24 Hours to Coconut Grove

Thursday February 27, 2014

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Monday June 10, 2013, Grand Cayman Island. That’s the last good snorkeling Matt and I have had on this trip. We’ve been to many other so called diver’s havens: the Bay Islands, Belize, Mexico; but each time we dropped ourselves below the surface we saw murky water and little or no coral. We’re going through a little bit of snorkler’s withdrawal at the moment. So when it was mentioned to us by a few people that there is a great place for snorkeling and diving in the Keys called John Pennecamp State Park, I was just a little excited to go. I’d been researching the area since Key West, but had yet to come up with an anchorage in or near the area, or even find out exactly where this good diving was if not buying tickets on a tour boat for them to take you there. I was all set with plans to have Matt just drop the hook anywhere in that area while we spent all day searching for this coral if necessary, but then I started to read a few accounts on how only boats with drafts of just 4’6” and under are allowed in there. We’re a little over that, and taking chances of bottoming out on coral is not on my list of things to do, so it looks like we won’t get our diving in until we’re back in the Bahamas. I am really starting to look forward to those gin clear waters again.

Since we now no longer had any reason to stop midway, we set our sights on heading straight from Marathon to Miami, about a 118 mile trip. Getting the anchor up with the sun at 7:00 we motored out into glass calm seas. Finally a passage where I can actually do things! Clean the galley, do work on my computer, read a book. But first, I had to get out of all these crab pots and out to deep water. Matt was quickly back to bed since there was nothing for him to do in the cockpit, and I guided us out of the banks and angled us toward the Gulf Stream. There were quite a few fishing boats to look out for, an obstacle that we’re not used to encountering, so my attention unfortunately had to be focused on the water instead of any other projects.

I took to watching the water and all the garbage that would gather in the seaweed patches we’d pass through. I’m beginning to realize there are way too many plastic bottles floating out at sea. One thing that was much more abundant than discarded oil jugs though, were man-o-war jellyfish. Although we’d been seeing them constantly since Belize, my new goal was to get a good shot of one on my camera. Sliding open the wooden panel in the salon as quietly as possible as not to wake Matt, I lifted my camera bag out and tiptoed back up the steps into the companionway. The game was now on. Time after time I’d watch one pass by our hull only to realize too late that I didn’t have enough time to grab my camera and capture it. Preparing myself the next time with camera in my hand I was like a Planet Earth videographer in the jungles of the Amazon, statue still with camera at my eye, waiting for any kind of movement.

When Matt roused himself out of bed just before noon he found me scampering from one side of the cockpit to the other, full of excitement each time I saw something that looked like a plastic water bottle floating out in the water. Finally I saw my shot coming. There was quite a large one just up ahead of us, and it looked like it would pass within only a few feet of our hull. Running up on deck I positioned myself with my camera and waited for it to come on our starboard side. This was going to be a close one. Too close in fact. Just as it was coming in view for me to get a good photo it disappeared under our hull. We ran the damn thing over. Sigh. Giving up on this little project for the moment I grabbed my last can of Monster out of the fridge, a gift I actually received from a friend back in the Cayman Islands, and resigned myself to the shade with a good book. Since I’ve been reading nothing but trash lately Matt suggested I try 1984. We’ll see how it turns out.

It wasn’t hard to tell when we’d found the Gulf Stream, our speed jumped up to 7 knots, and since I had been monitoring water temperature as well, the rise of 2 degrees was also a dead giveaway. With the sails now up and trimmed, we sat back as the waves rose to 2-3 feet, but still comfortable enough for me to enjoy the book. The rest of the afternoon flew by as we kept these positions, only momentarily moving to grab food or use the head.  As night fell and Matt was down taking a nap before his first watch began (how much can that boy sleep in a day?) I was busy dodging all the large ship traffic out in the Gulf Stream.  I swear, none of them decided to come out until it was night.  Trying to keep a position between three different ships passing up and down, I eventually passed only 1/3rd of a mile from one of them, something Matt woke up just in time to see and scold me for.  It was that or lose my sail trim.  I still say I chose wisely.

We pulled in to the Government Cut of Miami just as the sun was coming up, but with still a long way to go before reaching our destination at Dinner Key Marina.  Or more accurately, the channel outside of it.  We like to anchor, what can I say.  After having just come off a 9 hour watch to get there, I was exhausted by the time we finally dropped anchor.  Letting Matt put the boat back together since I told him to sleep while I had stayed on longer (he had NO idea where we were going, I didn’t trust him alone up there), I passed out in bed, not to get out of it for the rest of the day.

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 First jellyfish spotted!

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The jellyfish that was soon under our hull.

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This ship was 1 mile away, imagine it 2/3rds closer, at night!

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Passing on Marathon

Tuesday February 25, 2014

Marathon, 7 Mile Bridge

I’m sorry, but I just can’t write a post about our time here in Marathon/Boot Key Harbor. You know the old saying, ‘If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all’?. That’s kind of the case that I’m dealing with here. Trust me, I could go on about the many reasons we did not like this stop, but I won’t do it. Not even necessarily because of the above adage, but because we are probably the 1% of cruisers that aren’t completely in love with this harbor, and I’m not ready to start getting that kind of hate mail just yet. So for now I’m just going to leave it alone. In fact, just to show a little bit of gratitude and keep you from dumping your garbage on me the next time you see me walking down the street (or in your daydreams since chances are, we may not meet), I do have one nice thing to say about this place. If you find yourself anchored outside of the chaos they like to label as a harbor, you can catch some amazing sunsets overlooking 7 Mile Bridge.

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Random Images of Key West

Monday February 24, 2014

graffiti, Key West Florida

Sorry there hasn’t been much to update you on here in Key West, but unless you’d like to hear more stories of how we’re constantly getting waked from all the fishing boats and tour boats that whiz by us, there really isn’t much to report on.  Seriously though, it could almost be a post.  These guys don’t even go on the outside of us, as the furthest out boat, to cut down their distance by 100 meters.  No, they cut between boats in the anchorage because it must be such a time saver to them.  Ugh.  I can’t even get started on it.

So, instead of my whining and bitching about power boaters and their manners, I instead leave you with random images of Key West.  Which would have been the better post in the end, I’m still deciding.  But at least this one leaves you with a pretty sunset.

marinas in Key West

Blue Heaven, Key West

house in Key West

Tropic Theater, Key West

riding scooter in Key West

Kermit's Key Lime Pie, Key West

Matt in butterfly cut out

Cayo Hueso Hotel, Key West

Jessica at southernmost point

Hemingway House, Key West

lighthouse, Key West

Red Trouser Show, Key West

A&B Lobster House, Key West

sunset, Key West

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Georgie’s Shore Leave

Saturday February 22, 2014

2.22.14

We had plans to leave today to head further up the Keys, slowly making our way to Miami instead of doing it in one quick jump, but we had a little bit of a hold up this morning. The 3M 5200 we had purchased to seal up one of the front ports in the v-berth was not the fast drying tube. Having completed the project around four o’clock yesterday afternoon, we didn’t read the part about needing 24 hours to set until it was too late. Looks like we were stuck in Key West for one more day. Neither of us felt like going to shore, there wasn’t anything we needed, we’d already seen all the touristy things to do there, and truthfully, we were kind of sick of paying the $6 fee to land our dinghy. There was one place we could go though, that wouldn’t charge us anything.

