Crossing the Gulf Stream

Crossing the Gulf Stream this season felt much less daunting than last: we knew what to expect having crossed twice last year (to and from the Bahamas). After spending about a month making our way around Florida, we sat in Key Largo waiting on a weather window to cross over to the Bahamas. We had enjoyed our time in the Keys, spending Thanksgiving in Islamorada and sampling beer at the Islamorada Beer Company. It was early December and since we were sitting smack in the middle of winter, cold fronts were making appearances pretty often. We needed to wait until the weather cooperated before leaving the protection of the ICW at Key Biscayne.

Taking lessons learned from last year, this year we decided to cross from Key Biscayne, bypass Bimini and head straight to Great Harbor in the Berry Islands (a total of about 125 nautical miles). We didn’t particularly like the anchoring options in Bimini (we ended up taking a marina last year) so we decided to skip it altogether.

When to cross the Gulf Stream? The Gulf Stream is an ocean current running south to north off the coast of Florida (and continues north up along the eastern coastline) at about 2.5 knots. When choosing a weather window to cross, you do not want to cross with a northern component wind (this includes northwest and northeast). When wind opposes current there is rough, choppy seas and if the northern wind is strong enough, “elephants” form. These high, jagged square waves are dangerous. Last year we waited until there was no wind, so that we could motor across in flat, calm water for our first time. This time was different. We watched the weather carefully and saw a window coming in which the winds would be out of the south at about 10-15 knots.

The morning we left Key Biscayne (anchored just outside of No Name Harbor), we were one of about five other boats staged for the crossing. Just as the sun rose, we got underway. The first hour or so was a bit rough. Until a few miles out, the water was shallow (under 100 feet) and the waves were choppy. Once we crossed into deeper water, the seas seemed to become less confused and we rode up and down waves smoothly. We shut the diesel off after the first hour or so. After that, we sailed the next 24 hours on the same tack!

Once the sun fully rose that morning, the skies were clear and blue. It was a beautiful day. We moved along between five and six knots. The flow of the Gulf Stream would eventually move us north on our easterly heading. That worked out perfectly for us since we were not aiming straight for Bimini. We aimed for North Rock, a waypoint north of the Bimini islands. The deep blue color of the water is breathtaking, seemingly becoming more and more blue as the water depth increased. Our charts indicate the deepest water was over 3,000 feet (of course our depth display cannot read such great depths).

We crossed from the Atlantic onto the Bahama bank after about ten hours, just as the sun began to set. We had just enough daylight to notice the change in water color as the depth became shallower, from 2,000 feet, to 500, and settling around 30 feet. We were now sailing over the crystal-clear blue water of the Bahamas. Two pods of dolphin joined us before dark. First, what we believe were a pod of striped dolphin darted back and forth between the port and starboard side. This group was fast, agile, and playful. Within ten minutes of the first pod leaving us, a group of bottlenose dolphin joined us. Bottlenose dolphins, who seemed always to be with us in Florida, found us in the Bahamas! These dolphins were much larger than the first group, moving gracefully alongside us.

Once dark settled in, we had about seventy miles before reaching Great Harbor. We took shifts overnight, keeping on course and monitoring the radar to track passing vessels. The night was uneventful, but we were thankful when the sky began to lighten. Although we took shifts and napped when we were off-duty, we were tired and ready to be still. We had also hand steered the entire way (our autopilot failed soon after we left Punta Gorda).

We arrived in Great Harbor around 8:00 am, 25 hours after leaving Key Biscayne. At 8:05, I radioed the marina…thankfully they answered and were open! As soon as we tied off to the dock at the marina, we plugged in to shore power (it was hot!) and turned on the AC…next, we slept!

Refitting Salty Tails

Before casting off in November for our current cruising season, we spent four months at our marina in Punta Gorda refitting the boat. Four months of nonstop work, from sunup to sundown. We loved every minute of it. Blood, sweat, and tears were shed, but there’s something hugely rewarding in spending our waking hours getting in to the bones of our boat. After this summer, she feels more our home now and we feel that we know every inch of her!

We began the summer with a few cosmetic projects in the cabin. We relished working in the cool AC…the heat of the Florida summer is brutal. Within the first few weeks, we…

-Replaced the cabin sole (floor)
We decided to use a vinyl wood plank floor from Home Depot. Since we wanted something very durable, waterproof, and relatively inexpensive, this served our purpose and looks great.

