“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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Bahamas Chapter 8: George Town (aka Chicken Harbor)

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Have you ever gone on a cruise on a cruise ship or went to summer camp?  You know how everything is scheduled and everyone is friends by the end of the time there…this is what George Town is like.  I am not even joking…there is Yoga and Water Aerobics each morning, weekly poker tournaments, volleyball each afternoon, and fires & sundowners on the beach.  And, if all that is not enough for you, there is plenty of hiking, snorkeling, restaurants with live bands, etc.

The harbor consists of multiple anchorages, which is the home to several hundred boats that come to this stop in the Bahamas, where they remain for the entire winter season.  There is a Cruisers’ Net that comes over the VHF each morning to discuss the on-goings in the harbor, announces items available for Buy-Sell-Trade, and includes Arrivals and Departures of vessels to the area.  To be honest, when we first arrived here all of this was very overwhelming, after we had spent over three months in pretty small, quiet anchorages.

We had an extended stay here as we waited for our guest (Frank) to arrive from Boston, Massachusetts.  The timing could not have been more prefect.  We ended up being at this island during the National Family Island Regatta, which we learned is the biggest sailing event in the Bahamas.  Boats and people come from every island to participate in the races and festivities.  Regatta Point, an otherwise quiet street, became an entire town of shacks and stages just for this event.  Besides the races and drinking & eating, there were art exhibits, parades, a fashion show, and bands.  It was amazing to see this quiet little town swell with thousands of people over the course of just a week.  We had such a good time with Frank and miss him already!

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Race boats arrive via barge or are towed by a power boat

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Shacks being erected

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Shacks ready for action

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Cheers! Tasting our first Sky Juice.  From left to right:  Stacey & Jesse (sv Smitty), Chris & Jim (sv Radio Waves), Frank (sv Smitty guest)

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Late night (well, early morning)….well past my bedtime, but well worth it

Chat’N’Chill is one of the famous stops of this area, just across the harbor from Georgetown on Stocking Island.  They have a weekly pig roast, daily volleyball games, and of course a beach bar.

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We did manage to snug into a quiet spot that hardly anyone goes to anchor called Redshanks.  It was a great place to hide out from high winds that we kept experiencing.  The most amount of boats that we saw in this area was about 15, which meant that the most beautiful beach was virtually all ours! We probably spent the most amount of our time while in Georgetown anchored here. 

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views around Redshanks

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bridge that you go under as you dinghy to/from town.  

On each larger island, there is a monument that identifies to approaching vessels which island that they are in fact approaching.  The short hike up to the top of the hill to the monument on Monument Beach rewards you with the most spectacular views of the surrounding area.

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sunset with Deborah & Keith (sv Wrightaway)

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spotted this eel as we were snorkeling

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You get a pretty diverse group of visitors to this island

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This kid kicked my butt at checkers (likely because he made up new rules as we played)

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Bubbly pool – nice afternoon of relaxing and wine with Radio Waves’ crew

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weenie roast on Frank’s last night

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Flip Flop Beach

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this is how the local police handle derelict boats

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sadly, this was where we departed ways with Radio Waves.  Thank you both again for everything – we had a really great time enjoying this experience with you!

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The Hardest Part

In countless blogs and books we had read that getting off the dock is the hardest part. That now makes so much sense. Between the stress of saying good bye to friends and family, the stress of getting the boat ready ( well, as it will be) and the stress of the unknown it can all add up to conspire against actually leaving.

We worked to set us up to minimize this as much as possible.  This last summer was not the most fun boating season we have had.  Many days we watched our friends head out for a fun day on the water while we stayed tied to the dock working on projects.  Even the times we left, projects followed.  We rafted up with friends out at World’s End and we would alternate between working on projects and having some fun. We knew we were being ambitious with our Epic To-Do List.  An no, we didn’t finish everything on it.  But we pushed to get the safety items done first, followed by some comfort items.  We made this push early because we new the last month would be much harder to get things done.

