The Mona

This may sound stupid, but the first thing we did after finally getting our despacho was fall asleep, but we had an hour to leave the harbor and we were the first boat out of three that was planning on taking the same window to get cleared out so we had a few minutes.  Between my climbing fever and the bureaucracy stress we just needed a moment to regroup before starting out on what ended up being a long trip.  We left that afternoon, sailed through the night, sailed all the next day, sailed through the next night, and sailed through the next day until pulling into Boquerón Puerto Rico in the early evening.  The autopilot functioned for about one hour of that whole trip before breaking.  Having to hand steer made the trip seem to take foreeeeevvvveeeerrrrr!!!  The conditions weren’t bad, actually quite good, but parts still felt something like having strapped your home onto the back of a galloping horse. Keith took the majority of the watches and we disregarded a set watch schedule.  When ever one of us naturally woke up from a nap, we took over.  Most of my watches were short, an hour or two.  It was all either of us could do feeling so crappy.  All I wanted was to climb under a mountain of blankets and not come back out.

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As we passed near Samana Bay we kept a look out for whales.  This time of year humpback whales migrate and gather in the shallow waters off of the coast of DR and the mothers birth their calves here. I really didn’t want to spot any. Our boat insurance covers pretty much everything a normal policy covers except it has one very clear exclusion- damage by marine life (whales).  We figure there is good reason.  At first all we saw were fishing nets, in fact we found ourselves surrounded by a large drift net near Samana.  We had to cut the engine and float over it because we couldn’t see either edge of it. Then we heard Antares shout on the VHF- WHALES!!!!!  Off our starboard bow, probably close to a mile away, we saw them.  At first we thought we saw the whole whale breaching then realized it was only its tail.  That is when I really realized how massive they are!  We watched as the whales would lift their huge tails out and slap the surface causing a huge splash.  We also saw them spouting and even a few breaches.  My favorite was watching them roll over-and they did it over and over again.  One gigantic fin would slowly lift out of the water, arc, and splash down thunderously just as the second gigantic fin would lift out and follow.  They put on a non-stop show for about half an hour.  I hadn’t wanted to see them from our boat but it ended up being one of the most amazing experiences.  There we were sitting in our cockpit, in our pajamas, watching a few of only 15000 great humpback whales in the whole world frolic in front of us.  MAGNIFICENT!!!! I didn’t get photos, my camera doesn’t have a good zoom so all that would have come out is a lot of water and sky and a tiny splash.  Instead we just took in the moment.  We didn’t go any closer to them, they were longer and heftier than our boat and they were tossing there massive bodies about like a tantruming child, we stayed well out of their way!!!  It was an absolutely spectacular experience.

The second night of sailing was long and a little bouncy, but completely uneventful as we finally pulled away from the coast of the DR.  The morning found us at the edge of the Hourglass Shoals and the beginning of the Mona Passage.  I could write a paragraph or more on the hows and whys the Mona Passage can be one of the most treacherous passages in the Atlantic.  But we have had enough drama the past week so I will just write that it was flat calm-totally mellow.  Of course, that is specifically why we were so determined to make our weather window out of Luperon on time. The Mona did bring her own surprises though- more whales!!!  At first Keith thought he saw a big log in the water but it was too black and shiny.  When he realized it was a whale, he thought it was a baby humpback and started looking for mama!  It was a pilot whale (we think).  We passed within 20 feet!!!  I was down below and didn’t make it up in time to see it, but it wasn’t my only chance.  From there on, through the whole Mona Passage, we passed pods of them.  These ones were smaller than the boat and were just floating at the surface- not tossing their heft about like the giant humpbacks.  We still didn’t get closer on purpose.  It ended up being a great Mona Passage crossing.  We are becoming great believers in being very selective of weather windows!

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By late afternoon we had pulled into Boqueron, Puerto Rico and dropped hook in the company of our passage-making friends Antares and Blabber.  To clear in Customs we needed to make a phone call which would have entailed launching the dinghy and putting the outboard motor on it- they were both secured away for for the trip.  Instead we raised the Q-flag and were both asleep before dark.

