Bimini, the Bahamas- our first foreign port!

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Author: Miranda

 

So, here we are! In the Bahamas!  After making a short, but tenacious, trip across the Gulf Stream to North Bimini Island. We have been anchored here for almost a week, as the winds are blowing like a banshee, socking us in.

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Let’s start with the trip over- not exactly the smoothest of sailing, but we survived. It was fine. The obvious heroines (Wendy and Belinda, remember?) of the trip were our twin Volvo diesels which pushed us straight east the entirety of the trip- from anchor up to anchor down. Yes, we spent the entire day motoring straight into the wind. So, “why cross in those conditions?” you ask. Basically, it’s by far the least of two evils. Being that the Gulf Stream runs from south to north, you don’t want to be anywhere near it when the winds are coming from the opposite direction. This makes for nasty, confused seas. So, northerly winds and the Gulf Stream are one big, bad combination. And, once the northern winter winds in Florida start, they rarely ever stop.  The winds were mild(ish), 10-15 knots, so it wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely the weather window we were waiting for.

 

We pulled up anchor just as first light was peeking over the horizon, found our buddy boat, and headed east.

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We were surprised at just how far our cell phone signal reached, so we both took turns calling family and friends from several miles offshore- to squeeze as much out of our U.S. cell phone while we had it, and it was just plain fun to share our excitement for the day ahead with loved ones.

There were two portions of the trip when the sea was at its worst- right at the beginning and then right, smack-dab in the middle of the Gulf Stream. Any trip made below decks during the day made us both feel a little woozy, but it was especially puke-y feeling around then. Per Casey Becker’s (I know, I know Casey Harrison’s) suggestion, as we headed through the worst waves, we blasted what I like to call “weight room jams” (some good ol’ Metalica, Def Leopard, Offspring- just think back to what they used to play in your high school weight room, and you’ll know what I mean).

It’s a somewhat anticlimactic moment to find yourself entering the Gulf Stream. People talk about it as a “raging river in the ocean.” As we were getting 5, 6, 7, 8 miles offshore, Pete and I kept looking and at each other and saying “so, are we in it yet? Are we in the Gulf Stream?” There’s no mistaking the odd feeling of being sloshed around in weird directions once you’re in the middle of this “river,” but the entrance… not so noticeable.

 

Here’s our new friends from Canada, Brian and Yvonne, in Options 3.  They made the crossing with us and are now hanging out with us in Bimini.  Really great folks.  Lots of expertise, plenty of fun discussion, and great euchre players when the weather is especially yucky. DSC_1574

Headed out past Stiltsville.  I was hoping we could get a closer look at these interesting homes, but we were too far away to poke around.

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Some menacing, little waves.

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Your first time noticing that there’s no land in sight is empowering… if a little scary.

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Notice the lack of horizon in this picture- taken as we met a wave, head-on.  Just a little spray.

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And, finally, Land Ho!

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Pete put up our first ever courtesy flag and later we toasted our first passage (of many, hopefully) with some champagne.  Thanks Lily!

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As far as life in Bimini goes, we generally see the sun pop out for an hour or two in the morning, then its grey clouds, constantly looking on the brink of rain for the rest of the day. But, it hasn’t been all that bad. We are itching to get a move on, of course, but Binimi World Resort (our neighbor here at the anchorage) has blessed with free wifi and access to THEIR SHOWERS! We haven’t been here in the Bahamas long, but you realize very quickly how fresh water is a very expensive and scarce commodity, so free (and HOT!) showers is as close to winning the lottery that you can get without actually buying a ticket.

We jumped in the beautiful, wickedly blue waters for a few hours one morning to do some snorkeling, but mostly we are using the time to do projects on the boat. Pete’s mostly working his way down a to-do list of repairs, while I’ve been focusing on getting our Pactor modem set up to send and receive email through our SSB radio. This will keep us connected wherever we happen to be. Other than the obvious social conveniences, this will allow us to receive important weather reports and maps on a daily basis from anywhere on the globe.

Getting this system all set up was no small feat. The technology has been around for a long time, but is still pretty darn cool if you think about it. Our Pactor modem will take our text emails, compress them into teeny, tiny bits of information, convert them to audio signals (something along the lines of Morse Code, but not really), then fire them to a shore station, where they will be converted back to text, and sent to all you wonderful folks. There’s both some special software on my end on my laptop and some special people working at the shore stations (thank you SailMail!) to make this all happen.

