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Hi there! Remember us? Okay… so it’s been a while. I mean, it’s turned from winter at home to spring and school is nearly out for summer. We’ve been a little MIA lately.  Guilty as charged!  Since we don’t do this to make money, just to share our experience and keep in touch, sometimes we just need to take a little break.  We got on this boat to “get away” and “relax”, so we make sure we get our downtime when needed.  Somehow our break from blogging lasted a little longer than intended! Oops!  Last time, Bob ranted about sleep, or the lack of sleep we get on the boat.  Back then, we were still hanging out in BVI, hosting friends and family visiting from home. Where are we now? What have we been doing? What’s our hurricane season plan? We have a lot to share so it may take a while to catch up!

BVI was great! We spent a total of 4 ½ months cruising around the various islands, exploring, meeting new friends and hosting friends and family.  In total, we had five couples visit us in the BVI.  We did our best to show them a great time, tailoring their experiences, and still finding new things to explore together during their visit.  I can say that being there that long did get a little…boring after a while.  BVI is a major hub for chartered boats and sometimes those credit card captains became a little frustrating {click here}.  We found some favorite hotpots, and favorite remote anchorages to suit all different moods.  Overall, we enjoyed our time, got to know some amazing people (cruisers and non-cruisers), and would definitely recommend a vacation there.

Life on a boat is a bit different – you get to choose your neighbors, and can move your home around as it suits you. However, there are times when you are required to move. Hurricane season. Scary words.  A lot of the cruiser talk centers around what we’re all going to do for hurricane season. All comparing notes and experiences. Most insurance companies and weather channels will say that the season runs from June 1stto November 1st.  Some insurance companies defer the start until July 1st.  No matter which date you abide by, you must start planning months in advance.  As newbies, we had definitely thought about hurricane season earlier in spring, but with all our visitors and good times, we weren’t really focused on it.  We knew we needed a plan though, so we debated heavily: north or south?

Either way, we had to head east from BVI to St. Maarten for warranty and other repair work.  From there we’d have to decide if we would head south of 10 degrees latitude or north (really northwest) toward Cape Hatteras, NC, which are the limits of our hurricane zone.  Insurance requires us to be outside those limits whether we stay on the boat or not.  We can stay within the limits for a higher premium, but then we’d also have to be extremely vigilant about watching for developing storms.  It’s just not a risk we really wanted to take if we had a choice.

When we left the boat in St. Maarten over Christmas, some things were ruined and some warranty work left undone.  St. Maarten is about 86 miles (ok, that’s pretty precise) from BVI.  Averaging about 6 knots, which is about 7 miles per hour, theoretically, that trip would take about 12.5 hours.  Theoretically being the operative word… We need to digress here to share that in order to get outside the hurricane zone limits in time, we had to leave BVI no later than mid May to make it out of the hurricane zone by July 1st.  Bob’s parents were coming to visit early May, so we’d have to leave right after that. The big debate was, would I be onboard for the sail to St. Maarten, or would I be heading home.  Now don’t freak out, I wasn’t heading home permanently! One of my closest friends was getting married May 18th, right when we planned to head south.  I really wanted to be there to celebrate her special day! I mean, it’s once in a lifetime, right?

Unfortunately, there was no way we could both attend, someone had to stay on the boat and get it moved to St. Maarten and get the work done so we’d have enough time to get north or south without rushing.  Another quick digression within a digression (like Inception – a dream within a dream, we’re going down the rabbit hole! This is what happens when we wait too long between blogs!).  There’s no rushing in sailing.  In fact, Murphy’s Law definitely applies here – anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Whenever you’re in a hurry, and need to get somewhere, something breaks or the weather is completely against you. We didn’t want to put ourselves in that position, of needing to head out in squalls, or bad winds or swell, so we planned ample time for stops and breaks along the way down. This would allow us to explore a little on the islands we didn’t see before, and give us some storm days if needed.