-Removed all carpet and old wallpaper
We ripped out old carpet that lined the hull sides in storage spaces and painted with a clean white epoxy paint. In the head, vanity, and quarter berth, we updated the wallpaper to something bright and modern.

-Revarnished/painted interior wood
To lighten the interior, nearly every piece of wood was stripped of the old dark varnish. We chose to either varnish with a clear satin finish or paint with gray exterior latex paint.

Projects outside of the boat were done in between daily thunderstorms with lots of breaks for water. Outside, we…

-Waxed hull sides
Troy used the dinghy as a floating dock to maneuver his way around the boat within our slip. This was a pretty quick and easy task, only taking him a day or so.

-Repainted the decks, toe rail, and hatches
This was our most extensive exterior project, taking careful planning and patience with the daily rainstorms. Prep was the most time-consuming part of this project. All 37 feet of the deck, cabin top, and cockpit needed to be sanded and meticulously cleaned before any primer and paint could be rolled on. We must have used 10 rolls of blue painter’s tape taping off corners and edges, separating the white topside paint and blue nonskid Kiwi grip. We painted the aluminum toe rail with a durable, UV resistant bedliner paint. At the end, Troy had paint on every piece of clothing he owns, and I had gotten plenty in my hair, but the boat looked fantastic.

-Replaced all masthead electronics
Because of the lightning strike, everything on top of the mast needed to be replaced. Troy and I took turns being hauled up the mast to work. The VHF antenna, VHF cable (ran down through mast), wind transducer (and rewiring), and LED anchor light all were replaced.

A ton of time during our summer refit was spent working on wiring and electronics. Projects included…

-Installing new sailing/cruising electronics
We added new Raymarine electronics, including Raymarine Axiom 7 chart plotter, Raymarine Quantum radar, Raymarine i60 wind speed/direction, Raymarine i40 depth display, and Standard Horizon VHF radio (with GPS and cockpit RAM mic)

-Installing a new battery monitor
Ours simply failed, so we swapped it out with an updated version (Victron BMV 700). This allows us to monitor our house battery status (intake, state of charge, volts, amp hours remaining)

-Installed LED lighting
We replaced any standard lights with LED bulbs inside the cabin. In the cockpit, Troy installed four LED courtesy lights and added LED lighting to the dinghy davits.

-Overhauled 12V and 120V wiring
Removed 40 years of stray and abandoned wiring. Troy also improved wiring and connections throughout the boat including completely reorganizing wiring behind the main distribution panel and in the engine room. We also replaced our house battery bank with four new 6V house batteries.

Some of our final projects included an overhaul of the diesel cooling system and regular maintenance
-Troy replaced all parts of the cooling system for the diesel: mixing elbow, heat exchanger, fresh water pump, raw water pump, thermostat, and cooling system hoses. We saved a ton of money here when Troy discovered that our Westerbeke diesel is related to a Mitsubishi tractor motor and share many components. He was able to source parts much more affordably this way, rather than having to order directly from Westerbeke. After the cooling system was complete, he cleaned and painted the engine which helps prevent corrosion.

We chose to add a watermaker for this cruising season. We ordered our watermaker from Sea Water Pro. It is a 120V system that produces about 20 gallons per hour. We use a Predator generator to run the watermaker (after doing some math, we figured that we can make 100 gallons of water with one gallon of gas).

Last but not least, we decided on a new dinghy…a Zodiac aluminum hull RIB.

Cruising comforts we couldn’t live without…

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We’ve come to the end of our first season cruising the Bahamas and after five months have come to realize which items we couldn’t live without. These things are not absolute necessities, and anyone could go without them, but they make our lives a whole lot easier and more comfortable while living aboard.

