It’s time to start moving again!

We went back and forth until nearly the day of departure.  We had been in Vero for two months – our longest stay in one place since we began cruising – and inertia had most definitely set in.  Vero was easy.  Getting groceries was easy, laundry, showers, and trash was easy.  We had some nice walking routes. A little voice inside my head said we hadn’t caught Covid-19 while we were there, so why press our luck?  Maybe we should just stay..  But that pesky hurricane season was coming and there wasn’t anywhere to sail.  So we ultimately decided to toss off the mooring line and head north towards the Chesapeake.

Although we had hoped to hop outside from Ft. Pierce, we quickly realized that the weather wasn’t going to cooperate so the inside it would be.  Really looking at the calendar for the first time in weeks, we saw that that Memorial Day weekend would kick off at the end of the week.  Uh-oh.  The Florida ICW is chaotic on a normal weekend, let alone a 3 day weekend shortly after Florida lifted its Covid restrictions,  We had less than zero interest in traveling on the water for any part of that.  Looks like we were going to be putting the hammer down.

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April by the numbers.

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I have a cruising friend who also tallies his monthly spending to the penny.  We have joked on occasion about the number of cruisers who claim they spend $1,000/month or some other low number (a few even claim $500/month) but almost without exception they arrive at those numbers by “not counting” things.  Maybe they don’t count travel expenses back home, or the loan payment on their boat, or the radar they decided to buy.  Whatever they leave out, it’s not particularly helpful for those trying to figure out how much they might spend every month cruising full-time, which is why he and I both started counting and posting the numbers.

So this month we spent $1,695.96 – if you don’t count the water maker that we bought.  And believe me, there are people out there who wouldn’t count it.  But the fact is the money was spent.  So in reality this month we spent $8,060.83.  Ooof.  But as unpleasant as the amount may be, that’s how much we spent while cruising in April.

The good news is that this is the last upgrade for the boat – truly.  The only other possible thing we could ever even remotely desire is radar, and we are very unlikely to get that, so there you have it.  Barring some unforeseen catastrophe, we shouldn’t come close to a monthly number like this again until we swallow the anchor some day.  From now on, boat costs will consist primarily of maintenance, repair, or replace.  Looking at our available funds (and with no real desire to go back to work), I can say without hesitation that’s a very good thing.

Here we go:

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So now what?

 

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Where to go next on Pegu Club has been a frequent topic of discussion.  Originally we had planned to take our time, poking north, exploring North Carolina, and going as far as the Chesapeake.  We would then start moving south again, aiming to be on the ICW by October 1st so we could try to avoid freezing as autumn moved in, and arrive in the Bahamas ideally by Christmas or even Thanksgiving.  As it has for so many other people, Covid-19 completely upended those plans.

This is the first time since we began cruising that I’ve wished we had a land base we could return to.  Several of our cruiser friends have hauled their boat for the summer and gone home.  Stay-at-home orders are a completely different thing when you have an apartment or a house to wander around in vs. a 30 foot sailboat.  But we have to work with what we’ve got, so we started brainstorming.

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Well hello, Vero Beach! Didn’t we just see you three months ago?

Between debating for a week as to whether we should leave the Bahamas, and spending 60 hours on our passage, we had plenty of time to discuss where we should go. Restrictions being implemented in each state varied, and it was too cold for our taste to head north of Florida.

Vero Beach quickly rose towards the top of the list. At $435 the monthly price for a ball was very reasonable, it was well protected from weather, and there was a grocery store within easy walking distance. Although we would prefer not to be in Florida for hurricane season, protection-wise it wasn’t a bad spot to be if we found ourselves in that position. And if things were so bad that everywhere was locked down for months, it would be sufficiently warm in the winter. Now we just had to get there while we still could.

Continue reading “Well hello, Vero Beach! Didn’t we just see you three months ago?”

March by the numbers.

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When March 1st rolled around we didn’t imagine we’d back in the U.S. by the end of the month, but here we are.

The Defender Warehouse Sale is traditionally at the end of March and we had planned to take advantage of the prices to buy a few upgrades, so this month was higher than the first two months. However, we have one very large upgrade coming up for April (the subject of a future post) which will make March spending look miserly. Ouch.

March opened with us anchored in the Exumas and closed with us sitting on a mooring in Vero where we will be until at least mid-May.

Here we go:

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Back to the U.S.

Once we made the decision to head back to the U.S., we had to get the boat ready for a passage. The forecast showed excellent conditions for sailing most of the way which was good because we wanted to make the trip non-stop from Lee Stocking, and we didn’t have enough diesel to motor the whole way. Some of the marinas in the Bahamas were closing so access to fuel wasn’t guaranteed.

Being able to use the white floppy things on our boat is always our first choice, and now we were REALLY glad we had them vs. owning a motor boat and being dependent on fuel. An added bonus was that our weather window was several days longer than what we needed, giving us added flexibility to creep along under sail if the wind was lighter than forecast. We really couldn’t have asked for a better situation, giving us the additional confidence that we were making the right decision.

The wind had been blowing 20+ knots for several days (a theme for our stay this year), so we wanted to stay on the bank side of the Exumas. We were going to need some help from the tides to pull that off because heading north on the banks from Lee Stocking requires boats to go through the Pimlicos, which is shallower than what our boat draws. Fortunately a quick check of the tide tables showed they were in our favor, sparing us from very boisterous conditions on the Sound side. With everything stowed and the jacklines installed, we set the alarm to leave at sunrise on Saturday.

