Arriving into The Bahamas

Crossing into The Bahamas on a sailboat takes a bit of coordination. First you need to fill your propane and diesel tanks and load 5 months worth of food onboard in South Florida. Then you need to make your way to a good jumping off spot like Key Biscayne. Then you need to wait for a good weather window. Once that comes into focus and a departure date is planned, you need to apply for your Bahamian Cruising Permit online. Then, no more than 48 hours prior to your departure, you need to get a vet to certify that your dog is free of disease and in good health. This last part can be the trickiest, because your dog is not in exceptionally good health and also not afraid to bite a vet that is trying to look in his ear. And because no South Florida Uber driver is at all interested in driving you and your smelly dog to and from the vet’s office. So you carry all 44 lbs of him for miles in the hot Florida sun with fingers crossed that he passes his tests.

He passed his tests.

A 40 mile wide, 3,000 foot deep, fire hose of 86F water known as the Gulf Stream is constantly hustling north between Florida and The Bahamas with great haste. If the wind is blowing against this current, huge seas build up between the two countries and sailing across can be extremely uncomfortable. For this reason, most sailors, ourselves included, are inclined to wait for a southerly wind, or no wind, to make the crossing. We ended up making the 52.7NM trip from Key Biscayne to Bimini with no wind.

The waters of Florida and The Bahamas come in so many shades of blue. The deep water in the gulf stream is a shade unlike any other. A pure dark blue without any trace of grey or green. Because we crossed with zero wind, the surface was glassy and the sun beams sent shafts of light deep down into the water. The effect was like a gentle, below-seas lightning storm. Exceptional.

With all our customs and immigration and dog paperwork filed in advance, our arrival into Bimini was uneventful.
A shark came by begging for a scrap. (Or a poodle?)

We didn’t linger long in Bimini. Our goal was the Bahamian island chain called the Exumas and we were determined to keep the pace up until we got there. Perfect weather for continuing on was forecast and we took advantage of it to move forward. After Bimini, our route would take us across the Great Bahama Bank to Chub Cay in the Berry Islands. It’s an 87 mile hop and there is nothing in between. Water Depth ranges between 10 and 20 feet deep along most of this route. Sailing across, you get the bizarre experience of not seeing anything on the horizon, but always seeing the bottom as clearly as if you were in a swimming pool.

Dolphins swam in our bow wave for a bit – always exciting.

Mileage was long and we were worried the dog might not do well with what we feared could be an 18 hour day. But a stiff North wind built, and we screamed across the bank at a steady 7.5 knots knocking the total time between ports down to 13 hours. We still left in the dark and arrived in the dark this being winter and all, but it was manageable and the dog was happy.

25 knot winds and 10 foot seas. Hard to capture what that feels like on camera.

We were expecting a fair amount of headwinds between Florida and the Exumas and were surprised to find good sailing with wind abaft the beam instead. The trend continued on day 3 where a stiff NE wind blew us down to Nassau and over to nearby Rose Island. We were in deep, unprotected water for the first 2/3rds of this day and the seas were large. Probably the roughest weather of our trip to date, but the sailing was fast and that wind was blowing us in the right direction.

Only 4 days out of Florida, we arrived into the Exumas. First with a stop in Highborne Cay (nice), then Norman’s Cay (nice), then into Shroud Cay where we felt as if we had finally arrived in paradise.

From the anchorage on the protected side of the island, we rowed down a river thru the mangroves and arrived at the ocean side beach at Driftwood Camp. I had read a lot about this place and feared it would be crowded and fail to live up to expectation. It was not crowded and it exceeded expectation. The anchorage was beautiful and we both agreed it was the finest beach that either of us had ever seen anywhere. So far, this was the best stop of our entire trip.

Shallow spots in the lazy river were not a problem
Trails up to the highlands afforded an excellent view of both sides of the island and the river in between.
The places that little red rowboat has been…

This section of the island chain is a national park known as the Exumas Land and Sea Park. The islands are mostly uninhabited and commerce is non-existent. Moorings are provided in many places to discourage anchoring and to protect the bottom. Fishing is not permitted anywhere in the park and fish stocks remain high throughout as a result.

