New Friends, New Plans, and a Tour of La Rochelle, France!

It isn’t a bad place to have to wait for the Lagoon, I will say that.  La Rochelle is exquisite right now.  Mist that fills the harbor every morning.  Vivid yellow leaves the fall leisurely from the trees to the cobblestones, always mesmerizing me when they fall right before my eyes.

And the food! Fruits de mer!  There are a thousand little restaurants, pubs, bistros, and—my favorite—fromageries!  I’m afraid I have knowingly cultivated a full-fledged cheese addiction, and I, in no way, regret the decision.  They eat cheese for dessert here.  I mean … I love these people.  J’aime La Rochelle!

Hello crew!  From the stunning Atlantic-coast village of La Rochelle.  I wanted to write you all a quick note from France before we shove off next week and begin our Atlantic adventure! I wanted to share a little more about our plans, our new friends, Kate and Cyrus, and why Phillip and I made such a drastic change to our cruising plans this year.  When we were working in the shipyard this past summer, we had pretty-set plans to sail our Niagara 35 slowly and intermittently from November through the Spring of 2019 from Pensacola, to the Exumas to explore what we missed last year, then eventually to Grenada for hurricane season. Yet, we decide instead to hop on a new boat, with new crew, and sail back across the Atlantic Ocean?!

We must be crazy right?

We kind of are … : )

Or just in full-fledged pursuit of adventure!  So, how did this whole opportunity unfold?  How did we meet Kate and Cyrus?  As Kate and Cyrus would tell you, all great stories begin with either “Once upon a time,” or “This ain’t no shit.”  Well, this, my friends, is no merde!

We actually crossed paths with Kate and Cyrus while cruising but did not know it.  Phillip and I were making our way back up the west coast of Florida after our cruising in the Bahamas this past season and we made an unplanned duck into Destin to get out of some not-too-comfortable conditions out in the Gulf: 18 knots on the nose that was set to continue well past midnight, well before we would be able to get to Pensacola Pass to get out of that mess.

So, we navigated the entrance to Destin Harbor for the first time, which was not easy.  It’s a bit of a tricky zig-zag, shoaly entrance, but we made it. And it was one of those moments, when you finally get out of the stuff, the boat is settled and in one piece, and you drop the hook and feel your nerves finally start to settle out.  Once the hook was set, Phillip and I both promptly made a boat drink (because that’s exactly what you do in that moment) and were kicked back in the cockpit heaving happy alternating sighs of satisfaction, when this large catamaran cruised by.

I saw a gal on the bow filming, which, being a bit of a fellow videographer, caught my eye.  I could see she had a remote for the winlass around her neck, and I shouted some comment about how it would be awesome to be able to drop and raise the hook with the push of a button.  We shared a lighthearted exchange or two and said “Cheers!” before their catamaran cruised on out of the anchorage.  I had no clue at the time that cheery blonde on the catamaran would soon become one of my very good friends, someone I would cross the Atlantic Ocean with, but it was.  That was Kate!

Kate and Cyrus were sailing with a captain to gain sea time towards their RYA licenses, and they were making the overnight run from Destin to Pensacola for bluewater experience.  The catamaran they were sailing on, s/v Makarios, actually stays in a slip in Pensacola just a dozen or so boats down from where Phillip and I keep our Niagara 35.  While Kate and Cyrus noticed our boat name, s/v Plaintiff’s Rest, as memorable when they were cruising through Destin Harbor, they didn’t think much more of it until they went the next week to Sea School for the necessary credits toward their USCG licenses.  Ahhh … STCW Sea School, that was a fun time.

It was their Kate and Cyrus saw the insignia I had left on the Sea School wall, put two and two together (HaveWind with the boat they saw in Destin), and Kate then decided to reach out to me.  There were here exact messages!

It’s connections and stories like this that will always make me feel grateful I created this (once very little) traveling sailing blog that has somehow reached so many.  Seeing young cruisers like Phillip and I, and many others who are sharing their stories via blogs and videos, Kate and Cyrus decided to similarly sell the house in Minnesota and downsize to life on a boat.  It was really neat, as we began to chat further, to learn about their plans to start a crew-chartered boat, CruiseNautic, on their Lagoon 42 in the USVIs as their quote-unquote retirement.  Kate and Cyrus had already created their platform and signed up with Dream Yacht Charters to act as the broker for the boat purchase by the time we connected.  The boat, a brand new Lagoon 42, was supposed to be completed early- or mid-November and their vague plan was to sail it from France to the Canaries to the USVIs from mid-November to early-January.  A very fun plan indeed!

I’ll admit, Phillip and I get offers to crew often at HaveWindWillTravel, which is very cool but most of them do not work with our schedule or our own cruising plans. This one, however, seemed to fit a particular niche for Phillip, the offer of an amazing journey during the holidays when his work is a bit slower.  When I told Phillip about the offer—mostly in jest—one evening while cooking dinner, I was surprised by his response:

“We would complete our first Atlantic Circle,” he said.

And, I remember thinking, then and there, there was a real chance this was actually going to happen. Phillip is an avid sailor and lives for offshore sailing and once he was thinking the voyage would fit with his work schedule and offer him something that is a true bucketlist item for him—completing an Atlantic Circle by sailboat—it was very likely he would work hard to make this happen.

That was July.  Only three months before Phillip and I had planned to set sail in our own boat headed eventually for Grenada.  But, the more we continued to talk about Kate and Cyrus’s offer, the opportunity to cross the Atlantic Ocean again was like this luminous jewel on the horizon.  Another epic voyage.  Another month of amazing challenges, memories, and bonds between new friends.  How do you turn that down if it’s even remotely possible?

Look at these two.  The answer is you don’t.

Phillip and I figured we would have plenty of time to sail our boat all over the Caribbean in the coming years, but another Atlantic crossing with a young fun couple felt like an opportunity we could not turn down.  And, we are very grateful for the commitment and work we have put toward making our lives, careers, and income as flexible as it is so that we can seize opportunities like this when they come along.  Phillip was the man who initially taught me the incredibly important concept of time-value.  That is, to make sure I valued experiences and time more than money and things, and it was his support and creativity that helped me begin my online marketing business (which has since grown across many avenues and platforms) that allows me to say, with resounding excitement—“YES!”—to adventures like these.

Once we began emailing, at first, then Skyping, with Kate and Cyrus to both get to know them and to discuss more details about the voyage, their travel plans, etc., Phillip and I started to get that tingly “Holy crap this is really happening” feeling.  It’s a prickle beneath our skin that tells us there is one amazing, eye-opening adventure in our future.  And, each conversation we had with Kate and Cyrus told us the four of us were very like-minded, in pursuit of the same goals, with a similar approach to challenges and provisioning, and collectively a very knowledgeable and fun crew.  While Kate and Cyrus do not have the extent of bluewater experience that Phillip and I do, we all compliment each other in different ways.  Cyrus is a mechanical engineer by trade, capable of dissecting and repairing virtually any system, with a good bit of sailing miles under his belt on he and Kate’s Precision 26 on Lake Lanier.  Big plus for an offshore voyage.

Kate also grew up sailing with her father on Lake Lanier, and is an adventurous, fun-loving, talented singer and songwriter.  Another huge plus for an offshore voyage.  Here is Kate jamming out with her Fleetwood Mac cover band!

I can’t wait to sing a duet with her during the passage!

The four of us clicked very easily and we all had a good feeling about crew comraderie for the voyage. The good thing, though, we knew we would be spending several weeks together in France in a tight little Airbnb—a great place to see if we really did mesh well together, before shoving off for good.

Kate, Cyrus, Phillip, and I been here a week now, cooking dinners together, sharing stories, laughs, worries, concerns, and we all get along fabulously and foresee an amazing experience ahead. It’s a goal worth every 12-hour days’ work we put into it.  Offshore voyaging is such a reward.  And, doing it with friends and fellow sailors who share the same joy and awe of it as Phillip and I do, makes it even more memorable.  We cannot wait to share this voyage with you!

Here is a fun video tour of La Rochelle—our haling port for the moment—as well as some very fun photos from Paris and our rendezvous with the infamous Captain Yannick from our first Atlantic-crossing in 2016.  We are soaking up every minute of this journey and looking forward to seeing and getting on the new Lagoon 42 next week!

