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Houston, We have a problem: NO STEERING


Saturday afternoon, 2.8.14, we began to stow everything away to head back to Brown’s Marina. The water tanks needed to be topped off and we needed to fix the leaking bladder tank. The anchor went up without any trouble and we began to navigate away from the adjacent sand bar. Suddenly, it was very apparent to everyone that we had NO STEERING!! The current was strong, but there’s no way it could be strong enough to counteract our steering all together. The rudder position moved back and forth clear as day in the autopilot gauge but the rudder itself was just not moving.

In a panic to stay off the sand bar that was almost underneath us we let out the Genoa to the port side to catch enough wind to turn the bow in the direction we were trying to turn. With the help of our trusty prop walk to starboard in reverse (she only goes to the right in reverse no matter which way you steer) combined with full sail to port, we got back to our original location and quickly dropped the anchor again.

Peter dove off the back to see if the rudder moved at all as the wheel turned and to see if maybe it was hung up on something. Negative on both. There were no obstructions and it was no longer connected to the steering mechanisms.

Immediately, Peter told me to go get the emergency tiller arm. The previous owner, Steve, had it strapped inside the corner of the forward hanging locker with old, crusty and almost disintegrated bungee cords because they had been untouched for so long. This is one of those things that you haul around with you ‘just incase’. It’s a massive two-part aluminum pipe that could double as a weapon if we were feeling barbaric.

I scrambled to lift it up through the companionway into the cockpit and bring it out to Peter where he needed to insert it through the hole in the aft deck. It runs diagonally down into the aft cabin. The mattress had to be pulled off to access a removable board covering the hydraulic steering arm that connects to the rudder. We had the emergency tiller all ready to attach and then… BINGO! That was it! One of two bolts holding the top of the arm in place was completely busted off. With it just hanging there, the hydraulic steering system was unable to grip and turn the rudder. We were lucky it was only a bolt and nothing worse. The second bolt had bent a bit from the force of keeping it all together but it kept holding. There had been a grounding wire attached to the bolt intended to diffuse the electrolysis in the water and had completely disintegrated the bolt from the inside out. Guess it should have been placed somewhere else :(






We made it back to Brown’s Marina two hours later. Josh steered us all the way with the emergency tiller arm while Peter navigated from the helm. By the time we arrived, it was already dark and the current was whipping through the channel as usual. It was past closing time so no one at the marina answered our call on the VHF radio. We tucked in on the outside of the dock behind a catamaran in the only space that was visibly available to us at the time and hoped someone would come out to help grab a line. It took two tries but the Mary Christine was finally tied back up at the dock safe and sound for the night.

We were all exhausted so we tied up the dogs in the cockpit to guard our home and walked up the road to Sherry’s for some dinner. It was a decent local meal but way overpriced. The bill was $100 for four people for some fish and lobster plates. After our minor disaster, it was worth not having to make dinner. Plus we got to relax in a super cute little beachfront patio.


Back at the boat everyone at the dock was wondering what had happened. With the help of new cruiser friends John (S/V New Moon) and Alex (S/V Nikimat), Peter was able to put a new temporary bolt in, reconnect the hydraulic steering arm, and they even temporarily fixed a leak at the stuffing box packing nut. Before they made the fix Peter borrowed John’s 4lb hammer and used a screwdriver to pry off the emergency tiller arm. It had to be done that night or Peter and I wouldn’t have anywhere to sleep.

We spent that Saturday night 2.8.14 and Sunday night 2.9.14 at the marina. Betsy had been confused and shamefully peed on one of the cockpit cushions while we were underway coming back from North Rock. Poor thing. It was just too hectic when we lost our steering. Sunday we cleaned the boat and did a tiny bit of laundry. The cockpit cushions and covers got washed on the dock and the guys did a soap test on the water tank bladder to see if they could find a leak. That night we grilled some steak and lobster with our neighbor Alex. It was a nice relaxing evening before casting off the docklines  again in the morning…


Good Fishing and Pretty Beaches at North Rock, Bimini

Friday 2.7.14 Peter wanted to jet up to North Rock to anchor and do a little diving. It was recommended to us to go there, but it wasn’t a real protected anchorage either. The best part of the whole trip up there was hooking two big snapper!!



Josh reeled in the first one and they let me bring in the second one :) My arms are still like jelly!! It was hysterical for me to be standing on the back of a moving boat trying to fight a fish.



We also hooked a barracuda, but cut those sharp teeth loose right away.


Leah brought in the next one but it was another barracuda.


New fashion statement? :)


We took a quick trip to beach to let the dogs go potty on land and made it back to the boat as it was getting dark.

