Monthly Archives: January 2011

Life of Adventure

A lot of preparation for this trip wasn’t actually related to the boat.  We had a landlife that needed to be put in stasis.  We had everything possible automatically billed either to a credit card or the checking account, forwarded the mail, forwarded the phones, but we (I) did screw up in one regard, and that was Tanya’s van.  Basically we abandoned it.

The plan had been to sell it.  Lyle, our Man-in-Bradenton, was going to handle that for us.  But then Tanya got knocked up and that threw everything into confusion.  The van was our only vehicle that had enough seatbelts for the whole family-to-be, and we were no longer sure we should sell it.  So it is still sitting where we left it 9 months ago.

Two people tried to kill me right before we left Bradenton.  One when I was driving the truck (nice try), and then another when I was in the van.  Some people may consider that a wakeup call to their mortality, but I’m ahead of that game, so all I learned was that I didn’t like State Farm as my insurance company.  Right after they denied my claim on the van (Tanya has a predilection for backing into things, and the van had some previous damage), they sent me a bill to renew the policy.  I filed that under bullshit and promptly forgot about it.

I think I lamented in another post the cost of having things shipped into the Bahamas.  Ordinarily we have a mail package sent to us about once a month, but it never seemed worthwhile to have a mail package sent to us here.  Our mail service estimated it would cost a couple hundred bucks for them to send us all the (mostly) crap they’ve received for us.  So we didn’t receive any notice of the impending bureaucratic nightmare.

Fast forward a few months and I happened to be looking in the bullshit file.  Uh oh.  I called State Farm, and sure enough, the van's policy was ancient history.  Even better, in Florida the insurance companies report policy lapses to the DMV, who assuredly does something nasty to the owner’s driver’s license.  Thankfully, the van belongs to Tanya and not me.

Lyle reports that the van is right where we left it 9 months ago, which is pretty funny considering it is right across the street from the police department.  It has no insurance, the tags have expired, and I can’t renew them online without physically showing proof of insurance.  For all I know, there could be a bench warrant for poor Tanya.

Did State Farm call or email before the policy expired?  No, they did not.

There may be other problems waiting for us that we don’t even know about.  This is a life of adventure.

Provisioning for Extended Cruising

We are nearing the end of our three-month stay in the Bahamas. Therefore, we are evaluating our experiences here and thinking ahead to future excursions. As the Galley Officer, I am responsible for planning and executing meals and snacks for six (or seven…) while away from posh U.S. grocery stores like Publix and Whole Foods. I tried to plan ahead before we left, not knowing what I would be able to find once we entered unfamiliar territory. I knew there was a “real” grocery store in Marsh Harbor, Great Abaco, and the guide book had ads for stores along the way, but almost everything in island stores must come by boat, so I figured the choices would be fewer and more expensive. I was right.

First, let me admit that there are two ways to approach provisioning. The eat-like-the-locals crowd might argue that people have to eat everywhere on planet earth, so wherever you go, you will be able to find food, and that sampling local fare is part of what makes cruising an enjoyable cultural experience. The second crowd, the bring-what-you-like folks might argue that sampling local fare is well and good, but when you want something special from home, you better have it with you or prepare to pay an arm and a leg to get it. Most people will fall somewhere between the two extremes, but we now lean more toward the “Bring It” rather than “Find It” mentality. 

Our family made several diet changes awhile back, some of which require a lot of whole, raw materials, and a lot of time, fuel and energy. We basically eat nothing processed, as much organic/local produce as possible and pastured/free range meat and eggs and raw dairy when we can find it. Sometimes living on a boat makes this job easier (most cruisers figure out how to bake their own bread, for example), but other times, we are stuck with dried or canned goods that we would much rather find fresh. While it is true that people have to eat everywhere in the world, we do not think that all diets were created equal. The baked goods in the Bahamas, for example, are all made with white flour and white sugar, two things we avoid as much as possible. Pasta, rice and flour in the stores are almost always white as well. If we want to eat whole grains, we have to bring them ourselves and this we do in the form of wheat berries and oat groats that I grind on demand. These are not supplies you will find in even the best grocery stores, but things that must be ordered through health food stores or co-ops like Bread Beckers or Wheat Montana. 

