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Cruising Cross Country

We recently took to the highway for a leisurely road trip to spend some treasured time with each other, friends and family.

Our road trip route!

Over the course of two weeks, eight states, and 3,375 miles, we took the opportunity to build upon a trip that initially started as a visit to Carolina Beach, NC for our family reunion. First, we noticed that the Volvo Ocean Race was scheduled to be in Miami just a week before and with Charleston being an ideal middle point between the two, we were set to make a an extended trip of it. Sprinkle in visits with some of our cruising family and other close friends along the way, Matt’s birthday and our anniversary, and we had all the makings of a memorable road trip ahead. While each day was its own adventure, here are some of the highlights.
  • Spent an evening with great friends from Dallas, The Breens, who now live in Clermont, FL. They’re a solid family we connected with at Allaso Ranch (our church’s incredible kid’s camp). We admire their take on life and sense of adventure and now make it a priority to see them anytime we’re nearby.
  • Turned into Tampa for lunch stop, as our good friend Crystal happened to be in town for the day, visiting the local office of her agency 22Squared. Seafood at Jackson’s Bistro, overlooking the canals of Hillsborough Bay, made the sunny and breezy afternoon as good as the company.
  • Kept our eyes peeled as we drove through Alligator Alley in the Everglades on our way to Ft. Lauderdale but didn’t spot any live ones.
  • Enjoyed several nights in the Ft. Lauderdale/Miami area, including one at anchor aboard s/v Morning Glory under the glowing lights of downtown Miami with part of our cruising family, Ted and Mili, cheering on Puma in the VOR. Lots more about our VOR adventures in the post below this one.

 Relaxing aboard s/v Morning Glory

  • Did a little dream shopping, stopping to look at two potential “next cruising boats” and gave up all objectivity by pretty much falling in love with one (a tragically emotional move in scouting boats). But no offers yet as were waiting until our little skipper arrives before making any major moves toward our next cruising plan.

 Could this be the next one?

  • Caught up with our cruising friends from Honu Lele, who’ve since moved to St. Augustine, FL. They introduced us to a local favorite, the Gypsy Cab restaurant, showed us where their new home will be soon built and worked on persuading us to move to St. Aug. (it wasn’t a hard sell).
The St. Augustine lighthouse
  • Returned, at a month shy of a year, to a city that captured our hearts (and stomachs) – the always charming Charleston. We made a “babymoon” of our stay in this beloved city with dinner at Coast and strolls about the town. The next morning we were treated to an exclusive tour of Historic Charleston by Laura Wichmann Hipp, whom we met when we sailed in last summer. As before, it was hard to leave. It seems our anchor always sets the deepest here.

Overlooking the Battery Wall of Charleston Harbor

  • Joined the rest of the Butcher/Carlson clan for a family reunion in Carolina Beach, NC. With Matt’s parents and brother in from Idaho, as well as aunts, uncles and cousins from Minnesota, it made a for a fun-filled week. Boat trips, fishing tourneys, golf, swimming, family banter and laughter around every meal and Mexican Train till you drop made the time fly. The time was further punctuated by a good ole low country boil and a thoughtful and lively group baby shower (for us, Matt’s brother Jeff and his wife Mel, and Matt’s cousin Steve and his wife, Edie).

 Boatin’ with Cousin Jimmy

  • Appreciated an easy drive back with complimentary hotel stays along the way, thanks to rewards points earned from Matt’s recent business travel.
As is often the case when you’re having loads of fun, you look up and wonder where the time went. We had a blast and couldn’t believe how quickly the time flew by.
Looking Forward While Celebrating 2010

As we look forward to what 2011 has in store for us, we reflected on our blessed-beyond-belief 2010. This has been a year of big changes, new beginnings and celebrations galore.

Looking forward to a walk like this soon

The first part of our year was filled with starting more projects than we finished on Kaleo, learning as much as we could aboard, as well as through Seven Seas University courses, and spending a few freezing weekends planning for warmer weather projects.

Spring brought warmer weather, some great sailing in Galveston Bay, the wedding of our dear friends, Amy & Jeph, and Christie’s parents’ 35th wedding anniversary in April.

May was a landmark month as we became officially debt free, gaining financial freedom. We also moved from our 1,400 square foot townhome to a 650 square foot studio apartment to better prepare for our life aboard Kaleo. And, we celebrated our first wedding anniversary at The Joule, were we stayed on our wedding night. Of course, we spent a few weekends completing some boat projects along the way.

With the Texas summer heat came lots of family and friends visiting the boat, marina BBQ’s, and more boat projects. And in June, the “Cyclin’ Sailors” geared up for our 4th annual Urban Assault Race in Austin!

The Fourth of July was shared with the Wilborns by sailing and watching incredible fireworks shows while anchored out in the bay. Then, we jetted to Coeur D’ Alene, ID to celebrate the newest Butchers, as Matt’s brother Jeff married his bride, Meloney. We topped off the trip to the Northwest with an incredible experience of sleeping 50′ off the ground in the boughs of a giant, old Washington Red Cedar Tree at Cedar Creek Treehouse and touring Mt. Rainier National Park. Of course, we spent a few weekends completing some boat projects along the way.

While the summer heat continued to bake us, we enjoyed a shakedown cruise to Galveston with the Kryzaks and a sailing weekend with The Powers. Of course, we spent a few weekends completing some boat projects along the way.

The fall brought a trip to Minneapolis to celebrate Grandma Butcher’s 90th birthday, visit with family and to Trader Joe’s to stock up on our favorite snacks. The realization that we were now within one month of tossing the docklines helped us get a lot of boat projects wrapped up almost every weekend.

