Category Archives: Sunset Bay Marina

Preparing for Bahamas Cruising Season 5

Our usual cruising schedule is to leave Stuart after Thanksgiving, head south to Miami stopping in Lake Worth and Ft. Lauderdale, and wait at Dinner Key Mooring Field to cross the Atlantic to Bimini. Invariably we get stuck in Miami waiting for weeks to cross with favorable weather conditions and have never made it to the Bahamas before January 1. This year we are leaving in November and hope to have better results.

Once we are back in Stuart at the dock in June, we are no longer spending our days sailing, moving from island to island, anchoring, enjoying the beaches of the Bahamas and connecting with cruiser friends old and new. Very quickly we get back into our land mode and the boat becomes a floating condo tied to a dock. No longer do we have to depend on our diesel Onan Generator, gas Honda Generator, solar panels, and wind generator for power. Since we are plugged into shore power at the dock, we can once again freely use the microwave/convection oven, blow dryer, curling iron, toaster, coffee grinder, air conditioner, have unlimited TV watching, and use everything else that has to be plugged in without using up the power stored in the batteries. We could and sometimes do use all of these appliances while cruising, but the generator must be running for anything that creates heat. We don’t have to make reverse osmosis water while at the dock, and have unlimited city water to fill our tanks with a hose, wash the boat, take longer showers and give Sailor much needed baths. We have fast free wifi at our marina so we don’t have to pay for the more expensive data in the Bahamas or use much of our Sprint and AT&T data. A pumpout boat comes to us once a week to empty the holding tanks for free. In Georgetown we pay between $20 and $30 per pumpout and that is the only place we visit that has a pumpout boat. We get our car out of storage and have all the stores and shopping we need within a few miles of the marina rather than going to mostly small stores with limited and expensive food items in the Bahamas. Ordering by mail becomes possible again and our Amazon Prime purchases start arriving at the marina before we do. We can have items sent to the Bahamas, but shipping is very expensive and we pay a high customs fee based on the cost of the item. Yoga studio classes and water aerobics are back on my schedule, and instead of walking Sailor on sandy beaches, Mark and Sailor are strolling on the streets and in nearby parks in Stuart. Mark makes the dreaded “to do list” but doesn’t feel rushed to complete it quickly. Our marina is 10 minutes from the ocean so Sailor still gets to visit beaches, just not twice a day, every day. He has lots of Goldendoodle friends in the area and we get together occasionally for beach romps. Luckily, Stuart is a very dog friendly area.

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We quickly fall into new patterns and forget about boat chores for awhile. However, soon the lists start to be checked off and there are always repairs to make and new things to buy. This year our radar unit had to be replaced, new shower and sink faucets were purchased and installed, as wells as zincs, a gear box for the anchor windlass, and 200 feet of new anchor chain. Our Honda generator needed to be repaired, we had to buy a new jib sail, and the list went on. However, just as Mark would start on a new project, something else had to be fixed, like a bilge pump suddenly wasn’t working so that went to the top of the list. Parts are much easier to get here by mail or in stores, so we try to bring extras of everything we use or might need to repair along the way. At the top of this list are parts for the watermaker since almost every year some part fails.

When Mark replaced the radar unit, he first went up to take the old one down, lowered it in a bag to me and then came down. After resting, he went up again to install the new one which I raised in a bag to him. Thankfully when he came down and turned the radar on at the nav station instrument panel it worked! He went up in a bosun’s chair, with two lines tied to it. I brought him up using an electric winch, first raising one line, locking it, and then raising the other, reversing the process on the way down. The winch is controlled by foot pedals so it takes no strength on my part. We went very slowly and it’s as safe as we can make it, but very tiring for Mark to keep his legs wrapped around the mast. It’s not a job he enjoys.
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One of the greatest things about cruising is the friends we have made. We always make it a point to meet sailors on other Lagoon 420’s and share new items to buy or ways to improve things on the boat. We have gotten many suggestions from friends Karen and Matt on SV Where 2, including the Amazon link for wonderful new shower heads and sink faucets. 

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We got a nice break from the Florida summer heat when we drove to Duluth, Minnesota in July for a class reunion. Actually our classmates turn 70 this year so it was a birthday party. Taking advantage of the fact that a group of us who have been close friends since elementary school were all there, we took a road trip up the north shore of Lake Superior and spent several days together in Grand Marais, Minnesota. We had a fantastic time sharing memories and making new ones. There is nothing more special regarding friendships, in my opinion, than the ones from childhood. I would say we are all looking pretty good as we reach 70 years old. The first photo was taken in Grand Marais and the second at one friend’s house in Duluth. The eight of us have stayed in constant contact for over 50 years, first with snail mail “chain” letters where we each added our letter to the rest and sent the fat envelope on to the next person who replaced her letter with a new one, and now we communicate via email, regularly updating the group with our latest news. This was the first time in many years we were all together in one place.

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While in Duluth we stayed at a Sheraton Hotel with a gorgeous view of Lake Superior. They allow, and in fact welcome, dogs up to 80 pounds. I could stare for hours out at the lake watching the big ships come through the canal in the the harbor and smaller boats sailing and motoring near shore. We were able to stroll along the Lakewalk and stop at the beautiful parks along the way, including the Rose Garden pictured below. Duluth has changed a great deal since we left it in the late 60’s and has become a popular tourist destination. The lake views were all from our hotel room.

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The months ticked by and soon it was September and then October. As we were going along crossing things off our lists, Hurricane Matthew formed. Until the day he arrived in southeast Florida, we were predicted to be exactly where he would make landfall with CAT 3 or higher winds and a storm surge, in the so called “cone of uncertainty.” At the last minute Matthew turned slightly east and we only got tropical storm force wind. We had no damage from the hurricane, however while putting the dodger (aka windshield) back on after the storm passed, the wind caught one panel and it fell to the deck and cracked. Fortunately we had the dodger made here in Stuart, so they were able to quickly replace that one panel for a mere $600.

