How are we? Fit, happy, tanned and relaxed.
On the way down to the Bahamas, Maine, Martha's Vineyard, Block Island, Newport and Cuttyhunk were all great to cruise, as was Milford CT. New York City was great. Maine was particularly great because we weren't on a shedule. It rained about 2 days all summer, and was foggy twice. Maine in July and August was spectacular, particularly Mount Desert Island.
What wasn't so great was from Salem south after Labor day: Waiting for fronts, Nor'easters, and hurricane remnants to pass during September and October, followed by very cold sailing in November. From the Cape Cod Canal to NYC we waited out three nasty fronts and hurricane remnants. New Jersey simply sucked, with Hurricane Kyle churning up the seas and winds all over the Atlantic. We waited in Sandy Hook for front after front and finally just went. Three days in 20+ knots nor'easterlies, 8-10 foot following seas, and all the inlets (Mannisquam, Atlantic City and Cape May) were treacherous with the big seas. In retrospect we should have waited longer for a weather window. Sailing up Delaware bay was in 20+ knots following seas and pouring rain all day long. Yeccchhh! The fall of 2002 was a bad one for the weather.
For years we have heard over and over again that "the Chesapeake in October is just like Maine in August". We spent the better part of 22 amazing Augusts in Maine, so we know Maine pretty well. When we got to the Chesapeake it was rainy, cold and miserable. In three weeks in the Chesapeake on October, we rode out one nor'easter, two cold fronts, and the sun came out three days only. We finally bought a space heater so we could heat the cabin at marinas at night to keep from freezing. Our first trip to the Chesapeake was a disappointment. Most people we've met agreed this was a cold season. If I had it to do again I'd leave Sandy Hook two weeks earlier, like September 15th.
Then we hit Norfolk and the ICW on Nov 1, and the really cold weather started. The trip down the ICW was variable from cold to OK. Long pants, polar fleece and wind jackets, hats and gloves most of the way. Our welcome to Florida was a 25 knot nor'wester with 35 degrees at night. Then it warmed up around St Augustine around Thanksgiving. By Vero Beach in Early December we wore mostly shorts. We waited nearly three weeks between Lake Worth and Fort Lauderdale for a weather window to cross the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas. Fort Lauderdale was great.
Then we arrived in the Bahamas on January 2 2003: ahhhhhhhhh, wonderful!! We wore shorts every day with only an occasional sweatshirt. One night it got down into the 40s and the locals were freaked out. Cold? You're kidding! Around Norfolk we began meeting cruisers who were heading straight to Georgetown and avoiding the Abacos (or maybe hitting them on the way back) in order to avoid the northerlies that accompany cold fronts in January and February. Sure, we had a few cold fronts and had to hole up for a few days, but after 48 winters in New England, they were nothing. We snorkeled regularly with shortie wet suits, and it was tremendous. The Abacos were wonderful. After 6 weeks there we didn't want to leave. As we arrived in Eleuthera we hit nearly a month of south-easterlies as we worked down Eleuthera , across to Warderick Wells in the Exumas, and down the Exumas to Georgetown. This was during February and early March. A few days holed up for cold fronts, but otherwise very hot and sunny. In fact the locals said it was unseasonably as hot as summer. In Georgetown it was so hot that there were a few thunderstorms, squalls and waterspouts during the two weeks we were there in March.
Of course with Murphy in charge of the weather out trip north through the Exumas was against northerlies most of the way. We waited for a big front to pass in Warderick Wells and got to spend a wonderful week there. One of the best places on the planet to be stuck Another front stuck us in Chub Cay in the Berrys for another week. I had to grin and bear the $50 a day for a week at the marina, but we had an absolute blast there for our last week in the Bahamas. Back in the US in May the weather has been great with nice days and regular evening thunderstorms, occasionally with strong winds. We regularly set two anchors since our 2:30am, 50 knot squall at Cumberland Island (see log 4).
The Boat Stuff
This is a list of the nitty gritty details of the boat and equipment, sort of the nerd / guy view of the trip.
We definitely did this trip on the cheap: 1968 boat (but 2001 engine), no refrigeration, no windlass, ancient hard dinghy and 2hp outboard (we like to row), no SSB, watermaker, etc. Other than that we have lived well: good food (found ice everywhere), had great music (MP3 player) and movies (via DVD on the computer), email and internet in most places via cell phone (US) and internet cafes (Bahamas), shortwave radio for weather and news (in the Bahamas), plenty of books and toys (snorkeling, windsurfing), lots of spares. Our reward for keeping it simple: not one day down for repairs in one year (so far).
