In the Tropics now

In Georgetown, I pump up my birthday present from Blair, a 12-foot Sea Eagle standup paddleboard. It comes neatly packed in a good-sized knapsack but, despite the size, it weighs only 22 pounds so it’s easy to carry up to the deck for assembly. I tried a few different boards out this past summer – I even did a paddleboard yoga class (not to be repeated as there’s very little ohm involved, just mostly struggling to keep your balance). Blair did the research and the Sea Eagle meets all our requirements; compact enough to fit in Strathspey’s aft cabin, light enough for me to lift and firm enough to provide a stable paddling platform. I paddle and explore the shoreline all morning, enjoying the gin-clear water here so early in the season. We’re early to Georgetown this year and it’s great because by mid-February, with the influx of 400-600 cruising boats, the waters become cloudy and definitely less inviting.

Blair plumbs in the last errant bit of the water maker. He runs the fresh water tube down through Strathspey’s interior over top our port water tank and through our forward locker, hiding the hose behind walls and under settees. He connects the tube to the bow tank fill pipe. It’s a long job but nice and tidy by completion. He also dives under Strathspey to replace the zinc anodes on our propeller. We’re a little concerned now as Strathspey has only been in the water for 35 days and those small circular anodes are almost completely gone. We think it may have been 11 days of stray current in the water while on a mooring ball in Vero Beach. No matter the cause, we’ll be keeping a close eye on the new anodes going forward.

After two nights in Georgetown, we up-anchor and sail 40 miles south to Long Island. At 3:30 pm, we drop anchor in Thompson Bay and dinghy into Long Island Breeze resort where we purchase showers. What a treat they are … unlimited fresh hot water showers, our first since Vero Beach. We shower aboard Strathspey, but those showers are always short, usually lukewarm and always with a niggling worry in the back of our mind as to how much water we’ve used and when and where we’ll be able to make more water. With only 60 gallons of water aboard and, of that, only a paltry 11 gallons in our hot water tank, we are definitely miserly when it comes to long, hot showers.

Sponge 'factory' in Thompson Bay, Long Island.

Sponge ‘factory’ in Thompson Bay, Long Island.

Unlike Georgetown, Long Island is pretty deserted except for locals right now. It’s not a tourist destination and not a big favourite with cruising boats until February usually. That’s just fine by us and we enjoy the solitude here. We walk across the island to the Atlantic side and walk the long deserted beaches over there. On our way back one afternoon we stop to chat with sponge fishermen and to admire their catch. Over a three-day trip, the fishermen have gathered wool and grass sponges from the ocean floor. The sponges are black when harvested and brought back to shore but once they dry out, the ‘meat’ falls away and all that is left is the soft skeleton used for expensive bath sponges. This was a pretty rudimentary business set up on a side street close to the government dock but the main customers were high-end distributors in Europe. We wondered what those European customers would think if they saw the men standing in deep wooden stalls, pumping their legs up and down, as if on treadmills, to tamp the sponges down into square bales so they could be shrink-wrapped for shipping.

Blair is keen to catch some fish now that we’ve slowed down a bit and, when we stop into the Hillside Grocery for some fresh vegetables, he waylays owner William who has given us much good fishing advice in our past visits. William recommends frozen squid for Blair to use as bait. When Blair mentions we are going out to Indian Hole Point to fish with that squid, William tells us that someone caught a barjack out there just yesterday. He actually shows us the fish and insists that we take it. We look up barjack in our ‘Sport Fish of Florida’ book and it tells us that the food value is ‘Excellent’ – Bonus!

Our free samples from the sponge fishermen.

Our free samples from the sponge fishermen.

