1st Year on Gypsies Palace – Reflections Of Gypsies in the Palace

Gypsies Palace ReflectonsWell, we did it!   We have officially lived aboard Gypsies Palace one year! So, how do we feel about it? Any regrets?   Do we want to go back on land? Time for reflections on our 1st year cruising on our catamaran.

A year ago October we had so much going on in our lives in order to make the transition to full time cruising. We were truly in a frenzy. Our house closed at the first of the month and at that time we did not have a boat.   We were certain that we were buying a catamaran, but that was about it because our first deal fell through. We had been purging, selling stuff on Craigslist and trying to decide what items that we would need on a boat. Our storage unit was packed to the gills and we were homeless at our friend’s house.  My dad’s health was failing and he required more of my time. It was a crazy month to say the least. By the end of the month we had closed on Gypsies Palace.

We were fortunate to find this catamaran. It is a Leopard 47 Owner’s Version, which means that it has an owner’s stateroom. It was never in charter and a one owner boat. The former owner liked it so much he bought a newer version that is now a 51 ft Leopard. After we purchased it we spent 4 months adding things to make it a liveaboard that would work for us. Things like improving the refrigeration, adding an ice maker, increasing the holding tanks, increasing the water heater on the master side, adding solar panels, adding a watermaker, adding SAT TV, adding more exterior canvas, changing the anchor, fixing a fuel leak and the best gadget – the Docking Master, remote docking. If I could pick just one thing that I love best that we have done is to install the remote docking device.

During this time it really was hard to “love” living on the boat. Things were a mess because the boat was always being worked on. That limited the feeling of space. I won’t lie. The first few months it was hard to love the boating life because we never left the dock except to pump out.   I didn’t want to go back to a house, but I was ready to get rid of the chaos and get moving. These feelings are not unlike having your kitchen remodeled – there is nothing fun about that process.

Leaving on the LoopLeaving the dock on April 1st to begin the Great Loop was such a liberating feeling. I remember the day clearly and how beautiful it was. It was an omen that this would be a good life and we were doing the Great Loop!

Looking back the first part of the trip was such a blur as I am sure other Loopers would testify. We definitely planned more at the start. Now we are coming into Florida and we haven’t made any plans!   Our answer is that we will figure it out and we can always anchor. By plans I mean where are we going to be? Do we have a reservation? When we will arrive and how long will we stay? We are still Looping and in a transient state, meaning we do not spend much time in any one place. That will change once we complete the Loop.

We have adjusted to everyday life.   Laundry is sometimes done on board or sometimes done at the marina. Most marinas have had decent WiFi. We record TV shows just like at home. Jazzy has adjusted to life on board, including sometimes using the pee pad on the bow.  Gypsies Palace CockpitWe love our cockpit and outdoor living area.  It is so comfortable to enjoy a nice day or evening.

Maximizing the storage space is every boater’s challenge.   Because we have a catamaran we have more space than the mono hull boats. We are like a sailboat where we also have floor storage. The front of our boat has a tremendous amount of room that is why we call one hatch the “Man Cave”.   I have gotten good at buying the right amount of food and using it. In my house I was always throwing food away, but on the boat I find that I let fewer things spoil. We actually have things on the boat that we put on that we have not used. When we get back to our storage unit those will come off. Mine consist of clothes and shoes that I have never worn. Steve has some tools and misc. things as well.

I thought I would exercise more since I was committed to my Jazzercise workout for years. On the Loop this has been difficult because we are always moving to another port. We have used the kayaks and bikes, but not regularly. Some stops we do a lot of walking, others we don’t.   I confess to not always taking advantage on an exercise room at the marinas. This will be something that I change going forward after completing the Loop and settling into a cruising mode where we stay in places longer.

Stress – there is none! We could stress about the weather, but really what is the point?   The times when we are stressed is when we have to be somewhere on a specific date.   That is the hardest for all of us boaters.   It is usually weather or mechanical issues that doom the plan.

Speaking of mechanical issues, we have not had any except for the time when we caught the line around our props in Canada. Everything else on the boat has worked fine thanks to Captain Steve. We have come across many other boats where they hit their props or had a major engine problem. This boat has treated us well.