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As the hurricane approached Florida, days and days of preparations began, including moving the boat to a more protected floating dock at the marina, removing everything from the deck and putting it inside the boat (including sails and two kayaks), and adding additional lines from the boat to the dock as well as more fenders to protect us from banging on the dock. The day before the hurricane hit Florida, we left the marina and stayed with friends Marilyn and Rich, who live nearby in Port St. Lucie. We were very grateful for their hospitality. Their Goldendoodle Tater and Sailor, who share the same father, had fun playing together and we all slept through the hurricane.

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We then began the task of putting everything back where it was previously kept. One advantage, however, was it became an opportunity to give everything on the outside a good washing. All around the marina, most boats were being cleaned, not from the hurricane effects, but due to the relative ease of cleaning when there was nothing that had to be moved. 

As we were taking down the jib for the hurricane, we discovered it needed a few repairs and brought it to Mack Sails in Stuart. Surprise, surprise, we were told it was not worth repairing and we needed to buy a new one, which we did after the hurricane passed. In the photo below, Mark is attaching the new sail.

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As soon as everything was put back, it was time to start preparing to leave. A big part of that is provisioning for a seven month cruise. Spreadsheets are made after determining what we need. For several weeks, I went shopping almost daily, bringing back bags full of provisions and then storing them. It’s not just food that has to be purchased and stored. We also buy paper products, toiletry items, cleaning supplies, office supplies and of course replacements for the many systems on the boat.  If we use it, we buy plenty to take with us.  Many items can be bought on Amazon or by mail order. Naturally this year I made sure I had plenty of hot chocolate and Sailor had abundant treats since we ran out of both of these last year. We get a new courtesy flag for the Bahamas every year, and we also had to get new paper charts for the Bahamas since ours were from 2008 and several revisions have been made since then. Of course we have a chart plotter with digital charts for the areas we travel in, but the Explorer Charts for the Bahamas are not available for our navigation system in digital format. Courtesy flags are not well made and rarely last a season so we have started buying two of the “premium” courtesy flags and are then able to have a flag flying for six months that isn’t shredded by the wind. We always bring an extra US flag too so we can replace it if it tears. This summer we bought an inflatable stand-up paddle board (iSUP) to add to our two kayaks for water exploring.  Sailor will now enjoy going with us on the iSUP. OK, I know the photo is sideways, but I can’t rotate it and we have deflated the board for storage so until we are in the water, this is the only one I have. Note the “pup deck” at the front for Sailor’s traction.

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We have three queen size bed cabins and one is devoted to food storage when we cruise. Everything is placed in plastic containers, labeled and stacked. Catamarans are known for their storage, so cabinets are full as are the storage areas under the salon couch and bench. The bookshelves Mark built in the office became a pantry after we bought Kindles and gave away most of our books. We have deep storage lockers on the foredeck and under beds there is more space for storage. Under one bed we have four large bags of dog food, many cases of Coke for Mark and other miscellaneous items. Of course the freezer is full as are our two refrigerators, one in the cockpit and one in the galley. Before we leave Miami, we’ll get fresh fruit and vegetables and again when we stop in Nassau we’ll restock what we need at a fantastic, but expensive, Fresh Food Market. The next good grocery store we will be near is when we reach Georgetown. The grocery stores in the small islands of the Exumas are usually a few shelves in someone’s house. They are stocked once a week when the supply boat arrives from Nassau with items from the States. 

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The storage locker below is one of several on the foredeck. It is just under five feet deep and is full of paper products which are ridiculously expensive in the Bahamas. Yes, we probably buy more than we need and it does add a lot of weight to the boat. Just today someone watched me bringing supplies aboard and said, “They do have groceries in the Bahamas you know.” Yes, I know that, but what if I want a certain brand of peanut butter and don’t want to pay twice the price I got it for at Sam’s, Walmart, or Target or it isn’t even available where there is limited stock? What if I need rechargeable batteries and can’t find them in the Bahamas? What if I use a certain brand of face lotion and I can’t get it there? A one gallon container of Rotella engine oil is $12.97 at Walmart and $53 at a NAPA store in Georgetown. However, in most cases it’s really not about money. It’s about choice, and we choose to eat and use the brands we like. The fact that we save money is an added benefit. The fact that we have a boat with a lot of storage available makes it possible.

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Another thing we have to provision for is our meds. Mark takes several prescriptions and I am on thyroid medication. Luckily, I can buy a three month supply, without using insurance, for $10 at Walmart and they have no problem if I get six months for $20 or even a year at a time, as long as it is on the prescription. Mark, on the other hand, has a huge problem getting what the insurance companies call a “three month vacation waiver.” It’s fine with the doctor and OK with the pharmacy but it is pulling teeth to get the insurance approval. In the end, after weeks of sending in forms, numerous phone calls, and much waiting, he gets them. This year it was particularly difficult. It’s hard to explain to someone that you don’t have a cruise ship itinerary to send them, or a receipt for a tour in Europe to prove you are going to be out of the country. They don’t understand that we can’t go to a pharmacy when we cruise, although there is one in Georgetown and also in Spanish Wells. One year I ran out of thyroid medication and purchased some at the pharmacy in Spanish Wells. I recall it was quite a bit more expensive, although that may not be true in all cases. After calling every day for over a week, and spending four hours on the phone last Friday, today Mark finally got a call saying his Medicare provider had approved it. That’s fine, but we had actually planned on leaving yesterday and this afternoon our car is going into storage. So at 2:30 today he picked up the last of his meds and now has a seven month supply. 

