Time to Head Home!

Wednesday, March 13th
Leeward Yacht Club
Green Turtle Cay

After a wonderful month, it’s time to leave Green Turtle Cay.

It’s mid-March already!?! Where has the time gone? I was just getting settled in and used to being here in the Bahamas and suddenly I find myself preparing Mavis to go to sea again. 

Over the past few days I had begun to think seriously about the (very) long journey home.  As a loose plan was beginning to emerge for leaving the Bahamas and sailing up the coast, I found myself already missing this incredible place. I know that I’ll soon be longing to be back here and something tells me this isn’t our last visit to Green Turtle.

We had planned on staying here for another few weeks before sailing back to the USA but some rather crappy weather is expected to move in and stay most of next week so this afternoon we went from “staying for a few weeks” to going…  Like NOW.  Friday and Saturday look like good days to cross the gulf stream so tomorrow morning at dawn we will leave this island we have called home for the last month and sail to Great Sale Cay where we will anchor for the night before crossing back to Florida.  This will allow Willow to get one more bathroom trip in and we will get to feel some Bahamian sand under our feet again before crossing Friday morning into Saturday.

We want to be home in early May.  If we want to sail conservatively and still have some time to explore places on the way back we really need to get going!  We also prefer to do ocean passages on the weekend because when we are without mobile data we can’t speak to customers, handle emails, and deal with our normal day to day operations.  And if we stay past Friday, we really don’t know when the next good crossing window will open up and chances are it won’t fall on a weekend.  So off we go.

We are expecting calm seas for our overnight passage Friday morning into Saturday morning with winds at about 15 to 18 knots from the East.  We hope to be able to sail the entire way across the Straits of Florida and arrive at the Fort Pierce inlet around dawn on an incoming tide.

I’ve been paying careful attention to the weather patterns and poring over the charts again… plotting various courses and doing numerous calculations. I have worked out about 10 different hypothetical routes back to Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. But it looks like we’ll have a good window to sail from Great Sale Cay to the Fort Pierce Inlet.  We plan to dock at Vero Beach and deal with the Customs and Border Patrol process of clearing back into the country.  There’s a new app called ROAM that allows private yachts to check in via a video interview with a CBP agent instead of having to clear in at a port of entry.  Hopefully it works without any issues.

Once tied up in Vero Beach, I’ll get my car from my sister and hit a REAL grocery store and pack the boat up with all the things we need for the long trip home.  Food, paper goods and other provisions are quite expensive out here in the islands and lots of things we take for granted at home we just can’t get.  But I’m glad we won’t be buying any more $7 cucumbers!  So after a run to a Walmart, a grocery store and West Marine, I’ll leave Mavis, Cindy and Willow behind while I drive our car home and then fly back to Palm Beach.  Once I’m back on board, Mavis will begin heading back up the coast.  We hope to be able to do much more offshore sailing on the return trip.  Due to lots of poor winter weather and the need for internet on weekdays, we found ourselves stuck inside the ICW the whole way down. This is tedious and requires us to run our engine and to hand steer the boat. We’re hoping to run offshore more on the trip home so we can use the auto-pilot and cover 120 to 170 miles per day.   This is a lot better than the 40 to 60 miles a day we average on the ICW and it also gives us time to relax in more ports of call.  Overall a much more relaxing way to travel if the seas aren’t hairy.

Last sunset on GTC

We went into town tonight and enjoyed one last dinner while watching the sunset on the Sea of Abaco.  Although we are looking forward to being home Cindy and I both feel pretty emotional about leaving this place.  It’s not like the feeling you get at the end of a great vacation in a resort…  It’s different.  In the month we’ve been here we’ve fallen in love with this charming little island and its people.  After dinner we stopped by our friend Kyle’s house to say goodbye.  A group of friends had gathered there and it was nice to get a chance to say farewell properly as our decision to leave was pretty abrupt.  Last night we were having a few drinks with Kyle at Pineapples and telling him that we would be around for weeks and this afternoon that all changed.  Kyle’s lovely wife Novi works at the Leeward Yacht Club where Mavis has been docked for the month.  We only learned that they were married a few weeks ago.  It seems everybody is related on Green Turtle.  

So a little side story…  Kyle and Novi have a son Kyle Jr. who everyone calls KJ.  KJ is 8 years old and he’s a real personality.  He’s also really afraid of Willow… And all dogs for that matter.  I remember the first time we saw him before I knew who his father was.  He was walking on the opposite side of the street and went waaaaay wide to put as much distance between himself and the dog as possible.  One night while talking to Kyle he told me his son is terribly afraid of dogs because he was chased by one years ago.  I was pretty sure I knew that the boy who avoided Willow was KJ.  A few days later I saw the boy again and left Willow with Cindy and went over to talk to him.  I confirmed that he was Kyle’s son and I told him that his father really wanted to get a dog but wouldn’t because he was afraid.   I told him that before I left the island, I’d like it if he would be able to pet Willow.  He said “No way!”…  I shouted “Ok.  But think about it!” as KJ ran back to his house.  The next day as Cindy, Willow and I walked past Kyle’s house on our way back from the market the door flew open and KJ appeared on the porch and yelled “Hey!  I’m thinking about it!”  We laughed and walked on.  I figured we had 3 weeks or so to get him warmed up to the idea.  That was about a week ago…  Tonight we tied Willow up on Kyle’s front porch and after chatting with Kyle and some of his friends and family who we had become friendly with,  I went over to chat with the young man and to say goodbye.  I told him that Willow was a good dog and that she would never bite him.  I explained that just like there are good and bad people there are good and bad dogs and it would be a shame if he remained afraid of dogs his whole life just because of a bad experience.  He didn’t seem convinced at all.  Then I told him we were leaving the island early in the morning so if he was ever going to pet Willow it had to be now.  He said “Ok!  Just cover her eyes so she doesn’t know it’s me.”  I was really happy to see him get a few quick pets in…  If we had more time they’d be buddies.

KJ finally pets Willow!

At Kyle’s, we also got to see Brendan and Pearl who are fellow cruisers aboard S/V Sendem.  They’ve been to Green Turtle before and we actually met them through PJ and Jim.  Those guys all met up in Deltaville and while out for a walk one day with PJ and Jim we ran into them.  They all looked so shocked to see each other.  Imagine running into somebody you met in Virginia on this tiny little island!  That’s kind of what happens in this crazy community of cruisers.  Brendan and Pearl are really cool people and I’m very glad we met them.  They introduced us to some great people and gave us some tips and pointers about the island.  I wish we could have spent some more time with them before taking off.

Speaking of PJ and Jim from Hail Mary.  We love these guys and feel terrible for leaving the Abacos without saying goodbye in person.  I’ll call them tomorrow and I know they’ll understand.  It’s hard to sail on a schedule but I know our paths will cross with them again…  Perhaps in Florida. 🙂

I think Betty and Bill from Sea Mist will be also heading north soon.  I really hope we get to see them again too.  So it’s bittersweet to be leaving this amazing place.  It sucks saying goodbye to new friends who we were just getting to know.  It stinks skipping out on PJ and Jim.  We’ll always remember this time we shared in the Abacos.

Goodbye Green Turtle Cay.  It’s been a blast!  

Capt Frank

 

Green Turtle Cay

March 6, 2019
Green Turtle Cay

Warning… Lots of words ahead.

I don’t know how it happens but sometimes I sit down for a few minutes and when I look up, I’ve filled the screen with thousands of words.  I try not to edit things too much, but leave it in its pure, stream-of-consciousness form.  You’ve been warned.

Sunset at the beach

Hello from the charming and beautiful Green Turtle Cay in the Abacos.  Today is March 6th, 2019 and we have been aboard Mavis for 159 days since leaving Long Island.  It’s hard to believe its March already!  Spring is right around the corner and this is usually the time of year that I begin making final preparations to launch our boat and start our season…  I get a real kick out of knowing that we don’t have to worry about any of that this year because our season never ended!  In fact, I find myself super excited when I realize that our Spring/Summer 2019 season will be starting soon.  It will be nice to be back in our home waters on the Great South Bay.  I’m happy to announce that we just signed the contract for a slip Sunset Harbour Marina in East Patchogue.  This is a bit further east on the bay than I would have liked but at this point a few miles really doesn’t matter.  Our voyage here including various side trips has put about 1700 nautical miles under our keels and I imagine our round-trip will be about 3,000 nautical miles…  That really changes my perspective on an extra twenty minutes to get to Atlantique, one of our favorite spots on Fire Island!

The weather here in the Abacos has been absolutely perfect.  With the exception of one rainy day and a few stray showers it’s been wall to wall sunshine and 76 to 82 degrees.  At night the temps dip to about 70.  I’ve only wished for air conditioning a few times on this trip.  The trade winds keep us comfortable and move the boat along very nicely.  We’ve had a few stray showers that pop up out of nowhere and deliver torrential downpours for a few minutes and then… Back to perfect weather.   We got caught out in a downpour on our morning walk today and by the time we got back to the boat we were absolutely drenched.  Do you like Pina Coladas???  When its 80 degrees I don’t mind a refreshing downpour and getting caught in the rain to cool us off.  30 minutes later it was sunny again.

Getting drenched in a downpour is no big deal when its 82 degrees!

Last weekend we took a side-hop over to Manjack Cay which is about 5 miles north of us.  Mavis and Hail Mary spent the night on the anchor under a star filled sky after a delicious dinner served up by our friends.  Dark here is DARK.  It’s amazing how many stars you can see when you’re this far out and away from big cities and towns.

We got to do some snorkeling on a wreck that was very close to where we dropped the anchor.  Cindy had discovered it while paddling around on our kayak.  The next morning, we threw our gear onto the dinghy and headed over.  We didn’t need wetsuits because the shallow water was probably around 75 degrees.  We stayed in the water on that wreck for about an hour.

Snorkelling in the mangroves.

We found an idyllic beach that we had all to ourselves… Or so we thought.  We discovered a very large set of hoof prints that belonged to what we suspected was a big pig.  We were having a great time and it was a beautiful beach and there was no pig in sight so we hung out for a while.  I had heard the wild pigs around here can be a bit aggressive because the cruising boats feed them and pig bites are common injuries.  I wasn’t that concerned for us but I had reservations about Willow who was running around the beach.  Thankfully we didn’t see the animal that made those prints!

Cindy swinging off Manjack Cay

That evening, while having dinner aboard Hail Mary with friends, we saw a giant animal wandering along on the beach.  Jim, Hail Mary’s captain grabbed his binoculars and as he panned around he suddenly stopped and said “Holy Shit!”.  We all took turns looking at a giant pig through the binoculars.  Cindy and I really wanted to check him out so we left Willow with our friends and zoomed over on the dinghy.  As soon as we got close to the beach this thing started wading out toward the dinghy.  We didn’t have any food for him so we let him approach a bit and took off.  As we did, he realized there would be no meal and he turned sideways…  Only when I got a look at him from this perspective did I get a true sense as to the size of this beast.  I estimate this thing weighed around 350 pounds.