Here in Long Island we’re on a quest for propane; we want to top up our two 10-pound propane tanks before crossing to Cuba where every household uses butane. We’d toyed with the idea of strapping an extra propane tank to Strathspey’s stern but just couldn’t determine how to do it using good engineering, never mind finesse. This too is the last location with good Internet as we head further south into the Ragged Islands so we make a Skype call to Sandy in Vancouver, text constantly with Brooklyn in Ottawa, catch up on all our emails and do a little banking. Once we leave Long Island we will only have access to our SSB emails and anything that comes in via our satellite phone. It will be an abrupt end to all the chatting back and forth with our children and friends and I know I am going to definitely miss it.

As we sail south to Long Island we pass the Tropic of Capricorn so we’re officially in the Tropics now and the weather has definitely warmed up since we left Florida. The first two days in Long Island are too windy to do any paddle boarding but we are anchored in eight feet of water and, with the anchor well dug into good holding sand, we aren’t too worried as Strathspey swings with the wind through a 40 foot arc.

One day while out for a hike, I lose our Coolpix underwater camera. We take it everywhere we go because it’s a sturdy little thing that tucks easily into a pocket and can withstand a drop in the sand or the water and, on top of everything, takes excellent photos. I retrace our steps back and forth between our various stops, kicking up the brush at the side of the road, asking at each store we’d stopped at, searching under the dinghy dock and under Strathspey in case it is lying on the seabed. Three hours later I give up, disappointed. We have another bigger digital SLR camera but it’s expensive and far more delicate so we’re more careful with it. What I hate most is that we’ve lost all the photos taken so far.

A Money Bat sleeping over my head!

A Money Bat sleeping over my head!

With the continued lovely weather we eat in the cockpit every night. But one night huge black moths with three-inch wing spans join us. They flutter in our face and constantly try to light on our plates and ignore our efforts to scare them away. The next morning I wake up with one of those moths two inches from my nose on the wall beside my pillow. Blair captures it with a glass and releases it outside where, probably disoriented from the bright sunlight, it flies in circles and then heads over to one of the far-off islands.

A few days later, one of the locals tells us that this moth is called a Money Bat and, if they land on you, it means you will come into some money shortly. Well, we didn’t come into actual cash but we did have our little camera returned to us that day. One of the young children living nearby found the camera on a path and his father looked through the photos and recognized us as we walked past his restaurant that morning. Just another reason we like Long Island.

But, as much as we like Long Island, now that we’ve found a source for propane to fill our tanks tomorrow morning we move further south down into the Ragged Islands.

Salty sailing

After our first night spent south of the Rickenbacker Bridge in Miami, we re-locate to South Beach near the Venetian Causeway. It’s very sheltered and close to all kinds of amenities, including Lincoln Road Mall, a place to see and be seen. This pedestrian mall runs for seven city blocks East all the way down to the actual beach in Miami Beach. It boasts at least three Starbucks for me to get my latte fixes, stores with cameras, high-end clothing and surf wear, art galleries, wonderful outdoor cafes and restaurants and a crush of young and old wearing the latest fashions. It hums day and night!

Miami is full of these little canals that lead to grocery stores and other amenities.

Miami is full of these little canals that lead to grocery stores and other amenities.

We’re liking this hum and we spend most days ashore exploring the area. But we’re nervous leaving our brand new dinghy at the local dock, despite the fact that it’s right next door to the marine police department. It’s an aluminum hard-bottom dinghy and an expensive addition to our cruising equipment this year so we don’t want to lose it. We find a good hardware store close by and buy the biggest security cable and lock that will fit the dinghy’s built-in pad eye. After every outing into downtown Miami, we’re happy when we arrive back to the dinghy dock and our dinghy is still floating there.

One day we make an excursion down to Little Havana for lunch and a wander about with friends John and Barbara. It’s not an easy jaunt as we ride a bus, then a sky-train and then another bus before we finally land in the center of Little Havana. We have a leisurely Cuban-style lunch and make numerous forays into the cigar shops that line the main drag; Blair wants to buy a cigar, but he wants a nice fresh one. In each cigar store, he inspects the various types of cigars but the only fresh ones are $15 and he’s reluctant at that price. We leave Little Havana cigarless for the time being.

