Bahamas Travel Update: Checking In and Out Under the New Covid Restrictions

Ask any cruiser Phillip and I met while traveling down the east coast where they were headed and 99.42% (give or take) would tell you:

“WE’RE GOING TO THE BAHAMAS!”

It’s also what the majority of the trawler folks I talked to when I spoke at the Trawlerfest in Baltimore back in October, 2021 told me as well.  It seemed everyone had the same plan as us, which is not surprising.  Some of the most beautiful islands in the world are just a day-sail (or motor) away from Florida’s east coast.  Who wouldn’t set their sights there?  But, traveling to/from the Bahamas, particularly in these weird new Covid times, puzzled a lot of folks, us included. But, we did it!  In early December, our schedules and the weather lined up to allow Phillip and I to make a short (20-day) preliminary hop over to the Bahamas and back, so I thought I would share our experience for those of you planning to sail there and as an update to my Bahamas Top 10 Slides that I prepared for the Trawlerfest.  Phillip and I hope this offers some insight into current international travel procedures and an update on the status of (a portion of) the Abacos post-Dorian since this was our first time traveling there since 2019. 

This is an overview of our route. 

We sailed across the Gulf Stream from Palm Beach, FL to West End on Grand Bahama in the Abacos to check in.  Then we dotted around the remote, northern Abaco islands, making our way eventually to Green Turtle Cay before turning around and making our way back through the northern Abacos and out again at West End.  In all, we visited West End, Mangrove Cay, Allens-Pensacola, Manjack Cay, Green Turtle Cay, Powell Cay, Foxtown, Grand Cay, and Double Breasted Cay.  I will share more info (as well as fabulous pictures and wonderful stories) from these travels at a later date as this post is meant primarily to share travel tips and the check-in/check-out procedure for traveling to/from the Bahamas.

Here’s what we learned:

1. Click2Clear is Mandatory – Register Your Inbound Trip ONLINE Before Leaving the U.S.

Registering online in advance via the new Click2Clear program is mandatory.  We met several cruisers in West End who thought this was optional.  The Customs Officer in West End (who was quite friendly and helpful) promptly advised them it is not and sent them to the Click2Clear website to register before their permit and request to enter could be processed.  The good news is the Click2Clear program is very easy to use, and your registration can be edited and updated as needed as your travel plans change (because that happens!).  Visit the Click2Clear website and click Request Cruising Permit > Pleasure Craft > Create Inbound to get started.  There are also many online articles and online videos the Bahamian Customs Department has put out to help you through this process.  Once your “Create Inbound” profile has been completed, your cruising permit payment made, and your application submitted (it will read “pending approval” on the website), all you need to complete your cruising permit process at customs in the Bahamas is your Click2Clear “Rotation Number.”  Be sure to write that one down.

Here is the info you will need to start your Inbound online registration:

2. Get Your Travel Health Visa (and Upload It to Click2Clear) Days Before Leaving the U.S.

Travel health visas are required for entry into Bahamas.  But, the good news is, with a negative Covid test, they are rather easy to obtain via a simple online process and payment of $40.00.  You can start creating your Bahamas Travel Health Visa profile here

Note that current Covid travel requirements are constantly changing.  Visit this website for up-to-date Bahamas Covid travel requirements. When Phillip and I made the trip, a negative Covid test was required within five days of entry.  As I write this, the requirement has been reduced to three days and may change again before you read this.  We also know getting Covid tests in the U.S. has recently become quite chaotic and more difficult, and many more people are testing positive daily.  It’s not ideal, but … welcome to travel in 2022!

Thankfully, when Phillip and I underwent this process in early December, we were able to get free tests at a CVS location in West Palm Beach that provided online results within a few hours.  Once we obtained our official negative Covid test results—digital pdf documents—we simply uploaded them to our Travel Health Visa profiles and paid the online $40.00 fee to obtain our Bahamas Travel Health Visas (also online digital pdf documents).  Each Visa has its own profile number and QR code to make it unique to each applicant.  For Phillip and I, the process of testing and obtaining our digital Travel Health Visas took one day to complete.  Once obtained, we then uploaded our pdf Travel Health Visa to our “Create Inbound” Click2Clear profile and our pre-Bahamas online process was complete.

3. Documents Needed for Entry at Bahamas Customs

Phillip and I decided to check into West End, Grand Bahama, as we have been there before (in 2017, check out some videos on Crossing the Gulf Stream to West End and West End to Mangrove Cay).  It’s a great, convenient entry to the northern Abacos.  The channel to enter is also well-marked and very easy to navigate with a nice marina there if a day or two to wash the boat, do some laundry, and enjoy their wonderful restaurant, tiki bar, and beach are high on your list upon entry.  (It was on ours!)  Once we arrived at West End, we tied up at the fuel dock and Phillip, as our designated Captain, went to the Customs Office to check us in.  He brought the following documents with him:

  1. Our passports
  2. Our USCG vessel registration
  3. Our Rotation Number from Click2Clear
  4. Copies of our Travel Health Visas (although he did not end up having to provide these)
  5. Copies of our negative Covid tests (although these, again, were not needed)

Phillip said the process, because we had completed our Click2Cleark online profile in advance, was very straightforward and easy. Once checked in, unless you’re headed straight out through Indian Cut (which we did) or around Memory Rock into the Grand Bahama Bank, stay a bit at West End and enjoy all that they have to offer.

4. Post-Dorian Update

Phillip and I have not been to the Bahamas since we scurried over in March of 2020 simply to bring our Niagara home before Covid shut the world down.  Before that, our amazing Niagara had miraculously survived Dorian while docked at a fabulous hurricane hole in Great Harbour Cay in the Berry Islands. This tight little alcove in Great Harbour offers 360-degree wind and storm surge protection and has proven itself time and again—including with our boat during Dorian—that is one of the best places in the Bahamas to keep your boat during hurricane season.  We were lucky, grateful, and wildly humbled that she survived that monster at Great Harbour Cay, as we know many other islands of the Abacos and sadly, many boats, did not.  That said, a chance to see some of the Abacos post-Dorian was actually one of the reasons Phillip and I decided to pop over for a quick trip to the Abacos as weather allowed in December, as opposed to the more southern Bahamian island chains.  The Abacos have always held a special place in our hearts and we wanted (hoped) to see that they had recovered from that horrendous storm in 2019. 

After returning from those beautiful islands, Phillip and I are thrilled to report … THEY HAVE!  While we only made it as far south as Green Turtle Cay (this time) what we saw along the way definitely showed some evidence of the monster that came through but, far more apparent, was the spirit of the Bahamian people to rebuild and recover.  We were thrilled to find some of our favorite little places in Green Turtle Cay—Pineapples, Sids Grocery, the Green Turtle Club (and Tipsy Turtle Bar), and other little bakeries and storefronts, looked well and alive despite the devastation that Dorian doled out only a few short years ago. 

Many more stories to share in this regard, in due time, but know that Dorian did not wipe out the Abacos entirely or the spirit of the Bahamian people!  It was exceptionally comforting to see some of our favorite Abaco islands in such good shape post-Dorian. 

5. Finding We Had the (Northern) Abacos to Ourselves

This one really surprised us, considering the number of cruisers we met along the east coast who said they, too, were planning to sail to the Bahamas this season, but to be quite honest we really had the place to ourselves.  At most of the northern Abaco islands we stopped at (Allans-Pensacola, Powell, Manjack, Green Turtle) it was typically our friends aboard s/v Turtle, Spandana and Dev, with whom we buddied around the Abacos, and us.  Just two boats.  We will be excited to share more about the creative and entertaining crew aboard Turtle, with whom we shared a wonderful couple of weeks in the Abacos, as I mentioned, much to ourselves.  But, simply as a travel update, know that we (strangely), throughout December, were surprised to see very few cruisers in the Abacos compared to previous times we have traveled through.  This is likely a product of Covid and Dorian, but it was not a bad outcome for us at all.  The place was serene and quiet, and there was plenty of room!

6. Creating a Click2Clear Outbound profile to Check Out

Unlike when we previously traveled to the Bahamas, you are required to physically check out of the country before leaving.  Before, we simply weighed anchor and sailed back to the U.S.  But, with the new Covid requirements, you are required to check out.  Again, some great news: the process is wildly easy.  Click2Clear comes back into play.  The check-out process in West End required a simple login to Click2Clear to load our Inbound profile and duplicate it to create an Outbound profile (under Pleasure Craft > Create Outbound).  This assigned us a new Outbound Rotation Number that we used to check-out at the Customs Office in West End.  Once checked out, we were free to leave the Bahamas and sail back to the U.S. 

7. Checking Back Into the U.S.

To check back into the U.S., we used the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol’s CPB Roam App on our phone.  You can download it here

We also needed to purchase a DTOPS decal that was needed for checking back in via the CBP Roam app. 

This was, thankfully, another simple process with everything submitted and approved online.  Much of the same information (vessel registration, crew list, port of departure and arrival, departure and entry dates, etc.) is needed to submit your check-in application via the app.

BAHAMAS, WE’LL BE BACK!

