Countdown to Cruising….T minus 76 days

It’s actually 75 days and 12 hours til we arrive, but I’ll go with the old grade school method of counting “sleeps” and call it 76 days.  Cue the freakout- 76 days?  And if you subtract the days we work when we really can’t get much done, that’s at least 45% of our days.  Plus there are the days we are in transit from Alaska to Mexico (10 days) and that gives us…well…I suck at math but it gives us NOT A LOT OF TIME to get things done.

Since we packed and sorted our bags last week, things seem to be moving in fast forward.  It just seems REAL.  We have 8 bags (plus dogs) to get checked on that Alaska Airlines flight out of LAX on October 28.   AND we have a boat to catch and roughly 1,235 miles (plus a 30 hour ferry ride) to get there.

The past few days, “To-do” lists have been all the rage in my addled and stressed brain, a couple have even made it to paper.  Things to pack, things to have shipped here, things to get sorted to have done on the boat, etc etc etc.  As seasonal rates more than double starting November 1, we are anxious to get out of the marina.  We realize that we won’t make it out by November 1, but are shooting for a realistic date of around the middle of the month to cast off the lines and head out.  I suspect we will spend a few days (week(s)??) just at anchor, getting sorted, getting things stowed and organized, and testing some of the systems.  We had a new battery bank installed and with that and the inverter setup reworked, we are hoping the power woes which we experienced last fall will be solved.   (I act like I understand these things…but my understanding is quite rudimentary.  Sun goes to panels goes to something goes to batteries goes to inverter/magical unicorn thingy that makes my blender work for margaritas!  YASSSS!!!!)

Anyway, these “To Do” lists are quite long, but the reality is that we will never have it all done by Oct 18 or Oct 28 and certainly not by mid-November.  Things I want and deem important will be put off to next year.  Today I spent some time trying to sort what we wanted for a first aid bag.  As we’re both long time ER nurses, this should be simple, correct?  But this almost makes it more difficult, as we both know what we want, and none of the commercial bags seem to fit.  We will piece-meal a bag together, which will take time…and that is just about our most precious commodity these days.  (After money, of course.  That one is always in the forefront.)  So things like the First Aid bag and even the sketchy refrigeration will get turfed to a later day, while things like getting a dinghy and new life vests, finding flares (I’ve heard they are scarce) and  getting the vital systems on the boat in solid working order and name FINALLY on the stern will take precedence.  Safety and security over comfort.  This season will be coastal cruising, and taking baby steps into this new lifestyle.  I anticipate a sharp learning curve, and Travis and I have promised nothing more than to be kind to each other, not to hurry, and to learn as we go.

I finally did the math, and we have about 20 working days here to get this all in order.  Wish us luck!

Love and Peace,

T and H, SV Brighter Days

Detour to Alaska!

Sometimes, when you want to live a non-traditional life, you have to make some detours.  Sometimes those detours are a trip to the store.  And sometimes they are 4,000 miles.

When we left Kaiser and California last year, we had the same boat and just planned on working in FL, getting a lot of boat work done, and then heading to Mexico in a couple years.  It seems that NOTHING has gone as planned since.  And I think you have a few options when that happens, but by far the best is “Adjust the sails and go with the wind.”

First, along came our dream boat that we’ve admired from afar for many years.  One quick Facebook friend request and message, and suddenly we were under contract and booking tickets for a sea trial and survey. Literally in about 24 hours.   And then we were faced with this overwhelming urge to be on said dream boat All.  The.  Time.  Then came November, and a really unfortunate management shakeup at my (Hilary’s) job made it clear to me that my position there would be significantly shorter than I had planned. Exit strategy was in high gear.  Life is too short to waste time being miserable.  We started figuring out that the Universe probably was sending us south.

But how to make money?  We have obligations.  We can get out of some of them (sure we can sell the truck and cancel all our cell phones, etc) but some we can’t.   Like child support.  And food.  🙂  And boat repairs.  So we still have to work.  We had resigned ourselves to travel contracts.  But it was just that, settling for something we didn’t really want to do.  It “checked the boxes.”  It was income, it was fairly reliable, and would get us on the boat.  With that in mind, we had planned to head to Mexico in June.   Until a late night conversation at work with a colleague.  You’re going…where?  What?  Hmmmm….

