Aboard Astraea

Invest in experiences, not things

August 24, 2015
by Nate

Madison South

On our way out of Madison County, VA we decided to take it easy and spend the night at  a KOA campground on our way to Norfolk, VA to visit family. It was our first stop at a KOA. We hung out, walked around the campsite and Sully found a cool new toy in their gift shop, a toy RV. Now he’s got a cool camper to play with. It’s cute that he has a tiny plastic farmer from another toy set so now this is the farmer’s RV.

We took time to swing and play at the KOA

We took time to swing and play at the KOA

We also walked the trail around and through the campground. Sully found a toy RV at the KOA store so he used some of his birthday money on it as a present.

We also walked the trail around and through the campground. Sully found a toy RV at the KOA store so he used some of his birthday money on it as a present.

Natalie liked rearranging the furniture inside with Sully

Natalie liked rearranging the furniture inside with Sully

On our trip we decided to check out some cheap areas to camp. Camping is only $4 a night at Virginia Wildlife Management Areas (WMA). We pulled off the paved road and found one near the North Carolina Border. It was a hot afternoon stop, but we were surprised to find that the WMA wasn’t just woodland, but an old farm planted with tons of beautiful sunflowers. We decided not to spend the night because it was HOT and we don’t a generator to run the air conditioner.

We stopped at a Virginia Wildlife Management Area (WMA) where the state grew sunflowers on public land for hunting crop cover.

We stopped at a Virginia Wildlife Management Area (WMA) where the state grew sunflowers on public land for hunting crop cover.

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It was a beautiful clear day, but hot and humid

It was a beautiful clear day, but hot and humid

Our trip took us to Big Bend Park and Campground. We wanted to take some time to hang out, go swimming and hiking before Norfolk. The campground is situated right on John H. Kerr resevoir in southern Virginia. We spent two nights camping out, roasting marshmallows on the fire at night and swimming in the lake during the day. The lake was full of freshwater clams and we collected a bunch for Sully to play with.

Every day we make coffee before breakfast in the camper to get our day started. Natalie got some decorations and we're trying to make the camper feel like home.

Every day we make coffee before breakfast in the camper to get our day started. Natalie got some decorations and we’re trying to make the camper feel like home.

On July 17 we arrived at Uncle Tim, Aunt Martha and Tyler’s house in Norfolk. It was great to be back in Norfolk, but it was super hot. We spent about a week there helping with house projects and hanging out. We got lucky and got to go out to the eastern shore of Virginia to a little town called Oyster and ride out through the marsh to tour the outlying islands and collect sea shells. It was great to get out that way on the water because we don’t think our sailing adventure Aboard Astraea will take us all the way to the East Coast of the US.

While we were in Nofolk we planned to meet up with Carolie and her daughter Bess at the JCC swimming pool. It was great to reconnect with an old friend from Japan and Sully got even more comfortable in the water. He and Bess jumped from the edge of the pool and swam all morning.

After seeing Bess jump in the pool Sully had to practice too

After seeing Bess jump in the pool Sully had to practice too

We unexpectedly ran in to another old friend from Japan, Ruth. She was an officer on my first ship, the USS Juneau. While Sully was playing at the park we recognized each other and started talking. It was cool because now she has two boys about Sully’s age and a newborn daughter. She invited us to walk to the zoo with her and the boys since they have a season pass. The kids had fun listening to story time at the zoo and got to pet a snake.

After a week in Norfolk it was time for  us to head farther south to visit with Natalie’s family in Georgia.

August 20, 2015
by Nate

Cost to Cruise Mexico for Six Months

Over the course of 6 months, from November 19 to May 9 our cost to cruise was $11,974.30. How much anyone else wants to spend is up to their tastes. We spent most of our time anchored out except when we had visitors Aboard Astraea. When that happened we pulled into a marina to make it easier for them. If you’re interested in more information about the cost to cruise Mexico, our friends on Terrapin post their cost to cruise each month.

Our bank has great online graphs that I used to visually show how much we spent on various categories.

Overall finances for 6 months cruising in Mexico.

