Hello Bahamas!

12/8/2019 

Kyle and I have made it to the Bahamas! We arrived on December 1st around noon and since have had an enjoyable time exploring some islands. We left Key Largo around 9:30pm on November 30th to make the crossing across the Gulf Stream and North to Bimini, a small Eastern Bahamian Island. We chose to leave at night because it was important to us to arrive to Bimini during the day light. There is a general “rule” of sailing that you don’t arrive to a foreign port at night – although we have done it many times – but it is much less stressful and easier going if arriving during the day – especially in the Bahamas where it is shallow and surrounded by reefs. With this thought in mind, we calculated how many hours it should take us to make it to Bimini and chose to arrive at noon. That way if we went faster than planned we’d still arrive after sunrise and if slower, before sunset. We had spent quite a bit of time planning our route from Key Largo to Bimini- pouring over charts, weather, and others’ accounts of crossing the Gulf Stream. The Gulf Stream, according to Wikipedia is: “a warm and swift Atlantic Ocean current that originates in the Gulf of Mexico and stretches to the tip of Florida, and follows the eastern coastlines of the United States and Newfoundland before crossing the Atlantic Ocean.” This is why we chose to leave from Key Largo, south of Bimini, so that we could ride the Gulf Stream to our destination. Being so strong, the Gulf Stream can cause some pretty hazardous conditions in the Atlantic if the wind is blowing against the current, so our weather window was very important to plan and I am so thankful we took the time to wait and really choose good conditions to cross. Anyway, it took us about 14 hours to make the crossing to the Bahamas. It was a pretty easy going passage, we had to motor sail a lot which neither of us really like, but being that we were playing a weather game, we didn’t want to spend any more time out there than necessary as heavy winds were forecasted for the following day. We took two hours shifts with the wind vane steering. So when on watch, it was pretty simple and relaxed: keep an out for ships, make sure we are staying on course, check that the sails are trimmed correctly, and just have an overall idea of what’s going on. While I was on watch I would listen to podcasts and enjoy the vividness of the stars. Kyle listened to some music and also enjoyed the stars and night sky while he was on watch. The night went by quickly and when I woke up from my third off watch the sun had risen, its rays shining through a cloud and illuminating the surface of the deep blue ocean water. 

Around 10:30am Kyle spotted land and we excitedly peered through the binoculars to see what we could make out on the horizon. I kept commenting on the water color and how teal it was, and then an hour later we crossing the depth contour which brought the depth from 600ft to 30ft and my mind was blown! I had always heard of the clear waters of the Bahamas, but we were just in the Keys which also has clear water, how different could it be?! I couldn’t have been more wrong. The water was as clear as drinking water and I could instantly see the entire bottom of the ocean, despite it being 20-30ft below us. “Is this really how the water is?! It’s this clear?!” I kept asking Kyle over and over as my mind took some time to adjust to something I had never seen before. He laughed at me and assured me this is how the Bahamas are. As we came closer to shore I made us lunch and we ate veggie sandwiches and carrots while taking in the white beaches, rock ledges, and incredible water that surrounded us. A bit after noon we spotted our entrance into Bimini and dropped the sails before turning up into the entrance. The entrance wasn’t very well marked with markers as we are used to in Florida, but we had two different charts guiding us as well as the ability to see the bottom. While a bit intense for a moment as we went over a shallow spot, we were quickly inside the break water and spotted the marina we planned to stay at for a couple nights while we got settled and checked into the country. 

I really had no idea what to expect from the Bahamas. I had zero expectations and hadn’t done much research on Bimini itself, other than navigating to it. I figured it might be similar to Florida since it was only 40 miles away. Within 10 minutes of docking the boat at Brown’s Marina I was quickly proven wrong. Nothing like Florida. It only took 14 hours and I felt like we landed in a different world. From the color of the water, to the way the people talked, to the just overall feeling of “island time”. I was thrilled. After docking and high-fiving and hugging a bit to celebrate our successful crossing, it was time to take care of paperwork and checking into the country. I had already printed and filled out our paperwork and had everything neatly organized in a folder, but the marina needed some additional information from us so we filled out some extra forms. We then stuffed all our important documents and passports into a backpack, dug out our shoes, and took instructions from the dock master on how to find Customs and Immigration. We walked out of the marina and onto the street and I instantly felt like I was in the Caribbean, in a land far away. Loud Caribbean music blared from speakers, run down and abounded buildings were scattered in between small dark bars also blasting music. Colorful buildings and shops with even more colorful clothes were scattered here and there. Cars and golf carts and mopeds zipped around the single road which had zero traffic signs. Everyone was very friendly as we walked down the road keeping an eye out for a building labeled “Customs”. Having found the building we found ourselves in a small, stuffy room surrounded by thick clear class, with the government workers behind the class enjoying lunch. Kyle and I stood around chatting quietly, wondering how long we should wait to say something to one of the 8 employees who were all looking at us through the glass but making zero moves towards talking to us. A few minutes passed and a younger woman reluctantly got up from her desk and came over to the counter. “How can I help you?” We explained that we had just arrived from Florida on our boat and she quickly asked for all our papers and documents. I let Kyle take over at this point as we were confusing her by both trying to answer her questions and I quickly learned that while we do most everything shared on the boat, this was a job for a single person. Some more forms, $150 dollars, and a couple stamps later, we were sent to immigration to finish the check-in process. We walked a few more minutes down the road, looking for a pink building labeled “administration”. A woman sitting in the courtyard of the building smiled at us and said “that way” pointing to a hallway. Clearly we stood out as tourists and we were thankful for her guidance. Walking down the barren hallway we followed a hand written sign: “Immigration – Third door on left.” The immigration officer wasn’t unfriendly, but also wasn’t friendly. Kyle tried chatting, asking him his favorite restaurant on the island, how his day is going, etc. He participated a bit, but mostly just wanted our paperwork. “That’s it”, he said and handed us back our documents. It only took 30 minutes and we were cleared into the country.

