Smartini Runs Aground

Not the boat named Smartini, but rather “Team Smartini” – Fran and Butch. See, two weeks ago today, we stepped off the boat named Smartini for the last time, leaving her in the very capable hands of her new owners, Linda and Brian Werder. They’ll be continuing The Big Adventure that we started five years ago; already they’ve gone way farther up the East Coast than the boat has ever been before, all the way to Urbana, VA, a little town on the Chesapeake Bay. They’ll stay there until the end of hurricane season, then head back to FL, then the Bahamas, and then wherever their adventuresome souls guide them. We wish them luck, and hope they enjoy living on Smartini as much as we did. They’ll be renaming the boat “Vahevala”, from the 1971 Loggins and Messina tune of the same name.

“But wait! Back up! Does this mean you’ve sold Smartini?!?!”, you might be thinking to yourself. “Yes!”, I would say to yourself.

In February, we left Florida for the Bahamas, to spend a few weeks with good friends Beth and Pat on their Nordhavn 60, “Olaf”. A few weeks turned into 3 1/2 months, and somewhere in that time span, we decided it was time to wrap up the “living on a boat” phase of our lives. We had a great time with Olaf, and also Ingrid, then Curt and Sondra, and finally Bennett and Emilie, but we found ourselves more and more aware of the fact that weather rules your life when you live on a boat, and less and less willing to keep living with that limitation. Also, our plans to explore the Western Caribbean were on indefinite COVID hold, since no country is yet anywhere near back to normal, and who wants to visit an amazing place, only to have so much of its charms unavailable? Not us.

With Beth and Pat, somewhere in the Bahamas

So we decided to enjoy the hell out of our last voyage, return to Florida, and get the old girl ready to sell. (She’s almost 20 years old now!) And that’s what we did, spending countless hours over the next many weeks getting the boat into the best shape possible before showing her, and then turning her over to the next owners. I won’t even recap all the things we did, but suffice it to say that by the time Linda and Brian took the helm, the boat was in the best shape it had been in during our entire time with her, if you consider not only the general condition of things, but especially all the upgrades we did during that time.

The first time Linda and Brian came onboard, we spent five hours with them, showing them the whole boat, top to bottom, stem to stern. We knew they were a great fit for the boat, and they must have, too, because very shortly we had an offer, then a deal, then a survey and sea trial, and finally, a closing. Then, Fran and I spent the next 7 1/2 days with them, helping to get their northward journey underway, and teaching them as much as we could about the boat along the way. Two weeks ago, we left them in a marina in Daytona Beach. We’ve had only a few questions from them since then (they’re obviously quick studies), and we’ve watched their daily progress with great pleasure as they’ve made their way to the Chesapeake.

Last visit to Hope Town Harbour, Elbow Cay, Abacos, Bahamas

I know what you’re thinking, and for Fran, you’re right: it’s bittersweet. For me, not so much – once we decided to sell, I was already mentally ready for the next phase of life. Of course, we’ll both miss being in the beautiful water of the Bahamas, the Virgins, and all up and down the Eastern Caribbean, but all of those places are accessible by airplane. We met some absolutely fantastic people on our journey (Beth and Pat, Liz and Paul, and of course Whitey and Max, among many, many others) – but it’s not like that’s ever going to stop. Not as long as Fran is part of Team Smartini!

What IS the next phase of life? We’re going to continue being vagabonds for the foreseeable future, just land-based rather than water-based. We still have the Big Sexy Beast (our trusty 2018 Dodge minivan that we bought a year ago), and we have a long list of places we want to visit, and spend weeks or even months. Many are in the US, many are not – those will be dependent on the state of COVID, of course. We’ve started with New York City – arrived here last Thursday, and will be here for a whole month. My son Bennett lives here, just graduated from Pratt Institute here (with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, with honors – yes, I’m proud!), and just started his dream job as a Gallery Assistant at Essex Street / Maxwell Graham, his absolute favorite art gallery in all of New York. Because of him being in school and us being on the boat, we’ve not spent much time with him over the past five years, so we’re remedying that situation this month.

With Bennett (right) and “the other Bennett” (center) on our first day as New Yorkers

After NY, it’ll be Indianapolis for a bit, then Fort Collins for a bit, then back to Indy for Thanksgiving, and by then, it will be way too cold for us that for north, so it’ll be back to Florida for a bit, and then, who knows? The Keys? Mexico? Belize? Egypt? (Fran’s biggest bucket list destination, and her 50th is in January.) Hard to say. We have no plans to buy a permanent residence any time soon – have you seen what the housing market is doing?!?! So if you get a call one day, and we ask you if you’ve got a spare bedroom… don’t be surprised!

Thanks for following along through the blog, and again, my apologies for being such an infrequent author. I’ll continue to write a post now and then, but I doubt it will be any more frequent than before – sorry – I’m getting lazy in my old age.

Work, Work, Work II

It’s often said among boaters that cruising is “fixing your boat in exotic places”. At times, it certainly feels that way. In August, while we were in Sint Maarten, we “hauled out” for 16 days to get a number of boat projects done, and this is the report of that haul out, and of the several other projects we’ve completed since then. My standard warning for all posts like this is that they’re probably not very interesting to many of you, and you won’t offend me by not reading them. (The original “Work, Work, Work” post, from early 2018, is here.)