It took all of the “Idiot’s Guides to setting up your Pactor Modem… your SSB… your Airmail software… etc, etc” that I could get my hands on, but I figured the whole blessed system out! Several days of trolling through forums (because, of course, none of this software is written for a mac), I sent and received our first emails, weatherfax, and GRIB files by way of our Pactor radio. Oh, lordy, I have never been so excited to receive two-sentence email in my life!

Check out the shining moment for yourselves here:

 

With all the strong winds, we’ve also been very happy to get immediate gratification that shelling out the bucks for a new wind generator was a darn good idea. Most days, we have more energy than we know what to do with- and that’s on a completely cloud covered day. These days our poor solar panels are feeling like the uncoordinated, last-kid-picked-at-kickball to the new shining star at school- the wind genie, pumping out a consistent 10-15 amps and powering the entire boat on it’s own.

Here she is in all her glory:

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We hope to push off within the next few days, although, to where we are still figuring out.  We are looking forward to getting to the Exumas next, which are perfectly southeast of us.  Guess where the wind is coming from for the foreseeable future… you guessed it… the southeast.  And strong.  We’d really like to do more sailing and less motoring, so we might need to get a little creative in our next float plan.  Keep in touch for the juicy details.

 

 

On Hold in Naples

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Author: Pete

Location: Naples, Florida

 

We found the boat, the cogs are in motion.  We just need time and energy to make all of the machinery work.  It’s a arduous, thankless task, but on the bright side, we are staying in a beautiful house in Naples.  My childhood neighbors serendipitously have a house here that they graciously offered to us while we’re boat hunting.  Such nonchalant generosity is rare and humbling.  We’ve been enjoying the gems of an easy, if bureaucratic life in Naples.

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Waiting around on the paper chase of buying a boat requires patience.  Documents are slow to be exchanged and fruitless insurance leads wind up dragging you down the rabbit hole before terminating.  Between daily trips to the ‘office’ (library, see below) we enjoy our time in Naples.  Citrus grows freely in the trees, fat and juicy from the daily thunderstorms that pummel down rain at some point every day.  We plan, prep, fix, build, research, call, read.  We make lunch, and do it again.  And sometimes we even swim in the pool.  Hard times kiddy.

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We are getting our first taste of living off the connection grid.  The Naples house doesn’t have internet, so when we need to be connected, which is daily with all this paper chase, we load up in Big Red and bounce on down to the Naples Public Library, conveniently located a few miles from us.  It’s like going to the office, icy-cold air conditioning and strange ‘regulars’.  We sure do get a lot of research done though.

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Back at the ranch we generally make the phone calls that we couldn’t in the ‘Shhhhh!  Keep your voices down, aside from all the crazy old people who feel free to talk really friggin’ loud because their hearing is going’.  Sorry.  Library.  Then we get a little dinner going.

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We usually unwind with some light reading, research, conjecture, notes, page flipping, text referencing, and highlighting.  Have to get used to being off the grid.  Our newest, fanciest equipment is an iPad mini with Navionics on it.  The 4G iPad version that we got also has a GPS chip in it, so you don’t actually need cell signal, only clear skies.  That’s what everyone says anyway!  The Navionics is quite frankly magic.  It loads maps of the entire Caribbean, Central and South America, and parts of the US.  You can zoom down to see minute detail.  We’ll check it out on the real water.

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Let’s face it.  We’ve been blessed with easy sailing so far and it should be expected that eventually (now) we’re getting some chop. It’s so beautiful in this little house with the canal right in the back yard, but we’re itching to get on our boat and make headway.  It may be slow and frustrating at times.  But one things for sure… even if it feels like w’ere on hold, we’re on our way in Naples.

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We found a boat!

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Author: Pete

Location: Fort Lauderdale, Florida

 

Short story:

WE FOUND A BOAT!

 

Long story:

WE FOUND A BOAT!

 

Coherent story:

Sorry. Still pretty excited. Okay, here goes…

After our 1 AM arrival to Naples, we still intended to make the boat scouting appointments that we had planned with our broker and some private listings the following day. All of the appointments were two hours away in Fort Lauderdale, so we were up at six o’clock and on the road again. Man we were getting sick of driving!