At this point we were both loopy, exhausted, and very happy. Despite taking two hour shifts, neither of us slept well the night before and I was really starting to feel it. We walked back to the boat, let the dock master know we successfully checked in, and in return he gave us the gate code and the WiFi password. Going back to the boat we quickly dug out some cold beers from the fridge and cheers’d. We had made it to the Bahamas! Kyle has been dreaming of this for over 8 years and me for half that long. With nothing on our agenda for the day, we called our families to let them know we made it and I quickly passed out taking a nice long nap while Kyle poured over cruising guides of the Bahamas. I woke around 4:30 and we decided to walk down to the beach and watch the sunset. It was a quick walk from the marina to an interesting little cemetery and over a little hill. The sun was closing in on the horizon and the clouds provided awesome textures and colors. The beach curved a round to the inlet we had come in earlier that day, and we could see the thin pass over the sandbar and into the harbor. It was a wonderful evening of sunsets, beach exploring, lots of thank you’s and of course a deep needed sleep. 

The next day we packed a backpack and went to explore the island. We walked almost 2 miles to the end of the island before turning back. Along the way we stopped and got a Bahamian SIM card and took some little side streets to explore the small island bit further. Later we met our neighbors at the marina and spent the rest of the day hanging and relaxing at the marina. I found myself with a cold drink and book sitting on a lounge chair overlooking the marina and the crystal clear water below. Life is good! 

As I write this we are currently in the Berry Islands, 80 miles East of Bimini. In the last week we have crossed the Bahama Bank and snorkeled an incredible ship wreck as well as explored lots of uninhabited islands. But I’m ready for breakfast, so that’ll be for another day!  -D 

 

 

The Keys

11/30/2019

Well, as I write this we are anchored off Rodriguez Key in Key Largo. We are taking it easy this afternoon as we are leaving this evening to make our crossing to the Bahamas. We will leave around 9pm and will arrive in Bimini sometime tomorrow afternoon. The past week or so has been busy but really enjoyable.

Last week we left the Everglades early in the morning and made the 80 mile passage to Marathon where we spent a few days at anchor near Conch Key. Kyle’s friend, Gabe, from Wisconsin now lives in the Keys and he lives on Conch Key. He is a dive master and he took us out one afternoon on his boat for some scuba diving. It was a quick dive as the water was cold! But I saw more fish and colorful coral than I think I’ve ever seen diving. We also saw two moray eels, one of which was swimming around and looking at us rather curiously. The rest of the time was spent doing small boat projects, relaxing at anchor, and one evening Gabe and his family brought their power boat over to our anchorage and we enjoyed appetizers and drinks in Sirocco’s cockpit during sunset.

Last Sunday we made another 80 mile passage from Conch Key to Key Largo. Once in Key Largo we again did small boat projects, took the folding bicycles on a grocery mission, did lots of snorkeling, and spent some time scrubbing the bottom of the boat. On Thursday my parents drove down from Seminole and spent the weekend here for Thanksgiving. They stayed at a hotel about 10 minutes away and we had the most wonderful weekend. On Friday we took them sailing and out to Molasses Reef where Kyle and I took my dad snorkeling and he tried Snuba. The water was so clear and it was fun to show my parents how incredibly beautiful it is on the water here in the Keys. I had a pretty amazing experience swimming with a sea turtle. I had never been so close to a wild sea turtle before and I was calmly swimming next to it for a bit and it just sort of looked at me and also continued swimming near the surface. I did my best to give him lots of space and not encroach in what he was up to. When he dove down I waved goodbye and swam back to the boat. Later that day we drove down to Marathon and enjoyed the sunset before going out to dinner at funky little restaurant.

This afternoon after some breakfast and a relaxing morning hanging out at their hotel, my parents dropped us off at the dinghy landing and waved goodbye as we took our last dinghy ride (here in Florida!) back to the boat. I am very thankful that they were here for the weekend and were able to see us off before we leave for the Bahamas! I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving 🙂

As I mentioned above, to get to from the Everglades to Key Largo we made two 80 mile passages. Both of them were magical days, particularly the passage from Marathon to Key Largo. I haven’t written much lately as Kyle and I have been busy running around and spending time with friends and family, but I did take a few moments to write during our passage to Key Largo. We also took lots of pictures and videos which I’ll include below.