For the past few days we’ve been looking at Georgie and thinking ‘Poor thing, she has nothing to do on this boat’. Even in Isla at least there were always minnows and needle nose fish swimming right next to the hull for her to stare at, here there was nothing. Eying the small an uninhibited Wisteria Island that we were anchored right next to we thought, ‘Sure, why not? Let’s take the cat in to walk around’. We placed her in her harness that she normally wears on passage, clipped her leash on, and stuck her in the dinghy. She was not pleased about this part. In fact, I may have received a few new scratch marks to my arm while trying to wrangle her out of the corner next to the dodger where she likes to spend most of her days. Then a quick pass to the dinghy where we shoved off before she had the opportunity to jump back on the boat. Believe me, she was aiming herself to.

Just like her last dinghy ride in Guatemala where we were bringing her back from her catsitter’s, she whined and howled and made noises that would make all other cruisers in the anchorage think that we were performing acts of animal cruelty. As soon as the dinghy pulled up on shore though, she was in love. Not knowing what to think of the situation she sat in the dinghy staring out until we picked her up and placed her on solid ground, something her feet haven’t touched in four months. Then just like a scent hound, her nose hit the ground as she took in this unfamiliar earth, sniffing her way up and down a small patch of the coral lined shore. The search broadened as she made her way up to weeds and bushes, tucking herself under a shaded spot to sprawl out and chew on leaves and twigs.

When it was apparent that she would probably stay in this one spot all afternoon unless forced out, we picked her up and placed her down on the shoreline once more, keeping a slow and steady pace as she trotted along side. This is only the second time we’ve tried to actually walk her on her leash, the first time being when we first purchased it back in St. Augustine, taking her for spins around the boat yard. She wasn’t too ecstatic about it at that time, but now she was acting like a complete natural, filling the need for just a moment of the K-9 companion that Matt has been missing for the past two and a half years. The three of us walked about a quarter of a mile down the beach before we let Georgie off her leash to do a little exploring on her own. There was a noise in the bushes that caught her attention and she was keen to investigate.

When she didn’t come out and we were 90% sure that a snake lived in the hole that she was probing, we once more had to pick her up and set her on a new course where she happily trotted along side us again. In true cat fashion though, it didn’t take much longer after this before the amount of exercise became too great and she plopped on her side, thwarting any plans of ours to continue on. Giving her a pretty decent rest period we found out that this was in fact it for her for the day. Tugging on the leash did not get her moving again, but instead left a trail snaking through the coral as she dragged behind. Carrying her back to the beach by the dinghy we tried once more to get her to walk around, but her only interests were sitting in the tall grass under a tree. All in all her actual walk only lasted about five to ten minutes, with the other 45 minutes sitting and resting, but I think it was the perfect little escape from her every day boat life, if even for just a little bit.

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walking Georgie

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Matt & Georgie

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Seeing Key West by Scooter

Thursday February 20, 2014

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It looks as if my prediction of staying on the boat to surf the web only half came true. Since we’ve been here we’ve gotten into an every other day habit, where one day we’ll stroll through town or run errands and the next day we’ll hang out on the boat. Each time we’ve been able to get off the boat it’s been a treat, not just to check out the cool things that Key West has to offer, but to get myself on solid ground that’s not moving beneath me. Not only is there barely any protection from the elements here, we’re only blocked from the Gulf of Mexico by two dinky little islands, but we’ve managed to park ourselves in a spot where all the tour boats and fishing boats like to get up on plane and come right between us and the next boat, rocking us so hard that items on the counter will slide right over the lip and come crashing to the floor. We’ve managed to break one more Corelle coffee mug and get to add it to the items to replenish/replace while we’re here in the states. I have to say though, the sunsets in this spot are spectacular and make it well worth all the rocking and rolling that goes on during the day. While our cockpit faces SW in the evening, I cozy back with a Mexican beer or the last bit of boxed wine in my hand and unwind after a long day of Facebooking. These are some tough times we’re living in..

After having spent the past five days discovering Key West by foot, I was finally able to wrangle that scooter ride that we never ended up taking in Isla Mujeres, and transfer my credits here. From the bank of Matt. While strolling the sights on foot yesterday, we found a little scooter shop all the way at the end of Duval St. that would let us rent a double scooter for $40/day. Getting ourselves back there at 10:00 this morning, after a stop a Starbucks to begin using those gift cards, we signed off on the paperwork and Matt took a test drive through the parking lot before we decided to be the only people here that actually would don helmets, and rode off into the late morning sunrise. Wanting to get as many miles in as possible with wheels under our feet we joked that we should make a break for US 1, seeing how far up the Keys we could make it (does Key Largo sound feasible?) before determining that the outer parts of Key West would actually be good enough for us.

The first stop of the morning was Smathers Beach, a popular spot recommended to us after asking for suggestions of what to do here. It was just a little further than either of us wanted to wander on foot before but we figured if we both really liked it, it might be worth the walk next time. Parking on the side of the road and stepping on to the nearly deserted beach, we were struck by how completely different it was from Playa Norte in Isla Mujeres. We were used to palm trees that lined the whole beach all the way down to the shore, providing some shade and beauty, leading to postcard blue waters while music thumped from little bars and restaurants just behind us. This was just one long strip of sand with some palm trees shielding you from the road, with somewhat murky looking water waiting for you at the shoreline. Putting my snobbery aside for a second, I’m sure this place 1. has a lot of sediment being tossed up at the moment due to all the strong winds we’ve been having lately, leaving the water not quite in it’s best form, and 2. it is actually a very nice beach when you’re not comparing it to the picture perfect one you’ve just come from. But I am.

After that we hopped back on the scooter and aimlessly began driving around, trying to see sights that we hadn’t made it to before. There were just a couple, such as the cemetery and the area by the naval base, but it turns out we had already seen most of the good stuff since it’s all grouped by where the cruise ships are. We had only been on the scooter for an hour and a half before figuring this out, and even though we’d already walked Duval St and it’s surrounding shops before, we parked ourselves to get off and walk them once more. Lunch time was also growing near and we needed to find at least one of the recommended places given to us to eat at. The first stop was by far the most popular suggestion, Blue Heaven for breakfast. Luckily they served it a few hours into lunch time, but unluckily for Matt who hates just about every kind of breakfast food, they hadn’t started their lunch menu yet. Hopping back on the scooter we parked ourselves in front of the Green Parrot and sat ourselves at the bar, ready to get some grub. Just before placing our drink orders we found out this establishment did not actually serve food, and dejected, we walked next door to Charlie Mac’s. Opting to split one of their large baskets featuring a beef brisket, we were instantly transferred back to Mojo’s in St. Augustine where we’ve had some of the most amazing beef brisket in the world. This was no different. Even the sides of macaroni & cheese and cornbread were to die for. Plus it didn’t hurt that we had the owner stopping in for lunch at the table in front of us, and he kept passing back his own plate of brisket for us to nibble off of.