Just a few short weeks in the Bahamas is never long enough, but Phillip and I are grateful that our schedules and the weather lined up to allow us a quick preliminary trip over to check out the Abacos and get used to the new Covid check-in/check-out process.  We hope this information helps some of you who are planning to sail there soon.  Remember to check the latest Bahamas Customs postings for updates.  We’re hoping to sail back to the Bahamas, perhaps the more southern island chains this next time, later in the spring, but all plans are fluid—as it seems they must be, more so than ever, these days.  But, we’re not complaining!  With just a few extra hoops to jump through, the beautiful Bahamian islands are there and waiting for you, too! 

The Fourth Brings Friends, Fireworks, and Our First Gale Aboard UbiQ

When you decide to buy a boat (or a bigger boat) and start cruising (or cruising further and longer) one of the first things to cross your mind will be: friends and family.  When will I see them again?  When will I be back home to visit?  When/how can they come visit me?  Can they stay aboard?  These questions will impact the type of boat you might think is right for you.  Do we need/want to cruise a boat that can easily host 4-6 people?  Or, is that too much unused space/systems for the perhaps rare occasion(s) when we’ll have company aboard?  These are tough decisions.  Just as deciding to leave shore and start a new chapter aboard (and perhaps abroad) is a tough decision.  When Phillip and I were deciding to sell our smaller Niagara 35 to upgrade to a larger boat that would let us cruise further, more comfortably, one of our desires was a boat that was not too big for us to handle alone but that would also allow up to two people to visit and stay aboard comfortably with us as we were planning to leave our local friends and family for longer stints.  This meant an additional cabin, comfortable and spacious enough for two, additional storage, and (perhaps) two heads would be welcomed.  Not required, but preferred. 

The Outbound 46 and the impressive layout and design of Ubiquitous, easily checked these boxes.

As Phillip and I were shopping and negotiating for Ubiquitous back in Dec 2020/Jan 2021—it’s wild to think that’s coming up on a full year ago—we told friends and family who feared we might sail off over the horizon (because we might! : ) that they would be welcome to visit us anytime or any place.  You just can’t pick both,” we would always tell them.  And, we were excited and thrilled when the first brave souls stepped up to come join us aboard UbiQ in July, 2021, a couple I have written about before on this blog as their humor, resilience, and thoughtfulness have endeared them to us: Stephen and Beth, the Cattywampus crew.  In all, the Fourth brought us our first friends aboard, fireworks, and our first gale on UbiQ! July was quite an adventure. Let’s let this story roll! : )

July, 2021:

After our surprise, boisterous Eastport Oyster Boys on-the-water concert in West River back in June, Phillip and I eventually made our way across the Bay over to St. Michaels on the eastern short for a week-long retreat on UbiQ.  It was a small cruise, but our first time to leave the relatively known waters of Back and Spa Creek in Annapolis and venture out on our own on the new (to us) boat, so it was exciting.  We were thrilled with the quaint little town we found in St. Michaels, the inviting little downtown strip (Talbot Street) with its colorful shops, restaurants, bars, juke joints, and ice cream shops (a favorite of Phillip’s).  The indoor-outdoor interactive Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum there at St. Michaels, where you can sail in and snag a slip was also quite impressive.  The rich history embedded in the waters of the Chesapeake is infinite and mesmerizing.  Phillip and I had a fantastic time on our first “little cruise” to St. Michaels.

Once we made it back to Back Creek, where we kept Ubiquitous during the summer of 2021, we were eager and anxious to welcome our first visiting crew aboard the boat—Stephen and Beth—who were set to fly in on July 1st.  Everything was trending nicely with a flight on time, a rental car available, and an arrival time at the BWS airport in Baltimore mid-afternoon.  That was … until … a storm started brewing on the horizon and a tornado warning fell over Annapolis.  Phillip and I watched from the boat as a dark, boding shelf cloud formed over downtown Annapolis and began rolling toward Ubiquitous as she sat secured on a ball in the main mooring field of downtown Annapolis.  We had two dock lines (one looped from each side of our pulpit bow cleats) to the ball but it felt like two lines too few with what we saw coming.  While we trusted the balls in the main mooring field, as we had seen the divers come several times over the course of the summer to check them, it was still a bit of a scary place to be—just one boat length away from every other person in the field there on a ball—with a storm that wicked coming.  But, there was no stopping it.  The clouds rolled and roiled towards us as the winds picked up. 

Ubiquitous, as heavy as she is (28,000 pounds), was whipping and yanking on the ball, heeling heavily to each side as the winds swirled and sent her skittering off in either direction. At its height, I saw 42 knots of wind on the B&G, and that’s about 20 more than I would like to see … ever.

My biggest fear was the many other boats around us, just as heavy if not heavier, held by one line alone that (I envisioned) could snap at any minute, sending them careening into us.  It was a very … crowded place to weather out our first gale.  But, weather it we did!  After an intense 15 minutes of gale-force winds, almost as quickly as the storm had rolled in, it neatly packed its bags and rolled out, leaving only a sparkling sun and wet decks as proof that anything had happened.  It gave Phillip and I just enough time to scoot into town in the dinghy and pick Stephen and Beth up.  The aftermath in Annapolis, however, was visible everywhere we looked with several felled trees, flooded streets, and cars covered in leaves and debris.  It was an intense, pop-up storm that surprised many, even the locals. 

But it did not deter Stephen and Beth!  Seeing them jogging toward us in Eastport was a sight to see.  Here they were, our cruising buddies, our boat friends, our Pensacola posse, in Annapolis ready to board UbiQ for the first time.  The many, many hours the four of us had been spent with mulling over our decision to purchase the Outbound, as well as equally pressing life decisions of their own, made finally having Stephen and Beth in Annapolis with us to share this new chapter a real treat!  And, the real surprise was how comfortable everyone was aboard.  Even Stephen, who himself will tell you “I’m a big guy, I need space,” said he felt he had plenty of room.  Phillip and I had cleaned out the port-side aft berth and a few lockers for Stephen and Beth and their stores.  They also had our aft head very near them to use at their leisure, leaving Phillip and I the forward head behind our closed vberth door to use at our leisure, which worked supremely well.  The four of us were all surprised, truly, at how easily and comfortably the boat fit four people aboard.  UbiQ definitely sat back and smiled as we gloated on her all evening.  Well … most of the evening.  I’ll be honest, there was a lot of rum involved and I can’t vouch for what tall tales were told, if any, in the final hours.  But, it was a grand Pensacola cruisers reunion!

Our goal while we had Stephen and Beth aboard was to explore many of the things Annapolis and Eastport had opened up to us during our summer there: breakfast nacho brunch at the Iron Rooster,

drinks and fried bar treats at Davis’ Pub in Eastport,

all the glistening goodies at Weems & Plath, the slick, killer foulies on sale at the Helly Hansen, Musto, and Sperry stores on Main Street, ice cream from Storm Brothers,

watching the ducks and people (equally entertaining) at Ego Alley, day sails out in the Bay with the iconic Woodwind schooner,

and, most importantly, fun nights aboard cruising on the boat. 

We were also “Chasing the Works” (as many cruisers in Annapolis call it), sailing to different locations and anchoring out over the course of the July Fourth weekend to catch as many on-the-water fireworks shows as we comfortably could.  Some great new friends, Richard and Idarae on their Beneteau Moltobene, invited us for a raft-up in Round Bay which was just a short motor up to the end of the Severn River and provided quite an impressive fireworks show from the local community dock there. 

The next day we came back down the Severn River to sail out in the Chesapeake Bay all day with Moltobene, which was a real treat and offered us our VERY FIRST photos of UbiQ under sail!  (One of which you may see soon in an upcoming SAIL Magazine article … I’m just saying … stay tuned!).

Then we rafted up with the full (8+ crew) aboard Moltobene near Horn Point (where Spa Creek meets the Bay) for a five-star on-the-water Annapolis fireworks show.  It was a full house on UbiQ with incredible new and old friends:

From left to right, back row (Moltobene):  Richard and Idarae (with a waving Phillip in between), and their friend Mark on s/v Moltobene, followed by Ann (of Jim and Ann, UbiQ’s former owners) with our Pensacola friends, Beth and Stephen, standing on UbiQ’s port deck.

Front row: New cruising friends (whom you will see more of on the blog when we set off for the Bahamas in the fall of 2021) Spandana and Dev, who sail on their 1993 Caliber 40, s/v Turtle, our former owner Jim (love that big smile), next to me! : ), followed by more new Annapolis cruising friends, Patty and Peter, who own a 2001 Outbound 46, s/v Serendipitous.  I will cherish this photo for a long time as it captured such a joyous moment filled with friends new and old.

I don’t think Phillip and I will ever forget that evening.  It told us we had made incredible new friends in Annapolis, that we had incredible friends from home who (this visit had told us) could easily come stay aboard with us and visit us on UbiQ any time (or place, but not both!), and that UbiQ was a gallant, spacious, capable boat meant to take us—and any friends who wanted to come—to incredible new places.  Our minds popped and exploded with the many new possibilities!  Happy Fourth of July from UbiQ!!

