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Sailing South and other thoughts

Here we are smack in the middle of July and well into the Atlantic Hurricane season – a time of year where we should’ve already been heading South. Peter and I discussed our options months ago and we both agreed that moving South to Grenada in June was the best thing for us this year. We’ve already spent two Hurricane seasons down there and we absolutely love it. It may sound like a simple plan to pick up anchor and set sail but things haven’t exactly unfolded the way we had hoped.

We knew we bought a project boat. We knew she needed some TLC to bring her back to the condition we knew she was once in. What we didn’t know was just how many other unforeseen repairs and upgrades would be needed along the way. The money we got back from our insurance claim on our last boat helped us to buy this one and get back on our feet but the cost of additional repairs has far exceeded what we had left over. Because of this, Peter has been working pretty much full time here in St Thomas in order to pay for the extra parts we needed and for our weekly groceries. I thought BVI was expensive but honestly I don’t see the food here on St Thomas being much cheaper at all. With a paycheck-to-paycheck budget and with Peter gone all day at work it’s been very difficult to get everything done to the boat that we want or need to do.

We thought we were finally ready to go. With three days left in the month of June we left our favorite spot in Christmas Cove and pointed off toward Grenada. The weather window was promising and our friends Rob and Deb from Cosmos Mariner were buddy-boating down with us. About two hours into the passage South when the seas started building, Peter noticed a significant amount of saltwater pouring into the vberth. How much you ask? Like a gallon a minute. It was pouring in from the dorad boxes and about four other places every time the bow sliced through the waves. The seastate wasn’t terrible but we also weren’t used to a boat that buried the bow so much. Our Whitby didn’t sail to wind this way. This boat was made to slice through in such a different way. Peter also never had these issues on the passage from Antigua to the VI because it was all downwind. We had done a small shakedown but nothing offshore in this direction. Brig was getting frustrated with having to stay strapped to me in our Lillebaby carrier and Peter determined there was no temporary fix he could do while under way that would keep that much water out of our forward cabin for the next 2 and a half days. At that moment he decided it was better for us and for the boat to turn back, make some repairs and wait for the next weather window. *sigh*

No big deal except for now our insurance wouldn’t cover us after July 1 in a named storm if we stayed “inside the box” instead of getting down to the lower latitudes. I immediately got a rider for our policy allowing us to be covered for another month in USVI – another unexpected added expense – and Peter began making repairs. He serviced the frozen dorad scoops so they could be removed and the covers installed closing them off. He recaulked our forward hatch at the base and along the top of the glass. He recaulked the windlass controls. He recaulked the staysail connection to the deck. He pulled up and rebed our two forward cleats, both of which ended up badly needing new bolts. And lastly he pulled up, serviced and rebed the windlass!! That was a NIGHTMARE job but really needed to be done. All I can say is thank goodness my brother Brandon is still here because he’s helped Peter every step of the way, to make this boat safe for all of us, as quickly as possible.

Our weather window is finally here. This time Peter doesn’t want Brig and I to go. Instead, he insists that we fly down to Grenada and wait for him there. It should only take him 2.5-3 days and then he won’t have to worry about us if the waves are miserable. My brother is still here with us and will do the passage too. Our friend Mike from Three Sheets Sailing is also going to go along so Peter can actually get a little sleep and take real shifts. My brother will be able to help a little but he’s never done anything like this before so entrusting him with the responsibility of being on watch when he doesn’t know anything about navigation or sailing isn’t really fair to him. I fly out in two days with Brig. It will be a very long day with one ferry and four connecting flights to hop down island but the good news is we will get to spend the weekend with our friends from the Sunkissed Soeters!! Brig will have so much fun with Darcy and Luuck’s boys, Stormer and Rio and it’ll be good for me too.

I get it… I understand Peter just wants to keep us safe. It’s a new-to-us boat and he wants to gain a little faith in our boat first before taking his baby out to sea in it. I also know it would be very difficult to entertain a one-year-old on a passage to wind. The first attempt a few weeks ago was challenging and that was just a couple of hours worth. Going below to use the head and to change Brig’s diaper just one time was very tiring. But part of me also feels like i’m failing at “cruising with kids” if I can’t even do a little 3 day passage with my baby. SO many other families take their babies on passages longer than this all the time so why can’t I? I know I shouldn’t feel that way and that I’m not failing and that we just need to do what is right for our family. But it’s hard to not think it. Oh well. It doesn’t even matter anymore. It’s another extra expense for the plane ticket but it’s just money right? Peter will just work a little more.