Alaska has ALWAYS been on my bucket list.  Yes I complain a bit about cold.  But I do love water and the mountains, and whales and nature.  And I need to work.  (Helkenn’s have a long history in the state, actually) We were excited about the prospect but figured it may be too late to get in this year, as their “season” is well underway by June.  We had decided to make a go for it next year, but then they had 4 temporary positions post the same day we started to discuss this, and we went for it.  It’s been a pretty easy process so far, and we are stoked to have both accepted job offers at Peace Health in Ketchikan, AK.   Ketchikan seems like a pretty cool little town.  Average rainfall is over 170 inches, meaning it gets about 1/2 inch of rain a DAY.  🙂  Wow.


The absolute coolest thing about this is that it isn’t a travel contract and isn’t really “temporary.”  It’s more of a per diem labor pool.  So we have jobs in summer for 3 months, and we have opportunities throughout the year.  So if we want a cold rainy Christmas, or a cold rainy Thanksgiving, or a cold rainy Easter, we have that option!   The next three weeks will be spent figuring logistics and getting there (dogs and all)  Travis and pups will have ferry reservations on June 9. (only access to Ketchikan is by air or sea) and I will join him in July.  The hospital requires an initial 13 weeks commitment, so that puts us somewhere in the neighborhood of Sept/Oct to get back to the boat, perfect time frame to get a few things fixed so we can be out of the marina and on the move and hook by the time cruising season (and high-season marina fees) start in November.  Thank goodness for Marina Riviera Nayarit, La Cruz and all the goodness that little town has to offer.  Our boat is well cared for and awaiting us.  Thanks to Chris and Monica on SeaGlub for the pic!

Going from the FL Keys to Alaska is pretty extreme, but really…are you suprised?  We’ve always forged our own trail off the beaten path.

Peace and Love from the SV Brighter Days crew

Stick a fork in us…we’re done. With land that is….

Well it will probably not come as too much of a surprise to anyone that the original gypsy couple is about to be on the move again.  We are headed BACK to the boat.

When we came back to Florida last year, there were no real plans to do many things differently.  T and I were both planning on staying in California per diem, and we were going to haul Mongojo for a big ol’ heaping mess of work.    Then along came Brighter Days.  It was a whirlwind romance.  A late night text to T, a Facebook message to the seller, and the next day we were buying tickets to Mexico for a survey and sea trial.  It was stressful, exciting, exhausting, exhilarating, and left us with a whole lot of “well…what now?”  When Mongojo sold to the first person that looked at her, we were left homeless in California.  Not necessarily a bad thing….no one wants two slip fees…but it sort of left our work lives in limbo.  Working in the Bay Area made ZERO financial sense without a cheap crash pad.  And it’s probably safe to say we had both had our fill anyway.  So we cut our ties out there and stayed in Florida, got a tan, got hitched, enjoyed the warm beaches and making periodic but far too infrequent visits to our new boat in the Bay of Banderas.

Almost 7 months into this part time boat life…and we both knew something had to change.  We are NOT land people anymore.  We just aren’t.  I miss the sway of the boat.  A taste of anchoring out last fall was absolute BLISS to us both, we spent three days aboard and even in rolly conditions, never wanted to go ashore.  I miss the sounds.  I miss the peace.  I miss being so in tune with the outside world around us.   When my amazing grandmother passed away suddenly in January, I was left with a deep sadness.  Despite the fact that she lived a full and healthy life, it was still a reminder that things change quickly.  As I was hastily packing for a sudden sad trip back to Kansas, I told T, “We gotta do something different.  We aren’t where we want to be and life is passing us by.  We need to really discuss this when I get back.”  He agreed, and  true to his word, we did.  While it involved a whole lot of philosophical ruminations that won’t be listed here, it all boils down to this:  Life is short.  Live it.