Street art in Little Havana

Street art in Little Havana

We also use our water maker for the first time this year and are pleased that it hasn’t seemed to have suffered from being pickled for the summer in RV antifreeze to keep its membrane pliable. The water is fairly silty here though and the low-pressure filter is quite stained after just one session.

Although it is still fairly early in the season, the cruising boats are starting to stack up here in Miami waiting for a good weather window to cross the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas. We move down to Hurricane Harbor on Key Biscayne to wait for our window and, as we motor into the anchorage, we wave at old friends, Claude and Marie on La Toison d’Or, a Bayfield 36 that we met two years ago in the Exumas. There are five boats here now, all waiting for their weather window. As the day progresses, 10 more sailboats arrive and drop anchor. By dusk the following day, we are now 20 sailboats, all twiddling our thumbs, checking the weather forecasts every few hours and calculating potential arrival times on the other side.

But finally, after a week in Miami, in the early hours of Saturday morning under a full moon we up-anchor and head out across the Gulf Stream toward the Bahamas. The crossing is the most benign we have ever experienced and the weather holds for the next few days while we continue across the shallow Great Bahama Bank, down the impossibly deep Tongue of the Ocean to the Exuma Banks and then on to Georgetown in the southern Exumas. Three days and 300 miles later, we drop our anchor in the lee of Stocking Island with a sigh of relief to finally stop the go go going. Not eight hours later, a strong front passes through bringing 25 knot winds but we are well-protected here and our only concern now is to go to Customs and Immigration and get checked into the Bahamas, and find a good wifi source to download our emails.

Three hours from Georgetown - 27 hours from Miami. Our yellow quarantine flag is good and ready!

Three hours from Georgetown – 27 hours from Miami. Our yellow quarantine flag is good and ready!

The next morning Blair launches our dinghy and we blast across the harbour to the Georgetown dinghy dock. The waves in the harbour are easily two feet high and confused with the strong North winds, but we’re high and dry in our new hard-bottom dinghy; we’re so pleased with its performance and agree that it was definitely worth the money we ponied up for it this fall. As we walk down the road to the Immigration office, we sway, slightly dizzy with ‘boat legs’ after so many days on a non-vertical surface. Strathspey gets a 12-month Customs permit and we settle for an Immigration permit to stay for 90 days in the Bahamas. Then, at the Peace and Plenty restaurant overlooking the harbour, we order two Bahamian Kalik beers and blackened Mahi-mahi to celebrate our arrival here. They offer us complimentary wifi and we download four days worth of emails.

On my birthday present. First time use here in Georgetown.

On my birthday present. First time use here in Georgetown.

After this fast and furious blast down to Georgetown, we sit quietly in the corner for a bit. Blair does a bit of boat maintenance, we wash three hundred miles of salt off Strathspey, I get back into a proper sleeping schedule (I’m still waking up every few hours, thinking it is time to take my watch at the wheel), and we wait for our next weather window to continue a little further south.

In the lee of Stocking Island.

In the lee of Stocking Island.

Gateway to the Islands

Eleven days later we’re still in Vero Beach. It’s warm, albeit a little overcast off and on as various cold fronts blow past. As we wait for our water maker part to arrive, we’re sharing a mooring ball and it’s a Strathspey sandwich with friends of ours from Maine (sv Seabird) on one side and New Jersey (sv Cookie Monster) on the other side. We met Seabird in 2007 on our first trip south and Cookie Monster on our second trip south. Every time we see them, our conversation begins like there was just a 10-minute break instead of six or seven months. So…. definitely good people to share a mooring ball with.