Mr. Pig tried to board our brand new dinghy.

The next morning we got up early and Willow jumped into the dinghy for her morning bathroom trip.  As we approached the shoreline, I scanned the beach looking for the giant pig we saw the night before.  It looked like the coast was clear so as we got in close I turned off the engine and gave Willow the “Ok Free!” command.  She immediately hopped off the bow and scurried up to the beach.  Looking back at Cindy and I who were still in the dinghy she squatted and started to pee.  That’s when we saw the pig slowly coming out of the brush and lumbering toward Willow!  She looked over her shoulder at the thing and nonchalantly continued to urinate…  Just as she finished, the big boar was probably about 20 feet from her and continuing to approach slowly.  I called Willow back to the boat and we quickly helped her clamor aboard.  As the pig waded out to our dinghy we started the engine and took off.   Again, the poor giant boar looked disappointed as we left without feeding him.  Later that day, Cindy and I returned to the beach with Jim and some scraps from the boat and fed this thing.  We had drifted in close into shallow water so I had to climb out of the boat to pull us out.  While I’m doing this, Cindy and Jim are tossing food to the pig to keep him away from the boat…  As we ran out of food, however, he tried to climb into the dinghy.  It was pretty comical but a little scary.  I reminded myself that I had my pole spear aboard the dinghy in case this boar needed a reminder that boarding someone’s boat without permission was a no-no.  We escaped the pig of Crab Cay without any injuries.

Big boar on Crab Cay

We had a series of minor business challenges that kept me glued to my laptop for a full day putting out fires, modifying software and websites, and dealing with some customer issues.  I also had to change some configurations on our telephony server.  I was pretty aggravated.  Just a few days ago I posted Set Yourself Free, a blog post about designing your business so you can be free and here I was, in paradise, stuck in the boat working.  But when the fire was put out, I reveled in the accomplishment, even more convinced that a true digital nomad can handle some rather challenging business problems without having to give up this incredible lifestyle.  In just a day I had accomplished what could have taken a solid week of work.  How is this possible, you ask?   I highly recommend reading The 4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris.  I don’t agree with everything Tim says in the book but if you’re at all interested in changing the way you think about work, give this gem a read!

Island Wifi has been outstanding!  I wish this kind of internet connectivity was available back home.  We have been in the Bahamas about 15 days and already burned through 300 gigs of data and coverage has been remarkably good here in the Abacos!

After enjoying the company of our new friends Jim and PJ from Hail Mary and Bill and Betty from Sea Mist, who we met in Stuart they all left us today to move further south.  We will catch up with them in 10 days or so when our month here at Leeward Yacht Club is up.

In the meanwhile, we’ve really been enjoying walking around this fantastic island and exploring.  There are a number of breathtaking and pristine beaches that we have been visiting.  Walking along the shorelines here is like walking through a postcard or a travel brochure.  I’ve said it before — things are so perfect here that they almost look Photoshopped.

We are slowly depleting the ship’s stores of shelf-stable and canned goods.  There are a few markets here that stock vegetables and frozen meats.  Everything comes over on the mail boat on Thursdays.  We have the basics available here but food is pricey.  Some things seem to be only slightly more expensive than home.  Others are highway robbery.  $21 for paper plates?  $7 for a bag of ruffles potato chips?  $11 for a can of pineapple juice?

Although we can get the basics here I’m looking forward to a big re-provisioning when we get down to Marsh Harbour.  There are a number of good grocery stores there and if you shop carefully you won’t get clobbered. I did, however, recently hear a story about a fellow cruiser who got back to his boat and reviewed his receipt to learn he paid $45 for a box of Archer cookies that go for $2 in the US.  This is sadly pretty common.  Caveat Emptor!

A few nights ago we had some lobster tails for dinner.  I got 6 small tails for $15.  They were delicious but I think next time instead of grilling them, I’ll steam them because I found that the flesh got stuck to the shell in spots.  Our super-expensive “infrared” stainless-steel Magma grill that we have only used a handful of times has some hot spots that make cooking a challenge.  The thing is really small to begin with so having to shuffle food around on it’s surface is a royal pain.  It works, but $650 is a lot of money for a gas grill for a boat.  Lesson learned.  You don’t always get what you pay for.  Especially when it comes to marine stuff.

Surf and Turf being prepared on our expensive (but crappy) Magma grill.

Life here on Green Turtle is interesting to say the least.  The rich history of this place is evident everywhere you look in the town.  Columbus… Pirates… British loyalists… Freed American slaves.  Lots happened here.

The people here are warm and friendly and any serious crime here is rare.  We feel safe walking all over the island at night even though it gets incredibly dark — “like holy shit it’s freaking dark” dark!  When you live in a city or in suburbia, it’s so easy to forget what it feels like to be standing in complete darkness under a sky filled with stars.   I’m glad it’s something we get to enjoy out here.  It’s just one of those simple things that you don’t realize are missing from your life until suddenly it’s there.  I’m having lots of those realizations on this trip…  And conversely, there are all sorts of things we take for granted at home that seem like ridiculous luxuries to me now.  But back to feeling safe…

The fact that there is only one cop on the island confirms my belief that some places just don’t need tons of police and government services to maintain order.  I say “some places” because our experience here is in stark contrast to what’s happening in Nassau.  The U.S. Department of State just released a travel advisory due to high rates of violent crime, robbery and sexual assault over there.  But the out-islands are a completely different experience.  Even though the vast majority of the population of this country live on New Providence Island (Nassau)…  These family islands are the REAL Bahamas, in my opinion.

Last night, while feasting on our lobster tails, we heard a very strange sound.  Sirens!  The last time I heard sirens we were in Florida.  It’s so quiet and peaceful here at night.  There’s no traffic noise… No trains going by.  Just the sound of the water against our hull and the breeze in our rigging.  Occasionally a boat’s engine or bow-thruster will break the silence but the nights here are pretty silent.  All day long, the roosters crow but I’ve learned to tune them out.  But sirens?  Sirens are something very strange indeed.  Cindy and I looked at each other like “WTF?” as we listened to this alien sound move from one end of the island to the other.

Today I learned that spring break season is starting.  It seems rich kids who’s parents have vacation homes here come to party and last night a young girl got herself into some drugs and/or alcohol and crashed her golf cart.  The island nurse stiched her up and from what I understand wanted to sew her mouth shut during the procedure.  I hear the injuries were minor.  Kids!  Golf cart crashes are not-surprisingly commonplace here but it’s almost always tourists at the wheel.  I suppose it doesn’t help things that they drive on the left side of the road here.  Last year someone managed to make it completely off the road into the harbor on one.  But despite all this craziness, the island still feels quaint and peaceful.

There is a bank on the island…  But not really.  It is only open on Thursdays from 10am to 2pm and I understand they take a 1 hour break for lunch.  I think the bankers just come over on the mail boat and spend a few hours.  Same thing with the cellular telephone company, BTC.  If you need to purchase a new sim card for your phone, pay your bill, get a new phone or any of the things you can easily do at home… Thursday is your day.   The post office is open 3 days a week for a few hours each day.  Starting to get the idea?

All of this inconvenience makes Green Turtle feel special.  We are after-all, on a barrier island off another island in an island nation.  Even though we are only about 180 miles from the Florida coast, sometimes it feels like we may as well be on the moon.

Even though we are only about 180 miles from the Florida coast, sometimes it feels like we may as well be on the moon.

Although many services are limited here, one thing that does seem to be reliably open are the bars.  There are lots of really good places to kick back and grab a drink.  This island runs on rum and Kalik, the Bahamian beer.  My favorite place so far is The Liquor Store.  This is an actual liquor store with walls lined with bottles of Rum, Wine, Gin… And more rum.  Lot’s of rum.  Just like any liquor store at home…  But unlike the stores at home, there are also tables in the middle of the place and they serve drinks and food.   They make an amazing rum punch that they refuse to give me the ingredients to but I think the primary ingredient is rum.  This concoction went down extremely easy but it packed a hell of a punch that got the first mates pretty buzzed.  The food there is great too!

I find the drinks at our marina’s pool bar to be a bit light on the booze but I watched as the bartender at another great spot called Pineapple’s  poured all sorts of rum into a milk jug and shook it up… Then she carefully sniffed it and poured in ridiculous amounts of more rum.  Then she sniffed it again and poured in more rum.  There was an insane amount of rum in this milk jug and I thought for sure she was going to pour it into some juice or something to dilute it.  But no.  She poured it into a cup and served it to me.  After she poured out a few servings she stopped, sniffed again and added… Yes. more rum.  It seemed that as  the night went on this rum punch got progressively more potent.  We had a good  great time that night and it seems we met half the island there.   All of the locals we talked with were incredibly proud of their island.  And they should be.  Green Turtle Cay is a very special place.

Capt Frank

Willow and Cindy enjoy watching the sun set from topside.

 

 

 

 

 

Set Yourself Free!

Instead of using your energies working IN your business, I challenge you to work ON your business.  Leverage technology, build the systems, processes, methods and techniques to set yourself free.

We’ve spent 150 nights on board since leaving Long Island and today is our 10th day since entering the Bahamas.  We’ve settled in very nicely here on Green Turtle Cay in the Abacos.  Most weekdays we spend at least a few hours working from the boat.  Today I got thinking about freedom of time and place, digital nomadism and running a modern business.  

Have you ever dreamed of operating a successful business from a tropical beach?  Do you fantasize about sailing over the horizon and still being able to earn a healthy income?  Would you like to travel for months or years at a time without your business missing a beat?  I’m here to tell you that all of this is possible.

I won’t go as far as to say that anyone with a laptop and a dream can take off and do this.  It does requires careful planning and a willingness to change the way you think about your business.  But many ventures can rather easily be transformed to provide for lots of freedom for its owners.  I’m talking about freedom to spend more time with family and friends, freedom to travel, explore new interests, learn, volunteer, or do just about anything you want to do with your life.

With some careful design decisions and the right know-how  it’s possible for an entrepreneur to build a successful business from the ground up that provides freedom of time and place.  But location independence  is only part of the puzzle.  What good is being on the beach in Tahiti if you have to work 14 hours a day to keep things running?

What good is being on the beach in Tahiti if you have to work 14 hours a day to keep things running?

Once you’ve severed the shackles that tie to you working from a certain place at a certain time you’re about halfway there!  The next step is building business processes that don’t require your constant intervention and  incrementally making small changes that reduce your workload.

The world’s wireless networks are getting faster and more reliable every day and the coverage areas have expanded dramatically.  Excellent laptops can be had for a few hundred dollars and modern smartphones are incredibly powerful.

