Storms don’t last forever.

{spoiler alert} We made it! 1,244 nautical miles and two months later, we reached the Florida Keys.  A lot to catch up on…last we talked, we were still in Georgia with a south heading. 

After discovering quicksand islands, our next stop was Kilkeny Marnia tucked up in Kilkeny Creek, GA. A bare minimum kind of marina, with old wooden docks, outdoor showers and a handful of friendly locals and tubs of live bait.  Once anchored, near a boat called SoulMate, Clay took off with Chad, a pole and a bucket full of live shrimp in search of dinner.  I stayed back in the warmth of our Little Buddy Propane Heater and was gearing up  for some yoga when I was suddenly hit with an overwhelming desire to take a nap.  Not one who takes naps often, the notion seemed odd to me and I remember thinking what a strange feeling to suddenly come over me.  As I was heading to our bed, thinking I might not even make it there before falling asleep, a very quiet voice in my head whispered “the heater”.  I knew I should turn it off before taking a nap so with the last bit of energy I had, I reached through the all ready settling sleep to clip the heater off.  Almost instantly, I felt alert again.  Without realizing it, I had probably saved my own life by clipping off that heater prior to laying down.  We still haven’t found where the propane was leaking from but traced it to a malfunction with the low setting of the heater.  It was a frightening moment and a great reminder to stay aware and safe.  The following day we tied back up to the marina for water and diesel and caught a quick ride into town for light provisioning, the highlight of the which was a 24 variety pack of beer called Tacklebox, sure to top anyfisherman’s list.   The marina is located just adjacent to a pre-civil war era plantation style house which was a treasure to explore along its perimeter while Clay fueled up SoulTide.  




When Henry Ford purchased this property after the war, he had the tiny doors you see put on either side of the walls where cannons had blasted holes through. He wanted to keep a reminder of the destruction the war had caused.


Study sesh for the kid.

Georgia has some of the most incredible sunsets I’ve ever seen.


Our next major stop was at Jekyll Island, GA. We were forced to stop for a large weather system moving through with high winds and rain. After getting settled, we borrowed bikes from the super hospitable people at the marina and took a ride around, under large sagging oak branches adorned with Spanish moss and little white birds. We were seeing the island during its dead season and everything was either shut down or empty: the putt putt golf course, the water park, the convention center; the hotel parking lots and the main restaurants sat empty. Creepy.  




For months before our trip even began, Clay knew for sure where his favorite spot would be. He described it as some kind of Mecca, a destination that ruled over all other destinations, where Bud Light flows like water, the Redskins are always winning and Florida Georgia line plays a concert, live 24/7/365.  After leaving Jekyll Island we made it to this ultimate destination and probably could have ended our trip there: The Florida Georgia Line.


Fernandina Beach treated us great. We waited out another weather system here and spent time showering, doing laundry, riding our bikes around for a self guided eating tour of the town, and doing hot yoga (which felt incredible).

The weather system passed, we kept heading south.  Our anchorage for the night was gorgeous, a small oxbow behind an island off the ICW called Pine Island. Not long after we fell asleep, I woke up feeling uncomfortably squished.  I gave Clay a gentle push, telling him to get on his side of the bed.  He responded, “Fine, I’ll just go up to my side.” For a moment, I laid there thinking what an odd response that was…go up to his side? As the thought began to take shape, I felt Clay shift a bit and then whisper, “I think we are aground.” For the next 45 mins our boat began to tilt, slowly at first and then more aggressively as the water receded at a higher rate, until we were on our side at a 45 degree tilt with nothing but mud under us.  Items on the high side of the boat were falling from their places behind the wood railings, sliding out from their cubby holes and out from under nets until there was a whole pile of things (plants, books, heaters, plates) and us, mingling on the low side of the boat.   The wind had kept us away from the out going ride and we ended up high and dry.  They say there are three types of boaters: those who have run aground, those who will run aground and those that lie about it.  We seem to flip flop between the first two categories often.

Taken at what would have been “level”.


