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From Dave:

You mentioned that you've left Little Gidding in dry storage in Florida for extended periods. Can you tell me where you leave her? What is the expense? How secure is she from hurricanes? We are leaving from Texas to go cruising and would like to be able to return home periodically without having to make the trip back across the Gulf.

Hi Dave,

Last summer and the summer before we stored our boat at the Indiantown Marina (phone 772-597-2455, e-mail IndiantownMarina@juno.com). It's on the Okeechobee Waterway about 10 miles east of Lk Okeechobee. It's a popular place for long term storage because: it's located inland and therefore not affected by storm surge; do-yourself-work is permitted on vessels in its working yard (this is becoming a rarity in Florida); and its rates are reasonable, by Florida standards. There are two other boat storage facilities in Florida with which we are familiar that meet these same criteria: Green Cove Springs Marina on the St. Johns River south of Jacksonville (phone 904-284-1811, e-mail gcsm00@yahoo.com); and Glades Boat Storage on the Okeechobee Waterway about 10 miles west of Lake Okeechobee (863-983-3040). All three are in demand and sometimes have waiting lists to get in.

In terms of access for the marinas on the Okeechobee Waterway, the controlling height on the waterway is the 49' raised railway bridge at Port Mayaca. A mast as high as 55' can pass through if the boat is heeled over by the weight of water-filled barrels, a service provided by a fellow named Billy who operates out of the Indiantown Marina. Taller-rigged sailboats can only reach Glades from the west or Indiantown from the east unless their masts are unstepped.

You had best contact the boat yard directly for its rates. We believe they have gone up since we were there last year. In addition to paying for the haul and launch and for dry storage, you will be charged for blocking, jack stand rental, moving the boat into the working yard (if you want to do any work on it), and reblocking. There's a surcharge for being in the working yard. It all adds up.

Is it secure from hurricanes? Well, everything is relative. To put things in context, Florida is by far the most hurricane prone state in the Union; over one-third of all hurricanes that have made a North American landfall in the past century have targeted the sunshine state. Having said that, Indiantown was blessed until recently and had a record of virtually no storm damage to its boats. Then it had two direct hits by hurricanes in 2004 and a big wallop by Wilma last year (the two years that, coincidentally, Little Gidding happened to be stored there). Twenty-two boats were knocked down in 2004 and 33 in 2005. The total number of boats stored there last year was 525, so if you're a betting man, the odds might not look all that bad -- only 6% of the boats were affected. We'll leave that up to you (and your insurance company) to decide.

Hope this helps. Please contact us again if you need any more information or have additional questions.


From William:

How do you handle money while cruising? Do you carry much cash? Rely on credit cards? Access money from accounts (I assume you have money in a bank somewhere)? Do you have any bills that need to be paid while you are away?

Hi William,

We started out carrying a lot of cash and traveller's cheques with us on the boat; that was before automated banking machines were common. Now -- at least in the Bahamas and Caribbean -- bank machines are pretty plentiful in most places. You sometimes pay a hefty service fee, but they give you good hard cash. Alternatively, you can get credit card cash advances from real live people in most bank offices, again for a fee. Credit cards are accepted in larger establishments in tourist settings, but a lot of smaller out-of-the-way businesses won't take them. Sometimes you'll be charged more for a good or service if you use plastic (say, a 10% surcharge). We still keep a modest cache of US currency on board to use when we're between bank machines, but in those places where there aren't any bank machines and where credit cards aren't accepted, we generally find there aren't a lot of opportunities to spend money. You can only buy so many margaritas.

Before we left the real world, we gave our financial adviser (aka stockbroker) authority to access our bank accounts and pay our bills. Our credit card statements go directly to him. He does this service for free. In recent years, Internet access has improved, even in fairly remote locations, and we now pay most of our bills online, saving our financial adviser the bother. If you haven't done so already, you might want to set up all your accounts so you can manage them online. It still wouldn't hurt to give your account information to someone you trust at home so they can make money transfers and bill payments for you in the event that you can't find a cyber cafe.


From William:

Could you tell me what your battery set up is and how you keep them charged?

Hi William,
Our house battery comprises two 6-volt lead-acid Surrette batteries (made in Canada and marketed in the US under the name of Rolls) connected in series, delivering 410 amp/hours. They're fitted with "Hydro-Caps", which greatly reduce the amount of liquid that's lost during charging. We have a separate 12 volt lead-acid starter battery.

