Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Before we begin our journey aboard "Life's2Short", we would like to express our sincere gratitude to several special people who have helped make this dream a reality for us:

Bill & Marilyn Lanning - Todd's parents who are almost as excited as we are and who have been incredibly generous in their support of our endeavor;

Wade & Viola Shelton - My parents who have helped us immensely throughout the liquidation process even though, as Todd says, they think we are "one taco short of a combination plate;"

Mike & Mary Hall - current live-aboards who have been a tremendous resource, infinitely patient, and wonderful friends - a truly remarkable duo;

Chuck & Linda Snavely - the previous owners of our beautiful new home and a stellar couple - along with Don Martin, their broker, all of whom worked diligently to finalize the sale and make this transition as easy as possible for us;

Fred Winkler - a sweetheart of a man who has been consistently helpful even after we decided not to pursue the purchase of a boat he was brokering;

Cathy Davis - a terrific lady who was gracious enough to allow us to dock the boat behind her house in St. Petersburg;

Jennifer Booton and Mark Stanley - Todd's sister and friend who pointed us in the right direction when we were boat shopping and who have gone out of their way to assist in any way possible throughout this entire process;

Bob & Linda Eckels - Good friends who contributed their artisitic abilities and woodworking skills to create our calling cards and new name boards for "Life's2Short;" and

Kurt & LaDonna Hansen - Also good friends without whom we would still be trying to determine what computer configuration to purchase and how to make our navigation software function with our GPS.

We so appreciate everything everyone has done for us and feel very fortunate to have had the support of such wonderful people. We couldn't have done it without you!!!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Our initial journey to move the "new" boat from St. Petersburg to Mobile officially began on April 24, 2006. We had a safe, relatively uneventful journey, but we were extremely grateful to have Mike & Mary Hall (the experienced live-aboards) as escorts until we got into the Panhandle.

There is so much to do and so much to learn about the boat and their insight, knowledge and suggestions were invaluable – I don’t know what we would have done without them! We are still far from being pros but we certainly feel better about handling the boat than we did initially and hope to be much more comfortable with it by the end of the summer.

As for the trip, I am already a little “fuzzy” about where we went on what day and what all happened (because so much was happening all the time!), but we went to a city dock at Caladesia Island after we left the dock at St. Petersburg on Monday. We stayed one evening there (the gnats were really bad) and then we went to Anclote Key on Tuesday where we anchored out for the first time. Mary and I went over to the beach in their dinghy on Wednesday morning while the guys got our dinghy down and got the outboard running. We found several nice seashells, and I learned not to go shell-hunting without first applying sunscreen!

We left Anclote Key that afternoon and went to the city marina at Tarpon Springs to stay Wednesday and Thursday nights. The wind was blowing hard when we got there, and Mike was kind enough to “park” our boat in the slip for us after getting their boat secured. We ate dinner Wednesday evening at a great restaurant that Mike & Mary discovered when they were there earlier this year (Hella’s) and enjoyed a little window-shopping along the main drag.

Thursday was spent doing odds & ends around the boat and then Todd and I decided to take a break and go for a walk around town that afternoon. We needed the break and really enjoyed being “tourists” in Tarpon Springs.

We left Tarpon Springs Friday morning, hoping that the winds would be relatively calm for the 8-hour trip to Cedar Key, and they were. We arrived at Cedar Key that evening and by the next morning, the winds had picked up again and we were pretty much isolated in our respective boats for the next two days. The wind finally calmed Sunday evening and the four of us took the dinghies to Cedar Key, walked around for a little while and got a few provisions at the local grocery store.

The plan was to get up at 2:00 a.m. on Monday morning and be ready to pull up anchor by 3:00 a.m. to begin the Gulf crossing. Needless to say, we didn’t stay up too late that evening! As per the plan, Mike radioed us at 2:00 a.m. and he and Todd took the dogs to shore. We began the day as scheduled and, after a moment of confusion trying to navigate out of Cedar Key in the dark, were on our way.

As we got out into open water, the seas began to get a little rough. We experienced 3- to 5-foot seas pretty much all day, and what a long day it was! We finally arrived at St. George Island late that afternoon, without incident, and immediately brought the dinghies down to take the dogs to shore. Had we not been so exhausted, we would have spent more time on the beautiful beach there, but we were all pretty much done-in for the day.

We took our time leaving Tuesday morning and made it to Apalachicola around noon where we purchased 222 gallons of fuel at the bargain price of $2.94 per gallon. This is where Mike & Mary cut the umbilical cord and we continued the journey solo while they went back to the St. George Island area to explore a new anchorage before heading up the river north of Apalachicola the next day.

We traveled west for another 5 hours or so that afternoon and found a suitable (if not great) anchorage for the evening on the east side of East Bay. We put in a long day on Wednesday and anchored at Mary Ester, west of Destin, in a great little spot Mike & Mary had recommended. There were two fairly large cruisers and a sailboat in the anchorage with us but everyone pretty much kept to themselves. We took Buddy over to shore in the dinghy that evening (Todd had to row because the outboard didn’t want to start) and decided we would walk over to the Gulf Shore the next morning, which was about a half-mile from where we were anchored.