Sunset in Titusville, Fl where Clay quit smoking! Still going strong!


Our first night where we felt like we had really made it. Walking up to a Florida bar, Squid Lips!


16 man band killing it, guy on the bongos was crushing french fries between solos.


Our girl being brave in the face of gale force winds. We abandoned her and went to the library and pie shop. Eau Gallie, FL


Opposite of boat life


Chadsworth and Soultide


Morning ritual of pulling the anchor.


“United States Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville Florida. Break.”


First fish! We breaded it up in crushed Raisin Bran and made a chipotle aioli. yum!


Beach run for the girl.


water line from brown and murky to blue and clear.



Our stretch from Fernandina Beach to Fort Lauderdale seemed to drag on forever. Clay’s sister and her husband live in Fort Lauderdale and the promise of a comfy bed and
hot showers and great company probably made that stretch seem much longer than it was.  Or maybe it was the terrifying band of severe weather that moved in and wouldn’t let up.  Or maybe the seemingly endless number of low clearance bridges with their untimely openings that we could never get to on schedule.  Maybe a lot of all three.  By the time we had reached 10 nautical miles above Fort Lauderdale, we were exhausted, everything was soaked and starting to harbor mold, the weather was getting worse, morale at its lowest.  We made our last bridge opening in the first hours of nightfall, in the lull between two weather systems.  Seeing our incredibly gracious hosts pull up in a Jetta with cold beers on ice felt nothing short of spectacular.  We spent the next seven days drying out and enjoying some land time, swapping sailing stories and eating great meals.  Certainly one of the highlights of our trip. 

Tornado and severse thunderstorm warnings all day.


Everyone knows something about fishing and it all seems to be wrong.


Clay in the engine room for the big ship his sister and her husband work on. Their engine room is bigger than our whole boat.


A grilling extraveganza.


Florida’s version of street cats!


live bluegrass with a tiny guest


engine troubles



With the gift of some pretty rad fabric in Fort Lauderdale, I made curtains for our boat!


an iguana is hiding in there

  From Fort Lauderdale we made a run to No Name Harbor at the very top of the Florida Keys, where many cruisers wait for a weather window to cross to the Bahamas.  It’s got great all around protection and is the first time we were able to go swimming!     

No Name Harbor



While looking for a protected anchorage in preparation for the next wind storm, we checked out a small key called Boca Chita. I snapped these photos and only later figured out that this was probably a Cuban refugee boat.



Big motor yacht that had run aground at low tide. It looked like the captain had decided to wait it out in the shade of his boat. That little speck to the right is the dinghy he was sitting in.

We finally found a spot with northern protection along an undeveloped stretch of mangroves at the top of Barnes Sound.  We sailed into our anchorage just as the sun was setting, Clay at the helm singing and dancing to Jimmy Buffet.  Quick showers on deck and soon dinner was going, hatches open to catch the evening breeze.  I saw the first one, an unassuming single mosquito.  I wasn’t nervous, I don’t even think I said anything about it to Clay.  Rookie mistake.  

Within ten minutes, just as dinner was being served, our entire cabin was overrun with mosquitoes, angry and determined ones. I couldn’t even take a bite of my food without also catching a mosquito in the process.  We were sure that they would move on after an hour or so, this is what we’d seen before.  But as the minutes went by, the more mosquitos arrived until Clay finally yelled, “Get under the blankets and tuck in all the sides!” Huddled in the tropics under our blankets meant for cold weather, we couldn’t breathe or see but we could hear the growing buzz of hundreds of hungry mosquitos until it drowned out all other noises.  And there we stayed for another few hours.  Finally, having had enough and starting to sweat, Clay climbed out from his protective barrier prepared to face the swarm.  He popped into the dark cockpit, as it was well into night by then, clipped on the spotlight and shined it into the cabin.  At least a hundred mosquitos had landed on my blanket where I was still hiding, crying from terror and exhaustion and lack of oxygen. Another hundred were buzzing around the cabin, another hundred in our v-berth, countless in the cockpit and surrounding the boat.  We had to move.  Like some kind of hero, Clay shouted down to me to stay covered and that he was going to get us somewhere safe.  I heard the engine grumble to life and the anchor pulled on board.  I waited until I could feel the wind created by our movement before climbing up into the cabin. And so we went, through a pitch black night in unfamiliar waters to try and get away from the nightmare we were living in.  As Clay navigated, I hunted down and terminated hundreds of mosquitos that had harbored in the lower spaces of our boat.  A few hour later we reset our anchor and tried to fall asleep amid phantom buzzing and ghost sightings of mosquitos that thankfully were no longer there.