Most of our charging is provided by our wind powered generator and solar panels. The wind powered generator is a Fourwinds II made by Everfair, which puts out a lot of amps if the wind is blowing strong. That's an important "if". By definition, a good anchorage is one that is sheltered from the wind, which means that a lot of the time the generator isn't generating much when we're anchored. That's when the solar panels come into their own. We have a total of eight lightweight Solarex panels mounted on our canvas dodger and bimini, arrayed in 3 separate banks (isolated by diodes), and totaling 204 watts. It would have been more cost effective if we had installed fewer, larger panels, but they would have required a rigid structure for support. A Link 10 meter monitors the state of the batteries, letting us know how much current is going in or out at any given time.

The combination of wind and solar power works well in the islands and we are generally self-sufficient in terms of energy for weeks on end. When it's cloudy and calm for an extended period of time, we have to resort to running the auxiliary diesel engine to charge the batteries. For this purpose, we have a high output alternator (130 amps) and an external 3-stage "smart" regulator to enhance charging efficiency.

We should add that we have fairly modest power requirements compared to many cruising boats. Our small freezer/refrigerator is the biggest power draw, followed by our laptop computers. The HF radio sucks a lot of juice when it's transmitting, but not when it's receiving. Boats equipped with watermakers, microwave ovens, large freezers, washers/dryers, radar, and other energy hungry devices would probably need bigger batteries and more charging capability.


From David:

I am looking for information about raising liveaboard children. Would you have an idea of where I may be able to start my search? Any information you may provide would be helpful.

Hi David,

It's has some useful links and is good for connecting with other families. Check out the "Parents' Corner" for tips from other parents

A number of families belong to the Seven Seas Cruising Association (www.ssca.org). Its monthly Bulletin sometimes contains articles written by parents about living aboard with children; this is also a topic which regularly comes up at SSCA gatherings. It's a good organization to join for information sharing and camaraderie.

There have been several books published by parents who have gone cruising with children. Two books that contain some practical advice are Cruising For Cowards by Liza & Andy Copeland (see www.aboutcruising.com) and All In The Same Boat Family Living Aboard by Tom Neale (available at www.bluewaterweb.com among other places).

Please feel free to contact us if you have any more questions. Good luck!


From Angie:

Hi, we have been enjoying your site. Thanks for all the great information! I would love to hear more about any tips you may have for storage and provisioning. My husband and I and our nine month old baby are moving aboard our Alberg 30 in Toronto next week. We sold our house and are going to try the liveaboard lifestyle for a bit.

Hi Angie,

We're glad you've been enjoying our log. Welcome to the world of liveaboards!

No matter how big your boat is, you'll probably never seem to have enough storage space. We don't have any magic tips on where to put all the stuff -- we just cram things into every empty space we can find. It's a good idea to keep a list of where you put everything so it doesn't become irretrievably lost. It takes away from the festive spirit when the candy canes you stowed away in December don't surface until June.

The best way to deal with limited storage space is to try to eliminate unnecessary items. We have a general rule that before something new comes on board, something of comparable size has to leave. Every time we do major provisioning, we go through the lockers and get rid of things we haven't used since the last time we checked. Admittedly, it's a losing battle.

If possible, store the heavy items lower down for stability reasons. String hammocks are good for storing fresh fruit and vegetables; we've got two hanging in the main saloon. We use a lot of plastic zipper freezer bags to keep things dry; rigid plastic containers with tight fitting lids (e.g., tupperware) are good for limiting the spread of weevils and other unwanted guests. Remove extra packaging (like the cardboard boxes dry cereal and cake mixes come in) before bringing things on board. When provisioning for an extended trip, concentrate on high value or hard-to-find items. Staples like flour, pasta, rice, cooking oil, etc are available just about anywhere and are relatively cheap, so don't try to leave with a year's supply on board.

One of the better books we've come across on this topic is Sail Away! A guide to outfitting & provisioning for cruising by Paul & Sheryl Shard. It's available in Toronto at The Nautical Mind bookstore (www.nauticalmind.com).

We hope this helps. Good luck!


