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Ponce, Salinas, Patillas and Palmas, PR Stops.

Our early departure from Gilligan’s Island meant we arrived in Ponce by 7 am.  The anchorage was pretty quiet at that hour except for the Ponce Marine Policia who followed us into the anchorage and politely waited for us to anchor before approaching our boat.  Apparently when they spotted our boat and looked up our information, they did not show that we had checked into the country.  Fortunately Frank had a record of his conversation with the Small Vessel Reporting System (SVRS) officer and he had the confirmation number of our check in via the telephone.  The Ponce Police were very nice and respectful to us and soon the misunderstanding was resolved. The Policia returned our paperwork and wished us a happy Memorial Day weekend.  A police stop is one way to get your heart rate up early in the morning.

We didn’t spend enough time in Ponce to rent a car and go into the heart of town so we really don’t know what it has to offer.  Instead we walked the (mostly closed) boardwalk where only a handful of people were strolling about.  Apparently things don’t get started there until evening, (surprise) but we were too tired to go back to the boardwalk that night, especially with another 4 am wakeup planned. Obvously, we are not your source for information about Ponce.

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Beautiful scenes on our way to Jobos Bay

There was a bit of a storm brewing in the Atlantic Ocean and along with every other boater in the area, we were keeping an eye on the weather.  We left especially early for Salinas the next morning with the express purpose of looking into a suggested hurricane hole near the Salinas anchorage just in case the storm developed.

We guided LIB through the mangrove lined inlets and fingers just east of Salinas in Jobos Bay and basically toured the area to determine if it would be a good spot to wait out a hurricane if the storm developed.  (Yes, it is, but the area is protected and you cannot anchor there until a storm is imminent.)

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Mauna Kea looks pretty in the evening colors.

After a pretty thorough reconnaissance mission, we went back to Salinas and anchored near Laurie and Ken of s/v Mauna Kea.  We were really excited to catch up with the only other 2016 Sail to the Sun Rally boat gliding around Puerto Rico and still exploring outside of the States!

We spent a couple of days in Salinas hanging out with Ken and Laurie who were experts on the area since they had been there for more than two weeks. The marina in Salinas welcomes anchored cruisers and has a nice dinghy dock which we have learned is sometimes hard to find.  The marina has a little bar/restaurant as well as washer/dryer and showers.  Very helpful to the cruising community.

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Are you jealous of that exotic blue leopard material?

There is a decent grocery store about a third of a mile from the marina and Laurie lent us her collapsable grocery cart to make the walk home easier.  For these last two years, Frank and I have carried our groceries home in backpacks and reusable bags, but this little cart made the walk so much easier that I have already ordered my very own collapsable cart.

We hung out in Salina a few nights waiting to see what would become of the storm in the Atlantic that was projected to head toward Puerto Rico.  Fortunately the storm dissipated and we would not need to seek refuge in Jobos Bay.

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Look how bright and well defined the colors are in this rainbow!

Rain has been plentiful here in Puerto Rico so the salt water is routinely rinsed from our decks and we have seen many pretty rainbows.  I especially liked how vibrant the colors were in the rainbow pictured above.

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Patillas is at the foot of these lush hills.

Mauna Kea and Let It Be left Salinas and headed for Patillas where we would stop before our final jump to The Yacht Club Marina at Palmas del Mar; our stopping point for this hurricane season.

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Ken strikes a pose after anchoring Mauna Kea!

Once anchors were set and a quick rain shower had rinsed our decks, Laurie, Ken, Frank and I dinghied into town to stretch our legs and check out the town.  We strolled to the left, then we strolled to the right and about 30 minutes later we had pretty much traversed the waterfront area of Patillas and Captain had enjoyed plenty of sniffing and calling card deposits.

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Ken, Frank and Captain chilling in the shade and watching the activity.

