An experiment we won’t repeat.

Last year in the Bahamas we loved the Abacos for the settlements and the Exumas for the water.  Our plan when we left in May was to repeat the trip, beginning with the Abacos and continuing to the Exumas via Eleuthera and perhaps the Berry Islands. Then Dorian happened.

After debating whether to go to the Bahamas at all, we decided this time we would leave from Miami and get to the Exumas via Bimini. While the Abacos are making progress recovering, we weren’t sure we were quite self-sufficient enough vis a vis water capacity if we were to be pinned there for awhile due to weather. It seemed like a good decision at the time, but by the time we landed in West Bay on New Providence we agreed any future trips to the Bahamas from the U.S. will be via the Abacos.

When we crossed the Gulf Stream we knew we would be in Bimini for a week based on the weather forecast.  While it was a great relief to finally have the Gulf Stream crossing out of the way, and while it was wonderful to see that beautiful water again (I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I laid eyes on it), we did not feel the love for Bimini.

All of the marinas except one are in North Bimini, but Bimini Sands Marina in South Bimini offered the best protection from the forecasted 25-30 knot winds so it was a no brainer to stay there. The fact that they were offering a special of $150/week made it even better. I wasn’t sure if we would regret it given how quiet South Bimini is, but it actually ended up being the best part of our stay.

Continue reading “An experiment we won’t repeat.”

Miami and the Gulf Stream.

After spending several lovely days in Oleta River State Park, it was time to move down to Miami to wait for a weather window to cross the Gulf Stream.  We had passed up an earlier window because it was a bit short for our taste and we just didn’t feel mentally ready for it.  That turned out to be a good call.  We later learned that a cruiser who had done the crossing over a dozen times considered it his worst ever, and we also heard of a few other boats that turned back.  That was NOT something we cared to experience.

We dropped the anchor at Marine Stadium on New Year’s Eve and ended up having a great stay in Miami.

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Motoring past the city on the way to the anchorage.

Some people complain on Active Captain about Marine Stadium on the weekends.  It gets pretty busy with power boats coming over from the city and anchoring out, partying with Latin music pumping, but we loved it.  People were courteous about not anchoring too closely and everyone was obviously having a great time.  It was impossible not to enjoy it.  And boy those boats can party!  We went to bed after the fireworks at midnight (we had a great view of them from the anchorage) and when I woke up at 7:00 a.m the next day I could hear the bass thumping.  I looked at Jeff and asked, “They’ve been partying literally all night?”  It was pretty funny.  Oh to be that young again.

Continue reading “Miami and the Gulf Stream.”

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.”