11/24/2019

 

It’s 5:15pm. We’ve been sailing since 8am this morning and the conditions have been more than ideal all day. Kyle is sleeping down below on his settee. The only sounds I hear are the rushing of water along Sirocco’s hull as she surges at 6 knots with the wind and waves behind her and the tick tick ticking of the wind vane. The sun is slowly making its decent towards the horizon; it seems to be lingering a bit, as if it was preparing for the spectacular show it’s about to put on. Since the wind vane is steering for us, I do not have to steer, which means I am free to sit comfortably on the foredeck, rather than back in the cockpit. I am sitting cross legged on a cushion with my back leaned against the bulgy bag of the spinnaker sail. The water below me is the deepest blue I have seen in years. It reminds me a lot of the color of the night sky during the transition from dusk to darkness- that couple minutes just before all the stars come out. We don’t usually drink while underway, but the situation seemed to call for it, and I just cracked open a beer and cheers’d to the universe as a way of saying thank you. Plus, the cold, hoppy beer is refreshing and a nice treat to sip on. Every few minutes I check our course, our surroundings, and the trim of the sails, but other than that, I am pretty free to fully relax. That’s one of my favorite parts about being off shore, much easier and relaxed sailing than being close to land. Every once in a while a gust will come and Sirocco surges forward even more, creating a small bow wake as the sea breeze fills my nose with that salty, fresh aroma of the open ocean. I now hear Kyle stirring down below, filling his copper mug with fresh water. The sun is even closer to the horizon now and the canvas of the sky is transitioning from a pale blue to deep and vivid reds, pinks, and blues. There are some clouds hanging near the horizon line which add more intensity to the show. Kyle is on deck now, taking deep breathes and soaking it all in. The water is still a deep blue, but the surface is tinted and glowing with the reds and pinks of the sky…….. As if on queue, 3-4 dolphins started playing in our bow wave as the sun was setting. The water is so clear that we could make out their whole bodies as they played just below the surface of the water. Kyle and I hopped up to watch them and found ourselves giggling. With each passing moment the day just kept getting more extraordinary. The colors, the sea, the dolphins, the speed of the boat, the sunset, the conditions as a whole – everything around us seemed to be aligning and we were overwhelmed with joy. Thank you Universe.

After writing that and spending time on the bow with the dolphins, Kyle and I spent second sunset on the foredeck, playing dice, sharing a beer, and listening to some music. It was quite a remarkable passage, and one that I am very thankful for. Life is good and I can hardly believe we will be in the Bahamas tomorrow. We have been dreaming of this for so long, and now here we are. Onward!

 

 

Lemon Bay to the Everglades

11/19/19

Well, we are definitely starting to get into the groove of cruising. I sat down to write this, and after thinking it over for a few minutes, could not figure out the date or the day of the week. I think that’s one of the things I love so much about this lifestyle. My body starts to adapt to the rhythm of the sun, going to bed at 8:30pm and waking up around 6am. Our days are productive and busy, but in a different way. This morning Kyle worked for 3 hours doing design work and during that time I practiced yoga on the foredeck and started writing an article idea out. Sometimes I get a bit bummed out about technology and how much it has seemed to take over our society, but at the same time I feel so thankful that we are both able to make money while floating miles away from the nearest town and surrounded by mangroves- both doing things we love. So instead of being bummed I say my thank you’s and choose to approach technology in moderation. Anyway! Speaking of being surrounded by mangroves, as I write this, we are currently in an incredible anchorage in the Everglades.

Last week we left Lemon Bay and took the ICW 4 hours south to Charlotte Harbor where we anchored in Cayo Costa. It was a pretty chilly day, but the sun was shining bright and there were dolphins everywhere, so it made it an enjoyable journey. It was really nice coming out from under the last bascule bridge into the open waters of Charlotte Harbor. After being on the ICW for so many days, the open expanse of water was a nice change and we were able to sail as we didn’t have to worry about depth as much. It was a quick and rather uneventful trip from Lemon Bay to Cayo Costa.. right up until we went to enter the Cayo Costa anchorage. Kyle and I have been to Cayo Costa multiple times on many different boats and it’s always a shallow and a bit intense entrance into the anchorage, but we have always made it just fine. However, on this day, it was low tide and we were a little over confident because we had been there recently and felt we remembered where the deepest water was. As we approached the sign to turn left and follow the beach into the deeper part of the anchorage, our depth dropped so quickly that we couldn’t react quick enough and ran hard aground. Fortunately our boat is a full keeled boat so running aground isn’t really a problem, but we were really close to shore and it was making me nervous. Plus, whether your boat cares or not, running aground isn’t exactly fun! So after attempting to both motor and sail off the sand to no avail, we quickly launched Lucy, our dinghy, and Kyle hopped in while I handed him the oars and the stern anchor which is ready to deploy for this exact reason (and as an emergency break). Kyle rowed the anchor out to the deep water while I wrapped the anchor line around the winch. Once he was back aboard he used the winch to pull us off the sand and back into deeper water. The whole situation took less than 10 minutes from when we hit the sand to being back underway, but as always it was an intense 10 minutes and we acted in unison to take care of the situation. There is a saying “If you haven’t run aground, you haven’t be around!” And it’s very true! Kyle and I have ran aground more times than I can count over the years, and that is why we have a system in place. So after giving each other a high-five at how quickly we took care of the situation and how well our system worked, we slowed down, studied the chart better, and the second time around made it into the Cayo Costa anchorage with no troubles 🙂

That afternoon Kyle went up the mast for a couple hours to install some spreader lights, change out some rigging pins, and to just do a general check of the rig as we knew were going offshore soon. Usually I go up the mast because it’s hard for me to winch Kyle up and it’s easy for him to winch me up, but he had too many projects to do and I didn’t know how to do them all. So he sat patiently in the boson’s chair as I used the winch handle to very slowly pull him up to the top of the mast. He got some pretty cool pictures up there and we finished up a lot of loose end projects. Once down from the mast Kyle and I put on our wetsuits and jumped into the water to scrub the bottom of the boat. I wasn’t wearing a weight belt and was head to toe in neoprene and was so buoyant that I had the hardest time cleaning the bottom of the boat. Kyle watched me try to go to the bottom of the keel and I would just shoot right back up, usually turning upside down along the way. Everything about what I was doing was far from graceful and Kyle found it hilarious. Not sure how much help I was with the actual cleaning, but I provided some entertainment for Kyle! Next time I’ll wear my weight belt.