Overall finances for 6 months cruising in Mexico.

The above graph showed Others. Here's the big breakdown.

The above graph shows “Others” from the first graph.

This is the Entertainment breakdown from the first graph. Anything Boat related went here.

This is the “Entertainment” breakdown from the first graph. Anything boat related went here along with our kindle purchases.

ATM/Cash Withdrawals

Most of our expenses were covered under $4,244.46 in ATM withdrawals. We paid for all the boat parts in Mexico with cash except new batteries that cost about $550.00. We did most of our provisioning and paid cash at local grocery stores and neighborhood markets.

Other things we spent money on but weren’t really cruising related are listed under Travel. That’s our Tufesa bus tickets and American Airlines tickets. Before we got off the boat we ordered a new solar panel kit from Defender Marine (about $900.00).

It all the major towns and cities ATMs were easy to find . The exchange rate when we were in Mexico was around 15 Pesos to the US Dollar.

Credit Cards

Most of the info on the graphs came from the merchant’s category and was automatically sorted by our bank. We used our credit card in Mexico at reputable stores like Wal-Mart, the grocery store Chedraui, and the marinas without any trouble. By using our credit card at those stores it kept us from walking around with lots of cash.

Our tips for provisioning while cruising Mexico are to buy things at the local stores little by little instead of making big runs to the grocery store. It’s harder to transport and store all that food when it arrives at the boat. It’s also more stressful to take a big trip, arrange transportation and stow everything. We’re cruising, so we take it easy!

Insurance

We carry Mexican liability insurance on our boat through Rowcliffe’s Insurance. Our liability policy cost $286.90 and was good through all of Mexico. Most US based policies are only valid through Ensenada. Mexican liability insurance is required through a Mexican company with the policy in English and Spanish. When we were stopped by the Mexican Navy they wanted to see our liability insurance and each marina we visited also needed a copy for us to stay.

Heathcare

Healthcare in Mexico is professional and surprisingly affordable. We did pay a 500 peso gringo tax (cash only) on top of our 150 peso bill in Ensenada when we got Sully’s head wound checked out before our passage to Turtle Bay. We paid about $45 for peace of mind knowing Sully was seen by a pro.

Eating out

We ate out many nights in La Cruz with friends. It was easy to get off the boat at about 6pm and make our way into town, meet up with friends, grab a few beers from a neighborhood store and then eat street tacos. All the street taco shops we ate at didn’t serve alcohol but allow you to BYOB.

Telecommunications

We got a Mexican sim card for our phone in Cabo San Lucas so we could call home using Skype. A 4 GB data package cost about $30 a month. We used it mainly for updating the blog, emailing, Facebook and calling home. With the Skype app on our phone we could use all our American cellphone contacts and call easily. If we really wanted, we could have gotten a Skype US phone number so friends and family could still call us.

We also use a Delorme InReach for text messaging and the Where is Astraea portion of our blog. It’s a great investment so we can communicate with friends and family from anywhere in the world. The service costs us $50.00 a month.

July 26, 2015
by Nate

Pittsburgh, PA to Madison, VA

After Dutch Wonderland we took a trip west with my sister to Pittsburgh. Our first stop was to visit with our friends Adam and Lindsay. It’s a tight squeeze to get 4 adults and a little kid in our micro RV but we made it because we’re all good friends.

Yum! Sweet FROG Frozen Yogurt

Yum! Sweet FROG Frozen Yogurt (Picture by Lindsay)

Hanging out in the camper with Lindsay and Adam

Hanging out in the camper with Lindsay and Adam

We toured around the city with Lizze. We rode a Gateway Clipper for an hour tour of Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers (Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio).

Underway on the boat

Underway on the boat

This big building is One PPG Place

This big building is One PPG Place

The point

The point

Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh

Sully fell asleep on the clipper boat ride

Sully fell asleep on the clipper boat ride

The view of Point State Park and downtown

The view of Point State Park and downtown

Walking through Pittsburgh

Walking through Pittsburgh

We also helped Lizze pack up some stuff to take back home to our parent’s house to store while she downsizes into a Washington DC apartment for her new job.

