dogs · Pets · Sailboats · Sailing · Travel · Uncategorized

Sailing with a Large Dog:

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When I first started dreaming about living aboard a sailboat, one of my largest concerns was how would Ava adjust to the small living space or even really being on a boat all together. While she loves the water and has been around it most of her life, she’d NEVER been aboard a boat. I wanted her to get used to the idea and also to start going over some of the ABSOLUTE rules. Let’s face it, Ava’s a big girl and one of my reoccurring nightmares was that she 1) knock me overboard, 2) that she fall overboard because it’s really hard to get back up on the boat for me. I can’t imagine trying to drag her 115 lbs. body from below. I started by taking her over to the marina with me when I’d go to clean. I always make her sit while I pull the boat closer to the dock. I also almost ALWAYS have her board before me. I’ve found that if she is onboard and steady on her feet I can ask her to move back and she happily jumps down into the cockpit.

The picture below shows her standing on the stern of the boat. This was her first favorite place. The cockpit of the boat isn’t all that large but from standing on the stern she can see me in the cockpit and the cabin. As I’ve mentioned before, Ava likes having me in her line of sight ALWAYS. She tends to get nervous if she can’t see me. On the first day, she was really nervous about how the boat would get near the pier and then float away. She couldn’t seem to understand that this didn’t mean to jump off the boat every time the pier was close enough to reach. Eventually she ignored the bumps of the pier and the rock of the boat. After a few days of learning how to wait till I pulled us to the pier, she really settled down.

Once I thought she was comfortable enough getting on and off, we started to explore the cabin and the bow of the boat. She wasn’t particularly fond of the cabin at first. While there is more room in the cabin than the cockpit, it’s a small narrow space. Well that was until she found she could lay on the cushioned seats! Now whenever I walk into the cabin she happily jumps down the companionway onto the seats. IMG_1457

She very cautiously made her way to the front of the bow yesterday. I don’t think she would try to go up there by herself just yet, but when she saw me climb the and sit at the pulpit she joined me. There is definitely more room there so she was able to walk around and stretch out.

There are definitely some disadvantages to having a large dog on a sailboat, but I think if you take the careful time planning it can be an enjoyable experience. Ava and I are mostly day cruisers, spending time just here locally on the Bay. She is not ready for anything longer than that right now. I would eventually like to be able to spend longer time at sea, but that will involve potty training her for the boat. Another issue for sailors who long distance sail with large dogs is that many marinas don’t allow large dogs. You always want to contact the marina you plan on docking at and checking their policy or you might get a surprise when you arrive. If your dog is too large for you to carry, you might want to work on training them to get into a smaller boat or dinghy. Many marinas will have you anchor out and have a service to pick you up. I’ve been extremely lucky that the marina where I dock is very pet friendly. There are grassy areas for her to “take care of business” before we leave and since we just sail for a few hours, that works for her. I’ve read some tips on potty training your dog for long distance sailing. I’m going to research that a little more and then I’ll let everyone know how it goes. For now Ava is learning to be a sailor and I’m happy to have my sweet girl join me on the water.

divorce · dogs · Pets · Sailboats · Sailing · Travel · Uncategorized

I Like Big Cups and I Cannot Lie: Southern Grind Coffee Shop at the Wharf

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I decided early this morning to get out of the house. I was in a bit of a funk yesterday and I knew if I didn’t SNAP OUT of it, I would remain that way for an indefinite amount of time. I’ve really been missing the friendship of my church family in Salem, NH (www.graniteunited.com For anyone in that area CHECK IT OUT) so I thought I’d visit a church I’d heard really awesome things about. Church, however, has become a painful experience for me lately. Ken and I were faithful and volunteered in several ministries. We served beside each other and I loved every second of playing the keyboard while he played bass guitar. Now, I’m usually brought to tears at worship songs that we played together and attending church nearly brings me to hysterics. So, I talked myself out of going, which made me feel even worse actually. My mom had seen the mood I was in and suggested that we head over to the Eastern Shore of Alabama to the Orange Beach or Gulf Shores area. The weather was beautiful and I thought well at least I’ll get my mind off my troubles. I’m so glad I went because we explored the Wharf, a shopping and dining stop, that offered everything from beach style bars to home furnishings. It’s also the home to my new favorite destination coffee shop, Southern Grind Coffee Shop. (www.thesoutherngrind.com)

Southern Grind is the CUTEST, ocean/beach themed coffee shop I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. The cool turquoise and sand color palette immediately created a very serene atmosphere. The shop is filled with sea inspired decor, candles and artwork created by the owners themselves. Not to mention, they are DOG FRIENDLY! The outdoor seating area is fittingly called the “Pooch Porch”. There are water bowls, treats, food dishes and if you are in need of anything, don’t hesitate to let the baristas know and they will take care of you and your four legged friend!

