Thursday, December 11, 2014

Which way to turn

We are back on Cerca Trova after a long summer of travel and land-based adventures.  We are working hard to get her ready for a serious cruise of perhaps a year or more, which means replacing all those systems that have aged to where they are no longer trustworthy out of range of easy help.  That would be our main battery bank (which was essentially shot last year when we set out for our first cruise), our standing rigging at its design-life end (if it fails, we lose our rig), major engine overhauls, replacing leaking hatches (boating rule #1 is to keep the water out and the people in), and of course an overhaul of the boat’s bottom paint, props, rudders, etc (bottom paint available in the US nowadays barely lasts 18 months before it fails to prevent a personal coral reef from starting up and making a ‘hula-skirt’ that seriously drags down boat speed and therefore our ability to get to places and away from weather).  And a mind-boggling array of small tasks like mounting the EPIRB (look it up) for ready access if disaster strikes, reworking our “garage” to allow for quick access to tools and parts, cleaning up our main salon headliner that had been stained and uncleanable when she was launched, failing bug screens that we can no longer patch, resuscitating the SSB so we can communicate by text-mail and get all-vital weather data anywhere in the world, get the watermaker leaks fixed, tune the dinghy so it will idle well, and on and on and on.  The whole list is about 5 pages single-spaced of repairs, upgrades, spares, and provisioning.  We haven’t even started on the provisioning because we haven’t decided where we are going to go.
And go we must.  Men and ships rot in port, and our port, the Fort Myers Boat Club, has been sold to a powerboat broker company.  We can see the writing on the wall being left by the fancy sales guys inspecting the docks; and we are getting antsy.   So where do we go?
Last year in the Bahamas it was cold (really) and the incessant cold fronts with their fierce northwest winds in an archipelago with almost no west-protected anchorages made for less than relaxed cruising.   And it was crowded, with 320 boats in Georgetown harbor for the peak of the season, crowds that made it chancy to find room in the popular spots.  They are crowded because they are easy to get to, beautiful and have a base of marine support services.  We loved them and we will go back. But for now,……
We would like to go somewhere else.  Which means to get more remote, take on a lot more adventure and so also push the thin line between adventure and adversity.  If it was easy and safe, then everyone else would be there already.
Cerca Trova was built for it.   There are Mantas all over the world and they get there on their own bottoms.   It’s really about us: are we ready? Can we deal with the physical punishment of heavy weather, standing off unmarked reef entrances until after sunrise, finding engine parts in foreign languages, fixing it ourselves because the locals don’t have experience or parts for our gear, finding our way through the uncharted shifting sands of foreign immigration rituals? We think we can figure it out, and have the cruising community for assistance if needed. Just the way sailing and sailors work.
We are nearly done with refitting.  We are taking a Holiday break, then back for the final push to provision.  And then we will indeed have to make the choice.  Off the dock and off the fence.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Where my string be

We learned many things over our winter in the Bahamas.  We saw sights, we talked with people, ran aground (!) a few times.   Perhaps the most rewarding though was learning about the Bahamians.  Yes, there are Bahamians.  Its a sovereign nation of 400,000 people, smaller than Austin, and 350,000 live in Nassau.  Which means when you aren't in Nassau you are in with them.  They are a people with their own unique history and culture that arose from origins of slavery and life-on-the-sea in an archipelago of hundreds of islands.  They see the Loyalists of the American Revolution as the good-guys because the Loyalists brought so much economic prosperity to these astringent islands.  They talk a lot about Positive.  There is an active church every half mile along the road.  They live for the moment and for the future of their children.  It's a culture they struggle to hang on to in the face of the hurricane of self-indulgent materialism exported by the 'States.  Many go to the 'States to study and work.  But they always find their way home.


On Stocking Island we had a chance to hear a local historian and botanist talk about his country.  He talked about plants and their medicinal purposes. He talked about where he had lived and why he was now back home on Stocking Island.  He said it was "where his string be."

Wow!  What did that mean?  We had to ask.  He said your "string" is your umbilical cord and it's buried in the garden of the house you are born in.  And when Bahamians are done wandering and living abroad, they always head back to where their string be.

Where be your string?  As Americans, we don't have much sense of home, the world is our oyster, well not really.  We are out in the world right now, touring through Europe, avoiding the worst of the South Florida summer heat.  We are visiting our European friends and our ex-pat friends too.  It's pretty clear that ex-pats do make their homes here although there is always this sense of looking over your shoulder back to the US.  And the over-arching question is "where will we settle when we get back?"  Without a sense of "where my string be" it's pretty hard to know where to go back to.