Most of the trip the temperatures have been cool.   Daytimes in the 70’s, but 40’s and 50’s at night. That was a surprise to us. Luckily, we had put warm clothes on board and bought some along the way. Coming back into Florida will be a shock.   We have run our heater and rarely the air conditioner. This week we actually bought a space heater!   We have even had nights in the 30’s which I would not have expected.

Before we started the Loop we did sit down to create a budget of expenses and to manage our money. I would say that we are right on target, if not under our projections. Where I fell off was that we eat and drink more than being home!   It is fun to shop at the various farmers markets and local grocery stores. It is also true that we eat out more than being home. Our fuel and marina expenses are under budget now, but we will be seeing increasing dockage charges as we enter Florida.

Looper Gold
April & Larry with Abby and Looper Gold

We haven’t ended the Loop yet, but we have made so many new friends that we will continue to see as we continue cruising. Meeting other boaters / Loopers make this lifestyle so special.   We have more friends than we would have ever had if we had stayed in the house. We have really appreciated the comradery.  Our buddy boat friends on One Eye Dog just crossed their wake in Fairhope, AL and we were there for their celebration.  They now flag the Looper Gold Flag for completing the Loop.

Early next year we will complete our Loop when we enter the Boca Inlet. We will end our “adventure”, but move to the “lifestyle” phase of cruising.   We are excited about this new chapter, too. So, after a year, I would say that this is just the beginning! And, no, we do not miss having a land based home!

“We’re gypsies in the palace, there ain’t no wrong or right
We’re gypsies in the palace, and we’re going wild tonight.” ……Jimmy Buffett




When It All Falls Down………Set Backs for Gypsies Palace

Last you heard we had left the Erie Canal and were on Lake Ontario. Our route is to head west on Lake Ontario, dock and traverse the Welland Canal to Lake Erie.   That was the PLAN, but…………………………Gypsies Palace had other ideas.

The day started picture perfect.   Lake Ontario was like glass. We were going to stop in Rochester, but it seemed like a good idea to take advantage of the flat seas and push on to Port Dalhousie (St. Catherines) Ontario, Canada. Everything went according to plan and we came into the marina in windy conditions. We had no one to grab our lines so Steve needed to make a couple of passes at the dock to check wind and current.

About 10 feet from the dock, disaster struck. We heard to big clunk and the next thing Steve knew, he did not have use of the Starboard propulsion! The Engine was working fine but he couldn’t put the transmission in gear. We later found out that with the water levels so high on Lake Ontario there is stuff floating everywhere, most right under the surface and our prop grabbed a submerged line Submerged Lineand it wrapped around the shaft so tightly that it pulled (broke) our transmission off of the engine! We later heard that someone had hit a refrigerator floating just below the surface not far from the marina. So, a lot of crap is out there under the water.

We weren’t out of the woods yet. Steve only had one engine to control the boat and it was the wrong one with the winds and current. Everything was pushing us into the rocks and breakwater.   Gypsies Palace could not make the dock on one engine with the wind pushing us away from the dock. Steve managed to get us out of the marina and we anchored in the Lake just outside the Breakwater. What we needed was a tow to the docks.   We sat on the boat and tried to contact SeaTow or TowBoat US, but they had no one nearby.   So, what were we going to do? Read more

The Adventures of Waldhose or “Where’s Waldhose?”

This is a true story as told by Steve Russell about leaving our drinking hose on the dock and how he returned home.

Waldhose connection with Lucky Duck PFD & signatures of his Looper friends

Waldhose Is Home!!!  The true meaning of being part of the Loopers Assoc. (AGLCA) shines with the help from everyone that made it possible for Waldhose to return to Gypsies Palace.

The Saga unfolded after he got home. Because something just didn’t add up, we decided to get to the truth. After he got home, we had a “Water Boarding” session and he ran at the mouth with the facts. Here is the whole story:

We lost Waldhose in Jekyll Island around April 15th. We realized he was missing the day after we left. We remembered that he was connected to the water system which was across from Gypsies Palace.  That is why we thought that we had accidently left him there. As it turns out, it was more than that. He actually hid because he was jumping ship!      Now we know why. You see, when Waldhose joined us he worked his butt off. I soon realized that we had stretched him to his limits.