Other things, like local produce, we are happy to buy. I’ve never seen such large, beautiful cabbages as they have on Great Exuma. Depending on where you are in the world, though, the selection is likely to be limited. We compensate for this by bringing canned, dried, or frozen goods that are sometimes available in stores, but often more expensive. Other things that fall into the “available but costly” category would be condiments, quality snack foods (especially good when underway), nuts, and other supplies for baking. Some things we are required to buy fresh, like eggs, butter, milk, and cheese. We have been pleasantly surprised to find really good imported cheddar from New Zealand here, for example.

Meat always poses a dilemma for cruisers. If you are good at it, fishing can be a good source of protein. If you have a sizeable freezer, stocking up on quality meats before leaving is not a mistake. Otherwise, you are at the mercy of whatever small grocery store you find and the packages of “mystery meat” they may sell there, or canned meats like tuna, salmon, chicken, and the old stand-by, SPAM, which Jay likes and I refuse to eat. His protein needs exceed mine, so while beans could easily form a staple in my diet, Jay really needs meat to feel satisfied. We packed the freezer and don’t regret it.

I was happy to discover that I didn’t over-provision for this trip. I ran out at the last minute and bought extras of favorite health-store items like all-natural toothpaste and pure liquid castile soap and don’t regret it for a minute. My crazy bulk-buying at Costco paid off as well, and the only thing I might to differently is to buy more of the things we are running out of, like maple syrup, paper towels, nuts and whole-wheat pasta. When I do shop, I always have sticker shock in the checkout line. I would say the grocery bill here in the Bahamas is double what it was in the U.S. and that is without buying the organic products I am used to, and cutting out extras like chips, ice cream, yogurt, and lunch meats. And what passes for a grocery store in the smaller settlements would make my friends back home laugh. I am happy to patronize these little shops which support the local economy, and have had lovely interactions with proprietors from Green Turtle to George Town, but it’s really not sustainable long-term.

Our decisions are colored by the fact that we view this not as a camping trip, but as a lifestyle, and also by the sheer quantity of food we must buy and prepare to feed a large family. For an adventuresome couple, eating whatever you find along the way might be doable, but for us, I need to know that my growing children will have a healthy breakfast every morning. Although I am cautious about giving provisioning advice to prospective cruisers, I offer this one thought: the reality is that living on a boat limits your space for storing food, so bring as much as you can of the things you feel you can’t live without, and be willing to try new things along the way.

For further reading on this topic you might like The Care and Feeding of  Sailing Crew by Lin and Larry Pardy and Gourmet Underway by Robbie Johnson.

Wonder Wash vs. Splendide

You will often hear me say how satisfying it is to do things by hand. Homemade bread, for example, or binding the children’s schoolwork into books, hand-washing dishes, even washing the laundry by hand is very rewarding. Hard work, yes, but at the end of the day, I have something meaningful, or at least concrete, to show for my time and energy.

So it may come as some surprise when I say I am ready to retire the dynamic duo that make up my laundry system, Wonder Wash and Dyna-Jet. Move over, manual labor and make room for an electric machine. We are in the process of evaluating every system on the boat, now that we have put some miles under the keel and spent some time actively cruising. What works? What doesn’t? And what might change once we introduce a new baby? This last question prompts me to hang up the idea of hand-washing. I already spend the better part of three days a week washing, rinsing, wringing, hanging, and folding the family’s clothing and towels, and that’s with everyone wearing things until they’re actually dirty. How much extra time will it take to wash/hang diapers? And when exactly was I supposed to educate the crew? It’s time to reconsider the trade-offs.

