My Scariest Moment Underwater

Getting up close and personal with seven-foot sand sharks at the Florida Aquarium?  

No, that wasn’t it.  Let’s see … coming up on a sunken airplane and fearing I might find the dead pilot, all bloated and rotting still in the pilot seat?  

That was a close second. I always imagine the dead bodies of those who may have been lost in the crash when I come up on a sunken vessel or plane.  Viewing footage from the sunken Titanic really freaks me out.  

But, I’ll have to confess that my actual scariest moment underwater up to this point was when I got spooked by a starfish.  Yes.  A starfish. Those super cute little critters that barely move at all and can’t hurt anything.  I can blame that one on Phillip as he brought it up right next to my face when the water was murky from us scrubbing the bottom and we knew sharks could be around so I was on high-alert. Inches from my watery goggles, that thing looked like a carnivorous octopus. So, I felt highly justified in my momentary full-body starfish freak-out.  But, that moment was recently one-upped when we were cruising this last November in the Berry Islands by my to-date scariest moment underwater.

November, 2019:

Although our sail from Devil’s-Hoffmandown to Chub Cay in the southern Berry Islands, Bahamas was not a fun one, it was rough upwind romp in 18-22 knots of wind (yuck!), thankfully Plaintiff’s Rest handled it incredibly well.  

Especially considering this was her first time sailing in six months as she had just weathered hurricane season astonishingly well hunkered down in Great Harbour Cay.  She beat and bashed her way right down the Berry Island chain to the inlet near Chub Cay.

Phillip and I were both thrilled when we finally got some wind-block and felt the conditions ease up.  We had decided to sail down this way before making our way over to Eleuthera to visit some friends of our who have a house on Frazer’s Hog Cay.  The story of how we met Steve and Pat and our completely random but instantly un-severable friendship is always a fun one to share. Feel free to check it out in this fun blog post: Cruising Is About People: Steve & Pat, This One’s For You!  

Our first picnic together, we had a hot-dog potty! Get it? : D

Steve and Pat are the type of people cut from the same cloth as Pam Wall, extremely well-traveled, resourceful, kind, incredibly funny, and wildly entertaining.  They’re the kind of people you feel every moment spent with them was one not wasted.  Phillip and I were excited for the opportunity to spend another memorable few days with Steve and Pat while on their ball there off of Frazer’s Hog Cay before we headed off to Eleuthera with the very loose plans to potentially take the “I-65 route” down to the BVIs in 2020.  That was the plan … and those always work out to a “T” when cruising, right?  

Right?!

For the moment, we had no idea what future lay in store other than a few fun days likely spent snorkeling, spear-fishing, beach picnicking, kitesurfing, and often ending with a fun community dinner each night on the island followed by a rousing game of Mexican Dominoes which … can get pretty heated!  That was how we spent our time last time at Frazer’s Hog Cay and it was actually Steve who taught us both how to spearfish back in 2018.  

During that trip, I speared my first lobster!  It was a thrilling crunch through this guy’s shell that got me hooked on spearfishing! 

Especially for lobster as they rarely flee.  Yeah, that’s right, I like prey that can’t run away.  I’m that guy.  Although, they can slide down your spear, though, which is exactly what this guy did, crashing right on my face, causing me to have an absolute flip-out. (Those are real.)  I ended up dropping him down to the bottom in my thrashing and coughing, but thankfully he wasn’t able to get off the spear so I was able to retrieve him.  I was told it made for an exceedingly entertaining show from Steve and Pat’s front row seats in the dinghy.

In light of that experience last time, Steve was excited to get us out again for another spear session in the Berries. Our first day, we dove right around their house and Phillip speared several lobsters!

Man, that was a tasty dinner. Although I got absolutely creamed in Mexican Dominoes that night, it was worth it for the fresh shellfish! Day two, the crew packed up on a fellow islander’s toot-around boat, lovingly named the Chub Tub and headed over to picnic and snorkel on Bird Cay.

Again, Steve had us armed with spears in case we spotted anything swimming around that could be equally tasty for dinner. That day, spearfishing in the Berries, however, left me with a lasting, albeit frightening memory.  Who here is familiar with lionfish?  

Along the Gulf coast, there has been a big push in the last 5-10 years encouraging fishermen to hunt and kill as many lionfish as possible, as they are invasive, unnatural predators in our Gulf waters.  Sadly, lionfish are carnivorous with no known predators and the ability to reproduce all year long.  As such, they stand as a deadly threat to native stocks such as snapper and grouper as well as algae-eating parrotfish.  So, when the crew spotted a lionfish during one of our beach picnic outings, Steve was the first to hand me a spear.  Any enemy of the mesmerizing ecosystem in the Bahamas is an enemy of mine, so I did not hesitate.

I dove down to where two lionfish had been spotted, just a few feet under water, hiding among some rocks and coral.  I was nervous but excited as I drew back my spear, aiming directly for the body.  Then the worst thing happened.  I speared the first lionfish clean through on the first shot without issue.  

Why is that the worst thing to have happened?  Because it made me undeservedly confident.  Then another terrible thing happened.  I shot the second lionfish clean through.  The crowd was going wild!  

Then a terrible thing happened.  A third was spotted and I went after him with reckless abandon, feeling like the true lion tamer I thought I was.  If my head could have fit inside of his open mouth I would have stuck it in there just to hear the roar from the crowd.  I was undefeatable!  I was a champion!  I was … delusional.  

With my spear cocked and aimed at the third lionfish, I let it go and watched it pierce into the rocks around the lionfish.  He wriggled and retreated but he was not speared.  I followed down further, got closer, cocked and aimed but missed again and when I did, on the verge of my ability to hold my breath, that’s when my scariest moment underwater occurred.  

He charged.  

As soon as the spear left my hand and struck the rock, that lionfish burst out of his hole, with all quills fully fanned out and he started steaming toward me.  

It was just for a second before he turned back around, but I think my heart stopped.  I know I pissed my bikini.  I sucked in a mouthful of water and breached the surface hacking and coughing and flailing as fast as I could away from those rocks, envisioning an army of lionfish chasing me.  Although I was, again, a wildly-entertaining flailing Annie mess, this time was far more frightening than the lobster-face encounter.  I’m pretty sure all lobsters can do is pinch and snip you.  But, the thought of being poisoned underwater? No thank you.  The thought of instant paralysis and sinking earned that frightening fish the win for the day. Although I was brave enough to go back to get my spear, I couldn’t see that bastard lionfish anymore when I did and I’m not sure I would have aimed at him again … that day anyway. For the time being, he will be, for me, the one that got away. But, I was thankful for those I was able to spear. And, that I had at least killed two of those terrible predators.  

