Snippets of Southern New England

When I last left off we were debating whether we were going to head north for awhile or spend some time in Long Island before moving south.  Ultimately we decided to take the slow route though Long Island, but Mother Nature (also known as our desire not to motor everywhere) dictated that we first spend another 12 days in Fishers Island Sound.  

Criss-crossing the Sound, we spent some time in West Harbor before moving to Mystic.  Mystic personifies the growth in our confidence over the past year.  Before we went cruising we had talked about taking Pegu Club up the river into Mystic, but several things made us hesitate: the long motor up the river, having to time the openings for two bridges (the first of which doesn’t keep an opening schedule because it’s a busy Amtrak railroad bridge), and the fact that the charts indicated that the water above the Seaport was extremely shallow even though we had heard it had been dredged.

Continue reading “Snippets of Southern New England”

On the “road” again.

 

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We’ve visited friends and family.  We’ve taken care of some boat chores and routine maintenance.  We’ve had assorted medical appointments and received the go-ahead from Jeff’s cardiologist with a one-year follow-up (vs. the six month reprieve she gave us last time).  So it’s time to sail away again!  It’s been great to settle in for a bit and see everyone, but we’re excited to head out and continue exploring.  The “Where is Pegu Club” map has been cleared, and we’re ready to lay some fresh tracks down on it.

Where are we pointing our bow this year?  As you can imagine, this has been a topic of extensive conversations on Pegu Club over the past two months.  We really like the Bahamas and want to spend more time exploring the various islands, particularly those south of Georgetown.  We were so close to Cuba last time that we had talked about going there on this second go-around, but the recent policy change by the current administration has quashed that idea for the time being.  It’s probably better that I withhold my thoughts on that one.

What about continuing farther into the Caribbean?  We’ve tossed that one around. We spoke to some former Shenny members who have sailed the route we were thinking about, and are currently on the west coast of Mexico.  Island-hopping south is against the prevailing wind so we bought a copy of “The Gentleman’s Guide to Passages South” by Bruce Van Sant.  He is the purported guru of minimizing your chances of getting a good ass-kicking by Mother Nature as you move south from island to island.  The whole idea is really intriguing and certainly doable.  But there are some drawbacks, and I would also like to spend time in Maine or Nova Scotia next summer.  That’s very unlikely to happen if we sail further into the Caribbean this winter.

In the near-term we initially thought we would point the boat north to explore a few areas of New England that we haven’t yet been to, then hop offshore to Cape May, NJ.  But then we talked about all of the spots on Long Island that we had to miss last season, and we really do like the trip down the East River.  Honestly, having the ability to go anywhere can lead to a touch of analysis paralysis.  So all we know for now is that we’re going to see where the wind blows for a bit.

We do have a few plans.  We definitely want to spend September exploring the Chesapeake.  We know we’d like to be in the Bahamas ideally by Christmas.  Other than that, it’s all up in the air.  It’s a far cry from the detailed schedule we had when we started out last September.

There’s a saying we’ve heard several times over the past year: “A cruiser’s plans are written in sand at low tide.”  At first I thought the saying came about because traveling by boat is so dependent on the vagaries of Mother Nature, and that’s true.

But it’s not just the weather that changes our plans.  It’s finding a great town that you just don’t want to leave.  It’s the perfect anchorage with the gorgeous beach that you have all to yourself.  It’s what happens when you ask, “Hey, what’s over there?” and decide to point the bow in that direction to find out.  So we’re going to keep it loose with some rough parameters in place.

Let’s see what happens!

June by the numbers.

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Below are the numbers for June, including what we spent.

I’ve frequently read that the first year of cruising tends to be the priciest – at least until big ticket items need to be replaced.  Ten months in (wow – time flies!), I now understand why that’s the case.  We had a few high cost upgrades that we decided would make cruising work better for us AFTER we started cruising (hello roller furling!), and we spent many more nights in a marina heading south down the ICW than we anticipated.

Going forward the only very high cost upgrade I can see us getting is a watermaker, and that will only be if we decide to travel farther afield.  Buying reverse osmosis water in the Bahamas turned out not to be a big deal at all, and only cost us $34 thanks in part to the free r/o water in Georgetown.  As for marinas, after three months in the Bahamas our confidence in anchoring in crappy weather and high winds skyrocketed which equates to fewer marina stops unless we simply want to.  All of this means that as we get better at cruising, our annual average is trending down overall as the months pass (with an occasional blip) – thank goodness.

This month we returned to Connecticut where we immediately hauled Pegu Club to take care of some routine maintenance.  Depending on how long the bottom paint lasts, we may be able to avoid hauling her out next summer.  We also spent two weeks traveling to visit friends and family in Western New York and the West Coast. The upgrades and the traveling are 50% of the month’s expenses.