The next couple days were spent relaxing and cuddled up inside the boat as a cold front came down and brought rain and high winds. We busted out our extra kerosine lanterns and enjoyed a couple evenings of movies, reading, and cooking baked potatoes as the oven warmed the whole cabin. One morning, the sun decided to poke through the clouds for an hour or so and we took the opportunity to row over to a little beach. The beach was pretty small, but we were both excited to be on land so we paced back and forth the small patch of sand, hot coffee in hand, sharing stories and giggling at the pelicans as they dove beak down into the water creating a crash and splash- half the time coming up with a fish. We watched as the dark clouds began to move towards the anchorage from the North and guessed at how long we had before they brought rain. When the wind started to pick up and the sun tucked back behind the clouds, we hopped into Lucy and I rowed us slowly back to the boat. Dolphin played all around the anchorage that morning and I let Lucy drift a few minutes to observe them. Back aboard the boat and in the comfort of our cozy cabin, we sat down at the table and had a weather and route plan meeting.

We decided to leave the following morning around 4am and head South. The winds were supposed to be a bit higher than we would usually choose to sail in, but were supposed to decrease the farther South we went and as the hours passed. The plan was to head straight for Marathon, skipping the Dry Tortuguas due to a poor weather window, with a potential stop in the Everglades along the way depending on conditions and how we were feeling. With that plan in place, and knowing how high the wind and seas were going to be, we set out and prepared the boat for the passage. I meal prepped for two days of being underway because sometimes if the seas are too rough we don’t feel like cooking. I loaded the cockpit benches with snacks and filled up our water bottles. Kyle did a walk through of everything on the deck and made sure everything was secured down how he likes it and the decks clear and clean. I did the same down below- stowing my kombucha, oil diffuser, drum, and a few other items that only come out when at anchor. That night we went to bed early in anticipation of a long day and early alarm. Around 4am the alarm went off and we crawled out of the warm bed into the chilly cabin. Coffee was being brewed before I was even fully dressed and the stove quickly took the chill out of the cabin. I set up our lee cloths (pieces of cloth that tie up so we don’t fall out of our settees while sleeping and sailing) and made the settees cozy with sheets and blankets. The moon was out so it made picking up the anchor easy, but the high winds made it so we had to yell to hear each other as I commanded the engine and Kyle used the windlass to pull up the anchor. We motored from our anchorage out into the channel and as soon as we turned towards the Charlotte Harbor inlet, were greeted with steep waves and even higher winds. It was quite exciting and very wet as salt water sprayed all over the deck. We had to go into the wind before turning down to head South, so until we made it out of the inlet the wind and waves were against us, creating some pounding and lots of splashes. Kyle navigated and set sails as I steered and off we went into the open Gulf.

11/22/19

Within an hour we were far enough out of the large inlet to turn down towards our destination. This dramatically changed our conditions as instead of pounding into the wind and waves, they were going with us. However, the seas were still quite big and as we shut down the engine and reefed the main sail (made the sail smaller) we were traveling at almost 7 knots as we surfed down the large waves. That is pretty fast for our boat, especially under only one sail! Kyle took over steering because he is more experienced in heavy seas and I decided to try and get some sleep. The sleep didn’t really come, as I was being tossed and turned in my settee as we rolled and surfed with the waves. The forecast had called for 3-5 ft seas, but the waves started doubling up and we were experiencing some 8-12 ft from time to time. They looked huge and it definitely caused a bit of fear for me! Even though we have been in bigger seas and were prepared for the heavy conditions, it has been a couple years and I forgot how big they look when they are behind you! However, Sirocco was handling the conditions as though they were totally normal and we were able to use the wind vane, so didn’t have to steer at all. Eventually it became normal and we turned on some music and hung out and ate snacks in the cockpit enjoying the show. As the day progressed Kyle tried to get some rest as well but neither of us could really get any sleep. We knew that it was a long way to Marathon and without much sleep and both being pretty exhausted, we started looking at places to stop along the way. After some research on the IPad using Navionics and reading the chart and other people’s comments on the Everglades, we chose an inlet called Indian River Pass. It was about 5pm when we decided to head towards land and duck into the Everglades, but we still had a long journey ahead to get there. It took about 4 hours to get in past the shallow areas outside of the Everglades, and we navigated carefully around the shoals. The conditions got better and better as we headed south, so we were able to take turns napping. Around 9pm we turned up and headed for the light marking the inlet of the Pass. It was another 3 hours to get to the inlet but the conditions were much improved due to the protection of land and we were able to put out some more sails. Neither of us had ever been to the Everglades, and since it was somewhat unplanned going there, we started to get pretty giddy and excited about what we would find. The first thing we noticed as we started to get closer was that there was almost no light pollution coming from land. The stars shone so bright and the sliver of moon lit up the water around us. I hadn’t seen stars like that in such a long time that it took my breath away. As we approached the inlet we took down the sails and turned on the engine so we could better control our speed and position. Using our spot light (thank you Patti and Rick!) we navigated slowly and carefully between the markers, using the charts, depth sounder, spot light, and our eyes to avoid any shallow areas. The water was dead calm by the time we came into the inlet and navigating up to our anchorage was rather easy. By this point it was 1:30am and we found a perfect little hole surrounded by mangroves on all sides and dropped the anchor in 12 ft of water. We were both so exhausted and excited that our spirits were very high and we cooked some dinner and made a couple mixed drinks and cheers’d to making it through the trying, but enjoyable day. As the oil lantern and oven warmed our little cabin, we laughed and discussed how proud we were of Sirocco and how well she handled such rough conditions. Nothing broke, nothing moved down below, everything stayed secured in its spot, and we felt it was a true indication of our preparations and work during the refit. Sitting at the table scarfing down rice, beans, and warm tortillas we were both rather loopy from lack of sleep and when it was finally time to lay our heads down we talked about how incredible we felt. Overly exhausted, full, warm and cozy from the lingering warmth, and grateful. A deep sleep came on quickly and I couldn’t wait to wake up in the morning and actually see where we were!