The Wonder Wash serves as an agitator, and although the jury is still out on whether it is actually better than swishing stuff around in a bucket, the crank handle means you can be more methodical about the wash cycle, and that a small person can help with that chore. The Dyna-Jet is a hand-crank wringer attached to a bucket, and with one person feeding clothes through and cranking, another can be pulling, with the end result that most of the murky rinse water gets wrung out of the clothes so that they can be hung to dry in a reasonable amount of time. It has worked just fine, really, and I am pleased that our family of six can sustain the hand-washing for long periods of time. But Wonder Wash is beginning to wear out, Dyna-Jet is rusting, and we are still using an insane amount of human energy and fresh water to get clothes clean.

We are planning to replace these two simple machines with a Splendide, an Italian-made marine washer/dryer that will use, we think, about the same amount of water but get the clothes cleaner, and without ruining my hands. I am going to be busy enough with the extra attention a baby requires without the bother of hand-washing laundry. When we are in a marina, coin machines will probably still do the trick, but when we’re out and about, the Splendide will take over my old job. I’m looking forward to the break, and the children whose chore for the month is “Laundry Assistants” are pretty happy about a machine, too.

As long as it works as promised, the hardest job will be building new cabinetry to add an appliance, and finding storage space for items that will be displaced. We are likely to still hang the laundry and will only use the dryer sparingly, and when the generator is running. But like everything else in our live-aboard life, we have really learned to appreciate things that we always took for granted when we lived in a house.

Fuel Usage

A good long trip is a great time to evaluate fuel consumption and capacities.

With 200 gallons of diesel aboard, there is a tendency to think it will last forever.  Of course it doesn’t, as we’ve already proven.  We also now know that actually putting 200 gallons into the tanks is not such a good idea, and have revised our capacity down slightly.  

With the rough graduations we put on the fuel gauges during our last fill we’re now at least able to monitor the decline with some confidence.  And with the empirically determined generator burn rate (0.4 gal/hr), and the new engine hour meters, we can extrapolate our propulsion burn rate (0.6 gal/hr).  This is useful for various planning exercises.  For example, we can now estimate with some confidence that with a full load of fuel we could either motor 1,600 nm on one engine OR run the generator daily for 320 days.

Propane is our second most important fuel since we use it for cooking.  We were very uncertain when considering a switch to propane because we didn’t know how much we’d use.  With all the cooking, bread baking, and tea & coffee drinking we do, the concern was that we couldn’t reasonably carry enough propane and would be constantly in search of more.  Those concerns were unnecessary as it turns out.  Our 10-month average shows that we get 30 days out of a 20# bottle.  We carry three bottles dedicated for the galley, so we have about 3 months of fuel there.  Our last bottle is projected to run out in 10 days (yes, I have a spreadsheet for that), but we have another 30 pounds for the grill.  The grill has seen very little use on this trip due to lack of fish and cows.

It is very nice not to have to worry about getting propane.  It isn’t available everywhere in the world, and in some cases the bottles have to be sent off to be filled.  George Town is supplied by a truck that comes once a week and queries about when/where are almost a daily occurrence on the morning radio net.  Apparently the truck broke down this week which is causing some anxiety in the harbor.  I’d like to add a fourth bottle for the galley and build a rack to store them more securely and efficiently.

We also carry a fair amount of gasoline.  Our dinghy motors, little Honda generator, and hookah dive compressor all have gas engines.  Gas is harder to store (and more dangerous), so we try to strike a balance between having enough without having too much.  We have four 5 gallon jugs and try to have at least two full at any time.  The dinghy has a 12-gallon tank and we feed it 5 gallons at a time to make it easy to mix in the oil.  

We don’t really have a good way to store gas, but I’m not sure that there is a good way.  I prefer to store the full jugs on the deck to prevent the possibility of fumes inside the boat, but then they are subject to temperature and pressure variations which can’t be good for them.  A hot fuel tank can build an enormous amount of pressure.  Maybe some type of cover would help.  I suppose I could also vent the tanks, but then I’d be concerned about the fuel absorbing moisture.