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Since we did have a set of wheels at our disposal and no more sights that we really had to see that day, we put our scooter to good use by making runs out to the grocery store on the other side of the island to stock up Serendipity with things that she’s sorely been missing since Cayman. First was a run to Publix where Georgie was finally able to get good clumping fresh scented litter again, and we loaded ourselves up with about 15 blocks of Cabot cheese that was on special. There was also enough food to get us through the next few days, and back we went to Serendipity to drop off all our goods. Making one more food run, we switched to the Winn Dixie this time, which was having a special on a few of our old favorites, Coke and Kraft macaroni & cheese. And that’s all that we bought there. Coming up to the check out counter with 20 liters of pop and 10 blue boxes of mac & cheese, I assume that the cashier expected the conversation between Matt and I to be somewhere along the lines of “Cleatus, we better git back to the trailer park to watch the grankids so Darlene can get to her shift at Pink Cheetah. Make sure’n sign her form cause she’s a minor.”

By the time we made our multiple runs to the grocery stores it was nearing five o’clock and the scooter needed to make it’s way back to the rental facility. Not having gotten much entertainment in for the day, we slowly strolled Duval St. on the way back, watching all the people that were already pretty intoxicated just as happy hour was beginning. Walking by one of the restaurants that had benches and bars facing the sidewalk, a group of about 4 guys were rating each woman as she walked by. I hadn’t even noticed this until we had already passed and Matt was looking back with a shocked faced to see that I’d only been rated as an 8, but I think I have to agree with the guys on that one. Slightly sweaty with helmet hair? I think I could have done much worse.

Another popular suggestion of things for us to do in Key West was check out the street performers that come out near sunset in Mallory Square. Everyone was just setting up shop as we walked in, the vendors with their food and drinks, and the performers with their shows. Since there wasn’t much else happening at the moment we wandered over to a guy that had a sign for swallowing swords. He did some performances for the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not located there, and also took to the streets at night for extra tips. We watched on, crowded as close to his little line as we could get, as he stuck a sword around two feet long down his throat, did a little spin, and then bended down on one knee. It was a good thing we had just a little bit of cash on us and were able to tip him a dollar for the pleasure of watching. Moments after that show ended we heard calls from just a few feet away, a fire swallower that was trying to gather a crowd. Stepping up to his line, we watched a much longer show as he first did in fact swallow fire for the crowd, and then wrapped himself up in a straight jacket, and then had multiple chains looped and locked to his body. We’d seen shows like that before, and being able to lock my hands together behind my back and bring them up around my head without ever letting go myself, I know that a little bit of knowledge and some flexibility can get you out of that. But the jokes were funny, and most of the other performers were still setting up, so it was worth another dollar out of our pocket.

Our last performance of the day was two young guys, possibly brothers, performing acrobatic feats, almost in a Cirque du Soleil style. We missed the first few minutes to it, but later found out they call themselves The Red Trouser Show and perform all over the US. The show was actually quite long, about 20 minutes, and included things like juggling knives, juggling fire, doing handstands off the other’s palms and other general jumps and flips. Matt was actually brought in for part of the show, where he spent most of it holding a rope and wondering why he was doing this, but for their last feat they climbed a very high ladder that needed support from each corner, and while Matt and three other guys did this, one of the RTS guys placed himself horizontally from the ladder while supporting the other RTS guy who kicked up his legs in the other direction. It looks like their shows are pretty popular across the country, and I can see why. I’d follow them anywhere.

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Coming to America

Saturday February 15, 2014

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When we arrived to Key West I had resigned myself to the fact that I’d have to go back to having internet only every 2-3 days when I could drag Matt to a McDonald’s to use their services, and usually only for an hour at a time. Imagine my surprise when as soon as the anchor was down, Matt had found a signal and already got us connected. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to turn into a story of how we never left the boat because we were busy surfing the web (although I could see that happening depending on how long we stay here), but I tell you this because we had the gift of being able to research where the hell we were supposed to go here to land the dinghy. Or do anything, really. Don’t laugh at me, I had visions in my head of getting to Key West to anchor ourselves among 8-10 other boats, and seeing shore access right in front of us, preferably on a sandy beach with no cost associated with tying up. Hello, the budget game is still running. Keep in mind that I had never researched anything on Key West before we left, only how to get there. So when we dropped anchor last night among 100 other masts that I could make out and looked at the multiplying condo complexes in front of us, I knew this was going to be harder than I initially imagined. This new internet connection of ours told us where we could land the dinghy and even how to get there from where we were. For the cost of $6 a day. Ugh.

Our internet access also allowed us to make a call to Customs to find out that we personally could not check in solely based on a phone call as our guide book told us (damn!), but that we could visit the airport the next morning and get it done there. This morning we brought our dinghy up to the marina listed online to find out where exactly it was we were supposed to tie up, and immediately got a mouthful from the marina employee for not tying up where we were supposed to. Thanks guy, that’s what I was coming to ask you. As soon as he sent us on our way with a glare in his eye, we were greeted and ushered in by a dinghy full of,…hmmm, there’s no way to say this,..hillbillies that gave us half toothed smiles as they waved us in while trying not to spill the Busch Light out of their cans. Welcome to America.

Our first important stop of the day, almost more important than getting ourselves check in, was a stop at the Post Office to pick up the care package my mom sent, the one that’s been trying to get to us since December. That’s ok though, because a longer delay meant more time to add requests to fill the box. Which then turned into two. Oops. While shuffling through the boring but necessary things, the debit card we hadn’t had access to since October, the the sewing kit for repairing sails and thick fabrics, we were able to get to the good things. For me at least, I don’t think Matt was excited. While he waded through all kinds of paperwork that we hadn’t been able to receive in months, I pulled out pairs and pairs of new sunglasses, sundresses, Skittles. There were Snickers, Starbucks gift cards, and a Snuffelupagus. Sorry, I got carried away there on my S’s. That last one was actually supposed to be gourmet coffee grounds. To say I was a little excited to receive this package was an understatement. We also received back, on loan, our Waterway Guide to Florida that we had sent to our friends Jackie and Ron when we left Florida last year and thought we’d never be back. Turns out we were wrong. We’ll just take that back for a few weeks…

From our internet connection we were also able to discover that the airport is completely on the other side of the island. Not that we’re not normally up for a hike, but when the officer on the phone last night said morning, did he mean before 12 noon morning? As in, the office will be closed, if you don’t get here in the morning?! Because in that case, even though I like to consider myself in good shape, I didn’t know if I could walk the 5 miles in less than an hour. A taxi it was going to have to be. The last thing we needed was Border Protection exiling us from our own country because we didn’t check into the country before Monday and Matt, who does actually follow the rules, couldn’t keep his wife from wandering up and down Duval St after three days at sea.

Rushing ourselves out to the Arnold Building to make sure the American government didn’t have a reason to hate us we found out that not only was the office open until 7 that night, but Border Patrol wouldn’t even be back for over an hour as they were currently out inspecting one of the cruise ships that had just come in. It wasn’t all bad though, we found a vending machine that offered Mountain Dew, our first taste of it since Colombia, and wandered through the tourist shops where they were pawning sea beans with peace signs and hearts on them for $6. I just smiled, remembering all the ones we’d collect on the beaches of the Bahamas for free.

