Pandemonium. Part of the process of stuffing a household’s worth of goods for 2 years into a 150 square foot living space.
What does it take to transition back to cruising after five months of land-lubbing (aka “dirt dwelling”)? More than you’d expect, we discovered even though we were only renting, short-term.
Why did we even bother with anything other than live-aboard? Good question!
A few of the items donated from our several months of dirt dwelling.
Last year we stayed at Jacksonville’s lovely Ortega Landing Marina as “long term cruisers” (“live-aboards” technically are not allowed). While we loved the community, Wayne typically works an alternate schedule. That meant he needed to sleep during the day. Last year it was graveyard, 11 pm – 7 am. Every time I stepped on or off the boat, cook, eat, take or make a phone call, etc., it was likely to wake him up. Diplomatically put, we weren’t at our best. “No way in hell am I ever going to do that again,” or some such was my concluding ultimatum.
This Dodge Caravan was the ultimate moving machine with dual-opening side doors and flip-down seats.
So this year we again found ourselves in Jacksonville for hurricane season, with Wayne working a variable swing shift, generally mid or late afternoon until the wee hours. We looked at house-sharing and found few advertised options, mostly expensive, remote or in kinda rough neighborhoods, that in a town sometimes dubbed “the murder capital.” Furnished apartments offered a similar dilemma, either expensive or dubious. The cost of renting furniture was also higher than buying at thrift shop prices and using it for several months.
Timing is not my strong point when it comes to moving weather.
Thus, I found a cheap, unfurnished one-bedroom apartment in a fun, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood, near Jacksonville’s 5-Points neighborhood in Riverside. Easy walking distance to SunRay, our favorite indy theater (outside of Portland OR), Publix grocery store, Grassroots health food store, Walgreens pharmacy, several parks, the Cummer Museum, Saturday’s Riverplace Arts Market, and a host of fun little shops and eateries (Corner Taco and Tapa That were our favorites). It was also in cycling distance to Ortega Landing and a West Marine, alas, not the West Marine I worked at, which was a 20-minute drive in excellent traffic karma, 1 ¼ hours by cycle (which while mostly back roads still required crossing through sketchy neighborhoods and major thoroughfares), a $23 Uber ride, or a 2+ hour circuitous bus ride. Thus, I am incredibly grateful West Marine was willing to work around Wayne’s schedule and hire me anyway.
I loved my little “$35” bicycle.
When we went through our initial downsizing for cruising, paring all our worldly possessions down to what would fit the commercial airline regulation size of five luggage pieces*, we got a big “Aha!” We realized the financial folly of buying new stuff, when we could pick up what we needed for pennies on the dollar.
*We have about 5 boxes of additional stuff – mostly memorabilia – graciously stored for us by Wayne’s folks, all else we own is with us on our boat.
Fall trees, Mulberry Cove Marina, JAX NAS.
I tried Craigslist and found most sellers unresponsive, though I did eventually purchase a relatively unused mini Haier washing machine through Craigslist. Given limited access to the car when Wayne needed it for work, I opted to shop at thrift shops; my favorites were Habitat for Humanity, JAX Bargain Pickers (mostly Estate Sale liquidation) and St. Vincents.
For ~$400 we furnished our apartment with a $20 couch and 2 floorlamps, an executive desk chair, a desk and desk lamp, a dresser, a chest-drawer, a bed and rudimentary bed frame, a corner entertainment center repurposed as a linen closet, a vacuum, blender, toaster, bathroom scale and a few other various and sundry items. The $35 bike I bought from St. Vincents was no bargain after replacing both tires, adding lights, horn and a basket, but it made a fine neighborhood “2nd car” and provided me with many hours of enjoyable riding.
Met this little frog at Mulberry Cove Marina.
My friend Bertie helped me find some of the stuff, most notably JAX Bargain Pickers and the $20 couch, and move it in, using a rented Home Depot’s F350 truck.
On the tail end, we opted to donate rather than sell our stuff, as more for logistical ease than altruism.
Still, there was a fair bit of every day living stuff to move back aboard as we moved everything off the boat while it was in storage… all our clothes, food, kitchen stuff, paperwork, even lots and lots of new and returning boat stuff. Due to torrential downpours during our move, and Wayne’s need to use the car for work while we were moving back aboard, I rented a Dodge Caravan van for the move. That enabled me to also move my bike and kayak.
Golden light and reflections on this calm morning at Mulberry Cove Marina.
The most challenging part of the move is figuring out how to move everything at once into a narrow, 150 square foot place, including provisioning for a gluten-free diet for a 2-year stint of travel. It is definitely one of those “It’s gotta get worse before it gets better” processes. Bad enough Wayne found the need to clear out for several hours one night so I could put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
Was it worth it, doing the dirt dweller thing versus remaining as a live-aboard?
Financially, definitely not, even though we found lots of ways to cut corners and Wayne worked a ton of hours at a good wage. We were unable to set anything aside. From a relationship perspective, yes. We braved much more challenging issues (including exploding plumbing which rained down in our closet for over an hour – enough to fill a bucket with 6 inches of water, and raw sewage all over our bathroom) far better than two folks sharing 150 square feet on alternate work/life schedules. Ironically, our apartment became so untenable it motivated our transition back to the boat more quickly.
Silhouettes at night, Mulberry Cove Marina.
We will miss the neighborhood, unlimited fast Comcast WiFi and irresponsibly long hot showers (Wayne doesn’t care much on the showers, but I do).
It helped that when we moved back aboard, once it stopped pouring, we were graced with some phenomenal fall weather, sunny and 70s. It’s a pretty spot, at JAX NAS Mulberry Cove. No internet other than my phone hotspot or a few eating facilities on base where WiFi was the price of a meal and stinking like fried food. Still, free laundry, electricity and water, great provisioning from an incredibly affordable, huge commissary and yes, irresponsibly long showers were still an option.
Ultimately, the boat feels more like home than the apartment ever did. Most likely we won’t be offered a financially viable choice between now and the rest of our voyage to Australia. However, unless we land a house-sitting gig or some other unconventional digs, we do not anticipate living anywhere besides our boat again until we’re done cruising.
Journey, transitioning for cruising, idling in Mulberry Cove Marina’s morning light before we set sail.
After a lot of rock ‘n roll, we arrived at Manatee Pocket, aka Stuart Florida / Port St. Lucie, Port Salerno this morning (N26.59.098 W78.12.951), December 11th 2014. I’m visiting my Dad in Sarasota, then Mom in DelRay Beach while Wayne gets to do boat work in peace and quiet. We’re crossing our fingers the one piece of standing rigging we held off replacing – and broke on the way down – is fixed on Monday. Got to play mast monkey today to get it down, and will again to resurrect it before we set sail again.
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