I count the dive tanks among the fuels.  We have two and they live on deck also, although probably shouldn’t for the same temperature/pressure concerns.  I didn’t put them in a locker thinking they might be a safety risk there too.  We carry the tanks in addition to the hookah simply because we have them.  I can throw a hose on a tank and be in the water in minutes, while the hookah requires more setup and cleanup.  Tanks are also much quieter than the hookah.  But tanks have a very finite capacity, which makes the hookah way more practical overall.  I suspect we’ll continue carrying the tanks (because we have them and do find them useful), but need to evaluate how they’re stored.

I Don’t Fish

My friend Ken will be so disappointed in me.  

Ken and his family are out on the water almost every day.  In the summer they're catching lobster and spearfishing, in the winter they go crabbing, and they're fishing all the time in between.  When we were planning to cross the Gulf Stream, Ken gave me a lure and told me how to use it.  My track record for fishing at that point wasn’t so good.  Lots of money spent on gear, but not much time getting it wet, and mostly catfish and barracuda to show for it.  But with visions of tuna and mahi mahi I gratefully took the lure.  We were in the Gulf Stream for about 12 daylight hours.  Did I put the lure in the water?  No, I did not.

Before a trip, catching a big fish seems like a no-brainer.  After the trip I pine for those big tuna steaks with regret.  But during the trip it just seems like a hassle.  I’m not hungry.  I don’t want to fight with a fish.  I don’t want to slow the boat down to haul it in.  I don’t want to clean a fish.  I don’t want to dehook another damn barracuda.  I'm focused on running the boat and everything not necessary to that end is put aside.

It was the same story between the Abacos and Eleuthera. I did put Ken’s lure in the water on the banks between Eleuthera and the Exumas.  It yielded a very nice snapper, followed by two very angry barracuda, the last of which bit through the wire leader and stole the hook.

Mutton Snapper

We went offshore a third time between Big Farmer’s Cay and Elizabeth Harbor.  I put a new hook on the lure, but once again, didn’t feel like putting it in the water.  A boat making the same trip alongside us caught four mahi-mahi on hand lines.  If they were in the fish, so were we.

It isn’t just fishing.  I have a new pole spear that has never tasted blood, and I haven’t bagged any lobster since the last time we went out with Ken.  Technically cruisers aren’t allowed to take conch in the Bahamas, but they were never in much danger from me anyway.

I’m not proud of any of this, and I hope to improve.  We expect that fish will eventually make up a large portion of the meat in our diet.  What we’ve seen available in the stores tends to confirm those suspicions.  Have you ever seen a Bahamian cow?  I haven’t had a good steak since my dad brought some in before Christmas.

Once the fish is cleaned, we can do it justice.  Another boat donated a big hunk of tuna to us.  We marinated it in lemon, soy, sesame, ginger, and garlic, then pan seared it and ate it rare.  Oh, it was good.

It would probably help if we started the trip with a cooler full of ice and could just throw the fish in without having to worry about cleaning it right away.  Hand lines are also probably better for hauling in a fish than reeling in 100 yards of fishing line.  But until I take a more relaxed view of our passages rather than being focused on VMGs and ETAs, I'll probaby never want to fish.

We have three more bodies of deep water to cross before we return to Florida, so I still have an opportunity to redeem myself with a big fish.  I’m not holding my breath.

Anchoring in the Bahamas

We had expected anchoring to be more difficult in the Bahamas.  We’d heard about poor holding in hard bottom scoured by current, and the need to use two anchors in a “Bahamian Moor” to prevent breaking one out of its set with every reversal of the current.  After dropping the anchor 36 times over the last 2 months, we don’t see what the big deal is.

Rock Anchor

We’ve never needed to use two anchors.  Maybe we’re not going to the right places, but if the chart says “strong current”, “surge”, or “poor holding” we don’t go there.  We have seen one place where boats were using two anchors: the Norman’s Cay cut.  We looked at the cut, looked at the boats anchored there, looked at the forecast, and went somewhere else.

