Thursday, December 30, 2010

David Leslie Hillhouse

March 13, 1924 - December 20, 2010

I miss your quiet presence, wry humor, and loving support. I thank you for giving me a love of music and learning, the strength and confidence to follow my beliefs, and a taste for adventure.

I love you, Dad, and will miss you always.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dark & Stormy...

It was definitely a dark & stormy night. We knew some wind was coming and it had been raining off and on. At 3:30 am we awoke to a lot of movement and 40 knot winds. We got up to add some more lines and fenders and found that 1/3rd of one of the spring lines had frayed from the incredible stress. We added 4 additional lines, 3 fenders, and cocked the boat in the slip slightly to keep the bow in and stern out. The extra lines did a great job and we got back to sleep around 5.

In the morning the wind was still blowing around 30 knots so we headed out to the beach with the dogs. The wind blowing against the sand made it look fog-like and strange. I had to capture it on my phone.

When we got to the point where the inlet meets the ocean, it was quite rough outside the large sandy shoal that extends out. Definitely not a day to be out in a boat.

Dyna continues to run along the beach - she is happiest when surrounded by water. Dylan found a large sand crab trying to find a new home and almost got badly nipped in the nose by a pincher claw. How much you wanna bet he heads right back to the same spot looking for that crab tomorrow?

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Today was our first holiday on the boat. In the past we've either been at our land-based home in Maine or at my folks. We had to settle on a turkey breast rather than the whole bird as that's all that would fit in the stove. Still the meal was as good as any we've had on land - turkey and stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce, steamed broccoli, noodle kugel, gravy, of course, and pecan pie. Add a nice bottle of wine and a meal at a 4 star restaurant couldn't beat it.

It was a low key day, warm but overcast. We watched the Macy's parade, took the dogs for a walk, and did nothing in particular. It's quiet and beautiful here on Bald Head Island.

Still sometimes it's hard to be thankful. We've had a few hard weeks. My brother's wife is better but still fragile. My father just entered hospice and I wonder if I will see him again. My mother struggles with losing her mate of over 60 years while also struggling with care-taking.

But I am thankful. Thankful for a father who has loved and cherished me. Thankful for a mother who is loving and an example of strength and devotion. Thankful Chris is there for my brother and their two children. And immensely thankful for my husband, my two four-legged "kids", and that I am able to live this unusual and rewarding life.

As for Dyna and Dylan, they're thankful their dad gave them some turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Family Emergencies & Cruising...

While cruising, all issues are amplified. Run out of milk? At our land home - no problem. On the boat, it requires planning and coordination. So what happens when a family emergency strikes?

We were needed for an extended family emergency. The call occurred while underway to Beaufort, NC. Through some extraordinary help from Jim and Robin along with exceptional service from the Morehead City Yacht Basin marina, we were 400 miles inland in Tennessee just 9 hours later. I've had to wait more than 9 hours for fresh coffee at times!

For 10 days we've been helping out with our niece and nephew. The emergency is subsiding and recovery is beginning. We should be back on the boat and heading to Bald Head Island by the weekend.

For Dyna & Dylan it has all been an unexpected adventure. Dylan has renewed his interest in sending squirrels up trees and Dyna has gotten to know her cousin Dixie. I think they're both a little homesick for returning back to where they have a normal schedule.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hunkering Down

One of the lessons that can take awhile for us humans to learn is that we can't have it all - despite what that perfume commercial from the 70's tried to tell us. Oh come on, you remember "I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan..." Hated that commercial.

Well, we've been trying to do it all. Things have been cranking up with the website - new third party apps, increased interest from marinas and other marine companies, new promotional programs being put in place, and a user population that is growing at an increasing rate. We're receiving more requests to speak, write articles, and answer questions. On the personal side, we've been having great fun meeting up with cruising buddies, and unfortunately, have had some family crises. Of course, we have to give the crew the time they deserve including playtime and cuddles. All this while planning and executing our cruise south.

Don't get me wrong, there are no complaints here. Everything on that list involves something we love. But we realized there just are not enough hours in the day to do it all. At least not do it all well. Something had to give.

After four years of hard work the ActiveCaptain website is poised to become everything we had envisioned. To ensure that happens we need to keep at it. So we made the hard decision to shorten our cruise. We decided the best thing to do was to find a place where we could settle in for a few months, focusing on getting some work done, and spend some time with family.

Being the obsessive types we are we wrote a requirements list.

1. A place that's good for the dogs.
2. A place where the dogs can run and play everyday.
3. A place the dogs will like.
4. Oh, and a place that has enough draft, has space available, groceries, blah, blah, blah.