By Monday we should be all settled back on our boat together as a family in a Grenada. I can’t wait. ❤️

Hurricane Irma

So, Hurricane Irma has been barreling across the Atlantic during the last few days and she’s headed right for us. Though the forecast doesn’t show her as a direct hit, all bets are off with a major (Cat3 and above) hurricane. The most reliable model is the Euro and that has it coming straight for us. The less reliable GFS model shows it going further North of us. The two models still don’t agree and we are anywhere from 4-5 days out. The direction and strength can change so fast despite what the forecast models show so we pretty much have to prepare for the worst.

It’s really difficult to wrap my brain around this, especially after the recent flooding we had here on Tortola and all the destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey in Texas. I mean, I know it’s peak hurricane season here in the Caribbean but you just never think it’s gonna happen to you. I’m really good at being in denial about stuff like this. It’s our fourth hurricane season and really the first time we’ve ever had to “expect” a named storm on our doorstep.

I’m actually pretty emotional about the whole thing. Granted, I have all these postpartum hormones making it worse, but Peter and I made a decision to have me fly off island with Brig. It’s just not worth risking our safety with something this big and this strong coming so close.

It wasn’t until just two days ago that this was even an option. Technically, he cannot enter the U.S. without a passport. Since he was born in BVI and does not qualify for a BVI passport, we technically have to wait until the US Consulate in Barbados comes to visit here in BVI to apply for his US passport.  Well, given our circumstances with an impending life threatening storm headed for us, the US Customs and Boarder Protection agency at the St Thomas airport has granted me special permission to let us travel with just a birth certificate for him instead of a passport.  The moment they told me that, I of course started to cry with relief. I don’t want to have to go anywhere but it really is the best thing.

Peter is going to stay here and continue to secure our boat for as long as it’s safe before taking shelter somewhere nearby. He’ll have Betsy to care for but at least he won’t have the added stress of making sure Brig and I are safe too. I’m going to take a ferry from Tortola to St Thomas and catch a flight out on Monday. I will be going up to stay with my family in Washington State far away from the Caribbean and the East Coast.

Its a decision we wouldn’t have made if we didn’t have Brig. I would’ve just stayed here and helped Peter with the safeguarding of our home. Everyone knows that when you have kids, your life changes. Your priorities change. You make different decisions. You do what’s best for your children no matter what.

A round trip ticket cost me $1400 two days ago with one three hour layover via American Airlines. Now there are no more American flights, and tickets are $1500 only available with Jet Blue with two layovers including one for 10 hours. ($2200 with United). I pretty much got one of the last decent flights available to fly out Monday. Let’s hope they didn’t overbook it.

Our boat is in the best possible location it could be in. Literally, the best spot inside this hurricane hole. The boat really shouldn’t see any waves at all and should feel reduced wind. Peter will do everything he can to make sure our home is safe.

I’m just sick about leaving my husband, my dog and my home in the path of a hurricane. Everything could be totally fine and then again it could be really bad. I pray they will be safe and that I will have a home to come back to. Everything we own is on that boat. It’s insured of course and it’s just stuff, but I can’t imagine losing everything I own in a natural disaster.

It happens all over the world. The west coast gets earthquakes and is due for “the big one”. The midwest gets tornadoes. We get hurricanes. I suppose we should be grateful we have so much warning.

I’m sure the cell towers will be down for quite some time so I may not be able to hear from Peter. I’m going to be worried sick. Power will be off island wide and he’ll be relying on the water and food supply we have stocked up. If the boat fares well, he’ll be able to stay aboard after the storm. If not, one person has offered their home to us so atleast Peter and Betsy will have a place to go either after the storm or before if things get too crazy.  Before I made my flight reservation we really didn’t have anywhere on land to go, so it wasn’t even a question of whether or not I should leave.

If you pray, please pray for us and for everyone in Irma’s path. We need all the positive vibes we can get…

I may not get a chance to post an update to our website as the storm approaches, but I will definitely be updating our Facebook page as I have more info. Even if you don’t have a Facebook account you can still see updates by clicking HERE

To all my friends and family in WA… now’s your chance to meet Brig! Send me a message <3

A New View

It’s Hurricane Season here in the Caribbean and we’ve got a new backyard view! We’ve actually been here since just days after Brig was born but it’s been hard to find time to keep up on the blog during these first newborn weeks ;)

It’s a time of year where anxiety can make you sick to your stomach. When your home is floating in the path of a potential named storm, all kinds of thoughts start racing through your head.