When we finally saw life inside the Border Patrol building again, we went inside for what was probably the easiest check in procedure we’ve ever done. Even better than Cayman, which had been high on my list of We’ll never get this lucky again. Maybe it’s because we had an a-hole agent walking out the door when we first arrived to tell us that they wouldn’t be back to help us for hours, and when they did, there would be a thorough inspection of our boat, it’s contents, and every piece of food in the chill box; but we were blessed with someone much friendlier when we got back the second time. It was just one form, $19, five minutes, and we were out the door. The only thing that really, I mean really surprised me, is that not one of the officers batted an eye at my over-dialated eyes. Did I forget to mention that I got the other one this morning while doing my make-up? I guess I must have brushed one of my fingers over the spot that my scopolamine patch had been sitting on and accidentally rubbed it into my good eye. If these men are supposed to be looking for suspicious behavior, it was literally written all over my face. I looked like I had been trying every kind of drug Mexico has to offer. Maybe my tank top was just lower cut than I knew and they didn’t even realized I had a face, who knows?

Continuing on with our day of excitement: care packages and legal entry back into our country, we set our sights on finding some good ol’ American fast food. Walking the two miles from the airport to the fast food district, we passed on McDonald’s before setting our sighs on Wendy’s.  With greasy burgers and cheesy bacon fries placed in front of us, we dug in like there was no tomorrow and were soon paying for our mistake.  After not eating food like this for so long our stomachs were not liking the sudden change.  As we wandered out of the building and down the street, I think the only words that either of us could mutter were “I think I’m going to die…”.  Maybe this is the opportunity to kick our fast food habit for good?  We’ll let you know how that one turns out.

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Speed, Squalls, Officers & Oculars: Our Crossing From Mexico to Florida

Friday February 14, 2014

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If you asked us about this passage within the first 22 hours of leaving, and if it was a good idea to have gone with the forecast we did, I would have patted myself on the back while saying in a singsong voice “I am so smart. This is the best passage, Matt is silly for thinking we could have waited for a better one”. Because really, the first 20 or so hours truly were bliss. After eeking out of the harbor in Isla Mujeres at 4:30 in the afternoon, we rounded a few shoals and rocks on the north side before hoisting the sails and killing the engine. Straight away we were pushing forward at 6.5 knots on a close reach without much rocking under the hull. Matt took his spot under the dodger and I settled in to the leeward side behind the wheel, eyes fixed to the north where all the sport fishing boats were returning with their day’s catch. So far we had been able to start out the passage with neither of us feeling sick immediately upon departure, which I attribute to a well timed scopolamine patch on my neck earlier in the day, and suffering through many weeks in a less than calm harbor which made these small waves feel kind of like being at anchor.

We ate separate dinners of sticky buns and stale Oreos, and the only moment of panic for the day was when I literally jumped out of my seat yelling “Oh my god!!”, which made Matt assume that the boat must be falling apart, but in reality, was only due to the fact that I’d just seen two dolphins surface not more than ten feet off our aft quarter, seemingly out of nowhere. Unfortunately they did not make a repeat appearance. Georgie had taken up a spot on Matt’s lap, the only time now that she’ll willingly try and force herself as close to us as possible. During passage she’s like velcro on one of the two of us, not daring to get out of the protection of our arms, but as soon as that anchor is down, you can be assured that she can’t even remember who we are.

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 Protect me!!

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 Goodbye Isla!

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As night came upon us we fell into the Gulf Stream and began riding that baby to average speeds of 8 knots, all the while feeling the calmness as if we were motoring through a glass calm bay. I’m sure I’m overexagerating a little, but I don’t remember it feeling much worse than our slightly rocky harbor we’d just left.

To add to the smoothness in this first 22 hours, it didn’t even take me 5 minutes to fall asleep when I went below the first time, a feat that normally only takes place 20 minutes before Matt comes to wake me for my turn to go back out on watch. This time I was able to get up somewhat rested and happily occupied my time on shift by flipping through various albums we had finally set up to play through our stereo, and counting all the miles already ticking away behind us. Throughout my whole shift we kept that comfortable 8-8.5 knots, along with just the slightest rocking motion under our hull. Calculating that if we kept this pace up we’d actually get in by Thursday evening, which is a dangerous thing to do, getting one’s hopes up early in a passage that their time will be cut down, since it rarely ever works out that way.

At the time though, it seemed almost foolproof. It was 350 miles through the rhumb line, which due to wind direction, we wouldn’t be able to follow exactly but I assumed we’d only add an extra 20 miles max. 370 miles at 8 knots would put us there in 46.5 hours, add in the extra speed since we were really going closer to 9 knots now, add add a little cushion for when we probably slowed down to 7 at some point. But it sounds completely feasable, right? I mean, we’re riding the Gulf Stream, one of the most powerful currents in the world! Getting up for my second watch at 6 am I did the numbers again and found out that we’d already covered just under 100 miles in 13 hours. We were well on our way there.

I woke up to a light drizzle that went away just as quickly as it came, and left the sky with puffy clouds that lit up in bright pinks and oranges and even a partial rainbow between two of the clouds. What I didn’t quite catch on to at the time is that this was a red sky in morning; sailors take warning. And I should have. But the sky soon cleared into a brilliant blue and all I had to do was sit back and relax while enjoying my breakfast of 16 oz of Mexican Danone yogurt (best $1 purchase ever, by the way).

2.14.14 (5)

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2.14.14 (7)

Even though we were starting out with a passage that was much more comfortable than 80% of the ones that we’re normally on, we quickly fell back into the routine of sleep or waiting for sleep. I always think that on a calm passage I might start doing something like scrubbing the floors out of boredom, but apparently I was not quite that bored yet. Sneaking in one quick nap when Matt got up for breakfast, I settled into the cockpit with a book to read, something I hadn’t been able to do on many previous passages so I still consider that progress, while Matt went back to bed. Which at this time in the afternoon could probably be considered a nap. I wasn’t kidding when I said all we do is sleep or wait for the next opportunity to sleep.

This is where the pleasurable 20 hours of our passage ends. While getting into my book once more I noticed the skies were growing dark but didn’t pay it too much mind since we’d had the light drizzle in the morning and I expected more of the same this afternoon. Off in the distance there were some very dark clouds, and out of the distance a few rumbles of thunder were reaching me, but since all of this was downwind of us I still continued not to pay it much mind. At least it wasn’t heading at us. Or so I thought. The further I got into my book the closer the rumbles came, and as I scanned the horizon I only saw clear skies ahead, all of the nasty stuff supposedly passing behind us according to the current wind direction. I burried my nose back in my book, not ready to wake Matt just yet since that would mean a reef in the headsail and a reduction in speed. I still had my sights set on a Thursday evening arrival in Key West.

As the thunder, and now lightning, started closing in on us, I knew it was time to finally take action. I woke Matt up to let him know we were surrounded by thunderstorms while similtaniously taking our small electronics and sticking them inside the microwave and oven to protect them against a lightning strike should one happen. Our handheld GPS, sat phone, and e-readers were placed in the microwave; computers, wrapped in padding, were slid into the oven. Watching the wind speed jump up from the high teens to the mid to high 20’s, we kept going back and forth on if we should roll in the headsail. These speeds it could definitely handle, but should they get worse… Finally when we saw rain on the horizon we decided to roll it in ‘Just until this blows over’. Throwing the bow into the wind I tried with all my might to pull in the line while Matt controlled the jib line from smacking around. My arms were no match for this wind and we ended up switching places and getting it rolled in just before the blinding sheets of rain hit us.