Take that Lionfish 1 and Lionfish 2.  As for you, Lionfish 3.  I hope we meet again someday beneath the deep sea.   

 

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Ever Been On a Sail You Just Want to End?

Phillip and I will both eagerly, happily, readily admit it: We are 100% fair-weather sailors on our boat. While there are definitely longer, more intense passages we still want to make in our lifetime—sailing around Cape Horn, for example, sailing in the Indian Ocean, we’ve even thought about doing a leg of the Clipper Race—we probably will not do those in our boat and we will not do them because we like to bash around in rough conditions.  Much like the Atlantic-crossings we have done, Phillip and I would undertake those because of the accomplishment it would signify. There is a lot of pride that comes into play when we both can say: “Yes, we’ve sailed across the Atlantic.”  Or, when people ask, “How did you get to Cuba?” and we can say: “We sailed there.”  

“Just the two of you?”

“Yes, just the two of us.” 

Five-day bash across the Gulf to Cuba in 2016

I’ll be honest.  That’s a pretty f&*king cool feeling.  I love the look people sometimes give us in response.  I feel like they are now thinking there are more things in the world possible than they knew, and that, if those two can do that, maybe I can do more than I imagined.  I hope Phillip and I always inspire each other and other people to greater endeavors.  When Phillip and I voluntarily embark on passages we know could likely become extremely arduous, we do it for that reason: to accomplish something rare, do something many others have not.  

Crossing the Atlantic with Yannick on s/v Andanza in 2016

But, the only reward for a common day-hop where the conditions became gnarly is: You Survived! And your reward is simply a “Whew! We made it,” and an icy cocktail at the end of the day.  I’ll be honest: I’m going to have a cocktail either way, so I’ll take it without the bash-about and potential broken-whatever.

Phillip and I would never take our boat out in 25-30 knot winds and big seas just for the sport of it. No, Ma’am.  If Phillip and I find ourselves in that unfortunate situation, it’s because we didn’t know it was going to be like that out there and our weather prediction was off.  (Because that never happens, right? ; )  Well, that was precisely what happened to us when we wrapped our magic dinghy ride to the Blue Hole at Devil’s-Hoffman Cay and sailed down to Chub Cay in the southern Berry Islands to meet up again with our friends Pat and Steve who have a wonderful rustic island home there.  It was supposed to be an easy beam-reach day-sail.  

Supposed to … 

When we left Devil’s-Hoffman, Phillip and I were expecting winds of 15 out the east which would have put us on a nice beam reach heading south toward Chub Cay.  And, recall this was going to be our first time sailing Plaintiff’s Rest—not motor-sailing as we did from Great Harbour to Devil’s-Hoffman, but pure sailing—in SIX MONTHS (Lord!) because we had just returned after hurricane season to pick up our cruising again in November, 2019.  

First selfie with our baby girl after hurricane season!

We were so excited to get underway, in fact, and start sailing that day that we weighed anchor and set off in the pouring rain.  

We didn’t care.  We were going sailing!  Our kind of sailing.  

And, it definitely started out that way!  See?

Nice 15-knot winds right on the beam.  We were flying!  Look at that. Making 7.3 speed with ease (and comfort).  But, about an hour into our “perfect sail” the conditions started to deteriorate. Of course, the rain came back, in cold driving sheets.

But, far worse, the wind not only shifted—to where it was coming more out of the southwest, right on our nose as we tried to pivot onto a heading toward Chub Cay—they also picked up to 22-25 knots, which is just more than we prefer.  Don’t get me wrong.  Our baby girl is tough as nails, with all new wire rigging put on in 2016, her mast-step rebuilt stronger than ever before, and a super rugged but flexible balsa core throughout.  She is fully capable of sailing in 25+ with ease, I just don’t personally want to see, hear, or feel her do it.  The potential for breakage skyrockets and stresses me out.  I’m not a shoe person but it would be like putting on a new pair of exquisite, shiny Louis Vitton heels and then running like mad through the streets.  You are totally going to mess those shoes up.  (And your ankles, too, in that scenario).  Although I hear women do it … on a professional level!

But, there we were, three hours now away from turning back toward Devil’s-Hoffman, or two hours into the wind to get where we needed to keep our cruising momentum.  What would you do?

We reefed up and kept trucking. It was kind of shocking to see how quickly the seas kicked up, though.  I guess with no protection from the south, it doesn’t take long for the wind to impact the seas, because we were beating into some miniature monsters. 

Every time we tacked thinking it would give us an advantage, I swear we were going backwards.  Like we were on a sea treadmill and losing ground. I felt like the boat gave us a “Really guys?” each time we tacked and didn’t gain an inch.

Phillip’s “What the hell, Wind?” face

In moments like those, I wish I could become this huge hand that comes down from the sky and just plucks her like a rubber bath duckie out of that mess and sets her gently down in the anchorage, still and safe, and on her hook.  

Have any of you ever felt that way?  You’re fine to bury the rails and beat to windward on anyone’s boat but your own? I wonder if I’m alone on this?

Although Phillip and I love sailing, we love cruising, we love being on our boat, there are just some sails I want to end, and, unfortunately, this was one for us.  Our first sail of the 2019 cruising season, and we just wanted it to end.  But, I must say the boat performed beautifully.  She powered through, and that hellish beat was over in a few hours.  I can’t tell you what a sigh of relief Phillip and I both let out when we turned into the inlet at Chub Cay and the seas finally loosened their grip. 

My “Thank God, we’re almost there” smile

I love that moment when the boat finally slows from a full-out run to a gentle gallop, then to an easy trot, and you know you’re going to make it.  That day we (well, and by “we” I mean primarily Plaintiff’s Rest, with me and Phillip simply riding on her back) definitely earned our “Whew! We made it.”  And, you remember what I said about the cocktail.  Happy hour is not optional on Plaintiff’s Rest. : )  

There she is! Anchored out safely (thank goodness!) behind Frazer’s Hog Cay after a rough beat.

Next up, we play around the southern Berries with some fantastic island friends and embark on our first lionfish spearing adventure.  You never know, Captain Annie may still become a lion tamer yet!  