Clay hiding from the mosquitos .


mosquito netting. not so rookie anymore.

We woke up the next morning and waited out a gale at Gilbert’s Marina.  The tiki bar was rocking with live music in the evening and the next morning we headed south with full sails and no engine, the sound of which was replaced by me learning to play the harmonica.  A great day.


Our destination was a free slip generously gifted to us by a family friend.  On arrival though, we saw the dock was completely exposed to the northwest sitting on the bottom end of a wide open bay. Against our better judgment, we stayed and had a great afternoon of snorkeling around.  

 7 pm. Like a train in the distance, we could hear the wind pick up.  We felt the water respond, building up against the momentum of the wind, creating a slight chop.  

9pm. The winds amped up quickly and the waves followed suit. Clay checked on everyone before going to bed: Chad secured at the end of the dock, SoulTide secured with lines off all side bow and stern, spring lines for additional support. We tried to sleep.

Midnight: Unable to sleep because of the violent thrash of SoulTide against the pilings, the 2′ waves  slamming into her side and the 30knt winds whipping the bay into a frenzy, we watched episodes of The Office and tried to ignore the sounds around us.  Being on SoulTide at this point is like being on a wild horse.

4am: Clay checks on Chad and sees that Chad isn’t fairing well.  His back cleat had been ripped out and he was flipped over and sinking.  Our third set of oars and oar locks gone.  It was time to get off the boat. 

4:30am: Clay and I make it off our wild horse of a boat and on to the dock.  The only way to save Chad was to lay on the dock and drag him through the water, handing him under the other thrashing boats lines.  We do this successfully and are able to get him right side up. 

7am: The forecast is calling for the same winds for the next 24 hours so we pack a bag, secure SoulTide as best we can, hop the fence to the marina and walk into town. Meanwhile, Clay is sending a distress text to his mom in Key West: please come save us.

life jacket in case of deep puddles. no sleep for 24 hours here.

starbucks sleeping

By that afternoon, we had arrived in Key West, showered and took a nap.  Things were looking up.  We had a great evening in el compartemiento de Anne, watching the Super Bowl and eating the best damn nachos I’ve ever had. Highlight, for sure.

bike ride scenes around Key West


a sign.


We (Clay, myself, SoulTide, Chad) all survived the storm and kept heading south, thinking we were going to make it to Key West within a week. This is Clay celebrating make it to Long Key, which is the furthest south we got to in SoulTide.


puffer fish!


With less than ideal conditions in the lower Keys, we decided to head north early and enjoy some time in Key Largo where the weather was great!


Shower rig on the rig.