What would I do different? Probably install a low-end refrigeration system and run the engine more to make up the battery power (we have a hi-output alternator). The refrigeration ($800) would cost a bit less than a year's ice.
We need a bimini for sun and rain protection. The dodger is small and on hot the trip north (sun in the south) provides no protection from sun. Our mainsheet is right where a bimini would go. We have a large awning (for anchoring in light wind only) and are fashioning a smaller one we can use under motor, but a proper bimini is the way to go. We may have to move the mainsheet to midships.
Our boat has no nav station. This has not been a problem for navigating since we do 99% of it in the cockpit (plastic covered charts and GPS), but we don't have a permanent place for the laptop. It's kept in a drawer and used on the main table with power cord draped around. A laptop needs a good safe spot and a place to sit
Our two major weaknesses:
1) With a rope rode and fin keel we tend to get the anchor rode caught on the keel in strong currents with opposing strong wind. Once or twice this has caused us to drag. We weight the rode (kellet) or put down two anchors (Bahamian style) now. Chain rode or a full keel would prevent this problem.
2) Our hi-tech exhaust system tends to flood the engine when sailing (motor off) on one tack (happened four times and we've been lucky not to cause serious engine damage. We've been lucky so far.). One muffler needs to be rebuilt which won't be easy till we get home. Meanwhile I use a shut-off valve when sailing and we tend to motor-sail anyway.
While we lusted after the ability to use SSB or HAM for email, we didn't feel the need for a $2,000 SSB radio and so brought only an old Realistic (Radio Shack) DX-440 Shortwave radio instead. This proved to be indispensable for getting weather broadcasts in the Bahamas. In some areas (Marsh Harbor, Georgetown, Exumas) we got weather on the morning cruisers net. Elsewhere we used the shortwave to get weather from the ham cruisers net, and NMN (Mike November), and to listen to Herb. We also listened to the BBC for news. Reception was poor until we hooked up a wire between the radio's antenna jack and a lower shroud chainplate. Then it was fine.
If you're interested you can also get weather FAX by hooking a shortwave to a PC. You need software for this and we never tried it.
We did without a Cell phone or SSB fine in the Bahamas for 3 months. We used many $20 Batelco Cards and schlepped to find working black phones, For email we used internet cafe's everywhere in the bahamas. Typical prices were $.50 a minute for reasonable connect speed, with the highest being Chub Cay ($5!!) and the lowest at Nassau ($.10) a minute. Free at some marinas. Most places provide the computer so I brought a floppy with the email's I wanted to send in a text file, and then cut and pasted them. Same thing to receive. At $.50 a minute you don't want be typing many emails. Some places expect you to bring a laptop, but in the Bahamas you need a local ISP, and Batelco is the only ISP that supports all the Bahamas. For about $30 a month you can get an account and then need to either have a local phone line (tough to get) or schlep your laptop to the local Batelco Office. We like keeping our laptop in the nice dry boat and out of the nasty, wet dinghy. Even with a long distance call you cannot use a US ISP. I tried a few times and then found out a modem won't work across the typical Bahamian phone connections.
By scrounging around we were able to find internet access just about everywherein the Bahamas: In marina offices, restaurants, shops, internet cafes, ISPs (Marsh Harbor), libraries (Green Turtle Cay), Nature Preserves (Warderick Wells), even people's homes (Spanish Wells), Internet access in the Bahamas is widespread, and everywhere there are people wanting to make a bit of money providing time.
Bottom line, we had email and web access about 1-2 times a week in the Bahamas and didn't pay a lot for it. Compared to $200 plus $1 a minute phone time for a Pocket Mail, and $2000 plus $20 a month for SSB Email. And neither of these have web access. We met some people with Globalstar sat phones: $300 for the phone and about $50 for about 100 minutes of call time per month. Reasonable way to get email and voice anywhere.People who use SSB, Ham or PocketMail also swear by them. Many possibilities exist.