We made another list of potential spots and yet another list of questions to ask, "Is there a place where our dogs can run?" And finally settled on Bald Head Island, a small community on an island off North Carolina that jets out into the ocean. We have a reservation for a month starting on Tuesday.

After that we may stay another month or go someplace else. We eventually hope to make it to Charleston, maybe Cumberland Island (did I mention the dogs love Cumberland Island?) but it's not likely we'll make it much beyond that.

Will we miss the beautiful destinations south? Sure. Mainly we'll miss the people, but in this strange community of cruisers we know we'll see them again - most likely sooner than we think. For now we're on our boat heading to a beautiful island and the kids are with us. What more do I need?

Monday, November 1, 2010

FOAC's are Everywhere!

One of the best parts of starting down the Intracoastal Waterway is that we're in close proximity to a lot of boats. We're now tied up between the lock and bridge at Great Bridge, Virgina watching all the snow birds making their way south. The picture above was taken from the other side of the ICW looking back at our tie up on the wall. As you can see, Dyna & Dylan love sitting in the perfect sunny weather watching all the boats go past.

In this close proximity mode, we're always running into FOAC's - Friends of ActiveCaptain. We are often hailed on the radio, given a thumbs up when being passed on the wall (that is a thumb, isn't it?), and waved to. Meeting, listening to, and sometimes just a tip of the hat are the best parts of our involvement with ActiveCaptain.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sous Chef

Our galley is what is known in the cruising community as a "one butt galley." We have managed to work both of our backsides in by performing this elaborately coordinated dance. Still we often collide and have to adjust with a "Would you please step to the right for a second?"

We gave up virtually all prepared foods several years ago and cook most every meal from scratch (check out Michael Pollan's book, "In Defense of Food"). Breakfast frittatas in the morning, Kung Pao chicken for lunch, and beef and broccoli stir fry for dinner - are examples.

We worked out our routine while spending a year at our land based home and moved it to the boat with just a few adjustments.

When we moved back on the boat this time, Dyna decided that she had to lay down in the middle of the galley during all meal preparations. In the beginning we would shoo her away but she was back before we could turn around.

So now we've adjusted the dance to include 3 bottoms - "Dyna, honey, can you please put your head down so I can open the refrigerator?" Why? Because we have spoiled dogs, of course. Haven't you been following this blog?!?!

As for Dylan, he perches at the edge just happy to be in the vicinity of food.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Storm

All day, we knew it was coming. Winds grew from 15 kts to 30 during the morning and afternoon. At anchor, I keep a wind alarm at 25 kts and it's never a good thing when I increase it. Still, we were very safe and secure.

Around 3 pm the National Weather Service started issuing tornado watches for our area. We kept a careful watch on the front, got out our life preservers, and even re-fit them on Dyna & Dylan. We discussed emergency plans and were all ready.

At around 6 pm, it got quiet. Eerie quiet. An obvious front line was visible in the west. We prepared the boat, disconnected much of the electrical systems, lowered the antennas, removed the screens, and shot one video of the approaching front.

We decided that the safest place was in the stateroom below so all crew retreated there. The wind picked up to 40 kts, rain thrashed everywhere, and in 5 minutes, it was over. The red dot in the radar image above is directly on our location.

We stayed below for about a half hour watching the weather radar on the iPhone and listening to the handheld VHF.

The radar now shows another band coming in about 2 hours. No fear though. The crackerjack crew is ready.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Home Again at Olverson's

Living on a boat is a bit like being a gypsy. We wander from place to place, rarely staying for too long at any one. Each place has its charm or event or people and places to see or a dog park. But where is home? I mean, where is that place that feels familiar and comfortable, where people know you and will always stop to lend a hand?

When we left Solomons we anchored in St. Mary's, MD off the college docks. There's a great little beach right there. We can take the dinghy up to the St. Mary's College docks and let the dogs run and swim. Every afternoon the students fill the cove with small sailboats and wind surfers. It was the perfect spot to ride out several days of high winds. Our plans were to leave there and anchor up the Corrotoman River at a place highly recommended by Cassie and Godiva on September Song for dog romping.

Unfortunately, when we went to put the dinghy back up the automatic tilt began emitting a pittiful groan and stopped working. A functioning tilt on an engine our size (40 HP) is a necessity if you want to beach the dinghy for dog swimming. It had to be fixed.

Now it might seem strange but fixing something like a dinghy can be a bit of a problem when you're living on the water. Most outboard places are inland catering to the weekend boater with a boat and trailer. We have the boat but no room to store a trailer. In addition, this is the busy time for these folks as they begin winterizing boats and preparing them for storage. No one would commit to looking at the boat any time soon. We needed help.