Our primary anchor is a 44# Delta.  For the most part we drop it and forget it.  We try to hit sand, and usually can see a cloudy spot where it lands.  We don’t back down on it, we don’t dive on it.  Sometimes I’ll go look at it with a glass-bottomed bucket, but that is rare.  Knocking on wood, we’ve never had a problem.  Sometimes it comes up clogged with weeds or rock, and sometimes a wind shift breaks it out and it has to reset.  But we’ve never had to re-anchor.

I don’t mean to sound flippant.  I’ve spent plenty of time worrying about my anchor, and many nights curled up with a portable GPS, getting up every hour to check the wind.  We’ve just never had a problem with our anchor holding.

We’ve come across two cases that make anchoring a little bit challenging: close quarters and high winds.  It takes a little practice to figure out where to drop the anchor to make the boat lay where you want it.  This is especially challenging when you’re trying to find shelter, the wind is forecasted to shift, and you want to make sure you remain sheltered without swinging into anything.  Sometimes I’ve ended up a little closer to the rocks after the shift than I planned to be.

When anchoring we let the boat come to a complete stop pointed into the wind before we drop, then we let her fall back as we pay out the chain.  We try to tie on our bridle quickly before the chain comes up short to prevent shock loads on the chain, windlass, and crossbeam.  This gets tricky when it is blowing since the boat is difficult to control when it isn’t moving forward.  We often use the engines to keep from falling back too fast or the bow getting blown off to one side, but it doesn’t always work.  If it were a big problem we could drop the anchor while still moving forward and use a hook for the bridle instead of tying it on.  The hooks aren’t as strong as the chain or are prone to falling off, so we prefer to tie them.

The adverse waves we've complained about before continue to be a mystery.  We've been anchored in this particular part of Elizabeth Harbour for about a week now, and a few days ago we had mystery waves.  The wind had not recently changed directions or strength, we were miles from any cut that would admit surge, and yet soon after the sun went down we started getting waves on our beam.  They are irritating and frustrating because we don't know what causes them, and therefore how to avoid them.  By the time they show up, it is always too late to do anything about it.

All in all, in our experience, anchoring difficulties in the Bahamas are over-rated.  We carry four (not counting dinghy anchors), but one always does the job.  If I had to buy a new anchor today, I might consider a Rocna, but they’re so expensive.  I’m more likely just to stay with Delta, though I’d probably move up to a 55 pounder.

Internet in the Bahamas

While our Internet use doesn't approach anything we'd consider unhealthy, we do use it quite a bit.  I am dependent on it for work, and while I don't necessarily need it all the time, I'm not retired either, and therefore need regular access to high-bandwidth connections for this lifestyle to be possible.  We undertook this trip without knowing exactly what we'd find in terms of Internet availability and quality.  We were pleasantly surprised in the Abacos, but not so much in the Exumas.

There are two Wi-Fi Internet providers in the Abacos, Out Island Internet and Bahamas WiMax, and one or both can be accessed from most anchorages.  If anything, the problem was too much Wi-Fi as the signals were often very noisy due to the number of networks within range.  We found ourselves selecting an access point not only by signal strength, but also by how many others were on the same channel.  We also found it helpful not just to select a network (the Bahamas WiMax APs all use the same SSID), but also to lock to a particular AP’s MAC to prevent us from skipping around.  Rates are $35/week.  We generally favored Bahamas WiMax since we felt they had a better network, but they had fewer APs and sometimes we had to use OII.  On several occasions while in the Abacos we were able to watch movies streamed from Netflix.  

The only settlement we visited in Eleuthera is Spanish Wells.  It did not have any public Wi-Fi signals and the harbor was also not big enough for us to enter with the big boat.  We parked outside, but could not hear any signals from there because of the topograhy.  I eventually found an open network by putting around in the dinghy, which allowed me to at least send and receive email.