When Matt and I spent the winter in The Bahamas 30 years ago aboard my red Tartan 30, Carina, Little Cistern Cay was a favorite stop and as far south as we ever got. I snapped a photo there and it hung on my shop wall for decades reminding me that some day I should go back. This is the same exact photo except the boat was red then and blue now, and the dog is an addition.

We had Little Cistern Cay all to ourselves–just like it was 30 years ago…
Not a bad spot.

We just so happened to arrive into The Warderick Wells mooring field at Whale Beach in front of park headquarters on Thanksgiving Day. And lucky for us, the good people in Park Headquarters were hosting a cruisers pot luck Thanksgiving dinner! Everyone was welcome, even Bill.

It was a feast and afterwards, we stayed late into the evening playing dominos with our new friends.

It was a pleasure to slow our pace and stay a few nights here where the hiking and swimming were excellent.

Booboo Hill

The Exumas are a nice place to linger. Distances are short. Sometimes 5 miles between anchorages, other times 8 miles. The water is exquisite and the islands keep coming.

Cambridge Cay had the elevation:

And the hiking trails:

And the burrs. Goat burrs kept filling the spaces between Bill’s paw pads driving him crazy:

The weather was surprisingly still and hot while we visited these past few islands and we spent much time in the water. For about a week, winds were light, daytime highs were in the upper 80s, nighttime lows were in the lower 80s and seawater temps were in the mid 80s. Doug Ryan told me that on any boat sailing the tropics, cockpit benches must be long enough to sleep on. He’s right, it’s just too hot to sleep in the cabin sometimes. What Doug didn’t tell me was how to deal with the bugs out there in the cockpit. I bet he’d coach me to look for the solution in a bottle of rum. Well, I tried that Doug. But when the wind is light and the night is still, the Mosquitos and no-see-ums have been relentless. No complaining. Self-inflicted adventure, people are scraping ice off windshields up north, etc. Just saying we need a bug net for sleeping on deck.

It’s an arid climate. We can leave damp towels and swim suits out on the lifelines in the late evening and they will be dry by dawn. That never happens in New England. This also means the whole boat feels dry and thats a big plus.

In recent days, the wind has finally come up. NE 20-30 with higher gusts for four days in a row. This was the winter weather we expected in The Bahamas and its done a great job of blowing all the bugs away.

Shelter in a storm

We found a perfect spot to wait out the blow. It doesn’t look like all the much in the photos, but it offers excellent protection and has been such an idyllic oasis for us, we are loathe to leave it. Cruiser’s beach on Big Majors Spot near Staniel Cay is where we now are.

This place is also known as The Bay of Pigs. Most anything you read online about the Exumas will be accompanied with a photo of huge pigs wading in the water on a white sand beach. This is the island where that happens. It’s a sort of pretty zoo and is wildly popular with visiting boats. We didn’t have much interest at first because we didn’t think Bill would do well with large pigs, and because we read that the pigs weren’t treated all that well and it was actually kind of depressing.

But after deeper research, I discovered that there is another beach in this same bay, off this same island, called Cruiser’s Beach that we might like. People have set up Adirondack chairs, a picnic table, a grill, a swing, a slack-line so you can move right in here, and we have.

Even in the high winds, this place has been completely calm and we’ve had the little beach all to ourselves most of the time. We row in for morning exercise on the beach followed by a swim and a sit in the shade in those chairs with our books. Then we go back the boat for lunch for a few hours. Then back to the beach for the afternoon. Then sunset in the cockpit. It’s a fine pattern.

I understand this place can, and will, get crowded. I’ve been told there are usually over 200 boats anchored here in February and March. But we’re early in the season, and over the past five nights only 8-12 boats have anchored here with most of their crew over visiting the pigs. When these islands get busy mid-winter, we hope to be off into some more remote Bahamian Islands where fewer people tend to visit.

On our beach here, we thought we only had the sharks, rays, turtles, pencil fish, angel fish, and minnows for company, but then one day, in strolled a 400-lb pig! Didn’t know they could or would walk over here, but I guess occasionally they do! We hustled Bill into the dinghy and let the pig have the beach.

There’s been more. A snorkel through the Thunderbolt Grotto (amazing), a few days in cosmopolitain Staniel Cay (think Cuttyhunk, but with booze), a visit to Black Point Settlement, sailing, rowing, varnishing, making water, AND new Bahamian friends (Judy, Charmaine, Seymour and Sherrie), new sailing friends(Kentucky, Texas, Oklahoma!), tales to recount about Bill’s antics, evolving opinions about boats, people and society, but this is a blog post, not a book, so I must stop.