From Rick:

I am a single hander with a 40 foot ketch. I am refitting her for a 2007 Baja-Ha-Ha jumpstart to the cruising life. In your logs you occasionally mention single handers, but I would like to know more about how these folks are doing out there. Are there any particular difficulties I need to prepare for? I've heard from other cruisers that single handers are thought of as "odd". What are your experiences with this group of cruisers?

Hi Rick,

We know a lot of single handing sailors and overall they're probably no more or less odd than the rest of us out here. Most of them are male, but we've also met a few female solo sailors (who tend to attract their male counterparts like magnets). We've found that single handers generally fall into two camps: those who are single due to circumstances; and those who are single by choice. The first category is more fluid; in the last couple of years, two of our single cruising friends have gotten married to women they met sailing.

The confirmed single handers who comprise the second category don't appear to be socially isolated. On the contrary, it often seems that other cruisers seek them out because they fear they might be lonely. Our good friend Ted on "Take It Easy", a Dufour 27 he's sailed on his own from California to the Caribbean twice, claims he almost never has to cook his own dinner because he's always being invited to dine on other boats.

Another friend Dave on "Coriolis III", a 27 foot Westerly Pembroke, told us, "People often ask me if I don't get lonely living alone. I tell them when you're sailing you've got enough to do ... But when you get to port, I've found people approach you because they realize you're by yourself. They'll talk to you and you'll meet people, lots of interesting people. If I have someone with me on the boat -- which occasionally happens, friends come along -- I always notice when they leave that I really didn't meet anybody else. Sailing alone is not boring and it's not lonely."

Depending on how you've set your boat up and where you're planning to cruise, your biggest challenge might be the practical aspects of managing a fairly large vessel by yourself. Sailing the west coast of the Baja is going to involve some overnight passages. If you feel uncomfortable keeping 24 hour watches, you might consider inviting crew along for some of the longer legs. Our friend Betty has managed to move "Parrothead", a CT 47, all around the Caribbean by taking on crew at various points. Latitude 38, one of the sponsors of the Baja Ha-Ha, provides a crewing service, as do a number of other print and online publications. You might also consider joining the Seven Seas Cruising Association (www.ssca.org), which offers a free crew exchange and lots of camaraderie.

We hope this helps. We look forward to seeing you out here one day!


From Jack:

I’m a “prairie boy”. My wife Jackie was recently in Guatemala going to a Spanish language school and spent a weekend on the Rio Dulce on the sailboat of two of her classmates. I'm thoroughly surprised that she's fully embraced the idea of full time cruising.

One thing her sailing hosts said to look into was finding a sailboat owner who would be looking for crew to help sail a boat from point A to B, probably overnight. Jackie’s interpretation of this is that one would not need to know anything about sailing and would get the experience of sailing at little cost.

Is this in fact the case, do owners cast about for temporary crew? Does one need or not need sailing experience to take on such a responsibility? And most important, would you advise that this is the best way to approach getting hands-on sailing know-how or should the formal lessons come first?

Hi Jack,

It's true that cruisers are often looking for crew, usually for one of three reasons: they're shorthanded and need assistance with passages that require overnight sailing; they're on a budget and need extra cash for expenses; or they're lonely and want some romance in their lives. In the latter case, sailing skills may not be a big issue, but performance in other areas may be expected. Cruisers seeking paying crew expect a contribution, usually so much per day, for the privilege of being on their boat. We know of some people who have financed their cruising entirely from having a constantly rotating number of paying crew on board.

In most cases, cruisers who want crew to assist with passages do not charge anything, although this is not always the case. In rare instances, we know of cruisers who will actually pay to have crew on board, but the crew are invariably experienced sailors and are expected to do more than just take their turns on watch (e.g., they may be asked to help with maintenance and clean-up).

Some cruisers will welcome anyone on board who is reasonably fit and sober and willing to keep a watch, but it certainly helps if you have some experience and knowledge of sailing. Often there are more crew than positions available, so knowing how to sail is a definite plus in getting a placement. Also, this is something you would probably want to know anyway. Remember, you're placing your life in the hands of someone that you are assuming knows everything; if something goes wrong and he is incapacitated or turns out not to know much more than you do, then you could be in deep do-do miles from any help.

