A FUNNEL CLOUD OVERHEAD!

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On Tuesday morning, the weather reports looked pretty ominous. Winds of 21 mph, gusting to 50 later in the day. Severe thunderstorms, frequent thunder and lightning, and hail. Oh BOY! It was going to be an exciting day!!

We spend the morning securing lines, and stowing any objects that might blow around. While a tornado or waterspout is of major concern to anyone, the chances of one hitting us were pretty remote so we decided to ride out the storm on No Tan Lines (“Tanny”).

The front was a long line stretching northeast to southwest, with Tampa getting hit first. Our phones all started singing with weather warnings. There was a tornado north of us. By then, the winds had really kicked up and Tanny was bouncing around quite a bit. Once the rain started, we found a few leaks and put towels down. There was tons of lightning and thunder and it was a cozy yet exhilarating day on the boat.

At one point, while we were bouncing around, the boat suddenly pitched and I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I looked out the bedroom port to the south, up at the sky. I couldn’t see anything. It subsided after a few minutes so I got back to work.

The rain ended around 7:00 p.m. and we were none the worse for wear. In fact, Tanny had received a nice bath in the storm so she was glistening.

Later that night, I found a photo on Facebook taken from the other side of St. Pete. It showed a funnel cloud directly over the marina area. Thank goodness it never touched down! The next time the boat pitches like that, I’m going out on deck to investigate. And, of course, I’ll take my camera!

NEXT: YEA! I DIDN’T WRECK THE BOAT TODAY!!

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Angela Hoy is a publisher, a blogger, and the author of 19 books. She lived on dirt her entire life before her family gave away almost everything they owned, and moved onto a 52-foot Irwin Center Cockpit Ketch. They all live, work, and play on board full-time.

Angela is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, a free source of paying markets for freelance writers and photographers. If you want to write for magazines, websites, businesses, or others, check it out. It’s free! Her publishing services company, BookLocker.com, has published more than 9,000 books over the past 18 years. If you want to publish a book, she’d love to hear from you! Abuzz Press is BookLocker’s hybrid publishing company. And, PubPreppers.com offers services to authors who are having their books published elsewhere.

OUR FIRST BIG SAILING TRIP GETS BLOWN AWAY. LITERALLY…

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Each year in March, the Grand Prix comes to St. Petersburg. A couple of weeks before that, they start blocking off huge chunks of downtown, near the waterfront. The cars actually race through the streets of town in a large, meandering circle. Large gates are set up to prevent crashing cars from hitting buildings and pedestrians.

While this sounds cool, it creates a traffic nightmare. And, for the three days when the cars are practicing and racing, the sound is absolutely, alarmingly deafening.

Last year, we were located in a high-rise apartment three blocks from the waterfront. Despite being on the 18th floor, and having hurricane-proof doors and windows, we still had to shout inside to hear each other talking. Worse, the noise would start at 7:30 a.m…on the WEEKEND! It was pretty awful for residents.

This year, we decided to take No Tan Lines on her first big trip! Okay, it was only for five days but that was huge for us! We were going a spend the night on Beer Can Island, and then sail to Egmont Key for some history lessons for the boys, and then we were going to head into the Gulf of Mexico for deep sea fishing!

But, as Murphy’s Law would have it, on the day before we were scheduled to set sail, the weather forecast took a dramatic change. A cold front was going to blast through, bringing gusts to 36-knots, and 6-8 foot seas offshore.

I know the boys must experience bad weather at times on the boat, but I didn’t think their very first trip would be good timing for that type of adventure.

We put our heads together and came up with an alternative plan. Since the boys were so excited to have a vacation, we simply had to create a new one for them. The next morning, we asked our good friends, Diego and Stephanie, to watch the boat. We packed our clothes and camping gear in the truck, along with the dinghy and outboard motor (we had promised them boating, after all!), and drove three hours south to a campground on Marco Island.

We had a blast primitive camping, and then moved to a cabin when the front blew through. We hiked, fished, dinghy’d, played competitive games of shuffleboard, roasted marshmallows, weenies and burgers over the fire, and shared funny stories from our childhood. Everybody had a super time!

As of today, we’re in a holding pattern so no sailing is on the immediate horizon. No Tan Lines is scheduled to go on the hard next Monday because the driveshaft threw a bearing when I was learning how to dock her a few weeks ago.

I swear it wasn’t my fault!

NEXT:  WHEN YOU BUY A BOAT, EVERYBODY INVITES THEMSELVES FOR A VISIT…BUT CAN THEY HANDLE IT???

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Angela Hoy is a publisher, a blogger, and the author of 19 books. She lived on dirt her entire life before her family gave away almost everything they owned, and moved onto a 52-foot Irwin Center Cockpit Ketch. They all live, work, and play on board full-time.

Angela is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, a free source of paying markets for freelance writers and photographers. If you want to write for magazines, websites, businesses, or others, check it out. It’s free! Her publishing services company, BookLocker.com, has published more than 9,000 books over the past 18 years. If you want to publish a book, she’d love to hear from you! Abuzz Press is BookLocker’s hybrid publishing company. And, PubPreppers.com offers services to authors who are having their books published elsewhere.

 

A COOL FRONT TURNS OUR FLOATING HOME INTO A CARNIVAL RIDE! (includes video)

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Last week, I wrote about an unknown source that created havoc in the marina. All of the sudden, all the boats started pitching violently for no apparent reason. After speaking to dock neighbors, we learned that the most likely culprit was a wake from a tanker in the ship channel that met little resistance on its way to shore. What a fun mystery that was! We’re still not sure that’s what it was but it makes the most sense.

Four days ago, the wind started blowing HARD here…and it hasn’t stopped. As I’m writing this, I’m listening to a high wind warning for the Skyway Bridge on the radio. Winds are sustained at 28 mph this morning.