We also knew that the boat would never be done.  If we waited for the boat to be perfect we would never leave.  Smitty is more than serviceable and we could probably take her all the way to the Vigin Islands without doing much more.  But we will do more.  There will be rainy days or bad sea days or days we just don’t feel like traveling where we can work to get other things done.  We have a list going of things that need to be fixed or projects to do.  I have a box of parts for various projects.  Eventually we will get through most but new things come up while you are cruising and new priorities are set.  Like Captain Ron says…

The last month was filled with friends and family.  We had cookouts, dinners out, lunches and drinks with colleagues and even a good bye boat trip to Gloucester with our friends from L Dock.  That even continued into the trip.  I am finishing up this post about 2 weeks after leaving and we are sitting in Milford, Connecticut to see my Bride’s family.  We will do a separate post on saying good bye, but as a preview our friends from L Dock gave us the board below.

Yup, that’s the eight from our Slip 8 post.  Our friends conspired to steal the “8” from the dock after we left for our annual trip to Gloucester.  While in Gloucester they gave us the board that they had all signed and put the “8” on.  It was a very touching gift and it had my Bride in tears (I might have been a little teary eyed too).

What we read was soooo true.  Cutting the lines and heading out for that first day was the hardest part.  There were lots of things pulling you back.  Trying to get you to delay the departure.  At times it was a struggle to keep the motivation going to work towards the departure.

The whole thing felt surreal.  A mix of feeling like you were just getting ready for vacation and “is this really my life now?”

On September 4th at 03:20 we departed Hingham Shipyard.  There was very little moonlight as we powered into the darkness.  The lack of moonlight was probably a good thing.  It kept us focused on spotting for lobster pots and other obstacles instead of thinking about what we had just done.  At around 05:30 we started getting the predawn sky with enough light to see any obstacles coming.

With that beautiful sky came time to think.  Time to reflect on what we just did.  We were 40 years old (my Bride was not technically 40 for another week and a few days). We had quit well paying jobs that we were unhappy doing.  We had packed up all of our shit onto our little 31 foot boat.  And we sailed away from our friends and family into an adventure of unknown duration or true destination.  And all of this financed by a relatively small cruising kitty.

It’s an unknown feeling. Extremely hard to describe. I’m still unsure about how I feel. For the first week or so it felt like being on vacation. Now its starting to change but I don’t know what it feels like. But that is part of the adventure: new feelings; new experiences; new adventures!


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3 Weeks

We have 19 more calendar days of work.  That equates to 15 days at the office.  But I am taking a little time to deal with vet appointments and our last appointment at the Travel Clinic, I plan to do some last minute running around on those days and to bring things down to my Dad’s house (diplomas, memento type stuff from our offices, etc.). So that’s two less days and I already woke up and came to work today.  That means I only have 12 more days where I am woken up by the alarm clock at 6 AM to start getting ready for work.  Only 12 more morning commutes.  Only 3 more time sheets to submit. With each day it is getting harder and harder to get up the motivation to come into the office.  Even more of a challenge is to get the motivation to complete the tasks I have before me each day instead of surfing the internet.

We spent most of this weekend on a mooring at World’s End.  This is probably the local cruising destination I will miss the most.  But I am a little ahead of myself.

First thing Saturday morning my Bride had to setup the sewing machine in the cockpit.  She noticed a couple of stitches coming undone on our dodger. She spent a couple of hours going over the dodger and repairing areas where the stitches were deteriorating from UV damage.  She was complete and boat mostly back together by noon.  The tomatoes really started to ripen on our dock plants.  So I grabbed some to eat for the weekend and cut some fresh mint for mojitos.  The peppers are coming but not there yet.

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We cast of the lines and powered for an hour to get over to World’s End where we met up with our friends Pam and Chris on Windchaser. We rafted up with them on a friends mooring.  It was hot; probably around 95 degrees, very sunny and humid.  We got into the water very shortly after getting settled.  The water seemed a little cooler than usual but that was welcome on such a hot day.