In the US on the ICW we used our Cingular cell phone for a slow digital connection to the laptop. It works fine for email but is slow (at 9600 baud) for web browsing. But it works! And this was 75% of our one year trip. Phone connect time is free (3500 minutes) for nights and weekends. When we got to a marina with a phone jack we would dial a local number and get a faster dialup connection. We use Compuserve as our ISP since it is cheap ($10 a month for limited use) and has tons of local numbers. When there is no local number we use their 1-800 number and pay $.10 a minute. Only had to do this a couple of times. We would then do our web page updates since transferring all those photos takes a long time on the cell phone. Sometimes we would update the web page over the cell phone but it would take about an hour for one photo page. Simple text updates go much faster. It has been GREAT to have web access from the boat. I check the weather radar most mornings at weather.com. Coverage has been most of the US except when we're really in the boonies. If the cell phone has a digital connection it would connect to the internet. When didn't it work? In Maine, in New York City (for some crazy reason!), in some of the Chesapeake, and in the boonies of Georgia and SC when we barely got a cell signal.
What would I do in the future? Get a ham rig and a ham General license, and a Pactor modem. The code requirement is only 5 words per minute. Get the rig modified to transmit on SSB frequencies (common practice but not 100% legal). and set up both Ham (free but non-commercial) and SSB ($20 a month but commercial email OK). A nice ham rig (like the small Icom 706) and antenna tuner can be had on EBAY for less than $1000, about 1/2 the cost of an SSB rig and unlike an SSB it can do ham bands also, and be used off the boat for either home or car use.
AA NiMH Batteries
These were absolutely great as rechargable replacements for AA Alkaline batteries. When we started the trip, we had an AC powered NiCad charger. I got a 12V charger later which works great and uses much less 12V, since it doesn't require the inverter. We use AA batteries in many things: 2 flashlights, 2 CD players, portable TV, spare GPS, and most importantly, the digital camera. All performed very well with NiMH batteries. By using them with the 12V charger we were able to use all the battery powered stuff we wanted. Not one battery out of the 20 aboard failed. These batteries were from 4 different manufacturers. Make sure your charger runs on 12V.
We bought a camcorder battery charger that is tiny and also uses 12V. Much easier than having the camcorder out with the inverter running just to charge.
The Balmar 100A alternator we picked up at a consignment shop for $200 worked flawlessly. I had made a mistake by purchasing the high output alternator option from Yanmar. This supposedly 80A alternator never put out more than 35A and 14V, and cost me hundreds extra. In speaking to other Yanmar owners I have heard the same, The Balmar regularly puts out 60-70A and with an Ample Power 3 step regulator charges my 230AH (2 Rolls Golf Cart) battery bank quickly and well. The Yanmar (Hitachi) is now kept as a spare.
I use a West Marine battery combiner to charge the starting battery, a Surrette 100AH group 27. This combiner failed 1.1 years into a 1 year warrantee, but I convinced West to replace it for free and it has been fine since.
I bought a 36W solar panel to provide a boost for those times we're at anchor for several days and it has helped. We go about 4-5 (sunny) days without needing to run the engine. With no refrigeration, our biggest draw is the laptop which is on most of the time, drawing about 2A. The 36 W solar panel was the biggest I could easily mount on our already crowded stern rail. Go bigger if you can.
The other part of our charging system is an old, first generation Ample Power ESAHM battery monitor. I got this for free from a friend, and after some quick tests found that it worked. After permanently installing it, I found that when the batteries were nearly run down (but still with 11.5V) the monitor would hang up, requiring a power down of the whole system. Then it would lose it's AH memory. I emailed Ample Power with this problem and heard back that since some of the parts are no longer available they no longer supported the product: Go buy a new $500+ unit!! Hey, guys, at least TRY to fix it! I'd understand if the broken part isn't available, but this is no way to treat customers! I know this is typical in the marine electronics industry but I don't have to put up with it. No more Ample Power products for me! See below for how to support a product.
We use very little AC power. Once every three days I run the coffee grinder. Other than that I use it for power tools. On the way down the ICW last fall it was very cold in October, November and December, so we bought a cheapie space heater and if the temperature at night was forecast to go below 40, we'd head for a marina and plug in the heater. Otherwise we'd bake biscuits or find another excuse to use the oven in the morning.
