December by the numbers.

In December we went to the Bahamas – yay!  We are planning (hoping) to be here until early May.  

Typically our expenses are very low here because there simply isn’t much to spend money on.  This month was high, however, due to expenses related to Covid testing required to come to the Bahamas and check in fees.  We’re looking forward to January through April which should be a lot lower.  

Regarding the year in general, the monthly average for 2020 was significantly lower than in 2019.  COVID certainly accounts for part of the difference.  We didn’t fly out to the west coast to visit family and friends, and we spent about $1,700 less for the year in restaurants and entertainment expenses. Non-Covid related, we also had fewer medical expenses in 2020 and we spent less on boat upgrades over the course of the year.

Frankly, our 2019 monthly average isn’t sustainable long-term (well, until my pension kicks in anyway which won’t be for awhile) so we’re glad to see that it went down for 2020.

Here we go:

Continue reading “December by the numbers.”

Don’t these things usually happen in threes?

After checking in, all we needed to do was answer a short, daily health questionnaire for two weeks and ensure we were somewhere on day five where we could get our follow-up Covid test.  The immigration officer told us that our arrival day was actually day one (we had originally thought it was the day of check in).  Since that was the case we only had two more days before our test.  We could get tested at the local clinic, so we decided it made sense to simply hang around Green Turtle a bit longer.

We decided to treat ourselves and rented a golf cart for the afternoon so we could explore the cay more thoroughly than we had in the past.  It was a lot of fun and we found a fantastic beach for our return visit in the spring.  Green Turtle has made an enormous amount of progress since Dorian.  In fact, with the exception of a handful of buildings in the settlement and scattered throughout the island, you wouldn’t have known it was devastated 15 months earlier.

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Loved this beach on Green Turtle. We’ll spend the day here when we come back in the spring.
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It seems Dorian didn’t touch the John Lowe house from 1866.

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Thursday was test day, but on Wednesday the weather finally settled down so we decided to check out of the marina.  We have a saying on Pegu Club: sometimes you watch the show, sometimes you are the show.  Well, we were the show getting out of the slip.  It was much narrower than we were used to, and the dinghy got snagged between the boat and the piling.  There’s a t-shirt you can buy that says, “I’m sorry for what I said when I was docking the boat.”  That would have been a good shirt to have on Pegu Club.  Number one.  What does that mean?  You shall soon find out, faithful reader. Continue reading “Don’t these things usually happen in threes?”

The logistics of getting to the Bahamas during a pandemic.

The Bahamas are in the unenviable position of trying to support an economy that is heavily reliant on tourism while protecting its citizens and residents from Covid.  Many of their tourists come from the United States which is one giant Covid hotspot at the moment.  We wouldn’t have been surprised if the government had simply told people with U.S. passports that they weren’t welcome (as so many other countries have).  Instead, they came up with a plan to balance the risks.  So far, it seems to be working well – knock on wood.

Currently (and I do mean currently – there was a period where the rules were changing every 7-10 days), in order to bring your boat over to cruise in the Bahamas you need to have a negative RT-PCR Covid test and an approved health visa.  The catch is that you can’t apply for the health visa until you get your negative Covid test, and with a few exceptions you must arrive in the Bahamas no more than five days after you take the test (test day is day zero).  Winter weather windows for crossing the Gulf Stream can be tight, so the key is to find a laboratory with a quick turnaround time, along with a certain amount of luck.

When we arrived in West Palm we were actually in the middle of a three day weather window for crossing, but we had decided to pass it up.  Our heads weren’t ready for it yet and we wanted to spend a few days checking out West Palm.  We are super-careful with Covid so we weren’t able to see much, but we saw enough to know that we’d like to spend a week hanging out there post-Covid.  There are tons of different restaurants and independent shops, the beach, museums, outdoor concerts, etc.  Hopefully next year.

No matter how big your boat is, someone else always has a bigger one:

Fortunately we didn’t have to wait too long for the next window.  We were looking for a solid two days that would get us to Green Turtle Cay in the Abacos, with a backup plan to check in at West End (only 50 nautical miles away from the Lake Worth inlet) if the window shrank.