Working from a desk in an office, wasting away under fluorescent tubes in a cubicle and exchanging your priceless hours of life for money are an antiquated trap.  If you’re like me, you understand that there’s a better way.  Instead of using your energies working IN your business, I challenge you to work ON your business.  Leverage technology, build the systems, processes, methods and techniques to set yourself free.

r/
FZ

 

Dream Big

 

Leeward Yacht Club
Green Turtle Cay
Abaco, Bahamas

 

I love it when a plan comes together.  For years, Cindy and I have dreamed about buying a cruising boat and taking off for the islands.  At first it seemed like an impossible dream — an irresponsible fantasy.  Responsible adults don’t do these things!  But soon the conversation changed from “Can we do this?” to HOW can we do this?”

How could we afford to do this?  What about the business?  We couldn’t really just take off for 7 or 8 months and go sailing, could we?  Would the house be ok?  Will the kids be ok?  What about the cat?   Ok… I honestly didn’t think too much about the cat.

After the long trip down the coast from New York, we felt pretty good about being in Florida.  It was nice to just be somewhere warm and to stay put for a while.  I was feeling accomplished and had said to Cindy that even if our cruise ended right there in Stuart, FL and we sailed home in the spring, I would be happy.  I meant that when I said it but I knew the plan was to get to the Bahamas.  Even after all these months on board and all these miles sailed, I often found myself suffering from a sort of impostor syndrome…  I didn’t really think of us as “real cruisers.”  We were just “faking it until we make it.” I thought…  I was reasonably competent as a skipper but I didn’t really think of myself as being particularly salty or capable.

Trying to leave Stuart was a comedy of errors.  There were all sorts of administrative hoops to jump through to get Willow’s paperwork in order.  We had our car and had to get it up to Vero where it would stay with my sister.  There was the normal pre-cruise provisioning and boat preparations…  Cindy’s passport was due to arrive on 2-14.  We wanted to leave on 2-15 so it was a real nail biter hoping that everything would work out and that the passport would arrive in time.  A few days before departure Cindy and I were relaxing on the bow when my phone slipped out of my hands and went BLOOP.  Right overboard!   Our diver, Shane retrieved it for me the next day and cleaned Mavis’ bottom for us but after having spent 24 hours submerged, the phone was toast.  So I ordered a replacement phone which was supposed to arrive on the 14th or 15th.  When it didn’t arrive on the 14th I figured we would just wait for it on the 15th…  Unfortunately, Fedex had some weather issues so it was delivered today, 2-18 in Stuart, FL… But we are now in Green Turtle Cay, Bahamas…  So I’m using an ancient toy phone until I can figure out how to get my new device over here.  From what I understand, the easiest way to do this is to have someone fly it over into Treasure Cay airport and take the BOLO Ferry to the island…  Any volunteers?

As if all this wasn’t enough… The night before we were supposed to leave Stuart, as we left the dinghy dock to head back to Mavis who was now on a mooring ball, I bounced the boat off the dock and immediately heard a hissing sound…  Our dinghy was leaking air.

This inflatable dinghy is about 10 years old and I’m actually surprised it hadn’t failed yet but to fail just as we were supposed to be leaving for the Bahamas really got me crazy.  We had dropped our car off at my sister’s house for safekeeping until we returned to the USA so we had no car.  We were sitting in a sinking dinghy with the dog.   I was starving.  It was dark and our floating home was waaaaay out in the mooring field.  It was Valentine’s Day.  We were supposed to have a nice steak dinner on board and leave for the Bahamas in the morning.  I didn’t want to miss our weather window because we didn’t know when our next opportunity to cross the gulf stream would appear.

I frantically started calling the local West Marine in Stuart.   I mean frantically.  It was about 6:30 and the store closes at 8.  They had no dinghies in stock but they offered to order one.  That didn’t work because I was going to the Bahamas in the morning!  I could go without a phone but over here a dinghy is pretty important.  I asked if I could purchase a floor model but was told no.   Finally I called the Jensen Beach West Marine who were happy to sell me their floor model…  We ubered over to the store, lugged the dinghy to the dock and inflated it…  I transferred our outboard motor from the old dinghy and we were back in business by 10pm.  We haven’t registered it but the Bahamas doesn’t seem to care about U.S. registrations for tenders.  We’ll deal with registration numbers when we get back.  So at least it failed in Stuart and not out on some remote island…  One less thing to worry about but this trip is getting expensive.

So after all of this craziness I was so happy to be underway again.  I get stressed out before any major voyages.  I suppose it’s anxiety because as soon as we get going I feel great again.   About an hour and a half after leaving Sunset Bay, we were exiting the Saint Lucie Inlet and turning right to follow the coast of Florida down to Delray Beach which I had calculated as the right place to begin heading east across the gulf stream.

Remember that impostor syndrome thing?   That all went away the other morning.  I have a hard time finding the words to properly express just how I felt as we made landfall in West End, Grand Bahama.  It was surreal and incredible and emotional.  I was exhausted and exhilarated and proud and happy and excited all at once.  Just as I had planned, the sun began to rise and Grand Bahama appeared right where it was supposed to be.  Maybe we aren’t impostors after all?  Maybe we actually know what we are doing?

Flying the quarantine flag as we make landfall in the Bahamas at dawn

I felt myself getting a little choked up as we entered the marina and tied Mavis up to the customs dock.  Just like that, in that moment, as I cleated the line off…  after years of dreaming, a solid year of planning and then 5 months on board, all of this became incredibly real.   We were actually in the Bahamas.

If you get nothing more from reading these words, it is my hope that you’ll realize that anything you can dream you can do. 

If you get nothing more from reading these words, it is my hope that you’ll realize that anything you can dream you can do.  It doesn’t matter if your dreams seem impossible.  Just want it bad enough and be prepared to do whatever it takes to make it happen.  It doesn’t hurt to have the right partner by your side.  I’m very fortunate to have someone equally as passionate and just crazy enough to do these things with!

By the time we were tying up in West End, I had been awake a solid 24 hours but I was full of adrenaline and caffeine.  I left Cindy and Willow on the boat and proceeded to the customs office to check in, a binder full of paperwork in my arms.  Customs needs to see passports for everyone on board, Willow’s pet import permit, her health certificate, the boat’s coast guard documentation…   A few forms… ok lots of forms later and the customs officer started stamping passports and forms.  He took our $150 fee for Mavis’ cruising permit and with a warm smile he said “Welcome to the Bahamas.”

“Wow!” I thought.  “Did that guy really say that?”  I started feeling choked up again.  I left the customs office and happily made my way down the dock to Mavis where I found Cindy and Willow waiting on deck for me.  We took down our yellow quarantine flag and hoisted the Bahamian courtesy flag to the top of our starboard spreader.  Every time I have doubts about whether any of this is real I look at that flag…  And the same flags on all of the other cruising boats around us.  This is real.  We are in paradise.

Time to raise the Bahamian flag!

After topping up Mavis’ fuel tanks with Bahamian diesel which I was surprised to see was clear and not dyed red, we headed back out the inlet and around Indian Cay onto the Little Bahama Bank.  Heading out this inlet we were back out in the Atlantic Ocean and the waves were steep and about 5 feet.  We caught a few waves on the bow before turning right to go around Indian Cay.  The water on the bank like all the water in all of the Bahamas is crystal clear.  The bank is only 15 to 20 feet deep  and its sandy bottom is visible as you sail across the waters.   For miles and miles and miles, as far as the eye could see was crystal clear water.  It looked like the world’s largest swimming pool!  We saw only one other boat the whole day as we sailed east watching the bottom go by…  The water colors varied from a crazy surreal emerald green to turquoise to deep blue.

This guy swam along in our bow wake for a few minutes.

A solitary dolphin swam along our starboard side and made his way into our bow wake where he swam and looked at the strange people on the bow looking back at him and taking pictures.  He hung out with us for a few minutes and then darted off.  After motoring across the bank all day, we arrived at Great Sale Cay where we would drop our anchor for the night.  We  took Willow ashore on our new dinghy and for a few moments we found ourselves on our own island in the Bahamas.

After a much needed night of sleep on the anchor and another trip ashore for the dog, we hoisted the anchor and headed toward the Sea of Abaco.  My plan was to try to get to Spanish Cay but if things were looking good and we could make it by sundown, we wanted to get to Green Turtle Cay where our friends PJ and Jim from Hail Mary had set up camp a few weeks earlier.  After about two hours of motoring the winds picked up and we raised the sails and turned off the engine.

Epic sailing on the Sea of Abaco

This was by far the best sailing experience of my life.  The water was amazing…  But the sailing was pretty awesome too.  We had 15 to 20 knots on our beam which allowed Mavis to easily glide along at around 6 to 7 knots.  I had such a smile on my face that after the 50 something mile cruise my jaw hurt!  I’ll never forget that sail on the Sea of Abaco.

We arrived in Green Turtle Cay and were welcomed by our friends who helped us get tied up in the amazing slip we’re in.  We are so happy to be here on GTC at the Leeward Yacht Club.  We’ve booked this slip for the month, so this will be our base of operations for a while.  Here at the marina we have a really nice pool with a restaurant and bar.  We’ve been gorging on lobster bites and conch fritters.  We may be fat but we are tan!

There’s a nice little pool here at the Leeward Yacht Club

This morning, we took a walk into town to explore and were really happy with what we found.  We didn’t really know what to expect.  The settlement of New Plymouth here on the island is incredibly quaint.   Far from the glitzy casinos and mega-resorts of Nassau, this is the real Bahamas.  Chickens roam around this island everywhere.  In fact, Willow got a mouth full of feathers in a dramatic altercation with one of the buggers this morning.  After Cindy got a hold of Willow, the chicken got away unharmed but upset.

New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay is a quaint small town.

 

After returning to the marina we went for a swim in the pool before walking to the beach to meet our friends PJ and Jim and Betty and Bill, all of whom we met at Sunset Bay in Stuart.  The beach here is incredible.  I’ve been to a lot of beaches in a lot of places but this has to be the most fantastic stretch of sand I’ve ever seen.   Photos don’t do it justice.

Amazing beach on Green Turtle Cay

It’s really beautiful here.  We’re taking lots and lots of photos.  It’s crazy to think that someday this will all be a memory.  I don’t want to leave this place.

Sunrise from our slip at the Leeward Yacht Club, Green Turtle Cay, Bahamas!

Even though I could see myself staying here forever, I find myself simultaneously looking forward to enjoying a month or two here in the Bahamas and also looking forward to sailing home to the Great South Bay and Fire Island.  As awesome and amazing as this trip has been and I’m sure will continue to be, it will be nice to be home for a while.  I’ve given thought to leaving the boat here and flying home.  It would be pretty cool having Mavis down here in paradise waiting for us to come down.  Sort of like having a floating condo in the Bahamas…    Our insurance company would really hit us hard for leaving the boat in the hurricane belt over the summer and we REALLY need a boat at home.  We would be lost without her.  I’d also be super nervous about leaving her.  I’ve loved this boat since the moment we bought her but this trip and these miles we have shared have made her so much more than a boat and a home to me…  It’s hard to explain the relationship a captain has with his ship but trust me when I say it’s complicated.