Cruisers who mainly want cash from paying crew are less particular about sailing credentials, but you run the risk of ending up with a Captain Bligh. We know of one couple who found their crewing positions intolerable after a week at sea and ended up jumping ship at a remote South Pacific island with only a jar of peanut butter to sustain them until the monthly supply ship arrived!

This brings us to another important point. Regardless of the financial arrangement you make with the captain, you want to meet the person and have a clear understanding (specified in writing, if possible) of your mutual rights and responsibilities. Lots of crewing relationships work out just fine, but we know of too many that have soured because of personality conflicts or differing expectations. One young couple we know thought they were crewing from the east coast to the Caribbean, but after a month had still not left the States and were basically being used to babysit the two small kids on board while mom & dad enjoyed themselves on shore.

Two ways of landing a crewing position are through ads in the print media and online; and through walking the docks. Many boating publications have a section for "crew wanted". On the west coast, Latitude 38 (published in San Francisco) is the cruiser's bible. The Bulletin published by the Seven Seas Cruising Association regularly prints crew exchange ads for free for members. It's an organization you might want to join in any case for useful information and support (see www.ssca.org).

The best locations for seeking crew positions are the jumping off spots for major passages. On the east coast, this would include Annapolis around the sailboat show (second weekend in October), Beaufort, NC around the end of October; and North Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Miami or Marathon in Florida in November and December. George Town in the Bahamas is a major staging ground from February through May for boats heading to the Caribbean (and a nice place to visit even if you don't get a crewing position). On the west coast, boats leave the Pacific northwest (Vancouver, Victoria, Seattle) at the end of August, beginning of September. A major flotilla moves out of San Diego bound for Mexico and beyond at the end of November.

Another way of gaining sailing experience beyond taking lessons is to volunteer to crew at a local yacht club. Most active yacht clubs have regular races during the summer season and skippers are often looking for crew. You'll probably learn more about sailing on the racing course than on a cruising passage -- most cruisers (ourselves included) tend to be a bit sloppy when it comes to the finer details of sail trim and boat handling.


From Janet & Julian:

Is it possible to live on $1313 per month (social security check) on a 79 Hunter 30 in the Caribbean just going from anchorage to anchorage? We would like to set out in November 2005 and would appreciate your input.

Hi Janet & Julian,

Yes, we think it's possible to live aboard and cruise frugally in the Caribbean on a monthly budget of around $1300. We know an American couple who were barely getting by on their boat in Isla Mujeres, Mexico for several years on his social security cheques of $600 per month. We also know cruisers who spend several times that amount. The cruising literature tends to focus on either the minimalists surviving on next to nothing or the luxury yacht owners with money to spare. There's lots of room on the budget continuum between these two extremes.

We've found that a good portion of our budget is spent on boat repairs and maintenance. Having a smaller production boat like yours should help contain those expenditures. Keeping your boat systems simple also helps. Fancy electronics are prone to failure, as are reverse osmosis watermakers and refrigeration units. None of these is essential. You'll save a lot of money if you do most of the boat maintenance work yourselves. You might not feel qualified to rebuild your diesel engine, but routine projects such as changing the oil, filters, coolant, and belts are not difficult (only messy). And anyone can refinish exterior wood, wax the hull, and slap on bottom paint, although it's surprising how many cruisers pay others to do these jobs.

The cost of living varies considerably within the Caribbean. In general, the French islands are most expensive, the Spanish speaking countries least expensive, and the former British colonies fall somewhere in between. Ironically, we often spend more money overall in cheaper settings because we can't resist a good deal -- also known as going broke saving money. In pricier places, we go out less frequently and buy fewer things. If you provision where prices are low -- for example, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad, Venezuela, and Mexico -- you can avoid spending a lot of money in expensive places.

Beyond the basics of keeping the boat operational and buying food, you'll discover that much of your spending is discretionary. Depending on your expectations regarding personal comfort and amenity, you can live quite adequately on a limited budget. It boils down to making choices: anchoring out instead of going to the dock; communicating by e-mail at inexpensive Internet cafes rather than phoning home; favouring public transportation over rental cars to get around on shore (it's a great way to meet the locals); forgoing restaurant dining by inviting fellow boaters to join you for a potluck dinner on the beach (you'll probably have more fun).

Overall, we feel money is an overrated consideration when it comes to casting off the dock lines and setting sail for the horizon. More important is the will to go.

We hope to see you out here some day.