For AC power we purchased a cheapie ($129) 700W inverter at Boat US. These are not designed for permanent wiring, but with a few precautions, work OK. For AC wiring on the boat I simply wired two outlets with the first one a Ground Fault Interrupter (GFI) type. It protects itself plus any downstream outlets. This has the added advantage of an LED to tell you when the AC is alive. I wired the inverter DC side to a 50A breaker which I use to turn it on and off. A larger inverter would require either a remote on/off or a bigger (hard to find) breaker. I used a 20A 120VAC rated DPDT switch to select either the dockside power or the inverter. Nice simple system, worked great. If I used dockside power more than 3 times a year, I'd also install a ground isolator.
For power tools we have a 9.6V older Makita drill/driver with low gear and a clutch. Great Tool. A 1/4 sheet Makita palm sander, and a RotoZip which I rarely use. I expected to use the RotoZip as a jig saw, but it is lousy at cutting straight or at cutting anything thicker than 1/2". It does however have the angle grinder attachment for fiberglass work (which I haven't used).. I bought a cheapie saber saw to cut straight and cut shapes. Works swell with bi-metal blades on just about everything. Also a little Shark Vacuum cleaner (rarely use it).
When we bought our boat it came with an antique (early seventies) First Mate tiller autopilot which didn't work. I called the company written on the back, found that Electro-Mechanical Products had moved from Miami to Stewart FL, and they indicated that it was probably the (liquid filled) compass. They sent a new compass for $80. I needed to reinforce the old cracked plastic cover too. We named him Otto and he worked fine for 7 years. When I planned this trip I figured I'd buy a new Simrad TP-30 for about $600. But the trip started and old Otto steered us just fine all the way down the ICW. In fact I found other boaters who couldn't steer on the narrow ICW with their autopilots. Their digital units could only steer to 1 degree resolution which required continuous course correction to keep it in the center of the channel. Otto's antique analog circuitry could be finely adjusted to any course.
When we attempted our first gulf stream crossing and had to turn back because of the seas, Otto fell from his perch under the dodger to the cockpit sole, and his compass was broken. I ordered a new one from Electro-Mechanical Products and it arrived at the Las Olas Marina a few days later. We left for the Bahamas and Otto was fine. On the way back to the US though, Otto was having trouble holding a course. It turns out that there is a calibration that is needed for optimum results. And in messing with him I blew out a few power transistors. I brought him to Stewart for repair. Within a few days he was back to his old self. These guys fixed a 30 year old autopilot twice!!! What a great way to support your customers!
Of all the broken electronics I saw on boats, autopilots were by far the most common. Make sure you can get your fixed. They will break.
The end of the autopilot story is that the compass on Otto went again on the C and D canal, and we decided to replace Otto. We ordered the Simrad from Defenders when we were in Cape May, and picked it up 2 days later at Sandy Hook. Installed it in 20 minutes (5 screws plus a 12V connection) and were back in business. In retrospect it would have been better to buy it before the trip and saved two repairs and about $200, but at east we'll now have a proper autopilot for the trip.
I m a 20 year customer of the Marine Exchange in Peabody, MA. The Montague family runs a great rigging and consignment shop and chandlery. When the West marine sprung up across the street, I would always hit the Marine Exchange first. If they had whatever I was looking for either used or new, it would always be cheaper than West. Plus I believe in supporting the little guy. One day a few months before the trip I went there ready to begin the purchases I had put off 'till last, only to find the doors permanently closed!!! I was crushed!! West has a nice catalog, but the stores only have about 1/3 of what is in the catalog. This is fine if you can wait a week for them to get what you want, but it doesn't work if you're cruising. You rarely stay in one place for a week (with a West Marine nearby).
Other than the small stuff at West, I used two main Chandleries for all the big stuff: Defenders and EBAY. The Garmin GPS168 ($299 less bracket, antenna and transducer), Harken 16ST halyard winch ($250 new), one chartkit ($30), and 2hp Yamaha outboard ($430) were all bought on Ebay. Also the cell phone (Nokia 7160 with wired internet) and a bunch of smaller stuff. The Depth Sounder transducer, Plastimo Compass, SR Mariner knotmeter and other small stuff were bought at Defenders. Defenders is great. EBAY is fantastic if you have time to play and can miss out a few times.
Our other chart kits were bought from an individual we met along he way. Our Balmar Alternator was bought at a Marina's consignment shelf in Solomons Maryland.