A call to Freddie at Olverson's Marina and the calvary was put into motion. Boats were rearranged to make space on the dock. Boat trailers were found. Parts were ordered. Trucks were offered to haul her out. And true to the male psyche a flotilla of men were quickly gathered around the engine. The offending part was a badly corroided tilt motor which "simply" needed to be replaced.

As these projects always go, little went smoothly. There were uncountable trips back to the boat for tools, phone calls, devices, etc. Bolts were broken and pins were jammed. By last night it was back together but still not working. Finally this morning in pouring rain with Mike Thompson's advice and a bit of work with a Dremel tool she was back in order.

Now we wait for the rain to stop pouring so we can bring her back on the boat and hopefully head for the Corrotoman River tomorrow. The kids are dying to swim in a new spot. But if it weren't for Freddie and Steve and Mann and Mike and this familiar place called Olverson's, who knows where we'd be heading. It was nice to be home for a few days.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


No, we're not sending out an SOS. But we can all use some help from time to time.

We had planned on leaving Solomons today but Jeff felt a bit under the weather yesterday so we fell behind. Today we are getting out an ActiveCaptain newsletter which will mean lots of emails, updates, and comments, so we decided to stay put one more day.

We had lots of folks asking for beginner's help using the ActiveCaptain site, so we've put up a Getting Started tutorial. Look for the big help button under the articles section.

We're also announcing some big discounts at two of our Co-Op marinas here on the Chesapeake, Bay Creek Marina and Severn River Marina.

It'll be a busy day with lots of time behind the computer. However, that doesn't mean we can't find some time for a dinghy ride with Dyna and Dylan to the swimming beach around the corner. Gotta keep the crew happy!

Sunday, October 10, 2010


October 10th - the day we all turn back into pumpkins. For the last 6 weeks we've been speaking at various rendezvous or preparing to speak at them. Yesterday's double session with the Krogen Cruisers annual rendezvous was our last for a while. This morning we awoke at anchor to see the 40 Krogens preparing to all take off from Solomons, MD enroute throughout the waterways. One thing about these Krogen owners - they know how to throw a party! We were dancing to live music until late last night...

We met many hundreds of people and made lots of new friends for life. We provided two types of talks at these get-togethers - the combination of our EMS/emergency medicine experience applied to cruising, and Q&A's about ActiveCaptain. It was all a wonderful experience and incredibly fun for us.

Now that all the speaking is over, finding a good swimming hole for Dyna & Dylan has become a priority. We'll stay in Solomons for a few days - we have some local knowledge about a beach good for swimming around the island. Then we're thinking of heading to St. Marys, the Piankatank River, or wherever the seas carry us. Having no plan is sometimes the best plan - for both pumpkins and puppies.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Arrgh...Married Again!

Every five years, Karen and I have gotten re-married. We've gone as far as flying to Las Vegas to getting re-married by a local minister in Castine. So with our 25th anniversary, the 5 year alarm clock went off.

I called the City of Baltimore and attempted to get re-married at their courthouse.  "But you're already married - we don't have a form for that" the clerk told me. "Do you have a form for getting a divorce?" I asked.  Well not surprisingly, they do, so I asked if she could see the irony in that. I think while trying to figure out the meaning of the word irony, she hung up on me.

At a dinner party, licensed captains Steve and Diane Koch married us again on a boat but something else was needed. Something more fitting for the seriousness of a quarter century. Then I remembered Bones.

Captain Wayne Flatt (aka Bones) is the captain of Skinwalker with his wife Lynn, a cruising boat that I've had contact with over a few years. Wayne is also a reverend  and a member of the Blessed Order of the Navigator Ecumenical Society. If that weren't enough, Bones is also captain of the P/V Fearless of Urban Pirates in Baltimore. P/V stands for pirate vessel.

So we met Wayne and Lynn for dinner and discussed the whole thing. Wayne researched our relationship and crafted a fine set of vows fitting for a pirate ship and a 25th anniversary. On Tuesday with rain threatening, we were remarried in a way I surely will never forget. Dyna and Dylan were able to attend and were little pirates themselves for the afternoon. They completely exhausted themselves by swabbing the deck with all paws until they fell asleep.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Fells Point Fun

It doesn't take a festival to have fun in Fells Point but boy, what a festival there was this weekend. Sandwiched between two storm fronts, the weekend festival covered a few miles of closed streets with hundreds of booths, food items, and fun.

We found out about this festival by accident last week. It was a 10 block walk from the marina - hard to get much closer than that. I'm working on ways to get event information like this into ActiveCaptain because it would bring a lot of utility and enjoyment to cruisers planning where to go. An obvious solution is to have various chambers of commerce update information about major events in their towns. But is there a standard place to do this?  How can we get coastal communities to update an online calendar so all of us can find and use the information?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Boating Dividend

Both of my parents were raised on farms during the Depression, so self-reliance and frugality were things I was raised with. I remember many weekends watching my dad tear apart the dishwasher or seeing his head under the hood of a car with wrenches and assorted tools. Calling a repairmen was a sign of defeat.