A Day in The Life on The ICW

Sundance at anchor in Georgia

00:00 – 04:00: Wake with mild panic every hour or so to make sure the anchor isn’t dragging. Despite the fact that we routinely set two anchor alarms and the fact that we haven’t dragged anchor anywhere in years, we still can’t escape some mild anchoring anxiety. Probably better than becoming complacent. The prospect of us dragging up onto a beach, or our neighbors dragging into us sends a chill down the spine. Every switch of the current, or change in wind direction, warrants some observation.

05:00 – 07:00: The alarm goes off and Chris gets up to start the pre-prepared coffee without turning on a light. Alex and Bill continue to sleep while Chris works on various writing projects sitting up in his bunk with laptop on lap and coffee at his side.

07:00 – 07:30: Sunrise comes late on the ICW in the fall. This route takes us quite far west in the Eastern Time Zone. The days are getting shorter and the clocks don’t turn back until you’re nearly in Miami. (The flip side of course is that sunsets are later too.) Chris drags Bill out of bed in the dark (he loves to sleep in) and rows him ashore for his morning walk as the sun rises. While that’s happening, Alex wakes and prepares the boat to get under way. We sleep on the settees in the salon and every morning Alex puts our bedding away and converts the space back into a sitting area.

The Salon in it’s mid-day configuration.

Next, the garden needs to be stowed. The plants are not unanimously popular aboard the boat, but they are with us nonetheless. To keep them from crashing around the boat while we’re sailing, Alex puts them into the sink in the head for safekeeping before we get going. (Smart to brush your teeth before this happens.)

The Garden

We have 14 opening hatches on the boat. All of them have screens and we like to sleep with them open while at anchor for the ventilation in warm weather. When underway, we sail with them all closed 100% of the time to be sure to keep salt out of the cabin. This task of closing and dogging down all of these hatches is also on Alex’s morning to do list.

07:30: Pull up the anchor and get underway. Checklist:

  • Dinghy oars stowed
  • Swim ladder stowed
  • Anchor light switched off
  • Engine room check: Dripless shaft packing dry, no fluids under the engine, engine oil on its mark, engine coolant on its mark, no signs of obvious distress.
  • Navigational electronics switched on
  • Anchor wash-down pump switched on
  • Start engine

Chris goes to the bow to pull up the anchor with the electric anchor windlass while squirting the mud off the chain with the wash-down hose. Back in the cockpit, Alex is at the helm to get us off in the right direction once the anchor is no longer holding us in place. Bill is usually overseeing us from his favorite spot under the dodger in the forward corner of the cockpit, making sure we don’t mess anything up.

08:00: Alex finally gets to have her first cup of coffee as she prepares breakfast. We enjoy that meal in the cockpit while underway.

09:00: Before you know it, we’re at our first bridge. 130 bridges span the ICW between Norfolk and Miami. Some are fixed bridges with a 65′ clearance above the water that we can pass under easily with our 51′ air draft. Others are draw-bridges that we need opened before we can pass thru. Some open on demand, others open on a schedule. Some on the hour, others on the hour and half hour, others at 15 minutes after and before the hour. Some have exclusions for periods of rush hour car traffic. Some won’t open in high wind. All of them have human operators who we communicate with via VHF radio. Alex is our onboard radio operator and schedule coordinator. At one point between Hobe Sound and Ft. Lauderdale, she had 29 bridges open for us in a single day!

Alex is our radio operator and bridge coordinator.

10:00 Keep trucking ’til the next bridge. The ICW route from Norfolk to Miami covers 1089 statute miles mostly just inland from, and mostly just parallel to, the ocean. The Army Corps of Engineers built the route to protect commercial traffic against attack from German U-boats, back when that was a concern. The route is still maintained and in use today. It mostly consists of natural bays, sounds, and rivers that have been connected by man-made canals to form a continuous shipping route. Anyone can use some or all of this waterway as much as they want free of charge.