Pics from Par-eeh!

This guy …

Boy did we miss Yannick!

And, it was great to have such a personal and knowledgeable tour guide in Paris!

Who me?  More to come about this medal of honor.

Love this man!

Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

This guy had a happy ending.  Google Victor Noir Pere Lachaise Cemetery.  Fun story there!

Shopping in the sail gear shop brought back some fun memories from our first Atlantic Crossing!

The Louvre!

Made it to La Rochelle!

High fashion.

Article in SAIL Magazine: $9 for Spam?! Prepping for the Bahamas!

Is Spam in the Bahamas really $9.00?  Find out in the November issue of SAIL Magazine, featuring an article by Yours Truly!  Peter Nielsen over at SAIL asked me a while back for a piece with tips on preparing for a trip to the Bahamas.  So, Phillip and I put our heads together and came up with a few key factors to consider when prepping for the Bahamas and what provisions and supplies we would recommend stocking the boat with.  For us, it all started with the Explorer charts.  Those are a must!  I hope you all grab a copy of the November issue soon and let me know what you think of the article.  Many thanks to the hard-working crew over at SAIL Magazine for putting this one together.  We love it!

And, stay tuned next time as we will be announcing our cruising plans this winter in a fun new video next week.  You’ll never guess where we’re going!!  : D

BV20: Overnight Sail to Spanish Wells

Life is swell in Spanish Wells!  Or breathtakingly beautiful at least.  Phillip and I were happily shocked to find our favorite beach from our entire Bahamas trip tucked away on the north shore of what we thought was going to be an industrial little fishing island in Eleuthera.  We were also really excited to make the jump to this island because it would be the first we were back offshore since crossing the Gulf Stream to get to the Bahamas.  We love to travel offshore.  The sunsets underway are just indescribable.  I love when they bathe the boat, and everyone on it, in “sunset.”  Fun video for you all here, and photos below, from our sail down to Spanish Wells and the beautiful north shore we paddled there.  Lobster, cannonballs, and starfish await!  Dig in!

Spanish Wells is about 50 nm from Little Harbour.  We decided to make the sail overnight to arrive in daylight at Spanish Wells.  We left Little Harbour around 4:00 p.m. the day before and arrived in Spanish Wells around 7:00 a.m. the following day.  A nice, 15-hour run.  We didn’t have much wind and had to motor a good bit, but we didn’t mind!  We love being underway!

Love this man.

We installed AIS back when we had our mast down in the shipyard in 2016 and we have never regretted it.  It is so comforting to see large ships on the screen and know their direction, speed, and the closest point of approach.  It is also good to see their name and know you can hale them if you are unsure your vessels will pass safely.  We only receive AIS; we do not transmit.

Plaintiff’s Rest, happy on her hook!

Where you see that big yacht there is the entrance (through Devils Backbone) to Little Harbour.  We’ll take you there on the blog next!  There were so many mega, mack-daddy cruising yachts in there!

Favorite beach from our entire Bahamas trip!  The north shore of Spanish Wells!  Have any of you been here?

Little drizzle sand castles.  My brother used to make these when we went to the beach as kids.  It brought back a lot of memories for me.  Like someone left them there just for me!

It’s hard to even say when the water begins and the shore ends.  They just melt into one another.

Conchy yard art!   : )

Fresh caught lobster tails we bought from a local fisherman.  Only $5 a tail, can you believe it?!

Back to the boat to cook up the best dinner on the island!

Baked lobster with Phillip’s famous mushroom risotto.  I am one lucky girl!

Poor Phillip snagged his toe on a branch when we were walking the north shore.  Be careful when you walk folks!  Pick up your feet and dodge the ragged, jagged things!

Aren’t the colors in the Bahamas beautiful?  All roads, fences, signs, etc. are all so tropical and vibrant!

What’s up?  SUP, that’s what!  Time to paddle!

Or time to perch (while Annie paddles).

That’s Phillip way out there (the little spec on the horizon) paddling away.  We could see for miles across the neon teal water it seemed.

And, Phillip got our inflatable YOLO paddle board for me as a birthday gift years ago.  (You see?  Lucky girl!)  It has proven to be a very convenient and valuable little “toy” to have on the boat.  We like it because it packs down and serves as an extra vehicle to and from shore.  It’s also a great workout and a wonderful way to explore flat, shallow waters.

If you see a bridge over water, you must jump!  It’s an Annie rule.  CANNONBALL!

You know you’re living the good life sitting in the cockpit of your boat, drink in hand, and someone’s bikini is off!  ; )

#sunset  Never gets old.

It’s true!  You do!  Only once!  Live it up folks.

I’m star-struck!

BV18: Flying the Chute South to Little Harbour

If there is one thing the steady north winds in the Bahamas are good for, it’s flying the chute, headed south to Little Harbour!  Ahoy followers!  In blog time, we are just wrapping our stay at beautiful Hope Town, Bahamas (where we got lucky enough to snag a ball inside the harbor our first night there!) and sail this badass boat south to Little Harbour.  Under spinnaker!  I mention in the video below another video we put out last year showing exactly how we rig and hoist the spinnaker on our boat for any of you just launching yours (don’t worry, it took us years before we were brave enough).  Here’s the LINK to that trainer video.  Little Harbour turned out to be a fascinating little hurricane hole at the south end of the Bahamas.  We had some friends from Pensacola who were there at the same time on their Katana catamaran, so we got to rendezvous with them at the fantastically-fun and quirky bar, Pete’s Pub, and meet the infamous Pete, himself.  Pete is the son of Randolph Johnston, an American teacher and bronze sculptor who first settled with his family in Little Harbour in the 1950’s.  Some fascinating history there.  Hope you enjoy the video and photos below!

And, we’re off!  After a beautiful few days in Hope Town, we bid that quaint little cruiser’s gem adieu and set our sights on Little Harbour.  We had some friends, Tom and Christy, who were going to be there at the same time, sailing in on their Katana-built catamaran and we were eager to go meet up with them and have a drink at the famous Pete’s Pub!  There’s the Hope Town lighthouse in the distance.  Say “Au revoir!”

Anyone recognize this unique boat?  It’s Mary and Sharon on s/v Tipsy Gypsy!!  We met up with them several times in the Abacos (and both being fellow bloggers, but both partaking in some excellent goombay smashes at the time, we all forgot to take a photo together!).  But, true to boat code, I never forget to snap a pic of a fellow cruiser’s fine-looking vessel on the water.  Look at Gypsy go!  You can follower Mary and Tharon’s adventures here!  https://www.maryandtharon.com

It’s SPINNY time!  We love flying our spinnaker.  Well, I can say that now.  Phillip and I will be the first to admit, we waited waaaayyy too long to break this bad boy out.  I can’t really say why.  We were never in a hurry.  We thought it might have been a huge headache, or we would get it all snagged up and rip it.  Who knows.  We were crazy stupid. But, last summer, when we were planning our adventure to the Bahamas and knew we wanted to enhance our sail plan and sail options, we busted the spinnaker out on Plaintiff’s Rest for the first time (and found out she’s this beautiful red, white, and blue!) and learned how to rig her up and fly her with ease.  While it did take some finagling and some mistakes, we learned, they usually don’t lead to a rip in the sail if you are methodical about it and take your time to follow all of the lines and make sure the sail isn’t twisted as it is coming out of the sock.  Little things like that.  Now that we’ve mastered it, this is probably now our favorite sail on the boat!  Video link for you HERE again on exactly how we rig and hoist our spinnaker on the boat if any of you out there are just getting into it.

Ahhhh … happy place!

As I mentioned in the video, we found the inlet to Little Harbour to be a bit narrow and one you have to “play the tides” to get in and out.  Not a big deal, but we didn’t know when we would be leaving Little Harbour and we wanted to freedom to be able to come and go without having to wait on the tides.  For this reason, we decided to anchor on the outside in the big harbor outside of Little Harbour, and it was absolutely no mistake.  Wait until you see the crystal green waters that awaited us there.  Some of the most stunning we had seen in all of the Bahamas!

Dinghying in to Little Harbour!

This is Tom and Christy’s catamaran that they sailed to Little Harbour on, s/v Odalisque!