The downsides:

  • Back to travel nursing.  Maybe this won’t be a downside, but I’m prepared that it will be.  I certainly enjoyed it when I did it, but as I’ve got older, I’ve enjoyed the stability and predictability of being “staff.”  However, it’s entirely possible that I will enjoy it again once I go back.
  • Being   away from kids.  Neither girls have really laid the guilt on but I feel the angst.  It will be an adjustment for all.  Hayden misses California anyway, and feels the call of the west.  Stephanie is settled in Memphis, as is Zach.  So maybe this situation will resolve itself to the positive also.
  • The pets.  We never planned on living aboard with three.  But the cat is cool and poodle is old as dirt.  (Relax…I’m not heartless…this is a coping mechanism)  I love that old dog with all my heart but as he approaches 13 years old in a couple weeks (That is 91 in dog years, if you didn’t know  And what does that even mean anyway?) the reality is that he won’t be with us all that much longer.  We have struggled and discussed how Mongo will do on a boat.  He is a cool cat, he adapts to almost anything, he’s as well-trained as a cat can be and he’s amazing company.  If he isn’t adjusting  we will make the tough decisions, we don’t lack for options.  Everyone LOVES Mongo, who can resist a 24 pound fluffy chill Maine Coon?  Kida is Kida.  As long as she has Travis and food…she is happy.

The UP’s!!  So much more fun to focus on these:

  • Um…everything else??!!  Literally.  Everything else.   The water.  The beautiful Pacific Mexican coast.  The amazing food.  (ok beer isn’t great)  The lower cost of living.  The higher quality of living.  Avocado’s.  Tomatoes that still taste like tomatoes!  Tacos!  Churros!  (seriously….3 for 60 cents??  Heaven)  The fact that our time off will be measured in weeks and not days.  The close togetherness that we both enjoy.  Most of all, being back on the WATER.

So we leave Florida sometime in May, going to head back to the west coast (again) to store a few things , see T’s brother and his family.  We will stay a couple weeks and get  established working with a temp/travel nurse agency again (shouldn’t be difficult) and then two one-way tickets (with three pets flying “Fur-st class” non-stop) to Puerto Vallarta!!  I am so excited I can hardly wait!

We expect that we may have a “D Dock reunion” of sorts in La Cruz this summer, as Sea Glub, Mistcutter and possibly Double D all have plans to convene for the hurricane season in the protected realm of Marina Riviera Nayarit.  Alas, plans written in sand at low tide are always subject to change, but it’s definitely fun to think about the MBYH D Dock crew together again!

So in the meantime, plans are being made, lists are being drawn.  Serious thought is going into what we need to get down there.  First and foremost is the remaining 2 parts of our Mantus Anchor!  We have the shaft and the spade to go, which we are guessing are about 20 pounds each.  Thank goodness for Aeromexico’s generous luggage policy.  March’s trip to the boat has us carrying the awesome boat dishes we received for our wedding,  new bedding for both cabins, and hopefully the anchor shaft.  As Zach is also going  on this trip, I am taking full advantage of those 6 total checked bags!  (It’s entirely possible that a few inappropriate comments about a “mule” have been made.)

We will be based in La Cruz at least thru the 2018 season.  It’s just so awesome there! The town is great, the marina is protected and safe.   And it’s the perfect place for us to take baby steps into cruising.  We have several nice anchorages that are a few days sail away.  We can head up to Mazatlan, down to Zihuatinejo, over to La Paz, and just in general explore without having to get too far from protection.  It’s perfect for us and we want to spend that time exploring  and learning before we head further south and then make that big decision to turn left or turn right.  (Most likely left)

So that’s our plan!  I hope to be a lot more active on this blog as we make the move.  So follow along!  Subscribe if you haven’t, leave a comment,  drop us a note.  We’d love to hear from you.     — H

Our first trip to S/V Brighter Days

Last week, the Captain and I were able to sneak away to Mexico to spend a few days on the boat. Since our time was so limited at sea trial and survey, this was really our first chance to get to know her.

