And scene.

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We’ve arrived at our slip at Shenny and with that, our full-time cruising adventures have come to an end.

Wait – what? Yep. We’ve been doing this for a touch under three years – 33 months to be exact. During that time we’ve been away from the boat for under six weeks.  Cruising is great.  It’s also not-so-great at times.  We’ve learned a ton and seen some amazing places.  But we‘ve always said that we’ll keep cruising as long as it’s fun.  While it’s not un-fun (yes, I just made up that word), it’s time for a break.

What are we planning to do instead? We are going to spend this summer doing shorter trips, including a trip with Shenny friends to Martha’s Vineyard which will be a first for all of us. We’re really looking forward to it.

What about this winter? Several months ago we decided that instead of pointing Pegu Club’s bow south this winter, we’d put her on the hard at Shenny and be snowbirds on land instead of the water.  We didn’t want to spend the winter in Florida, or really anywhere on the East Coast, and this California girl has been feeling the pull to spend more time there for quite awhile.  So we’ve booked AirBnB’s in Palm Springs from November to mid-April.

We’ve bought a used car and we’re going to road trip across the USA (something I’ve done 3 times, but not since 1990), camping in National Parks along the way.  Neither one of us has seen the Grand Canyon, and I’ve wanted to return to Bryce Canyon in Utah ever since I first saw it in 1990.  Jeff will have his lifetime National Parks pass by the time we leave, and we are going to take full advantage of it.  We’re very much looking forward to spending six months going on day hikes, eating Mexican food, visiting family and friends, and living on land in a few places vs. moving every week or two.  

How about the Bahamas after spending a winter on land? That’s still to be determined. Maybe we’ll land travel out west again, or fly somewhere international. While I won’t say that we definitely won’t go to the Bahamas, it will likely be a few winters before we consider that option.

Is this just a prelude to selling the boat? Definitely not. We still really enjoy boating and we don’t want to stop.  Wherever we spend our winters, we intend to move back onto Pegu Club in early May and spend the spring/summer/early fall living on her and sailing. We still want to explore Maine and Nova Scotia, and we’ve never been farther north on the boat than Rhode Island so there is still a lifetime’s worth of places left for us to discover.

If we only had a few years left on this planet, would we want to spend them cruising south every winter?  Frankly, no.  There are still far too many places where we want to spend months at a time – and not by traveling there on a boat.  Traveling to the Bahamas on Pegu Club has been the adventure of a lifetime.  Jeff and I will be sitting in rocking chairs one day playing “Remember when?” and boring people with tales about cruising full-time on a 30 foot sailboat for three years.  

But cruising full-time is also undoubtedly difficult – more psychologically than physically.  We both want to open the door and go for a walk without climbing into a dinghy first.  Jeff wants to accumulate a few things and have somewhere to put them – even if it’s just in the trunk of our car.  I want to run into people that I know when I’m out and about.  We both want to look at the weather forecast solely to check if we need a jacket or an umbrella – not whether there is an upcoming system requiring us to raise the anchor and move somewhere else.

We want to keep sailing in New England, but living on the boat here during the winter is a non-starter, not to mention that I’m never again living year-round in a place with winter.  Twenty-nine years was more than enough for me.  So six months on Pegu Club (based in Shennecossett) and six months on land somewhere warmer than Connecticut sounds like the perfect balance right now.

Isn’t this summer still considered full-time cruising?  Not in our book. If there is one thing that we didn’t understand until we started cruising, it’s that there’s a big difference between boating and cruising. People who haven’t cruised will swear up and down that it’s the same, but it simply isn’t. As long as we have a designated slip or a mooring that we repeatedly return to throughout the summer, we don’t consider ourselves to be cruising – we’re boating. And that’s fine with us. If we decide to head south again some autumn in the future, then we’ll be cruising again – not boating.

And the blog?  I started this blog as a diary/scrapbook of sorts for Jeff and me to look at and reminisce on our adventures, and we both enjoy looking at old posts to see how far we’ve come.  So I’m going to keep posting, but only when there is something that – to me – is worth putting pen to paper, so to speak.  I imagine posts will be in spurts depending on whether we are out adventuring or just being couch potatoes.