Our First Night on Anchor With an On-the Water Eastport Oyster Boys Concert

June, 2021:

“Ubiquitous!” we heard while dinghying by.  Phillip’s head snapped around.  I did a visual sweep of the mooring field.  It was the first time anyone had shouted our boat’s name at us and I think it baffled us more than anything, like how did they know?  But, once we saw a hand waving off the transom of a beautiful blue Sabre, it clicked.  We’re being summoned my surprised face said to Phillip. 

“Ahoy!” a chipper sailor said to us as we dinghied up to s/v Talisman to meet the eager and enthusiastic duo: Jeff and Ginger.  We also learned something that has been often reenforced during our summer aboard UbiQ: there are many sailors out there who are “looking for an Outbound.”  Turns out, the Outbound 46 is even more coveted than we had known.  Jeff had been looking at them for several years, scouring Yachtworld listings for the rare gem that emerged there, even toying with the idea of perhaps getting on the list for a new build.  Needless to say, he was really excited when he found a fairly new Outbound 46 had moored just a few balls over from him in the main mooring field in Spa Creek near downtown Annapolis.  As we bobbed next to their boat, Jeff and Ginger peppered us with questions, wanting to know when we had purchased our Outbound, what we thought of the boat, what type of sailing we had done so far, how she performed, did we like living aboard her, etc.  Phillip and I were happy to answer.  Who doesn’t love talking about their beautiful boat, right?  Makes all those hours wiping worth it. 

Jeff and Ginger told us a bit about their boat, a 38-foot (if I recall correctly) Sabre.  A gorgeous boat.  And, it didn’t surprise us as we’ve found many Sabre owners are drawn to the Outbound.  Our former owner, Jim, definitely was.  Must be something about the build quality, performance, or design that just speaks to Sabre sailors.  Jeff and Ginger had been sailing their Sabre around the Chesapeake and east coast for many years.  In that regard, it was a fortuitous meeting as they wanted to know more about our Outbound, and we wanted to know more about all the local anchorages.  And, looking back, I think it was really Phillip and I who truly took the most valuable knowledge away from that chance rendezvous, because Jeff and Ginger opened the door for one of the most magical nights we have spent on the hook.  And, it turned out to be our very first on UbiQ, which made it even better and infinitely more memorable. 

“To St. Michaels, on Sunday,” we told Jeff when he asked where we were headed next.  Over the summer months, Phillip and I had been getting the boat dialed in, knocking out some small projects with our former owner Jim, and prepping the boat for this little jaunt around the Chesapeake.  It was finally time for us to “go cruising” on the new boat!  Many local sailors had recommended St. Michaels to us as it was a nice day-sail from Annapolis across the Chesapeake to the east shore, up the Eastern Bay and promised a charming walk-about downtown with a few lovely restaurants and bars and an exceptional maritime museum.  Phillip and I were both super excited to finally start doing what we bought this amazing boat for!  To GO!  But, Jeff had a suggestion for us.    

“Let me give you a tip,” Jeff said with sly smile.  “Leave Saturday,” he paused.  Our eyebrows raised.  “St. Michaels will be there.  Postpone it for a day and anchor one night in West River.” 

Why would Jeff recommend we postpone St. Michaels?  To experience the (self-proclaimed) Musical Goodwill Ambassadors of the Chesapeake!  The EASTPORT OYSTER BOYS!  Have any of you heard of this incredible little home-grown Chesapeake band?  We had no idea what we were in for but, damn, what a treat! 

Unbeknownst to us, the scuttlebutt all over Eastport was that the Oyster Boys were planning on having one final on-the-water concert before their trombone player, Andy, was rumored to be leaving the band to finally start his cruising chapter.  And, where was this infamous finale going to take place?  In the West River where the local Sabre owners were also hosting a Sabre round-up.  When?  On Saturday night!  That’s why Jeff recommended we leave a day early for our planned St. Michaels trip so we could drop the hook for one night first in West River to be sure we did not miss this rare on-the-water treat! 

Phillip and I had never been to West River.  We hadn’t been anywhere other than Annapolis, really, in the Chesapeake.  We had also never been to a dinghy-up on-the-water concert.  Jeff was right.  St. Michaels would be there.  It was an easy decision for us.  Phillip and I decided to leave the main mooring field on Saturday just as Jeff had recommended.  We enjoyed an exceptional sail down the Chesapeake, and actually found ourselves in not one, but three different regattas along the way.  Regattas seem to rustle up every day in Annapolis, and this day was no exception. 

After a fantastic brisk sail down, we poked our way into West River, saw the Sabre round-up further up the river, but decided to drop a good ways back in a little nook that looked perfect for us.  We laid out 100 feet of chain (enough to make us feel comfy) snubbed her up, and *voila* there she was.  UbiQ finally floating happily on her hook.  Phillip and I breathed a collective Ahhhh … This was it.  Everything we had been working so hard for since December of the year prior.  Boat shopping, negotiating, getting financing, getting our old boat sold, flying back and forth to Annapolis several times.  Turning our somewhat settled life upside down basically.  All to land right where we had, aboard a gorgeous boat, a premier ocean cruiser—our Outbound 46—floating happily on her hook.  The moment was so perfect … we left! 

We had shore to explore, people!  We love our boat, that’s for sure, but there’s another reason we cruise – to travel!  Set foot in new cities and ports.  See new sights.  Eat everything we see!  It was time to explore.  And, the minute we started to dinghy up, we knew this great spinning world was sending us an omen.  The first bar we came to during our first night on the hook was like a warm welcome hug from home: Pirates Cove.  Sure, I’ll bet there are no less than a thousand worn-down driftwood-and-tiki-hut-looking Pirate’s Cove bars all over the world.  But, the fact that we found one right there, where we had come on a whim told us (like the sight of dolphins always do) We’re doing something right here. 

So, what did we do?  Bellied up to the bar, of course, and tried our first ever round of piping hot Old Bay dusted wings!  Washed down with two margaritas … naturally.  Two apiece that is … naturally. 

Then, we dinghied back out into West River where the pings and toots of tuning instruments drew us in.  A crowd was starting to form around the power boat in the center and I had the privilege of first laying my eyes on the Eastport Oyster Boys band. 

UbiQ’s former owners, Jim and Ann, had told us a good deal about them, as they had had the privilege of taking in several EOB on-the-water concerts, but nothing could truly prepare us for the treat of a live, sun-down serenade.  There was a sax player, a tambourine, a trombone, drums, a trumpet, even a tuba!  All on the foredeck of a power boat playing New Orleans-esque funk for all who were willing to dinghy up and dance a little.  But, don’t let my words do it any injustice, listen for yourself! 

The Eastport Oyster Boys were a real treat!  And something Phillip and I would have never had the privilege of seeing (and hearing) had it not been for fellow cruisers and our stand-out boat.  Many thanks to Jeff and Ginger aboard s/v Talisman for this awesome tip and invite!  Phillip and I had an amazing time.  We ended up being one of the few dinghies who had a dinghy anchor (thank you Mantus!) so we actually ended up being the center of the redneck yacht club for most of the evening, which was quite ironic (as it was our first time at an EOB concert) but really fun at the same time! 

I’m sure UbiQ got a great chuckle out of us as we dinghied back to her after the concert dispersed, whispering remnants of our enchanting little backwater, salty band experience.  I know, I know, she said to us, this is not my first Oyster Boys concert, reminding us again as the sun melted to a stunning pink and blue behind her, Ubiquitous has so much to share with us. 

Docking the 46’ – Bow Thrust or Bust!

And, I guess I’ll have to give a little bit of a spoiler alert … it was a bit more bust than thrust.  Ahoy Crew!  It’s been a wild summer here on the Chesapeake.  Our new Outbound 46 definitely threw us some unexpected curve balls, which will be fun to share.  I was reminded time and again of what I always tell newbie cruisers (which we kind of felt like while getting acquainted with our new boat): Don’t worry too much about what you think is going to happen out there, because you probably have no idea what’s going to go wrong.  It will most likely be something you would have never predicted for sure, so just go and find out!  Boy, did we find out.  We’ve had some engine mishaps, some shipping fiascos, a haul-out, a Fourth of July blow-out, a whirlwind week attending the sailboat show, and plenty in between.  But, let’s start at the beginning, shall we?  Our first challenge with the Outbound 46 was one of my biggest nightmares in cruising: a docking debacle

April, 2021

As I shared previously, we moved onto our amazing new boat, a 2015 Outbound 46, s/v Ubiquitous, on a day I will never forget: April 3, 2021.  Four, three, two, one! 

She was staying at a dock in Back Creek, just a short hop from Spa Creek, Ego Alley, and the main mooring field, right in the heart of downtown Annapolis where all the boat show action takes place.  A very cool place indeed.  And, one of our primary concerns, back in early 2021, when we were looking to purchase a boat that was floating 1,000 miles away from Pensacola, Florida was where the heck we were going to keep her while we were still squaring away things in Florida, moving aboard in stages, and still working a good bit back home. 