In the morning we learned Antares and Blabber were going to take advantage of the favorable weather and keep going, they have already seen Puerto Rico. We have not and we need to take care of some details like repairing our autopilot and getting some mail shipped in from the the US so we said our “until we see you agains” over coffee aboard Blabber.  Then we went ashore and called Customs.  We had the bought the Customs sticker and signed up for the Small Vessel Reporting Program in the States so we expected to just have to make a phone call like when we cleared into Florida from the Bahamas.  That is what all the other US vessels seemed to do when they got here.  Instead we were told that someone would be out to the boat for an inspection within a few hours-just wait on the boat.  That was fine we needed some more time to relax and recover anyway.  We went back to the boat and waited.  And waited.  By 4:00 we got impatient and Keith went in and called again but there was no answer anywhere.  No one ever came out to our boat.  There was a concert going on on the beach in front of the anchorage at night.  We got to enjoy it from the cockpit but the smells of fried and sweet vendor food also floated our way.  If we had been free to, we would have gone ashore and joined in. But we were not free to go.  Again.  Seems to be our story lately!

Boqueron edit

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Traveling Days

It’s time to make some miles happen.  We’ve got a few friends sailing over on their own boats from Florida to the Bahamas beginning at the start of the month.  They will be arriving in the northern Abacos and we are way down here in the southern Exumas, about 270 miles away (that is if we didn’t have to weave our way around a bunch of islands and sandbanks), and of course we want to go meet up with them so it is time to get moving. To meet up with our friends we sadly had to say goodbye to the ones we were already with, both The Lucky One and Smitty. This becomes one of the challenges of a nomadic lifestyle, you come together and drift apart to only hope to run into each other again in another anchorage whether its in a few days, a few months, or a few years.   Frustratingly you sometimes miss each other completely by just a few days.  We figure we have seven solid full days of travel ahead of us including one crossing from Eleuthra to Little Harbor and a couple of offshore cuts to navigate meaning we need some good weather to make this whole thing happen.  Considering we waited WEEKS for weather to get around the Whale cut, and WEEKS to make the Eluthera crossing at the beginning of the trip we know we need some luck on our side.

From Cat Island, we made a stop back in George Town and waited out a front before moving up to Lee Stocking. From Lee Stocking we made a short jump up to Bitter Guana and enjoyed the setting sun lighting up the white sand cliffs at the anchorage.  From there we went to Little Hall’s Pond (pretty enough of a place to get a post of its own). We caught three Mahi on those two passages, and had to stop fishing because our tiny freezer was full even though we are still on the hunt for a tuna.  So far we are off to a good start.  Another front passed through with reports indicating that a second one might be right behind it so we pushed north up to Highborne Cay.  This meant that once again we pretty much skipped all of the Exuma Land and Sea Park. We are definitely making it a priority to see the next time!  But, we made our miles.

As I write this we are making our way to Current Cut on Eleuthera.  We started out the morning with a reefed main and reefed jib and still pulling 7 knots but the winds have settled and of course have shifted so we are barely making 5 knots with the motor.  We knew that today wasn’t going to be ideal but the anchorage last night was much less than ideal, we rolled uncomfortably all night long so it wasn’t a difficult decision to get underway at dawn this morning.  We were anchored with more than twenty boats last night  yet we were the only ones to leave this morning.  We are not sure why. We are not ones to follow the crowd or need a group consensus, but sometimes being the only sheep to leave the flock makes you start to wonder. 

It is pretty out here, and it’s much more comfortable than the anchorage. And, bonus, we moving in the right direction so all is well.  We even have it all to our selves. We should be able to make the crossing to Little Harbor tomorrow before any more weather events come through.  If we can do that, the biggest challenges will be behind us (we hope).