With winds blowing steady at 25-38 mph for four days now, our floating home has become a never-ending carnival ride! WE are having sooooo much fun!! Well…except when the boat pitches when you’re in the shower and you whack your head on the wall, or when the boat flies upward when you’re taking a step and you whack your toe on the bathroom door, or when you have to go to the head (bathroom) at 3:00 a.m. and you tumble out of bed onto the floor, or when you realize the entire family, including the kids, look wildly drunk when walking through the salon, or when you step outside to head to an appointment and discover a quadruple coating of hairspray is NO match for Mother Nature!

Click HERE for a video from “No Tan Lines.”

We are LOVING living on Tanny!

And, the excitement continues! A tropical storm or category one hurricane is predicted to hit north of us this weekend but, since those monsters are so unpredictable, Richard is stocking up on water today and Capt. Brian Whiddon (also the Managing Editor of WritersWeekly and the Operations Manager of BookLocker) filled up all the gas containers this morning. We’re still stocked up on everything else from Hurricane Irma so we’re prepared.

After Irma, we are now confident staying onboard Tanny in a Cat 1 or Cat 2 hurricane, and will only evacuate for something stronger. However, Max (age 16) and Mason (age 11) will go to their sister’s house. We would not feel comfortable having them on board in a hurricane. Mason is VERY upset with our decision (he’s an adrenaline junky like his mommy!) but he understands.

NEXT: HOW DO YOU DECORATE A BOAT FOR HALLOWEEN?

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Angela Hoy is a publisher, a blogger, and the author of 19 books. She lived on dirt her entire life before her family gave away almost everything they owned, and moved onto a 52-foot Irwin Center Cockpit Ketch. They all live, work, and play on board full-time.

Angela is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, a free source of paying markets for freelance writers and photographers. If you want to write for magazines, websites, businesses, or others, check it out. It’s free! Her publishing services company, BookLocker.com, has published more than 9,000 books over the past 18 years. If you want to publish a book, she’d love to hear from you! Abuzz Press is BookLocker’s hybrid publishing company. And, PubPreppers.com offers services to authors who are having their books published elsewhere.

SOMETHING MYSTERIOUS ROCKED ALL THE BOATS IN THE MARINA!

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Living in a floating home brings adventures every single day! Big yachts pass by, leaving a wake in a no-wake zone. The boat starts pitching to and fro and we all find that a LOT of fun! Storms blow in during the rainy season and, when the front of the storm hits, the winds pick up instantly, the temperature drops, and the boat starts pitching around again. Sometimes, if you don’t secure the hatch above your bed correctly, you wake up to rain falling on you. That’s always an adventure!

But, sometimes, with no warning at all, all the boats in the marina start moving. Sometimes just a bit and sometimes a whole LOT!

We were sitting out in the cockpit of “No Tan Lines” (Tanny) last night. No storms were nearby. There was hardly any wind at all. And, no boats had passed by at all. A single paddle-boarder (a friend of ours) quietly glided by in the still water. We said hello. He waved and kept paddling by.

Then, all of the sudden, all of the boats started rocking violently. I mean, Tanny was pitching so much that we were having a hard time walking in the boat. All of the rigging was clanging, which can be deafening. I had Richard tighten one of the boom lines because it was banging back and forth so loudly. We looked around. All we could see and hear were other boats violently pitching back and forth with their rigging clanging, too. The boys came outside to investigate and we could NOT figure out what was going on. It lasted for about 10 minutes so we made a game out of it. This is what we all guessed was going on:

Max (age 16) – “A drunk lochness monster?”
Richard – “A 100-foot whale who lost his way!”
Me – “A North Korean sub entered our marina!”
Mason (age 11) – “An earthquake struck in the bay!”

We’ll never know what happened but I sure wish we did! We LOVE a good mystery, as long as it’s eventually solved!! 😉

If any of you know of an unseen force that can cause something like this, please send me a note because the curiosity is killing us!

NEXT: A COOL FRONT TURNS OUR FLOATING HOME INTO A CARNIVAL RIDE! (includes video)

* * *

Angela Hoy is a publisher, a blogger, and the author of 19 books. She lived on dirt her entire life before her family gave away almost everything they owned, and moved onto a 52-foot Irwin Center Cockpit Ketch. They all live, work, and play on board full-time.

Angela is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, a free source of paying markets for freelance writers and photographers. If you want to write for magazines, websites, businesses, or others, check it out. It’s free! Her publishing services company, BookLocker.com, has published more than 9,000 books over the past 18 years. If you want to publish a book, she’d love to hear from you! Abuzz Press is BookLocker’s hybrid publishing company. And, PubPreppers.com offers services to authors who are having their books published elsewhere.

HURRICANE IRMA WAS TERRIFYING!

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A couple of weeks ago, we heard about Irma, a monster hurricane brewing in the Atlantic. Since we’ve had a small hurricane, as well as two tropical storms here in the past year, we weren’t too concerned. I mean, statistically speaking, what were the chances we’d get another one this soon? Regardless, we made sure to stock up on water and gasoline early, just in case. And, it’s a good thing we did because, a week later, all the stores here were out of bottled water, as well as any container that you could reasonably store water in.

As the days passed, and as the forecast changed, showing Irma heading up our coast, we became increasingly alarmed.

Which way would Irma go?? It was maddening trying to decide what to do!!

We decided to pack up our personal belongings, secure the boats as best we could, and head to Orlando. BookLocker‘s Operations Manager (and WritersWeekly‘s Managing Editor), Brian, would stay with his mother in her assisted living facility, which is a tall building. He would be safe, and would be able to check on the boats after the storm. We’d planned to leave on Thursday morning. But, come Wednesday morning, everybody else had the same idea. The freeways were gridlocked and people were running out of gas because the stations were empty. Worse, people were dying in car accidents while fleeing a storm that was meandering all over the place! That’s when the forecast changed again. Irma was going to head right up the middle of the state, and hit Orlando.