On Sunday morning we woke up around 7am and I quickly hopped out of bed and started layering up. Leggings, socks, hat, long sleeve, puffy, and shoes on, I flipped on the propane switch and lit the stove, setting the half filled kettle on the burning flame. I lit our kerosine lantern and as the water began to warm up, I slid open the hatch and poked my head into the drizzly gray morning. One of my favorite things about sailing is coming into a port at night. You get to see it in a different light and have no idea what exactly to expect in the morning. It reminded me of a time off the coast of Honduras when we arrived to an island at night and awoke in the morning to crystal clear waters and a tiny wooded island 200 miles from anywhere. On this particular morning I poked my head out and saw mangroves surrounding us in all directions. I felt like we were in a little cove of mangroves and as there were no other boats around, it felt extremely isolated and I took a moment to soak in the utter silence of my surroundings. How long had it been since the last time we were so secluded from the hustle bustle of the world? The squealing of the kettle startled me out of my daze and I retreated back into the heated cabin where Kyle was groggily climbing out of bed. “It’s so warm in here… thank you,” he said while giving me a hug. We made coffee and joked that we would be needing more than one cup that morning.

The rest of the afternoon was spent doing chores around the boat. Washing the salt water off the decks, letting some lockers in the cockpit air out, inflating our inflatable dinghy, tidying up down below, and just a general clean of the boat. I lugged our unfortunately large dirty clothes bag on deck and retrieved the buckets and “washing machine” (aka a fancy plunger with holes to aerate the water). Sometimes I love doing laundry by hand, it feels nostalgic and is actually quite the work out. But on this afternoon as I looked at the overflowing bag of clothes I found myself thinking “and this is why someone invented a washing machine”. Anyway, an hour later I was splattered with biodegradable laundry soap and water and called Kyle on deck to help with the wringing out and hanging up. We had only seen one other boat all morning, and of course as soon as we lined our life lines with underwear, clothes, and sheets, a big pontoon tour boat comes cruising by chasing some dolphins a little up the way from us. Kyle shifted a bit uncomfortably, laughing. “Oh it’s a funny life,” he said. Kyle and I pride ourselves on keeping our boat clean and tidy and keeping the things on deck down to a minimum and try to not have things strewn about. But on laundry days, there is no choice and we giggled at the timing of the tour boat loaded with people.

Later that afternoon we decided to take our inflatable dinghy on a little tour of the Everglades ourselves. Some good friends of ours gave us the most amazing going away gift – an inflatable boat called a Nifty Boat. (Thank you Strobels!!!) It’s 10’ 6” long and has a hard transom for an outboard. It is equipped with oars and little covered bow. Once inflated it feels very much like a sturdy boat and the best thing about it is that it goes 2-3x the speed of our hard sided dinghy Lucy. When deflated and folded up, it fits perfectly under Lucy on the cabin top. We named this new dinghy Jude and have really grown to love him. With Jude loaded with life jackets, extra fuel, the outboard, and ourselves, we headed up the little inlet from our anchorage. We made sure to bring our GPS as to not get lost in the endless backwaters and passage ways that make up the Everglades. It was a gray afternoon, but the air was crisp and I enjoyed the coolness on my face, feeling thankful we bundled up so well. We saw lots of birds, dolphins, and fish, but no alligators or big snakes! It was a delightful little excursion.