Taking cover under the dodger we watched the rain pelt us from what seemed like every direction, and then out of nowhere, a huge gust of wind came along and almost knocked us on our side but did not seem to be letting up. Scrambling into the companionway with Matt, we watched the wind speed jump into the 40’s and keep rising. 48..53..62. Yes, we topped out at winds of over 60 knots, by far the highest we’ve ever seen on a passage. We were getting pounded by a squall, but the funny part was, there was no sense of urgency for our safety. We’d had a double reefed main up ever since we left Isla, we usually do if we’re ever on an overnight passage, and the waves were only 1-3 feet, so we were by no means getting tossed around in high seas. If fact, the wind was so strong that it was basically blowing the caps of the waves into their troughs, almost smoothing out the seas. Serendipity was handling this like a champ, and the only issue we had was when the wind caught the piece of fabric that connects our dodger to our bimini and began ripping it apart at the zipper. We were able to catch one end and hang on to it before it could completely come apart and blow away.

The 50-60 knot winds only lasted about 30 seconds before subsiding back down into the 30’s. During this ‘lull’ I jumped back into the cockpit to secure lines that hadn’t been properly tied off, and finished unzipping the fabric connector so we could quickly stow it away. We had to wait out a few more somewhat strong blows into the 40’s along with driving sheets of rain….and then it was gone. Just like in the movies, the clouds disappeared, the sun came out, and all wind seemed to have left with the storm. We were literally left there scratching our heads as we watched the windex spin in circles, clueless of which direction to now point our bow. It was a good 20 minutes before we had any semblance of wind come our way again, in which time we watched the boom slide from one side of the boat to the other, trying to catch the wind each time it clocked around the boat.

Our speed had regrettably cut down to just over five knots and I had to set my sights for a Friday morning arrival now. Tracking our progress, I marked our position at 24 hours from our departure and found that we’d still managed to make about180 miles in one day. Had we kept the same speed we were getting before the storm there would have been no question on if we’d hit the 200 mile mark, something Matt’s been aiming for ever since we started cruising and will keep striving for until the day he dies. That may require a different boat… We’d still put ourselves in a good position for one day out though, and I have a feeling that Serendipity will be hard pressed to get to those numbers again. The remaining hours of the day and into the wee morning hours of the next were spent dodging the thunderstorms that still had us boxed in, never coming closer, but always visible on the horizon.

2.14.14 (8)

2.14.14 (9)

Marking our progress once more at the 48 hour mark I’d found out that we’d done just about 120 miles, having kept true to the 5 knots, and sometimes under, that we had slowed down to the previous afternoon. When the sun had gone down and the full moon lit a trail behind us, it was quite visible that not only had we fallen out of the Gulf Stream, but we were probably now trying to fight it’s counter current. 3.5 knots was a struggle to keep, and when even three knots wasn’t happening any more, I begged and pleaded with Matt to let us put the engine on and motor until we were out of the counter current…if that ever happened. Remember those numbers I kept running through my head? Anything under 3-3.5 knots would mean certain nighttime arrival, which neither of us wanted, and I’ll be damned if I was about to spend another night out at sea if we could avoid it with a solution as simple as turning on the engine. Matt decided to go with the ‘wait and see’ option, but an hour later while I was snuggling into bed, I heard the engine roar to life and smiled as I fell asleep.

The last day of our crossing today, we were struggling to keep those 3.5 knots under power. During the last hour of my morning sleep shift I could hear Matt on the radio, and then shortly later, rustling through cabinets for paperwork. I tried to ignore him the best I could until 10 minutes later he came shaking my shoulder, telling me to get up because the Coast Guard had just radioed him and they were sending a launch to come board us. The boat was a mess and we probably stunk to high hell, but at this point we were so tired and worn out that we didn’t even care. They wanted to board us during a passage, this is what they were going to get. Another 15 minutes later, after we had both found clean clothes to put on along with a healthy dose of deodorant, we were watching the well outfitted tender pull alongside our boat while depositing two officers on it.

Having already been through this procedure while traveling down the ICW we already knew everything they were going to ask for and better yet, this time I actually knew where all of it was. While Matt kept one of the officers busy while filling out paperwork, I took the other one below where I produced life vests, flares, access to the bilge (no Cubans hiding in there, I promise!), and even the sticker about trash that we had been written up for the last time. There was only a slight snafu when Matt refused to give out his SSN, not finding necessary after showing both a drivers license and a passport and was about to ‘take it up with the captain’ when the second officer told the paperwork guy to let it go. The only thing we did have an issue with was that our boat documentation was now two weeks expired, it’s replacement supposedly waiting for us in Key West along with all of our other goodies. Getting let off with a written warning, I think they wanted us to show the new one when we did arrive at our destination (to whom, I have no idea), and then they were gone just as quickly as they had come.

A few hours after they left we realized we probably should try and clean ourselves up a little, lest any new officials in Key West have to put up with our stench. The only problem was, it was freezing out! I’m not kidding, somewhere along the way we picked up some cold water under our hull, and the breeze running across it was enough to have kept us in our foulies for half the trip just to stay warm. So taking a cockpit shower in that? I wanted to search for alternative methods. Matt braved the cold and forced himself under the hose for 90 seconds while he quickly lathered and rinsed. I was not so brave. Or maybe I was just smarter. I decided for a sink shower instead. Sticking my head under the faucet I was able to give my hair the three washes it now needed after not having cleaned it since Isla, all without soaking my body or having chilly winds blow over me. The rest of the body was done with a washcloth and soon I was back under my layers, feeling warm and clean and glad that I didn’t have to suffer through the brutal cold outside. That was until my left eye started getting a little blurry.

It’s not uncommon to get a Georgie hair stuck in there or have one of my contacts be placed inside out and irritate my eye. But wait a second…I wasn’t wearing my contacts. After 15 minutes of not being able to figure out what was in my eye, I finally went down to a mirror to inspect. If you had looked at me at this point it must have appeared that I was licking toads or on some other kind of drug because my pupil was dialated to full size. And immediately I knew exactly what had happened. While sticking my head under the faucet, the water had run over my scopolamine patch and brought the medication right into my eye. Having experienced a case similar to this once before in Manhattan where I had touched the patch and then touched my eye, I knew I was in for 24 hours of blindness in that eye and an adversity to bright lights. Oh joy, they perfect way to end what started out as the best passage ever. I will now be singing to myself “I am not so smart, this passage kind of sucks, I’m glad it’s almost over”.

scopolamine in eye

Ice cold winds continued to blow across the water as we slowly puttered in to the southernmost point in the United States, and back in to the land of plenty with only two hours of daylight left. The ride was a little rougher on us than we expected, but if I had to look back on it I’d say it’s not even necessarily due to boxed in thunderstorms or squalls along the way, but the snails pace we had to suffer through after they were all finished. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that nothing kills a sailor’s mood more than cutting his pace in half. From envisioned Thursday evening arrivals, pushed back to a Friday morning arrival, now coming in late Friday afternoon, this 72 hours was a very necessary passage for us, but I’m so happy to be back in the land of day hopping.