Sails and Rigging
The Main is in OK shape (a recent North Sail) but our old bag of a 160% Genny needed replacement badly. At the Boston Boat Show in Feb 2002 I got about 7 quotes for a new Roller furl 135% Genoa. All the quotes came in from $2400 to about $3000 depending on the prestige of the sailmaker's name. I also got a quote from my repair loft, little Downs Sails in Danvers MA. They too quoted $2400 but were quoting a biaxial scrim reinforced sailcloth and a tri-radial cut. I saw an example of a tri-radial main they were building and was sold. The sail has been terrific, making the boat sail on all points of sail like it has never done before. It can handle a wide range of winds without overpowering and reefs nicely down to about 7-8 turns on the furler. We have not needed to change jibs once on this trip to our smaller working jib. Of course we also tend not to go out in more than 20+ knots of wind.
Kevin from Northeast Rigging (formerly of Marine Exchange) inspected the rigging and recommended replacing one upper shroud plus the forestay. I disassembled the old Cruising Design Reefer and found nothing wrong with it. I replaced the main halyard which was wire-to-rope with a Sta-Set-X low stretch rope. I replaced the antique main halyard winch with a new Harken 16 self tailer. The winch is 2:1 geared and that plus the self tailer will allow my wife or daughter to hoist my 200# up the mast.
Our 35# plow is deployed on the bow and worked well in general. Once or twice it wouldn't catch and so we used the 35# Danforth instead. Or in addition. The problem as I have said a few times is that in strong current with opposing wind, the anchor rode gets caught on the keel. On the way north we did several things to help this problem.
For anchoring in current, we bought a 12# plastic coated mushroom anchor which we deploy with a 30' line and a snatch block on the anchor rode as a kellet or weight to hold down the anchor rode. With this we have never caught the keel.
We changed the 10' chain to 45' of 5/16 HT chain on the plow. Now we tend to have less nylon rode, the anchot sets faster, and we are more confident with it in a blow. I wanted to get more chain but was unwilling to pay the $4 a foot that West Marine and most other chandleries wanted. Finally in Annapolis, Bacon's had a new / used remnant that was the perfect length (45') and the perfect price ($1.50 / ft). It has helped a lot, although pulling the chain up is a bit more work, and 45' drags a lot more mud onto the deck. Now the danforth has 10' of 5/16 HT instead of the old 5/16 proof chain.
I always wanted one of those trendy little riding sails to help point us into the wind when at anchor. We bought one for $25 from some nice folks in Oriental. She had made it from a Sailrite kit and did a great job. It definitely helps the boat behave at anchor.
We generally put down two anchors if there is a currrent or if we expect high winds. This is called a "Bahamian moor" and helps the boat behave.
We have just 40 gallons of water tanks, plus two 6 gallon jerry cans on deck. Alex says you can tell the real cruisers by the jerry cans on deck. Our fresh water system is cold water only and has two manual taps: a foot pump for the galley and a hand pump for the head sink. We use a sun shower for showering in warm weather and use marinas for showers otherwise. We get one week of water from our 40 gallon tanks. We use one jerry can for filling the sun shower. The other is for spare water that we only used once on the trip. Water is available almost everywhere inthe Bahamas except in Warderick Wells. There we once went as far as pumping rain water from the dinghy into the jerry can for showers. To save more water we added a salt water foot pump and used salt water (where it was clean) for rinsing dishes before cleaning with fresh or salt and then a fresh water rinse. We use a Home-Depot style water filter that takes 12" cartridges ($5) every 4 months or so. For $30 it does a tremendous job of cleaning any water and making it sweet tasting. It does restrice the flow a tad since it is in the vacuum side of our manual pumps. We had a problem with the water in the head sink that was fixed by replacing the 10' feed hose. It must have had bad stuff in it.
When we increased our engine from 25 to 40HP I figured our 25 gallon fuel tank might not be adequate. But with motoring at 5.5-6 knots we get about 220 miles out of 20 gallons of fuel. Less if we push the speed up to 6.5 knots. We carry one 6 gallon jerry can of diesel which we have only tapped once. We have had no problem with getting fuel int the US and Bahamas, and no problems with dirty fuel. We replaced our Racor cartridge twice in two years and 5000 miles, and have not yet replaced the engine mounted filter.
For propane we have two 6# and one 5# tank because that is what fits in our propane locker. We use the two 6# tanks for our propane stove/oven. We use either 14 oz propane cans or the 5# tank for our gas grille. We buy about 10# of propane every 2 1/2 months. We bought a Coleman adapter hose for the gas grille. It cost less than 1/2 of the marine version. We buy 14 oz propane cans at WalMart for under $2. We have added propane about 5 times during the one year cruise.