I will confess that I had a lot of anxiety over this purchase. More than T, who was all in from the beginning. T had finished the sale of Mongojo the day before he left, and that was difficult. I LOVE her. She was my first boat and I had plans and I somehow feel that I let her down. While I realize it’s a bit ridiculous to anthropomorphise a boat, I can’t help it. I’m a sentimental girl. I knew the way she moved, I knew the little tics she had. I knew how her mast sang to me when the wind was from the NW at about 5mph. I knew and loved her, and selling her was hard. That she went to an experienced sailor and cruiser who had the knowledge and intent to fix her up helped ease the blow, but it was still hard. I didn’t love Brighter Days yet. She was a mysterious stranger to me. It had been a prolonged closing and the initial thrill of a new beautiful boat had worn off a bit. So I wasn’t sure how I would feel, but I knew it would take some time to get to love her.

T arrived the day before, and had barely had time to get to the marina for paperwork and then was exhausted so he went straight back to the hotel. Since we were unsure of the boat systems, we had reserved two nights at La Cruz Inn.   A quaint little thatched roof “bungalow” hotel, it was recently bought by Annette and Cirillo. I highly recommend staying there. They could not have been nicer, loaning us a cooler and even giving us a ride to the boat the next day. We had a nice air conditioned room and bathroom, with an outdoor kitchenette and sitting area.

I arrived the next day around 1 pm, and was beyond delighted to see T after almost a month apart.

Reunion with my love. It’s been a long month apart!

After a quick lunch at Restaurante la Glorieta de Enrique (where I think we might quickly be considered “regulars” as they remembered us from May) we headed to the boat for our first peek as the owners of a Fuji 45′.

She is beautiful. Her lines are classic and gorgeous. A lot of boat owners will refer in disparaging tones to the “PO”, or previous owner. Something done by the “PO” often is different to how it would have been accomplished by the current owners, and oftentimes it is viewed as inferior. I doubt T and I will ever have cause to do this. The boat was refit completely between 2003 and 2008, and it is just stunning. I kept walking through her saying, “I just can’t believe this is real.” and “She is so BIG. I can’t believe she is ours.” That feeling didn’t really go away during the long weekend. Everytime I’d open a drawer and discover cool new storage, I was in awe. From her sails down to the engine room with the new Yanmar 76hp, she is just truly a stunning boat.

The first night, I was truly just in sloth mode. We opened a bottle of wine that we had purchased at the OXXO that turned out to be a completely drinkable Chilean Malbec for ~$10 USD and vegged. Sooner than I wished, the sun was going down. We had work to do, no doubt, but something about heat, a boat and Mexico just provides the perfect reset button. There would be time enough for work tomorrow. Tonight, it was time to relax. I read, sipped wine, watched the sunset, snoozed, enjoyed the company of my Captain and just soaked in the essence of our new vessel.

It was well past sunset when we  gathered our belongings to head to the hotel, stopping to eat at La Cava de las Martinez, a local Mexican restaurant that probably caters to tourists. We had dinner there in May, but someone who shall remain un-named….Ok me…had way too much to drink the previous meal (probably why the bartender at Enrique remembered us!) and I couldn’t eat my food. So we tried it again, and I was very pleased. T and I shared a combo meal, and guac. Their enchiladas sin carne with a salsa verde are DELICIOUS! After dinner and several beers (I think the bill was about $28 USD for two and drinks) we headed back to La Cruz Inn. Alarm was set for 8 am to head back to the boat for a full day and night on board.  Here are some pics from our first day.

Outdoor view of La Cruz Inn. Very cute small hotel.


Outdoor kitchenette and sitting area.


View from our balcany.  Pool is not visible but a lovely, clean small pool is around to left.



While I had work to do, all I could do was enjoy this view and an Outlander book.  Finally had time to relax.  T and talked, and snoozed, and sipped wine.  Perfect afternoon.
No Filter needed. Sunset over Marina Riveria Nayarit in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Mexico
No Filter needed. Sunset over Marina Riviera Nayarit in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Mexico



Introducing S/V Brighter Days!