Here we go:

Days under way: 4

Nautical miles covered: 126

Number of States: 3 (New Jersey, New York, Connecticut)

Nights at anchor: 5

Nights at a dock: 1 (Shenny wash down dock the night before we were hauled out)

Nights on the hard: 24

Expenses:

Groceries/Non-food Groceries: $386.09

Diesel/Gasoline: $65.20

Medical: $116.99

Cell phone and internet (2 phones, iPad, iCloud storage, Garmin inReach subscription): $192.74

Mail: $300 (one time annual payment for our mailbox at the UPS Store)

Amazon Prime: $12.99

Netflix: $13.12 (we have since decided to cancel this again because we aren’t using it enough to justify the cost)

Annual State registration for the boat and dinghy: $135

Boat Items: $2,361.68 (Engel fridge, Pelagic autopilot, club burgee, bottom paint for the boat and the dinghy, boot stripe paint, roller frame, paint brushes, rollers, Waterway guide, epoxy, hardener, epoxy pumps, shaft zinc, two shackles, replacement flag halyards, spare dinghy propeller, replacement Origo gasket, anchor ball)

Restaurants/Entertainment: $111.73

Uber: $30

New York Times subscription: $20.20

Clothing: $276.78

Travel-related expenses to visit friends and family: $853.90

Random: $78.57 (haircuts, galley items)

Total: $4,954.99

2019 monthly average to date: $3,560.30

2018 monthly average (September – December): $4,465.95

Monthly average since starting to cruise: $3,922.38

 

Summer upgrade: our Engel fridge.

So after posting in April about cruising without a refrigerator, what did we decide to buy?  A refrigerator of course.

Honestly, if we were only going to cruise for one more year we wouldn’t have bothered.  Not having a refrigerator was working out fine with our Yeti cooler, but I’ll admit that by the end of our third month in the Bahamas I was getting a bit tired of our standard meals.  Going back to the States helped with that, but then we saw that Engel was having a sale on the refrigerator/freezer that would fit in our quarter berth ($150 off plus free shipping and double the warranty).  After talking about how much longer we hope to cruise, we decided to pull the trigger. Continue reading “Summer upgrade: our Engel fridge.”

Breaks are good.

 

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One of the important things we’ve come to realize since we started cruising ten months ago is the need to periodically take a vacation from the boat.  I can hear the chorus now: A vacation?  Isn’t your LIFE a vacation?

Well, yes and no.  We were at an SSCA Gam in Essex a few years ago and a presenter mentioned that one of the keys to successfully cruising for a significant length of time is to understand that you aren’t on a permanent vacation.  This is real life, albeit a different lifestyle than most.  Vacations tend to be lollipops and rainbows.  Obviously, real life isn’t always like that.  Those who can recognize the difference tend to cruise the longest. 

Continue reading “Breaks are good.”

It’s true what they said.

As we talked to various cruisers about our plans for heading north, everyone assured us that it would take much less time than the trip south.  The weather would be better, and with the additional daylight we could make more progress each day.  Well, they were absolutely right.  Going north is MUCH faster.

Granted, we’ve done a few passages in order to get some miles under the keel, but there’s no question that this has been a quicker trip for us.  There have been very few weather delays, and the warmer temperatures leave us less fatigued so we can put in longer days.

Readers of this blog know that typically we move along very slowly.  We like to take our time and poke along.  So why the big hurry?  Well, we would like to spend some time this summer cruising in southern New England again.  But before we can do that, we have a few projects that we want to do on Pegu Club, we have some medical appointments to take care of in Connecticut, and we want to visit family in Rochester and the west coast.  We also want to leave to start heading south much earlier this time – ideally by mid-August.  Between all of those things, if we want to have ANY time to cruise our home waters we need to put the pedal to the metal and get north.  If we went at our usual slow pace, we’d have to turn around and leave as soon as we arrive!  

Honestly though, this pace is working out just fine for us.  We wouldn’t want to do it both ways, but we do think that we’ll stick with this strategy in the future – take our time going south while moving quickly north.

Continue reading “It’s true what they said.”

May by the numbers.

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Below are the numbers for May, including what we spent.

In May we reluctantly left the Bahamas and made a bee-line for Connecticut, landing in Cape May, NJ on the last day of the month.  This summer we are planning to visit friends and relatives in Rochester, NY and Southern California.  As a result, our spending was significantly higher in May due to purchasing airplane and train tickets.  Other higher expenses in May included marinas, of which all were planned except for the two days we spent in Jacksonville Beach, FL dealing with our dirty fuel situation.  The dirty fuel also caused a huge spike in fuel costs because we needed to replace it.  Hopefully June’s expenses will be more in keeping with where we prefer them.

