SimplySailingOnline.com shows by example how easily you can eliminate stress, become more independent, raise your children in a safer environment (while spending more time with them, instilling values not based on the mighty dollar) and avoid the traps of commercialism. Because we live and sail simply, we have been wandering for 11 years with no intention of stopping. This is not a trip for us; it is our life, and I hope to share our success with stories of laughter and tears, as well as how-to tips and DIY projects for preparing, sailing and making a boat a home, so that others can join us.
We left the Keys too early, or we traveled too quickly, or we did something else wrong, because we caught up with winter. The original plan was to stay just behind spring as it ran up the coast, but spring was slow this year and we found ourselves cold and miserable, looking for a place to hide from cold fronts every few days.
"This is ridiculous. Let's take a marina break," was Dave's solution.
We don't stay at marinas unless we have to. Neither our budget nor our personalities allow it for long. But it seemed like the wisest, warmest solution, so we started calling around, getting dockage rates up the coast. Dave called Titusville Municipal Marina since we have spent some time in Titusville in the past and knew it would be a convenient enough place to spend a week. Then, while he had the marina guide out, he called the marina next door to them, Westland Marina. Their prices were comparable, but when he told me that Westland was a working yard, I was sold. We have spent a lot of time in boat yards working on our own and other people's boats. I'm comfortable in boat yards--our kids will tell you they were practically raised in boat yards--so Westland it was.
Walküre is a handful to try to steer at low speeds and the weather that we were seeking protection from had come a little earlier than forecasted, so Dave had to maneuver our little box into a slip in a bit of a breeze. Two dockhands met us at the slip, caught lines and without ever losing their chipperness or politeness, snugged us up into the slip with only minor encounters with solid objects. These guys introduced themselves, assuring us that if we needed anything all we had to do was ask, and then they shocked me by asking our names. I thought, "We're only going to be here a week, do they really plan to remember our names?" I soon had my answer.
After we put Walküre to bed and turned her back into a home instead of a sailing machine, we wandered through the yard toward the office. One of the dockhands called us over (by name!) to talk to him and the yard manager. Their question caught us off guard. "So, if you don't mind my asking, why did you decide to stay here instead of next door?" I guess we look like cruisers after all. Our reasoning is hard to explain, but we tried.
"Well, with all those slips and the mooring balls, there are a lot more people over there and we're not really the pot luck, stand on the dock and BS type. We're sort of loners and we're much more comfortable in a working yard. Besides, we've been at the dock for less than an hour and no fewer than 10 people have spoken to us. We have spent the entire weekend next door before and never even gotten a hello." The wisdom of our choice became more and more evident every day.
We were not charged for our slip until we left, since we weren't sure if we were staying a week or "slightly longer." We were assured that our time would be prorated to give us the best deal, however long we stayed. Inside the fenced in work yard is a large building containing clean, modern showers, a lounge and washers and dryers ($1.50/load/each). But the best part of the marina was the people. Ironically, we were invited to a pot luck our first night. Not wanting to be too terribly anti-social (the kids call us hermits), we accepted. But this was not your typical pot luck. There were no arguments over the best anchors, no stories of horrible storms and huge seas, there was no bragging about who had been the farthest or been cruising the longest. No one really seemed to care. Instead, there were stories about people's pre-boat lives and "other" lives that are necessary in order to support the sailing dream. Some people were there avoiding Canadian winter, some were taking the winter off from their seasonal jobs in order to work on their boats, some were just back from the Bahamas, putting their boats to bed for the summer, others were waiting for boats to be built, and our favorite was an octogenarian who was (in his words) entering his third childhood and building a small Wharram cat. We sat on the porch and ate and laughed until well past our normal bedtime. After a half-dozen or so of those evenings, we even found ourselves looking forward to them and (when time permitted) hanging out on the porch during the day, BS-ing with whoever happened to be around.
Winter refused to leave and our "week" turned into almost 2 months. During that time we got to know the area well. Next door to the marina is a large park with walkways leading to a fishing pier and restaurant under the bridge. Downtown (turn left at the marina gate) is a Save-a-Lot with limited grocery items but good prices. There is a NAPA, CVS, bakery, a coffee shop that also serves ice cream, a diner and other restaurants. There is also a small museum. Again, the best part of the museum visit was the people. There were five volunteers in the museum ready to share experiences and local lore. Any story that starts with "I remember in 1942" is worth sticking around and listening to.
A bit out of town (a 3-mile walk west on Garden St. or $1.25 bus ride) is a Publix and several strip malls and restaurants. (Kelsey's was our personal favorite.) A longer bus ride away is Wal-Mart, Target and dozens of other chain stores. The Post Office is about 2 miles south of the marina (past downtown) but Ace is a bus ride away. Or, as usually happened with us, you can often hitch a ride with someone at the marina who is going to one of these places.
Good food, nice people, amusing stories, cheap dockage, and convenient shopping made our many weeks at Westland Marina pass quickly. But finally the weather broke and it was time to continue northward. We have spent years in places before and not exchanged as many email addresses, promises to keep in touch and hopes of crossing paths again with so many people as we did in those few weeks. Good choice.
We tend to be a disposable society. But in order to live well on next to nothing, you learn not to throw anything away until you have considered all other options. MONDAY we'll share some ideas for conquering the disposable attitude.
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