So imagine my horror when after a few months of marriage I came home to a dishwasher that wouldn't start and my husband's only response was, “Better call the plumber.”

Over the years I adjusted and developed a list of plumbers, electricians, carpenters, and other repair people. Then we bought a boat. The first boat was a 40 year old lobster boat, a tank we couldn't destroy even if we tried. Every Winter we turned the boat over to the the local boat yard for repairs and maintenance.

Next we bought a new Albin. Jeff had more trouble blindly putting this boat into the hands of another and started learning to do some of the work himself.

With our trawler we realized that self-reliance translated into independence. After 8 years of cruising there are few projects we don't dive into and complete ourselves - engine maintenance, new system installations, electronics, carpentry, finish work, and whatever else comes up.

Last week it was the washing machine – it wouldn't drain. It took about two hours for us to get the machine out of it's nook below and check all the hoses - which were clear. A quick search on the Internet led us to the pump with suggestions for what to check. Jeff changed a seal and cleaned it up although the pump was a little chewed up. Another couple hours to put it all back – it drained for 2 minutes and then stopped. We ordered a new pump online and two days later spent another few hours taking it all apart again (hey, we learned some lessons from the first time), replaced the pump, and we now have clean clothes again.

And the best part is these new found skills are finding their way to our land based home. Last time the refrigerator stopped making ice, my dear sweet husband said, “Let me take a look at it.” I call it The Boating Dividend.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hat's entertainment...

One of our most favorite things with ActiveCaptain is awarding hats for user-contributions. After a captain has earned 250 points for adding updates and writing reviews, they receive a highly-desired ActiveCaptain hat. We've mailed out hundreds of them.

Occasionally someone goes over the 250 point limit when we're in proximity. This calls for an official award ceremony. Truth be told, we're really just trying to save on mailing costs!

Over the weekend, captain PJ (Paul & Jo-Anne) worked hard to cross their 250 point level. This called for the ceremony with previous hat recipients Bob & Lynn and the consumption of Dark & Stormies onboard aCappella. Dyna & Dylan officiated but mainly slept.

Monday, September 27, 2010

25 Years

Those who have followed our blog for some time may remember that we were married the day Hurricane Gloria hit DC. So it somehow felt right when I woke early this morning to pouring rain. Today is overcast with the rain fluctuating between drizzle and pouring, and it's suppose to continue through tomorrow.

Our plan had been to go out for a nice romantic dinner tonight. But we'd rather do it on a night when we can wander the streets of Little Italy. So we'll have a good lunch in Canton and stop at the nearby Safeway for a couple off juicy steaks and grill out on the boat instead, with the kids.

We still have to figure out how to get remarried, something we do every five years, but that's another blog entry.

A hurricane on my wedding day. Storms on my 25th anniversary. I think this bodes well for the next 25 years.

I love you, Jeffrey.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Wash Day

I love the way my dogs smell. Not when they're fresh from a bath with the smell of soap and perfume but honest to goodness dog smell.

Unfortunately, dogs get a bad rap for smelling bad. It's not the dog that smells bad, it's the things that dogs generally like that smell bad - like river water. And Dyna and Dylan have spent some serious quality time in river water lately.

So when a rank aroma started greeting me each time I stepped onto the boat, I decided it was time to wash the dogs. You'd think that dogs who love the water as much as these two wouldn't mind a bath. You'd be thinking wrong.

But the deed is now done and in 24 hours or so the smell of soap will have gone away. Then I'll sink my nose into that soft fur and take a heavenly whiff.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Yankees in Baltimore...

It has been well established that our boat is filled with a Yankee crew. It seemed fitting that with the MTOA rendezvous over and our first wave of speaking engagements complete, that we'd spend time with some other Yankees. In this case, it was the New York Yankees.

Camden Yards is just a couple of miles from the marina. It's pretty incredible that we can walk off our boat and into a major league stadium within a half hour. We had no tickets but were able to grab some at the ballpark.

The game was pretty boring with Baltimore leading 3-to-1. One New York fan we were with even left at the middle of the 8th so as not to see his home team lose. At the top of the 9th, the Yankees put 2 men on base with A-Rod coming to bat. There were 2 outs and 2 strikes with everyone standing to possibly see the last pitch of the game.  Needless to say, A-Rod swung on the next pitch and hit the ball out of the park to win a half-inning later with a 4-3 final score.

A half-hour later and we were back with our own Yankees who were asleep on the settee wondering why they didn't get some of the hotdogs that they could smell on us...