That’s all for now.  Thanks for following along on this grand adventure of a lifetime.

Capt Frank
S/V Mavis

The Waiting Game

 

The weather window that was supposed to open up for us for this evening isn’t panning out but the good news is it looks like tomorrow night will be favorable for an overnight gulf stream crossing.  We are keeping an eye on things…

The sailfish fountain in downtown Stuart, FL

It’s a common situation in cruising.  And extremely common on these crossings from Florida to the Bahamas this time of year.  The boat is loaded to the gills, the course has been set, the crew is excited and ready…  But the winds and seas must cooperate.  According to our weather router, Chris Parker at www.mwxc.com things will settle down tomorrow but there may still be a “lingering swell”  that may make for “uncomfortable travel” until tomorrow afternoon.

I’m still waiting on a package that was supposed to arrive today but is now expected tomorrow.  The moment I have it we will set out!

We left the slip today and are now back in the mooring field on a ball waaaaaaaaay on the far side of the field.  It’s a long hike by dinghy back and forth to the marina so we’re really hoping everything goes well with our departure tomorrow.

Capt Frank
S/V Mavis

 

Almost Time to Go!

Our relaxing days at Sunset Bay Marina are winding down fast as we make our final preparations to depart for the Bahamas!  We’ve enjoyed our time here.  After the formidable journey down the coast, just being in one place for a while has been something we’ve appreciated.  Add to that having our car, unlimited access to dining and shopping and we found a much needed sense of normalcy.  Soon we’ll say goodbye to this special place, our car, unlimited water and power and the other comforts of home as we head back out to sea and get back into cruising mode.

Presently we are waiting to see if we will get a weather window to cross the gulf stream tomorrow night.  It’s all up to the front that is passing through the area.  This is a serious stretch of blue water and we need the conditions to be just right.  Our fingers are crossed.

As you may know, a major concern for us making this trip has been our ability to operate our business on the go.  We need reliable data.  Lots of data.  And it needs to be relatively high speed and low latency.

In talking to other cruisers bound for the Bahamas both in person and online we discovered a company called Island Wifi that offers excellent 4g LTE service throughout the Bahamas.  After speaking with Leo Tripp, I was confident that they provide this much needed data.   For an unlimited hotspot plan we are paying $75 per month.  And unlike “unlimited plans” at home, we won’t get throttled after we use a certain amount of data.  I hear the service is very good.  We received our hotspot yesterday.  Between our international service with Google Fi and this new device we should be pretty good to operate our business from the Islands of the Bahamas.

Our Island Wifi Hotspot

We’ve been stocking up the ship’s stores with dry goods, canned food and shelf-stable items.  JWe’ve made what we hope will be our last run for meats, fruits and vegetables.  The boat is sitting lower in the water with all these provisions aboard.

Cans, cans, and more cans… Where do we put all these cans?

Things are starting to feel very real and I find myself full on anticipation much the way I did before we left home to begin this grand adventure… You can read about that HERE.  There’s so much to do!

A few days ago my mind was reeling…  I was feeling a little anxious about about being prepared for the trip.  It was another beautiful day with lots of sunshine and a warm breeze so Cindy and I decided to relax on the bow and have a relaxing afternoon cocktail.  Heck, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, right?  Shortly after our relaxation began I managed to drop my phone overboard…  It slipped from my hand, bounced on the deck in SLOW MOTION and began to tumble and spin until it entered the water with a rather depressing “bloop.”  Mavis was due for a last minute pre-departure bottom cleaning so I called our diver Shane who retrieved my phone.  Even though it still worked for a while…  It’s toast.  I hope to have a replacement device in hand by tomorrow… 2/14.  Argh!

A few days ago we got Willow’s pet import permit from the Bahamas Department of Agriculture.  Yesterday I took her in for her final vet visit just before departure.  Her health certificate is complete and Willow now can legally enter the Bahamas.

Cindy, on the other hand cannot.  She is still waiting for her passport.  We used an agency to expedite the process and we expect it to arrive at the marina tomorrow.  Talk about cutting it close…

Crossing from Florida to the Bahamas this time of year can be challenging.  The trade winds blow strong from the east (where we are going) and there are frequent cold fronts that bring strong north winds.  When crossing the gulf stream you really don’t want any north component to the wind as this can create large, dangerous waves.  Mavis is a tiny, light ship so we pick our days at sea carefully.

On the 15th we need to leave this slip that we have called home for the last month.  If we can’t depart directly for the Bahamas, we plan to return to the mooring field and wait for a weather window to cross.

We’re using Chris Parker from the Marine Weather Center https://mwxc.com/ to provide us custom weather forecasts and routing for the crossings to and from the Bahamas as well as while we are over there.  As a pilot, I’m pretty comfortable understanding and interpreting weather data but it’s good to have a professional on our side.  We’re still new at this, after all and winter, despite what many think, is NOT an ideal time to visit the Bahamas.  The winds frequently blow hard and the water temperatures are only in the low 70s.  There’s a lot of deep blue water out there… But we don’t plan on waiting until spring to arrive in the Bahamas.

Our route from the St. Lucie Inlet to Grand Bahama

Speaking of Spring…  This trip has been awesome so far and we have much adventure ahead of us in the Islands but before you know it, it will be time to point Mavis north again and head HOME!  We have completely adjusted to life in this tiny home of ours but it’s going to be amazing to be back in our enormous house with our family and friends.  I’m getting anxious to make some business moves and get back to my comfortable office.   We’re also looking forward to being back on the Great South Bay and on Fire Island.  We are even planning to do a bit of cruising over the summer… Nothing like this crazy trip but maybe a few weeks up at Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod.  But heck, we are seasoned cruisers now… We could end up in Newfoundland. 🙂

I got to catch up with another old friend, Keith last week.  and we also had a fantastic visit with Cindy’s uncle Mike and his better half Rena.

Cindy and her uncle Michael in Hollywood

Today we signed a contract for Mavis’ slip for the summer on Long Island.  We’re happy to announce that we’ve selected Sunset Harbour Marina in Patchogue for the season.  It’s hard to believe we’ve been out here almost 5 months already…  It’s exciting to think about being back in our home waters!  See you at the Tiki Bar.

Capt Frank
S/V Mavis

 

 

 

 

Dock Life at Sunset Bay

Over the last two months we’ve settled in very nicely at the Sunset Bay Marina and Anchorage in Stuart, FL. In our last blog post I explained that we were floating comfortably on mooing ball #32 out in the anchorage. We were getting used to life out there and had adjusted to the the dinghy trips, power and water conservation, and being detached from land. But when a slip opened up a few weeks ago we grabbed it without hesitation!

We now occupy slip A29 and we’re getting spoiled with being able to hop on and off the boat when we want to. We are also loving having solid access to the marina’s excellent WiFi. Being on shore power is pretty awesome too. In general, life is much more “normal” now that we are tied to land. It’s not quite as peaceful and serene in the marina but I’m not complaining. It’s like having a waterfront apartment.

The view down A dock where Mavis now lives. The sunsets here are fantastic.

Sometimes when I’m out on a walk, I have to pinch myself when I realize I’m warm and in shorts and flip flops in January.  I usually spend my winters dreaming about being able to go boating.  It feels great to know that we have successfully extended our boating season!

Did I mention how fantastic the sunsets are here?

We’ve had a few more visitors on board since our last update. Rob (aka Babou) came to visit in early January. An official member of the crew, Rob was on the boat’s maiden voyage, helping us sail our girl home from Deltaville, VA to Oakdake, NY last spring. That brave guy was aboard when I was just getting to know Mavis and learning how she handled, finding what was broken, and figuring things out in general. He’s been my best friend for almost 30 years now and it was so good to see him. We are working on getting him back down here with his less-salty wife Mary who’s also a dear friend. She doesn’t share Rob’s love for sailing and boating but now that we are on a dock I think she might actually enjoy “glamping” for a few days.

One of the three musketeers needs a tan.

Rob’s a great friend and he doesn’t need much to be comfortable on board. He stayed with us for about a week and before we knew it, it was time to bring him back to the airport.

It was awesome having Babou back on board.

Our little starboard guest cabin is getting lots and lots of use and this makes us happy! Rob was only gone a few days before our next guest, my daughter Sophia arrived.

Our little starboard guest cabin is getting lots of use!

My father was also in Florida so he came by and for the first time I can recall, all cabins were occupied. The weather for Sophia’s stay wasn’t great with strong winds, lots of clouds, and high temps only in the high 60s most days but we still had a good time with her. We caught up with my sister who lives nearby and Sophia got to have a nice family dinner with her father, her grandfather, her aunt and three cousins as well as her evil stepmother Cindy. It really was great to see her. I hope she’ll visit us again soon but her work and school schedule make it difficult.

I’m enjoying getting to spend some time with my sister and my nieces and nephew.  Hoping to see them some more and take them sailing before we shove off for the islands.

Left to right… Cindy, Jessica, Alicia, Sophia, Haley, Stephanie and Papou

Papou (my father) relaxing in Mavis’ cockpit.

The Captain’s happy to see his daughter.

 

 

I’m hoping my son, Peter and Cindy’s daughter Samantha will visit us down here too… (Hint… Hint…)

I really meant it about the sunsets here!

“A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are built for.” — John A. Shedd.

I’ve started making final preparations to leave the safety and comfort of the marina to sail for the Bahamas. While the crossing won’t be our longest open ocean passage, it will take us farther “out to sea” and away from land than I’ve been before. In reality, it’s a pretty simple trip. After completing it, though, we’ll be able to call ourselves international sailors. 🙂 I’m looking forward to the challenge. Getting out of your comfort zone is critical if you want to broaden your horizons.

We have lots of provisioning to do. I need to do an engine oil change and go over all of Mavis’ systems but the boat is pretty much ready to go. Our screecher headsail was repaired by Mack Sails. We even had our bottom cleaned by a diver who got rid of the barnacles and slime that had begun to accumulate.

Aaah… It’s so nice to have a clean bottom. 🙂

The plan is to wait for a good weather window right here in our slip. We need a window where there has been and will be no north wind. Ideally, a southwest wind of about 15 knots would be pretty perfect. It’s important that we pick our window very carefully as we will be crossing the gulf stream, a river of warm blue water in the Atlantic Ocean. This river is about 25 miles wide and flows northward at around 2 to 3 knots. When the winds blow from the north (very common this time of year) you often get nasty conditions and monstrous waves out in the gulf stream. The stream is only about 10 miles from the shore here and sitting on the beach you can often see what they refer to as a parade of elephants marching along. These are the huge waves that form in the gulf stream. 10 to 20 foot seas are not my idea of a good time. Needless to say we will be very careful selecting our weather window.