We spent our first two hurricane seasons down in Grenada, which is statistically in a zone that gets less hurricanes, luckily without any action.  Last year we hauled out in BVI and this year we are staying aboard in BVI. So far we have not experienced any named storms (knock on wood!) but we are always making sure we’re prepared.

This year has already been fairly active and there were a few systems that looked like they were coming our way but either dissipated or redirected before reaching the Virgins. Peter and I have spent countless hours discussing what we would do in the event of a named storm.

While we trust our mooring ball (that we’ve spent the last two years on) in heavy weather, we don’t necessarily trust it in a named storm especially because now we have Brig. For the duration of Hurricane Season this year we decided to move our boat into a marina that is tucked way inside a designated hurricane hole here on Tortola just so we don’t have to worry about moving it if something comes up. Also, since we have to wait until the end of September to get Brig a passport, we can’t just haul our boat out of the water and fly back to the states to wait out the rest of the season there like we did last year. Not to mention, it’s incredibly expensive for us to do that. Aside from sitting on a mooring, hauling out, or moving to a dock, the fourth option would be to anchor out and hope for the best. We know a few people that have literally been the last boat floating while being anchored in a major storm.

Unfortunately, there are very few spots in BVI to anchor your boat – let alone considering if they would be safe. There are so many mooring balls installed for the charter boats that it leaves very few places left to drop the hook. Given our options here in BVI, we are pretty happy with our current situation from a safety standpoint. We will make every effort to secure our boat the best we can in a named storm, but when it really comes down to it, we’re insured. In fact, I’ve been finalizing our renewal this week. It’s definitely a relief to know we are completely covered for crazy things like hurricanes.

While I ABSOLUTELY despise being tied to the dock, it does have a few perks. For one, the Virgin Islands are H-O-T this time of year so being plugged into shore power allows us to use the air conditioning 24/7. Well, it actually requires us to run the A/C 24/7 because if we didn’t we would roast. Its even hotter tucked away inside this hurricane hole than it would be back on our mooring in West End. There are also a ton of mosquitoes when you’re close to shore so that’s another reason we have to keep the boat all closed up. Even though I’m not pregnant anymore, I’m still concerned about Zika. I must admit it’s also nice to have air conditioning when I’ve got a fussy baby though. Secondly, it makes it much easier to take Betsy for a walk. She can practically take herself potty – something she can’t do from our mooring.

Then of course there’s the fact that we can park our car right next to the boat, there is laundry, a gym, our favorite restaurant, and a little grocery market all within a very short walk. Sure it’s convenient, but it’s just not the same as floating out on the water away from everyone else. I look at dock life like being in an apartment complex and our mooring as more like a neighborhood with big spacious lots :)

I cannot wait to get back to our beautiful home in West End!! Yes, I’ll probably miss the air conditioning, but I sure do love when the fresh Caribbean breeze blows through our hatches to cool us down.

West Coast Here We Come!

travel-1

Another day is done as we inch closer to the end of the charter season. August 2nd will be our last charter before we take a much needed three month break. What will we do?

We’re hauling our boat out of the water for the remainder of Hurricane Season and Betsy, Peter and I will be flying back to the States for the first time in THREE YEARS!

We’ll visit family and friends in California for a few weeks first, then we’ll drive up to Washington to see more family and friends, then we’ll be finishing up our travels in Tampa, FL to see my sister. We’ve been talking about some exciting ideas for what to do with the time between CA and WA but I can’t tell you quite yet. If the timing happens to work out, we could be in store for an absolutely epic adventure ;)

In the meantime, we’re trying to prep our boat and do as much decommissioning now as we can so the actual haul out process goes quickly. We’ve got today off work and one more day off scheduled. Our timing is going to be very tight:

August 2 – Last Charter

August 3 – Take the boat up to Virgin Gorda and stage for hauling

August 4 – Haul the boat at 9:30am

August 5 – Be in St. Thomas by 10:45am, Vet appointment at 11:30, Airport arrival by 2:00, Depart by 5pm

August 6 – Arrive in LAX by 1:00am

 

We’ll return to our boat in Mid October for some TLC before diving into another busy charter season on Aristocat beginning November 1.

If you’ll be anywhere between San Diego and the greater Seattle Area from August to October… let us know!

Also, we’re looking to buy a truck or SUV in LA or San Diego, most importantly to have transportation to visit everyone, but also to haul a motorcycle trailer up to Washington in September, then sell both the truck and trailer before we fly home. Let us know if you’re selling a comfortable V6 truck or SUV with a tow package in LA or SD!