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The Magic of a Dinghy Ride

It’s not just a rubber transport, it’s more of a magic carpet.  Looking at the photos from our time at Devil’s-Hoffman in the Berry Islands, Bahamas, I felt inspired to share a little about … the magic of a dinghy ride.  

For those who haven’t yet bought a boat, or haven’t yet set off on an extended cruise, haven’t truly lived aboard for a few months in foreign places, you may not know what majestic wonders your dinghy has in store for you. As a cruiser, your dinghy is your ticket to shore.  It is most often the vessel that carries you to a place you have never been before. It also brings you down, almost eye-level with the waters you are anchored in and often shows you for the first time the clarity of the water, the depth, the varied grass, rock, or sand that lies beneath you.  

The view at Little Harbour Cay in the Abacos 2018

It brings you closer to the marine life that is swimming, living, sleeping below you, even the Thalassophobian-creatures that might lurk beneath.  Phillip and I have seen starfish, reef sharks, and sea turtles, creatures very foreign to us at home, all while riding in the dinghy.  

Spotted via dinghy at Powell Cay in the Abacos 2017
Captured via dinghy at Manjack Cay, Abacos, 2017

Every time we pump up the dinghy and hop in to ride to a new shore I can feel my heart striking up a feisty chord.  The new-ness of the places we travel to is what we crave.  Phillip and I both have a passion for seeing, experiencing, eating, and immersing ourselves in things new.  And, it is often the dinghy that takes us there, to a new beach, where we walk a new shore, follow a new trail (sometimes after eight false starts), and find a new blue hole we have never seen before.  The feeling of experiencing something for the first time—a place, a song, a person, a dish, a creature, flower, scene, sight, smell. The newness of it all captivates us.  And, often it is all made possible solely by the dinghy.

Even in local, familiar anchorages, our dinghy offers us that 5 o’clock buzz around the anchorage, with a drink (better known as a “roadie”) in hand—always—where we stop boat-to-boat and catch up with, or meet for the first time, our eclectic, inspiring fellow cruisers out there.  

Picking up BaBaLu at our favorite home anchorage, Ft. McRee, for our costume-themed (Phillip is playing a sexy Captaint Stubing here) second annual Halloween Boozer Cruiser.

The dinghy is what enables us to connect with those around us, otherwise we would be isolated on the boat, never introducing ourselves to those around us, getting to know them, and letting them get to know us. In an anchorage, that all happens by dinghy.  

So, yes, while it is just Hypalon, valves, and glue … to some.  Our dinghy (lovingly named “Dicta” on Plaintiff’s Rest) is so much more.  The thrill of our dinghy ride into Hoffman’s Cay in the Berries to dive the blue hole made me realize how much I appreciate, and look forward to, the moment Phillip and I load into the dinghy and set off to a new place, and it inspired me to share with you all just how many roles—in addition to a magic carpet—that our dinghy plays for us.   

A conch-scavenging vehicle:

An any-reef, any-time scuba stop:

A protector from potentially-unfriendly foes : (

A keeper of gathered goodies:

A source of entertainment (pumping 7” of water out after a pour):

A source of more boat projects (they’re good for you, trust me – keeps you humble):

A provider of “whole-boat selfies” : ) Those are important!

A front row seat to some of the best sunsets we’ve ever seen:

A floating scaffold for doing hull-side (big) boat projects:

A good, safe practice boat for Captain Annie (who often gets the backwards right-left tiller function mixed up and bumps into things):

A source of yet-more boat projects (you can see how we stay pretty humble):

A source of yet-even-more entertainment (you can see how we stay happy):

And (just for fun) the subject for an aptly-titled, badass video from our scoot around Powell Cay in the Abacos in 2017. Enjoy!

The dinghy does all of this for us, and so much more. Dicta is such a crucial part of our transportation, connection, and overall cruising experience. Do you agree? Share in a comment what your dinghy means to you!

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A Cruiser’s Wine Cellar: Article in SAIL Magazine’s 50th Anniversary Edition!

I probably had way too much fun writing this one!  Go on … ask me how many bags of wine we can stow in our “cruiser’s wine cellar!” ; )  We interrupt our regularly-scheduled Bahamas broadcast for this fun announcement!  This was such an honor and a treat for my Cruiser’s Wine Cellar piece to be included in SAIL Magazine’s 50th anniversary edition!  Wow!  This very fun article I put together at the request of Peter Nielsen with SAIL who asked for some insight into our new “creative stowage in the bilge.” A couple of custom starboard inserts afforded Phillip and I the perfect new place to keep wine cool and stable aboard s/v Plaintiff’s Rest.

 There are some fun photos of the project in the article that I hope might inspire some creative bilge stowage on your own boat!  

We hope you all enjoy the article! If you pick up a copy and enjoy it, be sure to let the folks at SAIL Magazine know. Then, tell us, where is your “cruiser’s wine cellar” on your boat? 

I love wine … Nope, still not big enough! It can never be big enough. : D

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What Lurks Beneath? Overcoming My Thalassophobia at Hoffman’s Blue Hole!

I have a confession to make. I have a phobia—thalassophobia—or a unique form of it, perhaps.  Where Thalassophobia is the fear of what lies beneath you in a vast, deep body of water like the ocean, mine is limited to shallow bodies of water when the water is dark or murky and I cannot see what’s on the bottom.  I think the fact that the bottom is closer to me, 20 feet or less, is what scares me more than the deep ocean, because the dark creatures below are now within striking distance!  What the heck is down there?  This guy?

I don’t know.  Because I can’t see the bottom!  And, I’m way too creative to not start imagining all kinds of monstrosities awaiting me there.

And, I say my phobia is different because I have swam in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and nothing about it frightened me.

In the ocean, I guess I feel like whatever is down there is likely way, way, waaaayyy down there.  I’ll have plenty of time to see that monster coming to crawl back onto the boat.  But, when the bottom is just ten or so feet down, I have no hope of escaping. I’m only one tail/tentacle flap away from that guy!

What’s worse?  If I can feel the murky, muddy, unknown bottom on my feet but I can’t see it.  Bwwwummhhhuuh.  I just had goosebumps flow through me thinking about that. When my feet start sinking into a murky bottom, I flip the heck out!  Here’s what it probably looks like down there:

Here’s what I see down there. 

Imagine stepping on this guy … 

I have often been seen swimming, fully horizontal, in two-feet of water all the way to the shore because I don’t want to walk on the bottom.  Is anyone with me on this?  Am I crazy? Wait … Don’t answer that … 

But, I mention the phobia to share one fantastic victory!  My dive into the Blue Hole at Hoffman’s Cay in the Bahamas!  

