Blog posts

Trying to Reason: Update #2

When you get the updated NHC report on “your” tropical disturbance, you’re usually hoping for some change – a new forecasted path that takes it farther away from you, or a downgrade in the winds, or the rare and beautiful “it’s just going to fizzle out” forecast. You’ve waited 6 long hours since the last update – you want an UPDATE! But the 2:00 p.m. update yesterday gave no such satisfaction. The image was virtually the same as 6 hours before. (See below.)

Virtually the same image as 6 hours ago
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Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season

(This post was supposed to come out yesterday – August 1 – at this time. Sorry! You’re going to get an update in just a little bit.)

Yes, it’s the title of a Jimmy Buffet song. But it’s also a good title for this blog post, which will describe what it’s like on Smartini when a Tropical Storm / Hurricane is brewing out in the Atlantic and headed our way. Rather than my normal style of waiting until something is over to write about it, I’m going to do this one each day, to try to convey a sense of the process we go through each time the National Hurricane Center posts an image that looks like this:

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Trying to Reason – Update #1

Now it’s Friday morning at 7:38. We’ve had two meaningful updates in the last 24 hours, both summarized below. When yesterday’s 2:00 p.m. update came out, we read every word at least twice, trying to get a feel for this “disturbance”. (By the way – that’s a great word for it – it really IS a disturbance to us. All plans are put on hold, or at least become very tentative, until this thing sorts itself out. Our lives are definitely disturbed right now.) We look at the image, somehow imagining that the path of the disturbance-that-might-become-a-storm is accurate down to the individual pixel – because that’s about how big we are in the image – a pixel.

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The Virgin Islands

Once again, Faithful Readers, I find myself apologizing for such a long wait for a new post. I can only imagine how many of you must wake up each morning and think “Today’s the day – a new post on Smartini Life – I just KNOW it!”. (I imagine that the number is zero.) At any rate, my apologies.

Arrival / Reunion Drinks with Whitey and Max

Smartini arrived in Charlotte Amalie, one of the largest settlements on the island of St. Thomas, in the US Virgin Islands, on the afternoon of March 28, just two days ahead of our first guests, Steve and Challen. Friends of ours, Max (Maxine) and Whitey, who we met in Key West after Hurricane Irma, and who run the charter sailboat Nutmeg, were anchored there, so we joined them, anchoring on the West side of Water Island. We promptly put Killer in the water, picked them up from Nutmeg, and went ashore to Tickles, the bar/restaurant at Crown Bay Marina, and proceeded to celebrate our arrival in the Virgin Islands, and our reunion, as it had been over a year since we had last seen them.

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At Long Last, Culebra!

Before there was M/V Smartini, before there was M/V Turtle E. Awesome, before Fran and I even knew what a trawler was… Culebra was on our radar. We don’t remember where we even learned of its existence, but when we first hatched the idea of eventually living somewhere in the Caribbean, it was there. We made it a “Favorite” on the weather app on our phones, so when we checked the weather for Indianapolis and Satellite Beach, we also saw what is was like in Culebra. Year-round, the daily highs and nightly lows wouldn’t vary more than two or three degrees over the ten day forecast period, and the day-to-night changes were almost always less than eight degrees. “We’ve got to see Culebra!” we said to each other, many, many times.

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41 Hours at Sea

We left Turks and Caicos just before midnight on March 5 and arrived in Puerto Real, Puerto Rico about 5:00 p.m. on March 7. Forty-one hours start to finish, give or take a few minutes. It was mostly uneventful, but it was our longest non-stop run by far, it was only our second overnight ever, it was the first time a single trip took parts of two different nights, it was the first time we took turns driving and sleeping, it put us the farthest away from land we’ve been so far (only 38 nautical miles, but at our speed, that’s about 5 hours from land)… and I thought that you, Loyal Reader, would want to hear about it.

