Up until we arrived in Florida we weren’t entirely sure what our plans were for this winter. Of course the Bahamas were our first choice, but there were a few issues: (1) if we ended up with the ‘vid there, the medical facilities were few and far between (and arguably not as good as in the States); and (2) the Bahamian government was requiring Covid tests within a tight timeframe and was only permitting entry by vessel in a few areas that we could easily get to within the time limit. None of those areas appealed to us – or had decent anchorages – which meant staying at expensive marinas. So we had resigned ourselves to not going there this winter, and tried to get psyched about spending the winter in Florida. And then….I saw a Facebook post that the Green Turtle Club Marina in the Abacos had received approval from the Bahamian government to be a port of entry for vessels. Pre-Dorian you could check in at the Green Turtle settlement, but the office had been destroyed by the hurricane. Only fourteen months later, Green Turtle was an option again.
To say this changed everything for us is an understatement. Now there was a place we wanted to be, with an anchorage and a reasonably priced marina, and we could get there in time. The situation with the medical facilities hadn’t changed, but as my mother-in-law says, “You can die at home too.” Besides, the case numbers in the areas of the Bahamas we prefer are miniscule. There was no question our odds of NOT catching the ‘vid were substantially better there than in Florida. It was an easy decision on the Pegu Club – we were going to the Bahamas again.
But first we needed to get to Vero so we could get ready to go. And before we could get to Vero, we needed to wait out Tropical Storm Eta. After our overnight from Beaufort, SC we checked the weather and saw that Eta’s track would impact southern Florida. It didn’t make any sense to head TOWARDS the storm, so we stopped at Marineland Marina south of St. Augustine for a week – we even sailed (gasp!) for an hour on our way there!
Marineland was a very reasonably priced marina with not much around it, but we enjoyed long walks on the days that it didn’t rain. On rainy days we started making our lists of things we needed to buy and do before we could leave for the Bahamas. After a few days Eta made her way through the Florida Keys and out into the Gulf of Mexico.
As our week at Marineland came to a close, Eta was still roaming around like a drunken sailor out in the Gulf, and now it looked like she was planning to make a second pass through Florida, this time much closer to where we were. Great. We debated moving further south but didn’t want to risk being somewhere more exposed if she wobbled, so we extended our stay in the marina and, once again, rode out winds in the mid-30 knot range as she passed north of us. For those keeping count, that makes three Tropical Storms for us this season: Isaias in the Chesapake which literally went right over us, and Eta twice. We might as well get used to it since we are still planning to head south earlier in the season from now on.
FINALLY, Eta was gone, so we waved goodbye to Marineland and easily made our way to Vero a few days later. We even saw our first manatees by Titusville! After tying up to our traditional mooring ball #1, we kicked back and relaxed for the rest of the day. Unfortunately, the next day poor Jeff strained his back lifting the outboard off of the rear pulpit, so he was out of commission for the better part of six days while I took care of our provisioning. His being laid up forced me to figure out how to consistently start the outboard once and for all. The first time I motored away I jokingly hollered, “Freedom!!”, which became our running joke. Our neighbors in the mooring field probably thought we were nuts.
Despite Jeff’s injury we were still ready to go ten days later – our shortest stay ever in Vero. One good thing to come out of being slightly delayed was we were able to share a happy hour with our friends on Mer du Jour, who arrived the day before we left. They kindly brought a small package for us that had arrived in New Bern the day after we left there. When we found out they were planning to stop at the same marina just a week or so after our stay, we asked if they could grab it for us and they gladly found it in the marina mailroom, holding onto it all of the way to Vero – cruisers helping cruisers. Thanks again, guys! We are hoping to see them again after the holidays in the Bahamas, or this summer in New England.
Once we left Vero it was a quick two day hop to West Palm where we anchored between the two bridges and waited for a weather window to cross the Gulf Stream. Next stop – the Bahamas!