Thursday, September 19, 2019

Throwback Thursday - Favorite Places Series - Old Bahama Bay

It should be noted that Old Bahama Bay in West End, Bahamas is not the same now as it was when we posted this post. A couple of hurricanes trashed the town and a good part of the marina. A fight between brothers (co-owners of the marina) closed most of the docks to travelers by boat. I guess even Paradise isn't immune to that sort of thing. All this being said, it's still one of our favorite places. It's classified as a resort in the Bahamas, but it doesn't have that resort feel that the marinas in Lucaya and Freeport and Nassau have. It still has the charm of the Bahamian people, it's low-key and authentic, not so put on for tourists. Hopefully the brothers will sort things out soon because we will definitely head there next time we head out.

Water spouts in paradise.

Not too long before we pulled Kintala from Lake Carlyle, and when our plan was still to get to the Keys this year, the Islands maybe next year, I ran across an experienced cruiser who agreed that was a good idea. Not because jumping across the Gulf Stream was too big a task for a neophyte. In fact, he seemed of the opinion that almost every new East Coast cruiser pretty much headed to the Islands right away: it's why they became cruisers in the first place. He also kind of scoffed at the idea that we didn't have enough experience to try such a thing.

"You already did it twice" he said, "how much practice do you need to make a 90 mile sail? Just ask around a bit, and don't go when no one else seems to be going."

No, he felt that going to the Keys first was a good idea simply because, once people get to the Islands, they don't really think much of going anywhere else. In fact, according to him, people get to the Islands, never get any further, never go back, and live a long and happy life.

Just one full day here living on my own boat and I am beginning to understand. And that on a day that saw two thunderstorms roll overhead, each laying down a waterspout within sight of the marina. I didn't see either one, being down in the boat working on a project. Deb saw both, and even managed to get a picture as the second one was starting to peter out. Yet in spite of that introduction this place has me completely charmed.

Part of it is just being here. It is almost like everything that has gone before, all the years in Carlyle, the broken boat challenges, logistics, the endless slog down the ICW, cold front after cold front hammering us at piers and on anchor, the endless effort of living day to day on a sailboat; all of it just melted into the cool, indigo waters of the deep ocean that lay between this place and the States. John (who crossed when we did) and I spent most of the day just smiling, kind of stunned (in the best possible way) that we are no longer working on making the dream come true. The dream is true, we made it happen. That is some pretty strong stuff.

Part of it is that "here" is already feeling different from the States, even if just 90 miles away. The officials in the Customs / Immigration office were dressed in white shirts, boards on their shoulders speaking of some kind of rank (like an airline pilot), and there wasn't a gun in sight. The ambiance of the office was that there was some official papers that had to be completed, but no big deal. Sign here, sign there, you are more than welcome to visit our country.

Compare that to the Office Of Homeland Security. Every single official in that office was dressed in Ninja Black from Hat to Combat Boots. Each was sporting a side arm and hand cuffs. There was no doubt you were in a military area and that, somehow, the ENEMY was close at hand. Indeed, we were there for the sole purpose of proving that we are not, in fact, one of them. In the back of your mind you just knew that if something flagged on their computer screen you would be in some very, very deep kimchi, with little hope of extracting yourself before the turn of the next century.

A country that is not perpetually at war with itself and everyone else on the planet. Novel idea, that. Could it really be true?

The pace of things here is clearly slower. Where I come from 12 hours of work is expected from 8 hours worth of effort, with 4 hours of pay offered in exchange (and grudgingly, at that). So far, I haven't gotten the impression that is the way things work here.

I admit this is only our second day, with yesterday kind of floating by in
a sleep deprived fog. Tomorrow we hope to start moving further east, with a stop planned at a place called Mangrove Key. It should be a few days before Kintala is near a marina again as we start exploring this place where the dream became our life. I'm sure it will turn out to be less than a perfect dream, but so far I don't have any complaints.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

The long crawl

A member of the Women Who Sail Facebook group asked a while back if anyone missed the simplicity of living on land. It sparked a great discussion among the members and got me to thinking more in depth about the contrast I've experienced in our departure, years of cruising, and subsequent return (hopefully temporary) to land.
Image from Wikimedia Commons via the National Park Service

Our original departure involved downsizing from a four-bedroom, 3-1/2 bath 3-story home to a smaller condo and then to Kintala. It involved an unfathomable amount of sorting, discarding, selling, packing, and transporting; the sheer workload of all of it was a bit shocking. We had no idea what we would actually use or want to keep while cruising, although in the end we did pretty well in making the decisions, mostly because we lived on Kintala part-time on the lake before we left to go cruising. There was only a limited amount of things that we ended up getting rid of after a year or two of cruising.