 

No Surprises (Aka: February Budget)

 

“How much does it cost to go cruising?”  Anyone who has flirted with the idea of cruising has wondered (or obsessed) over this simple question.  Us included.  The most honest answer, though least helpful, was “as much as you have”.  It is true, just like living on land it can be done within a widely wide range of budgets.  Perhaps the better question to ask is “How much will it cost for us to cruise in a manner we will enjoy?”.  Here the variables of type of boat, cruising ground, dining preferences, amenities (marinas), and land touring begin to get sorted out.  Is “dinner out” sitting on a deck at a table draped in white linen,  or is it an overflowing styrofoam container of local food that you eat on the curb in the parking lot?  Does touring include rental cars, guides, and hotels or hitchhiking and maybe splurging on a scooter?  

In our planning days I found the most valuable information from reading blogs by couples already out cruising and who graciously shared their costs.  Here was were we were able to compare the differences between a $1000.00 per month budget to a $4000.00 per month budget and get an idea of which lifestyle most closely matched what we were envisioning for ourselves. Whew…we didn’t need $4000.00 a month!  

So here is our little “Pay it forward” to all those blogs whose budgets I devoured and studied.  We don’t have a monthly budget per se, as our costs can vary dramatically  depending on where we are and what we are doing.  Instead we try to find the balance between fun and comfort and stretching out our savings.  The faster we spend, the shorter the cruise-at the same time the whole point is to be enjoying this experience to the maximum.  I’ve included all of our costs, not just those related to cruising but did round to the closest dollar. So, here is how we did that this month:

FEBRUARY BUDGET

February was a pretty average month, no surprises.  Our food and beverage bill was higher than it has been yet partially due to the fact we are starting to exhaust our onboard provisions and partially because we spent the month in non-fishing grounds that also happen to have been quite a few decent “take-away” shacks and markets. Still, nothing crazy.

FOOD AND BEVERAGES $580.00

GROCERIES-$257.00

DINING OUT-167.00

BEVERAGES-156.00

 

UTILITIES $154.00

WATER/TRASH/PROPANE-$3.00

LAUNDRY-$0.00

MAIL-$111.00

PHONE/WIFI-$40.00

 

BOAT-$517.00

GAS/DIESEL/OIL-$295.00

MAINTENANCE/REPAIRS/UPGRADES-$0.00

INSURANCE-$222.00

 

PERSONAL AND MISCELLANEOUS-$0.00

MISC.-$0.00

 

 

Previous Budgets:

January

It’s like we were just here!

We are back in Florida…..It’s like we were just here!

We had anchored and staged for the crossing at Great Sail Cay.  Keith did all the maintenance and gave all systems a good inspection and we stowed everything away.  Other than that, we relaxed most of the day and at 5pm raised anchor and began our treck back to Florida.  The forecast was for SE to SW winds 8-15 and seas 2-3 and very little chance of squalls.  Sweet sailing

The Little Bahama Bank was choppy but we had good sailing winds and made good time, even the currents were in our favor.  We hit one squall, but reefed before we got to it and all was short lived and uneventful. We had already sailed off the Bank and I went below for a nap around 5am thinking we would be in Fort Pierce just after lunch with these speeds.  When I woke up around 7am, the wind was from WSW and dying, shortly after it was out of NW (right on the nose) and barely detectable.  The seas were ice-rink smooth and we settled in for a slow easy motor across the stream.  Wasn’t the forecast, but no complaints!  The Gulf Stream was calmer than any of the anchorages we’ve had for the past two weeks!

We ran across two long weedlines and took the time to troll along them for a few miles, we could see a few small fish but we didn’t catch anything.

Kai was more than happy to have a lap to sleep in for the whole way. Other than being a great snuggle-buddy his watch-keeping skills while under way are worthless, we even had a little hitchhiker sneak aboard.  I’m not sure where we picked up a little pigeon but Kai didn’t even notice him until we were just off the coast of Florida.

We pulled up to the Fort Pierce inlet around 430pm and hit the peak outgoing tide.  It took us a full hour just to get through inlet, at some points we were doing less than a knot! Whew, that’s a current!  We took down our poor shredded Bahama flag and hoisted our Q flag. Don’t worry we already have a new Bahama flag ready to go, it will be flying again soon!