We cancelled our Orlando hotel reservation, and tried to get into a sturdy hotel here. It appeared all the hotels were full so the boys’ tutor, Cindy, offered to let us bunk in her living room. She’s not in a flood zone. But, then there was a new obstacle. Her daughter is deathly allergic to cats. We have a cat, Rambo. Cindy was in the middle of trying to find a neighbor to keep Rambo when Richard got back online and checked with the Hilton, which is two blocks from the marina. It’s a waterfront hotel. Maybe few people would think that’s a good place for a hurricane evacuation? (We soon found that the Coast Guard had selected this hotel to house several of its Search and Rescue personnel during the storm.) He tried to get rooms at the Hilton but the websites kept saying they were full. Yet, they would then flash available dates and those were the dates we wanted. I had Richard drive up to the Hilton and they did have rooms. He reserved two. We also found out that hurricane rates would apply, thank goodness. And, at the urging of Governor Rick Scott, the pet restrictions had been waived. We were all saved!

Even Coco pitched in with the packing. But, look at her eyebrows. She looks worried. 🙁

The forecast changed again. Irma was going to march up the east coast. Shwew! We kept the hotel reservation just to be safe and we spent one day relaxing before we learned that Irma was coming in our direction once again. So, we reverted right back to panic mode! We briefly considered changing our plans again but it was obvious Irma was following us. We chose to stay put, and to wield our swords for the battle!

We packed up all of our personal items, choosing to leave only the tools and boat supplies in the boat. The fridge and freezer had to be emptied. We bought extra duffel bags for our belongings. We kept filling up water containers. We were running on the assumption that we’d have no boat to come home to, and that our city might be uninhabitable. It was a terrifying thought but we had to keep moving forward, keep busy, and do whatever we could to save whatever we could. I think I slept three hours in four days.

A friend told us that someone could check into the hotel and refuse to leave so we could be without rooms after all. So, Richard drove to the hotel once again to get the rooms two days early. That was a good thing because he had a LOT of stuff to haul there. And, Brian had stuff to haul, too. He decided to stay at the Hilton as well so he could be within walking distance of the boats.

Between our emergency supplies and Capt. Brian’s – we were confident we could hold out for a prolonged period without electricity or drinking water.

On a whim, I called local parking garages. We found two spots and put the “newer” cars in there (my Mustang and Brian’s SUV). We kept the truck with us for hauling things. It’s very old and rusty but still runs like a champ. We figured, if we’re gonna lose one vehicle, that’s the one that needs to go. I doubt it’s worth $400 at this point but we do have it fully insured.

 

 

Two-week old Jack snoozed through the hurricane.

Our daughter and son-in-law have a 10-day-old baby, Jack, and they live in a class A flood zone in Bradenton. They would join us at the hotel, along with his brother and his brother’s girlfriend. Between those two families, there were four dogs and three cats. I have to admit…I was happy I wasn’t staying in THAT room! We have one dog and one cat.

Friday (Max’s birthday!), the day before we were to feel the first effects of the storm, we woke up to a stiff breeze from the east that never eased. Even if we didn’t have radar or The Weather Channel, we’d have known something huge was brewing. And, that was two days before the storm hit. We spent the day furiously making final preparations, and moving things to the hotel. Brian tied and retied lines, trying to gauge the best possible set-up for how we thought the storm might pass. Max helped other people on the dock get their boats ready. My phone rang constantly. Friends and relatives far and wide were worried about us. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time for phone conversations.

Our plan was to stay in the Hilton that night. Richard drove the boys and pets to the hotel around dinner-time, telling them to order room service for all, and we’d eat it later. We apologized several times to Max about needing to delay his birthday. He was such a good sport about it!

Earlier in the week, Capt. Brian helped us remove our 4 sails, and lash down the booms.

Richard came back to the marina after dropping off the boys. The wind was whipping pretty good! We got the last of our belongings off and then we helped some neighbors who were also trying to evacuate. Earlier in the week, at the suggestion of a friend, Brian had run some “long lines” behind our boat, all the way to the dock behind ours, and sank them. The idea was to pull them up tight just before the storm hit. Late that night, when the weather started getting really bad, we decided it was time. No other boats would possibly attempt to come into, or leave, the marina in those conditions. And, about an hour later, as I was helping our friend, Chris, remove her bimini-top, I saw bright lights and heard shouting. A boat was coming!

I screamed to Brian down the dock. He took off running, waving his arms, telling them to stop. He dropped the lines once again as the crew on that boat kept hollering at us. Our lines never touched their propellers. They’d seen them in the water early enough because they had huge spotlights on their boat. And, why did they have spotlights? Because it was the Coast Guard! Richard talked to them later and they understood what we were doing. They were not upset.

Finally, around midnight, we were able to leave the dock. On the way to the parking lot, I felt something funny under my right sandal. I’ve had a pair of sturdy Teva sandals for 10 years. The sole of the right one was half-way torn off. I reached down and tore it the rest of the way off. A few steps later, I felt the exact same thing on my left foot. I looked and, sure enough, that one was coming off, too. What?! After 10 years, both sandals broke within a minute of each other?

Both of my 10-year-old TEVA sandals broke at the same time!

That’s when I had a sense of foreboding. Here’s why…

Earlier in the day, our battery charging system stopped working. We MUST have battery power to run the bilge pumps. No bilge pump means your boat sinks. The marina was going to cut off power the following day so we HAD to have the batteries. We got the charger working again but it was charging slowly. We were nauseated by that development.