Cruisers seem to be the same or worse.  Most of us do not intend to spend the rest of our lives living aboard nor abroad.  At any gathering of cruisers there is this undercurrent of wondering where we will each go next and where we will go back to when done wandering.  The Bahamians wander their archipelago and the world but they each know where their string be.

Monday, June 9, 2014

And the sea grants to each man new hope

    And the sea will grant each man new hope,
    as sleep brings dreams of home.

This poetic quote was attributed to Columbus in The Hunt for Red October (but was actually created for the film see ). Regardless of where it came from, it's incredibly evocative of the mind-set of those of us who go forth upon the sea.  One has to wonder if the screenwriter who penned it was a sailor. 

We have learned a lot in our last year, went through some rough times, but the hope that is always on the horizon still calls us back to sea.  And now back home from our travels, yes, we did dream of home while away.  Ironically, it's not very nice here right now.  It's pushing 90 oF here in south Florida in June, not especially high on the scale but it is a special kind of heat that only Florida can produce.  And I have lived in a lot of hot places, like south Texas and Arizona.  Air conditioning is running 24/7.  How could we ever have considered A/C non-essential?  All those accumulated exterior boat repairs are a special treat.  And a big high-pressure is sitting right on top of us so there is no breeze, ie nothing breaks the heat and it's not worth trying to go out sailing locally.  When I figure out how to photograph heat, I'll include it.  We are catching up on all those movies we missed.

It feels like we are killing time again until we can go back to sea.    

Friday, May 16, 2014

Between two worlds

We made it back to Fort Myers about 2/3 of the miles under engine, which is much better than sometimes, tied up to our strangely familiar dock, and, a week later, are still dealing with the culture shock. 

I think it was the Publix our first day back where we first noticed it.  Shelves, coolers, racks, stands, cases, piles, cartons of products.  The sheer number of choices was disorienting, and we found ourselves carefully considering each option one-by-one.  It would have taken hours to do a basic shopping trip.  Because in the Bahamas there is one choice, if you are lucky and the supply boat has recently come.  How do we Americans do this?  The sheer quantity of quality is astounding when put in perspective of the rest of the world.

But now we are on the road, going to the wedding of a friends' son, seeing our doctors, seeing our family.  Immersed in America at the ground level.  Hotels, brands, restaurants, brands, airports, brands, cars, brands, SUVs!, brands, people, people, people.  And more people.  It feels like we are adrift between two worlds: our new one of self-reliance, simple living, and the physical truth of the ocean, and our past one of 2010's America. 

Our response is not unique.  I recommend the blog of Kintala, especially Tim's entry on being far from their new home:

..The Cruising community is not much like America. These are people with different motivations, different ideas of what it means to be responsible, with a close and personal relationship with the natural world. They are from Canada and Europe and are not nearly as impressed with Americans as Americans tend to be with themselves. Most know well their turn will come to need a little help, and so they offer the same with little hesitation. ..

We have two weeks of road trip ahead of us before we can go home...

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

On Our Last Leg

We made it Across. It was of course on a mis-forecast wind. Mr. Parker predicted 10-12 out of the SE which would have been ideal to go WSW on, but nooo, we got 3-5 kts dead behind us. So we motored. Of all our sea miles, we have done not much better than a third under sail, which cruisers all say is actually pretty typical. When you have to be somewhere, to make a current window, a daylight window, a weather window, sailing is just not reliable enough to plan around. When you are on a ten-day passage it kinda doesn't matter, you take what Nature throws at you and you speed up or slow down near the end to time your arrival. I am thinking that the real art of an experienced sailor is getting the sailing right.

What are these clouds telling you about imminent weather?
But we did make it Across. We came across the “COLREGS” line, the international maritime law boundary, just after eight in the morning at Turtle Reef Light. Then we worked our way down the Hawk Channel to anchor about 11am behind Rodriguez Key. They spell “Key” in the Bahamas as “Cay” but its pronounced the same way, BTW. As a treat we went for our first US happy hour in 5 months at a little place that was several miles by dinghy. Ha ha! Miles in the dinghy? No problem! Our experience is beginning to show.