The next couple days happened in a similar fashion, except the sun started to peak out through the clouds and we watched as the solar panels topped up our batteries. One afternoon we decided to make the 4 mile journey into Everglades City. We packed up Jude with lunch, drinks, and a variety of different clothing layers to accommodate the quickly changing temperatures. It was about an hour and a half dinghy ride into the town and we stopped half way through for lunch on an oyster covered sand bar. Once we arrived into the “city” (less than 700 people and very little there!) we found a restaurant with a dock to tie up to. Being known for its fishing and hunting, I was beyond pleased when we found a restaurant with a waterfront sign that said “vegetarian and vegan options!” We pulled up and I hopped out of the boat to ask if we could leave our dinghy there while we walked to the hardware store before coming back to get some food and drinks. The owner was extremely friendly and we secured Jude to the dock before venturing into to town. The town was mostly just a lot of houses on stilts, with lots of little inns and vacation rentals. We made our way to the hardware store to get a couple items. It’s always fun walking around a place we’ve never been. I like seeing how people live and what types of things they do for fun. It was a sleepy little town and we were able to see quite a bit of it in our short walk to the hardware store. Once back to the restaurant we ordered some drinks and appetizers and sat by the water watching all the airboats and fishing boats cruise by. We headed back to the boat around sunset and reveled in our surroundings as dolphins played 50ft from our boat and the sun dropped behind the low lying land. That night after a game of Monopoly we bundled up and sat on the foredeck gazing up at the incredibly vibrant stars. The night was so clear and crisp that we could make out the edges of the Milky Way and with such little light pollution we could make out all the constellations with the help of our star gazing pamphlet. Kyle was searching for a particular star with the binoculars and I sat back and took in every little sensation around me: the subtle wind, the lapping of water on Sirocco’s hull, my slow breathing, a fish that jumped, breaking the surface of the water. Here we were, floating on our little home, surrounded by nothing by mangroves and the vastness of the night sky. It was hard to tell where the horizon ended and the sky began. I truly felt that I was in a globe, it made me feel incredibly insignificant in the scale of the universe, but in a way that caused me to burst with pure joy. I laughed out loud at the situation I found myself in, and felt unbelievably grateful for everything in life that had led to that exact moment.

The next day we checked the weather and decided that the following early morning would be the perfect time to leave to finish the 80 miles to the Keys. With an alarm set for 2am, we spent the rest of the day resting and preparing the boat for the passage. We went to bed early in anticipation of what were supposed to be pretty ideal sailing conditions.

As I write this, we are anchored off a small island in the Keys, near Marathon. It was the most magical passage from the Everglades to here, but as I see my word count reaching nearly 4,000 words, I am going to sign off and continue the rest of our journey in another post.

Cheers everyone, have a marvelous day!

 

And we’re off!

11/13/19

As I write this, I am sitting crossed legged on the port settee of Sirocco. I have on my warm smart wool socks, comfy sweat pants, and a warm purple sweater. The candle light next to me is flickering and the aroma of the coffee Kyle just brewed is lingering in the air with a slight smell of kerosine as our lantern takes the chill out of the air. Kyle sits across from me at the table, working on some computer-aided design work. The song New Slang by the Shins is playing over the stereo and the wind is howling through the rigging outside. As I sip hot coffee from my favorite mug, I look around and am filled with gratitude and joy. Our little home on the water has left its port and is floating at an anchorage, safe and sound from the blustery wind offshore. I look around me and feel so lucky to be surrounded by things I love so much. Every inch of this boat has been worked on, cleaned, fixed, or replaced and I can feel the hard work we put in when I look around. It didn’t seem like it at the time, but it was all so worth it. From the new colored bulk heads and locker tops, to the shiny varnish and fancy legless table Kyle built. The wool rug and cozy blankets and tapestries. From the wrapped mast to the artwork and favorite books lining the shelves. We are both so proud of the work we have done on the boat, and the fact that we did it all ourselves makes it even more gratifying. We have been planning this for over 4 years and working non-stop on it for 2 years and well, we have arrived. We did it, and we are free and the emotion that evokes is overwhelming.

For the past few weeks we have been living at a mooring field in Sarasota. It was great fun living on the mooring ball because we had to take our dinghy to shore everyday and I have fallen in love with our little 3.5 outboard motor. I have never driven an outboard before, and it fits so well on our 7ft Fatty Knees dinghy, named Lucy. We have always just rowed Lucy, which I still love to do, but the outboard was a game changer and the amount of trips we had to make from the boat to shore during the last couple of weeks was made much more enjoyable with it. During the last few weeks we have done the following things: I had my last day of work, Kyle did countless random boat projects, we sea-trialed the wind vane and it works incredible, said good bye to friends and family, did last minute grocery shopping, bought A LOT of beer and stuffed the bilges and closets with it, filled all our fuel and water tanks, and closed up loose ends.

On Monday morning we had some special visitors to the boat. The original builders of Sirocco, Keith and Cindy who built her back in the 1970’s happen to live in Sarasota near the mooring field. It’s a long story on how our paths crossed again, but basically they built Sirocco from scratch when they were in their 20’s in the yard of the house they were renting in Sarasota. They then sailed her to the Bahamas and lived aboard in Florida for a long time. Sirocco has gone through at least 5 different owners since then, and Kyle and I have had the opportunity to meet 3 of them, including the builders! Keith and Cindy have become our friends and about a month ago they came to see Sirocco for the first time in like 20 years! Kyle and I were a bit nervous because we wanted them to be happy with what they saw as they hadn’t seen her in so long and we worked so hard. Of course, they couldn’t be happier and more supportive and it was a wonderful visit filled with laughter, story sharing, and a million questions on both ends. They have a little runabout boat that they brought over to the mooring field on Monday and tied up alongside Sirocco and came aboard for a bit. It was a special morning for me and Kyle because we knew we were leaving that day, and who better to see us off on our journey towards the Bahamas than the couple who literally built her and then sailed her from Sarasota to the Bahamas! They brought with them some cruising guides and a nice piece of cast aluminum for our spinnaker pole. Anyway, thanks to Keith and Cindy for all your support 🙂