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As we do all of this, we are also watching the weather. We subscribe to marine weatherman Chris Parker and get daily email updates on sea conditions in the US and Bahamas. We can also listen to his morning weather reports for the US, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean, broadcast on SSB and webcast. Our route when we leave takes us from Stuart to Lake Worth on the ICW. Then we have two days on the ocean, first to Ft. Lauderdale and then on to Miami. This means we have to wait for two days where the ocean is fairly calm and wind is in a favorable direction for sailing or at least not on the nose. Once we arrive in Miami the wait begins again for “crossing weather.” Chris Parker has reliable stats and recommendations for crossing the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas. It is about 50 miles on the ocean from Miami to Bimini where we check into the Bahamas. The route is complicated by passing through the Gulf Stream where seas can be huge if the wind is from the north and meets the Gulf Stream which is a strong current flowing north up the US East Coast. There are many weather sites we can check but invariably our best source is Chris Parker’s crossing forecast. It usually takes us about eight hours of motorsailing to get from Miami to Bimini.

We originally “planned” to leave Stuart on November 3. Insurance requires us to stay here until November 1. However, last week passed with no weather window to leave. We are hoping to head south on Wednesday, November 9. Thursday and Friday are predicted to have relatively calm seas and we won’t be headed into the wind. The wind is from the north but it is “light and variable” by the end of the week. Inclement conditions are returning over the weekend when a front passes through Florida, so we will be in Miami for at least a few days, possibly more. Last year we spent three weeks in Miami on a mooring ball waiting to cross. As they say, “Cruising plans are written in sand at high tide.” Another one is, “The most dangerous thing on a boat is a schedule.” 

To follow our cruising route, there is a link in the menu at the top of our website page. It is under “Location” and called  “Spot Tracking.” Whenever we are moving it is turned on, updating our position every ten minutes. I tend to post photos and updates more often to my Facebook page than to this website and there is a link to that at the top of the right column on the Seas the Day website. 

We plan to leave Sunset Bay midmorning on Wednesday (tomorrow) and take the ICW to Lake Worth/Palm Beach. It’s an easy motor with quite a few bridges that have to open for us, but all timed well. We have reservations at a marina in Ft. Lauderdale for Thursday and Friday night, in case we want to wait until Saturday to go on to Miami. 

Finally, we miss many things about living in the US when we are gone. In particular, there is one thing I can’t provision for and can’t purchase anywhere we visit, other than Nassau. Goodbye, Starbucks. See you in June! (I actually have a picture of a frappuccino in my car cup holder but it appears most photos I take with my iPhone are sideways when I upload them to this website. A sideways photo of Sailor on an iSUP is OK, but a sideways photo of a frappuccino just isn’t right.)

Cruising Plans Written in Sand

There is a saying that “Cruising plans are written in sand at low tide.” Once again that has proven true for us, but this year it wasn’t our electric windlass that broke or our watermaker that needed a part the day we left on a cruise as in years’ past. The “plan” was to leave on Monday, November 30, when our slip reservation at Sunset Bay concluded. However, the weather has been rainy and windy for weeks, and it looked like the best weather window to get to Miami would start Tuesday, December 1. Unfortunately, Sunday night we spent four hours in the emergency room when Mark had intense pain. It was diagnosed as a prostrate infection, and he has an appointment with a urologist on Thursday. The antibiotics and pain killers they gave him in the emergency room stopped the pain but also made him very tired, keeping him from doing some last minute projects. We decided we had to stay and now the weather window is closing Friday. Also, today (Tuesday), I got a phone call with the results of a recent bone density scan. It came back with a diagnosis of osteopenia in both of my hips. Luckily someone had just canceled an appointment today and I got in to see my doctor shortly after the phone call. Now I have to get some medications to keep it from getting worse and developing into osteoporosis. We are incredibly lucky that these two health issues occurred before we were in the Bahamas where health care would not have been what we got here.

We have had a very busy six months in Stuart. Another popular saying is, “Everything on your boat is broken, you just don’t know it yet.” Some repairs we knew we had to do, some we didn’t. This summer and fall we replaced the trampolines, which were rotting. We also knew the watermaker needed a new pump. It was no secret that our dinghy had seen better days and after having to add air everytime we used it last winter, we replaced it this fall. The radar wasn’t working and we were able to find a new unit, which has been discontinued but works with our current Raymarine navigation system so we don’t have to replace everything. We have four air conditioning units on the boat and two of them needed to be replaced. We were able to have the salon one custom built locally, for about half the price of the same one we had. We didn’t replace the one in the master cabin yet but cool air from the other cabins and a fan keeps it comfortable. Our TV stopped working several months before we returned to Florida last spring so a new one had to be purchased. Luckily we had a warranty in effect and the replacement was basically free. Even our “marriage saver” headphones died and new ones were no longer available. The new bluetooth ones were more expensive but also much better. We use these to communicate when one of us is in the cockpit and the other dropping the anchor and approaching or leaving a dock or mooring ball. Also, when Mark goes up the mast it is easier to communicate using the headsets. Since the new ones are bluetooth, we can listen to music from our phones or computer on them and even talk on the phone. In addition there were many smaller projects, such as marking the anchor chain for depths so we know how many feet we are putting out. In fact, Mark was doing that when the pain began this past weekend. 

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A few weeks before we are “planning” to leave, I make an inventory of the provisions we have on board. I itemize this on a spreadsheet by category and make a list of what we need for the next six months. Then, let the shopping begin!  Most of the items are purchased at Sam’s Club, Target and Walmart. Apparently we haven’t spent much money at these stores this year, because after a number of multiple hundred dollar purchases, an attempt of charging over $1200 at Sam’s was refused but another try at $1000 on the Sam’s card with the rest of the purchase on another card went through. We knew we weren’t near our credit card limit so when I checked the account online, I couldn’t get to it and was prompted to call the company. That resulted in a number of questions to answer about the purchases and they even sent a text with a code I had to repeat to the agent. All was well, and I profusely thanked her for keeping a close eye on the charge card, as they obviously thought someone had stolen it. Many of our provisions are bought online and delivered to the marina. Sailor gets six months of food, medications for heartworm and flea and tick, vitamins, treats, dental chews, etc.