Josh and Leah made dinner and it was my turn to shower off. I asked Peter if there was enough water left so he opened up the floor board to check the level on the aft water tank. OH CRAP! The bladder bag was more than half way empty and there was a bunch of water outside the bag but inside the aluminum box that the bladder sits in. At some point the original aluminum/fiberglass tank was cut open and replaced with a bladder. We emptied the bladder to save what was left of the fresh water and transferred it into our 5 gallon jerry jugs. We poured those back into the forward water tank. This is getting added to the list of things to do when we get back to the marina.

We slept good knowing the anchor was holding well. The next thing we know it starts raining. Peter and I jump out of bed and race to close all the port lights, hatches and isinglass up top. It dumped for about 10-15 minutes and then stopped. A few hours later in the middle of the night we repeated the process. During the second scramble Peter noticed the dinghy had come untied!!! OH CRAP again! Luckily he had tied a second line on as a safety line. It was much smaller but held it enough to keep it from floating out to sea.

The next day, Saturday 2.8.14, Peter, Leah and I took the dogs over to the beach to swim and look for shells. The color of the water was amazing!!!





Betsy was SOO happy to run free on the beach!


Gunner had to stay on a leash. I tried to let him free but he just wanted to go sniff around in the brush up above the beach. He’s always looking for trouble.




Gunner sure was a happy boy though. He had so much fun.




Betsy and Gunner got to swim for a while with their daddy. Betsy decided she was done swimming and started to climb up on top of Gunner! He is like a small horse, but I’m sure he wasn’t too happy to swim with a little monkey on his back ;)














When we got back to the boat, the guys got our Air Line hookah dive system and put it in the dinghy to head over next to North Rock to check out the sea life. I stayed with the boat and the dogs while Leah went with the guys on picture duty. They ended up having engine trouble with the outboard again and learned a very important lesson: Always bring the ditch bag!! We put a lot of effort into making a complete ditch bag with all the first aid and survival gear we would need in the event of an emergency away from the boat. I’ll be doing a future post on all the items we have in there soon. We put it all in a dry bag and have it sitting in the cockpit, but for some reason, they just didn’t bring it with them this time. We won’t make that mistake again!

Betsy and I looked over at them with the binoculars and noticed they were floating much farther away than I thought they would have gone. (Picture is courtesy of Leah from another day but this is exactly what we were doing this time too). It was a bit too far to tell if they intended to be that far or not. A few minutes later it appeared they were okay.


Luckily they got the outboard working well enough to get back safely, but they gave up on diving this day. To top it all off, they lost one of our blue floating “Dog Leashes for Beaches” from our sponsor, SoftLines (blog post coming soon). I guess it drifted away and with the engine trouble they didn’t want to go chase after it. At least we got to play with them both atleast one time. They also lost the anchor for the dinghy out there. Time for a lesson on knot tying??? I think so!!!

Stay tuned for the next adventure, or should I say… big problem… on the way back from North Rock :(

Crossing the Gulf Stream


We made it to Marathon almost 26 hours after leaving Burnt Store Marina and arrived Monday 2.3.14. There were no mooring balls left so we anchored outside the channel at Boot Key Harbor. We finally decided to put his “potty training” on hold and took the dogs to shore since it had been 26 hours since Gunner peed last. We dropped the dinghy and Peter and I set off with the dogs. Gunner was super excited. Leah came with us while Josh stayed on the boat.


We found a dinghy dock behind Burdines Restaurant. We were hoping there were showers available there since I had read somewhere that they were decent there. Turns out they are for the resident liveaboards only and no one there had any other knowledge of showers near by. The dogs did their business and as we went to get them back on the dinghy, Betsy ended up going for a swim. There was floating grass that had collected around the dinghy dock and she must have thought it was grass on land :( Poor thing. We found a nearby hose and Leah cleaned her off while Peter and I got Gunner back in the dinghy.

We headed up to the city dock where we knew they had showers available. Just as we arrived they were closing so we didn’t have to pay that night for the bathroom key cards. They just said that if we were going to still be here by the next day, come back and pay then. The three of us showered and went back to the boat. Josh got to figure out how to use the solar shower on the deck of the boat.

The next day, Tuesday 2.4.14, Gunner still wouldn’t go pee on the boat. Peter and I took him to shore again and decided to scope out the West Marine to buy some fishing line and ask about our inverter that wasn’t working anymore.  Josh and Leah stayed on the boat. As we came through the channel, Gunner just couldn’t hold it anymore and started peeing in the dinghy. Oh well.

We found an area to tie up right next to West Marine, but we had to go in and talk to the local boatyard to make sure we could leave our dinghy there first. They were okay with it since we asked if they could help us with the inverter :) Inside West Marine, we got a phone call from Josh and Leah to tell us the anchor was dragging and the boat was almost crossing the channel!! Peter, Gunner and I rushed back out to the boat with the fishing line in hand. Priorities first you know! We pulled up the anchor and decided to go get fuel and top off our water tanks since we were already mobile.