Blair cleaning Strathspey's stanchions in Vero Beach

Blair cleaning Strathspey’s stanchions in Vero Beach

We’re busy here in Vero; Blair replaces our Honda outboard motor carburetor and installs our new alternator regulator. He takes each stanchion apart and cleans it to remove a light layer of surface rust. He re-plumbs our water maker to eliminate a small but persistent leak. And I go shopping – grocery shopping that is. I make trip after trip into the Fresh Market and Publix stores and, returning to Strathspey, I fill our tiny freezer and tuck yet another bottle of dish soap into a hidey hole I didn’t know we had. Blair says it feels like Strathspey is sitting an inch lower in the water. I say I don’t want to run out of anything down in the Ragged Islands or on the south coast of Cuba. We celebrate my birthday here in Vero with Blair rising to the occasion and making me blueberry pancakes for breakfast and lamb shanks a la pressure cooker for dinner.

American Thanksgiving dinner is Thursday and we attend it along with over 60 other cruisers. It’s nice to have a big turkey dinner and visit with all our friends but, at the back of our minds, we constantly think….we’ve been here 11 days! So, Friday morning at 6 am, we help Cookie Monster to un-raft from us and drop their mooring ball line. We say goodbye to Seabird about a half hour later and turn left down the ICW toward Fort Pierce. As we motor South, I call weather guy, Chris Parker, on the Single Side Band (SSB). I can’t hear him very clearly so I shut off our refrigerator and the transmission is now crystal clear; often we find that our refrigerator generates a radio interference with the SSB so it’s just easier to turn it off.

Chris Parker gives me the forecast and it sounds good to sail outside on the ocean and, even better, it might stay good enough to get all the way down to Miami on the outside. Blair and I are happy, thinking that when we turn left to go out to the ocean via the Fort Pierce inlet, we are done waiting for bridges to open on the ICW. About twenty minutes before arriving at the inlet, we call Cookie Monster and they report back that it’s a little rolly but fine. We make the turn down the inlet and an hour later we are sailing south.

The wind is directly behind us out of the North, the seas are sloppy and Strathspey fishtails down the waves rolling under our stern. But, we’re outside and the sun is shinning so all is good. The waves come in sets; three or four small waves and then a few larger ones and then a really big one that we’re now calling rogue waves. Our auto-pilot struggles because of the following seas and over-corrects each time the larger waves reach us. This makes Strathspey round up and heel over from side to side and the sails collapse and then snap open with a bang so we start hand steering. We notice that our VHF radio isn’t receiving clearly; other boats can’t hear us unless they are very close. We decide to turn into Lake Worth at 4 pm to take a break from the hand steering, trouble-shoot the VHF radio problem and get a good night’s sleep. We drop anchor in 19 knots of wind near our friends, John and Barbara, on sv Sam the Skull. With the high winds and the long fetch here just south of Peanut Island, the waves discourage all of us from getting together for a face-to-face hello and we just chat on the VHF. It’s too rough to winch Blair to the top of the mast and we set about cleaning up the disorder caused down below because of the big seas all day. No matter how well we think we have put things away before setting out after a long rest at anchor or a mooring ball, something usually works itself loose and drags other things along onto the cabin floor with it.

At that point I realize that when I turned the refrigerator off, 10 hours earlier (!) to hear Chris Parker’s weather on the SSB, I had forgotten to turn it back on. Darn! I don’t worry about the contents of the fridge but I do worry about what’s in our freezer. Our freezer is pretty small – remember the old 1960’s refrigerators with the little freezer that hung down from the fridge roof….well that’s pretty much the same model on Strathspey. When we left Vero Beach, it was full; 10 boneless chicken breasts, four pork tenderloins, three pounds of ground turkey and four pork chops all nicely frozen for our trip to the Bahamas (courtesy of three nights in Jim and Nancy Aadland’s home freezer). Here in Lake Worth, we see that all the meat on the top layer of our freezer is now thawed so I make pressure-cooker pulled pork out of two pork tenderloins and spaghetti sauce and meatballs out of the rest of most of the ground turkey. I’m not a particularly big meat eater so I figure we’re set for dinners for a long time now. Darkness comes early at 6 pm and the waves settle down and we have a great pulled pork dinner and a quiet night’s sleep.