Cockpit enclosure

cockpit enclosure

Our cockpit enclosure is a game changer…it extends our living space to the cockpit under any condition. We spend more time in the cockpit than we do any other spot on the boat and without it, we’d have to hustle down below at first sight of rain or bugs. Instead, we can roll down the individual sections (port, starboard, and aft), zip them together, and have a completely enclosed space. We are incredibly thankful the previous owners added this feature to the boat…it is probably not something we would have thought of before. If it rains, we leave the isinglass panels closed and if we find ourselves in a buggy anchorage, we can unzip the inner panels for a screened porch option. The best thing about this enclosure system is that all the parts stay put, just roll or unroll, depending on our needs. Since we protect the bimini fabric with 303 protectant spray, rain stays out and doesn’t leak through the top, keeping us nice and dry.

French press

french press

We do not have the space or power supply to be able to store and run a regular coffee maker or Keurig (mine is in storage), but I definitely can’t go without my coffee in the morning. After a bit of research, we settled on a French press. It is incredibly easy to use and our stainless-steel press (ordered from Amazon) is heavy and durable. The only downside is cleaning out the grounds…which I’d need to get over if I’m using anything other than a Keurig. I watched a YouTube video, practiced a few times before we left Florida to get the technique down…and I love it. Troy can take or leave a cup of coffee and I’ve got to have it; but, we both agree that it’s better tasting than more traditional methods!

Engel freezer

engel

Again, something we must thank the previous owners for leaving us. Our two main uses for our Engel are freezing/storing meat and making ice. Our top loading fridge/freezer in the galley cannot single-handedly accommodate our food storage needs while cruising. We loaded up on meats at Sam’s Club before leaving home and stored them in our freezer. This saves us tons of money since we were able to buy in bulk and for the most part, haven’t needed to buy meat in the Bahamas. Summer has arrived…and it is hot! We are constantly making ice in our ice trays to keep our drinks extra cold. Our Engel freezer is about the size of an average cooler and fits nicely under our salon table; it also occasionally serves as the cat’s perch. It is not a power hog so our solar keeps it powered easily. The freezer settings are adjustable and can be used as a refrigerator as well.

Garmin inReach

inReach

Before leaving for the Bahamas, we weren’t sure how often we would be without cell service. The inReach is a satellite communication device with 100% global coverage. It is different than a satellite phone in that we cannot make phone calls, but we can text and email from anywhere on the planet. For about $20.00 per month, we are allotted 40 text messages, up to 160 characters. We use the tracking function to send our location to family and friends. We can also order marine weather specific to our location which is super helpful when we have no cell service. The SOS feature is similar to that of an epirb, but with an extra bonus. If we must use the SOS button, we are able to communicate back and forth with emergency services until help arrives. We take our inReach with us whenever we leave the boat. Thankfully, so far, we’ve only used the inReach to text Mom and Dad.

Magma grill

grill

We chose the small round Magma since it’s just the two of us on board. We use the grill several times per week…even to cook our homemade pizza. We bought the small Coleman propane cans at Sam’s Club. In four months, we’ve used five small cans of propane. Having the grill has a bonus, other than yummy grilled pizza or burgers: it keeps the cabin cooler when we use it to prepare meals instead of the oven. We mounted the grill to the stern railing, so it stays out of the way.

Dry bags

dry bag

We have several sized dry bags that have proven to be invaluable. We actually didn’t start using these right away; we used a regular backpack whenever we left the boat. But it didn’t take long before the zippers rusted and our stuff inside got wet from rain or splashing. We made the switch and love our dry bags! We found our dry bags especially helpful in George Town when we had to make long trips with groceries from town back to our anchorage. It rained nearly every day for a week and the only thing that kept our food from getting sopping wet was the dry bags. We also use the dry bags to haul our laundry back and forth on the dinghy!

Autopilot

sail

Our Simrad Autopilot is one of Troy’s favorite items. He doesn’t use it every time we’re underway, in fact, while sailing, he typically hand steers. However, whenever we motor, it keeps an incredibly accurate course. Some of our longest passages have been motoring (thanks to a lack of wind). When we’ve got a straight 40-mile course, hand steering can become monotonous. Setting autopilot just makes things more comfortable.

XM Radio

xm radio

While in the Bahamas, this was our connection to the world! Thankfully, we had family send this to us in Staniel Cay…before then, we had listened to everything on our iPod a thousand times over. For $20 a month, we get music channels and all football games, baseball games, and all NASCAR races. If we feel the need for a dose of the news, we’ve got that too. I can’t begin to explain how nice it is to have such a wide variety of music. Feeling like some Jimmy Buffet? Kenny Chesney’s No Shoes Nation? Tom Petty? Reggae? We’ve got options for it all!