Instead of anchoring again, Peter decided to charge it up to Rodriguez Key at 5pm (Tuesday 2.4.14) to be ready for the upcoming weather window to cross to Bimini in the Bahamas. The swell in the Atlantic is way different from the Gulf of Mexico! We were taking the waves hard and it was a rough ride up. Thank GOD for sea sickness medication! We all needed it. No one threw up though, not even the dogs.







We pulled into Rodriguez in the middle of the night (Wednesday 2.5.14 at 2am). Thanks to great instructions from Ellen and her husband Bob on SV Shibumi, we were able to dodge the boats that were already anchored, with and without anchor lights. I had connected with Ellen on the Women Who Sail Facebook group. What an amazing resource!

It was so nice to have a buddy boat to cross with. We all decided to leave Rodriguez Key Thursday morning at 2am(2.6.14) and set out for Bimini motorsailing part way and full sail only a little bit. It was a beautiful day. We made sure we were clear from all the cargo ships and kept charging along. We were exhausted but still spilling over with excitement just hours away from the Bahamas!


The voyage across the Gulf Stream was better than expected. Leah and I were able to catch a few rays under sail on deck.


The further we got into the Gulf Stream, the more blue the water began to turn. It was a shade of blue I’ve never seen before. We crossed depths of up to 9000 feet!!




Gunner finally went potty again on the boat. We knew he would, but he had to get to a point where he REALLY had to go! They wore their Outward Hound life jackets from Kyjen at all times during the crossing. It was just too much rolling around for them to not be wearing them. When we had the largest seas, the dogs were happy to stay put. They must not have been feeling well.


Fixing meals while underway on a large crossing is definitely a difficult task. Lunch and dinner consisted of lunch meat sandwiches and peanut butter and jelly. We had the kind of trip where it’s just easier to grab the ingredients from the galley and make it all up top in the cockpit.



We saw lots of man-o-wars floating by.






It really was a nice crossing. We must have picked the perfect time to go. The seas were relatively calm in some areas and rather uncomfortable in others. All in all, I’d say we lucked out. Some of our other blog friends just crossed to the Bahamas as well. Check out their experiences here:  Sailing Chance  / Sailing Journey / Summertime Rolls




As we neared the Bahamas (Thursday afternoon 2.6.14) the guys wanted to try anchoring just south of South Bimini at Turtle Rocks next to a wreck, Sapona. While Peter thought there would be enough shelter from the wreck, the current and waves still weren’t ideal. Peter and Josh dove the anchor only to find it was all hard bottom right there. We all went for a quick swim, strapped everything back down and made our way up to Brown’s Marina where Ellen and Bob had already arrived. Once we were within range, we hailed the marina on the VHF to let them know we were coming in. It was just minutes left before 5 and we were lucky to get them on the radio. There was ONE spot left! We had a mildly successful docking and didn’t hit anything even though we arrived at dusk.


We’re in the Bahamas!!!! Stay tuned for more posts on all the happenings since arriving in the Bahamas.


All photos courtesy of Kimberly Young – LAHOWIND & Kimberly Joy Photography


This past Sunday our friends Kim and Jereme of LAHOWIND drove up from Naples to hang out, talk about cruising plans and go for a day sail in Charlotte Harbor aboard our boat, S/V Mary Christine. They are going to set sail for the Bahamas and Caribbean about the same time as us with their dog Oliver. Be sure to check out their website if you haven’t already! If all works out we may be buddy-boating for a while so hopefully you’ll hear a lot more about them soon.

We were SO lucky to have Kim take pics of our harbor cruise!! I love them all!!! Her photo skills make Betsy look 10 times cuter than she already is, which is pretty darn hard to do ;)


WHAT STUDS!! The guys had a great time chatting about boat stuff, fishing, diving and cruising.


There wasn’t too much wind that day and the guys had both trolling lines out. About half way into the afternoon we heard a beautiful sound… ZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!! FISH ON!!

Peter knew this fish was big. Real big. The guys couldn’t tell what it was until they got it to the surface.


LUNKER!! It was a 32″ grouper! It’s very rare to hook a grouper on a trolling line so the fishing Gods were definitely with us this day! We weren’t totally prepared to hook something so big so we were scrambling to find the gaff to bring him in. This was our second fish for S/V Mary Christine underway and thank goodness Kim was on it with the camera! We were all so excited. The winds calmed down even more and we slowly drifted along under full sail at an easy 2 knots which made it really nice for focusing on the fish situation. I kept an eye on our course and sails while the guys took care of the fish. We could only find a 20″ minimum regulation so he was a keeper for sure.



We had such a fun time with Kim and Jereme!! This is only the beginning…  in just two more weeks we should be ready to leave Florida and head to the Bahamas to continue these epic adventures everyday :)




Livin the dream as we sail to Where The Coconuts Grow in search of surf, sun, sand and serenity…

Living on a boat is a lot of work!