The original departure was a conglomeration of emotions - excitement about the realization of our dream; nervousness about the unknown; concern about finances, the boat transport, the rental of our house; sadness at leaving grandchildren; and a certain amount of doubt at whether what we were doing was even possible.

The first year of cruising was complicated, the learning curve extremely steep. Learning our way around the practical issues of shopping, laundry, water, fuel, boat maintenance, navigation, weather, currents, tides and anchoring was a task that was anything but simple. It's the reason behind the failure of so many cruising dreams, the inability to understand that you have to get through the first year before you can even begin to think about being comfortable or confident. Too many people give up after only a few months, often just as the easier life is on the horizon.

In the second year, things got a little easier. We were often revisiting places that we'd been to before, so getting in and out of marinas and challenging places on the ICW became a little easier. By this point we had the routines figured out for shopping and laundry, we'd discovered what needs to go where in the boat storage, and we'd met enough new friends along the way to be feeling an integral part of the cruising community with all the emotional and physical support that entails.

It was in the third year that we really began to experience the realization that we were living our dream. We were comfortable, the boat was working well, we were cultivating some of the best friendships we'd ever had, and we were back in the Bahamas, our favorite cruising grounds. Our days were filled with daily tasks, reading, making music, and sunsets.

Unfortunately, the fourth year was the year that we realized we were not going to have enough money to live this life through until we got to Social Security age, and we didn't want to start taking money out of our retirement funds that early. We docked the boat and Tim worked two seasons in a boatyard to make enough money to keep cruising. By the beginning of year six, when it was becoming apparent that he didn't have the will to work another season there, we had the fortune of being offered a job near 7 of our 11 grandchildren, a job that would get us through till Social Security and allow us to continue to cruise for as long as we were able. The move back to land commenced.

I admit readily that I wasn't sure I could even do the move. The sea has become so integral a part of who I am that I wasn't sure I could live without it. And I confess that if it wasn't for the grandkids here I doubt I would have made it this far.

The first few months were full of the practicalities of moving: finding an apartment, a car, getting insurance straightened out, buying furniture and winter clothes and all the necessary things of living on land. For me as well, the first six months were full of a new diet and exercise routine to attempt to shed the many pounds gained while cruising. Now that we're pretty settled, though, I've had some time to think in greater depth about the transition and the quality of life in both places.

Is life on land more simple than life on the boat? The answer is much more complicated than a simple yes or no. Certain things are more simple for sure. Having the ability to do laundry right in the apartment without having to haul it anywhere in a dinghy is huge. Having a full-size refrigerator that holds ice and a week's worth of groceries is an unbelievable first-world privilege, right along with a toilet that flushes with clean fresh water. Having a supermarket just five minutes away via an air conditioned car ride is pleasant. 

But the comforts of land life come at the cost of the complications, the exact ones from which we attempted escape in the form of cruising. The noise level on land is astonishing. The noise from traffic, radios, television, news, news, news, billboards, commercials, news, unhappy people, and Facebook, assaults you from every side nearly every hour of the day. The bureaucratic requirements of land life are also hugely demanding in the form of car ownership, registration, insurance, drivers' licenses, and local and state taxes.

The simplicity of life on land is experienced in the practicalities. All of the daily tasks are easier to accomplish on land. Boats, on the other hand, live in a harsh environment, are inconveniently designed for the most part, and require copious amounts of maintenance. The living spaces are small and everything takes at least three times longer to complete than it would on land. For a lot of people, the complexity of the daily tasks on a boat is a deal breaker. 

Where the simplicity of life on a boat is experienced, is in the emotional, philosophical, and communal aspects of living. Once you get through the first steep learning curve, there is a deep-seated settledness that takes place in your soul. There's a sense of belonging to the natural world, living within its rhythms; a companion sense of disconnectedness from the consumerist lifestyle which typifies life in the modern world begins to become established. Even once we returned to land, this sense of settledness and disconnectedness still remained. It's impossible to emphasize how fundamentally living on a small boat with the sea changes you.

