyone was willing to give an opinion, suggest where to go for parts, or companies that could do the work we needed. There was a nice captain’s lounge where it was fun to just sit and listen to people talking about their boats and experiences.

We also found an amazing captain for lessons. Captain Dave is one of the kindest people I think I have ever met and his wife, Chris, is amazing as well. Dave is very laid back and patient, which was just what we were looking for in our captain. He really seemed to get what we needed and helped reassure us that we can do this. We started with boat handling, which is really the part that concerned us the most. The endeavor is 37.5 feet long, plus has a five foot bowsprit, and the dinghy hangs off the back. That is a lot of boat.

Our boat has a serious prop walk that we first needed to learn how to manage. For those of you that don’t know what that is, prop walk is the tendency for the stern of a sailboat to go to one side when in reverse, based on the direction of the propeller. It’s not at all like the power boats most Minnesotans are used to. Our boat has a more than average prop walk to starboard. In the slip where we were located, if we allowed the prop walk to do its thing, that would spin our bow toward the expensive motor yacht that we were docked next to, or more importantly, it would spin our five foot bowsprit with the heavy stainless steel anchor at the end, into the boat next to us. It also would try to bring us the opposite direction we needed to go to leave. So Dave helped us figure out how to manage/counteract that effect. He gave us a great trick to do what we need to do.

We throw a line over the bow of the boat next to us, wrap it around the pillar on our neighbor’s side, and then throw it back to our boat. Then, we alternate 2 seconds on, 2 seconds off in reverse. It helps us get the reverse momentum needed to back up without getting too much prop walk. Then, as soon as the bowsprit clear the pillar on our side, we would pull on the line that was wrapped around the neighbor’s pillar, which pulled us the direction we needed the boat to turn. It is an amazing trick and was a very reliable way to back up a boat that doesn’t really want to.

We spent our early days of training learning to get the feel of the boat, and understand how it would respond to our actions. The Endeavor is quite different in handling than the C&C’s we learned to sail on. It was really quite a learning curve, but we feel pretty confident in docking now. It is still not my favorite thing, but I know I can do it. There were also always people asking if we needed extra hands  to take dock lines, so it is nice knowing that most people are very willing to help out if needed.

Back when we were researching the cruising life, we had heard that cruisers were a uniquely kind set of people. We have found that to be true. For example, when Dave heard that we didn’t have a car to get some things we needed for repairs, he offered us the use of his car. He insisted and we finally accepted. We don’t like asking for things from other people and borrowing a person’s car seemed like too much, but car rentals were getting terribly expensive, taking the bus takes hours, and walking takes hours and requires a lot of time in the hot sun. We were able to get the parts and lines we needed for the boat, stock up on groceries, and get to Sam’s Club to refill prescriptions.

Speaking of the challenges of transportation, one day we had walked the two and a half miles to a great local marine supply shop, Island Nautical, on a very hot, sunny day, where we got the parts for our windlass repair and replaced a lot of our running rigging lines. They got us some wonderful ice-cold water when we arrived, and when they heard that we had to walk back two and a half miles, the manager told the others that he would be gone for five minutes, and gave us a ride back to the marina. Who does that kind thing anymore? It was astounding that he would do that for us, but that is the kind of kindness we are seeing a lot of in this boating/sailing community and it gives me hope for humankind.

There is so much petty meanness in the world and in the daily news, it is so refreshing to see people bending over backwards for people they barely know. It gives me hope. (On a side note, they also recommended sizing down for several of our running rigging lines, which saved us a bunch of money, and they no longer recommend rope/wire splices for the halyards of our size boat, so we saved both money and a week of time by getting a non-wire halyard, which was amazing. They made sure that we had what we actually needed. Island Nautical was awesome! For those of you in the area, I highly recommend them.)

Now that we’ve moved to an anchorage in Gulfport (about 10 minutes from St. Pete by car, 3 hours by sailboat), that kindness of cruisers is still evident. Dave’s wife, Chris, messaged a friend who lives in this anchorage, who gave us a rundown on the area our first day. We’ve gotten lots of advice talking to people at the dinghy dock.

We had an issue with the dinghy outboard motor the first couple days that Sam couldn’t quite figure out (he’s never really worked on marine systems, so there is a learning curve there), so people asked around for us and we found a mechanic in the anchorage that came to us to fix it. He’s a really nice guy who came down from Louisiana with his wife several months ago. Before we got the engine fixed, we even had people offer to tow us in our dinghy back to our boat, so we didn’t have to row. Everyone works together, and everyone is willing to help out.

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Our second night as we were getting in our dinghy to return to the sailboat, we found a dog in the water who had swum in from one of the anchored boats. She was determined to go find her owner, but the sun was setting and we were afraid she would get hit by a car or something in the Friday night traffic. Within about half an hour, everyone had gathered the troops, trying to find her home. There were half a dozen people there, and they had even figured out which boat she was from. Finally the owner arrived and she was able to go home. It felt good to have so many people trying to help.

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We are still adjusting and there are still plenty of times where we question ourselves, but we have found that this life is really good. Life can be hard, wherever you are, and even our sailing life is a lot of work, but this is a good life. We feel lucky to be able to experience this sailing life. It is definitely a sailing life for us.

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