From there we ran the next day 40 miles down to Boot Key Harbor. Another frustrating long day of motoring with light winds dead behind us. One small gift from providence was the utter lack of crab pot floats. The last time we were in the Hawk Channel, it was infested with floats, one every 50 ft in some patches.  The season is ending and the harvest has been poor (hmmm .. wonder what happens when you put out 800,000,000 traps each year?) so we didn't have to strain to spot the floats in the waves then dodge them by altering course every few minutes for fear of being entangled.   

We really like the mooring field at Boot Key in the city of Marathon, FL. It has everything a liveaboard cruiser could want. Chandleries, groceries, attractions like the wonderful Crane Point Preserve, all-round protection from the weather, and lots of other cruisers in a real community. We finally caught up with our friends the Hackneys and their 5 kids on their catamaran Take Two.  It was wonderful to see how their kids have grown up in the real world and we had a great time trading lessons and experiences even with their 3-year-old.  The cost of Boot Key is in having to pay for a mooring ball and put up with the soupy water of the basin.  Die-hards look askance at boat people who stay in Boot Key, tends to be liveaboards, not “real” salty cruisers, but it is a great place to hang and enjoy ourselves.

The harbor at Boot Key
The Family Hackney on Take Two
But everything comes to an end, in the end. We have to be in Houston for a wedding on 16 MAY and have air tickets on 15 MAY. We have a huge list of work to get done on the boat. So we can't hang here forever. We have been looking for the weather window now for a week and it will open on Monday. Our run is an overnight 20 hrs to Fort Myers by way of Cape Romano. We really enjoy overnights because it feels like real cruising. The prediciton is for 10-12 from the ESE (hmmmm.. where did we hear that before?) for TUE and TUE night all the way up the west coast of Florida. Ideal for running up because the land to the east keeps the sea state from getting nasty. So this morning at 09:45 we dropped the mooring lines to our ball and set off for Fort Myers... the last leg, for this year.

On our way out of Boot Key Harbor

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

One last night in the Bahamas

Here we are, poised in Bimini with tomorrow's forecast looking decent for the very long fight across the Gulf Stream. Chris Parker (the cruisers' weather wonk) says there will be 10-15 kts of east south easterlies all night tomorrow night and very light seas. Sea state is a huge deal with crossing the Gulf because any wind from any direction involving north will turn the Stream into the E-ticket ride from hell. In the case of a strong cold front, the northerlies can generate seas so savage they can overwhelm Coast Guard cutters So we wanted calm seas and that's what he promised, and in the end what we seem to be getting.
 The Bimini flats under clear skies

And we wait for tomorrow, to do last minute chores (refueling, laundry, hair trim, clean the cockpit, ..) and one last beach walk. There is something amazing about the water here just 50 miles from Florida. Florida water is green and grass-bottomed, and looks like the Atlantic. Bahamas water is like gin-bottle glass over deep white sand. It will be hard to leave and hard to not be somewhat disappointed by Florida.

Not that we didn't have our issues with the Bahamas. It is absolutely a third-world country. The people are lovely when they haven't been burnt by first-world tourists and not so lovely when they have. Food is astonishingly expensive for locals and travelers alike. Sheltered harbors are rare and we certainly wished at times there was better protection.  

It was our first season cruising and there was a lot of painful learning. About cruising and seamanship and about ourselves - next time: less food and more spare parts! The wonderful places and people we have met. The open question of “what or where do we go next?”

USA thataway

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Turning for Home

We have gone as far east as we are going to go this year. That was the Glass Window Bridge between North Eleuthra and South Eleuthra. It was a natural arch a hundred years ago and was used as a bridge until the arch collapsed. The Bahamians have gone to great effort to span the gap with a series of man-made bridges, each of which gets trashed eventually by a hurricane. The current bridge is only one lane wide but very heavily built. Since there's little traffic and rebuilding the bridge is very expensive in terms of Bahamian GDP, this makes sense. Everyone just drives down the middle of the two-lane roads anyway ;) .
But that was it. We need to get back by mid-May and it takes a surprisingly long time to move 300 miles through the islands and banks of the archipelago. This is due to no easy straight lines from point A to Point B here and having to wait for the weather to cooperate. Fortunately, that is more common when going west than it is when going east. The spring trades are beginning to appear, which are 15-25 kt steady winds from the east south east. You might think that was ideal, just hop on and ride downwind, but its not that easy. Catamarans don't like going dead downwind. It is hard to get the main sail out far enough to one side to fully catch a wind from dead aft. And when you do, the is a high risk of waves pushing your stern off to the wrong side, filling the sail from the back and producing a “crash jibe”. So we have been looking for routes that will take us back at angles to these winds and avoid the continuing cold fronts that just don't want to quit. It has been quite a winter for everyone on the East Coast.