Summer Shower

sun shower

We ordered the Summer Shower from Amazon. It is basically a self-heating shower bag. It holds about three gallons of water and heats without any power. We fill it in the sink and place it on the deck in the morning. If we get good sun that day, we have a nice, hot shower that evening. When we’re in the Bahamas, we shower outside. The shower has a sturdy handle that we hang off the dinghy davits…we shower off the stern of the boat. This is especially nice since we are able keep water and humidity out of the cabin.

Thanks for reading! Happy sailing!

Cruising Headquarters

After sailing south from Black Point, we were entering the southern Exumas, with our southernmost stop being George Town on Great Exuma. A short sail on the bank, less than ten miles, led us to Little Farmers Cay, our staging point for our trip to George Town. With a total population of about 50 residents, Little Farmers Cay was the smallest settlement we visited.

There are several anchoring options here, including both the east and west sides of the island. We chose to anchor just east of the yacht club, just off the channel between Little Farmers Cay and Great Guana Cay. This turned out to be quite an interesting place to anchor: the holding was excellent (Troy was in heaven); the anchor disappeared in the soft sand. The current however, was incredibly strong due to the proximity to Farmers Cut. Every six hours, the boat did complete 180-degree swings as the tides changed. The current determined which way the boat pointed, not the wind. There were times that, although we had 70 feet of chain out, the anchor lay beside or even near the stern of the boat…a little unsettling, but after a few tide changes, we knew we were good to go. Troy and I visited Ty’s Sunset Bar and Grill and enjoyed a few Kaliks on the west side of the island.

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One evening, we went to the yacht club for drinks with Lyle and Sheryl from SV Bacchus, who we met at Black Point. We enjoyed time with friends and talking to the yacht club’s owner, Mr. Roosevelt Nixon, a member of the original settling family. His stories and friendliness made us feel right at home. He told us that nearly everyone on the island is related, part of the original family or in-laws.

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The next day, as we waited for Farmers Cut to calm for our exit onto the Exuma Sound, we made a dinghy trip north to hike to a large cave with saltwater pools. The trail was interestingly marked with a hard hat and rocks…I started to second guess my flipflop choice…were hardhats a hint??

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After about twenty minutes, we arrived at the cave’s entrance. We made it…without hardhats! The cave was much larger than I expected and as soon as we lowered inside, carefully avoiding loose rocks, we felt the temperature drop…still humid as can be, but cooler. The wind noise diminished, and it was eerily quiet…except for the flapping of bats…lots of bats! They mostly stayed in their inverted position at the roof of the cave, only flying by every so often. We climbed the rocks and explored the cave, peering as far as we could into the saltwater pools. We’ve heard that divers can dive the pools and swim underground quite a ways…not for us, we stayed topside.

A night later, the trickiness of the current in the anchorage posed a problem for another boat. Before sunset, there were two other boats nearby us, forming a lopsided triangle…enough space to turn with the currents. Another boat arrived and decided to drop anchor right in the middle of our nice, well-spaced triangle. We instantly became concerned: when slack tide (the short time in between tides) comes, the boats become confused and turn unpredictably. This new boat was too close for comfort; we dinghied over to let them know about the current and that their proximity to other boats may cause a problem. We kept an eye out luckily and when slack tide came, the new boat began moving in the direction of one of the other boats. With the owners nowhere in sight, Troy called out to the couple, who were below deck. They scrambled to the deck and moved their boat before colliding with our neighbor. Had Troy not called out, they would’ve hit, ruining the day for everyone.

Sunday, the weather was right for our long haul to George Town. The winds slowed and the cut was calm (as calm as a cut can be, anyway); we exited onto the Exuma Sound during an ebb tide without issue. We motored south to George Town, the winds were virtually nonexistent so our 40-mile trip was hot! Dark clouds loomed, but luckily stayed away and we weren’t faced with a squall.

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We arrived in George Town after a seven-hour trip, dropping anchor at Monument Point, the first of many anchorages in Elizabeth Harbor. The most popular anchorage is in front of Chat n’ Chill, but we prefer a spot less crowded. We would definitely be spending time at Chat n’ Chill, but we didn’t mind a short dinghy ride to save us from the crowded anchorage. George Town is situated on the western side of Elizabeth Harbor, with Stocking Island acting as a barrier island and the spot for most of the anchorages on the east side.