From Harry:

We are from Southern California, in the process of selling our homes, and contemplating buying a 44' Beneteau center cockpit sailboat. My partner Judy has had a dream of sailing through the Panama Canal for several years now. Myself, I would just love to sail to anywhere in the Americas. Judy has some minor reservations about what is needed to make the trip successful, including types of stores, things we wish we had thought about before we left, etc. It would be nice if you folks could advise her, from a woman's prospective, about things not to worry about, and things she should take into consideration.

Hi Judy,

Harry contacted us and told us of your plans to go cruising. He asked if we would write you about "things not to worry about, and the things [you] should take into consideration."

Well, there have been a lot of books written on those topics. For a woman's perspective, you might want to read "Changing Course" by Debra Cantrell (available from West Marine, as well as many other nautical outlets).

In terms of stuff to take with you, rest assured that globalization has ensured that you can get just about anything anywhere these days -- for a price. When provisioning, concentrate on high value items or specialties, like favourite seasonings and condiments. You won't have difficulty finding staples like flour, sugar, pasta, etc. wherever you go, so don't sink the boat loading up on them before you leave.

One of the most difficult aspects of cruising for many women is keeping in touch with family and friends left behind. This can be tough if you're very close to your children, grandchildren, or aging parents. Technology has provided a number of means of communicating from your boat; before you leave, you should figure out what suits you and your budget best.

The most important thing about getting ready to go cruising is to GO. You'll never leave the dock if you try to anticipate every last thing you'll need. Don't worry about it. A lot of the adventure of visiting new places is figuring out how to get by with what's on hand. It's amazing how resourceful you can be. And remember you're not alone. The cruising community is wonderfully generous and supportive. The best sources of information and advice are the other cruisers whom you'll meet along the way.


From Dan:

I am looking to buy a 25 foot or 28 foot Irwin sailboat, shallow draft 2 1/2 feet with centerboard. Do you think this boat will work in the Keys, Florida Gulf and maybe the Bahamas? Also, how do you communicate out there?

Hi Dan,

We're not personally familiar with smaller Irwin sailboats, but we have a number of friends who own larger Irwins and seem to be satisfied with them. We wouldn't let size be a deterrent one way or another. We know lots of people cruising on boats around 25 feet long, including a family of four on a Jeanneau 25. Certainly for cruising the areas you cited you don't need a large, bombproof, bluewater sailboat. And shoal draft makes a lot of sense in the Florida Keys and Bahamas.

As we tell anyone who will listen to us, "Cruising is NOT primarily about boats -- it's mostly about experiencing new places and meeting new people". We know too many people who spend too much time and money agonizing over having the perfect boat (which, incidentally, doesn't exist), and never leave the dock.

On the question of communication, there are several options, depending on where you are and what's your budget.

Cell phones work reasonably well along coastal North America. You can even get some US cell phones to work in the Bahamas. You can buy a Bahamas cell phone to use in the Bahamas, but all communication by phone between the Bahamas and the States is generally pricey (typically, around $1.00 per minute). It's a bit cheaper if you buy a Bahamas phone card (North American phone cards almost never work in the Bahamas, despite claims that they will).

Cyber cafes are rare and expensive in the Bahamas. Consequently, many cruisers use Pocketmail, despite limitations on message size and attachments (www.pocketmail.com). Its great advantage for travellers is that it works with public pay phones. You access the service with a handheld device that incorporates a miniature keyboard and an acoustic coupler.

For business, we need Internet access that goes beyond just e-mail, so in the Bahamas we open an account with the Bahamas ISP, Batelnet. The downside is that we have to lug our laptop ashore and find a Batelco phone office to connect (most towns have a phone office and most -- but not all -- will allow Batelnet subscribers to plug into their phone line free of charge).

Sending and receiving e-mail on board via the ship's radio is becoming more common and more economical. The upfront equipment costs are high: a high frequency transceiver (either marine SSB or Ham radio); a computer; and a modem to connect the two. But once you're set up, you can do e-mail on amateur radio frequencies for free (if you're a licensed ham radio operator); or on SSB frequencies for around $250 per year. There are practical limits to file sizes and the speeds are slow by landline standards.

Finally, there are satellite phones like Global Star and Iridium. They work just about anywhere for both voice and digital communications. The price has been coming down and you see more and more of them in the cruising community, but they're still outside our budget.


