December by the numbers.

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We knew going into December that it was going to be an expensive month.  We decided to buy a whisker pole so we could actually sail downwind efficiently, and we bought a flotation collar for the Walker Bay dinghy which had proven to be entirely too tippy without it.  Those two items represent almost 40% of this month’s costs.  We also stocked up on groceries and supplies for our Bahamas trip, and paid for our chart plotter to cover the Caribbean.  All of those items add up but they needed to be purchased.

They say if you want to cruise less expensively you need to get out of the United States.  Our three months in the Bahamas last year were definitely our least expensive months, lending credence to that theory.  When we leave for the Bahamas we won’t be returning to the states on the boat for at least a year, maybe as many as two or three years, so it will be interesting to see what our expenses end up looking like in 2020.

Either way, 2019 proved to be less expensive on a monthly basis than 2018 (although we were only cruising for four months that year), so we are trending in the right direction as we continue to settle in to this lifestyle.

With that said, here we go:

Continue reading “December by the numbers.”

I’ve found my maximum latitude.

As Jeff and I were walking to an auto parts store in North Miami to find carburetor cleaner for the dinghy outboard (the subject of another post), I took note of the fact that it was December 29th and I was warm.  It was cloudy but there was a warm breeze, and I was perfectly content.  I turned to Jeff and said, “I’ve found my maximum latitude.”

I’ve written before that we are chasing the warm weather.  We aren’t going to live on our boat forever, and something we frequently ask ourselves is where we might want to live when we’re finished.  Annapolis is great, but it’s too cold in the winter.  We love Beaufort, SC but again, it can get pretty chilly.  St. Augustine?  Getting better, but it still occasionally has lows in the 30’s.  Vero Beach?  Better still, but the average low in January is 51 degrees.  But now we’re in the Miami area and I can feel it in the air.  If we’re living on the east coast, this is the furthest north I want to be.

Last year we only went as far south as West Palm Beach, FL before crossing over to the Bahamas.  This year the weather systems have been much stronger and more frequent, with crossing opportunities proving to be few and far between.  Rather than hang out in Vero Beach or the Palm Beach area while we wait, we decided to head farther south.  We’ve never been to Miami and we wanted to check it out, and given that we plan to focus on the Exumas this time it made sense to make some more southerly progress while we wait.

Continue reading “I’ve found my maximum latitude.”

November by the numbers.

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In November we put the pedal to the metal, going from Beaufort, NC to Vero Beach, FL where we arrived on November 24th and remain to date.  This month we spent quite a bit on marinas (including one payment on November 30th covering the first week of December in Vero Beach).  The weather was not our friend in South Carolina and Georgia, two states not exactly known for an abundance of anchorages with great wind protection, but sometimes that’s the way it goes.

Towards the end of the month we also started stocking up on items that we won’t be easily able to obtain in the Bahamas or perhaps the Dominican Republic.  We know from our experience last year that while we may spend quite a bit up front in provisions, that will be more than offset when we get to the Bahamas and spend very little.

With that said, here we go:

Continue reading “November by the numbers.”

Once again, Vero Beach lives up to its nickname: Velcro Beach

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Courtesy of Google Images.

For two people who want to get to Georgetown, Exumas by Christmas, what the heck are we still doing here in Vero Beach?  We arrived on November 24th.  What gives?

Well, once we decided to go to Luperon this summer it kicked off a cascade of decisions that resulted in several orders being placed with Amazon, West Marine, Defender, and what we knew would be the biggest hassle of all – approval from the insurance company for a vacation override for Jeff’s prescriptions.

We actually have the approval for the override, but the insurance company won’t process it until they mail his regular supply.  Why it should matter given that we aren’t talking about any drugs with street value is beyond me.  We could circumvent the whole process and simply pay out of pocket but one drug is over $440/month – the same drug that will cost $100/month in the Dominican Republic.  Don’t get me started on the U.S. health care system.

Bottom line, at this point we’re sitting around waiting for packages to arrive.  Can’t we just buy these things in the Bahamas or the Dominican Republic?  Sure, but some of them are easier to obtain here (i.e. coir for the composting toilet), and others we need or want before we can go (a chart plotter chip for the Caribbean and Central America, a whisker pole for the jib).  So we sit and wait, crossing items off of the to-do list.

At least the majority of the food provisioning is complete.  Our friends Allyn and Bob drove over from Sarasota to visit us and we had a great time hanging out with them.  While they were here they kindly drove us to Wal Mart and waited while we bought food basics for the next three months.

Believe me, there are certainly worse places we could be waiting.  Vero Beach is a cruiser’s dream – inexpensive moorings, a free bus system with routes that take you virtually anywhere you would need, a nice beach a short walk away, a good Farmer’s Market every Saturday, and plenty of events.

But regardless of those niceties, at this point we are REALLY ready to go – we can’t wait to throw ourselves into that beautiful Bahamian water.  We just need to wait for the whisker pole to arrive.  And the chart plotter chip.  And the tubes for the Walker Bay.  And the prescriptions.  And. . . . Hopefully we’ll be moving on within a week.  Wagers on whether that will actually happen are being accepted.

A big decision.