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We were pumped to be in George Town. It is the spot in the Exumas that most cruisers aim to reach before heading back north. It is also a full-service stop complete with two grocery stores, marine stores, laundromat, the customs and immigration office, airport, a wide assortment of restaurants, hotels/resorts, etc. Some cruisers stay for months or even the entire season; we met a couple who had been there since December! Most come and go after a few weeks or maybe a month; we stayed for a week and a half. We made plenty of trips to Chat n’ Chill, the hangout spot for cruisers (day and night), to hang out with friends, play games, eat, drink, and even play some volleyball.

We made it to George Town just after the annual regatta (and passed a ship carrying racing boats out the day we arrived). Around this time, many cruisers have already begun their journey back, we passed another wave of cruising boats headed north on our trip down. Even then, there were possibly 200 or more boats across the various anchorages. We recognized many boats that we’ve crossed paths with during our trip south in the Exumas.

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I think we brought the rain with us to George Town…we had days and days of rain and clouds. It made dinghy trips across the harbor to George Town very, very wet and bumpy. If it was calm and sunny, the dinghy trip took about 10 minutes but add wind, rain, and heavy jerry cans of water and it became longer…luckily we remembered our rain jackets, usually.

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Speaking of water…George Town is very cruiser friendly. Exuma Market (the main grocery store) offers a free dinghy dock inside of Lake Victoria (a protected lake for small boats, accessible through a narrow bridge) and free water to cruisers. We were able to fill our jerry cans from the dinghy without lugging them to and from a spigot! Along with refilling water, we also reprovisioned at the grocery stores, picked up a few marine supplies, refilled our propane, and had our tourist visas extended. We almost always ran into familiar faces during our trips in town…the dinghy dock was always a conversation spot!

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Troy and I hiked to the top of monument beach on Stocking Island and had awesome 360-degree views. Standing atop, we were able to see the peaceful and calm waters of Elizabeth Harbor and the intense waves and surf of the sound side…quite a difference; I’m thankful Salty Tails rested in the tranquil waters of the harbor. We strolled along the beach; Troy even waited patiently as I dug in the sand for sea glass.

We took Ginnie with us on one of our hikes; we tired before she did! She was ready to play in the sand and surf and even found a coconut to serve as her ball…she’s not picky.

After making one final provisioning run, we were ready to say goodbye to George Town. In the morning, we would retrace our path back to Little Farmers Cay and begin our journey north through the Exumas.

10 things we’ve learned in 90 days…

We’ve been cruising and living aboard for just over 90 days now. It is hard to believe three months have already gone by. This has been an experience unlike any other. It has been challenging, physical, tiring, stressful, but also rewarding, relaxing, full of adventure, and downright satisfying. We’re new sailors and cruisers, so of course we had a steep learning curve…talk about “on the job training”! We prepared for our trip while still living our “normal” lives: scouring the internet to learn about sailing, cruising, living aboard, life on the water, weather, anchoring, and the list goes on and on. We found a wealth of information and inspiration on blogs, YouTube videos, websites, forums, all thanks to the many cruisers who document and share their journey. Every day Troy and I talk about how we’re adjusting to this life, what we have learned, things we wish we had known, things we’re proud of, and even what we’d change if we started from the beginning again. I have compiled this list as a means of capturing a summary of what we’ve learned so far. Honestly, the list is much longer than this…I could expand each of these infinitely and add many more nitty-gritty details. But for your sake, we’re keeping it to the “Big Ten”.