About an hour before we were going to leave the marina, our companionway door (“front door”) broke clean in half. It’s a beautiful teak door. It just…broke! Brian had to hurriedly fix it with a spare piece of wood, drilling it into the back. It was ugly but it worked! Without a “front door” to keep out the estimated 10-15 inches of rain, the boat would sink.

And, then, both sandals of the pair, which I’d had for 10 years, broke within seconds of each other.

Something bad was going to happen. I was even more nauseated with fear than I’d been all week! As we were leaving, we saw the last person on the dock. It was Derek. He has a large motoryacht with a wood hull. It’s pretty old and the hull is a bit soggy. He couldn’t get insurance on it because of the condition of the hull. He’d just bought the boat and hoped to recondition the hull at some point.

After we made sure all our neighbors were as prepared as they could be, and that nobody else needed help, we finally folded our weary bones into the truck, and drove to the hotel. Everybody else was already there. Tempers were short. Everybody was extremely stressed. We had all spent the past week thinking we’d be homeless in a few days, and we all made all the exhausting preparations to prepare for that. We wolfed down our room service burgers and we promptly went to bed. Max didn’t even eat a bite of the birthday cake Richard had miraculously managed to bake on the boat that afternoon during all the hullabaloo.

The next morning, we learned that a local bank’s parking garage had opened up to the public. We moved the truck and the adult kids’ vehicles to that. We ate one last meal at the hotel restaurant before they moved meals to the convention room. We would be eating buffet style for the next few days. The hotel set up a play area for the kids in there, complete with video games and a very large screen, which played animated movies. Most of our marina friends were also at the Hilton so each meal was like a party.

Each buffet meal at the hotel was another opportunity to gather with our dock friends, and support each other.

The hotel left notes under each door with the hurricane rules. Don’t leave when the storm starts to hit (they’d be shutting off the elevators at six the next evening). No more than two drinks per person per night in the bar (excellent rule). Clean up after your pets. They were expecting a storm surge of 5-15 feet and the first and second floors might end up under water. We would probably lose satellite TV service before we lost power and Internet, etc.

On Saturday, we furiously tried to get caught up on some work, knowing we might be without power and Internet for several days…or more.

On Sunday morning, we noticed that the water had been sucked out of Tampa Bay. It’s called a reverse storm surge. Irma sucked so much energy into her belly that she was pulling water from hundreds of miles away. The winds were blowing about 50-60 mph. Brian and some other guys from the marina planned to walk to the marina that afternoon to check on all the boats. Well, heck! I was going to go, too! Richard wasn’t happy with my decision but I’m an adrenaline junky and I was NOT going to miss this! 😉

The guys (and me) planned to meet at the front door of the hotel at 5:00 p.m. That’s when we found out there was a 5:00 curfew in our city so we had to bump it up to 3:00 p.m.

We all had on our rain gear and we walked the two blocks to the marina, dodging flying palm fronds and small branches. The winds were blowing at about 50 mph. Once we arrived, we saw several boats in distress. Some of the smaller sailboats were in the mud because of the low tide. They were at risk of getting stuck under the pier when the tide came back up later. Multiple boats needed line adjustments for various reasons, including the fact that they were rubbing on the docks. I wasn’t much help muscling boats that were stuck in the mud but I was very happy to be the dock photographer! I got some great photos and videos and I posted them online so our dock neighbors who were out of town could see the condition of their boats.

We were out there for about an hour and a half and my phone died during that time. The sideways rain felt like needles and the gusts were so strong that they threatened to knock us down. Several times, we’d brace our feet against a gust and, more than once, I grabbed onto a dock box for support. The sound of the wind in the rigging was deafening and we had to shout at each other to be heard.

IT WAS AWESOME!!!

Saving boats with neighbors.

In this case, Brian (in red), and a neighbor had to muscle a boat out from under a dock piling, and wedge a bumper into the space so that the vessel could rise with the water. Normally these boats float level or just above the dock. The large wooden motor yacht (right) was still afloat, but hitting ground at this point.

Neighbors, Bob and Dean, adjusting lines in the wind and rain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 We made it back to the hotel after an hour and a half and Richard had been frantic with worry because he hadn’t been able to reach me. I reassured him that there were seven of us on the dock and that we were never in danger. Even if one of us had fallen in, someone else would have fished them out. The real danger was all the flying debris but I didn’t mention that to Richard. We hunkered down at the hotel, and prepared for the loss of power and Internet. We felt very safe at the hotel but we still feared being homeless in a matter of hours. That feeling was truly awful.

After dinner (more overcooked chicken, fatty sliced beef, and rice and beans – yea!), we settled down for a movie. It was Sunday night. The storm had just come inland near Venice, and was heading straight up the state. It wasn’t riding the west coast as we’d feared it would. We might just make it! Around 9:00 p.m., all the guys fell asleep. We all had our clothes on. If it got bad, we were to move with our “go bags” (absolutely essential emergency items) to the hallway. If we then felt the pressure change, we were to go to the stairwells. Now, remember, the hotel had actually served beans to a building full of people who might end up sitting shoulder to shoulder in a stairwell together for several hours. Think about that for a minute…

But, it never got really bad – not here in St. Pete anyway. Oh, sure it was blowing and raining like CRAZY! But, I don’t think the winds at the hotel ever exceeded 80 mph. With the guys snoozing contently, exhausted from our ordeal, I stood by the window, watching the fury of Irma, thinking about how terrified we’d been for the past week, how much we’d done as a family and a team with our neighbors over the past week, and how we’d just been talking 36 hours earlier about what city we might relocate to if ours was destroyed. And, looking out at rain sheets that resembled white silk billowing across the black sky, I knew we were all going to be okay. After the eye passed just northeast of us, I was finally able to sigh with relief, and I went to sleep. I kept my clothes on because we were still at risk of tornadoes, or debris breaking a window, but I knew deep down that everything would be okay. A huge storm surge was still possible by that was looking less and less likely.