Friday, September 10, 2010

Double stick/bumper retrieval...

It's our last day at Olverson's before heading out for a couple of nights of anchoring and then landing in Baltimore for a month of presentations and rendezvous'. The thing that we'll all miss the most is our morning swim. We've perfected the double stick/bumper retrieval method to allow both dogs to swim and retrieve without fighting over the object thrown. It also allows Dylan to swim further. Both kids are very proud of their retrieval skills.

We'll miss these morning swims...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Down under

The projects are all being wrapped up and we're about ready to take off to Baltimore. One of the last things on the list is a dive down under the boat. I like to check everything out, especially the props, shafts, and struts, and do some cleaning of the water line. It's also good practice to try out all of the diving gear in case we need it in an emergency.

My 7 mil suit is designed for cold water diving. Here at Lodge Creek, the water temperature is about 85 degrees - warmer than the Bahamas! I could get away without wearing a wet suit altogether except for the jellyfish which swim throughout the creek. The suit is more for protection than warmth.

The bottom of aCappella looks good. It's been scraped clean to remove all of the marine growth and barnacles. New shaft zincs and a new 25 lb hull zinc were installed. I also had both tanks filled and did a complete maintenance check on all of the diving equipment.

We're officially ready to take off.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Envisioning provisioning...

One of the last and most important tasks we must do before releasing the lines and cruising off is provisioning - the job of having the things we need onboard. It's a big planning process in which Karen spends a good week of inventory analysis, estimating, and list making. It isn't just about food stores. We also plan everything from toothpaste to toilet paper. After 8 years of cruising, we have a lot of history and perspective - like we know we consume less beer that we think we do and use more paper towels than should be allocated to any pair of human beings.

The Mecca for all provisioning is Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, and Costco. It's one of the reasons why we track the location and provide phone numbers for all of those stores in ActiveCaptain. The closest Sams/Costco is hours away but there is a Wal-Mart Superstore in Tappahannock, VA, about a half hour away:

Our general strategy is to have all consumable products that we need onboard until the next time we'll be provisioning. In this case, that will be Thanksgiving. We also like to get all meat onboard and all non-fresh-foods. This means that we only need to find fresh vegetables and refrigerated items during our cruising. It significantly cuts back on the shopping we have to do week-to-week and also guarantees that we have plenty of food and supplies even if we have to stay in a remote place for a week or more due to weather (even if that means living on frozen vegetables).

Turning the provisioning plans into purchases is a big job. We walked into Wal-Mart rolling 2 carts. Some 2 hours later and $600 poorer, we walked out with 3 filled carts and another large job of getting everything back onto the boat.

Needless to say, I managed to sneak a few bags of special dog treats into my cart when Karen wasn't looking. As captain, my job is to make sure all crew members are happy!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

One of the best sounds in the world...

To a cruiser, one of the best sounds in the world is the sound of chain dropping over the bow to release the anchor into the sea floor. We had many opportunities to hear that sound over nearly 8 years while cruising on aCappella, especially over the 9 months of last cruising season. But there is eventually a price to pay for hearing that sound - the back breaking job of preparing the chain for a few more years of use.

With the slip next to us empty at Olverson's, we had a perfect opportunity to remove all 400' of 3/8" chain, treat the unavoidable rust, clean it up, and re-mark it for deployment. After hauling out the 600 lbs of chain, we realized that the first 200' was worn and rusty but the second 200' was almost new looking. Flipping the chain seemed like a good idea. So we split it up into 2 200' sections, treated the rust on the first 200' and cleaned it all up. It took 3 full days of work in 95 degree heat.

Every boater has their own technique for marking chain. None of them work. We've tried them all. With multiple days of prep and painting time, I used a cold galvanizing primer to cover the old marks and prep all the new ones. It took about 4 applications to each section to get it well covered. The top color coat was done in a bright orange color to hopefully show up in all conditions. It took 4-6 applications to get that properly covered - light coats applied after the previous coat had dried. At each marking, a bright yellow tie-wrap was also applied to give some length indication when the paint starts to wear off.

Many people mark their chain in different colors. In my experience, it's rare enough when you can actually see the marks after a year or so. My technique is to put 1 mark at 25', 2 marks at 50', 3 marks at 75', and 4 marks at 100'. That repeats for the next hundred feet. If I can't remember which "hundred" I'm on, I shouldn't be dropping the anchor.

Once we get to 250', the marks go on every 50'. The end of the chain is tied to the hull of the boat with nylon line which would stretch for another 100' and then snap in an emergency. All of the chain is stored in a chain locker which was also scrubbed and cleaned out. Guess who cleaned the chain locker? Do I have the best wife or what?