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Turks and Caicos Islands / Providenciales

(Editor’s note: I wrote this article on February 25, not expecting to be leaving Turks and Caicos for some time. But a week later, we relocated Smartini to Big Sand Cay, preparing to depart for the Dominican Republic, and ended up bypassing the DR and making it all the way to Puerto Rico on March 7! I’ll post soon about that 41 hour crossing.)

As we wait for a nice weather window for our next major relocation (Puerto Rico for a bit, then the Virgin Islands), it occurs to me that I’m long past due to write about our home for the last 3 1/2 months. We arrived here on October 29 after spending the first eight months of this Big Adventure all around the Bahamas. We planned to stay three months here, partly because we had friends and family who wanted to visit and we needed to commit to a location for that. But it was also because we (I, in particular) were ready for a little bit less of a vagabond lifestyle for awhile.

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2018 – The Year in Review

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!

With Bennett and May in March

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.

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How a 4 Cent O-ring Can Change Your Life

This is the story of a plain ol’ rubbber O-ring, about 2 1/2″ in diameter, that probably cost about 4 cents to make, and how it just changed the lives (at least in the short term) of six people and three boats. If I told you the WHOLE story, it would read like “War and Peace”, so I’ll give you the Reader’s Digest version.

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Disassemble Raymarine e7D Chart Plotter / MFD

Another of my boring “How To” posts, this one detailing the disassembly of a Raymarine e7D MFD.

WARNING: this isn’t the normal “cool places we’ve been and people we’ve met” post. It’s one of my boring, how-to posts. Its intended audience isn’t the typical Smartini.Life reader, but rather, any boater who needs some help with her or his Raymarine e7D. If you don’t own one, you really don’t need to read this post. (But if you’re just dying to know, the e7D is our map – like Google Maps, and can also display the radar, the sonar, trip data, our backup camera, our FLIR infrared night vision camera, and any combination of two of those things. That’s why it’s called an MFD – Multi-Function Display.)

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We’re in Turks and Caicos!

Just a short post to let y’all know, our address has changed from “The Bahamas” to “Turks and Caicos”. We arrived at the Turtle Cove Marina on Monday afternoon. It was a 382 nm run from Nassau to here:
– 15 hours to Cat Island
– 8 hours to Sal Salvador
– 6 nights on San Salvador, with a little scuba diving and island exploration (met some GREAT people from Michigan Adventure Diving in Milan, MI on a dive trip – Thanks, Ty, and Kadee, and Betsy, and Suzette, and Steve,  and Elaine, and Tom, for welcoming us into your group!)
– 11 hours to Semana
– 11 hours to Mayaguana
– 7 hours to Provo

The last 20 minutes were the most interesting. Provo is protected on its north side by a lot of coral reef, and there’s only one safe route through it. It’s twisty and windy, and at one point, only 30 feet wide (Smartini is 16 feet wide). So the marina sent out a guide boat for us to follow in. Thankfully, we had high tide and no wind, so it was easy, but still a little nerve wracking.

Yesterday (the day after we arrived on really nice seas), the wind kicked up, and the dive boat that shares our marina went out, and came right back in – too rough! Hats off to the Smartini Trip Planning Department for picking a near-perfect three day window for the journey here!

Banana bread Fran made on the trip from Semana to Mayaguana, with bananas from Peter, the marina manager in Nassau who we became friends with

Our last sunrise in the Bahamas – maybe forever? No telling when we might return.

This little bird joined us about 20 miles from Provo, and flitted around the boat for most of the rest of the trip. At one point, it landed not a foot from Fran.

Fran decided to toss out all the plants in the Tower Garden before entering a new country to avoid any potential hassles. This is her final poblano pepper harvest – 163 of them!

Long Island, Conception, Cat Island and Eleuthera

In the middle of June, we had a two week stretch between guests to get from George Town on Great Exuma to Governor’s Harbour on Eleuthera. The weather was mostly favorable for travel, so we were able to spend all the time we wanted at each of those places. This post tells just a little bit about those two weeks, with a whole lotta pictures at the end of it.