Just you wait.  The real-live footage of my phobia is hilarious.  After Phillip and I finally found our flanges while replacing our raw water impeller, got the engine put back together, and found me a suitable shower shoe, albeit it non-Croc, it was time for us to shove off and leave Great Harbour Cay for the first time in six months.  Our baby girl had weathered exceptionally well there, even as Hurricane Dorian raged just over head, and it was time to reward her with another awesome cruising season!   Phillip and I had been looking forward to flying back to the boat for months, and it was all for this moment!  When we finally got our baby girl moving again!  Oh, and when I could wear bikinis all day every day for months!  Whoo-freaking-whoo!  Captain Annie even de-docked us like a boss and we headed out the very narrow cut into Great Harbour Cay that kept Plaintiff’s Rest so well protected this past season.  

Being out, the boat moving, the sails filled, for the first time in six months was exhilarating.  You know what this calls for …  That’s right. Sailing selfies!!

We sailed around the north tip of Little Stirrup Cay—which, now as Carnival Island’s “Coco Cay,” is sadly a monstrosity in the beautiful Berry Islands—in between four massive cruise ships.  As I’ve mentioned before, we are not a fan of Coco Cay.

But, we had read great things about the anchorage between Devil’s Cay and Hoffman’s Cay just south of the Stirrup Cays, called “Devils-Hoffman” in the Explorer charts, including a pristine little Blue Hole in the middle of Hoffman’s Cay.  Here is a map of the Berries showing the location of Devil’s Cay, which is just south of Hoffman’s Cay.  

And, here is the Blue Hole on Hoffman’s.  I mean, look how cool that is!  

A place where the Earth just fell away, leaving behind a seemingly-perfect blue sphere of mysteries! Phillip and I were determined to find it, jump it, and call ourselves Blue Hole Champions!  I think they give out little rings afterward that you can all clink together and say “Our powers combined, we are Captain Blue Hole!” or something along those lines.  Just for fun : )

I used to love that show. Maybe if it had been more popular, we’d all be in better shape now.  Captain Planet aside, Phillip and I had a great little motor-sail from Great Harbour Cay down to Devil’s-Hoffman.  The winds were light and we knew we needed to run the engine a bit to get her legs stretched out.  The guidebooks also did not disappoint.  Devil’s-Hoffman offered a beautiful secure little anchorage that was easy to navigate with plenty of depth.  Plaintiff’s Rest seemed incredibly happy to be off the dock and floating free on her hook.  

And, Phillip and I were excited to pump up our dinghy, Dicta, for the first time this season and get to shore to find this mesmerizing Blue Hole!  

From the overhead view, you would think this hole would be super easy to find, right?  Right in the middle of the island where all the trees and brush just fall away?  One would think.  It was not. There weren’t any signs or indications that we could find on how to find it.  We started on a spit of sand on the eastern shore, ducking into different paths or openings in the thick brush, striking out left and right.  

I even climbed a tree to try to look up and out to find the hole, with no luck.  After a half hour of hiking around on the east side, we decided to hop back in the dinghy and cruise around to the south shore to try there.  Our first few path attempts, we struck out again.  With the setting sun on our heels, we were about to leave feeling disheartened and unaccomplished, until Phillip saw a little opening on the left side of the south beach. As we began to follow that along, it seemed clear this was finally it … THE TRAIL to the Blue Hole.  And, turns out, it was!  We turned a corner, the thick brush finally fell away, and there she was.  The infamous Blue Hole.  

With all the talk of this Blue Hole and our tremendous efforts to find it, I knew I had to jump in. Which, in and of itself has never been a problem for me.  I’m an avid cliff diver. 

But, I did not know this Blue Hole would trigger my murky-bottom version of Thalassophobia. When we looked over the edge, however, and saw the hole, I could see that there was a bottom, I just couldn’t make out what was down there.  My brain said: “Where’s that phobia switch?  Oh, there it is.  Flick ” And I said: *GULP*  Seriously, look at my expression.  Does that look like a face of courage to you?  

But, I was going to be brave. I’d talked a big blue-hole game. Phillip and I had overcome big hurdles to get here. I was not going to let my phobia stop me.  Despite knowing monsters like this were down there … 

… don’t try to convince me otherwise, I know they are … I dove anyway!  There she goes!  

But, to prove my phobia is real, I’m so glad Phillip filmed this bit.  Listen closely to what I tell Phillip when I’m swimming back to shore. 

PHOBIA ANNIE:  “I don’t know what’s down there.  I’m gonna swim fast.” 

PHILLIP:  “What do you think’s down there?”

PHOBIA ANNIE:  “I don’t know!” (said with fear)

I crack myself up watching that.  Phillip dipped in next and just swam around all leisure like.  

Where Phillip lounges …

I swim like a maniac trying to get out. 

I even dove with my flip flops in hand because I didn’t want to have to walk on any creepy murky bottom on the way out that might freak me out.  But, by-golly I did it!  

I DOVE THAT HOLE!!!

Now, where’s my ring? Ha! Now, tell me, do any of you out there think you have this phobia? If so, is it the deep version or the shallow, like mine? And, who has dove the Blue Hole at Devil’s-Hoffman?

Next up, we’ll share a fun little problem we had with our transducer.  I mean who really needs a depth gage in the Bahamas? Pssshhh …  That’s child’s play!  When Phillip asked me “What’s the depth, Captain Annie?” I said … 

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Croc Hunting in Great Harbour

November 9, 2019 – Great Harbour Cay, Bahamas:

[Spoken in a thick Aussie accent] There I was … standing on the precipice, knowing it was going to be a gnarly journey across treacherous waters and an even more unforgiving landscape once I reached the other side. But, he was out there, baiting me, challenging me … one wild and unpredictable Croc!

Okay, I know, it’s not an actual scary crocodile, but do you know what IS scarier than a crocodile? Whatever the heck is crawling around on this floor that I have nightmares will crawl under my toenails grow roots out if I don’t wear shower shoes. 

And, it just so happens my shower shoes were Crocs. These cute little flamingo-themed croc flops that aren’t nearly as bad as the original Croc, which I both refuse to (and cannot) wear.  Seriously, the first few times I tried to wear the iconic platypus style when they were a wild hot rage 15 years ago, that bulbous toe would always stub the ground causing me to stumble, trip, even fall.  Apologies in advance if any of you are Croc-lovers out there, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say many of these “Croc truths” are not wholly UN-true … 

Jesus, those are funny. And, yes, they make them in heels.