One of the most remarkable ways in which the sea changes you is in learning to live each moment for what it is, not colored by the past or the future, but only by the deepening golds and reds of the sunset. Mother Nature teaches you pretty quickly that human plans are completely futile, that every moment will be what it is that she has planned for you. It's that learned characteristic that we live with now: enjoying the time with the grand kids we have here and enjoying the ease of the practical life while we build up cruising funds to continue with our adventures.

If you're yearning for a simple life, then you must define simplicity for yourself. For some, the simplicity of the practical makes it possible to enjoy life. For others, the complications that accompany that simplicity aren't worth the cost. For now, we've managed to have a really terrific blend of the two, but there will come a time when I'm ready to give up the simplicity of convenience on land for the simplicity of the peace in my soul that only the sea seems to bring.

Image by Matthew J. Gutt from the National Park Service website

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Throwback Thursday - Favorite Places Series - Spanish Wells

Spanish Wells

Kintala is in the middle of the row
After some debate we decided to relocate to Spanish Wells for a few days. We need some food and some water, and some ice is good as well. The downside is the irritation of someone throwing a mooring ball down in water they don't own, and then charging for the privilege of tying up to it; particularly when the charge is $20 / night for nothing but a place to anchor. Still, Spanish Wells has limited storage for cruiser boats, six fill the place up. So I guess mooring balls help ... but they would help more at $10 / night instead of $20.

Two of our neighbors on a doggie run
We are staying for a few days because (you guessed it) weather is on the way once again. Twenty, maybe 25 knot winds with 5 foot seas on a 5 second period, and all clocking 360 degrees in the next 3 days. There was serious consideration given to spending just one night and then going back down to Royal Harbor for the weather wait, but we are still being conservative newbies. We are here, well protected, and settled in; why not enjoy it?

And the fact is I like this little town. Not nearly as "prettied up" as Hope Town or New Plymouth; Spanish Wells is a working class place. Home to a fishing fleet it also boasts the kind of hard working boatyard that warms this old mechanic's soul. Golf Carts buzz around along with a swarm of 50 and 75cc Japanese motorcycles. Little water taxis come and go and, twice a day, a huge Power Cat Taxi (looking more like a train) finds its way in and out. It is all very human and busy, yet Island friendly with the natives exhibiting a bewildering mix of accents. People born and raised within yards of each other sound like they came from different ends of the English speaking world. It is equal parts strange and delightful. This place just makes me smile, which is probably worth the $20 / day all by itself.

One of the many brightly colored buildings here

Saturday, September 7, 2019


Having a Science Center nearby is one of the perks of living in St. Louis. It is an interesting and informative place. The Center is full of machines and interactive displays that focus on everything from dinosaurs to farming to space travel. There is an IMAX theater (currently being upgraded) and a planetarium. They even have a flight center that houses a couple of full motion simulators. Nothing nearly as fancy (or expensive) as those at work, but something that will be fun to explore with the grand kids one of these days.

The Center often hosts special exhibitions. The current display is focused on artifacts recovered from the city of Pompeii. There are actually two separate displays. The first one that visitors enter is filled with statues, household goods, art, models, and video recreations of daily life. They reveal a people who were master artisans.  Pottery, metal and glass work, sculpture, art...2000 years old and utterly captivating.

Their engineering prowess was equally impressive, with complex waste and water management systems, under-floor heating, paved roads, with the weight and measure standards necessary to support a complex economy and robust construction efforts. Though they did have the slave economy common to many ancient cultures, their slaves were usually paid wages and could, eventually, buy their freedom. Unfortunately, that was not the reality with the sex-slave trade, which was a legal enterprise openly supported by the government and the elite. Not everything about their culture was as beautiful as their art.

After learning about the city and its culture one enters a small, stand up theater where the destruction of the town is played out on a large movie screen, complete with sound and light effects. Pompeii met its end on August 24th, 79 AD when the nearby Mount Vesuvius volcano experienced a massive eruption. The town and most of its thousands of inhabitants were buried under 12 feet of ash and debris; lost to the world for over 1,600 years.

The theater screen then lifts and one enters the final room of the display, filled with pictures of the excavation…and the mummified remains of some of the inhabitants. Children, mothers, husbands, and neighbors caught in their final moments, terrified and trying to escape or huddling with the people they loved most as their world fell in on them.