1. What we prefer to eat doesn’t change just because we’re living aboard.

I suppose I thought we would be living on a diet of beans and rice or soup. It was important for us to provision and stock up on foods that are shelf stable. We took major advantage of BOGO deals at Publix…canned soup, canned veggies, pasta, rice, canned tuna and chicken. We wanted to make sure we would have food that would last…while preparing, we didn’t know how long we would have to wait to visit a market or grocery store as we explored the Bahamas. Plus, we read and heard that buying food in the Bahamas can be very expensive. But guess what…there are grocery stores in the Bahamas and the many staple items are not bank breakers. Lots of our provisioning staples are still in our storage compartments…we haven’t eaten all 48 cans of soup, nor the 80+ cans of vegetables. But, we did begin running low on our favorites. About six weeks into our trip, we were just about out of cheese, bacon, deli meat (we love a yummy hot ham and cheese for lunch)…which we had already picked up more of in Miami. Our favorite tortilla chips ($2 in the states) are at least $6-$8 here…but we love them, so we buy them. I try to eat as healthy as possible…looking back, I’d stock up more on lean meats, protein bars, frozen chicken (3 chicken breasts cost upwards of $13.00 in the Bahamas). Thankfully, fresh fruits and veggies (although sometimes tricky to come by) are not overly expensive, depending on which island we’re visiting and the ease of deliveries. I’m also happy to report that we’ve found brand alternatives to snacks we enjoy…because I just can’t splurge for Oreos when they cost $9.00!

2. Weather dictates EVERYTHING.

We definitely already knew that weather would play the biggest role in our decision making. I suppose the new learning was that weather plays the biggest role in our decision making AND it is always changing! When we boated during the summers in Tampa, all we needed to know was the chance of rain and waves/chop. Now, the focus of our planning is wind. Wind speed, wind direction, the effect of the wind on the sea state (wave height, wave direction, current, tide, swell, etc.). This information answers several questions we constantly ask and assess…Can we safely travel to a new location? Will we be able to sail? Will our sail require few or many maneuvers? How will tide and current affect our travel? Will we have protection from wind/ocean swell in our anchorage? If the weather changes, how will our anchorage serve us? By no means have we become weather experts, we are far from it. What we have become is aware. Awareness and a respect for weather will keep us safe…and hopefully smiling.

3. The boat is always moving.

After a long, exhausting day at work, there is nothing better than coming home. Your home is your sanctuary: the place where you are safe, protected, and STILL. Well, the boat is our moving sanctuary…even at anchor. Weather affects the water, water affects the boat…and the boat NEVER stops moving. Whether the movement is caused by wind, current, waves/swell…we can always expect the boat to be in motion. Even on the calmest of nights, we can expect tide changes or 180° rotations which we may not feel, but will affect our anchoring decisions. Generally, we stay pretty comfortable; this is simply a feeling that took some getting used to.

4. Hardy ground tackle is an absolute MUST.

We were fortunate to purchase Salty Tails with extremely good ground tackle. Our boat is equipped with a 55lb Rocna anchor, oversized for our boat. When it comes to anchors, bigger is always better. And we’ve got it, thankfully. She is also equipped with strong 3/8” G4 chain…well over 100 feet of it. Now that we’re 90 days in, we’ve had the opportunity to talk to many other cruisers about ground tackle…what works, what doesn’t, stories of dragging, etc. When other sailors hear what kind of ground tackle we’ve got aboard, their response is always, “Oh! You’re not going anywhere.” This always feels good to hear. We are incredibly thankful the previous owners set her up so stoutly. We trust our anchor and heavy chain. We’ve also learned to read the type of bottom we’re anchoring in; we know what will hold well and what may not (soft sand is our favorite). Troy always dives on the anchor to check that it’s set. Last night during a squall with 30 knot winds, we were still able to sleep soundly.

5. Our dinghy is our “car”.

The grocery store, restaurants, laundromat, hardware store, marine supply store, access to water and diesel/gas, visiting friends on other boats, taking the dogs ashore…anything away from our boat…requires a trip in the dinghy. Just days before leaving Punta Gorda, we made the decision to purchase a new dinghy so that we would not have to worry about waking up to a flat dinghy. This was probably one of the best purchases we made before taking off. We decided to buy a 9.5-foot West Marine dinghy that could get on a plane. With our 9.8 Nissan 2-stroke motor, we’re able to zip around anywhere, in favorable conditions, at around 12-14 knots. It would have been cheaper to buy a smaller, non-planing dinghy, but our range would have decreased immensely. We can cut across a larger body of water or get to that cave on the next island in less than half the time it would take if we weren’t able to plane up. Our new dinghy is without a doubt, money well spent.