Unfortunately, our friend Derek’s boat didn’t make it.

Sometime in the middle of the night, two of the guys went back out to the marina and, sadly, discovered that one of the boats had sunk. It was Derek’s. The one with the wood hull. A boat is a part of the family. Boats take on lives of their own. To mariners, they are their partner when battling a raging sea. When a boat is lost, a family member is lost. We all were and still are in mourning over that. They are planning to “float” that boat tomorrow to see if it can be saved. The cost? $30,000, which is more than he paid for the boat.

First light saw us jumping up to look out the window. It was still blowing hard and it was still pouring but it was nothing like it had been the night before. We ate breakfast (a continental breakfast – no rice and beans!) and got the truck out of the parking garage. We left the boys at the hotel, and drove to the marina. There was debris EVERYWHERE! Downed trees, huge tree limbs that has broken away from their hosts, millions of palm fronds (people here won’t need to trim their palm trees for a year or more!), broken street signs, toppled newspaper boxes, and more. At the marina, there were torn sails and, unfortunately, seven sunken boats. Ours was not one of them, and neither was Brian’s. We were devastated for our neighbors.

This boat apparently had its lines too tight in anticipation for tidal surge. When the water dropped instead, it tipped and filled up instead.

Sunken power boat under the covered slips.

Seven boats sank on the south side of the marina. This one was “floated” just two days after the storm. The owner is 90 years old!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our cockpit was full of water but it hadn’t yet spilled down the companionway and into the boat. We manually pumped it out, and learned later it was because we’d closed one of the seacocks that should always remain open (oops). Our neighbor made the same mistake but he did get water inside his boat. We manually pumped his out, too, because he was out of town. People were out and about, surveying the damage. While there is a LOT of clean-up to do, St. Pete survived!

And, oddly enough, we never lost power, nor Internet!

Many of our Florida neighbors were not so lucky and there are a lot of people who did lose their homes, and who have nowhere to go.

I’m writing this on Thursday morning. We moved back onto our boat yesterday but our daughter and son-in-law have remained at the Hilton because their house has no power. Our oldest son and his wife just got power today. Our middle son, Frank, does have power. Last night, some restaurants opened in town and gas stations had gas. The grocery store opened back up again as well so the city is coming back to life. We had Max’s birthday dinner (finally) at Buffalo Wild Wings and he (finally) got to open his birthday presents. 🙂

Tomorrow night, a crew is coming to try to float the large, sunken motoryacht. We’re not sure she can be saved. Tomorrow night we’ll be having a dock party – a “We Survived Irma!” celebration. This marina is, by far, the nicest, most caring and loving neighborhood we’ve ever lived in. We are so blessed that we didn’t lose our neighborhood or neighbors to Irma. Everybody pitched in to help everyone else. If it wasn’t such a tight-knit community, I’m sure even more boats would have been lost, and more neighbors would have been displaced.

Today, we are counting our blessings and trying to physically and emotionally recover from what we’ve been through over the past week and a half. I’ve been waking up with hurricane nightmares several times a night, which is odd because I felt like I’d handled it all pretty well, under the circumstances. Other friends are admitting having anxiety, lost sleep, nightmares and more after what they’ve been through. The boys, Max and Mason, came through essentially unscathed. We kept things light-hearted (when we could) during the ordeal, and repeatedly assured them that things would eventually be just fine. As long as we have each other, none of the material things matter. While we don’t need to relocate and rebuild from this storm, the time might just come when we must do so. And, I believe, after this experience, that we will be far better equipped to handle such a tragedy.

POSTSCRIPT: While the Hilton was great to us during the storm, they weren’t so great to us today. We had arranged with the front desk to allow our daughter (who’s recovering from surgery), her husband, and our 2-week-old grand-baby to stay there “as long as they needed” due to their situation. All of the sudden, this morning, the Hilton said they were overbooked and that Ali and the baby needed to be out by 1:00. Remember, they’d said she could stay and they have our credit card, and having been charging it daily.

OH, Hell NO! Mama Bear (Grandma Bear?) stepped in. I immediately drove to the hotel, and demanded to see the manager. I sternly explained to him what had occurred, and that our daughter was not only recovering from major surgery, but that she also has a two-week-old infant. I further explained that her husband was working at his job in Bradenton and that she didn’t have the baby’s car seat with her. I guess my red face and shaking hands worked because they miraculously found room for her! There was no way I was going to let them kick out a new mother and her infant when there were all sorts of healthy people in that hotel who could find another place to stay. (There are other hotel rooms in town – we checked.). If they’d resisted, I would have said, “She’s not leaving. You call the cops while I call the local news stations.” But, the manager agreed to let her stay…for one more day. I’m still very angry that they tried to do that to her. It wasn’t our or her fault that they overbooked.

One more day, however, wasn’t enough but it did buy us some time. When hours went by without the general manager calling me back, I posted a public note on Facebook and it started to go viral. People were tagging Hilton and the local news media on the post. The general manager then called and, suddenly, they’d found room for Ali and the baby for another week. We are once again happy with the Hilton. They did the right thing and I then removed the Facebook post (an hour after posting an update).

Now, we are going to try very hard to get caught up on all our work by the end of the weekend so that life can get back to NORMAL! And, I’ll get right on that once I check weather.com…because hurricane season lasts until November. The good news is, as live-aboards, we now have a plan (Richard wrote it down) of exactly what to do and what to pack. We’ll be far more prepared next time. 🙂

UPDATE: On Friday morning, Derek’s boat developed a fuel leak. There was rainbow water all over the marina. The Coast Guard was called in to lay booms to stop the leak from spreading and a firm brought in a truck to pump all the fuel out of the sunken boat. The boat will now be torn apart and hauled away. Estimated cost (with Hazmat, etc.) is now $80,000. 🙁

NEXT: SOMETHING MYSTERIOUS ROCKED ALL THE BOATS IN THE MARINA!