It is a sad and sobering display. These folks had no idea what their end would be, there wasn’t even a word for “volcano” in their language. They would likely have laughed at the very idea that a mountain made of rock could blow up, spew fire and ash, and destroy their city between one sunrise and the next.  It is likely religious, business, and civic leaders would have vigorously joined in attacking anyone who claimed such a thing as being a fool, a charlatan, or simply insane.

The city's religious leaders might have declared that Bacchus ( a lesser god of agriculture, wine and fertility) had assured them that He would never allow a city known around the world for its wine, to meet such an end. Should Bacchus prove inadequate, the city boasted great temples built to the glory of the most powerful gods Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva. Virtually every house included alters where daily worship took place. The Priests would expect such piety insured a prosperous future for generations to come.

For more mundane reasons, business leaders would seek to silence such claims in order to protect the city's economic health, and civic leaders would surely take a dim view of such nonsense alarming the less educated among the population.

They all had less than a day of knowing how wrong they were. Then they died.

On nearly the same day (though nineteen hundred years later) Dorian stalled over the Abaco Islands, then moved N-N-W toward the US east coast. The storm’s track meant that that Daughter Eldest and Family suffered nothing more than a few days of hiding out in a hotel room. Both their boat and Kintala notched up yet another close hurricane call while escaping without a scratch.

But the news out of Marsh Harbor, Treasure and Green Turtle Cays, Hope Town…nothing short of heart breaking sadness. Those were places where Deb and I lived for months at a time, where our perspective of the world was changed for the better, where we became different people than we were when first setting out to go cruising. There is no way to process what has happened, to balance the relief against the sadness. So many people have suffered a devastating loss. People we met, knew, and admired. People who welcomed us into their communities and invited us into their homes.

The two, relief and grief, are incompatible; yet there they are. There is nothing anyone can do about a Cat 5 hurricane stalling over the home of a friend. And though, unlike the people of Pompeii, there was some warning that this was coming, some knowledge of what could happen and why; not everyone had the chance, the resources, or the time, to escape. Barely a week before Dorian grew into the most violent storm to ever hit the Islands, the best forecasters on the planet using the most advanced equipment available thought there was a good possibility that it would pass the Islands as a tropical storm, harass parts of Florida with some wind and rain, and fade away.

I have to wonder though, how many of them secretly feared the worst? I know I did…Mathew, Irma, Michael, and now Dorian. But I am not a forecaster, and billions of $$ of prep aren’t spent on wild speculations about the mountain looming in the background.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Throwback Thursday - Favorite Places Series - Wrightsville Beach

Island time and temp

The Wrightsville Beach anchorage,Kintala in the second row
The crew of Kintala is struggling to get south, and it seems many of the cruising tribe are sharing our travails. Hurricane Kate and my Father's passing put us weeks behind where we had hoped to be. So we are, once again, caught in late Autumn's relentless series of low pressure areas spinning off the mainland, along with their associated cold fronts. We have been in Wrightsville Beach for nearly a week, and it is starting to feel a lot longer than that. The wind in the rigging sings a note of 20 knots worth of wind out there right now. Near gale force winds are forecast for the next 24 hours. Two potential weather windows have already collapsed, and it looks like two days is about all we are going to get on the back side of this current cold front.

The good news is there are a lot of worse places to get caught than Wrightsville. The bad news is there are a lot of better places as well, places we would much rather be. But, at the moment and living on a sailboat, we can't get to any of them from here.

Wrightsville Beach on a winter day.

We have heard rumors that some of the places we would like to be, parts of the Bahama Islands, are enduring a bit of a crime wave. It seems that fancy, and some not so fancy, fishing type boats (particularly those sporting outboard engines) have taken to disappearing from their docks. They turn up later sans engines and avionics gear. I suspect the rumors are a bit overblown, not that they matter much to us anyway. I can't imagine 30 year old sailboats are much of a temptation. And though Dink theft is a constant concern, a Merc 3.5 hp that can barely get out of its own way on good day, probably isn't much of a temptation either.