As we went south down the ICW, Jeff and I agreed that we were feeling a bit done with it.  Part of the problem is that we were moving much more quickly than last fall so it was a bit of a slog.  We also hadn’t been able to hop outside, and we were getting tired of not being able to sail.

With nothing to do all day but motor along, we had plenty of time to kick around some alternatives for next spring.  We could poke along as we headed north, taking our time and only going as far as the Chesapeake.  We could skip the ICW and head back to New England for the summer via Bermuda.  Nothing was really grabbing us.  What we needed was to take a break from the ICW and shake things up.  So what did we decide?

Continue reading “A big decision.”

Putting the hammer down.

We were poking along the ICW as we did last fall, content in knowing that we were three weeks ahead of schedule compared to last year and hoping that would be enough to keep the cold weather at bay.  We had enjoyed a beautiful, leisurely trip down the Dismal Swamp, spent a few nights in our favorite small town of Belhaven, and stopped in Beaufort, NC for the first time where we waited several days for a strong weather system to pass.

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Blazing a trail through thick duckweed on the Dismal Swamp.

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Continue reading “Putting the hammer down.”

October by the numbers.

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Not our best month as far as expenses are concerned, but not too bad either.

It was a pretty high month for the restaurant/entertainment category, but we had a lot of fun socializing with other boaters in October, and we also stopped in Belhaven where we tend to eat out several times at our favorite places.  The other two outliers were in the “boat stuff” category where we primarily stocked up on spare engine parts and bought hardware and lines for our drifter, and the purchase of my long-awaited inflatable stand up paddle board at the boat show.

We spent most of October in Annapolis, MD before starting to head south in earnest, landing in Beaufort, NC by the end of the month.

Here we go:

Continue reading “October by the numbers.”

I wish I could get used to “sporty” sails.

After cruising full-time for fourteen months now, I’m getting frustrated by the fact that I still get so nervous when conditions get “sporty.”

Since leaving Annapolis we’ve been trying to high-tail it south so we can stay warmer than we were last year.  The last few weeks have shown me how much better we’ve become in some ways (like picking good anchorages for boisterous weather), and how far I still have to go with others (like embracing the sailing conditions that are created by said boisterous weather).

An example of getting better at picking good anchorages would be our stop in Mill Creek across from Reedville, VA to wait out a few days of near gale-force winds.  We rode out some weather in Mill Creek last fall so we knew it would be a good hidey-hole.  But this time we used our knowledge that we had gained from our friends Jay and Tanya on S/V Minx, combined with our experiences over the past fourteen months, to find a particularly well-protected spot.

With winds predicted to turn clockwise from south to north, we found an area with many tall trees blocking the wind from the south, west, and north, and tucked ourselves close to the land on the southwest side of the creek.  There was barely a ripple on the water for the duration of the weather system and we were incredibly comfortable.

That comfort changed when we decided to leave Mill Creek as soon as the small craft advisory was lifted at 1:00 p.m. Continue reading “I wish I could get used to “sporty” sails.”

Annapolis – settling in.

After leaving Rock Hall we went to the Magothy River and anchored behind Gibson Island in Eagle Cove.  This was a lovely anchorage where we planned to spent a few days.

As we sailed down the Magothy we heard announcements over the VHF about an open water swim fundraiser that would be held the next day, but we thought it was going to be in a different area.  Imagine our surprise when we were were awakened bright and early the next morning by the voice of a very upbeat race announcer over a loudspeaker.

Poking my head out into the companionway, I saw that we had unintentionally anchored in the middle of “Swim Across America”, a fundraiser for cancer research whose participants swim either one or three miles in the Magothy River.  We ended up with front row seats!

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The swimmers had picture perfect weather and we enjoyed cheering them on.

After a few days bobbing in the peaceful anchorage, the winds were good for a sail and we were itching to move on.  A small craft advisory was winding down so we sailed down the river and poked our nose out into the Bay.  It didn’t take long for us to realize that we had jumped the gun.  It was an easy decision to make a 180 and sail back into the river, dropping anchor for a few hours to let the winds and waves settle down a bit more before trying again.

The original plan was to go to St. Michaels, but as we sailed past Annapolis it was clear that the wind angle meant we were going to need to motor for a few hours if we wanted to make it before sundown.  What followed was a half hour of indecision while we debated anchoring in this creek, then that creek.  Finally we decided that we’d had enough of isolated anchorages for a while, and we turned around and headed to Annapolis. Continue reading “Annapolis – settling in.”

Dinghy No. 5

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We bought Little Bristol 6 1/2 years ago.  We just bought dinghy number five.  Five dinghies in six years?  You are likely wondering just what the heck is our problem.

A dinghy is your automobile when you are boating, whether you boat full-time or on weekends.  And, like automobiles, there are a wide variety of styles and sizes to choose from.  Rigid dinghies, inflatable dinghies, rigid inflatable dinghies. The options are almost endless.  But like all things boat, dinghies are always a compromise.

Our first dinghy was the cheapest inflatable we could find at Defender.  It was o.k., but we made the mistake of storing it in the garage that first winter.  We pulled it out right before launching in the spring only to discover that a small creature (or creatures) had gnawed a hole in it right at the seam.  That led to our second dinghy. Continue reading “Dinghy No. 5”