Made it to our appointment on time and met Steve Moore from the Catamaran Company who we had met on our previous mission to Florida. He introduced us to Kenan and his wife Julie, two young Brits who were selling their Lagoon 380 after a year sabbatical in the Bahamas. The boat was in beautiful shape for its age, and was very well equipped. Kenan is a professional captain on massive private yachts (220 feet massive), as well as a pilot. He knew the boat extremely well and kept good care of her. After a run through of the boat and some discussion of possible timeline we walked away with a distinct like of the boat and a good feeling about the owners.

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Our second, third, and fourth boats of the day went by in a blur. I don’t think we even got a picture of any of them! Our heads were still in the clouds about the Lagoon and nothing held a candle to it. We didn’t even discuss it much between us. We just drove back to the Catamaran Company, located in a floating office in a marina, and asked Steve to help us make an offer.

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It started pouring rain. The boat was listed outside of our comfortable price range. We decided to make an offer that we could afford, and make an itinerary for the hand over of the boat that would be attractive to the sellers. They were trying to fly back to the U.K. in mid-October, and were really hoping to move the boat before then. We crossed our fingers that giving them the option of a quick turn-around could make up for our lower offer.

With Steve’s help we filled in and sent a formal offer on the boat outlining purchase price, conditions, and dates for survey/sea trial, acceptance of vessel, and closing. We hurried a transfer to Cat. Co’s escrow account through some help with Miranda’s friends at her Wisconsin bank, and then sent the offer over to Kenan’s selling broker. Then we waited.

And we waited.

And it felt like forever.

In fact, it was only fifteen minutes, but I felt like the gun was going to go off for the cross country state meet, or I was going to sit a six hour quantum physic exam. This rates right up there in the stress. If I was prone to heart disease, I’d likely be dead.

And then Steve waltzes up the steps, sits and says casually, “Well, they accepted your offer.” I thought we’d fall out of our chairs but it was so nonchalant that I just stared at him. We signed some papers and made a few phone calls to set up sea trials and survey for the very next day.

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It was late in the day and we were to be back at the boat at 8:30 the following morning. Instead of driving two hours back to Naples, then retracing our steps the following day in the wee hours of the morning we opted to get a hotel in Fort Lauderdale. After a good night’s sleep we were back on the boat early and really, really excited.

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Kenan took us to the haul out, all the while making chit-chat in that British accent that will always make American ladies swoon. We navigated the busy waterways of Fort Lauderdale, avoiding towed yachts, ducking bridges, and jockeying in the respectable current. It was all very exciting.

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At the shipyard we docked carefully and waited for the lift, a massive motorized contraption that looked like it had been built out of Legos by some industrious ten-year-old. The workers guided thick straps under the hulls and positioned them carefully to not sit on the keels, rudders, or sail drives.

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With the grumble of a motor the boat was lifted slowly from the water, her undersides gleaming. The motorized lift rolled forward, for a second leaving the boat behind before it swung slightly and equalized in its motion.

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Once over firm ground the boat was lowered slightly and we gathered around it. Usually things look bigger underwater, like fish or skinny dippers, but this definitely looked much bigger out of the water.  I wondered what I was doing.

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The rain began to fall, fat and slow, and we all took shelter under the catamaran’s bridge deck. I wondered what people with monohulls did in this situation. Our surveyer Jon, who specialized in catamarans and knew the Lagoon 380 especially well, filled us in on his assessment of the boat so far. We were happy to hear positive news all around.

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The boat was put back in the water. I think I heard her audibly sigh. It’s unnatural for a vessel to be hanging from her hulls. We motored out into the Atlantic and put up sails. The wind was slight so we didn’t sail long, but enough to get the feel of the boat, work the sails, and give the surveyor a chance to check them.

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On the way back in the sky opened up again on us. I took the helm by request and let the others take shelter in the saloon. Without rain gear my shirt was quickly soaked. We waited twenty minutes for a bridge in the rain, working the twin diesels to keep us close enough to the bridge to shelter from lightning, but far enough to avoid collision.

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When we got back to dock I was soaked and chilly, but very much excited. We sat in the saloon and got the rundown from the surveyor. All in good, working shape, a few things that need to be addressed, but nothing major. Green light. We signed the Acceptance of Vessel.

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We stayed for an hour or so talking to Julie and Kenan about the boat and each others’ lives. They are a really interesting couple, extremely personable and open and we’re so happy to be accepting the boat from them and carrying on her adventure. Miranda and I drove back to Naples with our heads spinning.  We now are left with the task of getting all the paperwork settled and wire transfers lined up.  If all goes well, we close in early October and move aboard then. Oh, and one more thing- No name set in stone so far…  hmmm…

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