Here we go:

Days under way: 22

Overnight passages: 4 (Great Sale Cay to Jacksonville Beach, FL; Jacksonville Beach, FL to Cow House Creek, SC; Hampton, VA to Cape May, NJ; Cape May, NJ to Atlantic Highlands, NJ)

Nautical miles covered: 1,227

Number of countries: 2 (Bahamas, United States)

Number of States: 5 (Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, New Jersey)

Nights underway: 6

Nights at a dock: 11 (2 in Jacksonville Beach, FL; 2 free nights in Oriental, NC; 3 nights in Belhaven, NC; 4 nights in Hampton, VA)

Nights at anchor: 14

Expenses:

Groceries/Non-food Groceries: $464.66

Diesel/Gasoline: $231.40

Propane/Denatured Alcohol: $16.45

Cell phone and internet (2 phones, iCloud storage, Garmin inReach subscription, and myislandwifi because the T-Mobile service is so slow in the Bahamas): $124.12

Mail: $100 (deposit for future costs to forward packages/mail)

Laundry: $13.00

Ice: $9.75

Amazon Prime: $1.99

Restaurants/Entertainment: $376.36

Uber: $9.36

New York Times subscription: $20.20

Marinas: $441.01

Clothing: $64.05

Life Insurance: $767.50 (annual premium)

Plane, train, and bus tickets: $1,084.29

Random: $167.50. (disposable gloves, box of rags, screen material for port in head, DVD’s, dock tips, flyswatter, spatula, ATM withdrawal fee, shower sprayer, funnel, small strainer)

Total: $3,891.64

September, 2018 through May 2019 monthly average: $3,807.85.

Time to slow down a bit.

We had made it from Great Sale Cay in the Abacos to north of Georgetown, SC in exactly one week – and that included a two night stop in Jacksonville Beach to get rid of our dirty fuel.  But now that we were back on the ICW with Oriental and Belhaven coming up, it was time to slow down a bit.

The days leading up to our arrival in Oriental were uneventful, save for one thunderstorm shortly after we left Cow House Creek.  We had the anchorage in Calabash Creek to ourselves that night which was quite a change from when we stopped there in the fall!

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A stunning sunset at Calabash Creek, NC.

The next day’s adventure came when we pulled up to a fuel dock at a marina in Southport, NC.  The wind had been light all day until our arrival.  I should have docked with the bow into the wind but I didn’t, and the wind steadily increased during the 20 minutes we were there.  By the time we were ready to leave, it was honking on our stern at 20 knots.  Hmm.  What to do? Continue reading “Time to slow down a bit.”

A tale of two passages – part two.

We had hoped to get off to an early start for our second passage, but the slip that Beach Marine had put us in was bit too shallow for our draft.  We were going to need to wait for the tide to float us off.  On the plus side, we knew this ahead of time so we were able to sleep in a bit. 

By 10:00 a.m. we were off, fighting the current up the ICW towards the St. John’s inlet.  It took us much longer to get into the ocean than we had hoped (making only 3.5 knots against the current will do that to you), but finally we were out and on our way.  Well, almost. 

Continue reading “A tale of two passages – part two.”

A tale of two passages – part one.

We spent several days waiting out a weather system at our hidey hole by Green Turtle Cay before moving to Great Sale Cay where we would leave for our crossing back to the U.S.  We have spent approximately one week in this Green Turtle anchorage during our time in the Bahamas, and we really do love it.  We have had it to ourselves every time except for one night, and the protection is superb.  Turtles and rays come by every day and we discovered some nice snorkeling on this last stop.  However, it was time to go so we sadly waved goodbye until next time.

Why hello there!
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A beautiful sunset.

After many discussions over the past few months, Jeff and I agreed that we were ready to try a multi-night passage.  Up to now we had only done two single overnights.  We had the awful one down the New Jersey coast, and we had a mostly wind-free 20 hours when we crossed from Lake Worth to Great Sale Cay in early February.  We had gained a lot of confidence while sailing in all kinds of conditions in the Bahamas, so it was time to push our comfort zone a bit more.

We set up custom weather routing with Chris Parker who is well-known among cruisers for his forecasting.  Although we wouldn’t have cell service off shore and we only have an SSB receiver, he would be able to send detailed forecasts through our inReach device.  When a good weather window opened up, it was time to go.

Our hope was to go from Great Sale Cay to Georgetown, SC or even Beaufort, NC if the stars aligned, but we agreed that we wouldn’t hesitate to bail out early if we wanted to.  That proved to be a very good plan. 

We left Great Sale on Sunday at 7:00 a.m. and had good wind for sailing all day.  The wind angle was a bit different than forecasted so right away we weren’t going to be able to aim for one of Chris’ suggested waypoints, but we kept chugging along with Bob (our Monitor windvane) steering like a champ.  

Continue reading “A tale of two passages – part one.”