We would like to introduce the soon-to-be S/V Brighter Days. (Yes, it’s a homage to our mutual favorite musician JJ Grey and one of our favorite songs.) She is a 1975 Fuji 45’ center cockpit ketch. Designed by the venerable John Alden, she sails like a dream! (During our sea trial, we were close hauled in an almost flat 6 knots and we were ghosting along at 4.2 knots under main and headsail….it was fantastic.) Not surprising given she was designed by John Alden. Oh did I say that already? I *might be slightly more than elated to have a boat designed by John Alden. (oops there I go again)

So here is our story, for those who followed along and have asked. Sorry if I ignored some questions but things were in transition. Yes, we were getting ready to sink some major bucks into Mongojo…extended yard time and new sails, etc. But the the conversation kept arising, “Well wouldn’t it be nice if we had an aft cabin…the dogs…the dive gear…the paddleboard…the kid’s and future grandkids…” As much as I don’t mind living pretty minimally on the boat, ( I haven’t had a shower or a microwave in a year) I need my dive gear and my iSup and the furkids. So whilst this conversation is ongoing, fate chimed in. Big time.

The Universe first put this boat in front of us a few years ago when she was newly on the market. We loved the boat and her traditional lines but the price tag wasn’t in our budget…I mean not even close. We’ve watched her over the years, marveled at her beauty, but we had a boat.

So in the midst of these discussions, AND working like crazy to get ready for an expensive refit, once again this boat appeared as a “share” on a friend’s Facebook page…THIS TIME with a drastically reduced price-tag. I truly felt like it was fate. One text to Travis at 11 pm, and the wheels were set into motion. Once that initial step was taken, everything happened at lightening speed. Offer made, sea trial, counter offer made, counter to the counter offer made and accepted, and it was done. The logistics of buying a boat in Mexico are a little daunting but we’re confidant it’s a done deal at this point. And we are SOOO EXCITED!

So about our new girl… Most recently she was known as “Ahea Kali” (I think. I frequently forget or misspell the name but it means something in Hawaiian that was significant to her last owners). She was built in 1975 in the Fuji Yachts boatyard in Yokasuka, Japan. Approximately 28 boats were built, and I believe she is hull #8. She has a hand laid solid fiberglass hull. She has the classic lines that Alden is known for, and all the rich warm teak reminiscent of boats of yesteryear. Her raised cabin top allows for unbelievable interior light and headroom. She has a forward V-berth with head, a roomy main saloon, and an aft cabin with head and queen sized berth. TWO cabins, TWO heads. She feels huge to us! Her previous owner found her in Panama and purchased her in 2003. He did a COMPLETE refit between 2003-2008, no expense spared. She truly has all the “bells and whistles”, actually way too many for our somewhat minimalist tastes. Options are good, however, and it will be fun to decide what we need and what can go. She has solar, fairly recent navigation equipment, lightly used sails in great shape, decent running rigging, standing rigging replaced during refit, extra tall lifelines and heavy stanchions, beautifully professionally repainted hull, I could go on and on. A large fridge and separate FREEZER? Check. A washer and dryer? Check! (Not sure it’s staying, will see how it is on the power draw) Oh, and an actual guest berth! We can have visitors! Yay! The varnish and canvas suffered a bit from sitting in the sun, but those are pretty easily remedied. Aside from a few other small issues, she is as solid as they come! We already had the bottom job done, did some rigging work, and have a few more simple projects that will need to be done, but all cosmetic. From the solid GRP hull, cutaway forefoot long keel, to the new Yanmar, the Spectra watermaker, and an engine room that is the stuff of dreams, she is a bluewater dream. We feel really blessed and can’t wait for our future cruising! We will be reduced to visiting the boat for the next year or so, but that is part of the fun. Banderas Bay is gorgeous…what a cool place to call our second home!

Mongojo has been sold. It is not finalized but we feel pretty secure in the transaction. She sold to the first man that came to see her. Making that decision was HARD because I loved her and felt a lot of loyalty to her. In reality, we were probably not the right owners. She is going to a man who has cruised, has refit boats, is a welder and experienced with fiberglass. Our communication has been so rewarding and that has eased the pain. She’s a good boat.

So there is the update in the Captain and Crew of S/V… Brighter Days!! We will be visiting her soon, and will post more pictures! Love you all!!

Captain T and First Mate H

S/V Brighter DaysIMG_1015