What’s the big deal with taking the test and having the window disappear?  Well, at $180/person for the tests (there are free tests available, but it’s a roll of the dice as to how quickly the results come back), $60/person for the health visa, plus a rental car, we were looking at a sizeable chunk of money if the window didn’t pan out.  That being said, we would never cross the Gulf Stream without a good window so if we lost $500+, so be it.

When we woke up on Monday we saw that Friday was a possibility for crossing.  By Tuesday morning it looked less likely.  But on Wednesday morning not only did Friday look much better, but now Saturday and Sunday were also looking good.  We reserved a rental car for the next day, just in case.

Thursday morning we woke up to listen to Chris Parker’s 6:30 a.m. forecast for the Bahamas and Florida.  The window was still looking good.  Gut check time: were we ready to roll the dice and spend the money?  Telling ourselves it’s only money (yeah, right), we decided to go for it. Continue reading “The logistics of getting to the Bahamas during a pandemic.”

A completely unexpected turn of events – we’re going to the Bahamas!

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…. Continue reading “A completely unexpected turn of events – we’re going to the Bahamas!”

November by the numbers.

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We started November with an overnight passage from Beaufort, SC to the St. Johns inlet in Florida, and we ended the month anchored in West Palm Beach waiting for a weather window to cross to the Bahamas.

Our expenses tend to be high when we are getting ready to go to the Bahamas.  Hoping to spend five months over there this time, we spent a lot of money stocking up on groceries and other miscellaneous items that are difficult or impossible to buy on the islands.  We also had an unexpected 8 day stay at Marineland Marina waiting out Tropical Storm Eta (which decided to come by twice), along with our typical stop on a ball in Vero Beach.  Finally, we had to replace a few items that broke.  Given all of the above, it was a pretty good month.

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

Shaking off the cobwebs.

Yes, it’s true.  We finally had a window and we could hop outside, bypassing Georgia entirely.  We had debated stopping at Cumberland Island but decided we wanted to get to Vero sooner rather than later.  It wasn’t a long window so we weren’t going to be able to come inside further south than the St. Johns inlet (which leads to Jacksonville), but that was good enough for us.

The night before we left was going to be our coldest of the trip at 42 degrees.  Since we planned to leave at dawn and anticipated a travel night with temperatures in the mid-50’s, we dug out our cold weather clothes for the first time in a year.  We don’t use them much any more, but we sure are glad we have them! Continue reading “Shaking off the cobwebs.”

October by the numbers.

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In October we made our way from Oriental, NC to Beaufort, SC.  We had a ten day stop in New Bern, NC where we left Pegu Club to take one more drive up north, so there were added expenses for the marina, rental car, tolls, and gas.  The costs for the trip represent 1/3 of this month’s expenses, so setting that aside it was a pretty good month.

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

Scooting down the East Coast.

We needed to make another trip up north so we decided to leave the boat in New Bern, NC.   The marina was reasonably priced and it was a town we hadn’t seen before (but we had heard good things about).  Win-win.

So after our two days at the Oriental free docks we cast off the lines and headed up the Neuse River to New Bern.  We had great conditions for sailing and thoroughly enjoyed traveling without the engine as we made our way 22 nautical miles up river.  I can see why so many sailors settle in the area. Continue reading “Scooting down the East Coast.”

Yes, we’re still alive.

I haven’t been posting weekly like I try to do, but all is well.  I’ve just been a bit unmotivated.  Cruising during Covid is not nearly as fun.  We keep to ourselves and we limit our outings.  We don’t eat out in restaurants, we don’t poke around in shops, and we don’t go to museums.  Basically we aren’t any different than people living on land who take this virus seriously, with the exception of the fact that we are sitting on a 30 foot boat instead of in a larger dwelling.

Frankly, during our trip to Connecticut in mid-September for medical appointments we came thisclose to bringing the boat north, putting it on the hard, and just living in a rental for the winter.  The Bahamas weren’t looking like a viable option and we couldn’t get excited about spending the winter in Florida. Continue reading “Yes, we’re still alive.”

September by the numbers.

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In September we finally left the marina and started working our way south, heading towards our third warm winter.

This month we had to haul out to put on more bottom paint, and we also had to travel to Connecticut for medical appointments. Those two things alone constituted 70% of our expenses this month. Knowing that we were going to be spending a lot on maintenance and travel, we made a point of trying to be conservative with everything else for the rest of the month.

Here we go:

Continue reading “September by the numbers.”