Yes, they make them in the form of a cake.

They even make everyone wear them to weddings on the lake. 

I’m not sure about this one, though? Truth or a Croc?

While I cannot do the platypus version, I did love my flamingo shower flops and they taught me a very important lesson.  Maybe this should be Cruising Rule #78: When boarding a boat, never leave your flops on the dock. Why? 

They’ll blow the heck away! Flops mostly, but boat shoes too, particularly if they are Crocs, which mine are!  Don’t hate, mine are cute!

But, you know those things are made out of super-light NASA foam stuff that can never sink (and likely never biodegrade, unfortunately). While they are not recyclable either, I was at least pleased to find the company Crocs has partnered with a program, Soles 4 Souls, where you can donate your used Croc shoes back so Crocs can then distribute them to poverty-stricken countries for kids and adults who cannot afford shoes. At least there’s that. 

Sadly I had broken Rule #78 that November day post-shower and one of my poor Croc-tastic shower flops blew off the dock and across the bay at Great Harbour Cay.  I came back up after dropping my shower goodies down below and making a cocktail (because that’s the first thing you do post-shower!) to find only one lone flamingo flop left on the dock!  But, Phillip and I did not fear, because those things float forever, right?  We’d lost Crocs to the same plight before only to find them happily floating on the other side of the harbor the next day.  As the sun was setting that evening, he and I both swore we saw a tiny little white spec across the harbor from our boat, so we eased merrily into the evening (and into round two of our ‘tails) assuring ourselves a quick Croc hunt in the morning would surely uncover my missing reptile.

Do you see a little white spec? We did! (Might have been the cocktails … )

So, the next morning, we lit up early and pumped up our awesome inflatable YOLO paddleboard on deck so I could paddle over to find that darned shoe!  Phillip got me this paddleboard as a birthday gift (he’s kind of awesome that way) back in … gosh … 2014 I believe, and it’s been a real asset on the boat.

It’s a secondary vehicle to/from shore when we need it, a nice getaway from one another when we need a solitary “check-out” paddle, and even fun trying to surf it in light waves!  We even patched it with G-Flex 3-4 years ago when it blew out a seam and that crazy fix has held ever since!  

[Back to the Aussie accent] Pumped and prepared, off she went, rigid paddle in hand, eyes laser-focused on her target. As she muscled her way across the tumultuous, enemy-laden waters, her knuckles whitened and her muscles flexed. Hunter Annie was on a mission to wrangle a killer Croc on the uncharted eastern shore.

Yes, it was that dramatic. That was quite the paddle.  I almost … broke a sweat!  *gasp*  I’m kidding. You sweat all the time in the Bahamas. From the minute you wake, until the sun goes down and you shower.  It’s just part of it.  Sadly, though I did make it safely across, I found no white flamingo-themed Croc on the lee shore.  Whatever white spec Phillip and I had seen the night before was just that … a crock! I checked and overturned every white piece of anything I could find – pieces of Styrofoam, white tennis shoes, white take-out containers, you name it.  But, no flamingo Croc.  I did, however, find a spongy gem!  Laid bare, all on its own, as if calling to me, was one lonely black Teva flop.  It looked fairly new, sun-baked so I assumed it was clean, and just my size!  Likely a men’s shoe from the look of it, but still just my size!  Only problem was, I couldn’t recall which Croc flop I had lost … the right or the left?  Hoping for the best, I tucked the black Teva under the bungee on my board and paddled my way back to the boat.

And, wouldn’t you know it … 

The perfect pair! Ebony and ivory! These are, I kid you not, my shower shoes to this day. I get some funny looks sometimes on my way to/from the showers. But, if folks think me mismatching my shoes is the worst I did that day, then I believe I’m ahead of the game! And, I love a shoe with a story. I love anything that has a story. 

The funny thing was, though, this tongue-in-cheek “croc hunt”—while not in actuality dangerous at all—did almost end in actual danger on the way back. So … I mentioned the inflatable paddleboard, right? And, the “enemy-laden waters.” I wasn’t kidding about that. Do you want to know what swims around in the Great Harbour Cay Marina? 

Sharks. Plenty of them. 

We were disheartened to find, about an hour after my paddle, our paddleboard wilting and sinking into the water behind the boat. Poor thing. She’d blown another seam But, she’d definitely done her job first. It gives me chills looking back thinking that paddleboard could have started deflating and sinking when I was still many yards from the boat and I would have been flailing around in those shark-ridden waters. *gulp*  I know they say that sharks in the wild will likely ignore you if you’re not failing about, injured, or bleeding. But, I’m two out of three of those things on any given day, so I don’t want to test the theory. In all, I called the croc hunt a success as it restored my shower show pair, and we set to patching up the YOLO hoping she wouldn’t be any worse for the wear!

And, if I didn’t mention this I would be sorely amiss! That night on the boat Phillip whipped up pure bliss! Homemade meatloaf with spinach and mushrooms.

I love wining and dining with that man – Cheers!

Next up, we head to Devil’s-Hoffman. Any of you ever been there? It was the Blue Hole or Bust!

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Cruisers’ Rule #42: Find that Flange! (And Other Engine Tips)

They’re more like guidelines, really, but we cruisers do have them: good rules of thumb to keep you and your boat going. “Find that flange!” is an important one, as it can mean the difference between carrying on with a happy, humming engine, or sitting stuck in a rut with an engine who can’t keep his cool.  No bueno.

After Phillip and I received the fantastic news that Plaintiff’s Rest had gallantly weathered Hurricane Dorian and was floating happy and safe and awaiting for our return in Great Harbour Cay, we eagerly started planning our cruising this season.  While it’s fun to think about all of the interesting places we will go and things we will see or eat when we get there, to ensure we can actually get there (in theory anyway), our cruise-planning often begins with the following important questions: 

  1. What work needs to be done on the boat before we leave the dock?  
  2. What boat parts/supplies do we need to bring to the boat to do that work, versus what we can acquire once we arrive? 
  3. What gear or spares do we need to replenish before we shove off and where can we get those?

She’s a boat, right?  If you want to go cruising, you’ve got to keep her safe and seaworthy, which requires a great deal of forethought and work. Cruising is every bit of what they say about “working on your boat in exotic places.” In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s Cruisers’ Rule #1, or in the top ten, at least. 