Those buildings in the far distance are Miami

Those buildings in the far distance are downtown Miami

The next morning the waves and wind are down so Blair connects our big 28 Volt Makita drill into one of our forward winches and I use it to pull him to the top of the mast where he replaces our VHF radio antenna. We call sv Carolina Breeze, a boat that rode our coat tails all the way down to Lake Worth yesterday. They are back outside on the ocean heading further South and they tell us that it’s much nicer than yesterday so we pull up our anchor and head back out and have a fast ride all the way down the coast from the Lake Worth inlet.

Again there is a following sea so neither of us wants to be anywhere but in the fresh air with our eyes on the horizon if we want to avoid queasiness. The sandwiches I made before we left our anchorage at Lake Worth have been eaten long ago and a half bag of granola as well, but neither of us opts to go below to rustle up anything more to eat and we settle for apples and bananas instead.

We are halfway down the Government Cut into Miami when the sun sets and a parade of exiting cruise boats greets us. Channel 16 on the VHF is busy for the next hour as the Miami coast guard coordinates an air rescue from one of the cruise boats; just as they left the marked inlet channel to head down to St Martin, one of their passengers was taken ill. We listen to all the details as the cruise ship slows down to four knots and the helicopter pilot instructs the captain to put the boat on a heading of 330 degrees and tells the fire rescue boat to position themselves a quarter mile East of the ship so they can use its flashing lights to help position themselves. All the other cruise ships at dock in Miami port wait for the crisis to resolve so they can leave but we’re sure their passengers are unaware of the delay. All ends well. The ill passenger is airlifted via helicopter and their relative is taken off the cruise boat by the fire rescue boat. The captain thanks the pilot, the pilot thanks the captain and they all said Bless you.

Entering  port of Miami just after sunset

Entering port of Miami just after sunset

We make our way through the busy Miami port area in dusk and then darkness. Moving slowly from flashing buoy to buoy down into Biscayne Bay just past the Rickenbacker Bridge where we finally drop anchor at 7 pm. It’s been a long day and, while Blair reports our coastwise movement to the US Customs and Border office, I put the spaghetti sauce and meatballs on the stove to warm up; we’ve been talking about that spaghetti and meatballs all day and we’re really hungry. After nice hot showers, the sauce is ready and I go looking for the spaghetti. We empty every bag in our aft locker, I dig through the large storage space under our Nav station seat even though I am sure I haven’t seen it there. I take all the spices out of my spice cupboard and empty the last miscellaneous-item cupboard to no avail. All the while, Blair is morosely commenting….’No wonder this boat is sinking, it’s full of everything except spaghetti’. Clearly, he really wants spaghetti for dinner…..Eureka! I finally find all the pasta stored in a fairly unlikely spot and all is well.

All the beach umbrellas are down in the high winds

All the beach umbrellas are down in the high winds

The weather is forecasted to be extremely windy and that wind will be from the wrong direction so we’ll sit here in Miami probably for the next week, waiting for a good window to cross to the Bahamas. Our friends on Sam the Skull are here now and we’re making plans together to check out the food and music in Little Havana. The temperature is measurably warmer than in northern Florida, we’re tucked into a nice little anchorage here and we are at the gateway to the Bahama Islands here in Miami so all is well aboard Strathspey.

Time on our hands

All our launch tasks are complete. Strathspey is definitely ready to sail and, if we stay any longer at Green Cove Springs, there will be time on our hands to start contemplating new projects. So we cast off at slack tide early Thursday morning. Sunny and warm, it’s an easy punt downstream on the fast-flowing St John’s River in Northern Florida. Today is the last day that the Jacksonville FEC railway bridge is open for an entire week and we need to pass through that bridge plus the Jacksonville Main Street bridge before we can breath easier. Both bridges are suspect these days; the railway bridge can shut down at a moment’s notice mostly because it is old technology but often it’s due to a lot more of ‘just because’. The Main Street Bridge often has construction going on that seems to be a good excuse for the bridge tender to ask cruisers to circle above the bridge for an hour or more. We’re happy that each of these bridge openings works in our favour today and we make it an early day with a sharp right through a wide bed of crab pots to anchor behind Exchange Island just past Jacksonville. Here, it’s urban yet peaceful with birds swooping and calling and dolphins arcing in and out of the shallow water.