Key West Harbor

cruise ship in Key West

lats 2

 

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Tuesday February 11, 2014

2.11.14 (1)

Every single morning, one of the first things we do over a hot cup of coffee, is bring up Passage Weather to see if there are any opportunities coming up for us to make our escape. Usually once or twice a week we’ll get excited by the beginning day or two of a window projected for the next week, but as soon as the full forecast loads, we’ll find out that our window is only 24-36 hours instead of the 72-84 that we need. In a 7 day period, we can never seem to find more than 48 hours, usually not even grouped together, where the wind isn’t blowing from the north or the east, and usually pretty damn hard at some point.

While checking the weather this past Wednesday or Thursday we had seen a window come up for today, Tuesday, but given a few more days that opportunity was gone by the weekend. Strong east winds had filled in for what would be the last day of the trip, right at the point where we would have rounded Cuba and been heading through the Florida Straights toward Key West. We’d actually been hopeful that we’d come across a really good forecast with four days of good wind that would bring us all the way up to Miami, but that was absolutely in no way going to happen. So while I was boiling the water for coffee this morning and letting the week’s forecast upload, I was really surprised to see that our window was back. We had 3-4 days of wind on our side…if we left today.

Seeing this forecast pop back up we had two big questions to ask ourselves. The first and biggest one being: Do we trust this forecast? Normally we’d like to monitor something like this for a few days to make sure it’s stable and that it won’t change on us mid passage. This would now be the third time we’d seen this forecast change, going from favorable, to unfavoarable, and back again. Would it stay this way? Or would we bit hit with a nasty surprise in the Gulf of Mexico. One place you definitely do not want surprises. The other question was: Do we still have enough time to get ourselves out of here, hopefully no later than 3:00 today? Knowing that we might try to jump on a window as soon as it came up, we tried to prepare ourselves in the previous days so that if we did only have a day to get ourselves ready to leave, we could do it. There really isn’t much to do to get ourselves ready for a passage anyway. The normal things of getting everything stowed away so it doesn’t bash about the cabin while underway, run the jacklines so we’re not trying to do it underway, and getting the dinghy safely stowed and tied down on deck. In addition to that, for this passage we also needed to fill up our diesel jugs, make a quick run to the grocery store, and oh yeah, check out of the country.

With it being just past ten in the morning, it would give us five hours (if stretching it) to complete all the things above. For the first question, I turned to Matt. He turned right back to me and said “You’re the captain, you decide”. Well that wasn’t very helpful at all. I asked him what his thoughts on the weather window were. He replied that we could do it, but it would be easier if we had a better window. The one we were looking at had north winds on our fourth day, in case we didn’t make in in the three we were hoping, and there were also possible thunderstorms for some of the areas we were passing through. I decided to start checking more sources to see what they said. Wind finder looked about the same, but I wanted at least one more reputible source. And while wading through the many links and forecasts on NOAA, I found it. Winds were to be fairly low (we never travel with anything forecast over 20), waves were to be low, the only thing we had to watch out for were those possible thunderstorms. Although after sitting here now for almost five weeks while waiting for any kind of window that would carry us to Florida, I figured it was worth the risk. We were more than behind on our original schedule, and I didn’t want to still be sitting in this harbor come March.

Finally deciding on this course of action at 12:30, we really needed to get our butts moving to check everything off our list. First stop would be the port captain to begin check out procedures. Making a few copies of necessary documents, we rode the dinghy into town and walked into the office. Letting the man behind the counter know that we were bound for the States and needed a zarpe, he gave me a few pieces of paper to fill out and then let me know that I needed to get copies of them made. Getting directions to the nearest ‘Kinkos’, we searched through the back streets and found it on our second try. Bringing all these papers back to the Port Captain, he indicated he would need a little time to work on them and we should have a seat. Glancing at the clock that was now reading two, we started to worry that we wouldn’t get out of the harbor before nightfall. Even worse, while sitting there waiting we watched black clouds roll in from the south, threatening some nasty storms and making us second guess our decision to leave. Except, now that we were 90% checked out, we couldn’t really hang around for the next few days, or weeks, while waiting for another window to come up. Before we had time to even think about it more, the Port Captain called us back up and told us to bring the three sets of forms he had been working on to the Immigration office to get stamped, where one would stay there, one would be for us, and the last would need to be brought back to him. We rushed out of there hoping it wouldn’t take very long.

Luck was not on our side. What should have been a five minute process at Immigration turned into 45 minutes because it turns out that we didn’t have the receipt for the money paid to Immigration when initially checking in to Cozumel. I always keep all my papers together, and bring more than what’s needed each time I visit officials, so I knew that I hadn’t left it back on the boat. But I also remembered receiving this receipt back when we checked in. Which means one thing. Back when I handed all the papers to the Port Captain back in Cozumel to show him that I had gone through all the steps of checking in, he kept it along with all the other papers. The next forty minutes consisted of us trying to tell the current Immigration officer that we had paid while checking in, and the officer at the Port Captain took it along with everything else. She wasn’t convinced and was ready to have us pay the 560 peso fee all over again. After a little sweet talking on the part of Matt, she agreed to call the Immigration office in Cozumel to see if they had record of us checking in and paying the fee. We watched the clock as the minutes ticked by.

Without even really vocalizing if there was or was not record of us, she called us back to the desk where our papers from the Port Captain were handed back to us. I was about to begin asking questions, but Matt noticed the stamp on them and scopped them up before I could utter a word. Thanking the woman, we ran out the door before they could change their minds. Back at the Port Captain, we handed his copy to him and once again ran out the door. It was now just before 3:00 and we still had errands to do before we go.

Tearing through the aisles of the local market like contestants on Supermarket Sweep, we filled out basket up with junk food, muffins, cookies, and a few bottled yogurts. All things that did not need to be prepared and could quickly be grabbed from the chill box or pantry when we were ready to eat. As far as prepping meals for the passage, that was out the window. We just had to focus on having any kind of food aboard that would see us through the next three to four days. Back in the dinghy we took the long ride across the harbor and part way through the channel that leads to the lagoon to fill up two of our jerrycans with diesel. We had just filled up the tank in the morning with what had been in the jerrycans, so at least we knew we’d be leaving fully loaded.

It was four o’clock when we finally got back to Serendipity, but on the bright side, it literally had gotten brighter. The dark clouds that were hanging over us for a few hours were now gone, only having left a light sprinkle behind. Knowing that our family had no indication that we were leaving I quickly got a few messages out that a window had just come up, and they could expect to hear from us in a few days. It was also a chance to let my mom know that she could finally send that care package containing our new debit card to Key West, and it wouldn’t be shipped back to her because we weren’t there in time to receive it (good thing I didn’t tell her to send it back when we first started looking for a window). When I had completed that and Matt and the jacklines run, we worked together to get the dinghy up, and with engine running, could finally get the anchor up and start the 375 mile journey to Florida. I have a feeling though, as desperate as we were to get out of this place, we’re kind of going to miss it.