When Phillip and I asked ourselves these questions as we were preparing to return to the boat after Dorian, one of the first tasks that came to mind was the need to change the oil in the engine and inspect/replace the impeller before we set off to cruise further down into the Bahamas.  Knowing we had plenty of oil on the boat and the kit to do this, as well as plenty of spare impellers, we were fully stocked to take on this one with everything we already had on the boat. All, she needed was us! So, we hopped on a plane in November and happily made our way back to our beautiful floating home!

I cannot tell you how grateful we both were to finally get back to our boat in the wake of Dorian and seeing in person that she survived. Surviving hurricane season can be a very scary thing for a boat, and its owners.

Once we got settled aboard, and were able to get the main canvas out of the saloon and back up on the deck (re-installing the bimini and dodger, mainsail and stack pack, getting Wendy (our head sail back on), etc., Phillip and I were ready to dig into the necessary engine work.

We have a Westerbeke 27A on our boat, and we strive to change the oil every 50-75 hours, closer to 50 than 75 when we can help it.  I’ve written about the type of pump/oil container we use on our boat to extract the used oil out of the engine and contain it until we can walk it to a proper oil-dispensing location.  

How We Change the Oil On Our Boat

Phillip and I had quite the adventure in St. Petersburg a few years back tracking down this handy little pump from a Back-Door Marine Supply Guy!

I’ve also published an article and video previously showing how we change the oil in our engine on the boat if you are interested here: Maintenance in Marsh Harbour – How We Change the Oil On the Boat.  That also includes one way, in particular, on how NOT to do it, when we suffered quite the nasty oil spill on Plaintiff’s Rest.  Good times.  The takeaway: do NOT tip that pump more than 90-degrees horizontal or it will squirt oil out the handle the next time you pump.  That’s Cruisers’ Rule #149, I believe.  

Our Raw and Fresh Water Cooling Systems

After we got the oil changed, we next set our sights on the impeller.  For those of you somewhat new to engine maintenance (which I myself was just a few short years ago), this is how I wish someone would have explained it to me … in Annie Speak, so to speak.  Most diesels have primarily two cooling systems: the raw water system and the “fresh” water system (which in our boat we fill with antifreeze, aka coolant (that Ghostbuster green stuff)).  The raw water system uses a rubber wheel (the impeller) that spins to create suction pulling raw (sea) water into the heat exchanger.  

This is the impeller inside the raw water pump (unattached at the moment) in our engine.
Here I’m replacing a gasket for the raw water pump (when we had to remove and rebuild it). Right behind the gasket is a red tube running athwartship – that is the heat exchanger.

The coolant in the fresh water system is completely contained (well, when you don’t have any minor coolant leaks – very common, particularly around the thermostat on our boat), and is moved through heat exchanger (where—just as the name implies—warmer coolant from the engine is cooled by the raw water running swiftly on the other side of it in the exchanger) and then recirculated through the engine via a pump that is spun by the alternator belt on the back of the engine. 

That is the fresh water pump with the belt around it at the top (the alternator is to the right).

I am explaining all of this here for the benefit of newbie cruisers (which I, in many ways, still consider myself), and for future reference as you will learn soon about an issue we had with this cooling system in future travels.  

We’ll Have Some Fresh Water Cooling System Lessons to Share Soon – Stay Tuned!

Clever foreshadowing will have to be forfeited here for the loftier goal of sharing and educating as it was mine and Phillip’s replacement of the impeller on the raw water pump before we left Great Harbour Cay that reminded me of this important little nugget undoubtedly worth sharing (or, technically, I should say reiterating as I have mentioned it here before).  I urge you cruisers: when swapping out your impellers, if you notice some of the flanges on your old impeller have broken off (common), there is one critical thing you must do: 

Cruisers’ Rule #42: FIND THOSE MISSING FLANGES!

It can be tempting to ignore them.  I completely understand.  They’re broken off.  They’re gone. You’re putting in an entirely new impeller, so who gives a …  You should give a.  That’s who. I’ve documented several instances where Phillip and I ourselves or we have seen other boaters suffer some serious consequences from a thrown flange that was not tracked down and later lodged itself in critical locations that impeded water flow and prevented the raw water system from working properly.  

A fellow cruiser’s Tartan 37 – you can see the flange piece lodged in the hose barb that was causing his engine to overheat.

At the very least, a wayward flange can easily cause your engine to overheat.  Bad enough. But, in one rather severe case (Yannick’s!) it melted his muffler!  Zoiks!

The missing flange on Yannick’s boat.
There you see it lodged in the hose barb on his raw water pump impeding flow and causing his engine to overheat as well.
But that guy fixed his melted muffler with a blow-torch and a piece of PVC. Love that guy. Check it out if you haven’t already in our Atlantic-crossing movie!!

I don’t want a melted muffler, do you?  But, Phillip and I learned another small lesson during this impeller exchange when we noticed two flanges thrown and had to go track them down through the raw water system.  That is: 

Look In the Easy Places First

Sound silly?  Perhaps it is, but our gut instinct was to start at the point closest to the pump and work our way toward the heat exchanger. And, with this thinking in mind, we almost (alllmmooosst! but thankfully we didn’t) disconnect the hose from the pump to the exchanger first.  This would have been a several-hour rigorous chore trying to get that thing off and back on again.  And, would have been completely unnecessary in hindsight.  What I learned during this impeller maintenance session was that the heat exchange end caps are far easier to remove than hoses (many of which have been forged onto the barb after years of pressure).  The end caps are just simple bolts.  Very easy to remove (and replace the gaskets once you’re in there).  

Here I am looking for a missing flange years prior after removing the port-side end cap of the heat exchanger.

The Heat Exchanger Acts a Bit Like a Pea Trap

Also, the ends of the heat exchanger (on ours anyway and I’m sure it’s similar on others) act a bit like little pea-traps under the sink.  It’s the most likely place something that “goes down the drain” (or in this case, goes down the hose from the pump to the exchanger) is going to swirl around and get caught.  

Thankfully, after loosening the hose clamp on the hose from the pump the exchanger and giving it several hard tugs, my eyes traveled over to the much-easier-to-remove bolt on the starboard cap of the heat exchanger, and I suggested to Phillip: “Maybe let’s check the easy place first.”   