Rain was threatening again so we found a little outdoor spot with plenty of umbrellas and enjoyed lunch while watching the comings and goings along the main street.  We were surprised that there seemed to be a lot going on here even though the town was tiny.

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Can you tell we were caught in the rain?  Maybe I need a selfie stick? Or longer arms?

Our lunch table was right on the main road and we had the perfect spot to observe the comings and goings in Patillas.

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Disco bus for elders??

I have no idea what was up with this bus but the folks on board were having a grand time and the lights on the bus were flashing all kinds of random patterns.  We couldn’t decide if it was a tour bus (but there were no blaring announcements) or if a retirement home had gone all out on their day bus!

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I wish I could have captured the lights and music in a picture!

Lights and bling are obviously emphasized in Patillas as is evidenced by the ice cream truck we saw on the main street just as we were finishing lunch.

WAIT!!!!!! Did you say ice cream truck? Well we paid our lunch bill and took off after that ice cream truck.  I felt like we were part of a cartoon comedy because every time we got close to the truck, he moved on!  But we persisted and finally managed to catch the ice cream man!

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I didn’t see any bomb pops but we found plenty to enjoy.

After strolling the beach front and eating our ice cream, we had pretty much exhausted Patillas so we headed back to our sailboats and simply enjoyed the view from our boats.

Once again we were leaving before sun up so it was early to bed for all of us.  But at least we had a chance to walk around a bit, and had a short jog chasing the ice cream truck!

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A stellar final sunrise!

Our final sunrise as we motored toward Palmas del Mar was stunning.  The sun sprayed golden rays across the ocean and brought forth a beautiful day for our final push along the southern coast of Puerto Rico.

We arrived at The Yacht Club at Palmas del Mar and were warmly welcomed my the great team who runs this marina.  In the fall of 2015 when we were preparing LIB to be our live aboard home, we had spent almost two months here and we were thrilled to see the same fabulous folks here upon our return.

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Sunset from The Yacht Club

I truly cannot say enough positive things about the staff at The Yacht Club Marina.  They are the most caring, helpful, happy and kind people we have met.  And they are very organized and efficient.

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Full moon rises over the rock jetty at The Yacht Club

This is a wonderful place to while away our time during hurricane season and if we must be on the dock, I can’t think of a better place.

As always, thank you for visiting our blog. We would love to hear from you in the comments below.  If you are interested in seeing more of our everyday activities, please visit our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44

 

 

 

Christmas in July, BVI

The information for this blog post has been heavily taken from a Business BVI article written by Todd VanSickle and published July 24, 2015.

We are still in Puerto Rico but I thought I would share this interesting bit of information about Puerto Rico and the BVIs since both have been important places in our lives with Let It Be.

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In July the charter companies in the BVIs have a bit of a slow down as hurricane season becomes a factor in decisions about visiting the area.  Of course the reduced number of charters and tourists have a negative affect on BVI businesses. However, the U.S. Territory of Puerto Rico is a mere 90 miles from the BVIs and it is from this island that the BVIs receives an economic boost each year.

For the last 30 plus years, each July huge numbers of boaters take off from Puerto Rico and set off to visit, shop, swim and party in the BVIs.  According to an article published in Business BVI in July of 2015, it is estimated that 2,000 boats from PR visit the BVIs in July!  According to Javier Lopez, organizer of Christmas in July (as of 2015), at least 800 Puerto Rican boats visited the BVIs during the week long Christmas in July event in 2015.

Having traveled by boat in Puerto Rico, I can tell  you from our own observations that the boaters here in PR know how to have fun!  Gatherings are numerous for any occasion and for no occasion at all.  Along with our friends, we agree you can identify a PR party boat because it will have; 1. loud music on an excellent stereo system, 2. some sort of flag(s) will be prominently displayed, 3. plenty of people will be on board, 4. magically the boats will be drawn together like magnets.

I say all this with the greatest of respect. I love the way people here in PR include family members of all ages and how much laughter is shared.  This is a fun-loving, happy and welcoming community and we have enjoyed observing it and on occasion being involved in it.