Looking over Calabash Bay, Long Island

The North end of Long Island is about 53 nm from George Town, and that was our first stop. We had heard that Calabash Bay is very nice, with one of the most beautiful beaches in all of the Bahamas. We made it there easily in one day, and found (surprise!) a beautiful bay and beach, and a nice calm anchorage. Long Island is long (duh!) – about 80 miles – so one of the days we rented a car and drove about 2/3 of the way down it to Clarence Town. There, there are two churches that were designed and built by a man called Father Jerome – one church is Catholic, the other Protestant (Church of England). He was an interesting guy, but I won’t spend much Smartini Life time on him – if you’re interested, his real name was John Hawes. Near the end of his life, he built “The Hermitage” on Cat Island, of which there are a lot of pictures in the photo gallery at the end of this post.

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Visit Report: Paul and Denise

Faithful readers of Smartini Life know that the crew of Smartini went to Italy for three weeks in May/June. What they probably don’t know is that two wonderful people stayed onboard Smartini for that time, and more important, took care of May the Cat. They are Paul and Denise Magnus. We met them almost two years ago when we took Smartini to a marina in Titusville to have some work finished. They lived on their boat, Orion, in that marina, and we became friends. Sadly, Orion was destroyed by Hurricane Irma in that same marina, but thankfully, Paul and Denise were not onboard.

When we were making plans for Italy, we knew it would mean leaving Smartini and May somewhere, in someone’s hands. We posted on one of the online boating groups that we were looking for a cat sitter and a boat sitter. Denise saw the post and almost immediately volunteered her and Paul – wow! They would fly all the way to George Town in the Exumas and live on Smartini, and take care of May, and Fran’s new Tower Garden – and asked nothing in return.

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Back in the Saddle Again

Faithful Readers: forgive me, for I have sinned. It’s been four months since my last submission. Four months!!! What kind of a blogger am I?!?! Busy? Well, yes… but not so busy that I couldn’t squeeze in a little writing from time to time. Let’s go with “unmotivated”, and leave it at that.

Captain Fran taking us out of Nassau Harbour on the first leg to Turks and Caicos.

First, let me bring you up to speed on our current situation. We left our Bahamian home-away-from-home, Nassau Harbour Club Marina, Saturday morning at 6:20 and motored 15 hours to the southwest tip of Cat Island. We anchored and slept for a bit, then left at 6:40 yesterday morning and motored 8 hours to our current temporary home, the island of San Salvador. We’re on our way to Providenciales, Turks and Caicos, where we plan to be from mid-November until at least some time in January, maybe longer. The trip was uneventful with the notable of exception of having the drive shaft of our main hydraulic pump break about 11 hours into the trip. Not a catastrophe – we can run all the hydraulics from either or both of the main engine or the generator. The two issues are that we can’t use the stabilizers when we’re running unless we run the generator (which we don’t normally do), and we can’t get full hydraulic power for the bow and stern thrusters, which comes in handy when docking if there’s much wind and/or current. I’ll be looking for a replacement part, and a hydraulic service company in Turks and Caicos, but for now, we’re still almost fully functional.

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Northern Exumas

I originally wrote this post on April 28, and then promptly forgot about it, and never posted it – oops! It’s about our first foray into the Exumas, the chain of islands that’s kind of in the middle of the Bahamas. It runs about 100 miles north to south, and is no more than 1/2 mile wide for much of that. It consists of over 365 mostly-small islands (“cays” – pronounced “keys”, not “cays”), with lots of cuts between them that connect the “big water” (the Exuma Sound) on the east side to the shallow bank on the west side. In the middle is Staniel Cay, near the famous Bahamas Swimming Pigs. Great Exuma is the southernmost island, and that’s where George Town and Elizabeth Harbour are. Literally hundreds of cruisers spend their winters there.

What follows is from our first visit to any of the Exumas – the northern part, most easily reached from Nassau. If you want only the pictures, scroll to the end.

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