Reason No. 1: My GoPro Broke Our First Day in the Bahamas.
Why is that a good thing? Because it was the universe telling me to just live in the moment—to see, taste, and feel it, rather than film it. Ahoy crew! Now that Phillip and I have completed our Bahamas cruise and tucked in safe for hurricane season, I’m excited to share all of the fun stories and photos from our incredible Bahamas voyage with you all here on the blog. I decided—as a fitting birthday tribute (this little sailor turned a proud 37 on May 28th : )—to first share the 37 highs and lows that Phillip and I have agreed made this last voyage to the Bahamas our best trip yet. The reasons might surprise you. Remember: it’s usually not the cocktails and sunsets you remember the most.
No. 2: We Had a Great Send-Off
- Our friends in Pensacola are keepers, I will tell you that. Brandon made (try to wrap your head around this) bacon-wrapped, beer-battered onion rings along with a massive rack of ribs, well mainly just as a Saturday BBQ—that man loves to grill—but Phillip and I commandeered it as our “send-off feast” and it was incredible! Our buddy (and original boat broker, who helped us find our Niagara 35), Kevin, also brought us a nice bottle of champagne (complete with its own boat bubble packing!), and we had one rip-roaring last hoorah at our favorite Ft. McRee anchorage before leaving. Yes, those glasses do say “Party Rock!”
No. 3: We Had Two Captains Aboard
- Double the knowledge, experience, and credentials; double the ease of cruising. Nuff said. With both of us now equally capable of steering, navigating, AND docking, Phillip and I both felt an increased sense of confidence when we left the dock in April.
No. 4: We Had Plenty of Wine
No. 5: We Had Plenty of Storage Space for Said Wine
No. 6: We Scored on Salsa!
- Yes, salsa is serious on our boat. I always prefer it at room temp (and, yes, I have eaten a whole jar in one sitting to enjoy the full-warm goodness before it went into the flavor-sucking hole that is the fridge. We also always try to reduce foods we bring on the boat that have to be refrigerated, so when we found these perfect single-serving sized cans at Wal-Mart that taste like they were just chopped on a beach-side salsa stand, we were stoked! These guys made for a wonderfully-tasty treat often on Plaintiff’s Rest and we were able to reduce trash by throwing the cans overboard when we were underway offshore! Win-win. What do you say? “Arriba!!”
No. 7: We Got Lucky (on a Weather-Window)
- While Phillip and I both often readily agree it is rare to find a perfect “good” downwind five-day weather window across the Gulf, we did find a rather peachy four-day one that suited us just fine. While our first day out of the gate was a bit sporty, I’m excited to tell you in a future post how well our baby girl performed in 20 knots of wind (albeit on the stern—my favorite kind) and 6-8 (sometimes 10) foot seas. It was a romp. Whew!
No. 8: Despite a Last-Minute Breakdown, Lord Nelson Held the Entire Time
- This is my next story coming up on the blog: Auto Turn Notto: The Problem That Almost Prevented Our Departure. It’s quite an interesting saga. It never ceases to amaze me how often massive problems (the auto-pilot is not working) are caused by the tiniest of conditions (a bolt is not tightened or a connection is loose, for example). But, Phillip and I certainly learned a ton about our hydraulic auto-pilot in the process, and we hope you will too. After solving this problem—we *hope*—we now have Lord Nelson running in a condition that will last us ten more years of cruising. That was our hope when he had Brandon with Perdido Sailor help us install him during our extended stay in the shipyard back in 2016.
No. 9: We Left Under the Most Beautiful Sunrise I Have Ever Photographed
No. 10: We Had Another Successful, Safe Gulf-Crossing
- Crossing the Gulf of Mexico is no friggin’ joke. Phillip and I have told many, many cruisers that, despite our multiple Atlantic-Ocean crossings, the Gulf still ranks as one of the most gnarly bodies of water we have crossed, often packing the worst punch. We have spent too many a day and night bashing and crashing across the Gulf. So, anytime we have a successful, no damage, no injuries crossing of the Gulf of Mexico, we will happily and unapologetically celebrate it. Ahhhh ...
No. 11: We Were Only in Foulies for One Day
- Previous Gulf-Crossings, particularly those undertaken in November or December have seen us in stinky, sweaty fouls for days. Yuck! Phillip and I were thrilled this time, leaving later in the year (April), to start pulling off those foul (in many ways) layers, just north of Tampa!
No. 12: We Got in a Massive Fight in Bimini
- Doesn’t sound like a good thing, does it? Well it’s not when you’re in the thick of it. But, if you come out stronger and closer on the other side, it’s worth it. Couples have to fight occasionally to let the steam out and regroup. I had made a stupid error in my lat-lon navigation trying to help Phillip (who was holding the helm at the time) into the entrance to Bimini (bad on me) but Phillip responded with a comment that cut me to the core (bad on him). And, it doesn’t need to be repeated. It wasn’t an expletive, just hurtful. But, the upside was my response. While I usually swallow that hurt down, trying not to “rock the boat” so to speak, I knew Phillip and I had many tight-quarter days ahead on the boat, so I spoke up and let it out so we could vent and heal and it was the right decision. I’m getting better at this adult stuff, I’m telling you!
No. 13: We Got Stuck in Bimini
- Again, doesn’t sound like a good thing, right? For Phillip and I—who really like to stay on the move when we’re cruising, staying usually only 2-3 days in one place before moving onto the next—a forced five-day stay in one place can be a bit of a bugger. Buuuuttt, that is only true when there’s no wind there or no good place to kite. If it’s blowing like stink for days and we have the ability to kite, Phillip and I are happy to park it and get on that wind. We spent three glorious days in a row kiting the snot out of 20-25+ winds in Bimini. It was awesome!
No. 14: We Failed (Initially) at Fishing …
- Shouldn’t sound like a good thing, either? No “fish on” to shout about. For the first week of our cruising, when we were doing most of our offshore voyaging and expecting to catch most of our fish, Phillip and I didn’t catch a damn thing. Those crafty fish stole lure after lure, laughing at us the entire time. But, it was this extended fish failure that made our first catch that much sweeter.
No. 15: Then We Caught Our Biggest Mahi Ever!
- It was glorious. That beautiful bounty of the sea fed us six times over, three filets a piece. I’m not kidding. Neptune rewarded our initial failed attempts in droves.
No. 16: The Weather Forced Us to a New Place
- Morgan’s Bluff! Have any of you been there? While Phillip and I were not sure whether we were going to stop in Andros this year, as the Exumas were certainly calling (and while I would not call it a “schedule” per se, as commuter cruisers, we do have limited time and have to make destination decisions accordingly), the weather made the decision for us. Coming into the Northwest Providence Channel, the wind turned more southeast than we anticipated and began building to 18 and upwards—not a comfortable wind speed on the nose on our boat. So, it was either beat into that all the way to the Exumas or tuck in at Morgan’s Bluff, a place we knew nothing about but that brought us one of our most memorable moments of the entire trip:
No. 17: We Ate Our First Dilly (It’s Kind of a Big Dilly-yo)
- This was such an unexpected and eye-opening experience. While Morgan’s Bluff does not have much to offer if you just dinghy to shore—a pretty beach and one little bar—Phillip and I were lucky enough to find a local to hire to drive us around the entire island and give us a three-hour tour (that, thankfully, did not leave us shipwrecked!). Kanendra, the dock master there at Morgan’s Bluff, along with her daughter, Diamond, took us around and showed us the cave where Captain Morgan allegedly hid his treasures, the blue hole (where the limestone core has fallen through and you can dive straight through to the ocean), the cute little resort bungalows you can rent, along with the extensive devastation that still exists from Hurricane Matthew. It was enlightening and incredibly interesting. And, Diamond, herself, a child of only eight, was adamant about sharing a particular experience with us—eating our first dilly fruit. Diamond picked this one herself and Phillip and I ate it right on the stop, getting all sticky in the process. It was the sweetest fruit I believe I’ve ever eaten and an awesome moment!
No. 18: We Did Sooooo Much Sailing
- This surprised even us: Phillip and I sailed so much, we started to run low on battery power because we hadn’t cranked the engine in a while sailing almost the entire way from anchorage to anchorage. We were very lucky, both across the Gulf and the Stream, and with almost every island hop, to have steady winds on our stern that just pushed us along. It was incredible. Phillip and I did some of our favorite sailing, ever on our boat, on this last trip.
No. 19: We Reefed Right!
- This was a little trick we learned from Andy Schell and Mia at 59-North. You wrap the reef line once around the boom and then tie it to allow the reef line to cinch the sail alll the way down to the boom to get a flatter, more effective reef. The days we did have to sail to windward in winds that require us to reef (generally 15 kts and up), this trick helped us put a tighter reef in and sail more comfortably to weather.
No. 20: Two Weeks In, We Still Had Enough Wine!
No. 21: We Studied the Charts and GRIBS Together
- I realize only now—with six years of cruising and a Captain’s License under my belt—how little help I was during mine and Phillip’s first cruising years. Sure, I was a hard worker. I crawled down into holes to try and fix things. I cooked. I cleaned. I got greasy and helped where I could. But, I never pushed myself to get knowledgeable enough about the more difficult things, like navigation, weather-watching, and making wise passage decisions. Now that I have, Phillip and I enjoy checking the weather together (that is an every morning and every afternoon event and conversation we have when we’re cruising), studying the charts, and deciding “Where to next?” together and we then share the roles navigating in. At least this way if we run-aground, we can share the blame! Let’s hope that never happens … although I’m sure it will again someday.
No. 22: We Were Exceedingly Impressed With Our Boat
- She never ceased to amaze and impress us. Granted, Phillip and I put a lot of time and money into her and try our best to be very diligent, pro-active boat owners, but that does not mean you’re going to have a boat that performs 100% of the time. I’ll say our baby girl did everything we asked of her (which was often to run hard for 24 hours-plus under sail, engine, or both, with Lord Nelson doing all the steering) about 95% of the time. She was just a beast out there—moving comfortably in all types of weather, practically sailing herself all over the Bahamas. Pretty much every system worked, every bit of the time. While this is a HUGE reason we always strive for less, more simplistic systems on our boat, it was clear to Phillip and I, those choices (and the work they required) were totally worth it. I am immensely proud to say our boat is “dialed in.”
No. 23: We Made It to the Exumas!
- That, in and of itself, was an accomplishment, as we were not sure our time allotment would allow it. We were not able to make it to the Exumas last year when we did the Abacos—although our diversion to the Berries brought us a fantastic encounter with new friends and an amazing experience that was the subject of my latest article in SAIL Magazine—Phillip and I both still had a desire to see and experience for ourselves the breathtaking beauty so many have told us is unique only to the Exumas. And, boy were they right. Photos just can’t capture it, but they can try!
No. 24: I Was Published Underway!
- This was such a treat! To have an article of mine, “People With Gusto: the people you meet when cruising”—ironically about the Berry Islands in the Bahamas—come out in the latest SAIL Magazine while Phillip and I were sailing to the Bahamas. It was fun to be a bit of celebrity in certain marinas along the way where people had seen the article. Thanks again to Peter Nielson and the SAIL Magazine crew for running my piece!
No. 25: We Met The Amazing Jessie (from Jessie & Kate)
- Speaking of meeting amazing people while cruising, we were lucky enough to cross paths with this inspiring young sailor/photographer: Jessie from Cruising Outpost’s “Jessie & Kate on a Boat” series. Leave a comment below if you enjoyed their articles in Cruising Outpost. Jessie was such a warm, candid person and so fun and interesting to talk to. You can imagine she and I immediately meshed and scurried to the corner to chatter like schoolgirls. I’ll admit to a little girl-crush on her; I’m not scared. Jessie is phenomenal. She and her husband, Luke, came into Bimini on the way back from their Atlantic-Circle honeymoon. I mean … damn. Reminds of the amazing Pam Wall. I am so inspired by these hearty sailing ladies! Keep it up salty gals!! You can follow Jessie’s continued adventures on Instagram at www.instagram.com/jessiebrave/.
No. 26: We Were Able to Scrub Our Own Bottom
- Many thanks to Mantus on this one! When Phillip and I learned they had designed a smaller, more portable scuba set-up, we snagged one so we could use it during our cruising to dive a really cool reef that might be perhaps a little too deep for repeated snorkel dives and also to scrub our own bottom. This saves us about $100/month if we can do our bottom ourselves, so it has proven well-worth the investment for us. Plus, it’s convenient to have a little scuba set-up just for fun on the boat.
No. 26: We Got to Dive This!
No. 27: We Got to Cheers Everyday to Views Like This!
No. 28: We Got to Wake Every Morning to Views Like This!
No. 29: We Got To Swim Everyday In Waters Like This
No. 30: We Got to Swim With Friendly Guys Like This
No. 31: We Got to Eat Food Like This
No. 32: We Got to Walk Beaches as Amazing as This
No. 33: We Got to Harvest Our Own Conch
No. 34: We Got to Snorkel Pretty Much Every Day
No. 35: We Got to Spend an Entire Vacation With Our Best Friend
No. 36: We Had a Life-Changing Swim With a Turtle
- I’m proud to say because I was IN the moment, not filming it, I don’t have an image, but I don’t need one. My words and memory will do it justice, just you wait. I named him Rasta because he was so chiiiilllll.