A cold day at the wheel - can you tell which one of us this is?

A cold day at the wheel – can you tell which one of us this is?

We have a quiet night despite my restlessness (I’m always antsy our first anchoring out after months ashore) and we up-anchor in 8 degrees Celsius by 7:30 am and catch the fast flowing ebb tide of the St John’s River all the way down to our right hand turn onto the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). Immediately, we see the 25-foot depths of the St John’s River give way to the shallow 8-12 foot depths prevalent in the ICW. It’s a cold morning with us bundled up in polar fleeces, foul weather gear, toques and gloves but by noon the temps have risen to 17 Celsius and, in the strong afternoon sun, we slowly discard layer after layer. By 3 pm we’ve motored through the Bridge of Lions at St Augustine and snagged a mooring ball in front of the oldest city in North America.

St Augustine is one of our favourite cities – great walking, good pubs, excellent restaurants and lots of good mojo going on. Our Honda outboard carburetor is toasted for the second season in a row so, rather than rowing our dinghy into shore against a three-knot current, we call the marina launch and they pick us up at 4 pm but warn us that the last launch back to the boats is at 6 pm. Ashore, we have quick showers, download emails and have a surprise encounter and nice chat with Tom, Tracy and Eva (the ‘Fishers’ from s/v Sheila at Trident Yacht Club). With 45 minutes to spare and looking for a warm place to wait for our 6 pm shuttle home to Strathspey, we stroll across the road to A1A Pub for one of their home brews. We nab two stools at the end of the bar counter and I put our neatly folded wet towels out of the way on the counter against the wall. Shortly after, someone comes over and says ‘I have a bet on…. I say you are cruisers but my husband says you are just sloppy drinkers’. It dawns on me that she is referring to our towels and we laugh and confess to being cruisers. Too funny – where else would you pop into a pub with wet towels? We catch the 6 pm launch home to Strathspey and, in the face of another cold night, we start our diesel Espar heater and settle in for the night. We’re never very happy on a mooring ball here in St Augustine; we’re a lightweight racer/cruiser so when the current picks up through here, Strathspey wants to surge forward on the current’s lift but is held back by the mooring ball so, often, we end up with that stupid ball bouncing underneath our hull keeping us awake all night. This time, after a tip from our launch driver, we pull the ball up on a short leash over our anchor roller and it works just fine until 4:30 am when the line we attached to the mooring ball starts shifting back and forth against our anchor making it bang back and forth. We try to ignore this but finally cry uncle around 6 am and get Strathspey ready to cast off and head further South.

This the view as we pass under every bridge!

This the view as we pass under every bridge!

It’s a long, cold day from St. Augustine down to New Symrna Beach where we make a left turn and slowly nose our way into seven feet of water about 100 feet East of the ICW channel. Onshore, we can see the flickering light of a campfire; it’s Saturday night and the little spoil islands up and down the Florida ICW are prime for families camping and fishing each weekend. Sunday morning, we think ‘Ah yes, we’re in the South finally!’ It’s 25 Celsius and sunny with just a hint of breeze to keep us pleasantly cool as we motor another 60 nautical miles South to Eau Gallie. Another long day, but this time when we secure our anchor, it’s a lovely warm evening and we sit out in the cockpit enjoying a glass of wine until well after sunset.

I make a reservation at Vero Beach Municipal Marina for Monday night. This is a popular place so I’ve made this reservation over a week ago and we’re glad I did as we motor south against 20-knot winds on the nose. It’s a warm South wind but when it gusts over 20 knots, we grimace as we note that Strathspey is now plodding along at less than five knots (at times 4.7 knots!). We normally can hoover along at almost 7 knots so its obvious that this wind is one to be reckoned with. We pull into Vero Beach at 1:30 pm and, after refueling, pumping out, filling our water tanks and picking up four parcels we’ve had shipped here, we are finally swinging on a mooring ball with new neighbours, s/v Cutting Class from Mystic, Connecticut.