The solution actually fell happily into our laps.  Ubiquitous came with her own slip.  Yes, you read that right.  While Phillip and I were already over the moon about the boat, when we found out she could remain happily floating in the slip she was already in after we purchased her (for a rental price that was less than what we had been paying in Pensacola, with her former owner just a short walk away and willing to check on her often) …. it truly felt like fate.  There were so many things about Ubiquitous (including her name) that just told Phillip and I she was right for us.  She was meant to be ours.  Her “slip included” was definitely one.  But, there was one caveat: we could not live aboard her full-time in that slip per the condo association rules that governed the marina there.  We could only stay aboard a few days out of each week.  It was not ideal, but a very easy rule to follow to ensure our boat had a safe, secure, temporary home while Phillip and I were still juggling this massive work/cruise transition. 

This meant, once we moved aboard on April 3, 2021, within a few days Phillip and I knew we would need to be off the dock and either on the hook somewhere or another dock where we could live and work aboard full-time.  Because we were just getting acquainted with the new power systems (a LiFePo4 lithium battery bank and a DC generator) and we were in need of pumping wifi to maintain our busy workloads, Phillip and I decided to rent a slip at a nearby marina on Spa Creek for a month to give us a guaranteed easy “home base” to charge up, get water, wash the boat, etc. and work daily while we got acquainted with UbiQ.  One of the only slips we could find in Annapolis that was not taken by annual slip-holders at the time was in the Annapolis Yacht Basin (AYB), just north of the Spa Creek Bridge (that connects downtown Annapolis to Eastport, the quaint, attractive neighboring city to the east of Annapolis), a bridge which we have now (happily) walked dozens upon dozens of times.  AYB is a great marina.  Superb location.  Fantastic facilities.  Exceptional staff.  But docking there is nothing short of a bitch! 

Let me explain. 

On the day we left the slip in Back Creek to motor over to Spa Creek to get docked up at AYB, Annie was Captain that day. 

As I’ve mentioned here several times, Phillip and I try to split all cruising roles up just about evenly.  While there are certainly roles Phillip is better at (weather routing and navigating)—same goes for me (cleaning and monkey-wrenching)—as well as roles we just prefer over others, Phillip and I try to swap out frequently so that we always keep the rust knocked off and we are both equally capable of taking on any role at any time.  You just never know what can happen out there.  We have found, although the learning process can be tough and comes with its own arguments and challenges, the lifestyle is just easier if you have two fully capable, competent, equal crew members aboard.  That was our goal 4-5 years ago when I started training on the helm and got my Captain’s license, and we have never regretted it.  Am I always comfortable behind the wheel?  Heck no!  Neither is Phillip.  But, we can both dock her, with a fairly equal chance of nailing it or screwing up a little (but not a lot).  That works well for us. 

However, knowing this was our first time to un-dock and re-dock the new boat, we asked a new friend in Annapolis, MJ with Eastport Yacht Sales, to join us just so we would have an extra set of hands on-board as … training wheels, you might say. While our former owner, Jim, would have eagerly agreed, and he gladly helped us numerous times throughout the summer, he was out of town in early April, so we called in a small favor to make sure we were prepared to handle whatever might come our way.  One can never be too careful with a new 46-foot boat!  Particularly with this crazy lady at the helm. Look out! My first day as Captain started off smooth as butter.  I turned the engine over, instructed the guys on releasing the lines, and slipped sweetly out of our slip in Back Creek, headed over to Spa Creek toward AYB. 

I have to admit, my first time poking out into Chesapeake Bay behind the wheel of our new boat was a pretty awesome feeling.  Phillip and I would have never been able to guess just a few short months prior that we would be selling our Niagara 35 and buying a new boat in Annapolis, MD.  It really has been a bewildering, enchanting ride.  I could say the same about life.  And, that morning …. Until we got close to the marina. 

As we neared AYB, I haled the dockmaster on the radio to find out where my slip was.  With a powerful engine and a bow thruster, I was (overly) confident I could dock her fairly easily.  That was until I got the instructions from the dockmaster.  This is verbatim what he told me:

“When you see the fuel dock, take the fairway to the left.  Come into that fairway, take the next fairway on your left, then your slip is down there on the right.  Come in stern-to.” 

I understood the words he had said.  Yes.  Every one.  But strung together like that, they made no sense to me behind the wheel.   One fairway … take a left into another fairway … then stern-to on the right?  What?  The?  That was way too many fairways for me to process.  As my bow started to creep in by the fuel dock, all I could see were pilings.  There were no fairways and slips, or any semblance of a marina, just monstrous toothpicks everywhere in haphazard fashion, with million dollar yachts dotted about.  Phillip was on deck pointing to our “slip” (aka a sea of toothpicks) as I was losing control over my fine motor skills and ability to communicate and form complete sentences.  I knew I was in over my head. 

As I stood there bug-eyed, my bow creeping in, the wind (which was blowing 12 or so knots (typical for Annapolis)) got ahold of me and started to push me into a piling at the entrance.  I threw her into reverse to try and avoid it but hindsight tells me that only made it worse (I should have used the bow thruster, counterintuitively, to jettison her stern away while slowly moving in reverse, but that’s the beauty of hindsight).  In the moment, I did the wrong thing and crunched us pretty good against the piling.  That was my first act as Captain. 

Knowing I was in over my head and bound to make bad decisions that could cost us thousands, I gave the wheel to Phillip, although he did not take it happily, as we both could tell this was going to be a precarious, 42-point turn, with lots of help needed to get us in there.  We staged Phillip in the cockpit with stern lines ready and MJ in his ear (but ready to take over if need be) with me on deck with lines and the boat hook ready to fend off/catch pilings.  Phillip decided to turn his bow to the right soon after easing into the marina so he could go down the second fairway in reverse, which seemed like a good plan from where I stood. 

As I hopped around on deck checking distance on all sides (it’s mighty tight in there with a 46-foot boat), I’ll never forget telling Phillip, “I’m so glad you took the wheel.  This is way out of my skill set.”  You know what Phillip said, between gear shifts?  “This is way outside of mine!”  And he was right.  This was the toughest docking either of us had done.  Ever. 

Phillip had only stern-to’ed a boat one other time (at A&B Marina in Key West Bight in 2014, almost seven years prior to the day!), and it was 11 feet shorter with much more room to spare.  Realizing this, I tried not to chuckle as I watched Phillip listen sternly to, and try to calmly follow, MJ’s advice: “A light punch to port.  Okay center the wheel.  Neutral.  Over to starboard.  A punch of throttle.  Light thrust to port.  Again.  Little more reverse.”  I left Phillip in his zone as I headed back topside to watch our bow and nudge pilings while Phillip made several attempts.  While docking like this may be normal for many sailors, it was certainly not for me and Phillip.  Our first time docking our new boat was an incredibly tense five minutes.  Save a few bumps, however, and one pretty good whack to the outboard on the port rail, thankfully no one panicked or shouted at anyone, and we got Ubiquitous in there nicely and heaved a huge sigh of relief! 

I learned later that the bow thruster had stopped working for Phillip mid-docking which made the entire ordeal more stressful and challenging for him, although I wasn’t even aware of it at the time.  Hence the bust in our thrust.  In all honesty, Phillip did great.  Our initial docking was well beyond either of our skill sets, yet we didn’t hit another boat and we didn’t strike any part of the dock … hard enough to cause damage.  And, most importantly, no one got hurt.  In our book, we call that a “successful docking,” no matter how embarrassing it might have been, how angry it might have made either of us, or how much we never want to do it again.  No permanent damage to boat or crew is our standard for a successful docking, no matter how ugly.   

We even learned later (and this always seems to happen in cruising, although it never ceases to surprise me) that a fellow cruising friend of ours had whacked his outboard on the port rail in the same fashion during a challenging stern-to docking but he (say this in a proper British accent) “knocked it clean off the boat.”  Thank you for sharing that Neal.  No matter what wild mishaps you seem to encounter in cruising, there is usually a fellow cruiser (often someone you know) who can easily one-up you on it, which is oddly comforting.  At least we didn’t knock our outboard off the rail!  There was that.  And, that poor outboard.  The first five things we did to him, before ever cranking him and taking him for a spin, was crash him several times into pilings.  Sorry buddy.  We were just learning. 

But, we did learn two important lessons about our bow thruster during those initial hairy dockings:

Lessons Learned from Our First Go with the Bow Thruster

FIRST: Our most important lesson for the day was the true function of the bow thruster.  This is not something we had on our Niagara and not even a system Phillip or I had ever used in our years of experience boating.  The concept of a bow thruster was entirely new to us.  The important thing we learned about the bow thruster that day, and in the weeks that followed as we practiced docking time and again (even stern-to, which I hope we never have to do again … ever.  Ever, ever, ever) was this: the “bow” thruster on a sailboat, despite its deceitful name, does not move only the bow.  It pivots the boat on its keel.  Meaning, whatever distance you move the bow while activating the bow thruster, the stern is going to move the opposite way in equal measure.  If you are not aware of this (as we were not initially) it can be problematic as you’ll jam your stern into a piling or the dock unknowingly trying to move only the bow.  However, there is an upside.  This means not only can you steer the bow with the thruster, you can steer the stern.  Meaning, when you’re coming into a dock in reverse, you can literally steer the stern sweetly into position with the thruster alone, without any thought or consideration given to prop walk.  This is why we like our switch formed in the shape of an actual boat reminding us as we turn it that it moves both the bow and stern in equal, opposite measure. 