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Bahamas interruptus.

After finally escaping George Town it was time to head back to Lee Stocking for some more hiking, snorkeling, and lazing about on Boneham Beach. The Cruiser’s Regatta had finished so we joined an exodus of about fifty boats on a fantastic day for sailing.

We had a great, rollicking sail and joined about 25 other boats in the anchorage. Hmmm. Not what we had in mind, given that there were 8 or less the last time we were there. However, we figured a large number of the boats were on their way back north to head home. Since we weren’t leaving the Bahamas until late May, we decided to wait them out and let the crowds get well ahead of us.

Our strategy worked with more boats leaving each day, so that by the end of the third day there were only four of us, well spaced out. Ahhh. Much better. We needed to renew our immigration in a few weeks, so we decided we’d stay in Lee Stocking for the rest of the week, move north a bit, and then if the weather permitted we’d head to Barreterre and rent a car to drive to the immigration office in George Town, saving us a 25 nautical mile beat into the prevailing wind.

Enjoying the view from another hike on Lee Stocking.

We keep up with the news online while in the Bahamas, and as each day passed in Lee Stocking the increasing restrictions resulting from COVID-19 resulted in repeated discussions each day regarding whether we should consider going back to the U.S. early. Staying in the Bahamas meant a reduced risk of exposure (which is a concern given Jeff’s CHF), but there are only two hospitals in the Bahamas – both requiring an airplane flight to get there – and the quality of medical care in the U.S. would be better if it was needed. If we stayed in the Bahamas we could keep enjoying the beaches and the pretty water, which we couldn’t do in the U.S. We balanced the risks and decided to stay for now.

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February by the numbers.

It’s easy to keep the spending down when there isn’t much to spend money on. In fact if it wasn’t for paying our taxes this month we would have been under $1,000. As it is, we were certainly fine with this month’s totals. We are already kicking around a few upgrades for this year so a month like this helps to ease the sting of those future purchases!

February saw us arriving in the Exumas. While we’ve spent an inordinate amount of time waiting out cold fronts, we did manage to finally make it down to Georgetown where the wind protection is better.

Here we go:

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Changing our minds.

As long as I can remember, I’ve never had a problem with changing my mind. Fortunately, Jeff doesn’t have a problem with it either! As a result, we’re not going to Luperon this summer.

Everything is fine. We simply decided that we don’t want to go deeper into the Caribbean. The more we researched sailing to and cruising in the Caribbean, the less the positives outweighed the negatives for us. The Bahamas are relatively close, the water is gorgeous, the air is warm, the Bahamians are friendly, the islands are safe, and the sailing is fantastic (once the winter winds settle down). We really don’t need anything else right now.

Once we decided that we didn’t want to sail to the Caribbean, going to Luperon made less sense for us. I’ve really been disliking the fact that there’s so much we keep missing as we travel north and south, hurrying along to outrun the cold weather or make it to Connecticut before it’s time to turn around again. There’s so much of North Carolina we’d like to explore, and we’ve barely scratched the surface of the Chesapeake or New England beyond Connecticut and Rhode Island.

So what’s our plan? Assuming that fate doesn’t decide to overturn the card table, we are going to stay in the Bahamas until mid-to-late May before making the jump to the Florida/Georgia border, or perhaps the Georgia/South Carolina border. From there we are going to S L O W L Y work our way north, sailing along as much as we can, even if it’s only 10 miles in a day.

The goal is to be back on the ICW by October 1st, so we won’t go any farther north than the Chesapeake this summer. In fact, I won’t be surprised if we don’t make it north of North Carolina. Of course if it’s simply too hot and humid for us we can be in Connecticut with the right weather window in under a week.

Once we start heading south we are going into delivery mode, aiming to get to Georgetown by Thanksgiving. We’ll stay in that region, including the southern Bahamian islands, until late February or early March, at which point we’ll work our way north again through the Bahamas with a plan to cruise in New England in the summer of 2021.

Occasionally on the various cruising forums it feels like some participants are in a competition with others. Like you aren’t really cruising if you never leave the ICW, or if you don’t go to the Caribbean, or to Europe, or around the world. Before we cut the dock lines, I’ll admit that I felt a bit that way myself. But now that we’re out here it’s obvious there are so many different ways to cruise. From blitzing around the world in an organized rally to moving 20 miles every six months. The most important thing is to cruise it in a way that brings you the most satisfaction.

It’s taken us a while to get there, but I think we’re finally starting to figure it out. The East Coast and the Bahamas, not too fast, not too slow. It works for us, and we’ll keep doing it as long as it’s fun – or until we change our minds again!

Same cay, completely different experience.

There are some people who return to the Exumas year after year. It’s not surprising given how beautiful it is, but last year part of me wondered if they didn’t get a little tired of revisiting the same cays. Now that we are repeating some of the same spots ourselves, I can see why they do it. We’ve discovered that simply by anchoring in a different area in the same cay it can be like going to an entirely new island.

This really became clear when we finally arrived at Lee Stocking. After two aborted attempts to get south of Staniel Cay (a steady 18 knots+ dead on the nose with accompanying chop had us turning back – no need to beat up ourselves or the boat if it’s not necessary), the third time was a charm on a windless day. Yes, we would have preferred to sail, but at this point we were beggars who weren’t going to be choosers.

Continue reading “Same cay, completely different experience.”