Looking out over the harbour.  We didn’t know it at the time, but Tom and Christy told us Little Harbour is a hurricane hole.  They have had winds of up to 130 mph there with little to no damage to the boats inside the harbor.  Good to know when Phillip and I find ourselves back in those parts and need to tuck in somewhere.  We’re happy to play the tide to sneak into a hurricane hole for cover!

Love this gal!  Hi Christy!

I can’t recall if this was the triggerfish tacos or not, but every meal we had at Pete’s Pub was out of this world!

The view from Pete’s Pub at night.  Just stunning.

And, hey hey, if we didn’t meet Pete himself.  A real ladies man, that one!  Heart of gold, too, and with such a neat history and story to share.  We made a lot of fun memories at the pub!

The sunset view on the Atlantic side behind Pete’s Pub did not disappoint either.  Gorgeous colors on the horizon and awesome craggy rocks where the water would splash up and put on quite a show!

After a fun night “on the town,” which in Little Harbour means “at the Pub” (it is the only restaurant bar on the island, but easily one of our favorite in all of the Bahamas), Phillip and I woke to these breathtaking waters right around our boat the next day.  I couldn’t take enough photos.  You could see every blade of grass on the bottom, every link in our chain, every glimmer of the sun.  I could stare at those waters all day long and be in absolute bliss!

One of the very cool things about Little Harbour, that struck Phillip and me, was it’s amazing history.  Not only did Randolph Johnston bring his family here to get away from American consumerism and just the hustle and bustle and noise of life in the states in the 1950’s, they also had to live in this cave for some time before they could complete their house.  But, they worked hard and persevered and the bronze sculpting foundry that Randolph established there back in the 1950’s is still the foundry they use today.  His son, Pete, carries on his tradition and makes some fabulous sculptures that he sells there in the gallery at Little Harbour.  I love when history meets art and makes the whole trip just that much more memorable.  Pretty cool huh!

 

Pete, finishing a very cool bronze sculpted shark!

This was a piece in the gallery that Christy really had her eye on, the evolution of the life of a man from baby, to toddler, to healthy male, to feeble old man, to death.  It really was a very unique piece.  You better get on it before Christy does!  If she hasn’t already!  (And she drives a hard bargain, trust me!  : )

Perfect tagline for not only Pete’s Pub, but just about every little quirky bar in the Bahamas.  You never know who is a millionaire, billionaire, boat bum, river rat, and the best part is no one cares because it doesn’t even matter.  We just “cheers!” and carry on!

 

We hope you enjoyed our trip to Little Harbour.  Next time, we will take you back out into the Atlantic Ocean on our way down to Eleuthra to our most breathtaking beach in the Bahamas (well, consider we haven’t been to the Exumas yet) but the north shore on Spanish Wells made my heart stop.  Thankfully, Phillip was able to get her kickstarted and going again.  He always gets me fluttering.  ; )  Stay tuned!

BV17: Marsh Harbour to Hopetown!

Enough with this maintenance in Marsh Harbour! It’s time to get sailing and set our hopes on Hopetown. This was one of our favorite stops in the Abacos. Many cruisers live here full-time on a ball in the harbor which gives the place a very welcoming, community feel. There are lots of quirky little shops, beautiful flower-lined roads and bike paths, great restaurants and the stunning Hopetown Lighthouse, one of the oldest manual Kerosene-lit lighthouses in the world. Phillip and I were incredibly fortunate to score a ball in the harbor our VERY FIRST night there (some people have waited years for one) and enjoyed a stunning three-day stay at Hopetown. Enjoy the snorkeling in Marsh Harbour, our sporty sail over to Hopetown, and a bike tour around picturesque Hopetown in the video and photos below.  Stay tuned next time for a trip to Little Harbor, a little-known hurricane hole at the south end of the Abacos where we were welcomed by friends who had just built an amazing little bungalow there. Plenty more to come!

On our way back to Marsh Harbour.  We were thrilled to find that a Delta flight opened up recently from Atlantic directly to Marsh Harbour, so that makes leaving the boat in the Bahamas while we fly back and forth to handle issues at home much easier!

I love the view from a plane window.  So much to see!

 

While we were thrilled to return, after leaving out boat in Marsh Harbour for six weeks while we flew back to Pensacola to handle some work things (and another huge thanks (and yet she still deserves dozens more!) to fellow Marsh Harbour live-aboard, Diane, who sent us amazing photos of our boat every couple of days while we were gone), we had plenty of work to do to open up and clean the boat and re-provision and prepare her for another two months of cruising in the Bahamas.  We spent the first day cleaning her, filling the batteries and propane, grocery shopping, turning the engine over, etc.  And, we were pleased to find our baby was just as excited as we were to have us back and she was full of juice and cranked right up on the first try!  Way to go Plaintiff’s Rest!

We were pleased to find, having left our Kanberra gel bins full while we were gone, that the boat smelled super fresh when we opened her up for the first time in six weeks and there was hardly any mold on the ceiling.  (In Pensacola, pre-Kanberra, we used to have tons of mold that we had to constantly wipe away with Clorox wipes during the summer).  This Kanberra stuff is the real deal people!

Filling the batteries.  Ours are Trojan wet cells that we have to fill with distilled water about every 30 days – 6 weeks.  I always laugh because Phillip looks like a coal miner when he does it!

We were thrilled the find our fancy wine bags were still in tact!

It had rained a good bit in Marsh Harbor while we were gone, which was actually a good thing because it kept the bilge flushed out and fresh.  We emptied her one time down to bone-dry to watch anew for any possible new leaks.

Then after all that work, it was time to go snorkeling in Marsh Harbour!  I got some great footage of the fishies and plant life in the video.  Hope you all enjoyed it!

Post-snorkel meal at the Jib Sheet.  Oh yeeaaaahhhh!

We packed away our Bahamas courtesy flag while we were gone.  She was only a little tattered from her first six weeks in the Abacos!

Back to our happy place!  Sundowners and read-time in the cockpit of Plaintiff’s Rest!

I made a new friend at the marina, too.  This amazing Labradoodle was so cute.  She would sit in this chair, looking very much like a human being, and watch as people walked by.  She was darling!

Sunrise over Harbourview Marina!

Time to de-dock (that’s a word in Annie land) and get this boat moving over to Hopetown!

It was a great day sailing, with winds of 18-20 kts.  On the nose, but we’ve got much better at reefing down our offshore 90% working jib (“Wendy”) so now anything up to 20 kts is still comfortable for us on the boat.  That did not used to be the case with our 135 genoa!

Following our waypoints on the Explorer charts to a “T.”  I love those charts!   They make cruising the Bahamas, even with a six-foot draft effortless.  Just follow their lat and lons and play the tides and you are golden!

We couldn’t reach anyone via the radio to see if there was an open ball in the Harbor at Hopetown (we were pretty sure they’re wouldn’t be as folks had told us cruisers covet those balls and hold them often for years), so we dropped the hook on the outside and dinghied into the Harbor to get a lay of the land.  It was kind of nice, too, to traverse that narrow inlet for the first time in our tiny little rubber boat, not the big beauty!

And, we totally scored!!  After talking to a few boats, asking around about a potential open ball (and having a few of them lightheartedly chuckle at us), we were finally sent to a guy named Dave on a catamaran who unofficially monitors the balls, and he got us in touch with this amazing guy, Truman, who runs the balls at the Harbor, and as luck would have it a couple was leaving that afternoon, so we were going to spend our evening ON THE BALL!  Phillip and I knew exactly how lucky we were and we were super excited!  But, the ball would not open up for a another few hours, so we headed to shore to grab a bite and explore!

And Hopetown, of course, did not disappoint.  Stunning Atlantic shores, crystal blue waters, stretches of white stunning beach.  It was everything we hoped it would be (no pun intended … okay maybe just a little one ; ).

We ate here at Brandon’s Bar on the beach, an awesome little salty lunch spot overlooking the Atlantic Ocean!

Pensacola representing!

These pictures don’t really do it justice.  But the sunsets and sunrises in the Harbor at Hopetown were breathtaking.  It was all you could do to just sit and watch and look around.  Something about all the boats floating around you and the colors on the water were just mesmerizing.

Time to go see what this lighthouse is all about!