As the provisions are brought on the boat, the organizing begins. A few years ago we decided to remove the bedding and mattress from the starboard aft cabin and stack plastic boxes labeled and filled with food on the platform. Most of the paper products are stored in one of several   large watertight holds on the forward deck. Also a few years ago we both got Kindles and stopped reading paperback and hardcover books. Those we were storing on the book shelves in the port companionway were given away or placed in our storage unit, and food now resides on those shelves. In addition, items are placed in cabinets, drawers, closets, in benches under salon cushions and under beds. To store under beds means you lift a mattress, remove a section of the platform, and put items in the storage area under the bed. Ingredients for rum punch, gin and tonic, and wine are under a bench in the salon, and a large supply of juice and pop (or soda for those of you who aren’t from the Midwest) are under a bed or tucked away on the floor.

Overkill? Perhaps. Yes, people do eat in the Bahamas, but the stores are few and far between and the selection of products is limited and expensive. Some Bahamians order their food in bulk from Nassau and it comes on weekly boat deliveries.  In the Exumas where we spend most of our time we can get some items in Staniel Cay at the Blue Store, the Pink Store, and Isles General. These are all in people’s houses, and if you don’t arrive at the door soon after the weekly food is delivered on a supply boat from Nassau, the pickings are meager. In Blackpoint there is another store in a house that has limited provisions. Georgetown has several stores that have fairly good supplies including the Exuma Market which is similar to a small US grocery store,  but in many cases the items are quite expensive and of course the selection of products is more limited than US stores. Some food, especially dairy products, are subsidized by the government so they are reasonably priced. One could easily live on food purchased in Georgetown, but if we want our favorite brands at a discount price, Sam’s, Target and Walmart aren’t there. Snack items are very expensive. One year I craved red Tootsie Pops and Mark craved Sweet Tarts when we ran out early in the cruise. We finally found some in Spanish Wells in May just before we came back to the States. My Tootsie Pops were in a small bag where half were red and half were green and the price was about a dollar a pop, so you can guess how long they had been on the shelf. We do buy fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy products in the Bahamas, although this year we are bringing four dozen eggs from my yoga teacher and friend Kim’s free range chickens and they will last awhile since we got them so fresh. We also have a large cherry tomato plant that is full of green tomatoes already, nine strawberry plants in a strawberry planter, and quite a few leaf lettuce plants.  

The good thing about a catamaran is there is lots of storage space. The bad thing about a catamaran is there is lots of storage space. The result is we overbuy and always come back with enough to live on for most of the summer and fall. The freezer and two refrigerators are both full now and most of the freezer items are in Food Saver bags so they will keep for many months. Below are some of the items we have stored for the next six months. The boxes on the bed are two rows deep. Right now there are 30 boxes, but I do have an additional few days for more shopping! Many of the snack foods are for sundowners where we get together with other cruisers on beaches for drinks, snacks and conversation. We also need snacks for the Texas Hold’em games held on Seas the Day every Saturday evening while we are in Georgetown. 

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Besides boat repairs and provisioning, we have to get in all of our doctor, dentist, hair, dog grooming , veterinary, and medical test appointments before we leave. This year I also got involved in months of chiropractic care when an x-ray showed I have severe scoliosis. Last year, Mark was diagnosed with spinal stenosis shortly before we left, although it doesn’t seem to be very advanced. Sometimes trying to get this done doesn’t work, like this year I tried to schedule  my yearly eye exam and my insurance wouldn’t cover it until December 1, since that’s when I had it last year when we stayed later than normal. That is today, and we were supposed to be gone so I had canceled it. 

There is a great deal of work and planning that goes into leaving the country on a boat for six months, especially to a third world country. One worry has always been what would happen if one of us got sick, or even died, while in the Bahamas. This year we planned for that by getting a nautical policy from SkyMed that in the event of a serious injury or illness will fly us back to a hospital of our choice in the States by Lear Jet, even picking us up from a remote island in a helicopter, paying for our boat to be returned to our home port in Florida if we can’t return to it, flying us back to the Bahamas when we are well, paying someone to watch our dog or flying him back with us, ground transportation in an ambulance from a US airport to a hospital is included, and flying a visitor to stay with us in the hospital if needed. Physical remains are recovered and returned to the States if the worst happens. It is worth every penny for the peace of mind that if one of us was sick, injured or worse, we could get help in a US hospital quickly. We also pay for daily email, SSB and online live forecasts from marine weather forecaster Chris Parker. Another yearly expense is our SPOT device that tracks our progress when we move. In addition we pay for a mail forwarding service that scans envelopes and posts them online so we can see if we want to have the mail sent to us, shredded or the contents scanned. This is essential when we are out of the country for so long.

Sailor, of course, knows something is going on. He got suspicious when he saw some of his toys being washed. A visit to the vet for an exam, shots and paperwork we bring for immigration further confirmed it. When five bags of dog food and enough snacks to cause him to drool arrived, he got dressed in his sailing clothes.

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Sailor is ready to take over his responsibilities as First Mate. This is his third Bahamas cruise and as soon as we arrive, he will start running on deserted beaches and swimming in crystal clear water. While we have trained him not to bark, he does woof a few times if a stranger comes past us in an anchorage or mooring field. Some of our followers on this blog and on Facebook have commented that they would like to have Sailor’s life.

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After Mark’s appointment on Thursday, we could leave Friday morning, but the weather window closes that day, according to current forecasts. Hopefully we can leave early next week. Our cruise to Miami, where we wait to cross to Bimini in the Bahamas, takes us first to Lake Worth/Palm Beach on the ICW, then to Ft. Lauderdale on the ocean, and finally to Miami on the ocean. We need a three day window of good weather that doesn’t create big waves on the ocean before we will leave Stuart.

It’s been a wonderful six months in Stuart, but we are anxious to get to the Bahamas. Each year something seems to happen just before we leave, and hopefully these medical problems were  it this time. While we wait, we can enjoy having our Christmas tree lit all evening without using up the power in our batteries that our solar panels, wind generator and diesel engines give us when we are no longer plugged into shore power. In the photo below the smoke is coming from a diffuser with an essential oil called “Christmas Spirit” making our salon smell like the holidays are already here. Hopefully we’ll be opening our presents in the Bahamas.