The northern Exumas are uninhabited until you get to Highborne Cay.  The Highborne Cay Marina has Internet for its guests, but we never got close enough to see the signal.  Norman’s Cay is next.  I heard that there was an open network that could be used inside Norman’s Pond, but we never went inside and did not find any open networks on the West side.  The first network we actually saw was at Warderick Wells.  It is $10/day and is limited to 100MB, but is only for boats on moorings.  We were not on a mooring, so did not use it.  Next was at Staniel Cay.  We were anchored at Big Majors and could not get a signal there, but took a laptop ashore on Staniel.  The Exumas WiFi network at Staniel was so bad that we couldn’t even log in.  The Staniel Cay Yacht Club also offers Wi-Fi for guests, but we were not.  Next was Black Point settlement on Great Guana Cay, where a couple restaurants and bars offer Wi-Fi.  We did use the Internet here, after going 12 days without, but it was difficult at best.

The Warderick Wells, Staniel, and Black Point networks we found were all satellite-based.  That means signals had to travel about 100,000 miles round-trip through space.  The laws of physics prevent this type of connection from ever being considered fast by general standards.  By comparison, for terrestrial networks the max roundtrip is about 25,000 miles, even if the computers are on opposite sides of the planet.

We were hoping the availability in George Town would be better, since more people live there.  It was better, but we were still disappointed.  There are only two public Wi-Fi access points, each on different networks, and on opposite sides of the harbor.  

Harbour Wi-Fi broadcasts from the town side, and offers unlimited access for $15/week or $50/month.  One must go to Exuma Pets and pay cash for a username/password.  The pet store is left from the Exuma Markets dock, past the intersection and on the left.  The other network is Gaviota Bay and they broadcast from somewhere near Hole #1 behind Volleyball Beach.  They are very careful about their bandwidth.  One must buy “tickets” at the St Francis Resort for $2.  Each ticket is good for 25MB or 80min (your choice), but you can only buy two tickets a day.

Quality of each network varies.  Usually one of them is barely decent at any given time.  With a booster and some luck, both networks can be used at either the Volleyball Beach or Kidd Cove anchorages.  The Gaviota network is better both for speed and signal strength, but the bandwidth limitations prevent this from being a single solution for us.  However, Gaviota internet is free (and unlimited) for boats on St. Francis moorings.  Mooring rates are $20/day or $300/month.

There are several businesses ashore that offer either free or paid Wi-Fi, but we did not try those since they did not meet our needs.  I want the Internet all day for work.  Tanya wants it at night after the kids are in bed.  For both of these cases, we want Internet access on the boat, not in a café.

We have a Ubiquiti Bullet with an omni-directional antenna to pull wi-fi signals into the boat.  The Bullet is connected to a Cradlepoint wi-fi router, which constitutes our onboard network.  The Cradlepoint router supports a USB cellular modem, so when 3G/4G cell networks are available we can use those seamlessly.  For our next cruise, we’ll carry a directional Yagi antenna to help pull in weaker wi-fi signals.

Lessons Learned

We’ve talked about it before: our philosophy is to do everything in small increments, making progress one little “baby step” at a time.  We like goals, milestones, checkpoints, and measurable results.  We might be a little bit weird that way.  We also like being totally within our comfort zone.

We moved aboard the boat in the following progression: one night aboard, weekends aboard, a month aboard, then living aboard full time at the dock.  When we knew how to live on the boat, we left the dock and hung on a mooring ball in Marathon for 5 months.  Weaned of the dock, we were ready for a cruise and left Florida for three months in the Bahamas.  At each step we made progress in a one particular area so that we were completely at ease for the next step.  

Sometimes we make mistakes, or something unexpected happens to shake things up, but otherwise our day-to-day existence is pretty normal.  It is certainly different than if we lived ashore, but to us it has the same sense of normalcy.  While we may not notice it all the time, and we probably wouldn’t have described our goals in any such terms, that kind of normalcy in itself is a major success.  This is our life, and it works.

Much of the reason for our return to Florida is to gain perspective on our time away, compare the reality to our expectations, reset the expectations that weren't met, and make any necessary changes before setting out again.  We already have a pretty good list of lessons learned and hope to address them directly in individual posts.