All we have left to do is to put the chain back into the locker. The sounds of doing that are likely to be anything but good.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Eat, Sleep, Swim

The kids favorite thing about Olverson's Marina is that they get to go swimming every morning. Even Dyna is awake by 7 am pacing the floor. Dyna loves to swim. Dyna would rather swim than do anything else, literally. (Dylan feels the same way about eating.) The minute we let her off the leash she is leaping and prancing like a puppy. She retrieves her bumper until we force her to stop and catch her breath - afterall she is in her 80's now.

So what's in it for us? A half hour swimming means a day of sleeping. We only need to provide the air conditioned salon, the sofa, and a sheet to soak up the water. It's a dog's life!

Monday, August 23, 2010

One well-behaved dog is permitted...

Dogs, gear, and things-we-can't-possibly-live-without were all loaded up on Sunday for the 2 day drive back to the boat. Everyone was excited about heading back - the dogs knew something was up and were searching for all clues. We had a nice last week saying goodbye to friends. If we get to the west coast of Florida we'll see many of them over the Winter. Other friends need to come meet us somewhere along the path!

Driving over 2 days means staying somewhere overnight. Thankfully, all Red Roof Inn's allow "one well-behaved dog" in the rooms. So we made reservations at the Wilkes-Barre, PA inn, arrived after dark, and snuck both dogs in.

Inside the room, Dylan was most certainly showing that he had been cooped up in a car for 11 hours. He was jumping from bed to bed as if he were trying out for a canine Cirque du Soleil. A car door slammed and he started barking. We wondered if we were going to get thrown out.

The 7 hour drive today was long. We arrived to find the boat in beautiful condition (it had been washed twice). The A/C was put on, all items brought onboard, and we settled back to our floating home after meeting a bunch of other trawler people we know who are also here now.

So looking back on our Red Roof Inn experience, we realized that we, in fact, met their pet requirements. We have one well-behaved dog. And then we have Dylan.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Dynasty

Dyna's name is a nickname. Her real name is Dynasty because she was the first dog bred by Birchwood Labradors Retrievers creating a dynasty of many puppies. And there are a lot of puppies that resulted from our wonderful Dyna.

Since we adopted her three years ago, we've gotten together every Summer with JoDee, Dyna's other mom who runs Birchwood. Last week we brought our team to Dexter, Maine so Dyna could have some quality swim time with 6 of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Dylan didn't mind playing with his half-sisters, nephews, and associated other kin.

None of those pesky grandkids got the best of Dyna during the afternoon at the lake. Of course, when we returned home, Dyna slept for two continuous days.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Dog's Life: The House vs The Boat...

Right off the bat I have to say that I only wish our lives were as good as our dog's. So any comparison between what it's like at our house and our boat is really silly. They have a great life no matter where they are.

Things are different in the two places. We have a beautiful, historic house. Built in the 1830's by ship builders, it is a fortress. There are many rooms and many dog beds. Except for one parlor, Dyna & Dylan have free run and know all the ways to get around.

Here are some of the major things in a dog's life and how they compare at our house and on our boat:

In both places, the dogs have comfortable sleeping areas. At night they sleep in bed with us and have all the space they want. At our house, we have more room because the bed is a lot bigger. Bottom line - sleeping is the same for them, better for us at the house.

This is a favorite activity of our dogs, especially Dyna. On the boat there is plenty of opportunity for swimming for obvious reasons. At the house we have to take them to an island or at the Maine Maritime Academy and they end up swimming about 2-3 times per week. Bottom line - swimming is better on the boat.

Although we are often visited by other cruisers on our boat, multiple people come to our house every day. Our dog team likes that a lot. Bottom line - there are more visitors at the house.

Dog Parks
Truth be told, we travel from port to port on the boat in search of dog parks. This gives the team a lot of opportunity to play with other dogs. At the house, they've only had a couple of play times with other dogs. Bottom line - there are more dog parks and more dog contact on the boat.

Mom & Dad Contact
On the boat we're all together for most of every day. Other than grocery shopping, the dogs are almost always with us. They even got invited to a dinner party on a friend's boat last Fall! At the house there is much more going on for us. So we're out more and the dogs are by themselves. They're never left for long but there are a few evenings a week when we're not all together. Bottom line - there is more family contact on the boat.

Dylan is especially a nut for Frisbee's. He's an incredible catcher and we've practiced with him since he was a tiny puppy. On the boat, there's almost no opportunity for Frisbee catching. At the house, Dylan is a leaping star. Bottom line - the backyard is Dylan's Frisbee kingdom.