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Spanish Wells to Stuart

We arrived back in Florida at the end of May. Guess I was a little lazy about writing the last post of the 2015 cruising season, because here it is the middle of October and I am getting around to documenting the end of our last season while we are planning our 2016 Bahamas Cruise.

We left Spanish Wells after a fantastic visit with my son Peter who flew into Eleuthera and joined us for the rest of the cruise. We then sailed from Royal Island, near Spanish Wells, to Chub Cay on May 19, leaving at 0645 and dropping the anchor at 1515. This was Peter’s first opportunity to sail with us in the Bahamas and luckily we had perfect calm seas. We stayed at Chub Cay one night and the next day sailed to Bimini, leaving at 0550 in the dark and tying up to the dock at Bimini Sands at 1650. 

Here are several photos of our crossing from Chub Cay and entering the waters of Bimini. In the third picture, the red rooftops of the condos surrounding the marina at Bimini Sands Resort and Marina are visible. Sailor had been there before and I am fairly certain he recognized it, or at least he said to himself with a smile, “Land Ho!”

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We stayed in Bimini two days and enjoyed the north and south islands. Peter snorkeled on the beach from Bimini Sands to the southern end of of South Bimini. He saw some fantastic underwater scenes, so next time we are there we’ll have to try it ourselves. Oddly after many visits to Bimini we had never snorkeled the reefs. Of course, we had to show Peter The Dolphin House in North Bimini, and he was impressed. He said he hopes to go back someday and rent a room from Mr. Saunders. We saw Mark’s last Minnesota license plate from his Corvette on one of the walls.  We donated it to Ashley Saunders’ collection of many car license plates two years ago. In his museum, we read the famous quotes he had mounted on the ceiling. To see more photos of The Dolphin House from our previous website, click here.

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One of the prettiest views in Bimini is from the Dolphin House. Mr. Saunders told us that a man from China recently approached him about buying The Dolphin House. Of course, it will always be in the Saunders family as it is a labor of love which he will no doubt continue working on until he can’t physically do it anymore. We will visit every time we go to Bimini to see the latest additions.

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When we stay in South Bimini, we take a very short water taxi ride to North Bimini. We always look for two white Golden Retrievers, who live outside by the water and fish for their food! Yes, we have seen them dive for fish and bring them ashore. They seem pretty healthy so perhaps the locals provide them with other food. We especially like watching these dogs because Sailor’s grandfather is a white English Golden Retriever.

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On May 22, 2015, we left Bimini Sands at 0610. Sailor was glad to spot land as we neared Lake Worth  that afternoon and  entered the channel.

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At 1410 we dropped the anchor near the Lake Worth Inlet after a very calm crossing.  We dinghied over to the park on Peanut Island to stretch our legs. The next morning at 0630, we left the Lake Worth anchorage with a beautiful sunrise in the sky, and started up the ICW to Stuart. We love being able to go under the 65 foot bridges and through the lift bridges while looking at the gorgeous homes along the route. We do not like being waked by speeding powerboats and fishing boats, and as always we seem to end up going on this leg of the trip on a dreaded South Florida weekend when they are out in force. As we entered the ICW, numerous fishing boats were ready to race out onto the ocean.  Later in the day, Sailor seemed to be a little bored, but Peter had a talk with him and they relaxed for the rest of the trip.

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Finally, at noon we pulled into our slip at Sunset Bay Marina, where we have spent hurricane seasons for the last four years. It’s called Sunset Bay for a reason. (That is a power cat in the next slip, not Seas the Day.)

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Thus ended our fourth Bahamas Cruise and our seventh year living aboard S/V Seas the Day. We spent the other three winters in Corpus Christi, the Florida Keys up to the Gulf Coast of Florida, and one season in Miami and Ft.  Lauderdale as we waited to have our hybrid catamaran converted to twin diesels. 2015 was a very different cruising season as we visited new places in the Bahamas and spent three months on a mooring ball in Georgetown. We boat buddied with good friends Tom and Cathie (Interlude) meeting up with them and spending Christmas together in South Beach, Miami,  then sailing together all the way to Georgetown, The Exumas, then back north with stops in Long Island, Cat Island, Little San Salvador, Eleuthera, and finally to Spanish Wells where Interlude continued to Abaco and we stayed in Spanish Wells.  We learned to play Texas Hold-em in Georgetown and played three times a week! We met a lot of new friends and hope to see most of them again in 2016. Sailor, of course, met his BFF, Portuguese Water Dog Zorro aboard M/V All In (Vivian and Chris). He’s never enjoyed playing with another dog this much and hopefully they’ll reunite this season. As we love doing, we spent the last month in Spanish Wells, renting a golf cart and staying on a mooring ball. The highlight of that month was having my son Peter visit, which added to the excitement and caused us to enjoy some new experiences.  He almost didn’t make it though, because after taking the Red Eye from San Francisco, at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport he wasn’t allowed on the plane to Eleuthera without a return ticket to the U.S. When he called us as the plane was loading (thank goodness he knew our Bahamas phone number), we were able to email a copy of our cruising permit to prove to the airline people that he did have a way back to the States. In Spanish Wells, a definite highlight was when we hired James, owner of Spanish Wells Bahamas Ocean Safaris, for a phenomenal day on the water, snorkeling, diving, swimming, finding conch and shells, watching James spear our fish for dinner, and playing on a huge sandbar.  Having Peter sail back to Stuart with us also added to the uniqueness of our 2015 Bahamas Cruise.