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I didn’t have the opportunity to dine in, but opted for a coffee that was spot on. The only downside of this little gem is that for me, it’s a little out of the way. However, you can bet that if I’m in the Orange Beach area I’ll be stopping by. Several of the dining venues offered pet friendly outdoor seating. The Wharf itself has a boat dock, an amphitheater for amazing concerts, mini-golf, and an arcade. It’s a great place to take the family for some fun!  If you’re looking for some “down-time”, they also had several spas to help you relax and get your beauty on. I was really impressed and will definitely make the Wharf at Orange Beach one of my weekend entertaining visits.

For more information on The Wharf at Orange Beach you can check out their website at http://www.alwharf.com

Thanks for a great cup of coffee and a delightful find Southern Grind! Can’t wait to see you again!

dogs · Pets · Sailboats · Sailing · Travel · Uncategorized

Introducing my newest project

Here she is, the Deja Vu! And that’s me with my happy “what have I gotten myself into” face. Tomorrow I’ll start cleaning the outside and seeing what needs to be done to repair all the teak. From the look of it, it’s just dried out and needs to be cleaned and oiled. The outside will need to be scrubbed and then I can begin the full remodel on the inside. I will have before and after pictures as well as some of my DIY attempts. Dang it, I really wish I’d paid more attention when my Granny tried to teach me to see. I have all kinds of ideas for cushions and the V-Berth bedroom. Till then it’s time to dream a little before the really hard work starts!

divorce · dogs · Pets · Travel · Uncategorized

Sunny Days and Summer Nights

So much has changed in my world in the last two months. yesterday it changed even more. I bought a boat. I purchased a much loved 32 ft. Allied Seafarer sailboat. She is beautiful! The Deja Vu is my new baby. I’m a little concerned that Ava will be a little big for enjoying her at sea but for now she’s enjoying watching me refinish this girl!

The boat really wasn’t in bad shape. She had been cared for by the same owner for over 25 years and age is the only reason he was sailing this beauty. Her lines are absolutely gorgeous. She needs a bath, all of the wood will need to be sanded down and stained, and the inside will need to have some minor remodel work, but in my opinion she is PERFECT. Ava enjoys laying on the deck and watching me as I wash and clean. I think she mostly just enjoys being outside. I’m interested to see how she will do if were were to get underway. I will definitely be looking into getting Ava a life jacket. I’ve heard ok things about the life line netting but she’s so large she could jump overboard if she cared too. Thankfully, she’s happy to lay here thumping her tail in joyful exuberance.

My disposition has become a little sunnier since purchasing the Deja Vu. I guess she gives me something to dream about and to keep me busy. Things between Ken and I have not changed. I only communicate with him via text messages and when I do it’s just him letting me know something else he feels I should be responsible for. I need to get back on the career track soon or no amount of work I put into my new baby will matter because I won’t be able to afford her! For now though, she makes me smile and dream, something I’ve not done in awhile. I never realized until just recently how I have operated under so much stress. I don’t even really know how to relax. Even when I’m laying out by the pool, soaking in the Vitamin C, my mind is racing and I have to tell myself to take deep breaths, listen to the ocean, SLOW DOWN! Not something I am accustomed to. I think it’s what pushes me though to keep moving. If I slow down, if there is no momentum I feels as if I’m wasting my life away. I need to learn that rest is not waste and I need it sometimes.

I hope to have some before and after pictures of the remodel of the Deja Vu. I found her name rather fitting. Here I am finding myself in the same place I always am. This time I’m going to do things differently. This time instead of trying to fill me life with people who love me I’m going to learn to love me, because quite honestly I don’t like the girl in the mirror most days. I’m too hard on her often for choices she was forced to make, not ones she really wanted to. I want to be able to make choices because they are right for me not out of the necessity of being something or someone everyone else needs. That’s rather frightening territory after 20 years of living for others.