2.11.14 (2)

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Sunday February 9, 2014

baseball game, Isla Mujeres

The past few days I’ve been trying to find a peaceful balance of relaxing and enjoying our time here in Isla Mujeres, and also not freaking out that we are so far behind schedule. Nevermind that they’re mostly self inflicted schedules, but keep in mind that if we make the jump to the Med this summer, we’d like to position ourselves in St. Martin in early May just to be ready, and that’s a long way to go in three months. And that’s if we left tomorrow! To take my mind off these deadlines and dreaded miles, I’ve been trying to find things to occupy our time, and my mind, here in Isla. It’s occurred to me that we honestly haven’t done much of anything here, and I blame that on an equal balance of having a speedy internet connections at our fingertips on the boat, and almost making a game of keeping the monthly budget at low as possible. I’m not kidding, it gets addictive, trying to beat out the previous month by making statements like “We already have rice, so if we just buy some vegetables and Stir-fry sauce, we can turn that into three meals, and we don’t even have to spend the $2.50 on meat!”. It’s actually getting a little embarrassing.

So now, I’ve made the resolution to let us live it up a little bit. I’ve made a pact with Matt that if we’re still here one week from now, we’ll allow ourselves to rent a scooter for the day to tour the island, and I’m going to try and talk him into going to a restaurant called Mango’s to celebrate our 18 month cruising anniversary coming up on Wednesday, based on a tip from a cruising friend and about 1,000 five star reviews on Trip Advisor. Today though, I was going to force upon him some more wandering on our way to the grocery store, along with a stop for Poc Chuc to eat on the way back. That last part was actually a request of his, with a little nudging on my part to do it today instead of ‘One of these days…’.

Making the mile long walk from where we land our dinghy at Marina Paraiso down the main road mixed with vacant lots, local restaurants, and tiendas (not the whored out restaurants and tourist shops of the north side) we detoured down a side road to satisfy my wanderlust. It wasn’t going to be a huge day of exploring, mind you, just getting to know these streets we wander past every 2-3 days a little more in depth. Even just one block in, the shops reminded us a little more of Fronteras and the day to day life we were used to in Guatemala. The stores may have been just a tad more built up, but it was the same basic feel. A hardware store here, a restaurant there, a pharmacy on the corner. It looked like the Central American living we’ve come to know pretty well, and even though I wasn’t surprised or amazed by finding anything new off the main road, it was still nice to get off it for a few minutes.

This section of town didn’t look too large so after two blocks and one turn, we came to a dead end in front of the baseball field that sits across from the supermarket. And joy of joys, there was a game going on today. Rooting around in our pockets to see how many pesos we had, it was deemed that 100 should be at least enough to get us into the game and possibly even buy a beer. Walking up to the ticket taker who was actually just a woman ripping up shreds of what looked like recycled paper, I was told the entry was 20 pesos a person, which we gladly bought in to. Shuffling through the maze of patrons standing in line at the concession stands, we made our way to the concrete levels of seating and grabbed a spot on the lowest level. Realizing that we had situated ourselves on the side of the home team, the Isla Mujeres Pescadores, we decided to align ourselves in cheering for them since, hey, we were basically residents here anyway by now.

Sitting so close to the field we had, literally, a front row view of all that was happening on the sidelines. What really captured my heart was the bat boy, who was not even close to being a boy, but instead an older and slightly weathered man who would spring to life when it was his turn to round up a foul ball or present a player with his selected bat. The man had to be nearing 80, but took so much joy and pride in participating in the communities events. Good thing there was a 12 ft fence in front of me or I probably would have leaped over anything smaller, wrapping this grandfather figure in my arms and gushing, “You are just too cute!”. Matt saw my desired intentions and just rolled his eyes. I can’t help it that my cat isn’t enthusiastic about being scooped up and cuddled and I have to focus my affection elsewhere.

Finding that we should have enough pesos left to buy a couple of beers even if they were charged at ridiculous stadium prices, I was ecstatic to find out they were only half the price that we normally see at restaurants, essentially turning this into a buy one get one special for me. With a grin on my face and cold beers in my hand, I returned to Matt as we tried to beat the hot sun with our cold beers, and make room for all the locals filling in the seats around us. And this is what surprised me: I didn’t mind when there were so many Pescadores fans coming in that we were literally squeezed like sardines onto these concrete slabs. There wasn’t the traditional American personal space issue where, even if you were on a bus or a train with a somewhat spacious seat under your behind, you cross your legs away and lean the other direction as soon as a stranger takes the empty seat next to you. Here I had one arm smooshed against Matt, the other arm smooshed against a sweaty man in a tank top, barely enough room to bring my beer up to my lips, but you couldn’t wipe the silly grin off my face because I was having such a good time.

Though I should have been paying attention to the actual game, I couldn’t take my eyes off the happenings in the stadium. The sights, the sounds, the sense of community; everyone here knew each other and it was as if a big family potluck had been taken on the road with some entertainment thrown in for good measure. Some families had shown up with large coolers stocked full of cold beers and tasty treats, others were bringing back plates of nachos, or my personal favorite, ceviche, from the concession stands by the entrance gate. Although my hunger was beginning to grow, we’d left on empty stomachs so we could later fill them with Poc Chuc, I wanted to make sure we stayed through as much of the game as we could to enjoy the experience and the bit of serendipity we had wandered in to. This game really was the community coming together to unwind on a Sunday afternoon, and for the first time in awhile, I felt a sense of belonging. Matt was enjoying the afternoon just as much as I was and we made yet another pact, that we would come back to the next home game, armed with a cooler and possibly some wide brimmed hats (that sun is a killer!).

When the fifth inning had come to and end and my stomach was starting to talk louder than the Mexican women a few seats down from me, we decided to pack it in. After all, we’d probably be back in 3-4 days for their next game, so no sense in dropping flat from fatigue. Strolling back out to the main road we tucked into our favorite little pink shack for some of the best pork one could ever ask for. Having the confidence of some beer and the recent buzz of local conversation, I did not have to rely on English at any point for my stop here. While sitting at our little corner table and watching the American tourists flock in after parking their golf cards outside and working their hardest to use the little bit of Spanish they knew (Grassy-ass!!), I thought back to ourselves having now been in Isla for almost two months and smiled to myself while realizing, ‘That’s right, we finally belong here’.

Isla Mujeres baseball game

Isla Mujeres baseball game

Isla Mujeres baseball game

2.9.14 (3)

Isla Mujeres baseball game

Isla Mujeres baseball game

Isla Mujeres baseball game

Poc Chuc, Isla Mujeres

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Friday February 7, 2014

palm trees in Isla Mujeres

A few months ago  we did an interview for Newly Salted, and along with answering some of the pre-made questions from the site I also decided to take into consideration what you, our readers, want to know from us. Unfortunately there were more questions asked than I anticipated and I decided to hold off on a few of them and add them to a second blog post based solely on questions that you’ve asked for us. Now that our days are consisting of either sitting on the boat or heading to the beach, nothing to write home about since I’ve already tried to squeeze a few posts out of it, what better time to get back to you on all those questions you asked?

 

What has been the most jaw dropping experience with an animal/fish/bird, ect?

I’m still waiting for it!! Between all of our other cruising friends, they have stories of whales, toucans, or even wombats. Ok, that one was on land and in a wild animal reserve. We’ve had a couple of interesting ones, such as the dolphins that followed us for quite awhile in Belize, and the black tip sharks that were circling our boat in the Bahamas, but I’d have to say that none of them were quite jaw dropping. I just want to know, where are my whales? Why do they seem so intent on avoiding us?