Later that morning we rode our folding bicycles into town and made a last Ace Hardware run. We spent the rest of the afternoon securing everything down and organizing and putting things in their spots. Around 3pm we motored over to the fuel dock and filled all our water and fuel tanks. That afternoon we travelled 6 miles south on the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) to an anchorage in Little Sarasota Bay. It was our first evening at anchor of this 6+ month journey we have ahead of us. The evening was filled with lots of laughter, joking, and deep breathes of “we did it!”. I made a tofu stir fry for dinner and used the oven to bake the tofu, which warmed the cabin while Kyle read some cruising guides. We enjoyed our dinner with a glass of wine and then played some games. On Tuesday morning we woke up early and headed farther South on the ICW. We have to take the ICW for the first 40 miles of our journey to get us to Charlotte Harbor because there is no good inlet between Sarasota and Charlotte Harbor that we feel comfortable leaving out of. That’s okay though, we are just happy to be underway and know that the next few months will have plenty of open ocean sailing. As I write this, we are sitting at an anchorage a little more than half-way to Charlotte Harbor. The bay we are anchored in is called Lemon Bay and is a nice protected spot surrounded by mangroves. We arrived yesterday around 2pm and tucked in close to the mangroves as we knew the next day or so was going to blow 25-30 knots of wind with the cold front.

Soon after arriving yesterday we lowered Lucy and packed a bag and went motoring down a little inlet. We found a spot on a beach and only had to walk a couple hundred yards through the mangroves until we arrived at the Gulf of Mexico. It has been so long since we have been to the beach or done anything other than boat projects, that it all seemed so new and exciting. We played frisbee, walked along the shoreline listening to the crashing waves, and looked for shells. Kyle found a shark’s tooth and a few other mini treasures. As the sun set we hopped back into Lucy and made our way back to Sirocco. We sat in the cockpit a bit as the final bit of sun dropped behind the horizon and then Kyle made us fajitas and guacamole for dinner while I did some coloring. I found myself laughing because it was the first time in years that I literally had nothing I had to do, and could do whatever I wanted to do. So I got out my mandala coloring sheet and some colored pencils and lost myself in the mindlessness of coloring. It was soothing and relaxing. Dinner was flavorful and clearly we were both very hungry as we didn’t talk much but giggled when we realized how quickly we both devoured our food. After dinner I spoke to my friend on the phone for a couple hours on the foredeck, while Kyle did his own thing down below. We climbed into bed around 10pm and woke up to a windy and chilly morning! Which leads me to right now, cozy on the settee, sipping my coffee. Life is good and I am thankful for each moment. Now it’s time to make some breakfast before we venture out to explore the surrounding area a bit more. We head to Cayo Costa Island tomorrow or the next day and hopefully (weather and wind dependent) take off for an offshore hop to the Keys on Sunday. Stay tuned. Cheers! -Danielle

Two Weeks To Go Time

I just re-read my last blog post, and can’t believe that 2 months have gone by! So much has happened and been accomplished during that time. We left the Municipal Marina in downtown St. Petersburg at the end of August and had an absolutely wonderful sail from St. Petersburg down to Palmetto. It was our first sail since the finish of the refit, and we both couldn’t have been happier with the results. The wind was behind us and we cruised at a consistent 5-6 knots. Since then we have been living on the boat at a marina in Palmetto, preparing to leave. Millions of little projects, lots of sea trials, finishing of the wind vane (huge success!), and a huge purchase of food. Last weekend my mom and I went to Costco and the grocery store and purchased 5 months of non-perishable food. My mom was amazing and spent the rest of the weekend removing labels from over 100 cans and writing their contents in sharpie. Kyle’s parents came for a visit and we were able to take them on a sunset cruise which was very enjoyable. And mostly, we have just been running around like crazy getting everything finished and finalized and spending as much time with family and friends as possible.

As I write this, it is Tuesday October 29th and on Thursday we will leave our marina and head south to Sarasota. We will stay at a mooring field in Sarasota until around Nov. 10th and then as soon as we have a weather window we will sail away and head towards the Dry Tortugas – the first stop on our 6 month cruising journey.

I plan to start updating this blog more frequently once we leave. As of now, there are too many little projects to try and document. So for now, here is another group of photos to sum up the last few weeks.

My next post will be about actually sailing and reaching destinations 🙂

Onward!

 

 

We Did It.

Well, I haven’t had the time to update this for a bit. We have been working incredibly hard to finish the refit, and I am so happy to say that as I write this, I am sitting on the port side of Sirocco, enjoying a cup of coffee while surrounded by what feels like a new boat. Sirocco is very special in that she is 40 years old but was built so remarkably well, that all it took was some serious TLC and she is like new once again. I know to some it might sound odd, but I am grateful we don’t own a new boat. I love that our little boat has so much history. That she was built by a couple (that we happen to now know), rather than a factory. That we have met most of the previous owners and know their stories. I love that when I look at the burn mark on the teak floor, I know that a previous owner had an incident with a flare gun (thankfully a funny one) and I am glad that the mark is still there because it makes me smile. When I was crouched down for days sanding, taping, and varnishing the trim, I felt a sense of support knowing that previous owners had done the same thing. We have made her our own, but really she is much more than just ours. She is part of a bigger picture and I am filled with gratitude to all the people who have made Sirocco who she is today.