The Fountain of Youth

Jay and I have been trying to solve the mystery of George Town ever since we arrived here. Why does everyone flock here to Elizabeth Harbour every year? They are expecting nearly 400 boats during the peak, Regatta time in early March. And many of the folks here have been here every year for the last decade, or more. Because Jay and I are people who like to explore new places and rarely retread the same paths, this mystifies us.

So we’ve been here for ten days or so, and quietly observed, and have discovered a thing or two.  First, most of the people here come from Northern climes. There are some Florida boats, but even that region has been cold (for those who live on a boat) the last couple of years. So the warm weather is a big draw for sure. We are right at the line of the Tropic of Cancer, so this is technically a tropical paradise. Second, the summer-camp atmosphere lends itself well to people enjoying a second youth. Most of the people we see are our parents’ age, but you’d never know it from the way they act. They’re kayaking, windsurfing, snorkeling, spearfishing, playing volleyball and doing yoga on the beach. Every day. Plus there are basket-weaving classes, Bocce Ball, Regatta committees, choir practice, art classes, dances, poker games, and other social events too numerous to name.

For as freely as we live, with homeschooling and self-employment, our lives still revolve around the necessary routines of mealtimes, laundry, schoolwork, bread-winning and bread-baking, and bed times for small children. We aren’t exactly footloose and fancy-free. So we go to the beach every afternoon after the work is done, but so far I haven’t felt compelled to join a pick-up volleyball game, though I do love the game. Really, I just want to sit with my feet in the sand and read my book. Maybe it’s the pregnancy, or maybe because my energy ebbs by 4 o’clock, but I feel a bit of role reversal. The Sixty-Somethings are out at the bar until the wee hours and Jay and I collapse shortly after the children go to bed.

I was, at first, a bit critical of people who keep coming back to the same place year after year (yawn) but, who knows, maybe after we’ve tired of always looking for a new place, we will look back on this place fondly, or some other like it, and want to call it home for part of every year. By the time our chicks have fledged, we will be looking for that second wind, and hopefully we will find the Fountain of Youth that the cruisers who come to George Town seem to have discovered.


Our return to Florida is looming.  We can stay here only a few more weeks and still have Tanya back in time for her midwife to oversee the last 2 months.  I think we’re ready to go in all respects, except one.  It’s friggin’ cold in Florida.  Lows have been in the 30's in Bradenton for the last few nights.  Was winter this cold when we lived in a house and we just didn’t notice, or have the last two been especially bad?  

Here it is in the 70’s pretty consistently.  We’ve figured out that is the charm of George Town.  We’re in the tropics.  That’s why there are 150 boats here now, more arrive every day, and there will probably be 400+ by March.  I’d almost rather be cold than see 400 boats here.  Just kidding.  

I plotted a route back to Tampa Bay the other day and it came to 561 nautical miles.   Man, that’s a long way.  I don’t remember going that far to get here.  It will probably take 3-4 days of non-stop travel to get back.  So far we haven't spent more than one night underway at a time, and we're generally exhausted afterward.  The good news is that the prevailing winds should push us the whole way.

The bad news is that the boat is not set up for the cold weather we'll find when we get there.  We were miserable last winter, running electric space heaters and sleeping upstairs.  We can’t reasonably supply enough power for the space heaters; we'd need to be plugged into a dock to stay warm.  We haven’t been plugged in for over 6 months and we’re not really in a hurry to be again.

We don’t really want to be anywhere it is cold enough that we’d need heaters anyway.  But Florida is proving too cold for us, and we’re not ready to say we’re going to flee Florida every winter, so the boat needs heat.  
Therefore, the first order of business when we get back will be to put in a forced air diesel heater in the main cabin.  It should only use about a gallon a day and will help us cope with the cold when away from the dock.  Replacing the air conditioners might be on the summer project list, and we’ll be sure to put in reverse cycle units to use when we are plugged in.

We’ll still have to put away the bathing suits and get out the long pants and jackets.