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Let this picture prove the numbers are not exaggerated! (Internet photo)

In the article referenced, Mr. Lopez says that the boaters who participate in Christmas in July refer to themselves as the “Puerto Rican Navy” and we have heard this term for years.  It is a bit confusing until you understand that it is simply an affectionate term used because the boaters travel in groups and support one another.

Amazingly, Mr. Lopez states that this is a very affluent group of boaters with an average income of $600k to $1.5M annually! With that sort of financial means, you can understand why this flotilla has become such an important and encouraged group among the BVI businesses.

So, if you have the opportunity to travel to the BVIs in July, be aware that the Puerto Rican Navy sort of take over during Christmas in July!  The usual beat of the islands will be replaced by some loud and catchy latin music and the number of boaters might be overwhelming.  But the BVIs are so large that you have the opportunity to embrace the Puerto Rican Navy and join in their parties or you can observe where they are heading and go the other way.  Beautiful beaches and perfect anchorages are so plentiful in the BVI that you can find serenity or parties any time of year.

So how about you? Does Christmas in July, partying with a huge number of power boaters and the feel of the base resonating in your chest sound like fun? Or do you prefer the quieter anchorages where the sound of nature and waves upon the shore are the melodies that surround you?

As always, thank you for visiting our blog. If you are interested in seeing more of our everyday activities, please visit our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44

 

 

 

 

Boquerón, La Parquera, Gilligan’s Island… Ports of Puerto Rico

As I mentioned previously, we have been following the advice of Bruce Van Sant’s book, “Passages South” in which he shares his thoughts on how to move east against easterly winds.  Van Sant believes it is best to take advantage of lower wind speeds which occur during the night and motor a few hours each morning from one anchorage to another.  Per his suggestions, we awaken around 4 a.m., raise anchor, and move east along the southern shore of Puerto Rico for a few hours.

Ponce, PR

Sunrise is filled with pastel colors and soft breezes.

Although it is difficult to get out of bed when it is dark, we were rewarded with watching the day come alive and with calm seas, so the effort is definitely worth it! But getting up early means the days feel long and the evenings feel short since we go to bed earlier than usual.

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Boqueron has a long, inviting shore.

After completing the Mona Passage and a good night of sleep at anchor in Mayaguez, we moved to Boqueron and anchored in a bay of flat water.

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We strolled the waterfront town and had lunch in Boqueron.

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Kelsey and Lauren relaxing in the park.

Next we meandered through the park along the water where we met three young ladies from the US who were on vacation.  After a brief conversation, we invited Kelsey, Lauren and Shaye to come out to LIB and relax on our boat for the afternoon.

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Captain had to join in the fun!

Shaye, Lauren and Kelsey are close in age to our own children and we were happy to share our “home” with them for a bit; very much like others have done for our sons as they travel.  We enjoyed getting to know these young ladies and hearing about their plans.  Their energy and enthusiasm were contagious and we are so happy they spent the afternoon with us.  Safe travels, girls. Keep in touch!

La Parguera

We actually had to turn left here, not go straight toward town.

Our next stop was La Parguera.  Finding our way into this small fishing village with crops of mangroves growing into small islands in front of the town made our initial entry a little challenging.  It is necessary to watch the chart and keep a close eye out for shallow water but we managed to work LIB into a nice anchoring spot behind one of those mangrove “islands.”

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La Parguera is a sleepy town during daylight hours with deserted streets and most businesses closed.

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The same area of town after nightfall.

But once night falls, this little town is a jumble of people where families, teens and couples stroll the pedestrian area, live bands play loudly, food stands compete with restaurants and vendors hawk jewelry and trinkets from small stands.

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Puerto Rico night life.

There was even a tent with a mechanical horse race where bets were taken and money changed hands for winning numbers.  We placed a couple of big $1 bets, but walked away without winning.