Once a window appears we will sail from here at around noon to the St. Lucie inlet and hang a right turn once out in the Atlantic Ocean. Even though we are just about directly West of our first landfall in the Bahamas as West End, we need to get considerably south before crossing to compensate for the strong current we will encounter in the stream which will push us north. So we’ll sail south along the coast of Florida until we are about 10 miles south of the Lake Worth inlet in West Palm Beach where we will make a turn to the East and head out to sea. Our overnight passage will take us across the gulf stream and as the sun rises, we should be in the crystal clear waters off Grand Bahama Island where we will clear customs.

The fee to bring Mavis into the Bahamas is only $150 because we’re under 40’. Boats 40’ and longer pay $300. This fee covers our cruising and fishing permits for up to one year. Clearing into a country works more or less the same wherever you go. Upon arrival, you fly the yellow quarantine flag which signifies that your vessel has not yet cleared customs. The captain is the only person permitted to leave the vessel and takes the boat’s documents, customs forms, and passports for all crew and passengers to the customs and immigration office. We will also need to bring Willow’s import permit which we hope to have in place soon. After completing a customs declaration form they may or may not inspect the vessel. Then, once we are officially cleared in, the quarantine flag comes down and we fly the flag of whatever country we have cleared into as a courtesy. As I’m writing this I just glanced over at the Bahamian flag sitting on a shelf. This is getting real! We’re going to the islands!

The weeks we spent on the mooring were a very good test of our self sufficiency in preparation for departure next month. The solar panel worked flawlessly keeping the battery bank topped up. I practiced and refined the process of refilling our water tanks from jerry jugs brought in on the dinghy. We ran our refrigerator for weeks on end using propane. I feel confident that we will be comfortable anchored out in the pristine waters of the Bahamas but I have some reservations about our ground tackle. A boat’s ground tackle is comprised of anchors, chain, rode, snubbers, bridles, etc. It’s the entire anchoring system and it’s what keeps the boat where it’s supposed to be.

Time on the mooring ball helped us ensure all systems were go to be away from land for extended periods.

We’ve got two anchors aboard. The Danforth that came with the boat and the Rocna Vulcan that I upgraded to when we commissioned last spring. Mavis doesn’t have an anchor windlass. A windlass is a machine that is like a winch that makes raising and lowering the anchor easy. You just hit a button to raise and a button to lower. Aboard Mavis, we do things the simpler, old-fashioned way and drop and hoist our anchor by hand. The procedure for manually hoisting an anchor is usually to motor the boat slowly toward the anchor while hoisting the anchor rode up into the anchor locker. Ideally, this requires somebody at the helm and somebody on the bow. The somebody on the bow is usually Cindy but It should be me. This became our procedure because our old Westerbeke’s transmission was a little finicky and at the idle-slow speeds required to creep up on the anchor it needed a very precise touch that I had developed but I never got around to teaching Cindy that skill. It was hard to know when the boat was in gear and it would rattle a lot at idle speed. As a result, when we needed to get the anchor up, Cindy would scramble to the bow and point at the anchor. I’d putt up to it as Cindy worked out her traps by pulling the line and chain until the anchor was all the way up.  Because I didn’t want to make this manual job any more difficult by adding lots and lots of heavy chain, I skimped on chain and only went with about 25’. The rest of our anchor rode is 200’ of nylon anchor line. We dragged our anchor a few times in strong winds and I need confidence in our anchoring system so I’ll be heading to West Marine today to grab another 100’ of chain. It’s going to be more of a workout but we will sleep much better at night knowing we won’t wake up on the beach.

Also, because our new engine and transmission are silky smooth, there’s no longer an excuse for having to be the one at the helm. I’ll be the one on the bow going forward and Cindy will operate the boat.

We’ve met some really cool people here and made some good friends. Jim and PJ aboard the catamaran Hail Mary are heading to the Bahamas as well. We were neighbors in the mooring field and over the past month and a half have really enjoyed their company. Jim is a retired tugboat captain who built his own 64’ catamaran and sailed it to Hawaii. He’s forgotten more about all things nautical than I’ll ever know and he’s just a cool guy. His wife PJ is equally as cool and fun to be around. She’s a bit apprehensive about the crossing having experienced some rough conditions offshore but despite her concerns, she seems excited to be heading over soon. Together they make a great crew. They’ll likely sail over a few weeks before us but we hope to connect with them in the Abacos! We’re really happy to have met them.

Brunch with the crew of Hail Mary

We’ve had some business challenges out here and I’m realizing that even though the work is getting done, I’m not as effective out here as I am at my desk. I find it hard to work on complex projects that require me to lock myself away in my office for hours interruption free. I also just feel generally not “on my game.” I’m kind of looking forward to being able to sit in my spacious office and just work! I’m feeling like I need to reinvent myself and launch some new businesses ventures when I return in the spring. For now, I’m trying to keep the wheels on the bus and give thought everyday to what I want to be when I grow up.

Stay tuned for our continuing adventures.

Capt Frank
S/V Mavis #816

Christmas in Stuart

A belated Merry Christmas from the crew of S/V Mavis.  We have been here in Stuart, FL for about a month now at the awesome Sunset Bay Marina and Anchorage.  We’re settling in nicely here into somewhat of a normal life on board in Stuart.

Back in the summer when this trip was being dreamed up, I had identified this comfortable and very conveniently located marina.  Even in the early planning stages, it was clear that this would be an ideal place to stay put for a month or two after the trip down the coast.  Since being here we have not been disappointed!  We have everything we need here in Stuart including lots of really great restaurants.  We are enjoying eating outdoors most of the time and Willow is usually with us.  Stuart, unlike Vero Beach where we were before here, is a very dog-friendly city.

Although we had hoped to get a slip, our unexpected 18 day layover in Oriental, NC caused us to arrive late and all the slips were taken by the time we got here.  There’s now an 80 boat waiting list for slips!  So we grabbed a mooring ball instead and now call mooring #32 home. 

Mooring #32 at the Sunset Bay Marina and Anchorage is home for now!

There are advantages and disadvantages to being on a mooring.  But perhaps I should explain what a mooring is for our less-salty readers.  A mooring is simply a permanent anchoring system that involves some chain or cable securely anchored to the seabed.  At the top of the chain or cable is usually a big floating ball and a line called a pennant to which boats attach themselves. 

These moorings are often organized into large fields that are spaced so that ideally, boats wont come into contact with one another when swinging around in the winds and currents.   The field here at Sunset Bay is well laid out and maintained and the anchorage is somewhat protected from wind and waves.  Most nights we sleep very comfortably here.   More on that later.

So what are the advantages of a mooring vs. a slip?  One huge advantage is price.  Our mooring is costing about half of what the slip would have cost.    I’d still prefer the slip but dockage bills really add up. 

Another advantage is privacy.  There’s nobody walking by on the dock and we get lots of fresh breezes out here.  There are other boats all around us but its nice being sort of detached from everything.  And speaking of being detached… 

There are some disadvantages too.  One is that we are not connected to shore power which means we need to be careful with our energy usage.  Even though our solar panel is getting lots and lots of sunlight down here, our house battery bank is small.  We haven’t had any trouble keeping the lights on and running and charging our laptops and phones but when we need more power for the microwave or something else we just use our generator.  We have used it once in the month we have been floating here.

Then there’s poop.  Mavis has a holding tank for all of the nastiness that happens in the single toilet we have on board.  Every few weeks or so, the Martin County pump out boat comes and empties us out.  It’s free and super convenient.  We don’t even have to be on board.  I just have to add us to the list and magically — our holding tank is empty when we return to the boat!

Another minor inconvenience is that there’s no hose out here with which to keep our water tanks topped off.  This means every couple of trips back and forth to the boat on the dinghy, I bring our 5 gallon jerry jug and dump it into our fresh water tanks.  It’s a pain in the neck but it seems to be working just fine.  We haven’t been showering on board but using the marina’s facilities instead so we really aren’t using much water.  It would be nice to be able to hose the boat down but the other day we were expecting storms and torrential rains so I got the deck cleaner and a brush out and gave Mavis a much needed scrubbing.  I just left the soap there and before long the rain came and washed the decks off.  The next morning, I woke up to sparkling decks.  

But the biggest inconvenience of being on a mooring, by far, is that every time we want to go to or from the boat, we need to get on the dinghy and take a 5 minute ride over to the marina’s dinghy dock.  If we didn’t have Willow on board it wouldn’t be so bad but she needs to get to shore often and it’s no fun taking her to the bathroom after the sun has set or when the wind is howling.  We are making it work though.  Getting in the dinghy has become routine… Sort of like getting in the car.  Most days we get off the boat in the morning and don’t return until the evening anyway.  

The dinghy dock at the aptly named Sunset Bay Marina.

The marina has a resort feel to it with a coffee shop and an excellent restaurant and bar right on the dock.  There are also chairs and tables on a large patio and deck area.  And it’s a great place to watch the sun set.  During the week, we often set up our “office” at one of the tables and find that we can operate just fine this way!  Our favorite table gets sunlight filtered by the palm trees and it just a few feet from the marina’s Christmas tree which fills the air with the scent of fresh pine.  It’s been weird listening to Christmas music and smelling that tree while sitting in shorts and tee-shirts but I’ve gotten quite used to it.

Sunset at Sunset Bay Marina

A few weeks ago I booked a flight back to New York with the intention of flying home to get one of our cars.  The flight arrived in Islip at 10:15pm and by 12:15, I was in our Honda heading south.  About 19 hours later I was back at the marina and exhausted.  I spent a few minutes in our big beautiful home before leaving to get back to our little floating home in Florida.  While there, I realized just how big that house is and confirmed my thoughts that we really don’t need that much house anymore.  

We have been enjoying our time in Stuart.  There are lots of great restaurants and shops and now that we have our car we have easy access to anything we need.  I even joined Crossfit Jensen Beach and got my first workout in two months in.  It’s amazing how quickly one’s fitness level deteriorates!  I’m working on it but I feel weak…  I need to get my head in the game and maybe have a few less rum-drinks.

Last week, our friends Michelle and James flew in to visit and it was great to have them on board.  We don’t miss too much except for our friends and family and are expecting more visitors this winter.  In fact, we were thrilled to hear our beloved crew member Babou booked a flight down in mid January!

Dinner on board with friends.

The weather has been mostly pleasant with some days in the 80s and a few in the low 60s.  But that’s winter down here.  Every time I catch myself even thinking about complaining about “the cold” I remind myselff that it’s freezing back home in NY.  Yes, it still feels chilly to be out on a dinghy after dark in the wind and chop on those nights when it gets down into the 40s overnight but fortunately that doesn’t happen often.  In fact, most days have been pretty darn perfect.  

As you would expect, we’ve been to the beach a bunch!  There are lots of really nice beaches on Hutchinson Island, Jupiter Island and Singer Island and we are learning where the dog-friendly spots are.  Willow has taken up a new hobby.  She enjoys retrieving floating coconuts from the ocean and pulling their husks off.  No matter how many times I throw them back in, she is happy to swim out and bring them back to shore. 