Dinghy Rides
Dyna loves dinghies. She especially loves to go fast. She'll stand up in the bow, facing the wind, with the biggest smile you've ever seen a dog wear. For most of our cruising time, we're out on the dinghy almost every day. But in the anchorages, the dinghy has to go slow. In Castine we have a 13' Boston Whaler. Once we're 100 yards from the town dock, she goes 25 kts. Dyna loves it. Bottom line - the boat provides more quantity of dinghy time; the house has a better quality of dinghy time.

So we're down to the last 10 days. Piles of gear are stacking up. House projects are coming to an end and final lists of things to finish up have been made. Bottom line - the dogs are pretty happy no matter where they are.  So are we.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Only 20 Days!

We have only 20 more days until we return to aCappella!

It is hard to believe that our time onshore is coming to an end. We started the summer with our usual pages of lists. Lists for the house, lists for the ActiveCaptain website, and lists for the boat. Yes, even though she's 800 miles away there are still things we wanted to do.

We've certainly whittled the lists down but somehow there still seems to be more things than we can accomplish in just 20 days. I confess, we have been having fun too. The kids will fill you in on what their summer has been like later.

For now, we are attacking our lists and making our plans. The beginning of our cruise is already taking shape. We will be spending a couple of weeks on the boat at Olverson's, where aCappella spent the summer, getting the boat ready. Then we're off for Baltimore, with some leisurely side trips on the way, to speak at the MTOA Northern Rendezvous in September, followed by another talk at TrawlerFest also in Baltimore. Another talk at the Krogen Rendezvous in Solomons and then the Boat Show in Annapolis. We plan on spending November in Charleston with a side trip to Karen's folks for Thanksgiving. After that, who knows...

Cuba is still on the radar and the west coast of Florida is calling. But there are also many ports we've yet to visit and ones we'd love to see again. So follow us on Spot and give a holler when you're nearby.

Monday, May 31, 2010

And poof, we're home...

After 9 months and 3 days of being on our boat, we rented a car, loaded it up, and drove back home to Maine. In keeping with our tradition of using the SPOT Messenger when we were moving, we turned it on for the car ride home to show the long 17 hour track between Virginia and Maine.

There will be a lot of projects to get done this Summer - the house, the boat, and ActiveCaptain. And while we're full of plans and lists right now, we can't help thinking back to all of the wonderful people we met and the incredible times we had.

On a calm evening in the Keys, Joe Nekola took the video below. It's one of many cocktail hours we shared with friends. Joe recorded the full song that we also played at the MTOA rendezvous way back in September - a long time ago. We'll leave this cruise remembering this evening back in March.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


I grew up in Rockville, Maryland just outside Washington, DC, one of five children. My parents just sold our old house earlier this year. It was in a nice suburban neighborhood. We moved in when the house was new. One of the things my parents liked about the neighborhood was that when it was built, rather than leveling everything in site, they carved out lots and roads leaving most of the wooden area it was built on.

Of course, that meant that every fall there were tons of leaves; I mean an endless, mountainous supply. And, as it should be, it fell to the children to rake them up. In response to our complaints my mom would say, "Just think of the satisfaction you'll feel when it's done." I guess some lessons take time.

Many years later, I have grown to love the feeling of completing tasks, looking at something that was a mess and is now, due to my labor, beautiful.

Much of the past two days have been spent cleaning the dinghy. When you live on a boat your dinghy becomes your car. It takes you from the anchorage or mooring field into shore. It takes you from your rented slip up the river to a restaurant or grocery store. Sometimes it takes you on the cruising equivalent of a Sunday drive. Over the past 9 months, our dinghy has delivered groceries, taken us to dinner dates, and, the best outings, brought the kids to their swimming spots. But all these activities had taken their toll and she was in need of a thorough cleaning.

After rinsing her off I got out one of my favorite products, GoJo Orange, which we list in our Products and Tips We Love section of our website. It's not just that it does a fantastic job of getting off the dirt and scum, it's also not a "boating product" so it's reasonably priced. I'm convinced that somewhere there's a Federal statute levying any product with "marine" or "boat" in its name with a 200% tax.

So I started in and as I finished the starboard side and moved to the port I had to step back and admire the difference between the two. And, yes, I felt a great sense of satisfaction. Mom, you were right.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Dyna's Birthday

May 19th is Dyna's birthday. This year she's 12. While most dogs would be content to find a shady spot to sleep all day, Dyna is usually first in line doing whatever we're doing, pushing Dylan out of the way if necessary.

This morning started out with Dyna's most favorite of activities - swimming. Given the choice between eating raw meat and swimming...Dyna would jump in the water.

Bright and early we took her off the dock and onto the point at Lodge Creek. She'll retrieve that orange bumper until we have to force her to come back for breakfast. It doesn't matter what else is happening outside. Dyna is fixated on the bumper and diving in the water.