6. In the Bahamas/Caribbean, we really don’t need a huge wardrobe.

More than half of the clothes I’ve brought, I have never worn. Troy and I have an entire cabinet in the v-berth, just in front of our bed, packed full of clothes that neither of us have touched. Swimsuits, gym shorts, t-shirts, and tank tops are our main attire. It is warm and humid; to keep cool, we do not need or want to put on many clothes. Same goes for shoes, we’re usually barefoot…but obviously flip-flops are the footwear of choice. I’ve even hiked some pretty rocky trails in my Reef flip-flops…they’re still holding strong! Another motive for needing so few clothes is laundry. More clothes equal more dirty laundry. Since we do not have easy access to a laundromat most of the time, it means I do laundry by hand, in a five gallon bucket. I “encourage” poor Troy to wear the same shirt until we both can’t stand it. Soon my forearms are going to look like Popeye’s from wringing out t-shirts and towels. We try our best to wear clothing that dries easily…the less cotton the better. Next time around, we’ll leave many articles of clothing behind…I guess I don’t need five sweater options or over a dozen pairs of shoes.

7. We can do MORE with LESS.

Troy and I live simply these days…we can go for days without the internet when we’re out of cell service range. 100 gallons of water can last us a surprising while…at least two weeks. Our only power source comes from the sun (we haven’t even connected shore power when we’re docked at a marina). We only see live TV if we’re at a bar that has a television. We’ve learned to fix boat issues with on-hand items…like the time we noticed our lines were chafing when we were on a mooring ball. We cut up an old water hose, zip-tied the hose around our lines, and voilà homemade chafe protection! Basically, we’ve learned to appreciate our resources. It is amazing to me to think back to our land-lives and how much water, electricity, and food we wasted on a regular basis. Out here, we’ve adapted quickly to conserving, we’re totally happy to do so. We hope that by making a smaller footprint, we’re doing our part to protect our vulnerable environment.

8. Stop and smell the roses.

Cruising is a major change of pace from our land lives. While we were working, it was always go, go, go. Work, chores, traffic are just a few things that kept us on the move. We were lucky if we got to simply relax, even on the weekends. Leading up to our departure, our days stretched 12+ hours as we worked to prepare Salty Tails. Now that we’re cruising, if our chores and boat maintenance are done, our time is OURS. We can explore, swim, hike, snorkel, visit new friends, nap, read, watch a movie. Sometimes I still find it difficult to sit still. After years and years of always being on the go, at work and at home, I find myself getting anxious if I’m sitting for too long. Slowly, we’re adapting. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of work to do; maintaining a sailboat is not a walk in the park. But we definitely have more time for us!

9. Weather it out and learn to adapt.

We have faced countless unexpected challenges and sleepless nights in these first 90 days. I’m not going to lie, there have been a few instances when we’ve questioned what the hell we’re doing. We’ve misinterpreted the weather, rode out storms, drug anchor (only once, thankfully!), found ourselves in rough seas, and lost engine power completely…all in just 90 days. Things rarely go as expected; we’ve learned to adapt to situations and circumstances that are down right scary or uncomfortable. We’ve learned a tremendous amount about ourselves, how we problem solve together as a couple, and what we are capable of. We aren’t free of challenges…but we are full of rewards. There is no greater feeling than thinking about how far we’ve come and what we have accomplished in such a short amount of time. We are rewarded by being able to call one of the most beautiful, unspoiled places in the world our home. The Bahamas have become a place that we’ll cherish forever.

10. The dogs will always lay in the middle of any tight space, causing plenty of bruises.

When we began looking for a sailboat, a 37-foot boat seemed HUGE, especially since we began our search with our sights set on a boat in the 32-34-foot range. Now, we’re totally comfortable maneuvering our 20,000lb girl. She keeps us safe and comfortable. The dogs are comfortable too, maybe too comfortable. While the cat curls up in the v-berth or on a salon settee, the dogs prefer sprawling out across the middle of the salon. Even though Salty Tails is plenty big for us, it is still a monohulled sailboat with a finite amount of floor space. A 60lb lab mix can take up quite a bit of space if she chooses…and so can Bella. I’m always knocking my knees or toes on things moving about the boat and you can bet in the middle of the night, I’ve tripped over Ginnie and Bella…and have the bruises to prove it.