And the route that makes sense runs from Eleuthra via Current Cut Settlement (yes, the current is so fierce they named the town after it)  to Royal Island to wait for a weather window to make the big jump directly to Bimini. Since we are headed to the Keys and then up the west coast of Florida, we considered tackling the reverse of the route we took out, running directly from Marathon north east past the top of Andros to Chub. But Chub has a poor anchorage, and reversing the route means fighting our way straight back into the Gulf Stream, a fight we weren't going to win. So, from Bimini we can shoot due west to Miami or run south with “one foot on the beach” of the Bimini chain to get south without mashing into the Gulf Stream.

The beach and Cerca Trova at the anchorage for Current Settlement

Hi ho, off we go, for home and hearth and family.
Sun setting over Eleuthra, now behind us

Monday, April 21, 2014

Three Silences

Night watch 2300, standing NW broad reaching under main alone, NW Channel past Chub Cay, and three silences around me.  

First is the utter lack of the noise of civilization. No traffic, no people scolding their dogs, no sirens, nada.  Second is the silence of the sleeping off watch. No bustling about making tea, no radio work, no stowing or washing.  Third is the silence of the sea.  Certainly, there is the rush of water leaving our sterns and the rustling/creaking of the rig.  If there was someone to talk to, I would have to raise my voice a bit to be heard over it all. But there is no sound of danger. No building moan in the rigging, no breaking waves, no surf or buoy bells. A kind of silence in the noise. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A strange way of living

Our strange way of life begins with the batteries, because the boat runs on batteries (ha! You thought this was a sail boat). The stove's propane valve, the lights, the watermaker, the instruments, the radios, even the wall sockets are supplied by an inverter that makes 110v AC power from the batteries' 12v DC. And they are basically plain-old lead-acid batteries but augmented with fancy stuff like sealed cases, absorbed-mat gel electrolyte and valve-regulated inter-cell transfers, etc, which makes them vrAGM batteries. Which all means that they work better and last a lot longer than the old stand-by car batteries that you had to feed with distilled water and generated hydrogen when being charged (BTW accumulating hydrogen inside a closed boat is generally not a good thing). Which means that they have to be charged in stages and are damaged if deeply discharged, and lose charge just sitting around, and letting them sit partially charged damages the internal cells, etc. Batteries are not just a gas tank that contains electrons.

Filling the batteries takes some tactical maneuvering and thinking ahead because we have only two ways to fill them when we are off the dock. The first is our diesel generator. It can produce up to 40 amps of 120v AC power. But if you get close to that, you'll pop its breaker and have to shut it down, go pull the spinnaker and fenders out of the locker it lives in, open the sound-deadening housing, then climb down inside to reset the breaker that is mounted on the generator head.  We try to avoid that. So, 40 amps AC. That feeds the battery charger's AC input, which converts it to 12-15v DC and applies that to the batteries to drive 'juice' into them. But remember that these fancy vrAGM batteries have to be charged in stages. That means when they are deeply discharged, they can accept a lot of current, so the charger can crank up the voltage and drive as much current as it can muster. Typically this means upwards of 100 amps DC. That is a lot of current. Which means that the cables running in/out of the batters are about the diameter of a garden hose. And it means the batteries get hot, remember those exploding lithium battery stories?, so there is a thermistor on the batteries that is connected to the charger to slow it down if the batteries get too hot.

Once the batteries start to fill up, their voltage comes up, and as it comes up, the charger shifts to Stage 2, called 'absorb' mode, where it down-shifts to deliver only 14.2 volts for a fixed length of time to make sure the batteries have really been filled thoroughly. Only they aren't really filled. Stage 2 kicks in at about 80% of the capacity of the battery, and will usually add about 10% to the battery. Then Stage 3, 'float' charging, begins. Float delivers about 0.5% of the battery capacity per hour and slows down as the batteries approach full charge, ie it takes a looong time to fill the batteries from their 90% state to 100%. This means that the batteries rarely get filled to 100%.

Remember that they don't like being left partially charged? And that they don't like being deeply discharged? So, to efficiently charge them, they have to be discharged, but not too deeply, and to be kept healthy they also have to be filled as much as possible at every chance.