 

How long do you imagine you’ll cruise?

I guess the best answer would be, until the money runs out. We expect that will be somewhere between 3-4 years from now, although if we could keep our monthly expenses where they are at the moment, we just might be able to squeeze in another year or two.

 

What’s your favorite island?

Cuba. Hands down, no question. The funny part is, we only explored the tiniest sliver of what this place has to offer. Forget the gorgeous cays, snorkeling, and fishing that it offers, of which we did not have the chance to explore, just the land itself and the people are utterly amazing. Everyone we met was genuinely friendly and made us feel incredibly welcome. The terrain changes from sandy beaches to mountains and everything in between. Plus it it just so untouched and so different from any place we’ve ever been. Some of these islands in the Caribbean start to look the same, one easily swap-able for the next, but Cuba is the only one that completely stands alone.

 

Do you feel your boat is big enough for the two of you to live on?

Surprisingly, I do. I’ve felt this way for a long time, and even though Matt was suffering from ten-foot-itis awhile back (We’d be so much better off if we just had 10 more feet), he’s finally come around as well. We can do everything we need in here, such as cook decent meals in the galley (my cooking skills really are getting better from when we left), and just hang out while never feeling cramped or claustorphobic. It seems we’re rarely entertaining guests on our boat, so we don’t need the extra space for that, and until our family starts getting bigger, this 34 feet of boat is perfect for us. If we ever did get a larger boat though, my two requests would be for a separate shower stall in the head, and more distance between our sleeping quarters and the galley since I have a habit of waking up before Matt and I can’t even make myself a cup of coffee without causing too much noise and essentially rousing him out of bed as well. You laugh, but that’s the only alone time I get each day.

 

What is your favorite thing about sailing?

The sun on my face, a slight breeze through my hair, and getting into port. True blue sailors, we are not. I guess that’s just something you learn along the way. Or maybe it’s that passages are usually nothing like pleasure cruises on Lake Michigan.

 

 

So far, is there anyplace you’ve visited that is a must to go back to sometime?

Refer back to question 3. Cuba, you will see our faces again. Other than that, and keep in mind that Matt and I are fully admitted ‘city’ people, Manhattan. It was just a five day stop while traveling down the Hudson, trying to get ourselves out to the Atlantic, but it’s also been the source of many of our daydreams. You’ll find a number of our conversations that start with, ‘You know where I wish we were right now? Reading a book in Central Park, strolling down Broadway, spying on the boats and the Statue of Liberty at Battery Park’. Give us nature, or give us a metropolis.

 

 

What are some of the things that annoy you most about living on a 34 ft boat?

Surprisingly, not as much as there used to be. I’ve even made peace with the fact that all the contents of my chill box will make their way to the companionway steps while I’m rooting around for items in there, since when the chillbox is open, I have 50 sq inches of available counter space. There’s still little things that get on my nerves, like having to shower in the cockpit when it’s anything but hot out, finding a necessary tool in our completely unorganized tool bag, or pulling out 15 items first to get to my can of diced tomatoes lodged near the bilge.

But the most common annoyance I’ve been running into at the moment is trying to grab a USB charger for one of our various electrical items and finding a jumbled knot of cords. Which is actually an easy fix once I get around to it. I just need to force myself, or more accurately, find a way to run off to the store while Matt’s not looking since he thinks everything is going to break the budget*, and buy about five small sets of those Snapware containers to coil all the cords in and store them neatly away. (* I can kinda get where his logic is coming from. We don’t have any income coming in, so each month that we can save more money and be under budget, means more cruising in the long run)

 

How often are you at anchor vs in a marina?

We spent our whole hurricane season in Guatemala at a marina, but in that case it was just so cheap (approx $240/mo) and made it so much easier to get our long list of boat projects done that it was a no brainer. But otherwise, we prefer to be at anchor. The natural sway of the boat in the wind, the fresh breezes through the hatches, the privacy. Oh yeah, and the ability to escape crazy neighbors. We love being at anchor, and although the anchoring process used to make me nervous when we first started, it didn’t take us long to get a system down.

On Serendipity we have 160 ft of 5/16ths chain (plus extra rode on top of that), and a 55 lb Rocna. While coming into an anchorage we try to find a spot in 10-20 ft of water with a sand bottom (vs eel grass or coral), and then based on water depths and wind speed, approximate how much chain will be let out which then tells us what kind of swinging room we’ll need. After finding that spot we’ll point our bow into the wind, and while I’m at the helm I’ll slow ourselves down to a stop at which point Matt will let down the anchor until it hits bottom, and he’ll give me a hand signal to slowly put us in reverse. While I’m doing this, he’ll let out more chain to get us to about a 4:1 scope and then signal me to switch us to neutral. Once he’s sure that our anchor has dug in he’ll signal me once more to put the boat into reverse, and if we don’t seem to be dragging backward, signal me again to bring up the RPMs to make sure we really dig in. Then everything is shut off, Matt lets out a little more chain and sets the snubber, and we set our anchor alarm to alert us if the anchor drags.

This is all pretty basic Anchoring 101 information, but it’s surprising to us to see how many people our there don’t follow it. Just today we’ve watched two people barrel into the anchorage, dropping their chain while still moving forward. Or there are those that don’t take into account swing room and put themselves basically on top of you. I’ve appointed Matt the Anchor Disputer onboard, meaning he’s the one to tell people off when they get too close, since I don’t like that kind of confrontation. Then there are those who’s anchors are laughably small for their boat, except it’s not laughable because it’s actually dangerous. Don’t even get me started on those people….

*Quickly, I just want to apologize if all this recent anchoring talk has made me sound like an anchoring snob. But if other people around us aren’t doing it properly, it could possibly mean damage and/or destruction to our home. So yeah, it’s a sensitive subject to me.

 

How’s Georgie doing?

Oh yeah, that cat that we almost got rid of a few months ago because she couldn’t seem to stand living on the boat. She’s doing much better now, and I’m pretty sure she’s already forgotten what it’s like to be able to run around on land. Actually, not that we didn’t ever love her before, but now we look back on the situation and think ‘How could we have almost let her out of our lives?‘. Even though she’s going through an adolecent phase where she wants little to nothing to do with her parents, we are able to get some play and snuggle time in each day, and there are about five times each day where we go “Stop what you’re doing and look how cute Georgie looks right now!”. She’s having a ball here in Isla Mujeres where she’s able to watch the minnows off the side of the boat each day, we try and bring in the birds for her with leftover slices of bread, and we’ve even come up with a new game that she absolutely loves called Batting Practice where we (try to) toss animal crackers off the side of the boat and she bats them back at us with her paw. As far as most cats lives go, I think she’s living a pretty good one.

 

 

If you have any other questions you’d like to ask us, let us know!  Reply here in the comments, or give us a like over on Facebook and ask us there* (as well as check out our up to date happenings).  We really love hearing from you and answering the questions you want to know!

*P.S.  If you asked us a question before on Facebook and it did not get answered, please let me know!  I tried to go through my history to find them and came up with nothing.  So once again, sorry if it was not answered here, I blame both myself for not writing them down earlier, and my lack of computer knowledge.

 

 

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