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Getting Ready For Our 2014-2015 Bahamas Cruise

We know that all cruising plans are written in sand, but we hope to leave Stuart in about a week to begin our fourth cruise to the Bahamas. Mark has a few jobs to finish and we have to start provisioning. Normally we would be ready to go by the beginning of November, but we were delayed due to the two knee replacement operations I had this fall. Briefly, my right knee was replaced on September 16 and the left knee was done on October 14.  They were supposed to be replaced in the same week, but I had a reaction to the anesthesia during the second operation on September 19 and the surgery was postponed.  Of course each surgery was followed by days in the hospital and weeks in rehab and then outpatient physical therapy.  I am now ready to continue the exercises on my own so we can leave Stuart. Unfortunately,  two surgeries sapped my energy for weeks and it’s frustrating for me to be so far behind in my part of the preparations. Normally I spend weeks provisioning and organizing everything on the boat in preparation for a cruise. Below is a photo of an X-ray of my new knees.

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Luckily, Mark had plenty of energy and made changes to help me maneuver more easily on the boat until my knees healed and I got my balance back.  The most important addition was to help me get on and off the boat since we are not on a floating dock.  He built a fantastic ramp with a boarding walkway that can be adjusted up and down with the tide. In the photo below, the walkway was not raised for the tide. Once adjusted it is level with the deck. Also, you can see the temporary wooden handrail he placed on the deck leading back to the cockpit.

IMG_1643 Mark also installed a folding teak seat in the master shower.  It works great and while I don’t need it now, I think it will be useful to sit on when taking showers while we are anchored with rough seas or when sailing.

As always, we have made a number of changes and repairs to Seas the Day during the summer and fall while we have been on a dock at Sunset Bay Marina in Stuart, FL.  Our dinghy got a leak during the last month of our Bahamas cruise last year, so Mark found the hole and repaired it.  He also added book shelves to the cabins (bedrooms), reworked the bookshelves in our office area so they could be used as a pantry, and added shelves to one of the hanging lockers also for food storage purposes. We are hoping all of these shelves will eliminate the need to use so many plastic bins to store our provisions while in the Bahamas.  Mark repaired the sliding door in the salon so it opens more smoothly. He put hinges on a bench seat in the salon which has massive storage, but only had a small opening before to get at what was in there.  In the photo the previous opening is shown on the wooden bench seat under the cushion.  Before Mark made this hinged seat, we had to remove the cushion (held on by velcro) and reach through that small opening to get items.  Now with the hinged bench seat we have easy access to everything stored in the bench and don’t have to remove the cushion to do it. Mark has also gotten all of the boat systems ready to go by performing regular maintenance. 

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After years of complaining about the fuel consumption of our current generator, we purchased a Honda generator this fall.  The Onan generator that came on the boat is huge (2100 kw) and was designed to work with the hybrid system we originally had on Seas the Day.  It uses about two gallons of diesel per hour.  The Honda generator is much more fuel efficient, using less than a gallon of gasoline per hour.  While we don’t need to use our generator for power very often, due to our wind generator and five solar panels, there are times when we need it and the Honda will be much more cost effective.

Hoping to leave Sunset Bay in about a week, it’s time to start shopping for food and other provisions. I use a lengthy spreadsheet to itemize what we have, what we need, and what we have to buy. Then lists are made and the shopping begins!  Prices for food and other goods are more expensive in the Bahamas, so we will try to buy everything we need for the next five months before we leave.  Also, some things aren’t available in the small stores we usually shop at when we visit the smaller settlements so if we don’t bring these items with us, we don’t have them until we return to the States. We’ll be buying food, paper products, dog food, everything that is in the medicine cabinet, cleaning products, etc.  Basically, we need to stock up on everything we use. Of course we still buy perishables while we are in the Bahamas and usually we realize we have forgotten something. Mark and I both take prescription drugs, so we have to get special permission from Medicare to get six months of them, rather than the three months we can normally get.

Due to my operations, this has been a very unusual season in Florida. I was either in the hospital or in rehab from September 16 until I came back to the boat on October 31, except for three days in between the two surgeries and rehab when I was home. During this time, Mark was usually visiting me, so he didn’t have the amount of time he usually has for repairs and new additions to the boat. Last year in the Bahamas we were somewhat limited because my knees started to hurt so much.  We’re excited to be getting back to a somewhat normal life now.

Sailboat Fire at our Marina

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This morning we looked out our window and saw a boat on fire.  The burning 45 ft sailboat was close to us, anchored between the mooring field and the shore, next to our dock at Sunset Bay Marina. We didn’t hear the initial explosion because we had the air conditioning and TV on and all the hatches, the door and windows were shut. Apparently it wasn’t very loud but we were told flames immediately shot out of the boat.  A family of four lived on Endless Summer in the Stuart area for at least several years and three of them were onboard at the time of the explosion.  The fourth, their 13 year old daughter, was at church with a family friend.  Sadly, their 11 year old autistic son died on the boat.  Our friend, whose boat is in the mooring field and was one of the first to see the fire, rushed over in her dinghy and tried to help them escape their boat but the parents couldn’t get through the flames to save their son and at first refused to leave.  A Stuart policeman in our dockmaster’s boat brought the parents ashore and they were taken to the hospital.

All this happened in minutes and was going on while we didn’t know the boat so close to us was on fire. The initial cause of the fire is not known. After everyone was off the boat there were several explosions, most likely when the fire reached the fuel and propane tanks. The toxic fumes floated over the mooring field while the fire continued to burn. The mast fell into the water and was temporarily holding the boat in place but then the boat started to drift.  Most boats in the mooring field were empty although we did see the catamaran nearest the burning boat move away from the fire.

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When we first saw the fire after the people were already taken ashore, we were surprised that a fire boat was not there extinguishing the fire.  (Obviously there isn’t one in this area.) Soon a Tow Boat US boat came and they were able to get the boat away from the mooring field by attaching a line to it. The anchor did not seem to be holding Endless Summer. The wind direction and current this morning kept it from floating toward our dock.

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Eventually, probably after they were sure the explosions had stopped, the tow boat operators used a small hose which didn’t seem to help much.  Finally, after the boat had been burning about an hour, the local fire department brought a long hose from their truck on the shore via a small boat out to the tow boat and put out the fire.  In the photo below you can see the firemen aboard the inflatable tow boat. When there were no more flames, what was left of Endless Summer Endless SummerEwas towed to nearby Shepherd Park.