After Pittsburgh, we drove back east and visited with my family at their cabin near Cowans Gap State Park. We rumbled the camper down the narrow dirt road that leads to the cabin and had just enough space to turn around and park at a good level spot. We had a campfire, the kids splashed down in the creek like my sister, cousins and I did when we were younger. Luckily the weather was really nice and we didn’t need to plug in for air conditioning.

Sully and Olivia playing in the creek. Olivia loves the creek and got Sully to get his feet wet.

Sully and Olivia playing in the creek. Olivia loves the creek and got Sully to get his feet wet.

Hanging in the creek behind the cabin at Cowans Gap State Park

Hanging in the creek behind the cabin at Cowans Gap State Park with my cousin, Amy and her daughters

After the cabin we stopped back in Loganville for a few days.

Playing with Legos in the camper

Playing with Legos in the camper

With Lizze outside Mom and Dad's

With Lizze outside Mom and Dad’s

On a walk at Nixon Park

On a walk at Nixon Park in Jacobus, PA

Looking at minnows at Nixon Park in Jacobus, PA

Looking at minnows at Nixon Park in Jacobus, PA

Don't talk to me until I've had my coffee!

Don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee!

Cheers! Coffee in the morning

Cheers! Coffee in the morning

Checking out Grandma Ness's yard sale chairs

Checking out Grandma Ness’s yard sale chairs

Movie time in the basement with Nana

Movie time in the basement with Nana

Our next stop was Madison County, Virginia to visit with Uncle Derald and Aunt Tammy. We arrived on Friday night and enjoyed catching up and talking about our trip and new RV. They have a 5th wheel trailer for traveling and a toy hauler camper that has a horse area in the back.

I wanted to change the oil in the RV while we were there, so I backed Astraea Mobile down the driveway to get down to the lower driveway where the jack and oil changing tools were. While backing up, I crunched our ladder in to an overhanging tree and smashed the ladder. Ouch. Derald helped me pull the ladder off and seal everything up with silicon sealant. I got the oil changed and the filter replaced.

No more ladder on the back of the camper

No more ladder on the back of the camper

The damage to the little tree

The damage to the little tree

Tammy and Derald live out in farm country Virginia and that weekend was the Madison County Tractor Pull. What better way to spend a wild Saturday night than at the local school watching a bunch of tricked out tractors and trucks try and pull a heavily loaded sled. The country folk, fried food, and smell of diesel smoke made for a great evening. I felt a bit out of place in my board shorts and flip flops, but had a great time.

Revving up and getting ready to go

Revving up and getting ready to go

At the Madison tractor pull with Tammy and Derald

At the Madison tractor pull with Tammy and Derald

A big tractor at the start of it's pull

A big tractor at the start of it’s pull

A big tractor at the end of it's pull

A big tractor at the end of it’s pull

The next day we went to church in the morning and went swimming in the afternoon.

Swimming at Tammy and Derald's

Swimming at Tammy and Derald’s

Swimming!

Swimming!

Sully had fund hanging out in the pool

Sully had fund hanging out in the pool at Tammy and Derald’s

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July 11, 2015
by Nate

A Dutch Wonderful Day

My sister, Lizze, wanted to get Sully a special treat for his 3rd birthday so she took us all out to Dutch Wonderland! It was Natalie’s first trip, but Lizze, Mom and I had fun reminiscing about our times at Dutch Wonderland as kids – milking the cow with an udder full of water and riding the roller coaster, log flume, and the crazy upside down spinning house. Sully was just over 3 feet tall and got to ride some rides by himself. He had to be accompanied on others which was great because we each got to take turns riding different rides with him. Our most memorable ride was on the Log Flume where we all rode down the flume together and got a big splash at the end!

The log flume! The sign said you don't get wet but at the bottom of the big hill we got a little splash!

The log flume! The sign said you don’t get wet but at the bottom of the big hill we got a little splash! Sully didn’t know what to expect on the big hill, but at the end exclaimed, “That was FUN!”