Now, diesel engines don't like being run without a heavy load, ie they like being run with the generator head pulling hard, ie producing a lot of current. So we use it when the batteries are at their lowest state of the day, in the morning after the night's run when the fridge/freezer, anchor lights, instruments p.r.n., have been going all night without any power being produced. But the neighbors don't think much of generators waking them up in the wee hours. So we try to run it as early as is civilized, typically about 07:30. But before the sun gets high in the sky.

Because our second power source is a bank of solar panels. They are rated at 450 watts, ie nominally 38 amps at 12 volts DC. But typically they put out only about 30 amps when the sun is high over the boat and only a few amps when the sun is low, like morning and late afternoon or on cloudy days. Remember the batteries only accept a few amps in absorb and float modes? And that bulk charging can take as much juice as can be applied?

A few other factoids – the solar panels put charge directly into the batteries with their own charger/controller device, and can put out enough power to bring the bus voltage up to levels that make the generator's battery charger think that the batteries are nearly full even though they aren't. And the generator uses the batteries to run its starter, ie if they are allowed to go too low we can't start the generator. And the generator uses diesel fuel, a limited resource that requires periodic stops at fuel docks. And the batteries don't like to abruptly shift from being charged to delivering current.

Putting it all together means that, on anchor and away from the dock with clear skies and good sun in the forecast, we have to run the generator as early in the morning as we can to ensure we use it efficiently and with a good load on its engine. 100 amps DC is only about 10 amps AC (remember the generator can produce upwards of 40 amps AC?). So there's lots of available current. Which means we also run the water heater (8 amps AC), the water maker (3 amps AC), charge all our iThingees using the inverter (3 amps AC), run the microwave (20 amps AC!) and vacuum (10 amps AC), play radios, etc. Which means our mornings are pretty busy. Then we shut down the generator when absorb mode is nearly done and let the solar panels take it the rest of the way. And we hang out in the sun, go kayaking, whatever strikes us.

The end result is a life dictated by batteries. We aren't free spirits, going where we want at a whim, following the wind: your chemistry teacher was right – life is driven by chemistry; in our case, electrochemistry.

Past Halfway Around

We are pinned down in Spanish Wells by north winds preventing our further travel north. Yes, north.

We have been working north for about two weeks, having picked up friends Marty and Sue Wells at Staniel Cay, after leaving George Town for the last time on this cruise. Sue and Jennifer were roommates many moons ago at Northfield Mt Hermon. We had a great time time showing them the Exumas and at every hop the latitudes got a little bit higher. Now we are halfway through 25oN and heading for the Abacos to meet the Manta fleet for the first-ever reunion Migration of Mantas. But its a big run across big water via a tricky cut through coral and breaking seas, and we are less than willing to go bashing out under conditions that will make it harder than it has to be.

So, Spanish Wells. Turns out this is an outpost of Puritans who emigrated from Bermuda in 1648 (yes, 350 years ago) not long after our own batch arrived in Plymouth. Their ship was wrecked on arrival on the Devil's Backbone that runs along the top of Eleuthra. This is the reef that we may cross ourselves , but using GPS and good charts, and in good conditions it is not so scary. The “Eleuthran Adventurers” took refuge in a large cave with their clothes and very little food. Some help was received from England and a little from the colonies. Most settled on Spanish Wells and lived a subsistence living from 1650-1950, with power and city water only recently established. Spanish Wells is a charming town of quaint cottages and sturdy working waterfront, with a sustainable fishing and lobstering industry.

Welcome to Spanish Wells

where they work hard

at fishing and lobstering. 

The Point. 

Flowers everywhere.
The town is unique in the Bahamas in its culture and industry. Like all other Bahamians, they have had to carve a life for themselves out of these rocks and have done so with ingenuity and hard work to build a large and successful industry of commercial lobstering. They don't use traps, they use “hotels” which regenerate the populations that they are harvesting, and divers to do the harvesting of 4-8 adult bugs per hotel. GPS helps a lot in finding the hotels, roughly 15,000 of which they have planted all over Bahamian waters as far south as the Ragged Islands. Now at the end of lobster season, the town is waiting for the ships to come home. One already has come in with its string of divers' dories tagging along behind. And much of the catch goes to the Red Lobster restaurant chain.
Mother ship and her dories returning home.