Continue reading “Work, Work, Work II”

The Picture of Dorian: Gray

A quick tropical storm update for those following along at home: Dorian is passing by Sint Maarten as close as it’s going to get as I type this – about 90 nautical miles (104 regular miles). Winnie the Pooh would describe today as “blustery”, which you can see in the picture. Unless the storm takes a radical right turn in the next few hours, we’ll come through it unscathed.

We’re “on the hard” right now – hauled out in a boat yard, for some routine under-the-waterline maintenance. Today marks two weeks since the haul out, and if the weather today doesn’t hinder the bottom painters’ progress, we’ll be back in the water tomorrow. We finally got smart and decided not to stay on Smartini during the haul out – airbnb to the rescue! It’s nice to get away from the boat each day after 6 – 8 hours of sweaty dirty work and have a nice pool to cool off in, then a real shower to get clean in, and air conditioning to sleep in. May is diggin’ it, for sure.

Our friends Max and Whitey, who run charters on a big sailing catamaran (Nutmeg), took the boat to the Southern Caribbean (St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada) for hurricane season. They’ve done some dashing around down there to dodge Dorian over the last few days.

Our friends Jim and Kathy Booth, who have a sail cat (Moondance) at their home in Palm Coast, FL, are now in the bullseye of Dorian’s projected path.

Our friends Beth and Pat Winkler, who have a trawler (Olaf) and spend their summers on it in Maine, are currently watching Tropical Storm Erin, hoping it doesn’t veer west and whack them.

Hmmm….. maybe the smartest hurricane plan is to stay right in the middle of the Caribbean Islands, and just cross all fingers and toes! So far, it’s working for Smartini.

Trying to Reason: Update #3

Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about! This was from yesterday (Saturday) at 2:00 p.m.

Upper-level winds are then expected to become unfavorable for further development early next week.

  • Formation chance through 48 hours…low…20 percent.
  • Formation chance through 5 days…low…20 percent.

At 8:00 this morning, even better!

Look at the cute little disturbance!

…forecast to become less conducive during the next couple of days, and significant development of this system is not anticipated.

  • Formation chance through 48 hours…low…10 percent.
  • Formation chance through 5 days…low…10 percent.

I think we can call this one, folks. The chances of this system reversing its shrinking trend and becoming something that will be a problem for us are tiny. I won’t be surprised to see it disappear from the NHC outlook by this time tomorrow.

I hope my series of posts over the last few days have demonstrated what we go through each and every time a tropical disturbance starts to develop off the coast of Africa. We become fixated on these 4-times-daily reports from the National Hurricane Center. We start thinking about moving the boat hundreds of miles to the south – a journey we would not undertake lightly. We weigh all the options, and discuss all the scenarios, multiple times every day, for several days.

You can see how stressful the whole process has been for May

This one is going to end happily (with 99.95% certainty). Not all of them do. Our friends Maxine and Whitey have lost two or three boats to hurricanes over the last 3 decades. Our friend Robert lost one in 2017. The lagoon in St. Martin / Sint Maarten is littered with reminders of how serious this needs to be taken. Over the next few days, we’ll discuss, yet again, the wisdom of even being here at this time. Should we take the next nice weather window and head for Grenada? Or maybe at least part of the way there, to Martinique? Or should we look at the long history of the lagoon here as an excellent hurricane hole, and just stay put? Hurricane Irma was a monster storm, in both size and intensity. If the Saffir-Simpson scale went higher than Category 5, Irma would have been a SEVEN when it came through here! It’s incredibly unlikely for something like that to happen again such a short time later.

Decisions, decisions. But for now, the only decision is Bloody Mary or Mimosa with breakfast!

Trying to Reason: Update #2

When you get the updated NHC report on “your” tropical disturbance, you’re usually hoping for some change – a new forecasted path that takes it farther away from you, or a downgrade in the winds, or the rare and beautiful “it’s just going to fizzle out” forecast. You’ve waited 6 long hours since the last update – you want an UPDATE! But the 2:00 p.m. update yesterday gave no such satisfaction. The image was virtually the same as 6 hours before. (See below.)

Virtually the same image as 6 hours ago
Continue reading “Trying to Reason: Update #2”

Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season

(This post was supposed to come out yesterday – August 1 – at this time. Sorry! You’re going to get an update in just a little bit.)

Yes, it’s the title of a Jimmy Buffet song. But it’s also a good title for this blog post, which will describe what it’s like on Smartini when a Tropical Storm / Hurricane is brewing out in the Atlantic and headed our way. Rather than my normal style of waiting until something is over to write about it, I’m going to do this one each day, to try to convey a sense of the process we go through each time the National Hurricane Center posts an image that looks like this:

Continue reading “Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season”

Trying to Reason – Update #1

Now it’s Friday morning at 7:38. We’ve had two meaningful updates in the last 24 hours, both summarized below. When yesterday’s 2:00 p.m. update came out, we read every word at least twice, trying to get a feel for this “disturbance”. (By the way – that’s a great word for it – it really IS a disturbance to us. All plans are put on hold, or at least become very tentative, until this thing sorts itself out. Our lives are definitely disturbed right now.) We look at the image, somehow imagining that the path of the disturbance-that-might-become-a-storm is accurate down to the individual pixel – because that’s about how big we are in the image – a pixel.

Continue reading “Trying to Reason – Update #1”