Beautiful little flower-lined streets guided us along the way.  One of my favorite things about the Abacos are all the rich, luscious colors that greet you just walking the streets.  All of the pathways and roads are also very narrow, which means no freaking stink-pot, tank-sized SUVs.  Thank goodness!  Just little golf carts and foot traffic.  I have to say there is no part of me that misses the consumerism and traffic of the states.  None.

Helllooooo.

You cannot NOT go to the Bahamas and NOT get conch fritters (three times at least to compare at different places! ; )

There’s the lighthouse!  One of the last remaining manual, kerosene-lit lighthouses in the world.  This beauty was completed in 1864 and used to guide ships around the treacherous Elbow Reef.

We signed the book!  S/v Plaintiff’s Rest was here!  101 lighthouse steps we never fear!

Isn’t the view from the top amazing?  The striking colors of the water is always what catches my eyes and breath when we view the Bahamas from up high.

Got myself a little Hopetown Lighthouse trinket (and proceeds for buying this beauty go toward lighthouse preservation and restoration).  Cute huh?

Then it was time to explore more of that awesome little island.  We rented bikes (24 hours for $24, very reasonable) and spent the next day and a half biking around Hopetown.

It was even cooler to see the lighthouse from our ball in the Harbor after we had walked all the way to the top and saw the view from up there.

We left this little thank-you note and our “ball fees” ($20/night) on Dave’s catamaran, along with a bottle of white and one of my books as big thanks for his help in enabling us to score a ball our very first time there.  We certainly enjoyed our time and can easily say Hopetown is one of our favorite stops in the Abacos.  But, gees, it’s hard to even pick favorites.  There are so many.  Hope you all enjoyed the video and photos.  Next time, we will take you to Little Harbour at the south end of the Abacos and Pete’s Pub!  Stay tuned!

 

 

BV12: Green Turtle Cay: Handstands, Hogs & One Helluva Party

Green Turtle Cay was a quaint, picturesque resort … until 34 boats came to the marina, bringing 340 party people.  We were bombarded by Bucketlust, and no amount of foul weather would stop their non-stop party.  These people were WiLd, sporting different-themed costumes each day (think WWF Spandex, Unicorn tights, fuzzy vests, fanny packs, you name it) while drinking, dancing, and drinking some more from sun up until … well, sun up again during a wicked 3-day northern front.  Bucketlust is a private boat charter/group vacation (primarily for the young wealthilites who have a smooth 10k to blow on a vacay), and boy were they entertaining.  Tiring, filthy, and loud at times, but still entertaining.  We also had a fantastic time feeding (and dodging) the rather aggressive Abacos swimming pigs at No Name Cay, celebrating Junkanoo with the locals at New Plymouth for New Years, even getting in on a little hand-stand throw-down at the Tipsy Turtle.  Fun video for you all here, with photos below, from our colorful stay at Green Turtle Cay.  Enjoy!

The entrance into White Sound at Green Turtle Cay was one of our most shallow, boasting a tide as low as 6 feet at low tide.  For this reason, we weighed anchor before dawn at Manjack Cay to take advantage of the high tide when coming into the White Sound entrance around 8:00 a.m.  And, thankfully, our planning and worrying paid off when we found we had a smooth 10 feet under our hull all the way through the channel.

A nice walk or jog fresh off the boat is one of our favorite ways to explore a new island.

Dinghying over to No Name Cay to check out the swimming piggies!

We got a real kick out of these guys.  While they definitely weren’t the cuddly, fuzzy, friendly pigs I had imagined (most were caked in dirt with matted eyes, with patches of lost fur), but they were sweet and hungry!  They hated selfies with Annie, though.  It got to be comical, every time I pulled my camera up in selfie mode, they literally would snort, groan, and turn away.  Every time.  No pig selfies for Annie.  : (

You’ll see in the video how these porkies nipped and clawed at us.  You really had to be careful when feeding them.  I started throwing huge chunks of bread at them to make them go away while Phillip got trampled near the dinghy!

Finally started cracking those coconuts we got from Manjack Cay!  I busted out our “fancy tools” for the job.

Happy 2018!!  We spent New Years Eve dining at the Green Turtle Club restaurant there near the marina.  It was fabulous!  And a very fun, intimate venue for the celebration!

Check out the moon!

Welcome to the Tipsy Turtle Bar!  We got a little tipsy in there on several occasions.  You gotta love a bar where the only “decor” is sailing pennants and dollar bills.

Getting Eddie the Rock’s fresh conch salad over in New Plymouth.  I was fascinated by this long-time conch harvester who could shell each conch in less than 10 seconds.  The first time I tried it (although I’m much better after our stay in the Berries), it took me five minutes.  But, I did get that little squirmy alien out without macerating the shell, which I’ve heard is better than some.  Can’t wait to share my first conch shelling with you guys.  Coming soon!

The Junkanoo menu at The Wrecking Tree.  Just our speed.

Pineapples is a tucked-away, quirky little bar that our buddy, Don, who lives on the huge m/v Status Quo on Spanish Cay told us about.  Honestly, it reminded us exactly of Paradise Inn out on Pensacola Beach back home.

These two are ready for a Junkanoo parade!  Junkanoo is an annual celebration in the Bahamas commemorating the three days the slaves used to be given off each year and they would sing and dance in colorful outfits and host an annual parade.  It was so cool to be there (inadvertently) at the same time they were all celebrating such a unique, local holiday.

The Bahamas in a blow.  Still beautiful.

Time to tuck in for some dinner at the best restaurant in all the Bahamas: s/v Plaintiff’s Rest!  I seriously am so lucky to live and travel with such an excellent chef.  Phillip rocks the galley.

Beautiful little beach on the north shore.

It was a drizzly, wet, windy couple of days at Green Turtle Cay, but we had been watching that front building and coming for about a week and were more than happy to be tucked in safe in White Sound for protection … and entertainment.  Green Turtle Cay Marina, as well as the restaurant there and the wonderful staff, did not disappoint.  GTC is a great place to spend a week in the Bahamas.

But, just remember, while we’re dressed like this … the Bucklust yAhOoS are dressed like this:

   

God love ‘em …  We hope you enjoyed our stay at GTC.  Next time we’ll take you out into the Atlantic through the notorious Whale Cay Passage over to Great Guana Cay for some wicked kitesurfing behind Nippers on the north shore and great food and walking trails on Guana Cay.  Stay tuned!

BV9 (VIDEO): Spanish Cay, “Zee Plane, Boss! Zee Plane!”

“I’ll bet seeing that from the air while making a landing on the runway wouldn’t be a very comforting sight,” Phillip mused as we motored our way over to it.  The dock master at Spanish Cay had given us some very good advice insisting we dive the sunken airplane on the other side of the island before leaving Spanish Cay.  “It’s just a few hundred feet out from where the runway ends,” he said.  Can you imagine being a pilot coming in and seeing the guy who came before you sunken in the water?  While that’s probably not how this plane got under the water (our guess is it was sunk as a fish and tourist attraction), I don’t think that would make me pucker any less seeing that sight from the air while coming in for a landing.  But, I’ll bet you would prefer to see it from under the sea.  So did we!  Take a trip with us folks, and dive a sunken airplane at Spanish Cay!  It’s an octopus’s garden in the sea!

Spanish Cay was certainly a fun stop.  This was the next place we stayed after our “holiday on the hook” at Pensacola Cay.  We stopped at Hog Cay, which is in between Pensacola and Spanish Cay (primarily because Pam Wall, love that gal, said “You have to see Hog Cay!) because Phillip had a hunch it would be a good snorkel spot.  And, boy was it.  I hope you all enjoyed our video from last week — Under the Sea at Hog Cay.  Pam Wall also said she and Andy wanted to buy one of the islands there.  And probably live forever on their boat with the palm trees.  I could totally see that!  Unfortunately, I had to send her a selfie with the main Hog Cay island I’m guessing they wanted behind me showing it was already happily occupied.  “Someone must have beat you to it, Pammy!” I texted her that day.

But I can see why Pam wanted to buy it.  Hog Cay was a beautiful little group of islands surrounded by shallow, shimmery water and it was the perfect day-stop before we made our way over to Spanish Cay.