11:00 Stop for fuel. We carry 33 gallons of diesel and burn the stuff at an average rate or .72 gallons per hour. This gives us about 46 hours of run time for a range of about 275 miles at 6 knots of speed. We usually cover approximately 50 miles per day when working to clock miles on our way south (or north). In some areas, especially South Georgia, the fuel docks are spaced over 100 miles apart. We try not to run too low on fuel. A conservative schedule has us topping off the fuel tank every third or fourth day. The ICW is not a great place to run our water maker, so we usually take on water at the fuel dock too. Two full tanks of water will last us about 6 days. We just have to make sure to put the fuel in the fuel tank and the water in the water tank when at the filling station. In Coinjock, NC we (ahem, we??) may have mixed the two up and it took us about a month to properly sort out the collateral damage. If anyone wants a deep dive, we are now complete experts on how to get diesel, and the taste and smell of diesel, out of your drinking water. Happy to share details with anyone who’s interested in learning more about this fascinating subject. After a blind taste test, our water tanks are once again both cleared for use. That was right up there on the list of top ten stupidest things I’ve ever done in my life…

“Wait, I thought Sundance was a sailboat. Don’t you turn the engine off and sail her?” You ask. Yes, we do! But on the ICW, opportunities for good sailing are infrequent. The route is protected from the weather which has it’s advantages, but it also means the wind is usually light and that makes for slow going under sail. Also, the route is often narrow which makes for difficult upwind sailing. We did have three great, rip-roaring sails this year on The Ditch. They were pure joy. When we get going under sail, the boat will go a fair bit faster than she will under motor. More importantly, the silence of sailing is such a relief from the drone of the engine. You could sail the whole way from Norfolk to Miami, and people have done it. 30 years ago when I made this trip on my Tartan 30, we sailed a lot more than we did this time. Primarily because I couldn’t afford the fuel. You have to have a lot of patience tho. With a lot of time spent going nowhere while waiting for wind, I would expect average progress under sail alone to drop to around 10 miles a day. That would make for a 109 day trip. Most sailboats decide to motor 90% of the time and get there in less than 30 days of travel instead.

12:00 Keep trucking. And watch for the shallow bits. In theory the ICW is 12 feet deep. Plenty of water to run our 4.5′ draft sailboat down. But shoaling happens, especially after storms. The Army Corps dredges constantly, but it’s a game of whack-a-mole that they can’t quite keep up with. As a result, shallow spots that we could run aground on are all over the route. There are navigational aids along the way, both floating buoys and fixed day markers, but they are not nearly adequately positioned to keep us out of trouble. Back when I made this trip 30 years ago, GPS was in its infancy. Displays were digital only and there was no chart-plotter to show where you were on a chart. Avoiding the shallow spots was educated guess work and we came to a sudden stop in the shifting mud and sand bottom with great regularity. Since then, the dredging hasn’t changed much, but the navigational electronics on most boats such as ours has improved dramatically. We use four different cartographies to plan and execute our daily runs: Government issued paper charts for planning the evening before. A Navionics app on an iPhone, also for planning the evening before. A Navionics Sonar chart cartography chip displayed on our chart plotter at the helm while underway, and an AquaMaps cartography app displayed on an iPhone at the helm while under way. The cool thing about these last two sources of intel is that they are crowd-sourced and get updated regularly. Volunteers and government survey teams submit data taken by sonar readings and it all gets aggregated in the cloud and then sent back to us at the helm in usable form to help guide us around the shallow spots. Now, you only run aground if you are absent minded. (Like happened to us once in Camp Lejune, NC when we were asleep at the wheel (again, we??)) Otherwise, anyone can easily avoid all the moving shallow spots and get down the ICW with ease. Just keep out of the dark red spots.

14:00 We see the ocean! Every now and then we come across an inlet where we can transit from the ICW out to the ocean and/or back in again. Many people who make the trip from Norfolk to Miami will venture out into the ocean in settled weather for much of their trip. The ocean route has its advantages. The sailing is better, the shallow spots are more well known, and the route is far more straight when compared to the serpentine inland ICW route. The ocean route also has its disadvantages. Its unprotected from bad weather and can be uncomfortable. The inlets are not evenly spaced and there may not be one where you want one. The inlets are not routinely navigable. In high winds and large seas, most are not safe to use. Getting off the ICW route and out to sea and then back in again takes time. When you add all these factors together, it usually only makes sense to go outside when you can run your boat for at least 36 hours straight in good weather. We can’t run our boat overnight at the moment because Bill, our elderly dog, needs to be walked every 12 hours. So for us, the outside route doesn’t make a lot of sense very often, if ever. We did give it a try twice this year for day trips along the Carolina coast. Both times, we got in hours after we would have on the inland route, and both times the sailing didn’t live up to expectations, and both times the inlets were dodgy. I must admit tho, it felt good to be at sea again those days even if the math didn’t make it feel like a win.