After enjoying the bustling nightlife in La Parguera, we upped anchor around 4:30 a.m. and motored to Balnearia de Cana Gorda, a bay about 20 miles away.  By 8 o’clock our anchor was down and we were happily floating in front of a very pretty little resort called Copa Marina Resort, though there really wasn’t a marina there.

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LIB can be seen in the background.

We launched Day Tripper, our dinghy, and went to check out the Resort.  As luck would have it, there was a yummy breakfast buffet being served and cruisers were welcome. So we had a very nice breakfast, then spent a bit of time relaxing at the pool.  What a nice reward after our early morning departure.

Copa Resort has a nicely manicured beach and a few water toys for rent.  We decided to rent a Hobie Wave (because when does Frank ever want to sit still?) and spend a little time sailing around the bay.  We may or may not have had a little trouble tacking this little boat and I am certain we went further than we were “supposed” to go, but no one told us any limits when we started!

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We may have gone out further than allowed???

Frank and I spent couple of wet hours sailing that Hobie and we had plenty of laughs in the process!

We ended up staying in this bay for two nights because we just couldn’t bring ourselves to leave.  The Resort was welcoming, there was a popular public beach near the Resort where families gathered and played all day and just around the corner was the fairly famous “Gilligan’s Island.”

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Gilligan’s Island (Image taken from internet)

So this island is actually called Cayo Aurora and even though I don’t see the likeness to the one in the TV show, many people call this place Gilligan’s Island.  The picture above does not show how crowded this area is usually, but it does show you how pretty it is.  Trust me, usually there are boats, kayaks, floats, people and plenty of music throughout this island.

Frank and I took Day Tripper over and hung out in the water, avoiding the land where the mosquitos were happily feasting on slightly inebriated humans too oblivious to notice.  It was a great place to people watch and the current through the inlet kept the water moving and cool.  Truly a pretty island and a fun place to while away a bit of time.

Our next stop is Ponce, then on to Salinas where we will catch up to s/v Mauna Kea!

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Colorful homes in La Parguera.

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Gratuitous sunrise

As always, thank you for visiting our blog. If you are interested in seeing more of our everyday activities, please visit our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44

 

 

 

 

Lions and Tigers and Mona. Oh My!

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Map taken from the internet


Like the childhood fears in the Wizard of Oz, The Mona Passage looms large in the minds of sailors who are moving east, and we had heard enough stories that we approached it with slight trepidation.

As soon as Frank returned from his crossing of the Atlantic Ocean on an Outremer 5X catamaran, we began looking for a weather window to move from Marina Puerto Bahia, on the Samana Peninsula, DR to Puerto Rico.  The trade winds are easterly and we would be moving directly into them across a passage that is well known for its’ consistent winds and waves, The Mona Passage.  But the move had to be made and we were anxious to go.  Not because we were tired of the Dominican Republic, but because we needed to move on in preparation of hurricane season.

Fortunately, just days after Frank’s return, a window appeared and we decided to sail.  Now, understand, this window was by no means perfect but there is rarely a perfect weather window for the Mona Passage, especially during this time of year.

Let It Be is usually in great shape, but we had a few glitches arise before departing that we decided to live with until we arrived in PR.  The biggest issue is that our anemometer is not working so we do not have any readings of the wind speed or wind direction from the top of our mast.

But hey, we have some experience with estimating wind speeds (thank you kiteboarding) so we were willing to go without that instrument.

Next up is our IridiumGo!  For some reason it is showing our position, but it is not delivering internet so we would not have updated weather reports.  Still, the Mona is only about a day and a half passage.  We would make do and get the Iridium repaired in PR.

Per the recommendation of Van Sant’s book, “Passages South, The Thornless Path,” we chose to leave in the late afternoon Sunday and make this a night, day, night passage.