Now, did I suggest this out of wisdom?  No, it was pure “I don’t want to wrestle this anaconda-hose anymore” laziness.  But, it still turned out to be the right thing to do!  After we clamped the hose back up and popped the end of the heat exchanger off, our two missing flanges were sitting nice and accessible right there for us.  Whew! Got ‘em!  

The chase is not always that easy, and rarely what we would exactly call “fun,” but finding those missing flanges can mean the difference between continued cruising and camping out at the dock with an angry engine.  That’s why it’s a Cruiser’s Rule!

Following little rules like this can mean you spend more time like this, less time in engine grease! : )

Now that we were back aboard and had our beautiful boat up and running again, it was time for Phillip and I to focus on the way-more-fun side of cruise-planning: Where to?  Next up, we’ll share our thoughts and planning on how best to make our way from the Bahamas to the BVIs.  Let the thorny debate begin!  

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Hurricane Dorian: A Close-Call for Plaintiff’s Rest in the Bahamas

Sep. 1, 2019, a Cat 5 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph and a minimum central pressure of 910 mb hit the Bahamas. It was the strongest hurricane to hit the northern Bahamas since modern records.  Phillip and I watched this monster breed, grow, and feast on the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean as it approached.  While we had done all we could—our boat was as prepared as possible—nothing can ease the fear of a hurricane claiming her, the one you’ve toiled so painstakingly over.  The boat you love. As Dorian began to rip into the Abacos, all we could do was watch and hold our breath as Plaintiff’s Rest sat tied to the dock at Great Harbour Cay in the northern Berry Islands, Bahamas.  

Dorian’s Path

August 28, 2019, Dorian is officially declared a hurricane. After rapid intensification, on August 31, 2019, she is declared a Cat 4 with a path pointed right toward Great Harbour Cay.  My stomach lurches as NOAA loads and shows us our potential fate.

“I’m actually glad it’s pointed right at us,” Phillip says.  “That usually means it’s going to go another direction.” 

While that may sound crazy (everyone has a few odd storm superstitions), that one actually holds rather true, as Hurricane Michael was pointed straight toward us in Pensacola in October, 2018, initially.  

But, because of our superstition, that meant the storm was going to veer off and just miss us. Thankfully, that’s exactly what Hurricane Michael did, heading just over 100 miles to the east, sadly, walloping Panama City. While it is always tough to “wish” a hurricane on anyone else, all you can think when it’s coming for you is “please turn, please turn, please turn.”  

Although it was unclear whether the damage from Dorian would be confined mostly to the Abacos alone, or the Abacos and the Berries, was yet to be determined, Plaintiff’s Rest did have several things going for her:

  1. The incredible staff at Great Harbour Cay (“GCH”) Marina;
  2. The marina’s 360-degree protection and impressive hurricane track record;
  3. Our extensive hurricane preparation; and
  4. Our final magic touch: Steve and Ros!

1. The Staff at GHC

While I discussed this extensively in the previous blog, it bears noting once more as this was one of the primary thoughts Phillip and I had running through our heads back in Pensacola as we continued to refresh NOAA and watch the news: Our boat was in the best hands possible with Steven and his staff at GHC.  I kept envisioning Steven with his 14’ “gang plank” he called it, having placed and scaled it out to our boat in the middle of two slips working feverishly to “spider-web” her out, as I call it.  

As I mentioned, we had an additional six (6) 50’ dock lines shipped to Steven at his request for a situation just like this, and I was confident he was using every one of them to expertly position our boat for the storm.  While the docks at GHC unfortunately do not float, Steven used a rock-solid strategy in tying the first set of six lines at a length that would allow her to float safely in a normal rise and fall of tide.  He then tied the secondary round of six lines at a length that would allow her to continue floating safely in the middle of the slips if the tide/surge rose another 3-4’ and/or any of the initial round of lines failed.  

Phillip and I were incredibly grateful for a team willing to take such great efforts in our leave to ensure our boat was safe.  We also heard from a follower on Facebook after posting about our hurricane hole who rode out Hurricane Matthew in GHC. She told us what impressive lengths Steven and his staff went to to help prepare and protect all of the boats in the marina. Thank you, Cynthia, for sharing this!

Thankfully, due to Steven and his team’s efforts, not a single boat was lost when Hurricane Matthew went over on almost a virtual track to Dorian. So, for Dorian, we had the best deckhands possible looking out for our boat: Steven’s Angels.

2. GHC’s Hurricane Track Record

One of the first things we learned about GHC when Phillip and I began to research it was its impressive track record. As I mentioned in the previous post, Phillip and I were comforted by an article we found written by a cruising couple who (like Cynthia) spent Hurricane Matthew in GHC and highly recommended it: Hurri-CAN or Hurri-CAN’T.

Hurricane Matthew’s path in 2004.

In addition to Matthew, knowing GHC also survived Hurricane Andrew, another Cat 4 direct hit, back in 1992, again with no damage to boats or homes, help put our minds at ease.

GHC is either a very protected place, or darn lucky. Either way, Phillip and I wanted both luck and geography on our side for hurricane season.

3. Our Hurricane Boat Prep

The sad reality of hurricanes is that no matter how much you prepare, how many anchors you drop or lines you tie, how buttoned up and stripped she is, whether on jacks or in the water, if a Cat 5 rolls over your boat, all bets are off.  Nothing is guaranteed.  No place is 100% safe, especially when there is always the factor of other boats around her that may not be secured off as securely, either in the shipyard or out.  All you can do is make the best decisions possible, do as much prep work as possible, then pray and plead to the hurricane gods that this time won’t be your time.  That’s what we did.  I’ve posted an article before outlining all of the hurricane prep work we do on our boat anytime we think she might face a significant storm or hurricane for your benefit here.  This comprehensive prep-work was a very comforting thought as Phillip and I watched Dorian rumble closer and closer from our laptops back in Pensacola, knowing we had done all we could.

4. Our Eyes and Ears on the Ground: Steve and Ros

This was an unexpected gift. Phillip and I had been lucky enough to meet this wonderful couple both when we cruised through Bimini on our way into the Bahamas this past spring, and again when we both ended up stopping in GHC to park our boats for hurricane season.  Steve and Ros are a very interesting and entertaining liveaboard cruising-couple who are just getting their first taste of the Bahamas this year.  We had fun dining and hanging out (literally!) with them when Phillip and I were in GHC before we left in May of last year.  

And the catch of the day is … ANNIE! Ros also does silks on her boat! She has a hammock that she rigs up to do yoga on the bow and inversions to help her back. Boat yoga keeps people young – I’m telling ya!