One of the local beaches we recently discovered is called Bathtub Reef Beach.  The reef there is near shore which makes it a nice place to snorkel.  That reef also keeps the water calm and warm.

Some Beach. Somewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

Most nights have been very comfortable on board but Mavis is a light boat and as a result we hear every little wave slapping against her hulls.  I don’t even notice it anymore and enjoy it when the boat gets moving around but we DID have a pretty dramatic day on board last week.

Winds were expected to be in the high 20s with occasional gusts to 45 and 55 possible.  Most of the day the winds howled between 25 and 30.  We didn’t want to ride ashore in the dinghy because even though the winds would be behind us, coming back would be a wet experience and the winds were not expected to lay down until late that evening.

So we sat on board the whole day.  Willow really needed to get ashore to use the bathroom but she had to hold it.  We were sitting in the salon with the hatches open when Willow suddenly got up from her spot under the dining table and ran into one one of the guest cabins where she hopped up onto the bed and curled up in a tight little ball.  That’s odd, I thought and I went in the cabin to check on her…  Just as I got there I heard Cindy scream “something’s coming…”  I looked up and through the hatch I could see the sky had darkened quite a bit.  And then the wind started to pick up.  It was one — LONG and powerful gust that probably lasted about a minute and seemed to steadily increase in strength the whole time.  The hatches were pinned open by the intense winds but we managed to get them closed as the rain started.  The wind through the hatches had blown a mug and a pair or sunglasses across the cabin!  I went to the cockpit to have a look and that’s when I saw part of our screecher headsail coming unfurled near the top.  I ran forward, finding it hard to stand in the wind.  The kayak, which Cindy had lashed to the bow rail was in the air, straining against the lashings…  As I got to the bow, the screecher was partially open, flapping itself to shreds.  I managed to get the sail down but not before it sustained a 3 foot tear.  As I was doing this, Cindy was yelling something about the dinghy…  Which was tied to Mavis’ stern and flying around like a kite.  We are lucky the dinghy didn’t flip over because our new outboard motor would not like that but we did manage to lose our fuel jug, a lifejacket and a hand pump in the blow.  I’m hoping our sail can be repaired and will get it to the sail loft soon.  If not, replacing will cost a few thousand dollars…  Ugh.  BOATING.

When we finally got back to shore we saw the marina’s Christmas tree had been flipped and tables and chairs were rearranged.  I learned later that we weren’t the only boat that sustained sail damage and that a few minutes before the wind hit, the marina got a call warning them that 70 knot winds were coming.  It was pretty scary there for a few minutes!  I’m glad we were attached to a sturdy mooring. 

We spent Christmas at the marina.  There was a cruiser’s pot-luck dinner and every boat made a dish and brought it.  Cindy’s son, Steve and his wife Jenn live nearby and we got to see them too!  We talked boats and adventure with our fellow cruisers, FaceTimed with family and friends and before we knew it, the warmest Christmas we have ever had was over.

Steve and Jenn came over for Christmas

We plan on staying here in Stuart for a while and aren’t sure where we are off to next.  All of the marinas from here to Miami are full for the season and we have a new issue…  Cindy’s passport is expired and the government is presently shut down.  We are hoping to be able to make the jump to the Bahamas but if we don’t I’m still okay.  The objective for Operation: Southern Migration was to extend our boating season and escape the Long Island winter.  We have been successful!  Anything else we get is a bonus.  We are contemplating sailing over to the gulf to check out Florida’s west coast.

That’s pretty much it for now. 

Stay tuned for the continuing adventures of S/V Mavis.

 

We Disappeared Again… Sorry!

Foggy morning near Dafuskie Island

It’s been a while since our last post and so much has happened so this will have to be another mega-catchup post.  Sorry.  I know I promised to try and post in smaller, bite-sized updates but I have been so busy keeping this boat moving down the coast that I haven’t had the kind of down time I need to get myself into “writing mode.”  In order to get the words flowing, I need at least a few hours of uninterrupted, quiet time with no distractions.  I haven’t been getting a lot of that time…  When I do, I find myself falling asleep!

So if you just want the short version… We are presently in Vero Beach Florida where it is a balmy 85 degrees.  As we entered Florida a crazy cold snap moved in and brought evening temperatures near freezing but all that is behind us now and we are floating on mooring ball #50 of the Vero Beach City Marina.  This morning we woke up around 6 due to some work interruptions and walked down to the beach and had a delicious breakfast before it got real hot!  If you just wanted to know where we were, that’s all you need.  We’re alive!  We’re happy!  And we’re in Florida!  You could also visit our live location tracker at https://spotwalla.com/tripViewer.php?id=1b1155b91d8a00cbb9&hoursPast=0&showAll=no

But if you want the details… Here’s the boring catch-up post…  You have been warned.

When I last wrote, we were in Charleston, SC where we felt like we were finally getting into the South.  But about 300 miles down the line, as we crossed the Florida/Georgia border, a strong cold front moved into the south and brought strong winds and overnight low temperatures near freezing with a high temperature of only 55!  We had been slowly working our way south for almost two months and with the exception of a cold night in the Dismal Swamp, we had been pretty comfortable.   We had started to get our shorts and t-shirts ready but they would have to wait a few more days.  In fact, as I write this, it’s a humid 87 degrees but there’s a nice breeze.

The Catch Up…

Wednesday – Nov 21
We departed the Harborage at Ashley Marina in Charleston in the morning but we did not leave the dock before sunrise for a change!  Instead, we slept in until around 7:30, walked the dog, had some coffee and leisurely departed the dock around 8:45.  Just a few miles down the line, we needed to have the Wapoo Creek drawbridge open for us but like many of the bridges we have needed to transit on this trip, it does not open during the morning and evening commuter rush hours.  The first opening of the bridge was at 9:30 so I timed our arrival and after a few minutes waiting, we were cruising off into the South Carolina low country.  Expecting very settled weather with light winds overnight, our plan was to motor as far as we could before the sun set and then to find a place to drop the hook on the “side of the road”.  As the day went on, I spotted on the charts what looked like an excellent anchorage near a shrimp boat dock that I could dinghy Willow over to.  But as we got to the anchorage, the winds piped up quite a bit and what looked like a short dinghy trip on the chart looked more like a Poseidon Adventure when we got there.  It was looking less and less like an ideal location to drop the anchor.  It’s sometimes hard to visualize what places will look like from the nautical charts.  Google Earth really helps, but there’s no substitute for seeing the place with your own eyes.  So instead of bringing the dinghy to the dock, I decided to bring Mavis all the way in.  They sold fuel and beer and fresh shrimp there and they also allow overnight docking for just $25.  So we fueled up and bought three pounds of delicious fresh shrimp.  And by fresh, I mean ‘alive a few hours ago fresh’!  We cooked them up and filled our bellies before turning in for a comfortable night’s sleep tucked away behind the shrimping boats on a creek in the middle of nowhere.  I’ve never had shrimp anything like this before.  Simply incredible.

Super fresh jumbo shrimp!

Thursday – Nov 22 – Thanksgiving
We left the B&B Seafood shrimp dock at dawn and motored on through the marshland with the smell of Old Bay seasoning still in the air.  Today was Thanksgiving.  I had purchased a turkey breast but we didn’t end up cooking it until Friday.   For lunch we cooked up another batch of delicious jumbo shrimp.  Before long, we arrived at Hilton Head Island where we had reserved a slip at the Skull Creek Marina.  Cindy’s neighbor and childhood friend Chuck and his lovely wife Renee live on the island and Cindy sent him a text message saying that we would be passing through.  It turns out Chuck and Renee hang out on Skull Creek almost every night.  We got together with them for a few drinks and learned about life on Hilton Head.  The next day we got a quick tour of the island before sharing some more drinks and company.  Chuck and Renee are our kind of people and we had a fantastic time hanging out with them.  Chuck is an entrepreneur and business and personal development consultant.  He also has a way with words.  If you enjoy reading inspirational, motivational stuff that’s more than just “rah-rah you can do it!” check out Chuck’s Lemonade on Facebook.  We were honored when we learned that we had “Made Chuck’s Lemonade.”  Sitting at the helm for hours on end, I’ve had time to consider how the lessons I’m learning from sailing a boat down the coast translate into life at large.  Chuck seems to understand this stuff as well.  I’ve been contemplating writing a short book or a series of articles about my Lesson’s Learned at Sea and Chuck’s writings have convinced and inspired me to get started.

Who says you can’t cook a turkey breast in a holly-hobby oven?

Saturday – Nov 24
We left Hilton Head before the sun was up and motored out into Calibogue Sound in an eerie fog.  Visibility was at times less than 1/4 mile but for the most part we had better than 1/2 mile visibility which is around my limit for this kind of passage.  The fog was only forecast to hang around during the early morning but ended up staying with us most of the day.  Once again, our plan du jour was to motor south until we ran out of daylight and anchor the boat somewhere.   Crossing Calibogue Sound we encountered pod after pod of dolphin swimming along next to the boat, across our bow, behind us… Just everywhere for a while. 

One of the many dolphin who visited with us.

We meandered behind Dafuskie Island, and across the Savannah River into Georgia and continued on for a few more hours until we dropped the anchor in a bend on the Ogeechee River.  The tides and tidal currents in Georgia are pretty significant with a tidal range of about 8 feet and current running 3 knots in some places.  When your boat cruises at 6.5 knots, a 3 knot current can either get you going at 9.5 knots or slow you to 3.5…  Careful planning and timing is possible but not really practical because the ICW in Georgia goes through so many tributaries and inlets.  You just sort of have to take the average.  Sometimes you’re bombing along and other times you are creeping.  It all works out in the end.  The currents on the Ogeechee River where we anchored reverse with the tides and peak out around 2 knots.  I expected the current change but was surprised that our anchor didn’t handle the change as well as I would have liked.  As a result, our anchor drag alarm went off a few times over the night.  I don’t sleep very well when anchored in general but the strong currents freak me out.  If the anchor were to drag in those circumstances, we could easily go for quite a ride!

We passed this boat in the dense fog.  Looks like she was aground on a sand bar.

Sunday – Nov 25
After a very restless night on the anchor, we set out at dawn into another morning fog.  The fog was a bit thicker than it was the previous day but I knew that there was pretty much nothing for many, many, miles and was hoping to get to some civilization by dark.  As I set off into the fog, I realized I could see about 1/4 mile ahead and I had a clear view of both banks of the narrow waterway.  I also had up-to-date charts in our chartplotter and found that it was pretty easy to keep moving safely despite the fog.  At one point I realized I was only motoring at around 4 knots.  I guess I instinctively slowed down due to the restricted visibility…  Then I realized that running at our normal cruising speeds of 5.5 to 6.5 knots wasn’t really any less safe so I opened her up and we purred along.  A few times I encountered other vessels popping out of the fog but there was always plenty of time to adjust course without ever getting close.   A few hours later the fog lifted and we had a glorious, sunny and warm day as we motored across St. Catherine’s Sound down Blackbeard’s Creek into the Altamaha Sound, the Altamaha River and Buttermilk Sound.  We sailed past Savannah and finally arrived at the Morningstar Marina on Saint Simon’s Island where we walked the dog, ate a delicious dinner in the restaurant, and fell quickly fast asleep.