So getting back to the wedding –  it was either me going solo, or neither of us attending.  It was a tough decision – wanting to be there, but needing to move the boat.  Also, Bob and I hadn’t spent more than a couple hours apart since we went home for Christmas. And even then, we hadn’t spent any nights apart since last May!  I really missed home, and people, and land life, and I just felt so sad about missing the wedding, that I knew I had to head home.  The idea of going home even for a few days had me SO excited! I made lots of plans to keep me busy, and saw so many people! It was wonderful! And the wedding was so beautiful and fun!

Since I was gone, Bob’s dad decided to stay on the boat with him and help him move to St. Maarten.  Luckily, he really wanted to do some blue water adventuring, so it all worked out!  Bob’s mom and I flew and drove home together, and Bob’s dad stayed on for another week to help Bob.  Problem solved!

Now back to the hurricane season debate.  There are so many factors to consider.  Going north of Cape Hatteras is a LONG trek from the Caribbean.  We estimated 9 days sail from St. Maarten to Cape Hatteras, straight through with no stops.  24 hours a day sailing.  Like the Atlantic crossing.  There’s NO WAY we could do that alone.  We’d need to have some friends or family volunteer or hire some crew.

Another big factor was that we took foreign delivery of our boat – remember all that time we spent in France? {Click here, here, or here}. Because of that, US law would require us to pay 1.5% duty on the value of the boat to legally enter the country.  Don’t we pay enough taxes?!?  Anyways, it’s a consideration.  We searched for places to go visit and things to do along the coast.  We also figured we’d need some work done (our anti-fouling on the bottom of the hulls probably needs to be redone, which requires a short haul out in a marina).  So we checked out marinas just north of Cape Hatteras with no luck.  A few marinas did have space, but none large enough for our 42 foot cat.  Apparently, smaller monohulls are all the rage on the northeastern seaboard. {shrug} Things were not looking good to go north this season.

Going south has its own set of challenges. 10 degrees latitude south is basically Venezuela… Do I even need to explain why that’s a TERRIBLE idea?!?  Having no desire to go near there, Bob was able to negotiate a small extra premium with the insurance company to stay south of 12 degrees instead, allowing us to be in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad, or Grenada.  Some of the concerns of heading to these areas are the increasing heat, bugs, and piracy/crime.  To combat the heat, we do have air conditioning on the boat, but to run it requires our generator to be on, and that burns 1 liter of fuel per hour.  It’s not ideal to run it all night long for a cool night’s sleep.  As of now, we’re still opening the windows and hoping for a nice breeze overnight. We’ll see how that goes!

Bugs – this is a tough one.  Being that we’ve always got windows, doors, and hatches open, they just get into the boat.  This wasn’t as big of an issue over spring and farther north.  As we head south, we’ll likely be double or triple bagging anything that attracts bugs! Now that it’s only two of us onboard, we need less food onboard as well.  Hopefully that will help in keeping the bugs at bay.  Piracy/crime – well, this is a hot topic. Heavily debated among cruisers. Most of the time, people are good and there’s nothing to worry about as long as you stay aware and don’t act irresponsibly.  Getting to know other cruisers allows us to travel together to help keep an eye out for safety issues, plus it’s more fun with friends!

As we asked around, most people we knew were planning to haul out for some or all of the 4-5 month hurricane season.  What is haul out? You remove all food and water, turn off the refrigerator and freezer, close all the outlets, and the boat is literally hauled out of the water onto land.  From there, sails are removed, the boat is completely summer-ized, and strapped down to the ground.

Since we plan to stay on our boat for the season, and only haul out temporarily to have the anti-fouling redone, heading south seems like the logical decision.  We’ve already begun our journey!  Bob’s sister and boyfriend came to visit us recently, arriving in St. Maarten and departing from St. Kitts. We were able to anchor at and explore two pretty remote islands along the way, making it an unforgettable adventure! In St. Kitts, we reconnected with another cruising boat heading the same way as us, and met a couple others as well.  As we head south together, making new memories, we’ll do our best to keep you updated!  Right now, it’s just before 10am, we’re still sipping our coffee on the back deck, it’s about 85 degress with no wind.  To be honest, a little extra breeze would be nice, as it’s getting pretty warm! But hey, it’s the Caribbean, what did we expect? 🙂