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So sad for the family who lived aboard and lost their home, but the worst part of course was losing their son and brother in such a tragic way.  Our friend said there was nothing anyone could have done either to put out the fire or to save the young boy. A pet parrot also perished in the fire. They were fortunate that further explosions did not happen while the parents were trying to save their son. We haven’t heard if they suffered burns, but the parents were taken to the hospital for at least smoke inhalation. Later in the afternoon the police had closed down nearby Shepherd Park where they had towed Endless Summer to a dock. There was little left of the boat above water. Until early Sunday morning the newspaper and local TV stations were reporting that they couldn’t confirm there was a third person aboard. We found it odd that they wouldn’t accept the parents’ statement that their son was aboard and that they couldn’t rescue him. By Sunday they finally reported his death. The boat was then taken to a yard in Ft. Pierce.

On Seas the Day our propane tanks are kept outside in a locker in the cockpit and are turned on and off when needed from a control panel in the salon.  The stove, oven, and outside grill cannot be lit until the propane is turned on from the control panel switch and then a lighter is used to ignite the flame. Even with these precautions, in case of a fire on the boat the flames could eventually reach the tanks and explode as happened on Endless Summer

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If we are off the boat for more than a few hours we completely disconnect the propane tanks.  We have fire extinguishers in every room on the boat, as required by the Coast Guard, but the owners of Endless SummerEndless Summer tried to use theirs and they couldn’t put out the massive fire. At all marinas, there are fire extinguishers on the docks and if a boat catches fire, nearby boats would be released to float or be towed away from the dock. Most people probably think that what owners fear most is their boat sinking or someone falling off a boat in rough weather but fire is definitely the most dangerous thing that can happen.  

Cruising Plans Written in Sand

I spent the last three weeks in Maryland and California and flew back to Florida four days ago assuming we would be able to leave for the Bahamas in a day or two.  I had done all of my preparations before I left to be with Peter for his surgery and recovery.  Mark worked hard while I was gone and finished almost all of his projects.  However, two major problems are now holding up our departure.  First, on the way to the airport on January 15, we were rear-ended in rush hour traffic on I95, one exit before the West Palm Beach Airport.  It took several weeks to get the car owner’s insurance company to start the repairs on our car.  We should get it back early this week.  Second, we are waiting for repairs to be made to our radar and anemometer, both of which were damaged when the mast was taken down.  We have been waiting since the mast was put back on in November to get the repairs done, and now we are getting angry.  Hopefully we’ll get these parts repaired in a few days and be on our way by the end of the week.

The time I got to spend with my son Peter was wonderful. The surgery successfully removed a tumor at the bottom of his spine and then we flew to California for two weeks.  Peter was my tour guide every day as we visited beach towns, tourist destinations like Hearst Castle and Sequoia National Park, a Monarch Butterfly Park, wine tastings, Farmers’ Markets, and many walks on the dunes and various beaches.  Rather than put entries about the visit on this blog, I posted pictures on my Facebook page, the link for which is on the top right hand side of this website and also here. Flying into West Palm Beach last week, I caught this view outside the window as I was watching the sunrise above the clouds.  It reminded me that in a short time we would be passing large container ships like this on the ocean as we cross from Miami to Bimini.

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Today, Mark dived under the boat to clean the props.  The St. Lucie River is so filthy from runoff in Lake Okeechobee that he couldn’t see more than five or six inches in front of him.  He’ll finish cleaning the bottom when we get into cleaner water. Mark uses a Brownie’s Yacht Diver Electric System to allow him to breathe air while cleaning the boat bottom or for any other reason we might need to dive under the boat.

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One of our recent unplanned purchases (there have been many) was a new XM Radio for the boat.  We have always had an XM radio with a small speaker unit on the boat but it stopped working this fall so we bought a new one. We have speakers in the salon and outside in the cockpit, but had never tried to connect the XM radio to it.  We did that today and now can use the indoor and/or outdoor speakers in the cockpit to play XM stations.  Right now we are listening to a pleasant “spa” station which shouldn’t annoy our dock neighbors.

I was afraid that Sailor might not remember me when I got back.  At first he seemed confused but happily took the new toy I brought him.  Hopefully we will get to leave Sunset Bay Marina this week to begin our next cruise to the Bahamas and Sailor can become a real boat dog.

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Memorial for Friend and Fellow Mariner

 

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On December 11, 2013, 66 year old Steve Cummings, who had been staying at Sunset Bay Marina for the last several years, drowned off Bermuda when his 65 ft military tugboat sank.  He was on his way to join his wife Rose who had returned to Malta to be with a sick parent.  Steve was a very experienced mariner, having sailed around the world and owned boats his whole life.  He bought Silent Thunder, which was built in the 1950’s, and completely renovated the interior to make it a comfortable home. He was a quarter mile off the Bermuda coast having just left to start his TransAtlantic cruise, when his boat got a leak by a thru-hull, and two of his three bilge pumps stopped working. Steve called for help, abandoned ship and took his two cats in a dinghy.  People arrived where the boat had been within minutes, but the boat had sunk and Steve was nowhere to be found.  A few days later Steve, his cats and the dinghy washed ashore.

On December 21, friends of Steve gathered at Sunset Bay Marina for a very touching memorial service.  His ashes were thrown off the end of Dock A by his wife and relatives.  Poems and prayers were read, including one written for the occasion by Gil, a sailor who also resides here.  A wreath was sent down the river with his ashes, then each person threw a flower into the water.  Friends shared stories about this quiet, helpful man after we ate a potluck dinner.  Below are a few pictures of the service and get-together.  At the end of the evening, we all raised a glass of Dr Pepper, Steve’s favorite drink, in a toast to a friend who died as he lived, on the sea.

