WARNING: THIS IS THE LONGEST POST EVER.
I’ve been dreading writing this post. Mostly because I didn’t want to be re-traumatized by the week aboard our new-to-us boat. But for your entertaining pleasure, I will recap the week.
Background – we are still undercover on the whole “we are quitting our jobs to sail around the world” so we mostly told people we work with that we were spending our vacation going sailing for a week! So when we returned to civilization all tan, everyone assumed we spent a week lying around the boat, soaking in the sea and sun, and having the best time. And so I became the worst actor ever, trying to pretend like the week was all sunshine and dolphins.
Here’s how it really went down:
Sunday – in true fashion, I was running right on time. i.e. the captain was supposed to meet us at 3 pm. I was checking out of the grocery story at 2:30 pm to make it back with all of the provisions for our week-long school, which still needed to be unloaded and put away in time for his arrival. He arrived at 2:40 pm.
He helped unload. I quickly threw all of the cold stuff in our tiny fridge. And then we sat down to discuss the week ahead. Not sure if we were allowed to drink during the week (obviously alcohol and sailing do not mix), I didn’t buy any extra beer. But the captain asked if we were beer drinkers and said that he finishes his day at 5pm every day and beer was totally acceptable. Yes! And that prompted another trip to the grocery store to pick up a couple of cases for the week after he left for the night.
Monday – Captain arrived at 9 am to get started. We went through some instruction on knots, sails, etc. We then motored out of the marina, under five draw bridges (learned how to call for a bridge opening), and out to the Atlantic Ocean. We put the sails up and sailed from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami. THIS IS AWESOME!
We sailed past my dad’s condo on North Miami Beach and he snapped a photo of us going by.
We anchored at Marine Stadium around 6 pm, grilled our shrimp dinner and enjoyed a few beers. Life was good.
The sun went down and the Miami skyline was beautiful.
And then life as we knew it would never be the same. The mosquitoes came out. Just a few at first… annoying for sure. I pulled out my essential oils. Peppermint and Lavender – those should be just fine. Why didn’t I think to buy bug spray? That didn’t work. So I lathered more. Still not working. And now, there were like hundreds of mosquitoes, not just a handful. Wouldn’t this captain know about mosquitoes? Why would he bring us here? This is ridiculous.
After hours of trying to fight mosquitoes, like any good Facebook addicted person would do, I reached out to the Women Who Sail Facebook group to ask for mosquito remedies. Unfortunately, most recommended screens that WE DID NOT HAVE ON THE BOAT. Someone recommended vinegar, and so I started bathing everyone in vinegar. That did nothing to combat the mosquitoes. We were killing them as fast as we could, but there were SO MANY. We tried closing the hatches. We kept thinking they would eventually go away or go to sleep or something… but they didn’t stop.
Our kids were exhausted. They were crying and scared and itching and saying things like “…this is no way to live…” really dramatically.
Our captain was in his cabin asleep… it was do or die for us. After several hours of trying to fight off the mosquitoes, we finally woke up the captain to tell him we had to move out of this anchorage.
The boys came up to the cockpit. We pulled anchor (manually. because the windlass wasn’t working) and motored to another anchorage. It took about an hour. It was midnight.
When we got to the new anchorage, I left the boys in the cockpit to go scope out the mosquito situation below deck. I found hundreds of dead mosquitoes everywhere. I started picking them up to clean up so the boys could actually get some sleep.
It was unbelievable. I guess the air pressure change or something killed them all when we moved. We tried to get the boys to go to sleep, but they were so freaked out – and the handful of mosquitoes that were still around biting us and buzzing our ears were too much for the boys. They just couldn’t fall asleep. It was 4 am before everyone finally dozed off.
The next morning we were up at 7 am with the sun. I took a photo of Z’s back. The poor kid was covered in bites. 🙁
Tuesday – Exhausted, itching and cranky, we got up with the sun at 7 am. The captain was shocked at the number of mosquitoes that infested our boat. He suggested that they were coming from standing water somewhere on our boat. We searched every nook and cranny. We found one potential spot and drowned it with vinegar. We found non-potential spots and drowned them too. Just to be safe.
But we still had more learning to do. No rest for the weary. Although this day is a bit of a blur, Matt tells me this was the day we learned how to dock. We sailed over to No Name Harbor and practiced docking. (I took a photo because we were sailing and posted to FB so that everyone could see how much fun we were having.) Docking is scary stuff. I was sure we were about to crunch our brand new boat after owning it for only five days. We each had to dock the boat three times. Still not very confident in docking… but hoping that we will get better with more practice.
I do remember that we raced back to beat a storm that was chasing us to our anchorage near Nixon Beach.
After the rain, we felt refreshed and clean and mosquito-free. We took this lovely sunset photo to capture the peace and calm of living on a sailboat.
Wednesday – We woke up to another amazing sunrise. Seriously – this is a great way to spend the week and we tried to block out the mosquito incident and absorb the beauty around us…
We took our first written sail exam. We passed with flying colors. I beat Matt, ahem. The competition was on to see who would be the better sailor when we were done with the week.
We sailed to Pumpkin Key. On our way, we stopped in Elliott Key to swim for a bit.
We grilled steaks and enjoyed dinner and another beautiful sunset. Other than being exhausted, this was a good day on the boat.
AND THEN THE MOSQUITOES RETURNED!