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Angela Hoy is a publisher, a blogger, and the author of 19 books. She lived on dirt her entire life before her family gave away almost everything they owned, and moved onto a 52-foot Irwin Center Cockpit Ketch. They all live, work, and play on board full-time.

Angela is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, a free source of paying markets for freelance writers and photographers. If you want to write for magazines, websites, businesses, or others, check it out. It’s free! Her publishing services company, BookLocker.com, has published more than 9,000 books over the past 18 years. If you want to publish a book, she’d love to hear from you! Abuzz Press is BookLocker’s hybrid publishing company. And, PubPreppers.com offers services to authors who are having their books published elsewhere.

WE ARE PREPARING FOR HURRICANE IRMA AND WE ARE VERY AFRAID!

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We are all currently planning to evacuate to Orlando on Thursday morning if Hurricane Irma heads our way.

We are frantically making lists, and packing up our essential items. Most terrifying of all, we’re not sure what we’re going to come home to, nor even a marina. We have insurance but it took us a year to find this boat and we’re not looking forward to starting all over. But, we will if we have to. I explained to all the children (young ones and adult) that what matters most is that we’re all safe. Everything material can be replaced.

NEXT:  HURRICANE IRMA WAS TERRIFYING!

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Angela Hoy is a publisher, a blogger, and the author of 19 books. She lived on dirt her entire life before her family gave away almost everything they owned, and moved onto a 52-foot Irwin Center Cockpit Ketch. They all live, work, and play on board full-time.

Angela is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, a free source of paying markets for freelance writers and photographers. If you want to write for magazines, websites, businesses, or others, check it out. It’s free! Her publishing services company, BookLocker.com, has published more than 9,000 books over the past 18 years. If you want to publish a book, she’d love to hear from you! Abuzz Press is BookLocker’s hybrid publishing company. And, PubPreppers.com offers services to authors who are having their books published elsewhere.

A “SURPRISE” TROPICAL STORM! YES, REALLY!!!

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Last Sunday was a cozy, comfy day in our new floating home, It rained off and on and we had a few good blows but nothing strong enough to cause any leaks in the ports and hatches.

This is the view from the “home office” hatch. Don’t worry. It’s leak free!

 

 

 

 

 

We watched movies while we worked on our laptops. Just before bed, curious about how long the rain would last, I checked the radar. I said to Richard, “It sure looks like that thing might be rotating in the Gulf…” I honestly didn’t give it a second thought because it was just drizzling outside and the wind had died down after dark.

Monday morning, it was still raining and we were snoozing soundly with the comforting patter, pat, pat of rain hitting the deck above our heads. I was rudely interrupted from my slumber when my phone dinged. Rubbing my eyes, I checked the screen. It said: “Tropical Storm Warning Issued for Pinellas County.”

“SAY WHAT?!?!”

I sat up in bed. Richard was wide awake, too, thanks to my shocked outburst.

I said, “It must be a mistake.” I zipped my fingertips over to weather.com and, yes it was really happening. The warning would be in effect until 2:30 p.m. My mind quickly calculated… That meant a tropical storm was going to hit us, and leave the area, by 2:30 p.m. I squinted at the top of my phone screen. It was already 7:30. Holy (bleep)!!!

I quickly texted our adult kiddos. The storm was supposed to hit the Tampa / St. Pete area. Frank and his girlfriend, Hollyday, live in Tampa. We live on the water in St. Pete. Ali and her husband, Justin, live about 45 minutes south, in Bradenton (in a Class A flood zone). And, Zach and his wife, Mary, live in Sarasota. I also texted our managing editor, Capt. Brian, because his boat is docked here, too. The radar showed there was a huge, swirling mass of reds and oranges heading for all of us.

Richard and I got up, quickly dressed, and woke up Max and Mason. Needless to say, we did NOT take Mason to his sailing class that morning. The wind was howling louder and it was already raining sideways. While the storm was coming from the West, right for us, the rain and wind  were coming at us from the East. The energy was racing to meet up with the storm! Cool!

As we emerged from the cockpit, this is the sky that greeted us.

Calm before the storm

As we hurriedly started preparing the inside and outside of the boat, Poor Coco kept looking at us, silently asking when she could go potty. We checked the radar again to see if there would be a lull in the rain. There was none so Max put on his sailing clothes (knowing he’d get soaked), and took her out to the grassy area, which is waaaaaay down the dock. We have a pulley system that we use to pull the boat close to the dock, making it easier to get on and off. But, if you cleat it, and forget about it, the changing tide can rip the pulley out of the dock itself. I figured Max and Coco would only be gone about five minutes so I cleated it. Big mistake. The winds were already blowing steady at 21 mph, and blowing the boat away from the dock. The cleat ripped out.

When Max returned, I had to pull, and pull, and pull on the starboard bow line to get the boat closer to the dock. The tide was already very high and Max had to pick up Coco, and hoist her onto the deck. I then got the swim ladder from the other side of the boat so Max could climb on board. That’s how high the tide was! Usually, we can just step onto or off of the steps we have on the dock next to the boat.

And, for those of you who are wondering, yes, we DID have a storm plan. If we were to get a named storm, we would:
1. Have the boat hauled out at a local boatyard. If we don’t do that, and if the boat sustains any damage, the insurance company won’t pay for it.
2. Head to our daughter’s house or, if the storm was going to hit her, too, head to Orlando instead.

Problem was…it would take us two hours just to get to the boatyard with the boat. The winds were already violent, and increasing in intensity, it was raining sideways, waves were crashing over the rocks in the basin and, needless to say, traveling there would have been far more dangerous than just staying put. We later learned two fisherman had to be rescued by the Coast Guard in Tampa Bay after their fishing boat was sunk by the storm. I’m sure they got up early that morning, thinking they’d have a wet but fun day catching dinner. Two hours notice for a named tropical storm was not enough time for anyone here to prepare.