October was a big month as Matt took his leave of absence from work, Christie resigned from her job, we moved out of our land home and aboard Kaleo full-time, sold a car and put another one in storage along with our belongings. We soaked up treasured time with loved ones and were given three outstanding Bon Voyage parties. We also got to celebrate the marriage of Ben and Carly (Matt’s cousin) and spent time with family in San Diego. Of course, we managed another trip to Trader Joe’s for more provisions.

November 8th marked the beginning of our cruising life. Before leaving the dock, we met up with some cruising mentors, The Sittons, and celebrated Christie’s birthday with family and a dear friend, Crystal, aboard. The month was filled with a host of new experiences – from adjusting to life aboard to overcoming unknown challenges and navigating new waters to connecting with new friends along the way. We topped it off with a roadtrip from Mississippi to Texas to spend Thanksgiving with family.

The year wrapped up by crossing the Gulf Coast states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and into Florida. It was on those passages that we learned to love the open ocean, more fully appreciate warm days and spent time digging our toes into our first white sandy beach. Christmas with shared with family and friends in Texas, Louisiana, and Florida and we were back home aboard Kaleo on New Year’s Eve.

We welcomed the new decade with the most unusual of celebrations for us at this time of year. The clock struck midnight as we pushed two carts down the isles of a 24-hour Walmart. We laughed and shared a little “Happy New Year” smooch in the canned goods aisle and continued provisioning in preparation for the Bahamas and beyond. Yes, really. Oh, the cruising life ;o).

Thank you for joining us as virtual crew along this adventure. It means a lot to us. We wish you peace, blessings and togetherness in your new year!

We’re ready for 2011 and believe the best is yet to come. God has even more amazing things He wants to do in and through our lives so we’re straining to what is ahead. (Philippians 3:13-14)

Ahoy Pirate’s Cove

We slept in a bit today knowing that we had just a short hop to cross into Florida and stage for a longer Gulf sail tomorrow.

Talk about hospitality! We discovered a freshly delivered USA Today at our companionway doorstep. Thank you Marina at the Wharf! After breakfast and catching up on all the daily headlines, we fueled up and headed back into the ICW toward “The Sunshine State.” Before we dared to cross the state line, there was a must-stop in Josephine, AL. Pirate’s Cove! Legendary hamburgers, white sandy beach, clear waters, and a mandate to stop by almost everyone we’ve met who knows these waters. It was just as they had described and the only way it could have been better is if they were docked there with us.

Kaleo waiting while we enjoyed lunch

One of the dogs took this photo while our burgers were on the grill

After our fill of burgers and wings, we motored over the Florida state line and into Big Lagoon where we tied up at Lost Key Marina & Yacht Club in Pensacola, FL. (For any cruisers out there, this is a hidden gem, not in the guide books, at $15/nt with power, water, and spacious, well-kept shower facilities.)

It’s off to get some rest now as we prepare for our longest run yet out in the Gulf. We’re planning to shoot out of Pensacola Pass tomorrow morning and sail for about 24 hours straight to Port St. Joe, FL. Yes, mom and dad, we’ll be taking turns between sleeping and sailing so no over-caffeinating will be necessary ;o).

N 30° 19.5 / W 87° 21.3

Crossing a Cold Mobile Bay

Matt’s hands are raw and tingling at their core from puppeteering Kaleo’s lines as she sailed hard across an agitated and arctic Mobile Bay.

Spot Tracker plot of our route from Moss Point, MS to Orange Beach, AL

The day began when we pushed off from the dock a little after 5:30 this morning and made our way back down the Pascagoula River to the mouth of the Mississippi Sound, before sunrise, to resume our route across the Gulf Coast. From there, we set course for Dauphin Island Bridge, the west entrance to the bay.

Kaleo sliced through the remaining Mississippi Sound and with winds building, we began our march toward Mobile Bay with a little trepidation about the conditions that would await us. The metal steering wheel was ice in Matt’s hands with air temperature at its high of 40°, the wind meter reading about 20 knots (23 mph) and with sea water breaking over the bow. But we had come this far and Kaleo was sailing admirably, so we pressed on. Gusts of 25 knots became the norm and then wind continued to build with it blowing up to 27 knots. To meet the ICW entrance on the other side of the bay, we had to change course and the waves starting rolling on the beam (perpendicular to the boat). To ensure that we didn’t have too much sail up for the wind conditions, Matt added a second reef to the main and rolled up the jib completely and she was still cruising along at 7 to 7.5 knots (that’s mighty fast for our sailboat). With a little prayer that the winds hold steady or subside, we sailed on with Matt rotating between checking our course at the wheel and staying out of the wind and sea spray under the dodger.

Midway through the bay we were greeted by dolphins swimming alongside and jumping out of the water just off the port beam. Around 3:30, we sailed into the ICW, the wind dropped and we motored toward our berth for the night at The Marina on the Wharf in Orange Beach, AL. Since we spent most of the day freezing and with temps forecast to be in the low 20’s, we decided to treat ourselves to some shore power heat and a movie at the Wharf theater. This area has been newly built with tons of little shops, bakeries, bars, restaurants and even a gigantic Ferris wheel and movie theater making it quite the treat to walk around.

Other than numb hands and windburned cheeks, Matt said he really enjoying getting to sail Kaleo in those conditions. We look forward to getting a warm night’s rest and crossing into Florida tomorrow!

N 30° 16.76 / W 87° 41.00

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