For those of you that don’t follow our Facebook posts, I wanted to share our most recent quote of inspiration spoken from Peter himself.

“You don’t know your strength until you know your limits”

-Peter Pieschel

It took us awhile to get over the initial exhaustion of becoming liveaboards. It takes a LOT of work to live on a boat and for the first month we were just plain exhausted every day. It’s one thing to go boating for a weekend but when you live on a boat it takes some getting used to.

  • If its windy, we have to pull the boat closer to the dock for us and the dogs to get on and off safely. (When we are anchored we will have a whole new process for preparing the dinghy to take to shore)
  • Our muscles are constantly working to keep us balanced since the boat is always moving.
  • When stock up on groceries we put them all in a cart, pull it from the parking lot way down to our dock and begin passing them over the lifelines, into the cockpit and down the 5′ vertical ladder into the depths of the boat.
  • We have to lift a ladder up onto the bed to get the dogs in and out of the cockpit.
  • Every time we want to get something out of the fridge we have to stretch our gumby arms way down to the bottom, take everything out to get to what we want and then put all the other items back in.
  • When we want a pot or a pan, we have to get down on our hands and knees to get it from a locker underneath the stove which extends way down against the hull.
  • When we want to use the kitchen table we lift it down from its latched position against the bookshelf.
  • If we need more water, one of us goes topside with a hose and one of us opens the floorboards inside the boat to prepare the water tanks for refilling.
  • When we need to empty our holding tanks one of us has to be on deck to attach the hose and one of us stands by in the heads to flush fresh water through after the first round of pumping.
  • Taking a shower requires us to simultaneously keep the two shower curtains in front of the toilet from attacking us as we shower off and then flip a switch several times for the sump so the water will drain out.
  • Power is needed for LOTS of things we take for granted: lights, fans, radio, cell phone chargers, computers, hot water heater, dehumidifier, navigation instruments, coffee makers, microwave and air conditioning. If we’re not plugged into shore power, we have to generate our own with solar panels, a wind generator, or by running the engine or diesel generator.
  • When something goes wrong, we have to be very innovative and creative to figure out how to fix it with the tools that we have at hand.
  • When we’re done using something, it has to be put away because there’s no room to leave clutter out.
  • When we use dishes, we have to wash them by hand every time we eat.
  • We have to be plumbers, electricians, mechanics, navigators, chefs, fishermen, sailors, excellent communicators and fun-havers.
  • This is just the beginning…

Living on a boat is much different than living on land. There is a lot to get used to, but it has slowly started to feel normal :) We absolutely LOVE our little home and we say it out loud to each other every day!! Its hard work but SO worth it in the end. We are preparing our home to travel across oceans to visit far off lands, beautiful tropical beaches and crystal clear waters. We’re going to go Where The Coconuts Grow and the wind in our sails will take us there!

Its going to be a hell of an education too. As the months go by we will be forced to learn so many new skills and we’ll learn how to live with ‘less’ all around. We need the basics, safety equipment, a few personal effects from home and all the rest is just stuff. Our priorities have already begun to change as we work on the boat every day and prepare to set sail. We appreciate the little things we didn’t even notice before. We take a lot less for granted and our happiness increases by the minute.

We do get frustrated sometimes but I think we’re getting better about understanding that we’re both doing our best. Our patience with ourselves and with each other is growing too. Everything we do, we do it as a team and it seems much easier that way. We’re helping each other figure out how to do things we haven’t done before and it’s actually really fun! It’s hard at first to step outside of your comfort zone, but when you do, that’s where the magic happens :)


After the initial exhaustion wore off a little, Peter and I committed to running again to get ourselves and the dogs the exercise we all need. The last couple of days have been a chilly 38 degrees at night here in Southwest Florida, and this is not exactly what I signed up for, but Peter laid the inspiration down pretty thick. His quote about strength and limits really did get me thinking and even though it’s almost freezing outside I perked up a little and tried to see things in a positive light instead. We should be able to handle a little cold weather and still keep exercise a priority. We’ve done 3 miles each night through the cold winds and by the time we’re done we both smile and feel glad we went :)  We really are stronger than we think we are, and as a good friend said to me yesterday, we have to BELIEVE in ourselves!!

Peter and I are about to set sail on an adventure of a lifetime with our two dogs and we both feel so lucky that everything has just fallen into place.  It’s one of those moments where we know we’re in the right place at the right time, and now is the time to go for it. We’re young, we are finding strength we didn’t know we had, and we’re throwing our fears and doubts aside in exchange for this amazing opportunity. What better time in our lives than now to travel and see the world? There’s so much beauty and joy out there just waiting to be shared.

We hope our adventures will inspire others to take a leap of faith, step outside your comfort zone and find out where the magic happens. Dreams really do come true, if you believe!!