Follow our Facebook and Instagram pages for all the updates!

Hurricane Danny

AL0415W5_NL
http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/cyclones/

Well folks, it’s that time of year. The hurricanes are upon us. This is our second season hunkering down in Grenada where we hope to be out of the path of most of the cyclonic activity. Why Grenada? Many other cruisers in the Caribbean choose to take their boats south of 12-degrees for four reasons.

  1. Many insurance companies will only cover you “outside the box” from June 1 to November 1.
  2. Everyone else does it.
  3. Grenada is very cruiser-friendly and it’s a fairly convenient place to spend a few months while hiding from hurricanes.
  4. It is statistically safer than anywhere else in the Eastern Caribbean. There is a really neat interactive tool on the NOAA website showing the tracks of all recorded hurricanes throughout history.
Atlantic_hurricane_tracks_1980-2005
www.spaghettimodels.com

Though there have been some devastating direct hits on Grenada, such as Hurricane Ivan in 2004, we generally have ample time to head south to Trinidad before we would be in the path of something so evil. I wrote an article about Hurricanes on the Horizon the other day on TinyHouseBlog. It also includes some interesting info about Kick ‘Em Jenny, the underwater volcano that we sail dangerously close to on the way to Grenada. Yep, you read that right, underwater volcano! Not only to do we have to watch out for hurricanes, we have to make sure we don’t sail our boat over the top of an active volcano. Boats don’t float on gas bubbles ;)

kej_3
http://www.uwiseismic.com/general.aspx?id=27

Not too long ago we saw a disturbance near the Cape Verde Islands off of Western Africa begin to grow. Along with everyone else in the Eastern Caribbean, our eyeballs were suctioned on to the screens of our laptop and iPhone as we watched it grow into a hurricane. This is the fourth named storm of the season, though the first that really had any danger of coming for us. Danny has been slow moving and very hard to predict. He is undoubtedly aimed at St. Martin, The Virgins and Puerto Rico now but forecasters think he will fizzle back down to a Tropical Storm by the time he makes landfall.

While Peter and I are relieved that we won’t feel any effects from Danny all the way down here in Grenada, our thoughts and prayers are with all of our friends that are up island in his path. Our good friend Genevieve on S/V Necesse gives a first-hand account of what it’s like to prepare and wait. I can’t even imagine what it must feel like to ram your floating home up into the shallow, dark mud of the mangroves with your family and all your belongings; tie off to the roots like Spiderman; throw out every anchor and fender you have; remove every piece of canvas and projectile object from the exterior of your boat; hope that creepy crawlies like cockroaches, rats and other bugs don’t invade your boat; praying that the forces of Mother Nature take mercy on everyone around you.

04L_tracks_latest
www.tropicaltidbits.com

That’s the thing with a hurricane – you just never know what might happen. Danny may decide to veer North or fizzle out and all that may be felt is the normal trade winds of 20-30 knots of wind. The price we pay to live in paradise… At least with a hurricane we are semi-mobile on a boat. It’s a lot harder to run from a tornado or earthquake.

So we wait. While Danny makes up his mind about what he’s going to do, we are watching two new disturbances that are scrambling to catch up to big brother Danny. A perfect storm? Let’s hope not. They’ve got a pretty strong chance of cyclone formation within the next 5 days so we’ll be watching intently from our cozy boat.

two_atl_5d0
www.nhc.noaa.gov

In the event that any named storms decide to put a bullseye on our bow, we’ll be referring back to some of our favorite resources on Commuter Cruiser and The Boat Galley here and here. Both Jan and Carolyn give some very helpful tips to keep in mind while preparing for a hurricane.

I have these posted on my Resources page, but if your curious what weather sites we like to check on a daily basis, here they are:

  • National Hurricane Center – Tropical weather advisories from NOAA/National Weather Service
  • Mike’s Weather Page – Up to date tropical computer models, graphics, links and storm discussions at www.spaghettimodels.com
  • Current Storm Info – Global Tropical Cyclone and Disturbance Info from Tropical Tidbits, including predicted intensity graphics
  • StormCarib Satellite Images – Particularly helpful to see the tropical waves and Saharan dust coming off Africa towards the Caribbean Islands
  • WunderMap – Interactive Weather Map and Radar from Weather Underground, with radar images for the Caribbean Islands
  • Weather Underground – Weather Forecasts and Reports
  • Windfinder – Wind and Waves
  • WindGuru – Wind and Waves

For the most current updates, click LIKE on our facebook page! That’s where we post all the daily happenings right now :)