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The whole family visiting with Percy

July 11, 2015
by Nate

Day out with Thomas and Tractors

To celebrate Sully’s birthday we asked family to give Sully a gift of a fun day out together instead of toys. My parents wanted to take Sully to Strasburg Railroad in Lancaster, PA. We got lucky because when we were visiting in addition to their old steam locomotive, Thomas the Tank Engine was in town with his friend Percy as part of Day out with Thomas!

The whole family visiting with Percy

The whole family visiting with Percy

We rode Thomas for about 20 minutes

We rode Thomas for about 20 minutes. Anything much longer would have put the kiddo to sleep or he’d have gotten restless.

An Amish man was out working his field while we rode the short train ride

An Amish man was out working his field while we rode the short train ride

The conductor came by and let Sully listen to his pocketwatch

The conductor came by and let Sully listen to his pocketwatch

Nana and Sully riding together

Nana and Sully riding together

After riding the train and meeting Sir Topham Hat Sully played with toy trains

After riding the train and meeting Sir Topham Hat, Sully played with toy trains and other kids

Riding a toddler sized toy Thomas

Riding a toddler sized toy Thomas

While we were in Loganville I helped out with family projects -cutting the grass, pulling an old plow off the tractor, mulching Grandma Ness’s garden and painting the tractor shed roof. There was time for fun though, I asked Grandma if I could fire up Grandpa Ness’s old Farmall A tractor from 1942, she said I could. The battery was dead, but it started on the first hand crank!

Tractor sitting in the front yard

Tractor sitting in the front yard

It's hard not to smile while sitting on a 1942 Farmall A tractor

It’s hard not to smile while sitting on a 1942 Farmall A tractor

Mom, Sully and I took the tractor for a ride around the yard and down the street.

Mom, Sully and I took the tractor for a ride around the yard and down the street.

Posing with Sully driving and Grandma Ness in her driveway

With Grandma Ness in her driveway

Playing trains with Natalie at Nana and Pappy's house

Playing trains with Natalie at Nana and Pappy’s house

There was also time to fire up an old hit or miss engine.

Over two dozen cream puff shells cooling

July 5, 2015
by Nate

Bunny Ears, Cream Puffs, and Birthday Cake in Loganville

Our next part of the journey brought us back to my parent’s house in Loganville, PA. Sully got a late Easter present from my mom, a chocolate bunny with huge ears.

Sully started eating his Easter bunny from Nana by biting in to the huge ears

Sully started eating his Easter bunny from Nana by biting into the huge ears

We spent June 19 at my Grandma, Beulah Ness’s, house making Cream Puffs for the Loganville Volunteer Firefighters at Station 63. Her cream puffs are famous in Loganville. When she makes them in November for Christmas in Loganville she gets hundreds of preorders and extras are for sale at our church, Emanuel UMC. The cream puffs aren’t really filled with a whipped creamy topping like the name implies. They’re filled with a dense delicious egg custard in a large puffy shell. We spent the day in Grandma’s kitchen baking shells, cutting holes for the filling and mixing up custard. The next day Grandma was up early to fill the shells with custard and I delivered the tasty treats to the fire hall. Some of the guys were already out working the BBQ and grabbed their cream puffs before they made it in the fire hall. They’re a hot commodity in Loganville!

Measuring flour to make the cream puff shells

Measuring flour to make the cream puff shells

Over two dozen cream puff shells cooling

Over two dozen cream puff shells cooling

Natalie mixing up the custard

Natalie mixing up the custard

Sully taste testing the final product. Delicious!

Sully taste testing the final product. Delicious!

Getting some time behind the wheel with Nana out on Park Street

Getting some time behind the wheel with Nana out on Park Street

We celebrated Sully's birthday again, but this time with ice cream cake.

We celebrated Sully’s birthday again, but this time with ice cream cake.