So, I decided to make his life easier and would find him a mate. Someone that he could “connect with”. They could have a real “attachment” and work together. I got on my computer and logged in to www.Match-hose.com . There she was, Ava Gardenhose, a Long, Slinky, no Kink drink of water. The perfect Match… well, almost. Waldhose had been known to be Kinky at times.. but still, like all Matches, almost perfect. I saw the problem starting when we got Ava Gardenhose home. There he was, curled up on the dock with a couple of kinks. I thought “Oh Boy”. Read more

You’ve Got Mail! How Do We Handle Mail?

We are full time cruisers and no longer own a home. So, how do we handle mail? Many people have asked me about this. Fortunately, we found a great solution that came highly recommended.

First of all, we moved everything to electronic statements and payments that are made automatically. We also do Online Banking and Mobile deposits. That was the easy part. Try as we may, not everything comes electronically and we still needed to receive regular mail.

The internet is a wonderful thing for finding information. One website that I follow is www.theboatgalley.com. This site has become one of my Go-To sites when I need to know something about boating and everyday living. She had recommended a company that has been in business for over 25 years and caters to cruisers, RV’ers and people who work overseas. St. Brendan’s Isle is based out of Green Cove Springs, FL.   Their website is www.sbimailservice.com.

We have now been using it for 6 months and could not be happier. We did a change of address with the local post office and we completed their paperwork that gives us a street address and number. Our mail is received there and they first scan the envelope.   We get a notification via email that we have mail. You've Got MailWe are able to look at the envelope to determine if we would like the contents scanned or if they should shred it.

I read about their internal security measures and felt comfortable with their handling of privacy issues.   If I tell them to scan the contents they scan all of the paperwork and if it is a check they will scan the front and back. We have been able to print the check information and complete a mobile deposit transaction. Once we are finished with the scan we would send it to be shredded.

There are times when we need to have the mail forwarded to us i.e. new credit cards or boat documentation.   They will forward the mail to us at our next destination / marina.   I usually try to accumulate enough held mail to make the forwarding worthwhile.   We pay a monthly fee for the service and an additional fee for the forwarded mail.   It has worked perfectly each time!

St. Brendan’s also performs other services for boaters. They know how to help establish residency, obtain a driver’s license and ship internationally with customs issues. The other added bonus is that we have told them to pitch our junk mail so that we never get any!

“Some things are just a mystery to me, while others are much too clear.”   Jimmy Buffett

Traveling with our Dog on Board

Many people wonder what it is like to travel with a dog on board when full time cruising.  So, how is life going with Jazzy, our miniature schnauzer?   Transitioning from a house and yard is a big adjustment.  We were convinced that Jazzy would be able to adjust, but just how much?  We have taken him out on boating trips before so we knew he was comfortable with the boat, but could he really turn into a boat dog?

One thing we knew is that Jazzy is a dog that really doesn’t like the water, more specifically swimming. We had no worries that he would jump in the water to chase a bird or take a swim like a spaniel or lab.   He definitely prefers the boat when it is not underway.  Once the engines start he knows we are going.  He usually comes inside and sits on the couch out of the way.   When the ride is smooth he simply sleeps, just like at home during the day.  If the motion of the boat changes i.e. from the wake of another boat, he usually hugs against me.  That is not his favorite thing! Read more

What Is Your Comfort Zone?

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” is a quote by Neale Donald Walsch and was recently given to me by one of my friends as we started our Coastal Journey.   Most of us live each day in our “Comfort Zone”.   Steve and I were no different. We had a comfortable, but somewhat predictable life.   We changed things up with travel and friends, but for the most part we were “safe”. When we looked at our retirement, was being safe what we wanted – predictability, routine?  Life with a sameness.  That did not seem like either of us.  What we have seen that happens to people as they age is that there world becomes smaller and smaller and their comfort zone shrinks. Read more