So if you’re here for the sailing stories, check back periodically over the summer.  Once the cool wind starts to blow, we’ll be going west for awhile, and the land stories will begin.

And just like that, the weather turned.

We had been at the marina in Belhaven for a week and had a one-day window to get up the Alligator River and across the Albemarle. If the weather was accurate, we’d be in Elizabeth City by the end of the day. If not, we’d be at the Alligator River Marina for at least three nights – if not longer.

Albemarle Sound is 50 miles wide (from east to west) and anywhere from 5-14 miles long (north to south).  It’s deepest water is only 25 feet, but the route cruisers follow to get to Elizabeth City or Coinjock is generally about 10 -15 feet deep and 10 miles across.  Because it’s so long and so shallow, any wind over 15 knots creates a nasty chop and tends to be a no-go for most boaters.  On our first trip south we had 15-18 knots from behind and we surfed our way across, making a note never to cross it in winds over 15 knots (although we’d be willing to bump it up a tad once again if the wind was on our stern).  Our forecast was for 15 knots from the northeast and dropping throughout the day, so with a reservation in hand at the Alligator River Marina in case it proved necessary, we set off with all of our fingers crossed. Continue reading “And just like that, the weather turned.”

April by the numbers.

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We began April in the Abacos and wrapped it up in Wrightsville Beach, NC.  This month’s spending was fairly high for us, with a big driver being the number of stays we had at a marina or on a mooring ball.  We prefer to anchor out but with the exception of our two night stay on a mooring in St. Augustine and one night at St. James to time the current for the Cape Fear river, extremely uncooperative weather in areas with mediocre anchorages drove us to marinas.  Had it not been for that, we would have come in right around $2,000 for the month.

Here we go: Continue reading “April by the numbers.”

Will we ever make it to Norfolk, let alone Connecticut?

Of our three cruising seasons, this is the earliest in the calendar that we have headed north, so it shouldn’t be surprising that it’s been the most challenging as far as weather is concerned.  Winter and spring are still battling it out, so the trip has been filled with starts and stops.  Chris Parker has been saying in his emails that this pattern has been more reminiscent of early spring than of May.  Great.

We are currently in Belhaven, NC and have yet to be able to travel for more than three days in a row before having to stop for weather.  And believe me, some of those days have been less than comfortable.  We had a particularly rolly, rollicking ride north on the Neuse River with the wind blowing 20+ knots – fortunately behind us.  It wasn’t unexpected, but that doesn’t make it any fun.

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Pegu Club going by Fernandina Beach, taken by our cruising friends on S/V Barry Duckworth.

We had hoped to hop outside when the opportunity presented itself, but so far those times have been so infrequent that it has made more sense just to keep moving north on the ICW vs. sitting and waiting for a window to maybe open up.  At times my frustration level has been high, to put it mildly.  I am SO OVER the ICW. Continue reading “Will we ever make it to Norfolk, let alone Connecticut?”

Time to head back to the states.

After our driving tour of Eleuthera we turned our thoughts towards going back to the states.  We had been in the Bahamas for almost four months, and we were increasingly fantasizing about Publix and other conveniences.  This had been the longest stay of our three trips, and we agreed that next time we would keep it to three months.  That seems to be about when we are ready for a change of scenery.  The beaches and the water are gorgeous, but when it starts to feel like just another beach it’s time to go.

We wanted to cross back to the U.S. from the Abacos so we picked the best day to make the 55 nautical mile trip over from Eleuthera.  Of course “best day” was relative.  We were looking at a solid week of sloppy, rolly, crappy conditions so we chose the day that appeared to be the least sloppy, rolly, and crappy.  We prefer not to have long days in those conditions, but at least if we know that’s how it’s going to be we can be mentally prepared for it. The forecast didn’t disappoint, but we sucked it up and anchored by Lynard Cay in the southern Abacos at the end of a long day. Continue reading “Time to head back to the states.”