From Fletcher:

A friend and myself were talking about going on an extended Caribbean cruise (just a dream for now) and he brought up the topic of modern day pirates. Have you guys experienced any problems with such criminals? What precautions do you make to defend yourselves in the event of an altercation?

Hi Fletcher,

Thanks for the note. In eleven years of full time cruising, the only pirates we've encountered have been behind the counters of boatyards and ship's chandleries.

Seriously, acts of piracy do occur in the Caribbean, but they are rare and focussed in just a few places. Over the past decade, there have been incidents along the north coast of Venezuela east of Cumana (the Paria peninsula); the coast of Colombia; and the small reefs/islands off the coast of northeastern Nicaragua and southeast of the Bay Islands of Honduras.

There's a daily Caribbean safety and security radio net that meets on marine SSB frequency 8104 at 0815 Atlantic time. The net controllers, Melodye & John Pompa on "Second Millennium", keep an online log of reported security incidents that goes back around eight years; see <www.caribcruisers.com>. Most of the reports deal with property theft, such as stolen dinghies. Armed boardings are very rare.

Our advice: either travel in company to the unsafe places or avoid them altogether. Incidentally, most of Venezuela is fine - we know of no incidents occurring in the offshore islands (Los Testigos, Blanquilla, Tortuga, Los Roques, Las Aves) where, in our view, the cruising is best.

In terms of other precautions, we keep air horns and pepper spray canisters near the companionway and in our sleeping berth. We let people know where we are and keep in regular contact with them via radio or e-mail. We don't have firearms on board; if we did, we'd probably be bigger threats to ourselves than to any potential boarders.

We always lock our boat when we're not on board and we lock our dinghy when we're on shore. We know of several cruisers who have had their dinghies stolen or have had things taken from their boats. In many instances, the boats weren't locked. We're not sure where these people came from, but where we used to live (Toronto, a typical big city) we wouldn't think of leaving our apartment or bicycles unlocked. Living onboard a boat is really no different from living on land in terms of security concerns.


From Cory:

I was just curious about any rules there are when boating overseas from Canada? Can you please tell me what I would have to do to travel from Canada like you. I notice you have been gone since 1994. Wow, wish it was me. Here in Winnipeg it was -50 yesterday and I'm fed up with winter. I have never owned a boat but I want to buy one and travel to Hawaii or somewhere warm. Please e-mail me and let me know of some hope, please.

Hi Cory,

Yes, there's hope. Just about anyone can get a boat and sail away if they have the desire. What it takes is a bit of money and a lot of determination. Seagoing boats are not cheap, but if you're willing to invest in an older vessel without the latest bells and whistles, there's probably something affordable out there with your name on it. It really comes down to your personal comfort threshold. Can you survive without TV and refrigeration and daily hot freshwater showers? Of course, you can bring all these amenities with you if you have a big enough budget. The greater challenge will be deciding to quit your job (and the comfort of a reliable income) and leave the security of family, friends and home.

As for "rules", travelling by boat to foreign places isn't a lot different from travelling by plane or car except that the entry procedures are often more detailed. In some countries there are restrictions on where you can take your boat. You'll need registration papers for the boat to prove that it's yours, a passport to prove who you are, and a measure of patience for dealing with forms and officials. Not a big deal, really.

Hope this helps. Good luck in realizing your dreams. By the way, it's sunny and 83 degrees F here in the Bahamas right now. Thought you'd like to know.


From Melanie:

Hey, congratulations on living the life that most people only dream of, including myself. So how much would you say it costs you yearly to live on your boat? Where is your favorite place you have been to?

Hi Melanie,

Thanks for the note. We're glad you enjoy reading about our travels. The single most expensive part of cruising is upkeep on the boat. Altogether, we spend about $25,000 a year living on our boat -- a good part of that is spent keeping the boat afloat and replacing broken gear. If you were to go cruising for only a year or so your costs would be less since you could put off a lot of the boat maintenance expenses. As for our favourite place, that's a tough one. We like different places for different reasons. Having said that, it would be pretty hard to beat the San Blas archipelago off the Caribbean coast of Panama. Beautiful islands, fascinating culture, relatively few outsiders.

Hope this helps. Don't give up the dream!