SECOND:  So, how did Phillip break the bow thruster when he was docking?  It turns out when the boat was not responding quite as immediately as he would have liked when engaging the bow thruster, Phillip apparently thought the answer was to turn the switch with the same amount of strength he thought it would take to physically move the boat.  Phillip had literally been pushing that wee little button as hard as he would the actual bow.  We had a great time reenacting his vigorous efforts, however, in wailing on that poor little broken boat-shaped toggle.  Move, boat, MOVE!  But, there was no ill-will to be had over it.  Had it been me at the helm that day, there was a much greater chance Annie would have used the throttle with equal force, revving up in a panic and smashing into a million-dollar neighboring yacht.  So, replace a $60 bow thrust switch?  Or repair $30,000 in damage to your dock neighbor?  That was not a choice to fret over. 

Overall our first few weeks aboard were a crash course in docking.  Needed for sure.  Fun?  No.  But, after those first few weeks of practice (and bumping, banging, and bow thrusting) I can easily say now both Phillip and I can fairly accurately dock our boat with little fanfare, bow-in or side-to, especially.  But, in all, we hope to do far more anchoring and mooring-ball grabbing than docking.  And, we repaired our bow thruster switch, also with little fanfare, and discovered our outboard, despite the painful initiation, happily cranked and ran just fine, zipping us all over Spa Creek and Ego Alley over the month of April.  Seems he hasn’t held it against us.  Thanks _____.  We are still waiting for his name to come to us.   

AYB was actually a very nice place to stay considering the walking distance to downtown, amenities, mail, laundry, etc.  and a fantastic venue to watch the sunset over downtown Annapolis (while hearing “the colors” every morning and evening from the Naval Academy!).

But, when we finally left that marina, for the final time, Phillip and I vowed to try to never find ourselves in a marina so tight, with a strict stern-to requirement.  The most exciting part about successfully de-docking and leaving AYB that day, May 6, 2021, was the miraculous realization that we would never be back!  See ya later dock neighbors!

Bahamas Top Ten Talk from the Baltimore Trawlerfest

I filled a bottle up with some bubbly Annie Charm, shook it, and let it explode on folks at the recent Trawlerfest in Baltimore. Speaker Annie was definitely ON! I gave three talks: 1) an informal ladies tea (which was a great candid conversation with gals who rightfully have a lot of questions about going cruising); 2) “Rock the Boat” encouraging more females to get out and go cruising (I’m pretty sure I cursed a handful of times but had the whole crowd laughing a good bit); and 3) my “Bahamas Top Ten” which was the most widely attended (and appreciated it seemed) talk. For that reason, I’m including my Bahamas Top Ten slides from my presentation below (by popular request from Trawlerfest attendees).

What a whirlwind three days, but I met so many new boaters, some just shopping for their first cruising boat, some with decades of experience, even a few ladies who were working hard to convince their male counterpart to go cruising (which was a pleasant surprise for me)! I also got to meet the famous WX forecaster, Chris Parker, in person for the first time, talk all about my new lithium batteries with Tom Trimmer at Custom Marine Products, and have some fun, candid conversations with Rudy and Jill Sechez who wrote a very helpful book on Anchoring as well as the Director of America’s Great Loop Cruiser’s Association (AGLCA), Kim Russo. Many thanks to PassageMaker/Trawlerfest and my team at SAIL Magazine who helped line this up for me. I felt like we were able to encourage and inspire a lot of new (and old) boaters to get out and go, which felt really nice in today’s crazy Covid climate.

Some fun new trawling cruisers to my right (Beth) and left (Calvin, and Ken) as well as Jill and Rudy Sechez at the Trawlerfest cocktail reception.

Speaker Annie ready for a big day of talks (had to send Phillip pics of me as he had some work obligations and couldn’t make it). He had to approve of my outfits … lol!

My speaking venue! Thankfully it was outside, which I requested, and the weather was fabulous every day. I was surprised that all these seats filled every time!

The Baltimore waterfront in and around the Inner Harbour was really quite lovely, too, and a great place to walk after all of my daytime gigs were over.

And, without further adieu … here are my Bahamas Top 10 Slides. There are some very helpful links in here to help folks navigate Customs, find ports of entry, purchase Explorer Charts, and get updates on Covid travel restrictions and requirements. Also, some fantastic pictures! Putting this together made me think Phillip and I have got to plan another trip back to the Bahamas very soon. If any of you have more questions that aren’t answered in the slideshow, feel free to email me and Phillip and I will do our best to try to find answers or resources for you. But, the websites included (at the end) of the slides are the best place to find the most up-to-date info on Covid and travel to the Bahamas. Hope to see some of you out in those beautiful Bahamian islands someday!

Starting Our New Ubiquitous Chapter in 4 … 3 … 21

While we certainly did not plan it that way, and I didn’t even notice until we arrived in Annapolis, MD, I will never forget the day we moved aboard our new 2015 Outbound 46, Ubiquitous (who has since taken on the fun nickname gifted to us by her former owner: “UbiQ”) as it was April 3, 2021.  As in four … three … two … one … BLASTOFF!  On our new adventure. 

The sun was just starting to set over the interstate when we set off on what we jokingly called “our first overnight in the Prius.”  It was roughly a 15-hour drive from our home in Florida to Maryland, where the boat was docked, and we had too much ridiculous boat/cruiser stuff to even think about flying with it all.

Think kite gear, wake boards, pots, pans, tons of tools (including big ass tools), spares, dishes, bedding, foul weather gear, pumps, gadgets, … the list goes on.  Phillip and I were both a bit amazed at the sheer quantity of stuff we had been able to cram into our “little” Niagara 35.  We first debated shipping it all via a crate or pallet or renting a sprinter van, perhaps.  But after playing some creative Prius Tetris in the garage and going nuts with the Space Saver bags it seemed about 80% of our boat stuff was going to fit in the Prius for the first haul.  We liked this option for our first trek to Ubiquitous because it would give us a free “run-around” car for the four to six weeks we knew we would spend moving onto our new Outbound, provisioning her, and getting some things dialed in before we would fly back home to handle some work/admin matters later in the summer.  Because this wasn’t a permanent move-aboard, shove-off situation.

At least not immediately, not yet.  For us—two lawyers working remotely with a full workload—a sudden shift, from spending only winters aboard and commuter cruising the rest of the year, to 100% full-time liveaboards off somewhere disconnected in the remote islands, even on a boat as spacious and comfortable as the Outbound, was just too extreme at this immediate juncture.  Phillip and I need reliable wifi and cell signal to continue doing the work that we love and that funds our cruising.  We also need to be able to hop on a plane frequently so we can handle matters that come up that require our presence.  Our version of cruising may not be what many picture when they dream about selling everything and sailing over the horizon and, you know what?

That’s totally okay.  Cruising is not one size fits all.  It’s whatever fits you.

And the reality of it, as opposed to the dream, will always be better, even if it’s not what you initially envisioned.  Phillip and I have learned (the hard and costly way) that schedules and rigid time/place commitments can really throw a wrench in the overall goal and plan to cruise slowly safely.  We also know nothing has to happen fast.  Are we going to sail the Caribbean?  Are we going to cross oceans?  Of course, but as with everything that happens on a boat: Smooth is Fast.  Hence, our goal back in April, 2021 had been to slowly move aboard, get to know and understand UbiQ (there are a lot of new systems to absorb and learn), and start to fix and maintain her minor issues while gunkholing around in the Chesapeake and flying home as needed.  Then we planned to tackle the bigger items that were identified during the survey/sea-trial during a haul-out scheduled in the fall before we prepared to shove off for the winter months, as we normally do, headed south. 

While the USVIs, BVIs, and the Caribbean in general have always been a goal, particularly one we would like to achieve after failing to accomplish that journey in November, 2019, it was just one potential plan among others.  Honestly, after dealing with a winterized boat during the survey/sea-trial—a totally foreign concept to us in sunny Florida—that was covered in snow when we first saw photos of her, our only real plan for the winter was: TO NOT WINTERIZE THE BOAT.  That was it.  Whatever journey took us to climates during the winter that would not require us to winterize the boat, Phillip and I vowed to consider a successful cruising season. 

Pretty simple plan, no?  Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best.  The freedom this plan afforded us actually excited me as I had no idea what my next five to six months would look like, where exactly we would be, what sights and cities we might visit.  All we knew was that we had just bought a really badass boat that was a dream to spend time on, we had steady income with the ability to work remotely, we are healthy, and the world is our oyster.  Can it get any better?  Our answer is no!  I think you can see that excitement in this silly photo I snapped when we first started to move onto UbiQ and settle in for our first night aboard. 

Yes, I’m holding a battery-operated disco ball. That was one of the first things we packed. Every cruiser should have one!