After a relatively leisurely Thursday morning, Todd got the dinghy outboard started and we made our way to the beach and then walked over to the Gulf Shore where we found several nice seashells and enjoyed some quiet time on the beach.

Thursday evening found us in Ingram Bayou – another nice anchorage recommended by Mike & Mary – where we ran into a sailboater who, oddly enough, turned out to be a long-time boating acquaintance of Mike & Mary’s! He invited us over to his boat for a drink and we then invited him to join us for dinner, so we spent a few hours chatting and making a new friend. Seems like an odd coincidence, but according to John (the sailboater), Mike & Mary Hall are well known in the boating world, especially in areas around Mobile!

We left early Friday morning so we could get across Mobile Bay before the wind picked up and the forecasted rain moved in. The water was calm and the trip was (thankfully) uneventful. We arrived at Dog River Marina around noon, tied up to the fuel dock and were just finishing pumping out our holding tanks when the rain began. It didn’t last long, but there was some pretty good thunder and lightning and we were glad to be at the marina rather than in the middle of Mobile Bay when it came through!

Todd and I were both relieved to have completed the journey to Mobile but we were also disappointed to be leaving the boat the next day to come back to Springfield. If all goes well, we hope to be back in Mobile by early June and ready to head north about a week later.
Todd and I will soon begin a new chapter in our lives. The following explains what caused us to make this decision and provides some information about our future tentative plans:

In September 2005, we lost our best friend, Duane Teale, in a boating accident while we were vacationing together with he and his wife on Pickwick Lake in Tennessee. As a result of this untimely tragedy, we have reevaluated our lives and priorities and have decided that it is time to make a change. Therefore, Todd and I have resigned our jobs, effective May 19, 2006, and will be leaving Missouri State University and Springfield, Missouri, to begin a new chapter in our lives.

Both Todd and I are avid boaters and Todd has had a desire to take some time off when he reaches age 50 to become a full time live-aboard. I, on the other hand, was new to boating when I met Todd in 1996, but I have since developed a passion for being on the water. With the sudden passing of Duane, we both realize that life can take unexpected turns at any time, so even though Todd is still a few years shy of the 50-year benchmark, we have decided to spend the next few years doing what we love most as full time live-aboards on our new (to us) 40-foot Oceania Sundeck Trawler which we are going to name “Life’s2Short” in honor of Duane Teale.

Over the past few months, we have been liquidating virtually all of our worldly possessions and hope to begin our new lifestyle in early June. We just returned from a two-week jaunt to move our "new" boat from the Tampa/St. Petersburg area to Mobile, Alabama, and the events of this journey are the subject of another post! Fortunately, we were accompanied by an experienced live-aboard couple and we are very grateful to have had their assistance.

We are now in the process of wrapping up all the loose ends in Springfield and preparing to travel one-way back to Mobile to begin our new lives as live-aboards. Once we get the boat loaded with whatever remains of our worldly possessions, we will begin the trip north into the Tennessee Tombigbee (Tenn-Tom) Waterway and on into the Tennessee River system, traveling through Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky. We will spend the summer months in the Tennessee River system familiarizing ourselves with the boat and its many electronics and operating systems and, depending on our level of comfort with the boat, may embark on a journey in the fall of 2006 to complete what is known as the Great Loop or Great Circle, a circumnavigational cruise of Eastern North America.

For those who don't know, the Great Loop would take us south to Mobile, across the Gulf of Mexico and back to the west coast of Florida. We would then travel south to the Keys and north up the Atlantic coast, through Chesapeake Bay to New York City where we would follow the Hudson River to Lake Champlain, and the St. Lawrence Seaway to Lake Ontario, the Trent-Severn Waterway, Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay and other waterways of the North Channel of Lake Huron. We would then enter northern Lake Michigan at Mackinac Island and travel southwest to Chicago where we would enter the headwaters of the Illinois River. The Illinois River joins the Mississippi River at St. Louis and we would follow the Mississippi south along the eastern border of Missouri, head east into the Ohio River south of Cape Girardeau, and then into the Cumberland River which would take us back into the Tennessee River system at Kentucky Lake, south of Paducah, Kentucky. The Great Loop encompasses over 6,000 statute miles and well over 100 locks and may be a bit more of a challenge than we are ready for our first year, but it is definitely a journey we want to experience during our time as live-aboards.

We also want to spend some time exploring the Bahamas and the Dry Tortugas, but we don't want to bite off more than we can chew and choke on it, so our only plan at this point is to do as much as we feel comfortable doing whenever we feel comfortable doing it! Both Todd and I realize that it is going to be difficult to untie the lines to the dock, so to speak; to leave the security of good jobs and our land-based family and friends behind, but we were made painfully aware of how suddenly life can change and how very short life can be and neither of us wants to look back and have regrets about what we could/should have done when we had the opportunity.

We recently ran across an apropos quote: “You can always make more money, you can not make more time.” The other quote that Todd has earmarked for several years has been attributed to Mark Twain and is something of a mantra for us as we begin this new chapter in our lives: Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Todd also has a t-shirt hanging in his office, which some of you have undoubtedly seen, that says: “Sell the house, keep the dog, live on a boat.” And that’s exactly what we’re going to do. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we take the plunge to explore, dream and discover.