“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain


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2016 in Review

I write this to you as I sit in the cockpit of Smitty, enjoying my morning coffee and wearing shorts and a t-shirt (aka my pajamas).  Smitty is anchored at our new Home Port in Elephant Bay just off of Water Island and St.Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. It’s warm and breezy and, for my second winter in a row, I am thoroughly enjoying not suffering through the cold and snow.

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Smitty at her home anchorage in the Virgin Islands.  She’s the one centered behind the reef.

January

Completed our traverse of the entire Inter Coastal Waterway (ICW). We entered at the Dismal Swamp in Virginia and ended when we crossed to No Name Harbor in Key Biscayne, Florida.

Our first boat break-up:  Yes, Skelton Crew of sv Hullabaloo, I’m talking about you!  We miss you guys! For those that do not recall, they called it quits and took their boat back home. 😦

Lived on the boat on the hard (aka on dry land) in Indiantown, FL for a week. But at least we finally got to meet up with some sailors whose blogs we have followed for several years that inspired us to get out here now. Thanks MJ Sailing and the Cynical Sailor and His Salty Sidekick!  

Our first overnight passage in open water:  Florida to Bahamas Crossing. 

Raised the yellow quarantine flag and sailed into our first foreign port:  Bimini, Bahamas.

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Our first overnight anchoring on a large body of water with no land in site on the Bahamas Bank.

February – April:  Bahamas

The best sailing day ever happened as we traveled off the coast of Eleuthera; lovingly referred to as “The Day”, which included dolphins (of course).  This write-up is published in the most recent issue of Cruising Outpost (our first paid article!).

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We traveled extensively through the Bahamas for a several months:  Swam with the pigs at Staniel Cay, left our mark on BooBoo Hill in the Exumas Land & Sea Park, harvested our first conch at Lee Stocking Island, had our first overnight visitor on sv Smitty in Georgetown, checked out the Bahamas Family Regatta, swam with turtles at Conception, swam with a wild dolphin at Red Shanks, swam Dean’s Blue Hole in Long Island, had our first beach fire on Cat Island, snorkeled, hiked, fished, and best of all, met so many great people.

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 May – first part of June:  Turks & Caicos and Dominican Republic

We visited Turks & Caicos – where we met sv Sea Frog and sv Party of Five (thanks Barbara Hart!) and met back up with sv Last Tango and sv Odoya. All of which (except sv Odoya) we traveled with for the next few months.

We learned to play Mexican Train.  I still really suck at it, but thank you to Quincy on sv Party of Five for teaching me how to play.

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Responded to our first “May Day” call from another vessel: The Three Passages: Part 1 – Turks & Caicos to the Dominican Republic

After a rough passage with thunderstorms and confused seas, we arrived in Luperon, Dominican Republic on May 30.  We visited Puerto Plata, where we jumped and slid off the 27 Waterfalls, and sailed to Samana, a luxurious resort where we only paid $1/ft per night. 

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Second part of June – July:  Puerto Rico and the Spanish Virgin Islands

We made it through the Mona Passage and arrived safely in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. The Three Passages: Part 3 – The Mona Passage

We sailed and toured southern Puerto Rico and took a car trip to San Juan. img_3734

We got to see first hand what happens to a boat that got struck by lightening. Puerto Rico

We visited the Spanish Virgin Islands:  Culebra & Culebrita 

August – December:  British & US Virgin Islands

We have been sailing around and checking out various islands (and bars!) in the Virgin Islands since August.  We were so happy to have been able to share this experience with our “L Dock” buddies (Captain Ken and sv Sunshine are officially L Dock buddies now!) that came down and chartered two boats in December.

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We attended our first Full-Moon Party at Trellis Bay, BVI

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We set up our new home base (recovered a mooring system that was abandoned), thanks to Jamie & Keith on sv Kookaburra. We can’t thank these two enough for all the help and guidance they have given us (and they are super fun to hang out with!). 🙂

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Stacey with Keith & Jamie of sv Kookaburra

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View of Magen’s Bay  – where we got married almost 15 years ago

We have officially registered Smitty Ditty (the dinghy) and Smitty in the US Virgin Islands. We officially removed Smitty from the Hingham, MA tax assessors list…I think we are now considered sea gypsies.

We have decided that St.John in the USVI is still our favorite island and we are trying to figure out a way to live and work there.

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Maho Beach, St.John

This is the first year since we have been old enough to work that we did not earn enough income to meet the requirement to file tax returns.

Jobs in paradise:  trying to offset our spending and build our savings back up:

Stacey has been crew on a sailing catamaran (up to 80 guests at a time) and a power catamaran (up to 130 guests at a time). Currently, Stacey is Captain of the motor vessel that takes guests from the shore to the Sea Plane in the harbor. Bonus: Stacey got to go on a Sea Plan ride – landing on the water…this has been on her life “bucket list” since the first time that she was in St.Thomas over 20 years ago. Flying Fish Seaplane Tours

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Flying Fish Seaplane Tours

Jesse is Captain of the sailing trimaran Tribal.  He takes up to 10 guests at a time sailing, snorkeling, and fishing. This boat is what racing sailors would call a “rocket ship” – it’s super fast! Jesse has gotten it up to 28 knots under sail. Tribal Day Sails

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We celebrated our first Christmas in the Caribbean; complete with a boat parade and steel drum bands.

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In summary, we have been to so many beautiful places and have met so many wonderful people that are now friends for life. We have had to endure storms, inconsiderate cruisers, and other challenges. We have had good days and bad days. But, in the end, it’s been an amazing journey that we absolutely do not regret.  We plan to spend 2017 in the Virgin Islands, as we work to build the cruising kitty back up, however, we will sneak in some fun trips as well (like St.Marteen in January – get ready Frank we are coming for you!)