So, what fun things were we doing in the weeks leading up to and following 4-3-2-1?  It still feels like a whirlwind …

We went out for our last sail aboard Plaintiff’s Rest as her owners, a bittersweet but heartwarming sail.

We had plenty of get-togethers with Pensacola friends we knew we wouldn’t see for a few months.

Say “Hello!” to my wonderful friend Bridgett!

We sucked every soft good possible down and packed the Prius to the gills.

We “shoved off” on a 15-hour drive across country from Florida to Maryland. 

We found ourselves mesmerized waking up in the vberth of Ubiquitous which feels more like a hotel room than a boat. 

Photos preserved in Annie’s mind only …

We started finding places to put everything, then changing our minds, then changing them again (shout-out to my brother who bought us this awesome Galleyware nesting pan set that fit perfectly under the oven). 

We cooked and had our first “romantic” night aboard, with our oil-stained “garage sheet” (a work sheet we’ve laid down for umpteen thousand boat projects) as our table cloth.

We started labeling things like nobody’s business (thank you P-Touch!).

We found ourselves thrilled to find we had landed in Annapolis right when all of the dogwoods and cherry trees were blooming – it was mind-blowingly beautiful.

We started the first of many “things we need for the new boat” lists.

We started doing little projects that made us feel like we were accomplishing things.

We were mesmerized at how much sailing goes on here, every day, particularly by the youngsters who find it “fun” to tack around in tiny spaces!

We worked. 

We cooked (lawyer by day, chef by night : ). 

We hosted our first guests aboard UbiQ (say hello to long-time Annapolis sailors and good friends of UbiQ’s former owner, Richard and Idarae!).

We fell in love with watching the ducks, boaters, artists, and ice-cream eaters at the end of Ego Alley (I spent many days there working at what I call my “branch office,” which is essentially wherever I can find wifi for the day).

And, we let the boat start deciding how we were going to spend each day (#newboatnewproblems) as the boat maintenance never stops. 

Those first few weeks aboard were filled with squeals, cheers, research, and head scratches as we began to dig into our new Pandora’s Box.  While the Outbound was definitely a significant upgrade, in many ways it came with all of the very familiar problems, issues, comforts, and discomforts that life aboard can bring.  That part of it actually thrilled me because I think the durability that life aboard requires is one of the things I love most about cruising.  I kind of like that it takes extra steps to make coffee, do the laundry, shower, “start the car” (aka lower the dinghy and crank the outboard) and “keep the place up” (maintain the boat).  When those extra sweaty steps come with the tradeoff that I don’t have to blow-dry my hair or put on a suit or go to a fluorescent-lit cubicle to sit and work all day, it’s a more rugged, rich lifestyle I can wrap my arms around and fully embrace. 

feel that life aboard UbiQ was going to be very different than life aboard Plaintiff’s Rest but in more important ways, the very same.  There is just something about happy hour in the cockpit, particularly after a physically demanding day of boat work followed by a cockpit shower, that just fills my cup.  I could tell immediately this new hybrid life—with UbiQ at the center—was going to fit me like a glove. 

Deep in the bowels of the port lazarette, Outbound Annie says “I love cruising!”

Next time, I will share our first attempts docking this new beast (one of the things that really made us hesitate in getting a bigger boat) and our first bumps and bangs (because those are going to happen).  We also look forward to sharing our thoughts on how UbiQ sails, with just the two of us aboard, her sail plan and the Dutchman system on the main, as well as using electric winches.  Oh, and our first gale aboard UbiQ. Yuck. But, we survived! Stay tuned!

ROCKING THE BOAT at the Baltimore Boat Show Sep. 29th – Oct. 2nd

“There’s not any chance you would be willing to fly up from Florida to Baltimore to speak at our Baltimore Inner Harbor Boat Show in September would you?” she asked, with a little trepidation.

“Well … funny you mention it as I’m in Annapolis at the moment,” I told her, and that was it. Back in July, our plot was hatched. 

I’d never heard of a “Trawlerfest” before but when Sarah with AIM Media, an affiliate of SAIL Magazine, offered this speaking opportunity to me it felt a little too serendipitous to turn down as Phillip and I knew we would be traveling to/from the new boat on the east coast and Florida throughout the summer which would likely put us within quick driving distance to attend the Baltimore Inner Harbor Boat Show, aka their “Trawlerfest,” so I agreed!  Yours Truly will speaking right along some other sail-ebrities who have inspired Phillip and I time and time again over the years:

  • The uproariously hilarious Nigel Calder;
  • Chris Parker (whom I have talked about and heard about for years in any conversation about weather planning and the Caribbean); and
  • Pat Rains who I personally consider a badass as a journalist, news reporter, freelance writer, and international cruiser [insert mind-blown emoji here]

were just some of the names I recognized.  But, I’m excited to meet Rudy and Jill Sechez, Bob Arrington, Tom Trimmer, Jeff Merrill, and Steve Zimmerman as well.  They all will be contributing a valuable array of topics to the show.  Here is the seminar schedule

After agreeing, however, my immediate next thought was … what the heck am I going to say?  To trawler owners?  Most of your offshore, hard core experience will not translate to boaters who typically don’t go on overnight passages, Annie my devil’s advocate brain was telling me.  What on God’s earth will you have to share that will be relevant to themBut, this is the very reason I (proudly) have multiple personalities.  There’s Video Annie, Shipyard Annie, Diesel Engine Mechannie, and also … of great importance in moments like these … I have Brave Annie who says to that voice: “Oh shut up you!  I’m at least going to give it a try!” 

You tell ‘em Brave Annie!  I did! : )

So, I wracked my brain for some ideas that would speak (pun intended) equally to sailors as well as trawlerers (that’s a word today).  And, as the Boat Show folks requested, I came up with two topics.  The first is the topic I am often most inspired to speak on: getting ladies more involved in all aspects of cruising.  You can blame small-but-mighty Pam Wall for that one as she energetically and emphatically encouraged both me (back at the 2015 Miami Boat Show) as well as every other budding cruiser she speaks to, to ensure all persons aboard, be it the wife, daughter, dad, whomever are full-fledged CREW.  There are no passengers.  Everyone is equal CREW.  And, I couldn’t agree more.  I have interviewed Nick O’Kelly (author of Get Her On Board) at length on this topic.  

I also created my own video about it: Episode #75: How to Get Your Wife to Go Cruising

I am committed to empowering women who want to go cruising with the truth that they are far more capable and resourceful than they let themselves believe and that becoming an equal CREW member aboard will only enhance their cruising experience.  I am passionate about this topic.  The second, a Bahamas Top Ten, was one the Boat Show folks requested and I am always happy to share our wonderful experiences from the Bahamas.  So, for any of you who will be attending the Baltimore Boat Show, this is what you’re in for from the enthusiastic Annie Dike:

I was also asked to participate in an informal ladies tea with the other female speakers on Thursday, which I believe will just be an open forum where all the ladies (speakers and attendees alike) can just share openly on any topic.  I think this one will be really beneficial as well for any female spouse who may be reluctant to go, or participate actively, in cruising for (perhaps) the wrong reasons.

Thursday, September 30, 1 pm – 2:45 pm

Informal Ladies Tea with Jill Sechez, Annie Dike, Pat Rains and Kim Russo

This seminar is for women who think they may want to go cruising or who have only recently entered into the cruising lifestyle and have a wide range of questions best answered by other women, and, alas, without any men in the room.

All told, I’m very excited!  I’ll be spending the next few weeks working on my talks and gathering fun photos, videos, and other content to accompany them.  As a little sneak peek to share with you all here, Phillip and I (yes, he truly is the mastermind when it comes to a great deal of our HaveWind content) have come up with a fun potential idea for my Rock the Boat seminar.  In order to give my many stories, lessons, and tips a coherent central theme, we have thought about pairing each with a well-known movie snippet.  One of the stories I always like to share is designed to encourage women to, when in charge, take charge like a man would.  Meaning, don’t apologize, don’t cater, don’t worry about what the other people (often men) are thinking. Be selfish in that moment and cater to the needs of the boat and yourself (like men do so often!).  Sorry guys, it’s not an insult as it often makes you a much more confident leader, not always better, but more confident and decisive. 

The story I use when teaching this lesson was one that took me a while to learn but once I did … ahh the freedom.  Here’s the scene: often, when you are attempting to dock or de-dock, there are other people around (usually other cruisers, or dock hands, or shipyard workers, 99% of the time they are males) waiting to give you a hand, or help you if you need it.  And, previously, when I was just starting to take the helm, I would always feel guilty if I kept them waiting if, perhaps, I wasn’t quite ready to go, or the engine hadn’t yet warmed up, or I needed to take another lap before docking because I had misjudged the wind or current, any of those things.  In typical female-style, I would aim to please and cater to them and apologizing when I felt I had not.  But, after a while, I realized I was often coming into, or leaving, the dock when I wasn’t quite yet ready and confident simply because I didn’t want to impose on the men there waiting to help me.  I was so worried about their time, their needs, and what they were thinking about me, that I often sacrificed my own time and needs in the process.  Ladies, what man does that more often than not?  Sacrifices his own time and needs simply to cater to strangers around him?  Eggggsssactly.  When you dial into you, your needs, and the boat’s needs, and forget about the dudes on the dock, you’ll find they’re not as concerned (or even aware of you) as you thought they were.