My phone rang. It was the county emergency service. A recorded message told me we were under a tropical storm warning, that no evacuations had been ordered, and that no shelters were available. Well, of course there were no resources ready! Nobody knew!

Once Max was back on board with Coco, we only had to wait for Richard to return from the store and for Capt. Brain to return from storage, where he was getting extra supplies, an extra generator, and his all-weather gear. Max and I were busy on the deck removing our sun shades, which had been very expensive, and were taking quite a beating in the wind. By that time, it was blowing steady in the 30 mph range, and still increasing. The wind was whistling violently through the rigging on the boats and higher gusts produced deep rumbles in the distance, similar to thunder but longer, and with a low-pitched moan.

Fighting the “needle rain” that was pelting our faces (one barb nailed me right in the eyeball), and trying not to get blown overboard, we tied everything down that we couldn’t put inside the boat and we continuously checked the lines to ensure none of them were coming loose. We couldn’t risk the boat hitting the dock, the pilings, or another boat.

We then stood on the stern of the boat, and looked out over Tampa Bay. Waves were crashing over the rocks of the marina breakwater, and the boats all around us were bucking broncos, just like ours. It was AWESOME! At that moment, Mason jumped into the cockpit in his sailing gear (a shirt and short with thin material that dries quickly), gave us a huge smile, and said, “This is gonna be FUN!”

When we first moved to Florida, Mason was only five years old and he was terrified of Florida’s huge thunderstorms during the rainy season. He is no longer afraid of storm. Now, he LOVES them, just like his mama! 😉

Check out Mason’s attitude about storms now!

Our cat, Rambo, is still terrified of storms. He meows when they first hit and then he lays on the floor in a CATatonic state, probably brought on my his anxiety. Richard has already talked to the vet about getting him some sedatives for when the weather gets bad.

Rambo in his CATatonic state

I took some pictures and videos of Max and Mason, their hair blowing wild and the “needle rain” stabbing at their skin. At no time did any of us feel we were in danger and the boys were not frightened at all!

When Richard and Brian both returned, the winds were close to 40. They, too, had to climb the ladder to get on board and Brian got to work putting a large tarp over the middle of the boat. I had found a significant leak over one of the windows, which was repeatedly filling up a plastic bowl I’d laid out. Brian checked the dingy, checked and rechecked the lines, noticed that one of us (probably me) had let the halyard loose and it was flying all OVER the place, about 20 feet above our heads. Brian tried to catch it with the boat hook but the winds made that impossible.

We watched marina security come along the dock in their all-weather gear (bright yellow suits with black trim), checking on all the vacant boats. The boat next to ours was bumping against the dock. The security guard was sitting on his butt on the dock, pulling on the starboard bowline with all his might and he could NOT move that boat by himself. And, unfortunately, we couldn’t help him because we couldn’t get to him. After the pulley cleat ripped out, and the winds really started howling, we couldn’t pull our boat closer to the dock. We were stuck on the boat until the winds died down.

We all sat in the cockpit, enjoying the violent show, soaked to the skin (but not cold at all), our fingers all pruney, gazing out at the raw fury of mother nature and the power of God. Down below, Richard was whistling in the galley, making us all pizza for lunch. We were having a BLAST!!

Hanging out in the cockpit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

About half an hour later, when the winds were reaching their peak (around 50 mph), we could see small bits of blue sky to the west.  The eye wall was close!

While the forecasters said the eye would pass over us, it did not. It hit Anna Maria Island, about 45 miles down the coast from here, which is where Justin works (he’s an executive chef). It then passed over Bradenton, which is where Ali and Justin live. She reported later that a large tree branch fell on their lanai, bending it pretty badly, they had a lake in their backyard, and they had a mountain of wet leaves on top of their lanai. The night before, lightning struck a tree next to their house and they’d lost power for several hours. Ali, being 8 months pregnant, wasn’t very happy having no air conditioning for several hours but it came on before the next morning.

We never lost power. The only damage we had was the broken cleat and a pretty sopping wet cushion from the leak I’d detected a few minutes too late.

A neighbor two boats down had a support for his bimini rip out of his deck. A boat behind ours, on a different dock, was crashing against the dock repeatedly and we couldn’t see any bumpers on that side of the boat at all.

Two hours. That was all the warning we had before the brunt of the storm descended on our floating home. And, even when we got the warning, it was already POURING and the wind was already sustained above 20 mph. Furthermore, leaving wasn’t an option because local roads were already flooding. Many of the folks who weren’t here taking care of their boats likely would have shown up to tie extra lines, check bumpers, and more before the storm hit. But, everybody was taken by surprise. After the storm, folks at the marina were out helping their neighbors. Richard and Brian first checked on Brian’s boat, which had no damage, and then helped a neighbor who’d also lost her pulley.

While we are still shocked that a small cold front turned into a tropical storm in just a few hours, it was a really cool day! We all worked together to protect our new home and we all laughed, and gazed in awe at nature, and had a fantastic time! I wouldn’t trade that fun day for anything. What an adventure!!

NEXT: WHERE TO FIND COMPACT, FOLDABLE FURNITURE FOR A BOAT? IKEA!!!

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Angela Hoy is a publisher, a blogger, and the author of 19 books. She lived on dirt her entire life before her family gave away almost everything they owned, and moved onto a 52-foot Irwin Center Cockpit Ketch. They all live, work, and play on board full-time.