Well the Mona lived up to her reputaion of sloppy seas and strong easterly winds.  We departed from Puerto Bahia around 5 pm and all was well until darkness fell and I began feeling less than chipper.  I took the first watch.  Unfortunately mine was a short watch since I didn’t feel great. But, as usual, Frank stepped up and took the helm until I could get some rest and find my rhythm.

We had a couple of surprises during our trip.  One was that our navigation lights were not working!?  But we have a tri-colored light at the top of the mast and allowed that to be our beacon.

I took over the watch around 5 am after we had turned away from the Dominican Republic shore and took a northeastern tack to have a better wind angle.  We raised the main and jib as the sun rose and Frank headed below for some much needed rest.

We were happily moving along our predicted route; Frank was asleep and I was just settling in to listen to an audio book when BOOM…. EVERYTHING started flapping.  The attachment ring of the jib clew pulled completely out of our sail!  That was quite a wake up call! (This attachment holds the bottom rear corner of the front sail down to the deck.)

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The clew of our jib without an attachment point.

I pulled in the jib as quickly as I could and made sure the sheets were well secured, then alerted Frank to the problem.  We decided to continue our predetermined path and leave the main sail up.  Unfortunately our speed over ground immediately dropped from about 7.5 knots to about 5.5 knots…. Our trip just became much longer!

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A ring without a function

Still, this was not a life threatening issue but it does change the motion of the boat to something a little less pleasant.   We work very hard to make sure LIB is in excellent condition and it is unusual for us to feel like we are “limping along.”

Thankfully, that was the last mishap we had during our crossing.  The seas were not friendly but we would estimate that the winds were not more than 20 knots, so actually we were pretty fortunate.

Because of our slower than expected progress, we did not reach our intended first harbor of Boqueron but instead slowly entered Puerto Rico at Mayaguez around 9 pm on Monday evening.  Mayaguez is a wide open anchorage and we felt comfortable entering after dark, a practice we avoid 99.5 percent of the time.

We have been exceedingly happy with our North 3Di sails and we had excellent service and help from Andrew Dove, Antigua North Sails, during our purchase process.  So after we had a good night of sleep, Frank contacted Andrew about our jib issue.

Andrew was amazingly quick in responding to Frank’s email and he was very apologetic about our jib issue.  Andrew has assured us that North Sails will repair our sail at their cost including having the sail shipped to and from a nearby loft to make sure the repairs are performed perfectly.

Based on our buying experience and the excellent service we received, we are not at all surprise that North Sails is stepping up to help us.  But it is very nice to have it happen so quickly and easily.

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Anchored off the beach at Boqueron, Puerto Rico

So now we are back in Puerto Rico and exploring the southern shore as we work our way eastward toward Palmas del Mar.  It feels good to be in a U.S. Territory as we approach the July 4th Holiday.

And it feels really good to have the Mona Passage behind us.

Our First Official Visitor….

Let It Be, as a live aboard boat, had her first guest this week. Frank’s mom, Jackie, arrived on Tuesday, Oct.20th. I am so fortunate to have a Mom-in-law whom I respect, admire and love. Jackie is game for anything we suggest and is always willing to lend a helping hand.

We spent the first two days in the dock finishing a few projects (surprise!) and taking care of some necessities, like provisions.

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Frank and Jackie at the helm on the way to Culebra

Thursday afternoon we motored out, as what little wind there was went directly on our nose! We headed for Culebra, a U.S. Territory and one of the Spanish Virgin Islands.

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Approaching Culebra

We looked at a couple of coves but, with a north swell, the coves suggested to us had a bit too much movement.  We found a beautiful spot in Bahia Lynda, a little bay with a nice reef out front to break incoming waves.  We had rain every day while Jackie was here, but we still managed to have an excellent visit.

DSC00460The sun peeked out of the rain clouds just before it turned in for the night. 