Of course I can’t just relax so I started cleaning the hull.  It’s been almost two years since our last bottom job.  This one took a beating from the ice in Charlestown this winter.  The ice scrapped away a lot of the ablative paint so I can see the grey barrier coat in a lot of areas, especially along the waterline.  We are getting a lot of grass type growth on the waterline and some pretty thick growth on the bottom.  I am just trying to get this bottom job to last two-three months more.  We plan to haul somewhere around South Carolina to do the bottom and some other things.  But I loose about a knot of boat speed from the growth after about 3 weeks.  So it will be tough to make it last long enough.

Saturday late afternoon the weather started to change.  There was now a considerable amount of cloud cover and some potential thunder storms were in the mix.  It started to rain around 4-5 PM but that was mostly just sprinkles.  For about an hour we watched a great show while lightening hit all around World’s End but not in our direct area. Bolts were crossing the sky and coming down all around us but at a distance of several miles away.  At about 6 PM we started to get some significant rain.  In fact the skies opened out and large, heavy drops started pelting the boats.  There were 3 boats rafted up on the mooring, Smitty, Windchaser and the owner of the moorings power boat.  We all retreated into our various boats to wait out what we thought was going to be some quick passing rain. A micro burst hit the area and the winds picked up.  The rain was now sideways and visibility was only a few feet. The fetch for this front wasn’t long so the wave height didn’t get big but there were dense streaks of foam from the waves.  The Beaufort wind scale estimate was a force 9-10 easily.

From here.

The stern line on the power boat broke free.  They quickly scrambled and got it back on but that was enough to get us all on deck to recheck all of the lines.  Windchaser was in the middle and on the ball.  We were on her starboard side.  We added a second bow line just to be safe.  We watched other boats loose fenders and inflatable floats while the heavy winds were hitting.

The high winds and driving rain only last about 30 minutes.  After that we were still getting some rain and lightening was all around us but again a couple of miles away.

We were all checking our phones for updates on the weather. Another cell was to the west of us but we couldn’t tell if it was going to hit or move more south.  We watched that cell pass just to the south of us while we only received some rain.  After that there was a lull but another line of potential storms was further west that might impact us in a couple of hours.  We used the delay to cook some food and take Summer for a quick walk. The power boat made a run for home. We then retreated down into Windchaser to hangout out of the rain.  After dinner we were all a little tired so we called it a night.  We did get some more rain around 1AM but nothing like the micro burst.

The next morning we had breakfast in Smitty’s cockpit.  I hung our stern anchor, another project off the it-would-be-nice list.  We went for a long dingy ride and picked up some more ice while drinking Painkillers. When we got back to the boats, some friends joined us for an afternoon of swimming and hanging out.  Around 6:30 we heading back to our dock.  After a brief delay to retrieve our wayward dingy after I failed to tie a good knot holding her to the stern rail, we were treated to a great sunset but no wind as we powered back to our marina.

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I will really miss hanging out at World’s End.  We have had some great raft up parties here in the past and also some great times of solitude.


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Starting to Look Less Like Liveaboards and More Like Cruisers

Lots of little projects or little parts to big projects going on the last couple of weeks.

For instance we finally installed the ubiquitous board to hold our Jerry Cans.

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We used an 8′ section of PVC board and some U bolts.  The whole thing costs about $30 from the local box store.  Now we need to plan out how we want to secure the jugs to the board.

The kayak rack will go on the other side but we haven’t finalized that setup yet.

We also decided to do some plantings on the dock again for this year.  We used the same planting box as last year.  But this year I decided to use the trellis system to help the tomatoes.

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Some peppers, tomatoes and mint.  Need to find some chives to fill out the box.

Some peppers, tomatoes and mint. Need to find some chives to fill out the box.

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Some write-ups on bigger projects are on their way.

I also got my first “byline” in the Summer 2015 volume of Mainsheet Magazine.

IMG_3347We even got out for a sail this weekend.  Not on Smitty but on our friends’ boat, Windchaser.  After getting the sails on things started off a little rough.  We had to do an emergency lube job on the steering system.  But an hour later and a little spilt compass juice we were getting the sails up for a nice afternoon sail.
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Under 130 days until we cut the lines!