When you first dabble into the northern Abacos, it’s difficult to decide where to go when and how long to stay.  Every island has a unique vibe and beauty to offer.  While Phillip and I try very hard to not cruise on a schedule, we are not full-time live-aboards (with no more work/home ties) yet, so we did need to spend just a day or two or four at whatever islands we stopped at to keep making way.

We were actually inspired, by another couple who had been anchored out at Pensacola Cay near us, to stop at Spanish Cay.  They left the day before us, on Christmas Day, and shouted across the water as they weighed anchor: “We’re headed off for a spa treatment.”  Meaning, they were planning to stay at the marina.  In cruiser-speak, that is spa treatment!  Give the boat a good wash down, fill the tanks, give ourselves a good wash down, eat out on the town.  That equates to spa in our salty book!  So, Phillip and I planned to pull the hook early the following morning, on December 26th, toodle over to Hog Cay and spend a few hours snorkeling, then make our way over to Spanish Cay for our spa night at the marina.  And Pam was right.  Hog Cay did not disappoint!

But, as with every other island we have visited so far in the Abacos, Spanish Cay was definitely memorable as well.  For many, many reasons: the perfectly quaint little marina, with crystal clear green water (it was hard at times to believe our keel wasn’t touching!).

The little tiki-hut bars around the pool area and other resort amenities (fun restaurant, bar, ping-pong, golf-carts for rent, etc.).

Lots of walking trails that allowed you to traverse pretty much the entire island shore to shore and get some great “just taking it all in” exercise.

Stunning shorelines on the Atlantic side!

  

That unmistakable Bahamas “putty sand” (or at least that’s what I call it).  It was funny how it’s so different from the sugar-white, crystal, quartz sand we have at home in Pensacola.  The sand in the Bahamas almost feels like play-doh.

Fantastic little sunset seating where we watched the sun go down (and enjoyed coffee and a little “work time” the next morning) … when the flies and gnats weren’t eating us alive.

  

Perfect view of the sunset from our cockpit (the view is always the best from the stern of Plaintiff’s Rest).

Not to mention the super-scary “marina watchdog” at the marina office.  Her name was actually Lady Elizabeth (or something equally regal) and she would grunt and scuttle her way over to anyone who walked in the door and looked capable of giving her a belly rub!

And the actual-scary nurse shark that patrolled the marina daily, zipping in and out under our boat, looking for dinner.  He was definitely on the hunt!  And, he was definitely not getting any belly rubs from this shark-savvy sailor.   I know they don’t want anything to do with me, but I’ll leave them to patrol their waters without an edible Annie in the mix – ha!

And while the sunken airplane—which we motored over to, anchored near, and dove the next day before heading off to Powell Cay—was definitely a highlight of Spanish Cay for us, I can easily say it was not the single memory that sticks out.  Donnie does.

As we motored up to Spanish Cay, checking our charts and looking at the landmarks to make a safe entrance into the marina, we noticed this triple-decker, white mega-yacht docked at the marina.  We literally saw this big white boat on the horizon well before we could actually make out that it was the marina, and it was the last big, white blob on the horizon that we saw as we left Spanish Cay in our wake the next day.  That white water mansion could be seen for miles.  Once we docked at the marina and got a look at her we could see it was a multi-million-dollar, three-story super yacht parked at the end of the dock at Spanish Cay.  Status Quo it was called.

Phillip and I mused that it must be some mega-millionaire who keeps his boat there and flies in once a year to spend a few weeks in the Bahamas, leaving the rest of its time on the water to the hard-working crew.  We had seen this a lot.  Massive, luxury yachts that are handled, cleaned, cared for, and prepped by captains and usually a handful of staff to make sure every surface of the boat gleaned, and every locker and fridge was filled with the finest wines, liquors, and foods, for when the owner and friends arrived.  After Phillip and I cleaned up and eyed the yacht while walking up for dinner at Wreckers, we wondered whether the owner was in the Bahamas and on-board now or whether the captain and crew would be “playing owner” tonight just for fun.

We had asked earlier that day when we checked in about making a reservation there at the marina restaurant that night for dinner, and the gal at the front desk replied, “Let me see if she’s planning to cook dinner tonight.”  While this might seem odd in the states—a restaurant that is seemingly open but they are merely debating “whether or not to cook tonight”—this was a perfectly reasonable explanation in the Bahamas.  Everything runs on island time there.  Stores are not just open every day 9-5 like they are at home.  Grocery stores don’t always have all the food items you want.  The water does not always work.  The restrooms and laundry facilities don’t always work.  But, it is always beautiful and the people are always (open, stocked, working or not) super friendly and glad that you’re there.  What is always guaranteed is a good time and usually a good island story to boot.  This was ours from Spanish Cay

I believe her name was Nita, but don’t hold me to that, or any Bahamian cruiser reading this, feel free to correct me, but she was the wonderfully joyful cook at Wrecker’s Bar and we were in luck.  Because she was agreeable to coming to cook for us that evening at the restaurant.  But, that meant Nita was going to have to come back that evening by boat and she needed to wrap up dinner and get back home where she lived (it sounded like Little Bahamas Island) again by boat at a decent hour.  Trying to accommodate this (as Phillip and I would normally eat dinner around 7:00 or 7:30 p.m.), we made a reservation for 6:00 p.m.  The marina gal wrote it down, but caught us later while walking around the resort and asked if we could “do 5:30” to make it easier on Nita and we said “Sure.”

“Guess we’ll be getting the early bird special tonight,” Phillip joked as we made our way back to the boat to get cleaned up for our big night out.

Now, I have mentioned this here on the blog a time or two and it’s no secret—Phillip will readily admit it—but between the two of us, he is by far the Shower Diva.  As you can clearly tell from our photos, Phillip is a polished, put-together, quite-stylish guy and that just doesn’t happen by magic!  He has a pretty extensive shower routine he likes to indulge (particularly when we’ve opted for “spa treatment”).  It always reminds me of McCauley in his one-hit wonder where he claims to have “cleaned very nook, every cranny.”

My shower routine is more along the lines of an elephant going through a carwash.   “I’ll take the scrub and shine, with the buff at the end.”  As a result, I usually get back to the boat well before Phillip does even though we leave at the same time to head to the marina showers.  That day was no different, but as I was passing the marina office, the office gal stopped me again to let me know Nita was there and ready to cook whenever we could join for dinner.  It was 5:17 p.m.  I hadn’t even had my two happy hour cocktails or my usual happy hour snack yet.  But, I didn’t want to hold Nita up since she had come all this way just to cook us a dinner, Phillip and I being the only boat (other than the monstrous Status Quo at the end of the dock, seemingly sitting empty) at the marina at the time.  But, as I sat and waited for Phillip to come back from the shower, Nita sat, as well, and waited quite visibly for us.  She appeared to be a jolly, older black woman, and she was sitting on a bench seat in front of the restaurant facing our boat.  Just sitting.  Watching.  Waiting on us.

I decided to take my first drink below while Phillip made his way back.  I pointed Nita out to him through the cabin windows when he arrived and told him I thought we should probably move our little spa party to the restaurant as soon as possible.  “Fine by me,” Phillip said throwing on some flops.  “I’m ready for a Nita feast anytime.”

The minute we stepped off the boat, Nita popped up off her bench seat and made her way around to the back of the restaurant.  When Phillip and I came in and pulled up some stools at the bar, Nita was quick to hand us some menus and ask us what we would like to drink.  While she poured us our first round of white wine, Phillip and I watched a catamaran make their way into the dock (because as we all know, the most entertaining thing to do at a marina is watch other boaters come in) and started to get curious whether we’d soon have two other cruisers joining Nita and us for dinner.  As Phillip and I meandered around the little bar, looking at all the pennants, signed t-shirts, old photos from fishing tournaments, and other nautical trinkets you often see pinned around marina bars (well not just specific to the Bahamas, but anywhere, really), we heard a booming voice erupt from the kitchen.

“Well ahoy, sailors!” a jolly middle-aged fella said, coming up from behind the bar and pulling the cork out of the wine bottle Nita had started for us and topping our glasses off.  “I like your sloop,” he said.  Ours being the only sloop sailboat (and the only boat of three actually) at the marina, this wasn’t too wild of a stretch that he knew we were the sailors on the Niagara.  “Donnie’s the name,” he said as he stuck out a pink meaty paw to shake ours.  This, too, was not unexpected in the islands: bartenders introducing themselves.  Everyone introduced themselves: dockhands, waiters, charter boat captains, dive boat captains, marina staff, the guy making you a conch salad on the side of the road.  That’s one thing we love about the islands.  No one is in a hurry, and no one is too busy or important to extend a hand and give yours a shake.  And, boy did Donnie have a good shake.