While Steve and Ros chose, themselves, to stay in GHC once it appeared Dorian was traveling significantly and safely to the north, they thankfully had a condo where they were able to stay so they remained high, dry, and safe.  But, this also let them be our eyes and ears on the ground as the storm rolled over Plaintiff’s Rest in Slip 6, which they could see from the safety of their condo. This was the view from their condo (Plaintiff’s Rest is the sailboat on the far right):

We spoke on the phone many times to Steve and Ros as the storm approached making sure they were safe, offering the food and water we knew was on our boat in the aftermath of the storm (as everyone expected the power, water, and food supplies to be diminished for days, possibly weeks post-Dorian), and talking about the conditions they were seeing in the marina.  Steve and Ros were able to send us some pictures and video during the height of the storm. 

You’ll notice in the photo above, the water has not risen enough yet to reach the docks. Thankfully the actual storm itself was fairly benign in GHC, with reports of winds only up to 90-100 mph in the marina. However, immediately after the storm, as the surge began to flow in (even with the incredibly narrow cut I documented previously that leads into the marina), new fears began to grow as the water quickly consumed the docks and continued to rise.  

Here you can see the water has risen over the finger pier next to our boat.
This is Steve and Ros’s view of their boat – the furthest mast down in this photo – and they, too, could see the water had risen over the dock.

One of the most frightening images I think we received from Ros was of all the boats in the marina with no docks visible—just lines stretched taut into the dark water below.  If that trend continued, Phillip and I knew our baby girl would be in trouble struggling with dock lines stretched to their max and continually-rising waters. Unfortunately, this was the last video we received from Steve and Ros around 4:00 p.m. on September 2, 2019 before their cell service went down for approximately 20 hours.  

I’ll admit that was a bit of a frightening moment, not knowing what was happening to the boat, what the water was doing, what lines, if any, were currently failing.  All kinds of graphic images wandered through our minds during that time, imagining her breaking free of all lines, being lifted up above the docks and laid back down on concrete, damaged, impaled, or worse.  But, Phillip and I had put our faith in that marina, its location and layout, and its exceptional staff.  And, finally, around 2:00 p.m. on the afternoon of September 3, 2019, Phillip and I received a photo from Steve and Ros that (I’ll be honest) made me tear up:

Best selfie ever, Ros! Thank you! Thank you!

A wet, post-hurricane selfie with our baby!  Our floating baby!  I was elated, thrilled, laughing silly with the realization that she had made it!  Plaintiff’s Rest had survived Dorian!

That was the probably the most frightened Phillip and I have felt as a storm passed over our boat.  I remember Nate was very scary when we decided to haul out and strap her up as best as possible, but Nate then took a turn more toward Orange Beach and the reports from Pensacola told us they had only sustained 40 knot winds, so we were almost immediately relieved. Now, in 2019, watching our boat rise with a surge that was unpredictable without updates for an extended period of time was … well, gut-wrenching.  But, we know many others lost their boats, homes, and livelihoods in the Abacos when Dorian went over, so we can only consider ourselves lucky, and extremely grateful.

While there is no way to say what is the “right” or “best” decision to make when a hurricane is coming, because there as so many variables and unpredictable outcomes, I guess I’ll apply the same rule that we use for docking: If no one was hurt and nothing was broken, it’s a success. Thankfully, we can say that this year—with that monster Dorian roaring a mere 60 miles north of our boat—and neither Phillip nor I were hurt and nothing was broken, which means our hurricane plan this year was a success. Thankfully.  

But, my lawyer (Phillip : ) wisely reminded me to include this important disclaimer: Deciding where or how to secure your boat for hurricane season can be an incredibly difficult decision, with no “right” answer in sight. But it is a decision you have to make on your own after conducting your own research, knowing no place, including Great Harbour Cay, can ever be a 100% guarantee.

Many thanks to Steven and his incredible staff at GHC for watching over our baby girl, to fellow cruisers who have posted and shared their experience at GHC, and a resounding, almighty thank-you to Steve and Ros for keeping an eye on our baby girl during the storm and venturing out when it was safe to make sure she was, too. Plaintiff’s Rest will be forever grateful!!

That’s her smiling. Trust me. I can tell. : )
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Our Hurricane Hole for 2019: Great Harbour Cay, Berry Islands, Bahamas

Where to go for hurricane season is always a very tough call.  I’ve written here before about hurricanes, the sometimes horrible reality of cruising, and some of our more difficult winters spent here in Pensacola when Phillip and I often had to make the very hard decision of whether to haul: a tough call.  I am now grateful I can write here again—with after another hurricane season behind us and, thankfully, our baby girl still floating safe—about our experience this year and what we decided to do with our boat this past hurricane season, 2019.  This was another tough call on our part for two reasons: 1) it would leave her still very much in “the box” (although no place is guaranteed); and 2) it would mean we would have to leave the boat unattended for an extended period of time. But, we decided to do it and it turned out to be the right call.  Hindsight 20/20.  Dodging hurricanes has to be the absolute worst part of cruising.

Kissing our baby goodbye when we decided to leave her on the hard for Hurricane Nate, 2017.

So, how did we hear about Great Harbour Cay?

You might have guessed Pam Wall as she has given us such a wealth of information about “her beloved Bahamas” as she calls them.  Love that lady …  

But, a dock neighbor in Pensacola actually first told us about it as it was a spot he had kept his exquisite motor yacht during hurricane season several times.  And, if someone with that many more zeroes on his boat value than ours felt comfortable leaving it there, that definitely gave me some peace of mind.  We honestly had no idea there was any hurricane hole in the Bahamas until he mentioned it.   

Phillip and I had already decided not to bring Plaintiff’s Rest back to Pensacola this year for hurricane season because the odds of getting hit hard in Pensacola are fairly high (Pensacola was hit by Hurricane Opal in 1995, Ivan in 2004, Dennis in 2005, and Hurricane Michael only missed us by 100 miles, demolishing hundreds of boats, in 2018).  And, the huge bay, which is fantastic for sailing, can be devastating if a hurricane hits us there in the corner pocket of Florida.  Phillip and I spent the last several hurricane seasons in Pensacola playing the “haul or not to haul?” game, sometimes back-to-back each season (for Hurricane Nate in 2017 and Hurricane Michael in 2018).  That can be an exhausting and expensive process, one that we wanted to avoid this year if possible.