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Marblehead Revisted…..Maddie’s Sail Loft gets the Best of Me, Again!

This past weekend we were hanging out with some friends at the dock and I was reminded of this post that I never finished.  So it’s a little late but thought it was worth sharing.

For Labor Day weekend of 2014 we headed back to Marblehead with our friends Pam and Chris for Friday Night prior to continuing onto to Gloucester for the 4th year in a row with a large group from our home dock.  Pam and Chris were in their Catalina 30, Windchaser, and we were of course on Smitty.  We had an uneventful trip up to Marblehead with light winds that were mostly on the our noses.  So motor sailing for us.  No biggie.  We made it up to Marblehead by early afternoon.

Our favorite spot in the very large mooring field is the Marblehead Harbormaster moorings right opposite the Landing Restaurant.  We were able to get two of these moorings near each other.  After securing the boats we spent some time walking around Marblehead and checking out some local spots.

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Pam: “The sun is hot!”

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We headed back to the boat prior to having a great meal at the Landing.  After our meal we headed for Maddie’s Sail Loft to meet up with Pam’s sister-in-law.  After my epic hangover from drinking too much at Maddie’s last year, I put myself on a strict two drink limit.  Yeah, that didn’t happen.  I quickly drank my two drinks.  Then two more.  Then some more.  Then we left and went back to the Landing where I decided it was a good idea to switch from vodka and soda water to Scotch.  I also felt the need to declare that “you don’t get hangovers from good Scotch!”  Yeah, that may be true if you only have one or two good glasses of Scotch, it is certainly not the case when you have 3 (or 4 I don’t really remember) after too many tall, stiff vodka and soda waters.

Needless to say I was hungover the next day. I got up and took the dinghy to shore.  I walked a couple of blocks to the nice coffee shop we had seen the previous day and got some coffees and egg sandwiches for the group.  I stumbled my way back to the dinghy and delivered the breakfast to Windchaser just before I passed out in the cockpit of Smitty.  Eventually we got underway but I was in no condition to handle the boat.  Once I got the boat past the mooring field I passed the helm over to my Bride.  She got to watch Pam and Chris have a great, single tack sail all the way into Gloucester Harbor.  I say watch because every time she asked if we should be sailing I said no because I was too hungover to move. (Jesse should have added here that The Bride has banned him from Marblehead trips – no stop over on the way to Gloucester this year!)

We made it into Gloucester where we met up with the rest of our group from our home dock.  This year there were about 18 boats that made the trip.  There are so many of us that now they have taken to rafting us up to make enough space.   After docking, I went up to the pool to have something to eat and a little hair-of-the-dog.  Feeling a little better but really tired I went back to the boat to sleep.  I was woken up around 8PM my our friends Jenn and Jeff (Jenn is from Gloucester and meets up with us whenever we stop here).  Everyone was pretty drunk and the parade of lights was about to start (boats all light up like Christmas Trees going down the canal and out into the harbor) and fireworks were to follow.

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Smitty and Windchaser rafted up at Cape Ann Marina

We love this annual trip to Gloucester.  It is one of our favorite local harbors.  We will typically stay at Cape Ann Marina and enjoy their indoor pool with a bar.  They have a cool Caribbean vibe restaurant that has a $1 raw bar happy hour.  The highlight of the weekend is the dinghy trip up the Annisquam River.  We all hop in our dinghies and head up the Annisquam to Wingaersheek Beach.  Great spot with fine white sands that looks like a Caribbean beach (the water is a little colder but still really warm for Massachusetts). (The photos below are a mix of a couple of years.  I need to start taking more pictures. And not putting my thumb over the lens.)

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On Monday we sailed back south.  We had a nice sail, not too much wind so we ended motor sailing part of the day.  But it was a great way to finish the weekend.

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Don’t know what I am going to do about Summer. She just can’t seem to get comfortable on the boat. 😉