“So what you looking to get for dinner?” Donnie asked, and we both just assumed he worked the restaurant, or just the bar perhaps.  You could never tell.  But, it was clear Nita was now getting things ready back in the kitchen and Donnie was now here to happily serve us.  We started to poke down through the menu as the other couple from the catamaran made their way in and bellied up to the bar, an older couple (as is often the case with Phillip and I) but they seemed more at home at the Wrecker’s Bar and Donnie obviously recognized them and welcomed them in as old-timers.  Donnie watched as Phillip and I eyed the menu and started food bartering as we often do:“Do you want to get two salads, and we’ll split an entree or are you wanting a whole entree to yourself?”  “Okay, one salad, now the blackened grouper or the fish sandwich?”  And it seemed Donnie then could no longer hold back:

“You want my advice?” he asked with a grin.  He seemed a wise, long-time Bahamian local type, which is always the kind of advice we want.  “I’ll just go ahead and admit it,” Donnie said with a smile and no hint of an ego.  “I’ve got the best conch fritters in all the Bahamas.”  Phillip and I probably smirked a little, because that was a pretty bold statement, but it did not deter Donnie.  “Yep.  All of them.  And I can easily say that because I am a meat master.  I know what makes conch fritters good.  Do you?”  Phillip and I sat completely stumped but excited to hear more from the charismatic Donnie.

“They gotta be tender, see?” he said, making a kind of pulling motion with his fingers, like he was pulling strings apart.  “Conch, when it comes out of the shell, is tough as shit.  And, while beating it with a hammer,” Donnie said while re-enacting a vicious hammer beating on the bar, “can help, it’s not going to really tenderize it.”  Back to the pulling motion, “No, you need a machine that cuts into the meat and pulls it apart, that can make holes in it, so you can fill it with juice and batter.  That’s how you make good conch fritters.”  Donnie let just enough silence sit in the air until I—ever the curious one—asked the question it appeared he loved to get and loved to answer.”

“What kind of machine?” I asked, and that kicked off the entire thing.  Donnie began a rather colorful, entertaining diatribe where he described he and his family long-standing operation of raising and selling chickens out of west Texas.  Donnie said while they used to have a “whole hut of Mexicans” who would spend their day knifing and pulling and tenderizing the chicken meat, Donnie and his brother eventually invented a meat tenderizing machine “with hundreds of tiny teeth” Donnie described, his hands propped up on his generous belly looking like little claws going at each other.  He and his brother would then run the chicken breasts through their nifty meat-tenderizing machine and they would come out fully-tenderized on the other side, perfect for breading and frying.  As Donnie told his colorful tale, he was often topping our wine glasses up, taking down both our order and that of the catamaran couple across the way, who were equally caught up in his chicken tenders story.

Donnie also happily served us our meals when they came out.  Phillip immediately ordered the cracked conch when Donnie said his was the best in the Bahamas (I mean, why doubt him?) and I ordered the grouper which was coated in what the menu said was “Spanish Cay sauce” which Donnie promptly told me was “a stick of butter, white wine and lemon.”  Sold!  And boy was it good.  Donnie took great care to make sure we, only the four of us in the entire restaurant that night, had whatever napkins and cutlery we needed, topped-off our water and wine glasses, and even offered us free dessert in the form of Nita’s special “raisin cake.”  I would say it might be one regret of the evening that we didn’t take him up on the cake, but we were so stuffed from the conch and grouper and wine.  Donnie was right.  Phillip and I have since had cracked conch four or five times in the Bahamas, and Donnie’s is still easily (hands down and miles apart) the best.  It is tender and soft and the batter, very light, seems to be literally a part of the meat.  It’s not conch surrounded by batter.  They become one and the heavenly-same.

But, as Donnie continued his story about the meat-tenderizing machine and what they used it for, I started to sense his machine had been a much bigger, national hit than he was letting on.  Words like “Dairy Queen, Wal-Mart, and Tyson,” started to slip out as his main purchasers.  As we finished up dinner and Donnie could see that Nita had pleased us all and could get back home at a reasonable time to her family (it was probably just a little after 7:00 p.m. at this point), he then cleaned away our dishes, ran our cards, and handed both couples our checks.  He bid us all a wonderful evening, told us to enjoy our stay at Spanish Cay and he then came around from behind the bar, with the remainder of the third bottle of white he had just opened for us in his hand, said he had to get back to his “little boat,” and walked out the door.

Phillip and I started to chuckle with the other couple, exchanging equal sentiments about what a fun night it had been and what a memorable experience.  I then made a comment that he was one of the best bartenders we’d had so far in the Abacos and the other couple laughed.  Apparently the catamaran couple had been stopping here often in Spanish Cay during their usual three-month visit to the Abacos each year and they knew Donnie.  “Oh, he’s not just the bartender.  He owns the whole place,” as they waved their hands around the bar.  “Runs it like he’s serving family.  And he lives on Status Quo out there.”

And, sure enough, as Phillip and I were meandering down the dock back to our “actual little boat”—our heads swimming a little from the wine, the succulent conch and butter, and the congenial atmosphere that had immersed us at Spanish Cay—we saw Donnie walking toward his “little boat,” drinking straight from the bottle and singing to himself.

All night long, we’d been sitting at the bar and Donnie, the mega-millionaire, who lives on a three-story monster, luxury yacht, had been happily waiting on us.  Bringing us dishes and napkins and repeatedly filling our glasses.  He didn’t even charge us for half the  stuff, just a glass of wine each.  I guess technically it was just one glass each, but he kept refilling it.  The world needs more people like Donnie.  That’s about the happiest, humble millionaire I’ve ever met.

And that was our wild night at the Wrecker and a most memorable evening at Spanish Cay.  Just one of a dozen others we are piling up each day.  Now this crew is off to dive a sunken airplane right off the edge of the tarmac!  I’ll bet that wouldn’t give any pilot flying in the sky a good feeling about landing there.  But, we were excited to see what awaited us beneath!  Hope you are all enjoying the content and videos.  The Bahamas, and Donnie and his meat-tenderizing machine, have definitely been treating us right!

BV1: Packing, Weather Planning & Passage Day One

On the first day of packing, my Captain gave to me (must be sung in true partridge manner): “A spare bilge pump for the aft cubb-beeey!” Okay, so the packing took WAY more than twelve days, but we’ll get back to that bilge pump just you wait.  ; )

Ahoy HaveWind followers!  I’m so excited to start sharing tales from our Bahamas Voyage with you.  When Phillip and I make plans and start setting our sights on foreign shores, it always ignites in us a flame of excitement that burns all while we’re doing the 1,243 chores that have to be done to fully prepare the boat, ourselves, our co-workers, family and friends, our budget, and, more importantly, the boat (even more!) for the trip.  At first it’s just a flicker, that gets brighter and hotter as we near our departure date, but I can always feel it, roaring like a furnace when we’re finally out there—off on our voyage, underway, and I can take a thousand pictures but it will never do it justice.  “It’s all right here,” Phillip and I say, as we tap on our temples.  But, for you all, it’s all right here, on the HaveWind blog as I share with you our voyage, our adventures, our worries and concerns and lessons learned as we sail to the Bahamas.  First up?  Bahamas Voyage One (“BV1”): Packing, planning and weather routing (as this all plays such a huge role in when we leave and how prepared we are when we do) and our first day on passage.

As you know, our planning for this voyage began early this summer when Phillip and I made an extensive list of all the boat chores we needed to accomplish before we would feel our boat was as ready as possible to spend a winter island hopping.  Fun recap of our summer chores for you here. Once the chores were done, the next step was packing and provisioning the boat.  That means stocking the boat with the necessary supplies, tools, fluids, spares, etc. to efficiently repair, troubleshoot and maintain her both while we were underway if necessary and then more extensively as we stop from port to port.  Boat projects never stop.  Even when you’re cruising.  Or, more accurately put, especially when you’re cruising because if you’re actually using the boat day to day, you’re likely spotting more issues ahead of time and you’re more inclined to jump on repairs, leaks, squeaks, etc. to keep your boat and, more importantly, your cruise going!  I’ve put together an extensive list of our boat supplies inventories if you find it helpful here.