Double Exposure under sail

We buddy boated too. We had been running into “Double Exposure” out of Ontario all along the way north and they had similar plans to work north. So we did the long run from Shroud Cay to Current Cut (55 miles and nearly 9 hrs) and then through the Cut up to Spanish Wells the next day as their side-kick boat. They have been doing the cruising thing for years and are now on their way up from St. Kitts to sell their boat and trade it in for a larger one. It feels great to have another boat along, and Sue and Marty were great crew! Marty is a long-time gearhead and helped with skills ranging from outboard problems to creativity in the galley, and Susan is a complete water baby. We were sad to see them go.
Sue and Marty on Pinder's water taxi to the airport. 

All in all, we are feeling like we might actually have a handle on things. This was especially apparent to me when, once we had left the Exumas. I reviewed some of those charts and found myself thinking “I know those cays, I know how to find anchorage regardless of weather.” We are getting there....

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Highs and Lows

We spent the holidays in and around Nassau with several of our kids aboard. It was wonderful to have them with us but it tied us down, too. The weather here in the Bahamas has been less than great, so we stuck close to town and got to know the people and the community.

We got to see Junkanoo both on Boxing Day and on New Years Day. Junkanoo is something else. Nothing like it in our collective experience. Like a river of music and dance and color and symbolism. It is a volunteer competition between spontaneously formed teams like The Valley Boys and Saxons and One True Family. It grew out of slave culture where they only got two days off a year, Boxing Day and New Years Day. So they started celebrating early, ie 01:00! And they still do. It starts now about 02:00 and goes for nearly 18 hrs.
We indulged with a few days in the marina at Atlantis. A real bargain since all aboard the boat get wrist bands for the resort. Their water park is spectacular and their aquarium is the largest outdoor aquarium in the world. The megayacht parade was so cool, like Sophia with her own personal submarine on the boat deck.   If you look really closely at the photo about 1/3 of the width from the right side, you can just see our mast poking up from behind one.  Some of their tenders were almost the size of Cerca Trova and certainly had more electronics.

We toured Nassau and really enjoyed getting to know the city from the inside. There is some fascinating history here that few Americans get to know. For example, the heroes of the Revolutionary times here are the Loyalists who fled the upheaval and brought their entire estates over on ships and started over. We had a wonderful foodie tour from, maybe the highlight of our visit. We attended church, twice, and an ooooold Anglican church near our marina. Sunday service was two and a half hours and an absolutely fascinating to experience the faith and community wisdom of St. Matthews, Nassau.

And of course our passion for cemeteries – what better way to get to see the personal history of a community? We found many Lightbournes and Rolles and other very British names, and an obviously well-loved emancipated slave, Monday Ranger, who would have been about 16 when Queen Victoria freed the slaves.

And then we put all the kids on their respective planes and we took off south – directly into the teeth of an unforecast warm front and black squalls which caught us right on top of the Yellow Banks ie nowhere to turn (only one path through the coral heads) and nowhere to hide (from the screaming winds and slab-sided waves hitting us dead ahead and slamming like cannonfire into our bridgedeck). Sorry, no photos, we were completely loaded dealing with that. More than loaded, traumatized really. Perhaps you recall the lyric from “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” that describes the feeling of “when the waves turns the minutes to hours”? We got through to Highbourne Cay, dumped the anchor at the first place reasonable, and collapsed.

We were pretty shook up by that. And then the cold fronts started coming in. We had serial cold fronts, roughly every 48hrs for three weeks. That meant really strong winds from the north east after they had passed, and often really strong winds from the west. Its the west winds that are the problem here because there are very few places to anchor with any protection from the west. And those few are small (ie not many boats fit in them), have typically marginal holding, (ie your anchor doesn't like to stick and stay stuck) and most have significant tidal current (ie the current switches 180o every 6 hrs and therefore your anchor has to flip over and re-set – see poor holding above).

But finally we have had a break in the weather and we are getting sun, brisk wind from the east (so there are plenty of places to anchor), meeting new friends and nothing has failed in the last week.

We seem to have been through the low-point of our attitude about doing this, at least for now. Some say that cruising is long periods of fun punctuated by moments of sheer terror. Some say that cruising is boat repairs in exotic locations. Friends on Take Two say that cruising is either really high or really low. Others say it's a lifestyle, not a vacation, and that it takes getting used to. So far, we can say they are all correct.

(We are at the moment at Little Farmer's Cay waiting to join in on “5F” First Friday in February at Farmers – a day of insane Class-C racing, lewd and lascivious games, and a food festival too.)