March by the numbers.

We spent most of this month in Eleuthera before moving to the Abacos as we began our journey north back to Connecticut.

A big driver of our expenses this month (at 27% of the total) was the renewal of our cruising permit for $500.00.  The Bahamian government changed the cruising permit renewal fee structure without publicizing it (or putting it in writing on the customs website).  When we learned through the Facebook Bahamas groups that a renewal was going to be $500 instead of the $150 (for our boat size) like it used to be, we debated going back to the U.S. early since we were only planning on staying for five or six weeks past our renewal date.

But ultimately we decided to pay up.  In weighing the pros and cons we felt it was too soon temperature-wise to start heading north, so we would have sat on a mooring in Vero while waiting for the weather to warm up.  Between the mooring and ready access to a good grocery store, we would have spent more than $500 in a month without the benefit of being able to snorkel or swim in pretty water right off the boat.  Not to mention the zero-to-single-digit daily Covid cases here – something that can’t be said about any spot in the U.S.

So we ponied up the money, but to say we weren’t happy about the unannounced change is putting it mildly.

With all of that said, here we go: Continue reading “March by the numbers.”

Hooked on Eleuthera.

After we waved goodbye to Rock Sound, we had a great sail to one of our favorite anchorages in Eleuthera (well, of the ones we’ve seen so far): Alabaster Bay.  This anchorage is simply gorgeous, and while we would have loved to stay a bit longer, the wind direction wasn’t really cooperating with a southerly component. 

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Before raising the anchor at Rock Sound, Jeff needed to get rid of this squid he found on the side deck, who had obviously seen better days.

Continue reading “Hooked on Eleuthera.”

A fortuitous decision.

Little did we know that when we decided to go to Rock Sound instead of George Town it would turn out to be one of the smartest decisions we made this cruising season.  We knew that the anchorage in Rock Sound would be excellent if we ended up pinned down for several days due to high winds, and when we left Staniel Cay that was exactly what was in the forecast.  What no one could have foreseen at the time, though, was that those several days of winds would turn into almost two weeks with very little respite.  

The trip to Rock Sound itself was uneventful once we made it through Conch Cut.  That part was “entertaining.”  When the wind blows strongly from the east, the cuts between the Exuma cays can develop what is called a “rage” when the wind is against the current.  While we had previously experienced sloppy departures, we hadn’t ever been in what we would consider a rage.  I think now we may know what people are talking about. Continue reading “A fortuitous decision.”

A series of poor decisions.

I think it’s almost inevitable.  If you do anything long enough, you start to get a bit complacent.  The only problem with doing that on a boat is Mother Nature will give you a smack in the face to bring you back to your senses.  Fortunately the repeated smacks we experienced over a a few weeks didn’t do any damage except to our psyche.

Leaving Red Shanks turned out to be the first of a series of poor decisions for Pegu Club’s crew.  After a rolly motor sail to Lee Stocking, we enjoyed a great day anchored in front of “our” beach, doing some snorkeling and swimming.  The water was already warmer than it had been just a few weeks ago which was a welcome development – it will only get warmer as the days go by!

Looking at the weather forecast, the wind was going to clock more to the south-southeast which meant that the anchorage in Lee Stocking would be fairly exposed.  We decided we would ride it out the next day – our first poor decision.  The winds ended up being substantially higher than forecast so that by mid-morning it was honking in the steady low 20’s with higher gusts, bringing 3+ foot waves onto a lee shore.  For non-sailors, that means the wind was blowing towards the land – not good.  We raised the anchor and motored over to Rat Cay – a much better decision.

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A pretty sunset off of Rat Cay.

The next day we took a look at the tide tables and the weather and decided we should move north in anticipation of a front that would be arriving in several days.  It was a long day but a very nice sail, and we ended up back in Pipe Cay where we anchored in our up-to-that-point favorite spot in Pipe where we planned to wait out the front.  Our second poor decision.  We dropped the anchor slightly west of where we had during our previous visits – something that we would find out later was our third poor decision. Continue reading “A series of poor decisions.”