Fishermen bundled up

A gaff rigged smaller sailboat out for a rare November warm sail
I have to say though, if the rumors are not overblown, I hope a bunch of the fishing types here in Wrightsville are planning a trip to the Islands. Apparently the fish in these parts are very fast. Blasting through a bunch of anchored boats must be the only way the fishy types can hope to run them down to snag a share. Or maybe they are worried about getting a parking spot at the town dock. Either way, we are regularly rocked as these guys slalom around our hull. Which is weird because both the docks and the bridge that mark the fishing spot they all head for, are barely a few hundred feet away. Slowing down a bit as they go through the anchorage would add, maybe, two or three minutes to their trip. As usual, when it comes to people who live on land, I wonder, “Just what is the hurry?” 

The Islanders, and their “Island time” would make much better use of the boats. So far as I am concerned, they are welcome to them.

One would think a nod to “Island time” would help shrug off a weather delays like the one we are enduring now. And I am trying. But there is a glitch. The Islands have their “time” but they also have their “temperature”. (I think the two are related.) Here the temperature will touch lows of the mid 30s in the next couple of days.

Time to get to the Islands mon.

Wrightsville Beach (Good)                                                             Treasure Cay Beach (Much better)

Thursday, August 29, 2019


According to Google Earth I am presently sitting - as the crow flies - 875 miles from where Kintala sits on stands, strapped to big concrete blocks, and stripped of pretty much everything on her decks. That’s what we do when a hurricane is inbound though, in this case, we had to pay for someone to do it for us. Eight hundred and seventy five miles is a bit far for the commute back and forth to the job. We contemplated Deb renting a car and driving to FL to get the boat ready for its latest dance with possible 100+ m/p/h winds, but I was against the idea for many reasons. The first is I just didn’t want her driving toward a storm when all the smart money was driving away. No boat is worth getting hurt over. By the time she got there, got the boat prepped, and got the hell out of dodge, Dorian would be hard on her heels; hers and about a million other people trying to get out of the way of an inbound Major Hurricane. We’ve done that already with Irma and Florence, (for Michael we stayed in a nearby hotel but still off the boat). Such trips can put a damper on one’s mood that lasts for months and bash a serious dent in one’s bank account. It was less expensive to pay someone else to do the job for us. Staying out of Florida for the next few weeks is a good idea as well.

Dorian AS OF 8-29-19
Kintala will survive or not, we have done everything that is in our hands to do. But Daughter Eldest and Family are also in the strike zone, living on a dock in Stuart FL. They don’t have the choice of pulling the boat. All they can do is prep it, tie it to within an inch of its life, and get the hell out of dodge themselves. The problem is that no one is sure yet which way is the way to run. Some of the tracks have the storm hitting mid-state and turning north. In which case running north would be silly, the storm eventually chasing them down wherever it is they end up seeking refuge. (Another reality we learned with Irma.) Other tracks have the storm hitting the south part of the state and crossing over into the Gulf. In which case running south would be even sillier. The storm would simply run over whatever hotel one had chosen in which to cower in place, and likely still strong enough to offer a good pasting to those who choose poorly. So they prep and wait for the last minute starting gun on which way to run. Them, and about a million other people who may also be trying to get out of the way.

And I thought living in MO would take the worry out of hurricanes. Tornadoes, floods, and some of the world’s craziest drivers? Those are things that can, and will, make for some tense moments. But hurricanes? I was hopping to be done worrying about hurricanes, at least for as long as we remain on shore. Instead we will wait out the week with the same uncertainty that has visited us on four different occasions; Joaquin, Irma, Michael, and Florence. We worried about Hermine for less than a day. Born out of a small batch of storms out in the Gulf, it was given ZERO chance of becoming a hurricane. It did so anyway, landed on us while we were tied to the dock in Snead Island, and dropped a small tornado which tore the mast off a boat sitting just a hundred feet or so off our bow. All that happened in about 24 hours.

When we go back on the water, being far north when the hurricanes come, and far south when the nor’easter’s blow, will be the only schedule we plan to keep. It is also a prime reason for looking at a trawler to replace Kintala. (Assuming Kintala will still be an option come next week.) Being able to move at a constant 6 or 8 knots, making 80 to 100 miles in an easy-to-live-with day (even on the ICW), dry when it rains, warm when it's cold, and maybe even cool when the temp is in triple digits? I am starting to wonder if those are not as important to keeping the suck factor down and the fun factor up as having EPRBS, life vests, and an AIS on board.