One of my favorite days of the trip was a day outing in Key Largo.  The backstory for this top notch day begins way back in White Stone, Va where talk of warm weather days spent lounging on white sandy beaches drinking fruity cocktails had solidified my desire to move on to a boat in the dead of winter.  That tropical image had kept my spirits high well into the belly of our trip, after days and days of wearing my parka and ski pants as we crossed four state lines, the miles between us and home increasing but the outside temperature always staying the same: cold.  So once we had arrived in the Keys, I was beyond ready for the white beaches and fruity cocktails and honestly willing to settle for tan beaches and Bud Light if it meant warm weather and lounging.  After several days of gale force winds and countless hours stuck on the boat, Clay and I began to wonder what it was all for and I, lamenting about the lack of sandy beaches, demanded to know when and where we would be finding one.  Clay nonchalantly said “Sandy beaches? There aren’t any Sandy beaches in the Keys.” 😳 Upon realizing he had crushed a very vivid tropical paradise dream, he quickly started forming a plan to find that paradise, or something close to it.  The southern Keys were forecasted to continuing gales and low temps but the northern Keys were slotted to be at least 10 degrees warmer and provide much better protection.  And so north we went, back to Tarpon Basin and it’s incredible protection, free dinghy dock, bait shop, manatees and a dolphin that was 27′ long (I swear!).  Clay’s mom and Mike drove up to meet us and after a stop in at what is probably the best marine consignment shop on the eastern seaboard (one at which neither Clay or Mike can resist stopping at) we drove to John Pennekamp State Park.  We laid on a sandy beach, had a lovely picnic, went snorkeling, read books and showered (✨🎉✨).     

What’s a perfect day in the Keys without a Key Lime Pie tour?


Really doing something here with this tiki vibe!

Holidays are hard to celebrate when you live as close as we do: always together whether on land or boat, and made additionally difficult when your girlfriend has expectations that are impossible to guess or achieve and always involve elements of surprise; also, we are broke. But Clay, always trying to please, snuck off to Kmart under the guise of picking up a bucket for the boat and decorated Valentine’s Day style while I was on a run. It was the perfect amount of quirky and surprise. ❤️

We are heading back home now…more adventures are already happenin, faster than I can write about them! New blog already in the works…goodbye until then!


Don’t ever give up. 

It’s hard to write updates when things aren’t going great. Our diesel engine is acting a fool and so we are stationary in Beaufort, SC while Clay tries to get a handle on it. Lucky for us, this town is one helpful person after the next, mostly retired cruisers who remember what it was like to be us: just a couple of kids having an adventure on a shoestring budget. We were welcomed with open, understanding arms by Steve at the Lady’s Island Marina, where he offered us a close anchorage, free dinghy access to the marina facilities which include a workshop and showers (amen, hallelujah), and unlimited smiles and spirit lifting jokes about cruising life. We are forever grateful for Steve and his hospitality. 

 “Living on a boat is just working on your boat in more exotic locations.” – Steve  

It’s been awhile since you’ve had an update and for the longest time I contemplated telling you about our last couple weeks starting from the present and going backwards or from the beginning and working forwards. I think I contemplated this so hard I gave myself a migraine which still lingers and is another reason our stay in Beaufort has been a good one: I finally ran out of procrastinating excuses and am forced to write, bad news and all. 
My last post left off at the end of our window fiasco and we were waiting for the next big rain storm to see if our windows would hold dry. THEY DID and have continued to hold steady, even through hard and cold downpours. It’s a huge victory to know it can rain at night (or while we are away from the boat or while we are on the boat cooking dinner) and we will stay dry. It’s a victory hard to understand by those who haven’t experienced a leaky boat – those who have and hear of our success, smile generously and applaud our efforts. That feels like a victory too.  
From Belhaven, NC we sailed (literally) down the Pamlico River while listening to the Redskins game (intermittently, because signal was spotty). It was a wonderful afternoon, with sunshine and snacks, football and favorable winds.  

 We anchored just north of Morehead City, a bit more industrial than the creeks we’ve been used to anchoring in. Feeling exhausted and unsure about our anchor set near a major bridge, we were discussing a very short list of far fetched alternative options when Clay yelled “Look! Dolphins! What a great omen! We are anchoring here.” I was so excited I almost fell off the boat, we anchored and had wine and cheese on the stern. It was a good night. 
From Morehead City, we made an early run to Swansboro and decided to anchor early in order to provision, send postcards and pay bills, as well as get out of the torrential downpours that kept rolling through. We motored up to Swansboro’s town dock, a very well maintained floating dock that is available to transient boaters who want to come ashore for a few hours to eat or shop. Approaching the dock was our first experience of how crazy ridiculous the currents are in this part of the ICW. We had to approach twice after our first attempt saw us a few feet short of the dock with a first mate who’s legs are too short (or fear is too great) to make the jump from bow to dock.  