Monday – Nov 26
We left St. Simon’s Island at dawn and motored into a strong current hoping to make it into Florida to Fernandina Beach by sunset.  Our route took us past Jekyll Island where one of the single largest crimes in American history was perpetrated against it’s citizens…  Basically, a group of bankers gave themselves permission to create US Dollars out of thin air.  If you haven’t guessed, Jekyll Island is the birthplace of the Federal Reserve System.  If you’re into secret meetings, conspiracies, monetary policy or history,  you can learn more about this crazy and misunderstood nugget of American history  at https://www.marketplace.org/2015/10/20/economy/big-book/how-secret-meeting-jekyll-island-led-fed.

There’s also an interesting, classic book “The Creature of Jekyll Island” by G. Edward Griffin which deals with the shenanigans that took place there in great detail.

Anyway, leaving modern monetary policy and Jekyll Island behind us, we motored on into the wind and current.  When it became obvious that we wouldn’t make it to Florida before dark, we elected to drop the anchor in Cumberland Sound just a few miles from the Florida border and just off the Cumberland National Seashore.  The winds were piping up but Willow needed to go to shore so I lowered the dinghy and took her ashore where the tides were low and exposed a fantastic beach full of cypress trees with their limbs, covered in Spanish moss making all sorts of arches and tunnels.  Willow took off, full of energy and ran until it started to get dark.  The currents were running strong and the winds were gusting into the 20s as Willow and I made our way back to the boat.  We were pretty wet when we got there.  The forecast was calling for the winds to die down overnight but again, the forecast was dead wrong.  The winds howled for hours gusting into the high twenties as we ate dinner, played a few games of Rummy 500 and finally went to bed.  The anchor was holding nicely and I thought despite the winds that I might actually get a good night of sleep on the anchor for a change.  Until…  Laying in bed, I was actually showing Cindy our position and how the anchor alarm works on the iPad which connects to our chartplotter when I saw us go from swinging in an arc around our anchor to cruising in a bee-line toward shore at 2 knots!

Mavis anchored in Cumberland Sound

We scrambled and got the engine started.  Cindy ran to the bow to tend to the anchor and I went to the helm to motor us into the wind to take some of the strain off the anchor line.  Communicating from the helm to the bow in the howling winds was difficult.  I’ve been saying I need to get a set of wireless headsets and this little debacle convinced me that it’s a safety item.  After finally getting the boat more or less over the anchor I ran forward and helped Cindy get the anchor aboard.  We had anchored a few thousand feet from a wreck that exposes at high tide and didn’t want to get snagged up in it so we motored about a quarter of a mile upwind and dropped the anchor once again where it grabbed immediately and held us until we departed…  Once again at dawn we motored south…  Tired and a bit cranky but happy to be entering Florida!

Tuesday Nov 27
Another long day of motoring south on the ICW brought us to Jacksonville Beach.  As the day went on I began looking for options to anchor.  After the rough night in Cumberland Sound I was actually also looking for a good marina where I could tie up to a dock, easily get off the boat to walk the dog and sleep without worrying about waking up somewhere other than where I went to bed.  We were also hoping to get to a grocery store because the cupboards were getting a little bare.  Cruisers use an app called Active Captain that is sort of like Yelp for boats.  It shows all sorts of marine services and anchorages and provides community-updated reviews, advice and information about various marinas and destinations.  I found a decent little marina along our route that was near a Publix.  We docked up, fueled up, and left Willow aboard while we walked to the supermarket and Ubered back with a few days worth of provisions.   

Wednesday Nov 28
Another early day for us.  We left at dead low tide from the marina and dragged our rudders through the mud because the water was BARELY deep enough to get through for much of the channel in and out of the marina.  Mavis is a very shallow draft vessel and we were able to make it out.  Most other sailboats of this size would have to wait for the tide to rise.  We motored along for another full day, spotting dolphin, pelicans, and other sea-birds.  Cindy was often perched on the bow, camera in hand, ready to take photos of the wildlife as we passed singing the old “Mutual of Omaha” theme song.  You older people may remember Wild Kingdom…   

That afternoon we made it to St. Augustine, where we had booked a slip for the night at the St. Augustine City Marina.  But before we could get to the marina, we had to pass through the Bridge of Lions’ drawbridge.  And now a bit about drawbridges.  There are about 144 bridges on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.  About half of them are high-rise bridges with vertical clearances of around 65 feet.  The other half are “movable” bridges such as bascule (draw) bridges and swing bridges.  There are even some railroad lift bridges.  Now many moveable bridges open ‘on demand’.  As a vessel that requires an opening approaches, they contact the bridge tender on the VHF radio.  The tender opens the bridge and allow’s passage.  But some bridges have operating schedules…  For example, some bridges open every hour on the hour and half hour.   The bridge we needed to get under in St. Augustine opens on the hour and half hour but not at noon.  We were arriving at 11:35 so we had to wait until 12:30 for the bridge to open for us to pass.  While we putted around St. Augustine harbor we got great views of the Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest stone fort in the United States.  We also watched the dolphin play.  Finally the bridge opened and we passed.  Immediately after the bridge was the marina and we went to the fuel dock to fill our tanks and get our slip assignment.  After fueling, we were given our slip number and the dock hand walked down to meet us and catch our lines.  

Flat calm waters made spotting the numerous dolphin easy.

I’m very comfortable handling Mavis.  Her steerable drive leg makes maneuvering easy but there are times that close-quarters handling gets me nervous.  The wind was blowing about 10 to 15 knots which isn’t a big deal but there was also a rather strong current running through the marina perpendicular to the slip I was supposed to back into.  As I left the fuel dock, I glanced at the trip odometer on the chart plotter.  If after all these miles I haven’t crashed the boat yet, I told myself… We would be fine.  

If I may say so myself, I rather expertly moved the boat into position, playing the boat against the winds and current and spun her around to PERFECTLY align her to back into our slip.  Satisfied and proud, I slipped the boat into reverse with a confident smile and watched her back between the pilings…  I don’t think I’ve never done a better job docking!  But as we drew closer the slip seemed a bit snug for us and I began to get concerned.  Reminding myself that the marina knew our beam was 14′ when they assigned the slip, I continued into the tiny slip where our stern immediately became wedged between the two pilings!  The slip, it seems, was just under 14′ wide…  After some sheepish apologies, the marina provided us another slip assignment.  I applied a lot of power to get unwedged and extricated us from between the pilings with a squeak and a pop.  We motored to our new assigned spot and tied up without any issues behind a tour boat S/V Freedom covered in Christmas lights and the Black Raven a (fake) pirate ship. 

 S/V Freedom in St. Augustine
Willow enjoyed St. Augustine

It was good to be back in St. Augustine and Willow was rather excited to be ashore so off we went to walk the city, explore the Castillo de San Marcos, and grab a few cocktails.  After a long walk through the old city we came upon “The Tini Martini Bar” which had outdoor seating overlooking the harbor.   We enjoyed watching the sunset and the libations before walking back to the boat and crashing.  It would be another early departure in the morning.

Chocolate martini, anyone?  Jackets were required for our night in St. Augustine!  The bar provided heaters and blankets.  Didn’t feel like Florida yet.
Willow making friends in St. Augustine
The Castillo San Marcos in St. Augustine

Thursday Nov 29
We left St. Augustine very early and Cindy wasn’t feeling great due to overindulging in chocolate martinis.  So I took Willow for her morning walk, warmed up the engine and left the marina with my first mate still in bed.  She woke up a few hours after departure as we motored along in glass-calm waters down the Matanzas River into the Halifax River where we saw lots of dolphin playing and feeding.  We arrived in Daytona Beach a few hours before sunset.  The Seven Seas marina wasn’t a fancy place by any far stretch of the imagination.  It was, however, one of the nicest places we have tied our lines because the people there were incredibly nice and good at what they do.  Shortly after calling them on the VHF, three dockhands appeared to assist us by catching our lines, helping us get turned around for an early departure and tied up for the night.  This marina seems lost in time.  It was like visiting Florida in the late 1970s.  From the paneling in the office to the friendly, laid back people and the fair rates for fuel and dockage this was a place from Florida’s past.  Long before the shores were dotted with condos and mega marinas, small family marinas like this were the norm.  I wonder if it will still be there on our trip back north.  It’s only a matter of time until it becomes yet another waterside condo complex.

Sunset at the Seven Seas Marina in Daytona
The aptly named Sunset Park in Daytona Beach

Friday Nov 30
Guess what?  We left early again.  Before the sun was up I had the engine warming while I walked Willow.  Cindy got us untied and we motored out into the tight little channel from the the marina to the ICW.  Just as we were leaving the marina Cindy asked “Where’s the dog?”  She does this frequently.  And usually, Willow is sitting under the helm seat, or in one of her favorite spots on the aft platform.   But today there was no Willow to be found!  It was still pretty dark and a large sign obstructed my view of the dock.  We were now in the narrow channel and there was a stiff current from the beam.  We figured that as she had in Oriental, she hopped off the end of the boat just as we were leaving.  We hoped that she was on the dock and not in the water.  I had no choice but to continue motoring down the channel away from the marina as it was too narrow to turn around there.  A few minutes later, someone called on the radio. “Catamaran that just left the Seven Seas Marina…”

“We are coming back for her!” I answered as the fellow boater confirmed for me that she was safe and on the dock.  A few minutes later, Willow was back on board and we were on our way south… Again!  

The standard plan for the day was in effect.  Keep motoring south until the sun goes down.  I had hoped to get to the Cocoa Beach area and we did!  I called a local marina or two and was shocked to hear that dockage would be $2.50 per foot for the night plus $15 for electricity.   I didn’t feel like paying those rates just to sleep and also didn’t want to anchor because strong winds were forecast and there were limited places to anchor out of the wind.  I found a marina on the chartplotter.  I’m going to leave the name of the marina out of the blog.  You’ll soon understand why.  I called the number listed for the marina and spoke the harbormaster.  I explained that we were looking for a place to tie up for the night.  He told me he had a spot for me but the easiest thing to do would be to approach his marina and tie up to one of the three sailboats just before the entrance.  This sounded different to me.  I inquired what the rates were and he said.  “I wouldn’t charge you for that.”  That sounded a bit strange too…   We tied up to one of the sailboats as instructed and climbed over her deck to take the dog for a walk.  What we found was like a scene from a post-apocolyptic movie.  