So, what movie did Phillip and I come up with to champion this message? 

That’s right ladies.  Don’t take it personally.  Because you know who IS into you in that moment?  Who is 100% devoted to responding to your every request and aiming to please and impress you?  The boat!  She is SUPER into you.  She’s eagerly awaiting your every decision and instruction.  She’s counting on you to take care of her, not those dudes on the dock.  Who cares about them? the boat would say!  Once I realized that about the guys standing around waiting to help—they’re just not that into me—I gave me all the freedom in the world to take my time.  Now, I never allow myself to be rushed while warming up the engine, going through my own de-docking checklist, setting up my lines for release, double-checking everything.  They can stand there for 15 solid minutes and I don’t give a flying flip.  Those guys can either wait and help if and when I’m ready (and if I want and need them to) or they can mosey on down the dock, because my focus is on me and my boat. 

And, I hadn’t really noticed myself learning this lesson.  It wasn’t like an “aha” moment.  It was something that just evolved over time.  But, I became very aware of my change in mindset in an “aha moment” when we were leaving the shipyard recently on our soon-to-be-sold Niagara 35.  The boat was finally splashing after her extensive Hurricane Sally repairs, in February 2021, and Annie was captain that day.  As they gently placed her in the water and all the Travelift and shipyard guys (and other friends who had come to see us off – again, 99% men) were there standing around waiting, I checked the sea cocks and cranked the engine.  As she was warming up, I was checking for water out the back, noting the wind speed and direction, unlocking the wheel, and getting dialed in at the helm and basically, just taking my time getting settled while our Westerbeke warmed up (this generally takes a full five minutes) not making any eye contact with the dudes on the dock.  I even repeated things over and over while still totally ignoring the guys who were waiting on me.  I was being very manlike about it. 

Megan and her husband Chris were aboard as they were set to purchase our boat—as long as she performed beautifully that day during the sea-trial (which Phillip and I were 100% confident she would).  And, Megan, as a woman would, noticing all of the guys standing around waiting for, and watching, me asked me: “Why do you keep looking over the back?”  And, in that moment, I could feel her feeling what I used to feel: They’re waiting on you, Annie.  They’re watching you wanting you to go.  You’re holding them up. I smiled at Megan, because I knew this was going to be an awesome teaching moment for her, as I told her simply “I’m not going to let them rush me.  I’ll leave when I’m ready.”  Megan’s face took on a stoic look as (I believe) the lesson soaked in for her. 

And, I did not allow them to push me out of the Travelift and set us out into the bayou until I was full-on ready, no matter how long it took, no matter how long they fidgeted and stared.  Now (as I hadn’t piloted our boat in five months), did I put her in forward as opposed to reverse initially and try to go the wrong way at first?  Of course!  I’m still Annie, with all of my dumb little quirks and mistakes, but because I was settled, I was ready and calm, I could simply laugh about it, throttle back, and put her in reverse before gently gliding out. 

Me and Megan manning the boat that day!  No boys allowed (or needed)!  Ha! And, boat hair, don’t care!

The point being, ladies, is that you should be dialed into the boat, not the dudes on the dock.  She is the one who is truly “into you” in that moment, who is listening to you, and who wants to please and impress you.  Focus your time and energy on her in those moments and she will reward you in droves.  Megan has since told me that was a defining moment for her in her own evolution as an equal partner aboard her boat, and I couldn’t be prouder.  Phillip and I couldn’t have hand-selected better owners than Chris and Megan for our beloved former boat, and it warms my little salty heart to think I played a small role in Megan’s growth as an equal crew member.  “Not a passenger,” Pam Wall would say sternly.  “Crew.”

So, tell me followers, what do you think of our movie theme and my Rock the Boat seminar?  Would you attend?  Any topics of areas of interest that you think would be helpful to cover when trying to encourage significant others who may not be as passionate or excited about cruising to become more involved?  Phillip and I are always open to input.  And, if any of you are planning to attend the Baltimore show, please let us know!  If you are but have not purchased tickets yet, enter promo code ANNIEDIKE for a 15% discount on all seminar tickets and thank the Baltimore Inner Harbor Boat Show folks for it.  Hope to see some of you there!

Our Niagara’s New Adventure – Elle est Vivante!

The thought gutted me.  I felt a thick, black goo filling me from the inside as my throat tightened and I blinked back tears.  Immediately when the word was first spoken to me … “totaled” … all I could see in my mind was her holding on, her bucking and groaning against the dock that dreadful morning, September 16, 2020, as Hurricane Sally slowly released its grip on her. 

As I screamed across what was left of the marina to her through the ripping winds and chop “HOLD ON BABY GIRL!” she did.  She.  Did.  Plaintiff’s Rest held on when dozens of other boats hadn’t, when other boats crashed into her and sank beneath and beside her, when docks around her broke up and tore away.  She.  Held.  On.  And, now, that was going to be it?  After all that, we were going to just give up on her?  That was the one scenario in all our post-hurricane decision chaos that I told Phillip I just couldn’t stomach.  We didn’t want to make an emotional, financially irrational decision, of course, but after everything the three of us had been through, the thought that we would let Plaintiff’s Rest, our baby girl, get hauled to a dump to die because of … money?  Especially when she was salvageable. 

Considering the spectrum of damage Hurricane Sally unleashed on the boating community in Pensacola, the damage our boat had suffered was respectively minor.  It wouldn’t cost quite her total value to fix her, but it might be close, something I learned only after that hurricane struck, could cause an insurance company to total the boat.  Total.  It felt like such a callous, dismissive word. 

Thankfully, we were very lucky in that it turned out the cost to repair the damage to her rudder and stern rail and the severe dock rash she endured all those hours in the slashing dark did not amount to a figure that tipped the scale.  The day we got the news Plaintiff’s Rest was going to be repaired, I cried.  My chest opened up and I hugged Phillip even harder than I had that moment on the dock when I saw her mast upright in the driving rain.  Our baby girl was going to have more chapters, more pages to turn, more adventures.  She was going to live.  Once that was determined, the thought of buying a new boat and handing our amazing Niagara over to another sailing couple to enjoy all that she has to offer no longer felt like a nauseous jab to my stomach.  As long as she continued sailing, traveling, and teaching her valuable lessons, I was 100% okay with that.  But, I knew I was going to be damn picky in who we turned her over to.  It wouldn’t matter if they were willing to pay more, if any buyer planned to let her sit, that would be a non-starter.  Our Niagara loves to go!  She deserves to go.  But, in those early months of this entire transition, in the fall and winter of 2020 when she was undergoing repairs and we were just wrapping our heads around the idea of selling her, I could not have dreamed up a better transition for our Niagara. 

Here’s the crazy thing.  We didn’t even list her.  We didn’t “show” her in the normal sense to anyone.  We didn’t even hire a broker.  It all happened so seamlessly.  I guess when you have a boat as cared for as ours—as loved—with a price that is well worth the life she still has to live and the amazing journey she can still offer any hearty, willing sailor, it’s not surprising.  Don’t get us wrong, Phillip and I did not decide to sell our boat because Plaintiff’s Rest is not capable of sailing around the world.  She is.  Just not quite as comfortably or safely.  But capable she is.  In droves.  And, when this wonderful couple—not new to sailing, but new to owning and cruising their own boat—spent just a couple of hours on our boat crawling through all the cubbies and lockers and going through all the immense repairs, upgrades, and work Phillip and I had put into her, there was really nothing to debate.  She’s a damn fine boat and that’s exactly what they wanted.  That’s exactly what they deserved.  

Let me joyously introduce to you Megan and Chris, the new owners of our Niagara 35.

After a very close friend of ours, who was privy to our pretty private decision to sell our Niagara and buy a new(er) boat, merely mentioned as an aside that “Phillip and Annie might be selling their boat” to some mutual friends of ours, a small crack opened in their minds that immediately began to flood their brains and set them off on a similar tailspin that Phillip and I had post-2020 and post-hurricane: Maybe it’s time to get serious about our goals of cruising.  Maybe it’s time to buy our “forever boat.”  Maybe … now … is the time.  Covid seemed to have that effect on many people.  And, while Megan and Chris had taken sailing courses and obtained several ASA certifications and had chartered boats down in the BVIs, they had not yet taken that next leap of buying and cruising a boat of their own—the true reward of a cruising lifestyle.  While they are experienced sailors, becoming knowledgeable, capable boat owners is where their fears lied, which I felt was the right thing to worry about.  As I often tell many people thinking about cruising: the sailing is easy; the boat maintenance is hard.  But, one great thing about our Niagara?  It would come with endless supervision, mentoring, and advice from Phillip and me.  We made it very clear to Megan and Chris that we loved our boat, we wanted to see her thrive in a new chapter, which meant we had every incentive to help at every juncture possible with trouble-shooting, research, repairs, and maintenance.  That kind of peace of mind for a new owner is invaluable and we were happy, overjoyed, to offer it as it meant a whole new journey for our beloved boat. 