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Merry Christmas From Florida

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Merry Christmas to all of our friends, relatives and fellow cruisers. I must say that we do miss having a White Christmas. Our hometown of Duluth, Minnesota, has had 37 inches of snow so far in December, with snow falling on 19 of the first 23 days of the month.   This is close to a record for the month and more snow is expected on Christmas Eve. When you grow up with snow on Christmas, I think the holiday never seems quite right without it.  In the photo above, Sailor is sitting on the patio at Sunset Bay Marina with palm trees behind the Christmas tree which is surrounded by tropical plants. He would love playing in snow, I’m sure, but it might be a problem finding him in a snow bank since he looks like a polar bear.

Although it would be nice to be in Bimini for Christmas with our friends Cathie and Tom on Interlude, who crossed over from Miami today, there are good things about still being in Florida.  Most important is that we are still in the States and I can take a nonstop flight from West Palm Beach to be in Bethesda when Peter has his surgery.  That trumps crystal blue water and deserted white sand beaches in The Bahamas. The water and beaches will still be there when we arrive in February.

Since we are plugged into shore power at a dock, we have a three foot Christmas tree on the chart table and various other decorations in the salon.  Colored lights are strung outside on the lifelines, the salon roof, and the bimini. In the photos, the outside lights look white, but they are the traditional Christmas colors. Many boats in the marina are decorated with bulbs, but wisely not a single boat in the mooring field is using power for decorations.  Sailor is all decked out for the season, too.  Yes he has grown and is 42 pounds at six months old.

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After I uploaded the photo below of our Christmas tree, I noticed something in the picture.  There is a penny on the table in front of the tree.  I know most people will think I’m crazy, but after my dad died in 2003, I started finding dimes in strange places.  A friend told me she found dimes after her dad died so I figured my dad was doing the same for me.  They often showed up when I was having a difficult time with something in my life.  Once I found one on the floorboard of my van after driving several hours from St. Paul to Duluth to visit my mom. Shortly after my mom died in 2011, I found a dime and a penny side by side.  Then, I started finding pennies in odd places.  I should mention that my mom was very frugal and my dad was a bit more generous with money.  I did not place the penny on the table, so was it from my mom?  I choose to think so.

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Finally, our good friends Joanne and Jim Hubal filmed a very touching YouTube video with their cat Lovey and dog Holly, called Lovey the Cat’s Christmas Miracle: a special friend comes home for the holidays.  

 

Plans are Written in Sand

Our “plan” had been to leave for the Bahamas next week when Sailor is six months old and “legal” to enter the Bahamas, but then life happened.  My son Peter is scheduled to have spine surgery on January 17th, so we will keep the boat at Sunset Bay Marina in Stuart until I return from being with him for his surgery and recovery.  The surgery will be in Bethesda, Maryland, and then he and I will fly to his house in Oceano, California where he will recover.  I should be back in Florida sometime in early to middle February, depending on how long Peter needs me.  I am so happy to be able to do this for him and any cruising delay is not a consideration.  We’ll still have plenty of time to go to the Bahamas this season.

In the meantime, we have been busy NOT getting ready to leave.  Mark is probably quite happy to have more time for his projects.  Currently he is working on a dining table for the cockpit.  The small “coffee table” in the cockpit can by switched with the large dining table in the salon, but we never do it.  Mark has built a beautiful drop-leaf table which matches the other tables.  It has been a long drawn-out project. In the photo below, Mark has the three pieces on the dock while he is coating them with epoxy. Notice Sailor is overseeing the work. His next big project is to install a solar panel above the dinghy davits for the hot water heater.  This will enable us to always have hot water (as long as there is sun during the day).  In the past, if we wanted hot water while anchored or moored we had to turn on the generator.

IMG_3734Last week we went down the St. Lucie River to get the mast stepped. (We had it unstepped last June so we could get under a low bridge on the canal and be hauled out in case of a hurricane warning. Thankfully, there were no hurricanes in Florida this season.)  A large crane lifted the mast they had stored for us off their truck and in the photo below the men  are putting it back on Seas the Day.

IMG_3681The workers didn’t have time to put the sails on so we went back to our slip at Sunset Bay still a motor vessel.  They also didn’t reconnect the electrical wires that run down the mast but should be finished this week and then we will once again be a sailboat.

A week ago we drove to Vero Beach to visit good friends and boat buddies Cathie and Tom on Interlude.  Apparently we were so busy talking we forgot to take any pictures.  We were hoping to cross to the Bahamas with them, but they will beat us there. We’ll be sure to catch up with them in the Exumas and hopefully sail together again.

Of course, Sailor continues to grow in size and as a fantastic boat dog.  He is six months old in a few days on December 13 and weighs 38 pounds. Last Sunday we drove to Boca Raton for our second “Doodle Romp.”  There were 17 Goldendoodles there from Moss Creek Goldendoodles.  We had a great time at the Canine Cove Dog Park.  The doodles all kept together and stayed close to their people. Occasionally an SOB (Some Other Breed) dog came near our group, but they didn’t stay long.

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After several hours we drove a few miles to Ruby Tuesday in an upscale Town Centre for lunch.  The dogs behaved perfectly and the restaurant was very accommodating, bringing each dog their own bowl of water.

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After lunch, we went across the street for a group picture. Some of the families had left by then, but as always the doodles were well behaved even with shoppers and vehicles going past them. Sailor, Mark, and I are at the end on the right side. Almost every color of Goldendoodle was represented at our romp.  One of the most unusual is Orli, the parti colored doodle in the middle.

IMG_3718While Mark has been working on projects, I have been doing very little to get ready for our cruise.  However, before I leave for Maryland on January 15 I will have us totally provisioned with the boat organized for four months in the Bahamas.  First on my “to do list” for the next month is to make a “to do list.”

Happy Halloween!

We  had a Halloween get-together at Sunset Bay Marina today.  Sailor was the only dog wearing a costume.  I got there late and told Sailor to pose for a picture.  With all the distractions going on around him, he saw the camera, sat up and posed.

IMG_0982Eventually he fell asleep with his head on Mark’s foot.  We didn’t tell him his butt looks big in his costume.

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