Angela is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, a free source of paying markets for freelance writers and photographers. If you want to write for magazines, websites, businesses, or others, check it out. It’s free! Her publishing services company, BookLocker.com, has published more than 9,000 books over the past 18 years. If you want to publish a book, she’d love to hear from you! Abuzz Press is BookLocker’s hybrid publishing company. And, PubPreppers.com offers services to authors who are having their books published elsewhere.

Coco LOVES storms! Rambo HATES storms!

If you’re just tuning in, CLICK HERE to start at the beginning. 🙂

Coco is a four-year-old chocolate lab/chow mix. We rescued her from a shelter in Bradenton, Florida when she was a puppy. As you can see from this photo, she was VERY happy to be going to her forever home!

Rambo is an eight-year-old orange Maine coon cat who was found as a stray by our son-in-law’s friend, Cole, in Georgia. He ended up living in Maine with Cole and our son, Max, fell in love with him. The bond was so strong that Cole let Max adopt Rambo and they’ve been best friends ever since.

On the day we moved onto the boat, Coco looked the happiest we’d ever seen her! She ran around on the deck, fearless in her romping. And, so far, she hasn’t fallen in (knock on wood!). She loves sitting out on the deck in the sun, whether it’s beastly hot or freezing cold. She’s truly a boat dog, through and through.

Rambo prefers to stay inside during the day, and stalk the docks at night. When we got our first big blow last year, we heard Rambo screeching down below. We found him crouched down on his belly in the hallway, which is the lowest point in the boat. He was crying and shaking. And, that began a very uncomfortable period of time for Rambo. Each afternoon, like clockwork, the skies would open and the thunder would roar. Rambo would cower, and whine, and cry and we had to take him into the captain’s quarters and comfort him. He was truly a scaredy cat!

But, when the sun set, he would escape through the companionway, jump off the boat, and dart down the docks toward the park. We would leave the companionway open and he’d come home around 4 a.m. each morning, and jump up on our bed. He’d then meow and bite my head until I’d pet him for awhile. That was his reward for coming back home.

We later learned what mischief Rambo was getting into (ahem…) but that’s a whole ‘nuther chapter in this story.

NEXT: HOW DO YOU ENJOY INTIMACY WHEN LIVING ON A BOAT WITH CHILDREN?

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Angela Hoy is a publisher, a blogger, and the author of 19 books. She lived on dirt her entire life before her family gave away almost everything they owned, and moved onto a 52-foot Irwin Center Cockpit Ketch. They all live, work, and play on board full-time.

Angela is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, a free source of paying markets for freelance writers and photographers. If you want to write for magazines, websites, businesses, or others, check it out. It’s free! Her publishing services company, BookLocker.com, has published more than 9,000 books over the past 18 years. If you want to publish a book, she’d love to hear from you! Abuzz Press is BookLocker’s hybrid publishing company. And, PubPreppers.com offers services to authors who are having their books published elsewhere.

LIGHTNING STORMS!! UH OH! IS NO TAN LINES TRULY GROUNDED??

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Florida is the lightning capital of the United States and it does not disappoint!! With the rainy season came huge lightning storms. One afternoon after another brought violent, cracking thunder and countless bolts of lightning streaking through the sky.

One of Captain Brian’s first jobs was to ensure the boat was really grounded and he did just that. After we were assured all was well, we were able to thoroughly enjoy the storms. But, we still unplugged our computers and other essential electronics when they hit just to be safe.

Here are a few lightning photos I captured this rainy season:

NEXT: THAT DARNED ILLEGAL TOILET!

 

BLACK SKY, 30 MPH WINDS – OUR FIRST BIG STORM REVEALS TONS OF LEAKS!

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On the day after we moved onboard, we were sitting quietly inside when we heard a big clap of thunder. We all stepped into the cockpit, and witnessed a black sky to the East, over Tampa Bay, barreling in our direction. It was the rainy season and we were going to get our first big blow! WHOOP!!!

Brian quickly checked our lines and he did it just in time because, within a few minutes, we were hit with 30 mph sustained winds! No Tan Lines creaked and moaned against her constraints and the bucking bronco effect began! Mason, who was afraid of storms when we moved to Florida six years ago, was laughing and dancing on the stern, waving his arms and feeling the wind racing through his hair.

Max came out to the cockpit to enjoy the show. A few minutes after that, we all raced down the companionway when sideways rain started splattering the deck. We closed the door and listened to the beautiful symphony of the downpour above our heads, the lines creaking, the halyards clanging…and the drip drip drip of leaks that we suddenly learned we had!

Richard grabbed a yellow sticky pad and started labeling where all the leaks were so we could remember them later, after the storm subsided. The excitement didn’t last long and, I admit, it was a bit scary in the beginning. But, No Tan Lines came through it just fine.

The very next day, we got another one but this time the winds were 40 mph sustained! Whoop again!! Now that we knew No Tan Lines would be okay, it was much more enjoyable.

We had several days of back-to-back afternoon blows and each one was a cause for celebration. The first clap of thunder would have us all outside on the deck, scanning the black clouds and lightning on the horizon. And, we’d all race back inside when the torrential downpours would begin. It became a daily family ritual and we were having a blast! 🙂

NEXT:  LIGHTNING STORMS!! UH OH! IS NO TAN LINES TRULY GROUNDED??

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Angela Hoy is a publisher, a blogger, and the author of 19 books. She lived on dirt her entire life before her family gave away almost everything they owned, and moved onto a 52-foot Irwin Center Cockpit Ketch. They all live, work, and play on board full-time.

Angela is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, a free source of paying markets for freelance writers and photographers. If you want to write for magazines, websites, businesses, or others, check it out. It’s free! Her publishing services company, BookLocker.com, has published more than 9,000 books over the past 18 years. If you want to publish a book, she’d love to hear from you! Abuzz Press is BookLocker’s hybrid publishing company. And, PubPreppers.com offers services to authors who are having their books published elsewhere.