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I thought about going into details about the refit. But for now, I’ll just say that Kyle and I worked 7 days a week, 14-16 hours a day for 40 days straight and here is some of what we accomplished. It was the most demanding thing I have ever done physically and emotionally. But I am happy to say that I have become quite handy and can now start and finish a very wide variety of projects on my own 🙂

We pulled her out of the water and in 30 days we:

-sanded through about 6 layers or paint on her entire entire bottom

-sanded and then painted all her top sides

-repaired the rudder

-built and installed custom parts for a wind vane and trim tab

-closed up a few thru holes

-faired her rudder joints, gudgeons, and all her remaining thru holes

-rudder repair

-did a capper coat bottom job

-installed all stanchion bases

-at the very last minute built new stern pulpits

-painted and varnished the entire interior of the boat

-sanded, ground, and applied 8 coats on all 3 water tanks

-installed a composting head

-installed a new propellor

-fixed some leaks

-repaired and rebuilt parts of the cockpit floor

-installed lights, fans, and solar panels

-finished out the interior

-and lots of other little projects I can’t think of right now 🙂

Overall my point is, the last couple months have been a blur of boat work, but we made it. This week we will install our shiny new sails, do a final rig tune, and next weekend we will go sailing. 2.5 months until we head south for the Bahamas! Here are the photos from the last couple months somewhat in order. Click on the photo to make it larger. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Deck Paint, Wiring, Sails, Lucy, and a SOLVI update!!

6/9/2019

Things are moving right along with the refit! Kyle continues to work 12 hour days 6 days a week with one day off from boat work.. to go to actual work 😉 We don’t mean to, but we both seem to work better under a quick approaching deadline, so although we are incredibly busy, we are happy and feeling on track. Our massive to-do list is starting to dwindle down and our black marker is crossing more and more items off.

Sirocco currently has new deck paint, very organized wiring, and her sails are almost finished. Kyle has been able to sew our sails himself at a sail loft in downtown St. Petersburg, and we are so grateful for not only the opportunity to use the sail loft, but also for the people who have helped him volunteering their time to teach him how to tack, stick, sew, tape, and soon finish the sails. He is getting quite good at sewing and I am always so impressed with his stitches! He claims its all in the guidance of the truly professional sailmakers at the loft and the quality machine he gets to use.

Deck Before:

Deck During and After: 

Our Main Sail:

 

We worked on the rigging this weekend and installed all new chain plates of 316L electropolished stainless steel, with shiny new nuts and bolts to match. Tomorrow we will install the chain plates for the back stay and then the rig goes back up which means within a week or two we will have a new rig and new sails installed.

The wiring in Sirocco was Kyle’s biggest fear of the entire refit because he has very little experience with such things. So he read books, did research and went for it. Throughout the 40 years of her life and the various owners, the wiring became a total mess. When we first bought Sirocco in order to turn on the anchor light you had to first turn on the water pump switch and then the the navigation lights… neither of which have anything to do with the anchor light. The whole boat was like this with random wires going to random switches instead of the quality switch panel on board. Another complaint of Kyle’s was that much of the wire was not tinned marine grade, but plain copper automotive wire. As you can see in the photos, Kyle, with the help of his dad Rick, was able to remove a LOT of wires that were basically doing nothing. He also took a rats nest of wires and reorganized it into an orderly and labeled panel.

Before:

After: 

 

In between working 80 hours a week, I am trying to finish Lucy’s (Sirocco’s dinghy) refit on my own time. I was very proud of myself on my last project because without any assistance or question asking of Kyle, I was able to measure, cut, and grind out a new hatch for Lucy’s stern locker. I was beaming when I finished the project and the hatch fit perfectly in the hole that I made. It was an itchy project filled with sanding and grinding fiberglass, but it was rewarding. I am now determined to fill the old hatch in and fiberglass over it on my own as well 🙂

Overall things are moving right along and we are working hard to get our home into a sea-worthy, comfortable, and beautiful state. I can’t wait to see her in two months from now and compare the before and after pictures! Such a rewarding thing to do.

Anyway, for those of you who followed along the SOLVI build and our journey down the river, I thought I would give a little update on what she is doing, because it is rather amazing. The man who purchased her renamed her to SOLVEIG (which is the full version of SOLVI). So from now on I will refer to her as SOLVEIG. Well she was purchased with the goal to race her in the R2AK (Race to Alaska) – and that is exactly what she is doing right now!

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None of these videos or footage belong to me, just sharing from social media!

To learn more about the race click here:  https://r2ak.com/  or @racetoalaska on facebook

To see some awesome videos of SOLVEIG and her new owners click here:   

https://youtu.be/X47oZJQohCg 

and

https://www.facebook.com/racetoalaska/videos/442149266583309/

and

https://www.facebook.com/racetoalaska/videos/687226025047271/

To follow SOLVEIG on her race to Alaska click here:  http://tracker.r2ak.com/

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Kyle and I have been having SO much fun following her along via social media and the R2AK website. The drone footage is my particular favorite because we never got to see her from that view, and I think she looks so beautiful out there on the open waters of  Vancouver. (https://youtu.be/X47oZJQohCg) It’s a hard feeling to articulate, but this particular footage made me teary eyed knowing that we built that boat together and now she out in the big wide world on her own. The new owner made some changes which were fun to see, but overall she is still our SOLVI and we are very proud that she off on another adventure.

Stay tuned for some more refit updates- in just 3 weeks we pull Sirocco out of the water to work on her bottom. She will then spend a month out of the water at a boat yard. After that, it’s launch day and all the final details. Yeah!

-Flipper 🙂