Perhaps this post should be titled “Things mom’s do” but the things Jackie does are unusual. For instance, how many octogenarians do you know who carry ear plugs in their purse? Sure enough, Jackie was going to help Frank as he cut some starboard for the forepeak project and when he offered to get her some earplugs, Jackie said, “Oh, just a minute. Let me get mine from my purse.”  Impressive, right?!

Do you know any 80 somethings who carry earplugs???

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Even in the rain, Jackie is there with a helping hand and her own earplugs.

Still no wind, so we motored along the north side of Culebra and toured the beaches from the comfort of LIB.  A solitary dolphin came to play and swam along our bow in welcome. He left before I could get a pic.

We stopped at Cayo Norte where we had to beach completely to ourselves.  Captain, Frank and I swam to shore and spent an hour playing on the beach and letting Cap expend a bit of energy.

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Our own private beach for the afternoon.

Next stop was one of the prettiest I have seen – Tortuga Beach on Culebrita. Music and laughter from day charters and motor boats sharing the bay entertained us as we had lunch. We spotted several turtles and even a pair of Remora fish. The remora fish actually nibbled at Frank’s toes when he was sitting on the back of the boat. Thankfully these remora were not accompanying any sharks – that we saw.

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Image by In The Blue (www.intheblue.co.uk)

The two remoras we saw were about three feet long, so big ones!

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Tortuga Beach, Culebrita

By nightfall, all the other boats had departed and we had this lovely beach to ourselves.  We had a slight problem with the hot water heater and Frank was working in the port engine compartment when the rain arrived. In true motherly fashion, Jackie wanted Frank to be nice and dry while he worked. So she stood guard against the rain.

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Jackie gets soaked while keeping Frank dry.

We returned to Puerto Rico yesterday as Jackie had a flight out today. We are so thankful that Frank’s mom is willing to travel and visit us and we thank God that she has the health to do so! Safe travels, Jackie. We miss you already!!!

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Another view of Tortuga Beach

3 Houses and No Place to Nest…

The decision to move to Let It Be was made more than two years ago.  Since then, many changes have been accomplished. Our plan to move aboard is close and will be realized within 8 weeks. Yet I have found myself a bit muddled and out of sorts.

Have you felt this way after making a major decision even though you still believe the decision is a good one?

Currently our house in Texas is for sale, which means we maintain it like a House Beautiful photographer is on the way.  To escape the model home syndrome, we are vacationing off and on in a darling VRBO house in Durango, CO.  As for Let It Be, she is finishing her charter life in the British Virgin Islands, taking happy folks from one beautiful beach to the next.

So in a sense, we have three “homes” in three very different places right now.  I know LIB will become our one home, but right now I feel like a three legged stool with a foot in each location.

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And as happens in these situations, I am not perfect at keeping up with which things are where.  Like my one remaining pair of dress pants which I needed in Durango, but I realized I had left in Dallas. Only when I got to Dallas I learned that one pair of pants was accidentally put in a box headed for Let It Be via Puerto Rico!!

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The pants are not a tragedy, but they have allowed me to finally put a finger on why I feel so muddled.  I am not the type to decorate and redecorate my home, but I really like knowing what I have and where it is.  “Nesting” for me means I have one place for my things.

This doesn’t mean I have to have a lot of stuff, but it does mean that what I have is in a single location and I can put my hands on whatever I am looking for.

A few people have wondered how we can think about letting go of a land home to live on a boat. Or they think we should have a small land place somewhere so we can “go home” if we want.

Well, I think this feeling of wanting all our toys in one sandbox might just be the answer to why we think owning only a boat sounds like a great idea.

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(Google Image)

We want to travel and see new places and by living on LIB, all our toys, clothes and doodads will travel with us – including my one remaining pair of pants!

Admittedly choosing a boat as our residence is not a mainstream choice and it means a significant reduction of ownership, but right this minute, I am soooo ready to put all my possessions in one house boat!

How about you – do you prefer just one sandbox? I would love to hear your thoughts.

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