O.M.G. y’all. I could not even believe they were back. We saw one or two around dusk. The boys started freaking out immediately. I gave Matt the stink-eye look that said, “we are NOT doing this again.” Matt acted like they didn’t exist. Denial always works – NOT. But the boat was pretty much bathed in vinegar, so there is no way they were back, right?
Wednesday night was the meteor shower. I was SO excited to lye on the trampoline with the boys and watch meteors until we fell asleep. Unfortunately, the mosquitoes were buzzing our ears. I went inside and returned with blankets and we covered up everything except our faces and tried to watch meteors. Matt didn’t want to hear any complaints about mosquitoes. He basically told us to “suck it up” – but I knew that wasn’t going to happen.
After trying to lay on the trampoline, we retreated back to the cabins to try to get away from the swarm. Matt convinced the boys that the buzzing in our ears were gnats (not mosquitoes) and so I laid in A’s bed with him until he fell asleep (still exhausted from Monday’s battle – he actually fell asleep.) Z, however, could not fall asleep. He was whimpering. I tried to cover him as much as possible to keep them away, but it wasn’t working. Finally he was basically screaming and Matt went to his cabin and he was covered in mosquitoes.
It was 2 am.
Matt got me up and said, “We are leaving. I’m pulling up the anchor and we are out of here.”
So, we put the boys back in the cockpit to get them away from the swarm. I helped Matt pull the anchor. Then engines started and our captain came out of his cabin to see what was going on… we just couldn’t believe that we were swarmed again. We decided that the swarm was definitely coming from inside the boat, but we didn’t know where. But if we moved, they would all hopefully die again.
Our super-awesome captain motored us back for THREE HOURS to get us back to Miami. We landed around 5 am. Dead mosquitoes everywhere again. The boys slept in the cockpit. I finally laid down in the salon. We slept until 8:30 am. It was a nightmare.
We were not doing this again.
Thursday – We woke up and cleaned up mosquito carcasses. We looked into marinas and hotels. With A’s birthday coming up on Friday, his only wish was “no mosquitoes on my birthday!” Our boat-living dream was crashing hard. If we were ever going to get the boys to sleep on a boat again, it would be a miracle.
We also took our next written sail exam. We both got As. I beat Matt again. hehe.
We all jumped into the water to clean off and we got this sweet photo of our boat:
We tried to carry on with our sail school. We learned and practiced Man Overboard Drills during the day. The boys helped.
After cleaning up lunch dishes, I noticed the drip pan was still wet with water. I picked up the rack and noticed a grunge in the bottom. LIGHTBULB. The effing mosquitoes were living in the dish drip pan! I scrubbed that pan and rack and drenched it in vinegar. The rack will NEVER have standing water ever again. Lesson learned.
We think the mosquitoes were Bahamian (based on a 7-10 day hatch cycle) – and a parting gift from the previous owners. FYI…worst gift ever.
We made a reservation at Dinner Key Marina, and we plugged in for the night. We were not going to risk another night of mosquitoes. We used A/C. We took a nice long shower. And then our captain took US out for dinner and drinks!
Friday – A’s Birthday! I got up early and walked two miles round-trip to a donut shop to get him birthday breakfast. (I originally planned to make pancakes, but since we were in a marina, this was going to be a special treat!) We have a tradition of breakfast in bed on your birthday.
You can see A’s eyes are still swollen from the mosquito bites, but he loved his birthday on the boat!
We took another exam after breakfast. Matt was getting nervous that I was going to be victorious again, but this test was all about systems aboard (engine, electrical, plumbing.) Let’s just say that this is not my specialty – and totally Matt’s. If he didn’t beat me on this test, he was never going to live it down.
About 20 questions in, I asked the captain, “How many can I get wrong and still pass?” Yeah – it was not looking good for me. But it turns out that I guessed enough right because I passed. It was my lowest score so far, and Matt beat me bad, but I was just thankful to have it behind us.
We were supposed to spend the day practicing sailing, but there was ZERO wind. We tried some tacking and jibing, but mostly motored about. We sailed out to Stiltsville and took some pics before heading back to the marina for our last exam and a birthday dinner for A.
The pressure was on for Matt to score higher than me on the last exam. I was winning 2-1 at this point – so it was crucial for his man-card that he beat me. And he did, dang it! So now it was a matter of who did better overall… we will have to wait until Saturday morning to find out… we had more important things to do Friday night – like dinner out for the birthday boy.
Every year, the birthday boy gets to choose a dinner out. The past few years, the boys have chosen sushi for their birthday dinner. And once again, sushi was on the menu. We enjoyed a great meal off the boat.
Saturday – last day of Sail School. I woke up with the most bizarre swollen lip.
Not sure if it was an allergic reaction, or too much sun and sea, but all of my Facebook friends seemed to think people pay good money for this and I should just enjoy it. I took Benadryl instead.
Matt charted our course back to Ft. Lauderdale. We had to do it all ourselves. But the Benadryl had kicked in and I was so drowsy, so Matt pretty much did it all himself. This was the ultimate final test – to see if we could sail our boat back to where we started.
Before we left, the captain gave us our final averages for our exams. Michelle – 93%; Matt – 93.25%! D’oh! A quarter point difference!? Lucky Matt gets to retain his Captain title and bragging rights.
Unfortunately, the weather was crappy with no wind on the way back, so we ended up motoring most of the way. And I’m not gonna lie – after the week we had (and the Benadryl) I just wanted to sleep.
We made it back to our marina. We failed at docking. And that was the end of our week.
I’ve never been so exhausted.