Starboard side with an electric awning

June 26, 2015
by Nate

Astraea: Mobile

We started thinking it would be cool to travel in an RV or camper when we were bouncing down the coast of Baja. It sure would have been simpler to pull over somewhere and stop for the night instead of staying up on rotating watch shifts to keep Astraea sailing to our next port. Well, when we were in Florida, we had the time and a great internet connection for surfing the web. I found a cool looking tiny Toyota Winnebago RV on ebay in my hometown of York, PA. The bidding went higher than we were willing to pay on an unseen RV, so we searched more locally.

Coincidentally there was an RV show and sale in Tampa the weekend after and we looked at all the shiny new campers and motorhomes to get a feel for what new amenities were offered. After the show we searched Craigslist for local motorhomes for sale. Our ideal RV is small and economical. What really caught our eye was something built on a fuel efficient Toyota chassis that gets a few more miles per gallon than the larger motorhomes.

We found a 1989 Winnebago Warrior built on a Toyota truck chassis in Indian Rocks Beach, about 45 minutes from where we were staying at Natalie’s Mom’s in Tampa. We made a multipurpose trip out to go the beach and check out the RV. We checked it out and all the appliances worked, and it was clean and well cared for. We took it for a test drive and it drove well, too. When we went to negotiate and reached an agreeable price, I went back down to get some cash as a down payment and park the RV where we found it. When I went to start the camper it idled very rough and kept stalling out. Natalie got the camper parked where we found it and I told the seller we’d have to think about it, and that I wanted the RV engine checked out by a professional. We were really bummed after everything else went so well.

Luckily,  the owner took the camper to a local mechanic who checked out the engine and found some problems with the air intake and performed a compression check on the engine. The compression was good on all cylinders, around 120 psi. After hearing that the engine was OK we decided to make another trip to the beach to check it out again with the intent to buy the camper.

Say Hello to Astraea Mobile!

View from the front

View from the front

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The whole Ferring clan

June 17, 2015
by Nate

Arizona to Maryland and a Wedding in South Carolina

We enjoyed spreading out at Natalie’s Dad’s house in Cornville, Arizona. It was nice to sleep in a king sized bed and have a nice long shower to wash away our long bus ride. We took time to visit the nearby community park in Cottonwood and go to the neighborhood pool.

Sully had fun splashing in the shallow end of the pool, sticking his feet in the hot tub and playing squirt gun to water the plants.

Sully had fun splashing in the shallow end of the pool, sticking his feet in the hot tub and playing squirt gun to water the plants.

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The rows of boats and goats... err sheep

June 8, 2015
by Nate

Hauling out in Guaymas

San Carlos was fun, but now it was time to get to work. On Saturday, May 2, we hauled the anchor up one last time and motorsailed to Guaymas.

Rounding the point on our way in to Guaymas

Rounding the point on our way in to Guaymas

We made slower progress to the marina in Guaymas than I anticipated and arrived 15 minutes before their scheduled closing time. Even though I spoke to someone in the office the day before who assured me they would be open until “Tres por la tarde” (3 in the afternoon), the door was shut and locked. We weren’t able to check in or get keys, but that wasn’t a big deal because the gate didn’t work. Or the lights in the bathrooms. Or the power to our slip at the dock. Or the grody swimming pool filter. On Friday the lady in the office also told us that they were closed Sundays.

To my surprise someone was in the office on Sunday (you just never know in Mexico). We checked in and paid 250 pesos for a non working gate key card. The only good part about the marina was it’s price. Dirt cheap, pay in Pesos, dirt cheap. Each day was under $20 for our 41′ boat.

We spent our time there getting Astraea ready to go over to the boatyard. There was lots of cleaning and scrubbing, but also a little hanging out with friends. Prism came in to the dock with us and we spent quality time drinking homemade hibiscus flower tea brew, box wine and ginger beer and eating tacos together.

Lots of other sites describe what to do to store your boat on the hard in Mexico, so I’m not going to get in to the nitty gritty, but wanted to share some of our specifics.

The nitty gritty lists. Some of the highlights include emptying the holding tank, eating all our perishable food and storing food in buckets

The nitty gritty lists. Some of the highlights include emptying the holding tank, eating all our perishable food and storing food in buckets

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