Big Hugs to our family & friends – we miss you all so much!

Happy & Health New Year to All!

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It’s a Long Story that Involves a Goat, a Bottle of Tequila, and a Pitching Wedge

Even before we left our homeport of Massachusetts, some of our boating friends were already talking about renting a boat and sailing around with us in the British Virgin Islands.  At that point I was skeptical if we would make it to the Caribbean, never mind make plans with others.  But a couple of months after we left, those same friends started to ask when we thought we might be in the Caribbean because they wanted to book a boat.  It was so exciting to know that I would see them again but at the same time it is so hard to commit to being somewhere by a certain date when one is traveling by sailboat. But, it did all come together and on December 9th and 10th two groups of friends flew down to St.Thomas then ferried over to Tortola, BVI to get on two catamarans and sail around the British Virgin Islands with us!

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Jesse and I dinghied over to the Indians to meet up with the crew of sv Bear Necessities:  Pam aka Pamalama, Chris aka Big C, Chris aka Cooley, Liz, Dan aka Pants, Kerrie aka Kerrie Time, Steve, and Meaghan.  It was so unreal to see our friends sailing up, it just didn’t feel real, I felt like we were watching a video of them or something.  Then, watching them do a piss poor job of picking up a mooring was just comical.  To be fair, although most of the crew owns boats, none have ever operated a catamaran.  Before they were even all tied up I was on the boat crying and hugging everyone, still it did not seem real!

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We snorkeled the Indians and then had a very short motor passage over to The Bight, where sv Smitty was already anchored.  Bear Necessities picked up a mooring with 100% improvement vs the first attempt earlier that day, and we were right back into step like we were at Worlds End in Hingham, MA – floats off the back in the water, tied with dock lines so we wouldn’t lose anyone and drinks all around.

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We all decided to get rinsed off and changed to head over to the 100’ Schooner, The William E. Thornton aka The Willy T, for drinks and dinner.  After a while, we noticed that one of the dinghies (Bear Necessities had two dinghies for their group of eight) was still missing.  They had decided to go on a trip around the anchorage when we went back to Smitty but they were now MIA.  Jesse and I figured that maybe they already had gone over to the Willy T so we headed over to the Willy T, but upon arrival, their dinghy wasn’t there either.  Hmmm, they must be down at the other restaurant, let’s go check.  As we pull up to the dock Liz and Kerrie come running over to us and all I hear is them say “It’s Bad!”  Uh Oh – what are they talking about?….

As Liz, Kerrie, Pam, Cooley, and Chris were walking the beach they saw some guys playing Jenga.  This isn’t the normal table size Jenga, but the super-sized version that consists of large pieces of wood (think 2 x 4 size pieces).  After they watched one of the participants use two hands, someone jokingly said “hey that’s cheating you can’t use two hands”, from here I am not exactly sure of the story, I don’t know if the guy was drunk or angry or just joking but next thing I know for sure is that a our friend got knocked in the face with this piece of wood that the Jenga player threw at the group for whatever stupid reason!  The blow was hard enough to shatter the lens of his sunglasses and bring him to his knees. Due to concern that he may have a fractured skull or damage to his eye (which was already extremely swollen and black & blue and bleeding) and he likely has a concussion, the restaurant called VISAR (Virgin Island Search and Rescue) to come and pick up our friend in order to bring him to the nearest hospital, back on Tortola!

Keep in mind, this is day one, these guys have paid literally thousands of dollars to take this vacation and now it may be over, and, this particular friend is the qualified captain of sv Bear Necessities, I really can’t believe this is happening!

So, off our friend and his girlfriend went to go back to Tortola in a large RIB boat that goes something like 65 mph. Jesse dropped me off at the Willy T to tell the other half of the crew what was going on and he went to drop off the other three so they can change.  At this point, no one feels like having fun, we all have that awful feeling like we just found out a friend died – everyone was just in a state of shock.  Then just as I finished telling everyone what’s happening, the second group of friends gets to the Willy T and they, of course are all excited and ready to party with everyone. So, I repeat the story to the crew of sv Sunshine:  Deb, Whitey, Sarah, Amanda, and Ken. Then, I’m not sure how the turn of events happened, but we all decided that our friend would be more pissed if he knew that we were sitting around not having fun because of what happened…so, we decided to do what we all do best together – DRINK! 

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Willy T

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sv Sunshine  – Whitey, Amanda, Deb, Sarah, and Captain Ken

And from that point the shenanigans ensued, there were naked jumpers from the top deck, naked body shots, board shots, dancing, tattoos (fake), and so much ass slapping!  Oh, and let’s not forget about how one drunken person fell into the water three times while trying to get into the dinghy to go back to his boat (Cooley!), and not on purpose.

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Meanwhile, two of friends were on Tortola.  Our friend had his head x-rayed and underwent other tests and further examination is required by an eye specialist once he gets back to the states.  I cannot speak highly enough about VISAR and Moorings.  VISAR very quickly responded and professionally handled the situation.  Moorings arranged for our friends to spend the night on a boat that was at their home base and kept the restaurant open late so they can eat and brought them back to Norman’s Island the next day.

It took a lot of convincing, and pain meds, but our friend did decide to stay in the BVI.  By the end of the week he was feeling better enough to joke about his incident a little.  I tried to get him to wear a Pirate eye patch but he said he wouldn’t wear one unless we found and caught a live parrot for his shoulder (epic fail). He also was joking that the VISAR crew all wore helmets but did not give “the guy with the head injury” a helmet to wear.  We joked about how no one is ever going to believe this story so we might as well spin it to something that sounds just as preposterous…like telling people “It’s a Long Story that Involves a Goat, a Bottle of Tequila, and a Pitching Wedge”.

  Again, this was day one of their visit, more stories to come…