An older dog is a beautiful thing. They start to realize their limitations and gracefully look for help with certain things that were once so easy. Dyna can't jump up on the bed any longer. She now puts both paws on the mattress, turns back and looks for assistance. Some nights she's too tired to even walk down below and instead stays curled up in her bed for the night.

For most of the day, Dyna slept. She was always around no matter what we were doing, but a morning of swimming means a day of sleeping for Dyna now.

While out shopping on Tuesday we bought some special treats to give the girl on her special day. She loved them even though she had to share some with the little brat (Dylan).

By night, we realized that she'd need a little medication for pain, but that's OK. And with the cooler weather, she did make it down the steep stairs at night to complete her day. One little lift of her hind legs brought her in bed, all curled up at my feet, dreaming of swimming in the morning.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Last Thursday afternoon we pulled into Olverson's Lodge Creek Marina the place where aCappella will spend the summer. We spent five days here last fall (see our blog post) and the kids really enjoyed the huge field to run in and Cas' treats. Freddie met us at the dock and helped us settle right in. It felt a little like coming home.

So this is the official end of our 2009-2010 winter cruise. We have lists of boat projects - those who have read our blog from the beginning know how we love lists - and a schedule for getting the boat closed down. She's been home for 9 months and has definitely served us well. We will miss her, miss the adventures, and miss the wonderful people we've met. But we also miss our home and good friends in Castine. We will be there in less than two weeks.

Now we'll have to get used to a bigger bed, all the hot water we could want, and a grocery store always at the ready. It'll be a hard adjustment. We're looking forward to going home but we're also looking forward to getting back on the boat again. The kids are just looking forward to supper. Oh, to truly live in the moment...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

ActiveCaptain on the iPad

Here are some screen shots of the iPad application to be released in a few days that fully supports all of ActiveCaptain's data offline. No internet connection is needed to view all of the marinas, anchorages, bridges, locks, boat ramps, etc., along with all of the reviews. It works incredibly well and even rotates the chart as your boat is turning.

Enough writing about it - here's what it looks like. Click any picture to see the full size.

Zoomed out view of Charleston (the round red dot is our location)

Zoom in a little to our location

Tap on the red marina marker - up comes a pick list

Select Charleston Maritime Center - displays results in tabs

Show the Services data

Display the Reviews

Move over to the famous Matanzas inlet area - see the yellow hazards

Tap on a hazard and display it's details

Show the hazard's Comments

It all works extremely well right now. Obtaining the software allows you to run it on both an iPhone and iPad at the same time. It works identically on the iPhone except for the smaller screen. The data is identical.

Tap in the (i) icon in the bottom right, select ActiveCaptain, and you can Update your data to retrieve all marker information and reviews that have been changed since the last synchronization.

And of course it follows your position optionally locking your GPS position in the center of the screen, turning the display as you turn.

This is way, way cool...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

iPad 3G

Three offshore hops and we're in Charleston at the Maritime Center - one of our most favorite places. Immediately, the air conditioning was turned on to spoil us. Although we intended to stay for 2 days, I paid for 5. Pay for 5 days and you get 7 days - I'm such a sucker for that. Truth be told, the weather wasn't good for us to leave today (Sunday). We need this bad weather to pass over and it looks like things don't clear up until at least Wednesday.

So I convince Karen to walk to the Apple store in the late afternoon. This is one of the advantages of being in a real city - lots of things walking distance from where we are. We had a video cable that we wanted to return and it seemed like a good idea to do that right away. Besides, we needed the 10 block walk.

Upon arriving at the store at 4:50, we find a long line waiting to get in. Imagine that - today at 5:00 pm is the release of the iPad 3G (cellular connectivity + GPS). "What luck!" I told Karen. She didn't buy it though - she knew this was a multi-step plan probably started weeks ago.

So we wait on line for about 20 minutes, get up to the door and are greeted by a set of serious geeky-looking people. Now I'm definitely a member of the geek class but even this set had me wondering where my class had gone wrong.

We're escorted in the door with our own sales assistant who gives us our new iPad 3G. We made the cut. So did 3 people behind us. It was that close.

It's been fun to experiment with it. The screen is beautiful and the apps are mostly working well. There are some bugs that need to be fixed - common with a device so new like this.

The GPS, thankfully, works much better than the iPhone's GPS. It even locks position signals below deck. I can see an anchor alarm in the future with this especially since it manages to have exceptional battery life - 10 hours or more.

We met with our good friends Jeb & Linda who made an incredible dinner party centered around the Kentucky Derby. The dogs remember the dog park across the street and are having a wonderful time too. This is a special place.

Here are a couple of screen shots showing what my iPad 3G looks like. It'll be fun to see how it fits with boating once we get back underway.

My iPad screen background:

Looking at the blog (looking at itself!) in Safari: