After a creative explosion in October and November (7 blog posts in about two weeks), I fizzled out. But I’m going to get 2019 off to a good start, with a recap of, and some reflections on, the Big Adventure so far. Also, one picture of each of our guests this year!
As you probably know, we left the US early in the morning on March 1, 2018 (not as early in the morning as we had planned) bound for the Bahamas, and made it all the way to Freeport before the sun set. We didn’t really want to be in Freeport (not much there that we wanted to see or do), but we ended up staying there for five nights, waiting for decent weather for the next leg of our journey.
When we left, we had one really smooth day of travel to the northern part of the Berry Islands, and then had to hole up there for another three nights before we finally made it to Nassau, a few days before our son Bennett arrived for his Spring Break visit. That began a succession of visits that would stretch out until just before we left the Bahamas in mid-October. During that time, we had a total of twenty guests with us on ten separate visits. Some of those have been documented with a Visit Report, and all have been the subject of Fran’s Facebook posting. (If you do Facebook and aren’t Friends with Fran, you should be – you’ll get far more timely information than from me!)
We did leave Smartini (and May the Cat) twice during the year. In May, we went to Italy for three weeks, and in November, we went to Indianapolis for a week at Thanksgivinng, followed by a week in Fort Collins. While we were in Italy, friends and fellow boaters Paul and Denise Magnus stayed on Smartini and took care of May, and Fran’s Tower Garden. During our Thanksgiving trip, Smartini was in a marina in Turks and Caicos, and May was kept company twice a day by a local petsitter. (He gave her treats every time he visited, so I doubt she even noticed that Fran and I were gone.)
After almost eight months in the Bahamas, we felt like we had seen what we wanted to see, so we left Nassau on October 20, bound for Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos Islands. After 9 days of travel / exploring San Salvadore, we arrived in Provo on October 29 and have been here since, except for our two week Thanksgiving trip to the US.
T&C is a very different kind of cruising ground than almost everywhere we spent time in the Bahamas. Throughout most of the Bahamas, a protected anchorage on a beautiful beach is rarely more than a few miles from wherever you are, so you don’t have to plan your travel very much. You just pick up and move whenever you feel like it, or when the weather dictates it, and you usually have lots of choices for your next stop. T&C, on the other hand, doesn’t have very many protected anchorages with appropriate depth for most cruising boats. Consequently, not a lot of cruisers spend much time in T&C, and those who do tend to spend most or all of their time in a marina.
We like T&C a lot. The marina (Turtle Cove) is nice, with several bar/restaurants within walking distance, and is very, very protected from the weather from every direction. We can walk to Scooter Bob’s to rent a car for a day whenever we have a lot of errands to run. There are at least three nice grocery stores, and a big hardware store that’s like a small Lowe’s or Home Depot. Way more restaurants, of all kinds, than we found anywhere in the Bahamas. The people are outwardly very friendly (Bahamians are friendly, but more reserved). There’s a lot of diversity, with people here from all the islands of T&C, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Canada, and the US. The water is as almost as pretty as the water in the Bahamas, and there’s excellent scuba diving and fishing just outside the shallow bank that surrounds most of the islands. There’s even a Crossfit gym here, and we’ve been going three days a week! It wouldn’t be a bad place to live, actually. But we’re not even close to picking a place to live yet. Way too much more of the Caribbean to see first! So we’ll stay here until early February, when we’ll start making our move to the Virgin Islands, where we expect to spend most of the rest of 2019.
At the beginning of this post, I said I would have some reflections on the Big Adventure thus far, so here goes:
1. We knew that weather would be important, but we had no idea just how important. We were in the Bahamas for all of hurricane season (June 1 – Nov 30), so of course we were watching for storms all the time, always with an eye toward the nearest safe harbor we could run to if necessary. Thankfully, we didn’t have to do that even once all season. But even when we weren’t thinking about tropical storms, we were always paying attention to the weather. Where would be the best island to take our guests, considering the strength and direction of the winds? When would we have to make our run back to Nassau (or whatever island our next guests were flying into), so that we wouldn’t have to travel in sloppy weather? Would we need to leave a perfectly wonderful anchorage because the wind was going to shift 180 degrees in the next 24 hours? That’s been another nice thing about T&C – since we’re in a very protected marina, with no plans to move Smartini until the end of January at least, we don’t have to pay very much attention to weather. Especially since we’re out of hurricane season. But that will change once we get close to our departure date, because we have a lot of ocean to cross between here and the Virgin Islands, and weather is going to be a huge factor in the planning of that trip.
2. We didn’t anticipate how much work we would have to do on the boats (Smartini and Killer, our 13′ Boston Whaler dinghy) to keep them, and us, happy. I started keeping a maintenance log in Google Docs, and since March 1, I’ve written 23 pages of entries about work we’ve done. Fixing little things, like replacing the fuse holder for out infrared camera. Fixing big things, like having to have the main engine’s hydraulic pump rebuilt. Making upgrades, like adding an auxiliary bilge pump to both bilge areas, or rewiring one of the toilets (yes, they’re electric). Dealing with rust. Routine preventive maintenance, like the annual cleaning and waterproofing of all the outdoor seat cushions. For the first few months, I was getting a little bit testy about it, especially when something would break on the day before, or day of, the arrival of guests (which happened about four visits in a row). It was making me mental, to the point that it was spoiling the fun of the Big Adventure for me. One day, after a week-long guest visit during which several things needed to be repaired and my mood grew more and more sour, Fran had to sit me down and give me a good talking to. “It’s a boat – things are going to break. The guests don’t care. I don’t care. But it’s making you intolerably grumpy. Happy up, dammit!” (Something like that, anyway.) She was right, of course (bad habit of hers), and fortunately, that was all it took for me to snap out of it. I don’t think we’ve had any fewer issues since then, but my mood has been mostly cheerful, most of the time, when something breaks.
3. We really like living on the boat. It’s about the perfect size for two people and a cat, and occasional guests. We never feel cramped, because we’re able to be outside so much of the time. We don’t miss all of the “stuff” we got rid of when we sold the houses and moved aboard. We’ve met some really fun, interesting people, from all over the US and Canada (and occasionally other places) who are also living on, or at least spending a good bit of time on, their boats. Some of them have been friends for a day, some for a few weeks, and a few will hopefully remain friends for the long haul. Since everyone is in the same boat (pun very much intended), there is an immediate bond, with lots of shared experiences to chat about. For the most part, our fellow cruisers are pretty nice folks, and when we meet someone who isn’t, it’s simple to just avoid them until they go away (or we go away).
4. We miss being around all of the very dear friends we have in Indiana, Florida, and Colorado. We miss having favorite places to just go and hang out with our people. We miss Crossfit. (It’s great to have a gym here, but we don’t expect to find one many other places we go after T&C.) We miss good beer, and visiting new breweries. (Turks Head Brewery, here in Provo, is OK, but certainly not the quality we’re used to – Intracoastal and Deviate, you have spoiled us!) Although I don’t want to rush through this Big Adventure, I will be happy, one day, to find our new home, and start making new friends, and finding new favorite hangouts. But that is likely to be many years down the road.
5. We’re very happy living somewhere that it’s almost always warm. In fact, the last several evenings, after the sun has set, and it’s been 78 degrees and breezy, we’ve both been putting on long sleeves and thinking that T&C isn’t quite far enough south. Shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops, 365 days a year, are just fine with me!
6. We didn’t snorkel nor scuba dive nearly as much as we thought we would in the Bahamas, and as a result, we didn’t eat nearly as much fresh fish, lobster, and conch as we would have liked. All of our previous visits to the Bahamas over the past 15 years have been to the Abacos, and we never had any trouble finding plenty of healthy coral to dive on, and fish, lobster, and conch to catch and eat. That was not the case in most of the rest of the Bahamas however, the only exception being the Berry Islands. We spent a lot of time cruising around in Killer looking for places to dive – we just didn’t find that many. Surprisingly, one of the best places to dive (snorkel and scuba) and catch dinner was Rose Island, which is within spitting distance of Nassau.
7. We didn’t expect everything to be so much more expensive in the Bahamas than the US. I guess a 45% duty on almost all imports will do that. Gas and diesel were about $5 / gallon. Boat repair parts were easily twice as expensive. But especially food. Good thing we have a farmer living on Smartini! I love that some “guru” in the Tower Garden Facebook Group said it would never work on a boat. Ha! He’s never met Fran!
8. After Siesta, then Kibbles, left this world, I was perfectly ready to be done with pets. When May was thrust into our lives two years ago, I wasn’t exactly thrilled. But now that she’s been with us, I kinda don’t mind having her around. But since we’ve been in the marina, she’s taken to jumping off the boat and exploring. Last evening, I spent ten minutes walking around the marina, shaking her bag of “Temptations”, trying to find her and get her back on board. (She finally came back.)
One last picture, of our most recent guests, who absolutely ran us ragged while they were here. Snorkeling, drinking, cave hiking, drinking, exploring nearby islands, drinking, horseback riding in the ocean, drinking, bike riding, drinking, Crossfitting, and I think there was even some drinking!