Clay washing dishes

Provisioning is not convenient to the waterfront so we started towards the grocery and hardware stores, hand in hand. While in line at the post office, Clay sweet talked a gentleman into giving him a lift to the hardware store, about a mile further. The kindness of strangers has truly been a gift during our trip. Groceries were bought, postcards were sent and just as the sky really opened up, we arrived back at our boat. Anchoring in the rain is not a fun activity so we milked our time at the dock with a few beers at the waterfront bar. Our anchorage in Swansboro was in a fairly commercial area surrounded on three sides, like being cradled with a “[” of civilization. The top “arm” was lined with a small row of waterfront restaurants and bars, the backbone a low clearance bridge, and the bottom “arm” a small jut of land on which a shrimping operation sat. A shallow but steadfast anchorage. Just before sunset, I saw a sailboat set anchor not too far from us. I watched as a young woman hoisted the anchor from its locker and heave it over the side while a man at the helm backed down on the anchor line. I smiled, thinking, “That’s what we look like.” Eventually, these two sailors made their way over to our boat and we had the pleasure of meeting Emma and Casey, the owners of a lovely sailboat named Stout. A few drinks while sharing our experiences rounded out nicely an otherwise damp but productive day. We’ve been running into these waterway friends often; it’s been fun to see how their adventure is unfolding! 

strange pink house with UPS truck stuck in boardwalk driveway


From Swansboro, our goal was to make a run to Wrightsville which in Clay’s words would be “the longest distance a man has ever traveled in one day.” This is not entirely accurate although after leaving in the predawn darkness and running for thirteen hours, it felt exactly like that. A more than full day of missing all four bridge openings by mere minutes, in the wind and rain, ended with us climbing into a super fluffy bed in a gorgeous beach front house. One of Clay’s childhood family friends graciously offered their beach rental for us to use and what a incredible treat it was! We woke up Christmas Eve morning and decided that since we weren’t going for gift giving this year, we would make an inspired Christmas Eve dinner. We took inventory of the things we needed for a blowout dinner and caught a ride into the mainland.    




  Christmas morning we woke up cozy and comfy and to two stuffed stockings. Buying gifts for each other is difficult when you live on a boat with your partner and all trips are usually joint trips. That meant we got creative with the little sentiments we did gift each other: Clay found a homemade jar of pickles at the hardware store, organic sunscreen and silicone wrapped wine glasses {no spills, I love them) from West Marine and chocolate caramels from the grocery store he popped into for the rack of lamb. I found a redskins koozie at a grocery store and regifted my sunglasses case for his pair that really needed it. What’s more than the gifts though were the memories we made on Christmas: Clay waiting patiently for me to sweat my way into several different wetsuits, Clay putting me immediately in where the big dogs surf and telling me to paddle fast and jump up quick, me taking a face full of water and surfboard and declaring I was too afraid to continue, Clay realizing I needed more instruction and less “getting pitted”, me finally catching a petite baby wave on all fours. Our little Christmas was a success.  
From Wrightsville, we made a run down to Little River, where my grandparents have lived for as long as I can remember. It was surreal coming into town by sail when I’ve seen it from the road for so many years. Our stay was full of home cooked food, lots of laughing and equal amounts of my grandpa swearing at the iPhone and Clay figuring out there were such things as “beer sheds”.   