There were several hundred boats in the large marina basin.  Most of them were in serious disrepair.  In fact, I wonder if any of them had been anywhere in the past few years.  They all looked like derelict boats.  Many of them had garbage and laundry strewed about their decks.  There was an area with a few picnic tables and what appeared to be a campsite.  On some of the boats we saw people.  These were real “liveaboards”…  But not the yachty, cruisier-type liveaboards like us who have homes and cars and jobs.  This was a floating skid-row!

We saw a beautiful little girl playing on one of the boats, a particularly rough-looking powerboat.  As we walked Willow by she smiled and waved so we went over to let her see the dog.  She must have been about two.  Her blonde hair was unkept and knotty but she was adorable and happy. 

Behind her on the boat two women, each of which had to weigh about 350 pounds stood amongst (and on top of) piles of dirty laundry.  The older woman was holding a newborn baby and I think the other 350 pound woman was also her daughter!  We chatted for a while and she mentioned that her 6 year old daughter was off playing somewhere.  Indeed, I had seen another child running around the place.   I asked if they lived on the boat and she said yes.  If I’m understanding what I saw here the woman had an adult daughter and three children all living in squalor on a boat that must have been about 35 feet long!  As we said goodbye and walked back to our boat, Cindy expressed how sad she felt seeing people live that way.  I’m not heartless.  I don’t know what circumstances force people into living in those conditions but I know that having more and more children isn’t the answer.  I found myself thinking about this place all day after leaving there.  I’m still fascinated.  I need to learn more about this place!  Btw… Right next door, there were brand new vacation condos being built.  Some of the units were already occupied.

Saturday Dec 1
When we slipped away from the sketchy floating Bowery it was still an hour before sunrise.  We had lots of miles to cover because we wanted to make it to Vero Beach!  The cruise took us along Florida’s Space Coast.  We went under several NASA bridges, one of which is the Nasa Railway Bridge which is used to move rockets to the launch pads.  The weather was balmy and there was even enough of a breeze to allow us to take our our headsail for a bit.  It’s been a while since we have done any real sailing…  Hopefully soon!  But we arrived in Vero Beach, got fueled up and hooked up to our mooring ball.  We will be here for two nights before continuing on to Stuart.  While here, I got to visit with my sister Stephanie who lives nearby.  We had dinner with her and my two nieces and my nephew.  I’m looking forward to spending lots of time with them while we are in Florida!

Today we walked to the beach and into town.  Unfortunately, despite it’s 5 acre dog park, Vero isn’t a super dog-friendly town.  Having spent some time in Jensen Beach and Stuart, we know Willow will enjoy it there more.  

Breakfast at ‘Cravings’ in Vero Beach!

We watched dolphin swim around the anchorage, took long, hot showers and are ready to depart at sunrise for our short 30 mile trip to Stuart Florida where we will probably set up home base for a month or so!

Sorry again for the ridiculously long catch-up post!  I WILL TRY to keep it to smaller and more frequent posts.  Thanks again for coming along!

Capt Frank

Charleston, SC

It’s been a busy week of travel for us!  My apologies for not updating the blog but I’m happy to report that we have covered about 270 miles since my last post!  We are now in Charleston, SC at the Harborage at Ashley Marina for our second night.  We leave in the morning to continue South.

When I last posted we were in Morehead City, NC with plans to wait out some weather that was approaching.  We went to bed in Morehead fully expecting to sleep in and hang around for a few days but woke up the next morning and decided to go for it.  It was Cindy’s idea to press on and I wasn’t particularly impressed with Morehead City so off we went.

We have been very cautious with the weather but in reality, it would take some pretty serious weather to get us into any trouble while on the protected waters of the ICW.  Speaking of serious weather…  The tropical system we were keeping an eye on out in the Atlantic has fizzled out so it looks like hurricane season is behind us! 

So we left Morehead City and motored on to Swansboro, NC where we tied up at Dudley’s Marina — again expecting to stay a few nights until the winds and rain passed.  But again, the next morning we decided to push on and made it to Hampstead, NC where we took a slip at the very cozy and protected Harbour Village Marina for three nights while we actually did wait for some bad weather to move through.  But the highlight of our stay at Harbour Village was making some cool new friends, Penny and Ken.  While out walking Willow we met Penny who was also out walking her dogs.  Penny’s beautiful home is right on the marina and after chatting for a bit she invited us over for cocktails.  It was great to get off the boat and the more we got to know Penny, the more we liked her.  On our last night in Hampstead, we met Ken, Penny’s husband and went out to dinner with them.  Ken was as cool as Penny was and we really enjoyed their company.  We vowed to stay in touch as we left Hampstead and continued on South.  We are meeting such awesome people on this trip!

After another full day of cruising, we pulled in to the friendly seaside town of Holden Beach, NC.  This little beach town reminded me a bit of Fire Island with its long sandy beaches and homes on the dunes.  We took a walk on the beach with Willow and I was surprised when I came to the realization that despite all the time we have spent on the coast on this trip, the last time we were on an actual ocean beach was way back in Cape May, NJ on September 30!  We grabbed a bite at a local restaurant and tied Willow up on the back deck.  She stared through the glass doors at us while we ate.  We spent the night on the Holden Beach town dock with one other vessel.  When I checked in at town hall, I was given a little goody bag that included two pair of “Holden Beach” branded sunglasses, two water bottles, some literature about the town, and a few post cards.  It was nice to be in a town that appreciates having visiting cruisers.

Holden Beach, NC – Note the evidence of Hurricane Florence on the left side.

The next day we motored on, excited to finally cross the border into South Carolina.  As we slid across the border, we did our traditional border-crossing happy dance but this one was extra special because for a while there it didn’t look like we would ever leave Oriental!  But as Mavis’ new engine purred along though Myrtle Beach,  we admired the beautiful homes that line the ICW.  Finally we made it to the Waccamaw River where we tucked into a little creek near Enterprise Landing to anchor for the night.  We had passed a public boat ramp with a dock about a quarter mile before turning up into the creek and my plan was to dinghy Willow over to that ramp to use the bathroom before eating dinner and getting to sleep.   Due to the tidal currents running in and out of the creek, our boat swung about on our anchor rode and set off the anchor alarm a few times overnight.  I had set a tight radius on the alarm because the creek was lined with trees and if we dragged our anchor we would end up in the forest.   So not the most relaxing night but I suppose we need to up our anchoring game.  We are spending way too much money on marinas.

Beautiful homes line the waterway in Myrtle Beach, SC

The next morning I was up before dawn to get Willow into the dinghy and back over to the boat ramp.  With miles and miles of nature preserve surrounding us you would think there would be someplace sandy to land the dinghy on a beach but the jungle-dense forest grows right to the water’s edge.  I also hear the waters where we were anchored are home to some rather large alligators…  I can’t imagine returning to the boat to explain to Cindy that Willow had been eaten.  The boat ramp dock would do just fine.

It only took about 10 minutes each way to ride back and forth to the ramp and 10 minutes for Willow to pick her spot and get down to business.  Shortly after sunrise we were on our way again.

Early mornings are still a bit chilly in the Carolinas.

We motored all day and arrived in McLellanville, SC where we took a slip at the Leyland Oil Company dock.  This was a no-frills marina pretty much in the middle of nowhere but I was in no mood to deal with anchoring the boat being rather tired from the anchor alarm disturbing my sleep and a long day of driving the boat down the ICW.

Before dawn on the next morning we were motoring in light patchy fog and mist.  Visibility in some places got down to about a half a mile or so which wasn’t a problem but my concern was that if it got worse we might have to drop the anchor and wait it out.  Fortunately after few hours the fog lifted.  We motored through the South Carolina lowlands and saw only a handful of boats the whole day.  Most of the boats were local fishing skiffs.

We saw a few dolphin as we passed various inlets.  One came right up to our stern quarter and popped his head out and checked me out.  I keep trying to get photos of these guys but they are gone in a flash.  I’m waiting for a few of them to stay with us playing in our bow wake as they are known to do.

Bald Eagle in the South Carolina Low Country

When she’s not down below working, Cindy spends lots of time on the bow running around taking pictures of the various birds we are passing.  We are seeing lots of cormorants, herons and pelicans end even a few hawks and eagles!  She tells me she’s always dreamed of being a wildlife photographer.  We need to invest in a really good telephoto lens so that she can really do her Mutual of Omaha thing properly!

Cindy in Mutual of Omaha mode!

We arrived in Charleston on Sunday afternoon and after getting settled in here at the marina we took a long walk around town to do some exploring.  Charleston is a really interesting city with a cosmopolitan downtown area with great restaurants and shopping.  After a few hours of exploration, I was getting hungry.  We wanted to enjoy an early dinner out but with Willow with us our options were limited.  We had read about an amazing place called the Low Country Bistro and when we passed it, Cindy went in to inquire about any outdoor seating.  They told us that we could sit with the dog outside on the veranda but in order to get up there we would have to carry Willow through the restaurant and up the stairs because according to local health department law, her feet couldn’t touch the floor.  

So I scooped up Willow like a little lamb and Cindy opened the door for me.  As I entered the restaurant holding the dog, a few of the diners looked up from their meals to see what must have looked rather strange to them…  “You ordered some meat?” I asked the hostess as we made our way up the stairs and out onto the veranda where we enjoyed some great cocktails and a delicious meal under the palmettos and the stars.

At the Low Country Bistro in Charleston, SC

Today I Ubered around getting propane refilled and a trip to the supermarket.  Cindy took advantage of the marina’s laundry room and we have clean bedding and clothing again!  It’s amazing the things you appreciate when cruising.   The things you take for granted at home feel like luxuries out here.  Even though we have all the basic things we need, it still feels a bit like camping sometimes.  We have a small fridge, a small oven and two burner stove, a small double kitchen sink, and small countertops…  The operative word here, in case you missed it… Is small.  But we are making do just fine aboard our cozy boat.

Mavis and crew at the Harborage at Ashley Marina in Charleston

This evening we took another long walk around town with the dog.  We did about 6 or 7 miles taking in all of the interesting local architecture and stately southern homes. 

Tomorrow we don’t have to leave at the crack of dawn for a change!  There’s a bridge that has to open for us just two miles from here and the first opening is at 9:30.  So I’ll get up, top off our water tanks, warm up the engine and prepare for the day and leave here around 8:45 to be sure we are at the Wapoo Creek Bascule Bridge with plenty of time to spare.  From there we will motor as far as we can comfortably get and anchor somewhere on the North or South Edisto River for the evening.  I’ll be sure to find a spot with plenty of room to swing around on our anchor rode and I’ll set a wide radius on the anchor alarm! 

We hope to arrive in Beaufort, SC on Thanksgiving.  Today I did a little provisioning run and got a whole turkey breast that I think we will be able to cram into our “Holly Hobby oven.”  We miss our friends and family but are enjoying this trip and are thankful that we have been able to pull this off!

That’s all for now.  Thanks for coming along for the ride!

Capt. Frank