Hey guys! I wanted to let everyone know we have started working on some of our gear reviews! I have also added a section for recipes so you can get an idea of what we are eating out here, and to also inspire you to cook more at home to save for whatever your big adventure is! We also now have a working video camera so hopefully we will get some good footage uploaded in the video section as well! There is one new video of all the cell phone footage we got along the Tombigbee. You won’t get email notifications each time we post, so make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel if you want to see the video as soon as we upload it. Make sure to check this content out every once in a while (or I might update you in the blog) because you won’t get emails every time we add new stuff there. I would love feedback on any and all of this too, so leave us comments! I also think it would be great fun to do a question and answer section on video, so if you’ve got any questions on how or what we do, daily activities, fears, hopes, etc. ask us and if we get enough we will try to sit down and answer them for you! This way you guys can get to know us a little better, and we can interact with you!
Preparing to depart Fairhope, Erik and I dumped our holding tank and refilled our water tanks. According to our calculations we expected the journey to take about 6 hours (we need to get better at calculating, it took 8hrs). Leaving the bay, we headed east for a mile or two then south. We were able to pull out the sails and had an enjoyable evening. At some point we realized we weren’t going to make it as early as planned but that was fine as we had our maps available and had previously visited the anchorage with the Lacey’s and were familiar with what it looked like in the day time. We brought in the sails as the sun was setting. We passed oil rigs along the way, and dolphin jumped beside us. It was a neat feeling being out on our own. When it was time to cross the shipping channel, we noted a largo cargo ship heading down the lane. As we got closer we decided to slow way down as we didnt want to take any chances dancing with a big ship, it’s difficult to estimate speed and distance in the dusk. The AIS receiver we installed a week later would have been nice here!
The anchorage at dauphin island was great! It was 360* protection from the winds and waves. There was almost a spiral of sand encircling us that provided the great protection. We came to the anchorage with a plan: to install our new VHF radio, and our EPIRB. We ordered these on the last leg of the river journey and had them shipped to the Lacey’s. We knew once we were on the ocean we would need better safety equipment. We were able to purchase both of these items with a rebate too, so that was great!
The first thing we tackled was installing our EPIRB! Erik has written an extensive review on the EPIRB we chose and our decision making process, so make sure to go check that out! The installation was easy, just deciding where to mount the bracket. When setting up the EPIRB we realized we needed a MMSI# which are free if you plan on staying within the country, but we went ahead and got our ship station license which is good for 10 years. The MMSI (Maritime Mobile Service Identity) is basically a unique number assigned to our vessel. It is used to communicate digitally with both the EPIRB and VHF radio in an emergency situation to identify our vessel. Our EPIRB is a HUGE piece of safety gear that no cruising sailboat should be without, and I hope we never have to use it. It works by sending our coordinates via satellite to the coast guard if we activate it. When we registered it we also provided information like emergency contacts, how many people aboard, etc. I feel much safer now that it is installed!
The next task was installing our new VHF marine radio. The current VHF that came with our boat was old! We tested it out, and while it receives nice and clear it did not transmit. So for our trip down the Tombigbee we used a handheld VHF. This was great for our journey and we plan to continue using it in the cockpit and for dinghy rides, but we needed something more reliable with a broader range. We chose the GX2200 which comes with tons of safety features! It has DSC, AIS, GPS, and pretty much the rest of the alphabet too! DSC (digital selective calling) is a great safety feature that sends a distress signal at the push of a button to a coast guard station and any nearby boats equipped with a DSC radio. DSC also allows us to directly call other vessels with DSC in a non emergency situation too, almost like a telephone call. We haven’t played around with this feature yet so don’t know exactly how it’ll play out. AIS (automatic identification system) is also another great safety feature! The radio receives AIS and shows us on our screen where the vessels that are transmitting are located, how fast they are going, and our closest point of approach (are we gonna hit that ship?!). Almost all large commercial vessels transmit AIS so this helps us know when to get out of the way. There is an option to install a separate piece of equipment that is an AIS transmitter so they can see us, but the cost would be around $1,000 so we are opting only receive for now. GPS (global positioning system) gives us our exact coordinates, which can be sent via DSC with the distress button. All of these fancy features greatly increase our chance at rescue if something tragic was to happen.
The radio was simple enough to install since the VHF antennae was already installed on top of the mast. The most difficult part was figuring out where the radio was going to be permanently mounted in the nav station nook! The nav station had been a thorn in my side the entire trip here. One of the reasons was because we knew we were going to be adding a new VHF and SSB radio and without them in place we just threw things in the black hole on the premise we would get to it later when we had everything we wanted. While Erik was busy dealing with the install Sammy and I gathered all of the junk that had accumulated.
With a clean slate we used all of our combined brain power to think of how we wanted the space to function!