Bike riding tradition I almost got left out of. 🙂



Little River Swing Bridge


Veg soup warms even the most frozen of sailors


   We left Little River on New Years Eve with a batch of homemade veggie soup, $20 worth of fireworks and hope that the sky would clear and the temps would rise. Those things didn’t happen. Instead, we found ourselves in the strangest anchorage we’ve seen yet, far from civilization. With the winter weather in full swing, all of the trees in our little nook of an anchorage had lost their leaves and all that was left behind were patches of grey Spanish moss drooping off of twisted and knobby tree limbs. The trees in that area grow right up out of the water, creating an echo that went for miles and a very eerie environment where all we could hear were the slight movements of the water. Although far from seemingly everything, we were not alone. When we first entered the bend, we saw a large white cross coming up out of a moss covered tree stump. Around the second bend, we found a partially sunk vessel caught in a ticket of vegetation. We saw there was writing on the cross but couldn’t make out what it said so with just a handful of minutes before true dusk set in, we climbed into Chad (our dinghy) and paddled across the creek to investigate. We were able to get enough information off the cross to find a news article from early summer and discovered that a man had drown there after jump off his boat into the water. We took a moment of silence for his soul and paddled back towards the boat in a contemplative silence. The water can be such a wonderful place to play and travel but demands constant respect and proper safety measures. Any activity or simple task can turn deadly, quick and without warning. This was a sobering reminder of that.   

From our desolate and kind of scary anchorage, we made a run for Charleston, SC. Our experience of Charleston was clouded greatly by the onset of a three day long migraine for me coupled with super rough wind and wake conditions. We were happy to leave port and look forward to seeing the city again in a different light soon.

Finally, we are caught up. Thank you all for keeping up with us!  


Trust fall.

As we came back into our home port after a quick afternoon sail, I took my place at the bow of Soultide.  My job there is to lasso the piling on the starboard side and cleat it off to secure the boat.  I patiently waited as Claiborne honed in the nose of our girl and watched my piling get within range as we glided silently into our slip.  “Ive got it!”, I preemptively yelled as I reached out for the rope.  The boat, in a sudden fit of independence, stopped all forward motion and kept just far enough away from the piling to keep it out of my immediate reach.   Not a problem, I thought to myself. I turned my head towards the stern where I could see in my peripheral Claiborne cleating off his lines (successfully).  I called back, “I missed the line so I’m going to do a trust fall into the piling!”  The silence that followed my declaration instantly translated in my mind as trust falling into the piling was a great idea and that I had his full support.  It never occurred to me that his silence could mean he was assessing if he heard me correctly, as well as comprehend what trust falling into a piling actually entailed, and then taking a hasty inventory of the ensuing and likely injurious consequences that such an activity would most certainly result in.  While these calculations were ticking in Clays mind, I was delightedly and without any thought to possible negative outcomes, beginning my trust fall. 

When you are on a boat and apply pressure to an outside secondary, stationary object, you (and the boat) move and the object stays still.  This is common sense, of which I appear to have very little.  I bent at the waist and covered the distance that my arms couldn’t, just barely getting my palms to the piling.  This felt like definite success for two seconds until I felt the boat begin to move away from the piling, responding to the force of my palms landing.  I was just short of enough grip on the piling to where I couldn’t push once more to get myself upright again and so I gripped as hard as my little fingers would and stretching my upper body as far as I could. And then I started screaming. “CLAIBORNE, IM GOING IN!!” I shrieked, knowing I couldn’t grip anymore, feeling I couldn’t stretch my upper body an inch more and seeing the gap between the boat and the piling get wider and wider. I could almost hear his trust-fall-mind-calculation-thought-bubble pop as he watched one possible outcome take shape right before him and he sprang into action.  He reached me just as my fingers were finally slipping completely off the piling and felt his arms wrap around my waist just as I felt my upper body started for the cold creek water below.  Pulling me safely back over the lifelines he whispered, “That was a terrible idea.” 

In many ways, this year has been all about  trust falling. Closing my eyes and trusting that the universe would be there to catch me, trust falling into magical cabins and wonderful friends, home cooked meals and art projects, the man of my whole entire heart and the trip of a lifetime.  The most important aspect of a trust fall isn’t about falling or catching, it’s about the in between. It’s after you’ve fallen, taken an action on faith and before you are caught.  It’s the letting go, the trust.  That’s where the magic happens.  

I am planning on trust falling right into 2016, which sounds far less dangerous than into a piling.   Happy New Year, readers! See you on the other side!