While we have certain cubbies we often use for boat fluids (i.e., the propane locker in the cockpit and a locker under the aft berth because they are fully-sealed and will not allow toxic fluids, if spilled, to leak to the bilge), one very big difference we made in our stowage plans this year has already proven super helpful, and I will give the credit to our hearty French Captain from our Atlantic-crossing in 2016: Yannick!

Yeah … that guyHe’s funny.  Like a clown.  And he likes Joe Pesci. 

 On Yannick’s 46’ Soubise Freydis, in his “captain’s berth” (the starboard gunnel), he had an entire shelf system as well as a deep compartment under his vberth where Yannick had filled Tupperware after Tupperware bin with every kind of boat supply imaginable: tapes, glues, Loctite, sewing kits, electrical repair kits, heat shrink, odds and end hoses, epoxy kits, varnish and sandpaper kits, etc.  I could go on.  But, each bin was filled with certain types of materials and labeled accordingly: “Tapes & Adhesives,” “Electrical,” etc.  And it turned out to be a super-efficient way to pull the necessary tools and supplies for a particular job.  So, upon examining our boat this year to find better ways to stow and stash supplies such as this, Phillip found ourselves eyeing a very convenient locker under our own vberth that I believed could serve a very similar Yannick-inspired purpose.  It is this locker here:

It is the access to our macerator thru-hull and our previous owner had built a very sturdy shelf in the locker to stow gallon water jugs on.  While we had followed suit for years and stowed water there as well, we found they sloshed around and sometimes punctured and they also took on the slight smell of macerator hose.  Not my favorite flavor of water : (.  But now we had an entire empty section for what I was now going to call our “Supplies Cubby.”  We measured and were able to easily fit four rather large Tupperwares in this section labeled: 1)   Tapes &  Adhesives, 2) Epoxy, 3) Electrical, and 4) Engine Spares.

This has already proven to be a very accessible, very organized compartment to store the many, many boat supplies we access often while cruising.  So, thank you Yannick!

Another revelation while we were packing this year: The locker in our aft berth that is fully-sealed can fit not only the spare two gallons of diesel oil (in addition to the one in our propane locker and in our oil-change kit in the hanging locker), as well as spare transmission fluid, outboard oil and Sea Foam but also (and I kid you not), six additional bags of wine.  Six.  Wow.  That’s what?  24 bottles of wine!  Two cases?!  I love bagged wine.  Have I mentioned that?  With the first six stowed, the other six were easy.  Ha!

They also fit nicely around the aft locker compartment just forward of that one which houses our starting battery and MPPT controllers for our solar panels.  That was a lot of heavy, spillable weight stowed aft and low and, for the most part, in lockers that would contain the spill if any.  Although we desperately hoped for no wine spillage on the trip.  (Okay, or oil spillage … I guess that stuff’s important too ; ).

One of our goals in packing and provisioning the boat this time was to find new, previously-unused cubbies and compartments of the boat that were being under-utilized.  In addition to the new “supplies cubby” under the vberth, we also decided this time to stow as many soft, light goods as we could under the very large compartments under the vberth.  Trust me, I can fit completely inside the larger bin.  See?

I spent a lot of time personally in these when we were in the shipyard both painting every square inch of the bilge (which I can still report is a clean, sanitary Bilge-Kote grey in virtually every locker I look … sniff … ahhh) and in glassing in the anchor chain locker to run the anchor runoff water rather than anonymously to the bilge to mingle and mask other potential leaks but, rather, to our new sump box.

Any of you who have seen our shipyard videos know what a monster chore the sump box was.  Not the most difficult project of the re-fit, mind you, but still a very extensive project to capture and route water from five different sources and channel it to the sump box, then plumb the sump box to pump overboard via the head sink.  But, one of the absolute benefits of doing this, particularly with regard to the anchor chain runoff was that funneling the anchor water through a hose to the sump box would make each of the three very large, very useful compartments under the vberth now dry storage areas as opposed to wet.  Thank you Sump Box!

For this reason, and to continue our efforts to move weight aft and low on the boat, Phillip and I decided to use the two rather sizeable cubbies under the vberth mattress directly aft of the anchor chain locker for stowing spare halyards and lines, spare sails (our storm sail, namely) and canvas, as well as spare domestic soft goods (e.g., quilts, blankets, long johns and foulies that would be needed for the cold voyage across the Gulf, but not after we reached the Bahamas).  Then it’s strictly bikini time, baby!  We also fit many additional work sheets and work towels in there, a spare set of sheets for the vberth, as well as two kites, two wetsuits and my aerial silks.  I told you it was a big compartment.  We decided to use vacuum bags for stowing these items both to shrink them to reduce space and to protect them as well in case there was an unexpected leak in these compartments.  I put a post up on Facebook about these bags and most seemed to love them; however, several followers said their seals often failed or they were somehow compromised and they “puffed back up again.”  Phillip and I will let you know after the season if we experience this as well.  So far, we are super pleased with the ease of use and utility of the vacuum bags.

Other areas we found we were able to use for food and supplies storage were three cubbies under the central floorboard in the saloon.

We also noticed two forward cubbies that we eventually plan to add a few L-brackets and a fiddle of wood (to prevent items in the bin from slipping down into the bilge) which will convert those to storage cubbies as well.  All in due time.  Phillip also had the very good idea to buy a box of the super industrial strength black contractor dumpster bags and we wrapped many food items with the potential to spill (or explode) in these in hopes of containing spills in case any cans, bottles, bags, etc. became punctured and started to leak.  This proved an exceptional idea as we contained several spills we found after crossing the Gulf, one of which was four exploding beer cans in a contractor bag in the port lazarette that contained every drop of that stinky beer.  Thank you Hefty Bags!

What’s next?  I know, I know.  The packing and provisioning can get a little tedious.  And, Phillip and I truly did spend the better part of the month before departure double-checking lists of necessary fluids, spares, supplies, food, drinks, etc. to make sure we had in fact packed everything we needed and wanted for the trip and it’s a darn good thing we did because—as it always tends to happen—as you get into the handful of days or weeks before your trip, emergency-type errands come up, or friends and family you haven’t seen in a while confess they simply can’t let you go without a goodbye dinner, or whatever other agenda item you can imagine that will occupy your time crops up and, if you’re not already packed and ready, you can suddenly feel overwhelmed.  Phillip and I actually had some very consuming, stressful work things we had to handle in the weeks before we left and had we not spent months preparing for our departure before-hand, I would have pulled a couple clumps of hair out I’m sure.  Luckily for Phillip, he has no hair.

The last items on the list were, of course, food, food and more food.

  

While Phillip and I had created and maintained a very tedious digital inventory of food for our Cuba passage (completely cubby-located and word-searchable), to be honest, we found trying to keep up with this (by pulling out the computer and crossing off every single can, packet or pouch used as it was used) proved far too tedious.  We decided this time rather than choose what you would like to eat before-hand, instead we’re going to play the “food lottery.”  Now, we simply choose the locker we’re going to eat out of, and it’s like a smattering of random Christmas groceries that you now have to get creative with and make a nice meal out of.  It’s really rather fun, and we’ve been excited each time we open a new locker (or look behind a new box or bag) and find something we bought and packed long ago that we’d been excited to eat for months.  “Ooh, the laughing cow cheese!  Hell yeah!” Annie squealed often.  That and Sriracha peas were always a squeal-worthy find in my book.  As a hint, however, we have since had another cruising friend tell us they used taped notes in the interior door or lid of each locker with each food item listed and they scratched it off on the pad as they remove an item.  I can see this working far better, although some lids are harder to lift and write on than others and some of our compartments would have a list 182 items long.

I’m not kidding.

Speaking of (and last mention of packing, I promise, although it is quite important!) where did 75% of ALL of our non-perishable food items go??  This was a new place for us to discover and utilize and I was shocked (stunned actually) at the sheer quantity of food this one compartment swallowed whole with a mere shrug.  Pssshhh … that’s all you got?  Where is this magic black hole food cubby on Plaintiff’s Rest?  Under our port settee.  This is an area we have never used before and we would have never thought to have used it had we not replaced our starboard water tank this past summer.