We installed a 25 gallon holding tank in the spring of 2002. It has been great. We pumpout where we can get it, and otherwise pump out in the ocean or when we pass an inlet on an outgoing tide. We have never been in a place where we felt comfortable (or legal) doing direct pumpout, except perhaps on passages, and so our system always goes directly from the head to the tank. There are two outlets, one for the deck pumpout and one for the macerator.
For the engine we carry, the usual engine filters, belt and oil, raw water impellers. We have a fair number of spares, lots of stainless steel fasteners, and a reasonable electronics assortment. We carry a rebuild kit for nearly every pump on board. a years worth (3) water filters, lots of DC wiring stuff, spare alternator and regulator, macerator pump, air horn cans, hose, some wood and plywood, lots of sailboat hardware, winch handles, etc.
For the dinghy we have a spare propellor and shear pins, and spark plugs.
We had previously put lots of our music CDs on the computer as .MP3s. So before the trip we recorded a bunch more, then made CD's of our favorite music. All the music for the trip fit on about 15 MP3 CDs with about 150 CD's worth of music. We found a great CD player that plays MP3s on CD also. The JVC KD-SX980. For under $200 (via a web supplier) it makes the ideal boat stereo. In addition to playing CD's, AM/FM and MP3 CDs, it has two neat features we regularly use: a tiny remote control so we can adjust the volume and channel from the cockpit, and an audio input jack on the front, which we drive from the audio output of the PC to get great sound when we watch DVDs on the PC.
We brought about 15 of our favorite DVDs and play them regularly on our PC's DVD drive. Movie night is great and we have had guests many times. Occasionally we borrow or rent DVDs. Most modern PCs support this option for cheap.
Michelle at 14/15 is regularly plugged into a portable CD player with headphones. Get one that's well built and has good battery life. Michelle is tough on headphones too.
We have a tiny LCD TV. In areas with a few broadcast channels it gets OK reception. We have used it 10-15 times on the trip. Only about 1 TV station in the Bahamas, near Nassau.
For a dinghy we use our 15 year old Puffin Fiberglas dinghy with a relatively new 2HP Yamaha Outboard. I have always heard that Yamaha makes the best (most reliable, quiet enough) and can concur: the spark plug went once, and we occasionally have problems with damp fuel, but other than that it starts on the first pull and runs great. The dinghy is a bit small for the three of us plus gear and motor, and so we're careful if it's lumpy out. it stows nicely on the bow for ocenn ocean passages, and we tow it 99% of the time. See Running Aground.
Capture the Moment
With a 2.5 year old 2.3 megapixel Toshiba Digital Camera, Alex has taken thousands of pictures, as our web site reflects. We transfer them to the PC and back them up on CD-RW just in case of a computer crash.
We use an 8mm camcorder to tape action stuff and wide panoramic views. We bought a charger for the camcorder that uses 12V.
Other Neat Stuff
We bought one of those $19.95 1 Million Candle power spotlights at Home Depot. It is rechargeable from 12v. After 5 years the lens is starting to delaminate so it's only about 700K candles now. If it gets worse I'll splurge another $19.95.
We also have a Coleman 12V rechargeable Fluorescent Lantern that we use camping and at home.
We use my Palm Pilot all the time. It contains our to-do lists, phone and address list, etc. One thing that's been great is that we update our many storage bin contents on it. That way it's easy to type in 'beans' and find where and how many beans we have on the boat (6 kinds). It also has Yanmar maintenance part numbers, and gobs of other info. I bought one of those toy keyboards for it but rarely use it.
We bought a used handheld VHF from some cruisers and use it in the cockpit. Our regular VHF is also accessible from the companionway.
Our brass clock also has a tide hand that tells you the time. You need to reset it every week or so if you're moving, but it gives a rough idea quickly. We keep it set for the ocean and keep in mind how many hours later the tide might be inland.
Our GPS also has a depth sounder / plotter. On the ICW you need a good depth sounder and I recommend an LCD sounder so you can see at a glance if the bottom is coming up or not. We wanted GPS and Depth to be visible from the helm so bought the Garmin GPSmap168. We use the low-res downloadable charts on the $70 Waterways CD. It's great. Any more detail (Blue Charts) and the update rate and screen clutter would be problems. The Waterways CD has coastlines and all buoys in the US. In the Bahamas there's little detail, but that's OK since you mostly do connect-the-dot navigation with the GPS waypoints from the charts.