Time to get back to work, sailor! Happy Hump Day!IMG_1308

divorce · dogs · Travel · Uncategorized

Wheels: Motion, Movement, Memories

I’ve not had many travel-ish things to blog about the last few days. Ava and I have mostly focused on settling in. We’re still pretty transient between my parents and my grandparents home. Ava enjoys the beach at my parents, so we’ve spent most of our time here. I like her choice. Our morning walks have been filled with gorgeous orange and blue sunrises, the rhythmic sound of the waves against the shore, and the songs of seagulls. All things which give me a great sense of peace.

Today’s blog prompt was the word “wheel”. This immediately brought to mind motion, movement and even memories. Wheels are always moving, turning, creating something whether it be the large wheels of a truck, the wheels moving water through mills and locks or the wheels that turn in my mind at night carrying me through thousands of memories. Sometimes I wish the wheel would stop spinning. I re-hash conversations and scenarios, live in the what-if’s. It’s not necessarily a pleasant situation. However, not all memories bring me pain. This morning, as Ava and I were on our first walk of the day, I took a deep breath and really opened my eyes to the beauty that surrounds me here. I’ve had a hard time with the slowing down bit for a long time now, but this morning there was a breeze that gently coaxed the Spanish Moss in the Oak trees to dance and sway. I stood for a moment watching the leaves shake and the sun filter through them. For a moment, I could have been transported to New Bern, North Carolina. Kenny and I spent many dates nights in New Bern. It was one of our favorite spots. It reminded me of home with it’s oak lined streets. Ava seemed to sense that I needed a minute. She tipped my hand with her nose, but didn’t make a sound. I love how she knows just when I need her.

There has been some positive motion today and I need to remind myself of the positives. I’m guilty of allowing the negatives to weigh me down. I made a connection here with an agricultural nonprofit similar to what I was doing in New Hampshire (look up Veterans Chapel Farm on WordPress). I hope to maybe spend a little time volunteering with them. I took a certification for a position with the City of Mobile and I applied for more jobs than I can count. I did 8 miles on the bike at the gym and lifted weights. You know what, I actually accomplished some things I can be proud of. Not to mention I didn’t eat like crap although I’m convinced the south has the best food in the country!

I’ve often wondered how even after thunderstorms the moss still manages to hang in the trees. I mean it should be blown out of those grand oaks and tumbled to the ground. Somehow it clings on and that’s where I am right now. I’m clinging to things that are solid and strong like those oaks; my family, my friends, and most importantly my faith. So while the wheels in my life are currently taking me down a very unfamiliar, rough road, I am going to keep my determination to allow God to make something beautiful of this journey.IMG_1305

dogs · Pets · Travel

Market in the Park at Cathedral Square

 

Finally the sun has decided to grace us with it’s presence so I woke up on a mission to check out the Market in the Park at Cathedral Square. I had “liked” their Facebook page previously but wanted to see if what offerings they had and even more importantly is it dog friendly. I was pleasantly surprised! The Market is located in the Midtown area of Mobile, a neighborhood that is really reinventing itself. It has quaint little southern cottages and shotgun homes on oak lined streets. There were several restaurants and cafes with outdoor seating mixed in with art galleries and even museums.

The Market itself offers pretty much everything you want from a local farmers market. Vendors showcased their produce as well as several vintage/reclaimed artisans. I was especially impressed with the urban gardening movement. DK Farms project, Panagia Farms an urban microfarm DEFINITELY caught my attention. Their micro greens being grown right in the Mid-town area were AMAZING and super fresh. Shoppers are serenaded by live music as the peruse through art vendors and farmers alike. The Market also offers an engaging kid’s area with tables set up for crafts, bubbles, and other fun activities. Even nicer is the fact that it is VERY dog friendly! Your pet will need to be leashed, but it’s a great place that I will be taking Ava to on a regular basis. They offered water bowls, clean up bags, and some vendors even had a few treats!