I’m thinking that may have been what finally tipped the scale for Chris and Megan.  Or maybe it was the stunning varnish, our Niagara’s classic lines, her spotless bilge cubbies, her solid design and construction, her perfect layout, her … I could go on. 

I’m sure they would be hard-pressed to say exactly what it was that made them wrap their arms around our boat and welcome her into their family, but Phillip and I were thrilled they did.  There was no negotiating on the price.  It was what it was, Chris and Megan either wanted her or not, and it turned out they did, subject to a satisfactory survey/sea-trial of course.  But, Phillip and I, knowing every nut and bolt and every project that had ever been done on that boat since we bought her in 2013, most of them DIY, had absolutely no reason to believe she would not pass a survey/sea-trial with exceedingly flying colors. 

And pass she did.  We survey sea-trialed her in February, 2021 (as Phillip and I were in the thick of negotiations for the 2015 Outbound 46 we ended up purchasing) and the four of us were so confident that the boat was solid, it was well-maintained, and it was the perfect boat for the two of them, we even helped Chris and Megan put the new name on the boat before we splashed and before the survey was ever conducted. 

We all just knew.  Kevin, our broker for both our Niagara and the Outbound, came that day to congratulate all of us on the sale and splash got a big laugh in the name-change pre-survey.  “Well, that’s one way to get a potential buyer emotionally invested,” he said.  In all, it was a fantastic day.  Chris and Megan, rightfully looking out for their own interests, hired a highly-recommended surveyor in the Florida Panhandle, Chris Mills, who spent over seven hours thoroughly scaling the boat. 

A running joke that came from the day was mine and Phillip’s repeated answer to the dozens of questions Mills had to ask about our many, many upgrades and repairs.  “When was that done?” he’d ask.  And almost every time Phillip and I would say “2016.”  That was the year we spent three months on the hard changing out the rigging (from rod to wire), repairing our rotten stringers, repairing the keel seam, and doing about a-thousand other projects all of which mandated a “2016” answer to his questions. 

Phillip and I were actually surprised by the end of the day thinking back through all we had done on the boat.  There was no doubt we had spent years pouring our blood, sweat, money, and tears into her.  And, there was no doubt Plaintiff’s Rest had spent years giving us her all, carrying us offshore across the Gulf for our first “just Phillip and me” trip in 2014 to the Keys, thundering her way to Cuba in 2016, dazzling us in the Bahamas in 2017, 2018, and 2019, taking us out for a hundred memorable weekends on the hook in Pensacola, and teaching us so many valuable boat owner lessons over the years. 

Looking back on these many memories makes me tear up now thinking how much we gave to our Niagara, how much she gave back to us, and how much she is going to give Megan and Chris and they are going to give her as they sail her around our pristine, wondrous local waters of Pensacola and begin planning and undertaking longer trips across the Gulf just as Phillip and I did when we first acquired her.  Our Niagara is ready to carry, teach, and wow them.  She has an amazing new chapter to embark on and she is very much alive, which made me thrilled when I learned the name Megan had chosen for their boat, which means “to be alive, living.” 

Vivante

[vivɑ̃]

ADJECTIVE

To be alive. ⧫ living.

For those of you curious about our Niagara and her next chapter, know that, to the fullest capacity possible:

Elle est Vivante. 

And the Survey Says …

A nor’easter I believe they called it.  I had never heard of it before, but of course it was scheduled to slam the northeast coast on the very two days we had planned our survey/sea-trial of the 2015 Outbound 46, s/v Ubiquitous.  January, 2021 had been spent in hot negotiations.  After we had traveled from Pensacola, FL up to Annapolis, MD over New Years Eve to lay eyes, hands, and feet on this newly discovered build and model, the Outbound 46, after just a few hours aboard one, and this one in particular, Phillip and I knew we were more than impressed.  We were stunned, at her beauty, but more so her capabilities and safety features.  We were both dying to feel her under sail. 

Smiling sailors during our first informal inspection around New Years Eve

The negotiations were a bit of an emotional roller coaster.  We knew we loved the boat.  But, we also have level heads and (Phillip, far more than me) sharp negotiating skills.  We knew we had to come to a number that was fair for both sides, which usually, in the world of negotiations, means a number that, for both sides, stings a little.  We knew Ubiquitous had been shown to others and we knew she was exceptional.  But, we also didn’t want to get overly emotional.  There were days where we had to tell ourselves “If this number isn’t right, for us or for Jim (the owner), then it’s not meant to be, we’ll find another boat,” (albeit a little heartbroken, we meant it) and then other days where we would chant “She’s the one, she’s the one, please let this number be the one.”  It was a bit of a wild up-down, tennis-match experience.  Kind of reminded me of when I would go with my Dad to the cattle auction, where the auctioneer does that weird “huma-na-huma-na, and a four, I’ve got a four and a huma-na, huma-na, can I get a five, a five, huma-na, five over there!” and your head is snapping back and forth watching the bids.  But, at least there, all the bidding is public.  If you understand weird cattle-auction babble, you know who is bidding what and when.  Phillip and I had no idea what was happening with the other lookie-loos.  Were they as impressed as we were?  Did they understand what a quality vessel she was?  (We hoped not.).  Would they care for her like we would?  (We knew not.). Had they made an offer?  Was it more than ours?  We had no clue.  Phillip and I were merely hoping Jim felt a connection with us that maybe would make our bid-that-could, wherever she fell among whatever ranks were out there, have a little more heart to it, a little more hope that we would care for Ubiquitous just as he had.  Thankfully, after several weeks, the roller coaster finally braked to a stop, jolting us a little, with the reality that Jim had accepted our bid, subject to a satisfactory survey/sea-trial, naturally.  Accepted.  We were simultaneously dumb-founded and giddy.

So, we scheduled it up for early February and tensions started to mount in the days before we were scheduled to take off for Annapolis.  A rather intense nor’easter was forming and Jim was warning us about ice on the decks.  Kevin, our broker, who would be attending with us, expressed some concerns about safely conducting a survey/sea-trial in those conditions and rightfully so.  Phillip’s schedule was tight and he was reluctant to re-schedule hoping the deal wouldn’t fall through as a result, but it was actually Robert Noyce, our surveyor (a stranger to us, but a man we quickly nicknamed the “Voice of Reason”) who helped calm everyone down and keep things cool during the chaos of concerns about cancelling.  We had selected Robert Noyce as our surveyor based on an incredibly helpful recommendation from my friend (and exceptionally gifted cruising consultant) Pam Wall.  Being new to the Annapolis area, we were really digging through our A-lists for references.  We were not in Pensacola anymore, Toto! 

Upon the advice of Noyce, the night before we were set to take off, with weather looking dreadful and dangerous, Phillip called Jim directly and discussed his opinion and thoughts on putting off the sea trial and survey because of the conditions.  We wanted Jim to know we were seriously interested and wanted this to happen but wanted a safe and thorough sea trial and survey.  Jim seemed to let out a sigh of relief that we were not interested in “ice sailing.”  His words.  I told you that Jim was a funny one.  

Jim knew the conditions there were far more dangerous than we could even appreciate.  However, there was a rub of pushing the date much further out closer so spring to avoid another false start. 

But, as things often do, it happened for a good reason because we had been toying with the idea of hiring our own independent inspector to really, really, scour the boat and find any and every possible thing that was failing, that needed to be fixed, or that created a safety concern.  However, with everything that had happened so fast in January and early February, we really had not had the time.  This was a huge purchase for us and we wanted to take steps to protect ourselves.  After researching online to find the right person for the job, all steps took us straight to Steve D’Antonio.  Phillip had read about him on Morgan’s Cloud (again, a highly recommended resource) as well as many other publications.  I had also seen several followers quote some of the hundreds of helpful articles D’Antonio has put out into the world on my blog occasionally, so his name rang a bell.  What we found was, in the world of pre-purchase inspections, D’Antonio was … THE GUY.   And, it just so turned out Steve, whose calendar we learned is often full to the brim, had an opening to conduct his unprecedented two full-day inspection just a few weeks out, in early March.  It would not be inexpensive, mind you.  But, we understood and appreciated the value Steve brought to the table for a transaction like this. 

Thankfully, the weather was much more forgiving in early March.  Due to the harsh winters in Annapolis, Ubiquitous had been winterized—a new and slightly worrisome process for us as we debated whether to re-winterize the systems that we would de-winterize during the survey/sea-trial afterward or leave them potentially exposed.  The thought of such cold harsh temps on the boat was troubling.  But, the temps for the survey/sea-trial were in the high 50s/low 60s during the day, with temps of mid- to upper-40s at night.  Not bad at all.  Still bundled, but not bone-chilled.  We flew in first and picked up Kevin at the airport, and the three of us stumbled around to a little brewery, A-Forward Brewing over in Easport (a short walk across the Spa Creek Bridge from Annapolis), where a local sailor there told us where to find the best pizza in town, Vin 909, just walking distance from where we were having drinks.  Fortuitous!