For charts, we use MapTech Chartkits (5 from FL to ME) and the excellent Explorer Charts for the Bahamas. We have Dodge (Abacos) and Pavlides (other Bahamas) but rarely consult them since the explorer charts have mst details you need.
For the ICW we have a few cruise guides but mostly use Skipper Bob's Anchorages and Marinas guides. Skipper Bob's stops at Long Island Sound.
We planned about $2400 a month and end up closer to $3800 including health insurance and all. That includes weekly dinners and pretty regular (33%) cheap marinas and rental moorings. Boat maintenance has been nil: no haulouts, I can replace zincs with mask and fins, and other than about $160 for diesel mechanics and the autopilot repair, and an insured diver to clear the anchor rode off the prop (Cumberland Island Disaster) no-one but me has touched the boat.
For maintenance, we replaced the 30 year old jib sheets that wore out and a 30 year old anchor rode that got partially cut on the prop once. Our one big repair was when we replaced the autopilot late in the trip which was our biggest gear expense ($700).
Boat US insures the boat for hull replacement. They cover Nova Scotia to Georgia and required a separate Waiver for the 5 months we were in FL and the Bahamas. I canceled the waiver once we left Florida on the way home. I got Boat US unlimited towing for $100 a year and used it once to clear our anchor line from the prop shaft ($240 otherwise).
We use Alliance Services for health insurance for the three of us. $450 a month with a $500 a year annual deductible per person for doctor visits and a $5000 deductible for hospital stays. We have used doctors and hospitals about 5 times (blood work to check thyroid medication, a wart removed...) It's definitely cheaper in the Bahamas if you're paying for it yourself.
Renting our House
I was worried that we wouldn't find a good tenant willing to rent for exactly one year and on our schedule. We gave it two months and finally met perfect tenants. A friend of ours told us the importance of a good interview, references and a credit check. Simply letting some candidates know we were going to check references caused them to bail out on the spot. Scary! Basically you want to see a solid work history, decent income, and a good reference from the previous landlord. We were paid back with great tenants that take care of our house and pay the rent on time. My dad used to rent a few houses and was pretty soft on his tenants. As a result he and his houses were regularly treated badly. Treat it like a business. It is.
Home Schooling 9th grade
How was school? By taking just one school year away we felt it important to continue with the school's curriculum. People who have used Calverts school had less work load on both the student and the parents. It is a lot of work teaching, preparing, keeping records, etc. Alex does most of the teaching, I do most of the sailing. School during travel requires flat water conditions, which we generally find on the ICW.
Drawing 6' (including loading of the boat) and sailing in the ICW, the Chesapeake and the Bahamas, it was necessary to be very careful with our navigation. We ran aground several times (boat stopped) and bounced off the bottom several times as well. All but once was in soft mud or sand. That once was a medium hard bounce in the Bahamas leaving Green Turtle's White Sound. Most of our groundings were entering channels which were either not marked, or with shoaling. 2 times we tried to enter slips (after verifying the depth with the marina) only to find 5' of water. We found shoaling at many ICW inlets and learned to slow down and stay carefully in the channel. We learned to go slow when we were doing a depth survey in order to anchor. Sometimes we bumped and kept going. sometimes we needed to back off.
About 8 times, we ran aground hard enough to need to kedge off. Kedging off is when you run out an anchor to deeper water, and winch the boat off the shoal into deeper water. Because we tow the dinghy, it is always ready in case we need to kedge off. On an outgoing tide, it is very critical to get off the bottom fast before the tide goes out. Several times we have seen boats with dinghys on deck or on davits take too long to get the anchor out, and end up high and dry for a complete tide cycle. We have perfected the 3 minute kedging drill. We have a 10' pole that we use to find the deepest water around the boat. I get in the dinghy with our little 13# Danforth and 6' chain and row in the direction of the deep water, generally off the aft quarter. The Danforth and rode are stowed on the aft deck. Alec pays out the rode, I drop the hook, and by the time I'm back to the boat Alex is winching in the rode and Michelle is tailing. We never went high and dry. The one time we really did it at high tide in Beaufort NC we were able to get a tow quickly enough to get off. We tried heeling, kedging, and then called Tow Boat US. They got us off before the tide went out.
Having a light boat (#15,000) helped us get off