After our trip down the river I knew what things were important for daily travel. It also served as a sort of foyer where the items we need to get to quickly and use on a daily basis accumulate. And the nav station also serves well as an office hub. So we worked out a solution and so far have kept it that way! It is way less cluttered and I feel so much better about it. We mounted our wifi router to the ceiling in the navigation nook. It is recessed an extra 4 inches or so and we used velcro to get it out of sight and free up space. We pulled out our SSB radio (which Erik found on eBay, but we have not installed yet) to help us think about where it needed to live. We found an ideal spot for the VHF. I organized all of our “office supplies” into one tote. Things like tape, pens, staplers, etc. And then I made a tote for easy to grab items like flashlights and a screwdriver. There is one small tote that holds keys, wallets, phones that is the drop your stuff here sort of thing. And we also have a mini inverter we use to charge up our rechargeable batteries. The books we keep here are quick reference materials, mostly the engine manual. And theres room to store our binoculars and portable VHF down on the bottom right. I could not be happier with how functional the nav station is for us now!
With our tasks completed we pondered what our next task would be?! We had a few things in mind but needed some decent internet to work through it. We had been picking up spotty wifi that served us well enough, but when we saw that the nearby restaurant had a locked network, we happily trotted down to share a sandwich. Erik dove into researching our next big purchase: a new anchor and chain. We knew we would be most likely returning to Fairhope one last time so asked the Lacey’s if we could ship all the things to their house, of course they were more than willing even though I knew some of the boxes would be over 50lbs! We ordered everything we could think of from the past month of travel off Amazon. Erik and I both love shopping online and so far this has been one of the trickiest things to become accustomed to: not being able to order something and have it sitting at your door in 2 business days. We have to really think about what we need and then strategically order it.
After hanging out in saltwater for a few days or weeks we thought it smart to take our dinghy to shore and give it a scrub down. We just rowed it to shore and flipped it over on the beach. We could see the beginning of tiny barnacles starting to form but it was easy to wipe down. We knew keeping it in the water would promote unwanted growth, plus I did not want to tow the dinghy while we were sailing in heavier seas. Up until this point we had towed it. When we bought the dinghy we assumed we would place it on the bow foredeck but finally got around to doing it! It is not a difficult process at all. We use a halyard and a piece of rope tied to dinghy lengthwise and clip it in the middle. We winch it up over the lifelines then lower it on deck. It is really easy but does take us an extra 10 min. The more difficult part is raising and lowering our 6hp outboard on the motor mount but we figured a good system for that too. We cinch the nose on the dinghy in close to the boat, and then tie up the back end of it so that it is perpendicular to the stern of our boat. Then we tie a rope to the outboard to assist with steadying it and Erik just hoists it up or down. It is tricky and I would not be able to do that on my own. Good thing Ive got a strong man traveling with me.
After we got tired of internet land we decided to see what Dauphin Island was all about! I checked the maps and we headed off on a walk. It was only about a mile and a half to the center of town which had a ship n stuff store that had any and everything we could have wanted, but at a much higher price. We skipped on picking up more butter because it was $7 compared to the usual $3.50 we were used to! It was great to get out and explore, and we did the walk twice.
I got big news from my brother that he would be traveling the area, and that he was going to take an extra day to come visit with us! I was so excited! My brother is in a jam band called FLUFF and was on his way to play at a music festival. Him and his band have been playing together for the last 10 years, but over the last year or two they have really been working hard and melding together and they are great! Check Fluff out on soundcloud if you wanna get fluffed up! Anyways I super excited to see him and his girlfriend, and they brought me a special visitor! BRYSON! I was sooooo happy to see him my heart filled with joy. I could tell that Max and Chan have been doing great with him as he obeyed them and looked to them for reassurance. It made me so happy and sad all at once. We dinghyed all of them over to the boat, and getting Bryson up was a big challenge, and I could tell he was uncomfortable being on the boat. I felt sadglad about my decision in letting Max take care of him. He was so healthy and happy!
This was Max’s first time on the boat! Even though we have seen each other frequently over the past two and a half years, its never worked out for him to visit Knoxville (I think he was in town the month before we bough the boat!). He was impressed with it and I was proud to show off our home! After we hung out and caught up, we decided to get a good beach experience and meet up with the rest of the band. We took the dinghy to the other side of the anchorage and hiked over to the white sandy beaches past the pier. The water was great and we all enjoyed a swim! I loved getting to hang out with all of these beautiful souls. We all headed back to the boat so the rest of the band could see it. I believe we had 9 people on board?! They all sat up on the top deck and admired the stars, while I gave little tours down below to one or two at a time. It was good fun.
The next day Max had to continue to the festival, but him and Chan were super amazing and stopped at a walmart to pick us up a few groceries. I got to see them one last time and we said goodbye!
We really enjoyed our time at Dauphin Island and spent about a week there. It is great doing whatever we want on our own shcedule. Of course when a rainbow pops up over on the boat you know I dinghyed out to get the perfect shot! I love getting good pictures for the blog!
The water wasn’t the clearest at that anchorage, so we didn’t do any swimming. There were so many of the coolest iridescent jellyfish that would light up and glow at night. It was so neat! We would swipe the boat hook through the water and it would just light up! There were also lots of other jellyfish there too, which was another reason we stayed out of the water. They would wash up on the beach by the dozens! Some were as large as dinner plates. Dolphins came and visited us a few times which always made me happy!
Sammy loves getting to “hang out” with Erik.