Tag Archives: Holidays

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. 



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. 






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.


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.


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.


Happy New Year From Nassau

We left Bimini at 0540 in the dark two days ago on December 29, 2014.  The early start is because it is about 80 miles from there to Chub Cay and daylight at this time of year lasts less than 12 hours. We arrived in the dark at 1850.  The day couldn’t have been nicer with smooth blue water.  I am never sure how to describe the color of this water and often there are various shades in stripes, but I can’t believe there is more beautiful water anywhere.  



We left Chub Cay at 0805 today and arrived in Nassau at 1415. Again, there was little wind and the seas were smooth. The above photo is on the Banks which are shallow. Today we were back on the deep ocean which is dark blue. There are several views that always welcome us to Nassau: the lighthouse, the cruise ships, and the Atantis.  We don’t really like staying in Nassau because we are anxious to get to the Exumas, but we always stop here for fuel and a night’s stay. Then we have an easy day’s sail to the Exumas. We’ll spend most of our time there on a number of small islands with gorgeous beaches, friendly Bahamians, and of course the phenomenal water.




We are staying at the Nassau Harbor Club Marina in Nassau which is across a busy street from a strip mall that includes Starbucks, Fresh Market, a Batelco phone store, and much more. We made our usual stops, first at Starbucks where Cathie (Interlude) and I had our last drinks until we return to the States. We didn’t need much at the grocery store but did purchase a few items since this is the last real grocery store that isn’t in someone’s house until we reach Georgetown. Tomorrow, January 1, is the official start of the 7% VAT in the Bahamas.


Tonight is a big celebration in Nassau with Junkanoo and fireworks beginning at midnight. The Junkanoo parades are held on all of the Bahamian islands on Boxing Day, December 26, and New Years Day.  The people dress in colorful elaborate costumes and march to the beat of drums and horns. There is a competition between various groups on each island. We will enjoy a few hours with Cathie and Tom tonight with some wine and snacks, go to sleep, and no doubt be woken up a few hours later when the noise begins. On January, 2010, we were in Bimini for Junkanoo.  Below are a few photos of that celebration. We won’t be out there taking pictures tonight in downtown Nassau! However, we have heard that Junkanoo here is much larger than what is done on the less populated islands. Junkanoo had its beginning during the Bahamian slavery days when the slaves got three days off a year and celebrated by dressing up and partying.



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Waiting for Weather in Miami

Monday, as soon as the riggers left, we left Ft. Lauderdale and turned south towards Miami. We tried a new anchorage this year in a small lake near South Beach named Sunset Lake. It is a beautiful area, but a few years ago one of the home owners did not like boats anchored in front of their house. To keep the boats away, they purchased about 20+ small sailboats and anchored them directly in front of their house, blocking regular boats from coming near them. The little boats even have anchor lights. The photo is a little blurry because I had to zoom in from a distance.


We spent Christmas Eve and Day on Sunset Lake.  Fresh Market was nearby and we shopped for food with friends Cathie and Tom on Interlude. We enjoyed a delicious but easy meal. It was only a few blocks to the shopping area, and naturally there were Starbucks on every corner so I got my last frappuccino before we left Florida. Below are several Christmas photos. Our one year old Christmas cactus bloomed in spite of us not following the watering and light instructions.

imageimageWe had planned on leaving for Bimini on Sunday, motoring over to get fuel and stage the boats near the channel by No Name Harbor on Saturday, but when we woke up Saturday morning the weather seemed perfect for a crossing. The winds were SE at 15 kts. We would be motoring into the wind and probably couldn’t sail, but the seas would be calm. We stopped to get fuel and then at 1050 entered the channel to leave Miami. Normally we leave at daybreak, so we figured we would be arriving in Bimini in the dark. As we went past the Miami skyline, Sailor checked out the buildings and probably hoped for calm seas.


Merry Christmas From Florida


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.




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.


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.  


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.