Having done so and (as many of you know) having spent weeks wrestling, cursing, kicking and squeezing our new water tank back in place next to our diesel tank under the starboard settee, we became very familiar with the space and size of the cubbies located under each of our saloon settees.  Once we saw we could fit many long spare hoses and pieces of wood and starboard (“construction materials” we call these) by the starboard water tank, I started to wonder what else we could fit all around the portside water tank.  75% of our food, that’s what.  I’m serious.  We packed the shit out of this compartment.  It’ll be Food Christmas in there till 2019.  Now, we did Ziploc EVERYthing.

Even anything already bagged or even double-bagged.  We omitted as much cardboard and packaging as we could (keeping the identifying information and cooking instructions) and, by doing this, the compartment under our portside settee now houses the majority of our food stores for the entire winter.  We darn sure aren’t going to starve (or want for Spam!) in the Bahamas!  We also weren’t going to run out of Irish Spring or Arm & Hammer toothpaste (Annie’s favorite) either.  We packed probably four months’ worth of toiletries (including paper towels and toilet paper, mostly in the hanging locker) aboard, as well as a huge bag of travel-size toiletries as goodie giveaways for the locals (in exchange for fresh-caught fish, we were told : ).

Alright, so with the non-perishable packing complete, the last stop was one to the farmer’s market (Bailey’s in Pensacola is phenomenal) for a bunch of the heartiest produce we could find (beets, carrots, cabbage, spaghetti squash, onions, apples, potatoes, etc.) which we wrapped and labeled in brown paper bags and stuffed along the shelves of our aft berth, our produce hammock and the bookshelves in the saloon, being careful to stow onions and bananas far away from the other produce so as not to speed their ripening).  We intended to get non-refrigerated eggs, which we like to have aboard (just remember to rotate them upside down once a week), but apparently the chickens we usually get them from didn’t have a productive winter.  But c’est la vie.  With the non-perishables, the rest of the wine and mixers and the alcohol finally aboard (8 handles of various rums, vodka, gin, and Kahlua, primarily in the port lazarette in a contractor’s Hefty bag), we simply had to cram three weeks’ worth of clothes on the boat and go.

So, once the boat is ready to go, what’s next?  Do you just go?  Whatever day you want to?  Tell all your family and friends and have them all planning to come to the dock for a big send-off?  Unfortunately (and I’ll admit Pam Wall was the first to tell us this), this usually never works out well and can often put you in a very tight pinch trying to pick a departure date in advance and stick to it.  Pam always advised us not to tell friends and family specifically when you expect to leave or arrive as it will inadvertently create a schedule that will stress everyone if it is not met.  Once you’re ready to go, you then have to look for (AND WAIT FOR) the right weather window.

Most cruisers understand this and won’t expect you to state before-hand what date specifically you are planning to leave or when you’re planning to arrive in port.  Family, friends and co-workers, however, who worry about you taking to the high seas, often struggle with a flexible plan, but trying to alter your schedule or commit to a window that’s not as favorable to perhaps ease their fears or fulfill promises perhaps in hindsight you feel you shouldn’t have made, may force you to leave on a day that is not the best for your voyage plans.  I know I’ve preached this before, but I do so because Phillip and I made this very mistake on our first offshore voyage and it cost us considerably, so it is worth repeating.  If you’ve read Salt of a Sailor, you’ll know what I’m talking about: A SCHEDULE IS THE MOST DANGEROUS THING YOU CAN HAVE ON A SAILBOAT.  Friends, family and co-workers simply have to learn that departure and arrival dates must remain flexible and weather-dependent.  Keep training them, and you’ll have better cruising days ahead, I promise.  Never try to sail according to a schedule.

So, Phillip and I had planned (weather permitting!) to leave on Saturday Dec. 9th.  It was ironically going to be a very fortuitous date to leave as the big “work thing” I mentioned that we had to take care of took place on Dec. 7th (so getting that behind us was a big “Whew!”) and then our buddy Brandon with www.PerdidoSailor.com was having his big annual Christmas party on Friday, Dec. 8th.  Can you say Happy Holiday Sendoff for Plaintiff’s Rest?!  Hell yeah!  And with a tacky Christmas Sweater Contest and an often rowdy and risqué Dirty Santa exchange to boot?  We were stoked.  What a way to go!  Roll that delightfully-tacky footage!

 

Seriously, I found a sweater with a unicorn vomiting sprinkles.  Can you GET any tackier (or awesome)??  The answer is no.

Good times, right?  Our joke that night, when everyone and their dog asked when we were planning to leave, was “As soon as we sober up from this party!”  Ha!  (You see?  Keep it vague.  Then there’s no commitments.)  Although I will note our buddy Kevin, a fabulous Pensacola broker who helped us find our beloved Niagara, said, in response to that and in all earnest: “Oh, that’ll be Sunday then.”  Turns out he was right.  But, not because of our hangovers.  (Pssshhh … I never get hangovers.  What are those?!).  It’s because the weather window wasn’t right.  But, a word on weather predictions.

They are just that.  Predictions.  Often close, often off, and just as reliable as you would surmise any “prediction” to be.  Now, while they do get more reliable the closer you get to your ETD, they still are not fool-proof and we have often found their predicted strength of the wind is often 5 kts less than it should be in the Gulf and often 20-30 degrees off on the direction.  That is almost to a “T” what we experienced this time.  So, feel free to weather route along with us.  This is the window we were looking at if we left on Saturday Dec. 9th.  There was a front that was passing through and we were hoping to catch a nice few days of north wind on the back side to ride across the Gulf.

 

Looks a little gnarly huh?  That’s what we thought.  Jumping out in 20-25 knots of “stuff” didn’t sound like the best way to make the passage.  But, we did debate leaving Saturday afternoon (from our dock that wouldn’t put us out in the Gulf, actually experiencing offshore conditions for another 6-7 hours), so around 10:00 p.m.  The forecast then seemed to show a bit of heavy winds (20-25) decreasing to 18-23 after midnight then to 15-20 over the course of Sunday morning and even lighter Sunday afternoon.  That sounded like a pretty good window to ride the last of the front.  We were expecting some light winds the first few days and a potential front that would pass over us about mid-way across the Gulf but it looked like 15-20 kt winds, all on the stern with following seas, so that seemed doable.  From my experience, at least, if you’re planning to cross the Gulf in one passage, which is a great experience, it’s likely, if you’re going to get any “good wind” at all, you’re probably also going to run into some “stuff” (and by that I mean 15-25 kt winds potentially) either at the beginning, somewhere in the middle, or at the end.  Otherwise, you might be looking at three days of glass, which is beautiful, but as sailors, we’re not too keen on three days of motoring.  It’s just rare to see five straight days of steady winds, holding speed and direction.  While we never intentionally choose to sail in dangerous weather, a predicted 15-25 (which could be less or more) on the stern with following seas is a circumstance we were willing to accept for an expected fun, sporty sail across the Gulf.

With our window chosen, we spent one last lavish evening at the condo with Chef Phillippe whipping us up an exquisite bacon-indulgent cassoulet.  YUM.

We then woke bright and early Sunday morning carrying our last packs to the boat. Bahamas-bound Annie was actually excited to be donning her fashionable offshore bib.  Who doesn’t love overalls?

 

One sure-fire sign it was high time to leave Pensacola and sail south?  There was ice on the boat.  A light frost had fallen on Pensacola that evening and we had to crack everything on the deck apart to get the boat going.

 

Phillip tossing our last line!

We had kept a heat light on in the engine room to keep Westie warm and he purred right up.  Annie de-docked like a champ and soon we were on our way.  Our boat fully packed, our lists crossed off and nothing but big blue water ahead.  That is one of my favorite feelings.  The stress of preparing for the voyage seems to melt off and pull back toward shore, like fingers once gripped, now leaving your shoulders.  Ahhh …

And, remember those 18-23 kts of wind, predicted to lay down on Sunday afternoon?  Well, it seemed they decided to take a nap early, because by the time we got out in the Gulf—around noon on