Mobile, Alabama is really a hidden treasure as far as I’m concerned. It is picturesque with it’s spanish moss filled trees, boulevard with charming homes, and some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. The Mid-town area has changed from the run down neighborhood that I remember from my childhood to a thriving modern artistic community. There’s entertainment, restaurants and cultural activities within walking distance. Industry and Educational Institutions are drawing some of the brightest minds from around the country and world. Plus who can beat having the Gulf of Mexico as your playground! Mobile has so much to offer and I can’t wait to see this gem really shine.

Ava and I will be enjoying the Market in the Park at Cathedral Square on Saturdays! Hope to see you there! Support Local Farms & Local Business!!

dogs · Pets · Travel · Uncategorized

Phase Two of our Move

Ava and I survived Phase One of our cross country move. The 24 hours of driving really went much better than I anticipated. Ava does great riding in the truck. I had to remind myself to stop and let her out because she for the most part slept and never asked! The Kurgo harness was EXACTLY what I needed for her and I am really pleased with how easy it was to use. I felt very confident that she was secure and the fact that she could move around even being buckled in helped her as well.

We stayed with my parents for a few nights when we first arrived. The apartment complex they live in is very pet friendly. There are walking trails and beach access. Ava LOVES the beach. She loves all the new smells. We’ve enjoyed walking the beach as well as just hanging out on the pier. It’s been really amazing to have some downtime after the move and just the mess of the last few months. Ava has definitely been a source of comfort to me. At first my parents were a little apprehensive of having such a large dog and I get it! Ava can be a little intimidating, mostly because of her size. Don’t tell them, but I think my mom and dad might have actually fallen for her a little bit. Who couldn’t with those eyes?!? My Dad keeps saying she thinks she’s a person and he’s exactly right! She does!

Early Monday morning we started out on Phase Two of our summer adventures. It was time to see Brandon, my 18 yr old son, off to college and a missions trip to Jamaica. Brandon is attending Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. Needless to say, I’m ridiculously excited for him and this new chapter in his life. We loaded the truck up again and headed out. I had already booked a hotel room in Baytown, about an hour west of Beaumont as we had plans to visit friends and family in the area. I used http://www.BringFido.com again for my booking. We were booked for a Motel 6 for Monday night with no issues. However, after we arrived in Beaumont we decided not to continue on to Baytown. I called the Motel 6 in Baytown to cancel my reservation and was met with an extremely rude receptionist. She stated she couldn’t cancel my reservation since I had used a 3rd party for booking. I called BringFido.com and spoke to Dan Tice, one of their customer service agents. WOW! I cannot tell you how amazing Dan was! He cancelled my reservation, booked a new reservation in Beaumont, called ahead to see if we could check in early, then emailed and CALLED me to ensure that I had no issues with the reservation. That same afternoon I received an email from the President of BringFido.com welcoming me to the company and thanking me for my business. I will definitely be using http://www.BringFido.com again! They made my trip go from slightly stressful to easy peasy! You should check them out for all of your pet’s needs and as far as I’m concerned, they are an absolutely must for travel!

Ava and I arrived back in Mobile mid afternoon Tuesday just as Tropical Storm Cindy decided to make her appearance as well. It’s been a soggy two days and Ava is enjoying sleeping. I think all the travel has taken a good bit out of us as I slept in late today too. I’m going to spend the rest of this week trying to decide where to go from here. I’ve not had what I would consider a “normal” full time job in 6 years. Being Ken’s caregiver afforded me the ability to have a stay at home paying job. I’m a little concerned with how Ava will adjust to me being out of the house for most of the day. I hope to be able to find something that will allow me to rent my own apartment and then I’ll consider a dog walker for her at least once during the day. My dad’s right I do think of Ava like a child! Most days I feel like she is all I have left of my family. The kids are no longer living at home, I haven’t heard from Kenny in weeks, and for the first time in my life I am living on my own. That thought is sad, frightening and exciting all in one breath. Ava is acutely aware that my emotions are all over the place. This morning I was having a silent cryfest and she laid her head in my lap as if to say it’s ok Mama I’m here for you. I love her for that.

Life is moving on, whether I like it or not. I just have to adjust my sails and go with the wind instead of against it. Every time I’m down or I become hard on myself I take a moment to think of what I’ve lived through. It’s going to be ok, maybe not right now in this moment, but it will one day. In the meanwhile, I’ll be planning my next adventure with Ava! Sailboat life or RV life? Which shall it be? IMG_1225