Oh, we finally played with the radar.  We like radar!  We saw the squall, how big it was and where it was going. Neat-O! We could pick up all the little fishing boats and everything else that doesn’t have AIS.  Too bad it broke only a few hours after we figured it out.  Oh, well.  We added it to the growing list of things to get done while we are here in Florida.

So what did we do as soon as we got back to Florida? Uh, besides fall asleep and clear in.  We went to 7-11.  We’ve been twice today, actually.  Old habits come right back, we used to be regulars at 7-11.  Sadly, I guess we still are.  We bought a $4.99 phone and two Big Gulps on the first trip.  We bought a case of Diet Coke and Yuengling beer on our second trip.  Internet and drinks, the two things we missed.  That was kind of embarrassing to type.

 

^^all set to sail, one last walk before we loaded the dinghy on deck

^^Keith changing the oil and checking the fluids (Kai supervising)

^^ …and we are off!  Keith and Kai on watch.

^^ weedlines but no catches (see, no exaggeration, ice-rink smooth gulfstream)

^^snuggle-buddy

^^the past few weeks have been a bit windy!

^^our Bahama pigeon is now a Florida pigeon.  We are pigeon traffickers.

Crypton

Choices, choices, choices.

It’s like a fabric store confetti party going on in here! I am recovering the settees and have had my usual indecisive fuss over the past few weeks.

What I want is creamy, soft, and plushy.

What I have is a mechanic, black dog, and a dining table.

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I started with the usual outdoor brand fabrics but couldn’t find something I loved or that felt soft enough and regular upholstery material wasn’t going to hold up against the sun and stains well enough. Then I found Crypton fabrics. They are used in hospitals and restaurants yet feel super soft. They are crazy stain resistant and clean with laundry soap or even bleach. I got a free sample from the website. It came with a swatch of their fabric, ketchup, soy sauce, a crayon, a highlighter, and a packet of Tide all zipped up in a cute pouch.

Ooh. I do love an experiment!

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I thought I might add a few things to the stain test-like blueberries, chocolate, butter, olive oil, grape jelly, honey, soda, and Mio (AKA: safety-orange food coloring) because it is our dining room cushions and these things will spill on them eventually. Then I added winch grease and blood, because again, it’s a boat and we can be messy.

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I documented my stains, to make it an official experiment, and smeared and rubbed away. It was kind of fun. Keith liked the blueberry part the best.

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I set it out in the Florida sun to cook.

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Then I wiped it off, mixed up my teaspoon of laundry soap and washed it up.

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I hung my sample (and the towel I used to clean it with) up to dry.

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Perfectly clean!!! The Crypton, I can’t say the same for my dish towel.

Well that just narrowed down my search. We want the blueberry proof fabric! Keith and I picked out our two favorite and and ordered a yard of each to decide. Anyone who knows me, can already tell you what colors I chose. I have an extremely small color palette comfort zone; I am a bit predictable.

Hint: think sugar cookie (without the pretty icing)

Saltwater and Coconuts

Saltwater and coconuts.

Believe me, this post isn’t going where you thought it was.

I went to the dentist again today, I have a root canal in the process of being redone for the third time, and it’s still not going quite right. In fact my next follow up appointment isn’t even until November, then the dentist will decide if it has healed enough to finish up or if it will need to be redone and let go for another 4-6 weeks before reevaluating.

I guess we did have a departure date after all, because this isn’t working with it!!

So today is spent some time online looking up some holistic/home remedy types of treatments to get this tooth cleared up and signed off for departure as quick as possible. What did I come up with? Saltwater and coconuts.

Saltwater rinses several times a day and I will be joining in on the internet craze of oil-pulling. Basically it’s just swishing virgin coconut oil around in your mouth for twenty minutes twice a day. Apparently the lauric acid in the coconut oil has strong antibacterial properties. (And depending on what coo-coo websites you find, it will also shed all of your extra pounds, fade all of your age spots, and heal your broken heart 😉 ). I’m just asking it to help out my tooth!

Someday soon we’ll be sitting under that coconut palm and splashing in that clear saltwater. For now, I’m just gargling it.

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^photo from 2006 trip in the Abacos

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