The view on our chart plotter showing the narrow track all the way down the Indian River.

The view on our chart plotter showing the narrow track all the way down the Indian River.

Each time we make this 4 ½ day trip between Green Cove Springs and Vero Beach, we ask each other why we don’t just leave Strathspey at a marina further south for the summer. It’s not a particularly interesting section of the ICW between here and Green Cove Springs and once we enter the Indian River section it’s just downright tedious; long stretches of straight, wide-open water where, if we stray off the dredged channel, Strathspey’s low water alarm beeps at us as we guide the boat back onto the straight and narrow.

So here at Vero Beach, now that we’re close to good marine supply stores we take the time to do all necessary maintenance before we leave the USA. Number one on the list of high priorities, as usual, is Strathspey’s power management. In fact, power management is one of Blair’s biggest challenges here on the boat. In a day, we typically use 90-100 Amp hours, which means that we can go approximately four days before our four 6-Volt batteries are completely flat. If we’re not actually sailing with our instruments and we’re just running our fridge and a few lights, then our solar panels easily meet our demands. If we’re sailing with the chart plotter and autopilot on, we suck up that 100 Amp hours easily.

We have three battery charging sources here on Strathspey; a 100-Amp battery charger that uses an AC plug into shore (that’s the easy one but only good if we are tied to a dock), four 85 Watt solar panels (also good but only if it’s a sunny day) and an 125 Amp alternator on our Yanmar engine (good only if we are running the engine). Each of these sources charges our batteries and each source has a regulator that determines how much charge the batteries need. On our last day of motoring down to Vero Beach, the regulator for the 125 Amp alternator stops working. After motoring all day, our batteries are at a lower level than when we’d pulled up our anchor in Eau Gallie, six hours North. We order a new regulator from the local West Marine store here in Vero Beach. But now, with time on his hands as he waits for the regulator to arrive, Blair rethinks Strathspey’s three power sources and installs a high-current on/off switch to control the current coming from the solar panels. This allows him to manage the charge going to our battery bank with a little more finesse than simply throwing a blanket over the solar panels to prevent them sending power to our batteries.

Our Iridium phone dwarfs my IPhone.

Our Iridium phone dwarfs my IPhone.

Here in Vero with time on our hands as we wait for a good weather window to cross the Gulf Steam, we wait for boat parts, we take long walks to the beach and into town, I go to a local yoga class and Blair putters around the boat doing what I call ‘low-grade’ maintenance. I winch him up to mid-mast height to replace the steaming light bulb, he installs a good system to secure our diesel and gas containers on deck and he calls Iridium satellite to resolve our automated SOS signal. It’s nice to take a break from the steady push South but mostly I’m thinking that I don’t want Blair to have too much time on his hands here in the land of plenty; remember, this is the guy who, despite his pretty high octane career, has often said he wants to have a job where he can just wear a pencil tucked behind his ear and take ‘stuff’ apart and re-engineer it.

Our newest (and I hope our favourite) instrument aboard Strathspey this season is our Iridium satellite phone. Phone is a misnomer as it looks like an iPhone on steroids. This phone, and its accompanying data plan, allows us unlimited texts and data from anywhere in the world. A really cool feature is that we can send out these location signals to anyone on ‘the list’ so our friends and family will know where we are. I sent a test location signal out to Brooklyn last week when we were anchored in New Symrna Beach and she knew exactly where we were. If any of you want to be added to ‘the list’, just send me an email at my shercam account and I’ll add you. You can use this to travel with us vicariously!

This is Strathspey anchored south of the Ponce de Leon Inlet last week.

This is Strathspey anchored south of the Ponce Inlet last week.