15:00: Only two more bridges to go. Sometimes Alex is at the wheel, But usually by now, Chris is at the helm and Alex is deep into dinner prep in the galley down below.

16:00: Drop anchor.

16:01: Serve arrival beverages for all.

17:00A: Dinner in the cockpit. We eat well and we eat early, because the bugs are no joke on the ICW..

A cockpit feast

17:00B: Or, if there is a town near by, we might instead go in for a meal ashore and/or attend to some laundry and food shopping.

Georgetown, SC

Sometimes we stay at a marina and can go grocery shopping with their loaner golf cart.

Captain of the grocery cart.

18:00: Row ashore for the evening dog walk at sunset. Always a joy.

Caution!: must avoid wild boar, snakes and alligators on this beach.

19:00 Screens are up and we’re down below. Reading most nights. Sometimes we play cards too. And one night a week, if we can find good cell service, we get our projector out and watch sailing videos on YouTube. Kind of geeky, I know, but we’re addicted.

21:00 – 00:00: Wake with mild panic to check the anchor.

The ICW is varied and magical

The history, culture and natural beauty is rich

The people we met will stay with us forever

But for us, the rhythm of the ICW life was the most powerful part of the journey

Like a marathon, the ICW keeps coming at you

The endurance factor is mesmerizing, and the daily rhythm is central to the experience

After lolly-gagging in the sublime joys of a New England Summer,

It felt good to mix things up and establish a pace.

Fun Facts:

Depart Norfolk: October 13

Arrive Ft. Lauderdale: November 7 ( We are 20 miles short of Miami waiting here for a few days while tropical storm Nicole burns thru.)

Engine hours used: 189.7

We spent two nights in Beaufort, SC for some R&R. Otherwise, like Sherman, we were on the march:

It wasn’t all quite as routine as I lead you to believe. We had a few longer days. And there were a few shorter days too. Like the day in Ft. Matanzas, FL where we decided to turn a perfectly good sailing day into an impromptu beach day. Worth it.

Now we provision and plan, because soon we will be off for The Bahamas, our next adventure.

Stay tuned.

The Chesapeake

Neither of us has spent much time in The Chesapeake Bay. Learning this place was a priority when planning our fall sailing schedule. After a memorable stop in Annapolis (covered in the last blog post) we headed to the Eastern Shore to explore.

We nosed our way up the Chester River and made our first stop in Langford Creek, where we found agriculture. Soybeans? We think? The farms were plentiful in number and beautiful to anchor next to and walk past on shore. In the photo below, the river is at the end of the road where there’s a boat ramp. Boat ramps have proven to be good landing spots for us, as was the case here. What a great place to walk a dog and go for a run! (Except for the many snakes.)

We crossed back across the Chester and up into the smaller, and charming Corsica River.

Bill loves shore leave.

Wendy Mitman Clarke, Chris’ editor at SAIL magazine, lives near the Corsica River. She encouraged us to visit, and we did. We met on the beach so our dogs could run. Wendy and her husband, Johnny, have done a lot of sailing including a four year live aboard voyage with their two young children. Friends of theirs, Jeremy and Nica, also sailors and also writers, joined us as well. We had lots to talk about. We didn’t manage to snap any photos of our gathering that night, but Wendy was good enough to take and share this photo of us rowing back out to Sundance.

The next morning, we sailed down through the Kent Narrows to Saint Michaels where the fascinating Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum dominates town. (And where they filmed the movie Wedding Crashers.).

We finally ate the famous crabs!

And generally enjoyed this charming and welcoming town.

A few days later, the Wye River provided shelter from a strong North wind. That same North wind blew a lot of water out of the river and we found ourselves aground for a minute the next day before leaving.

More agriculture up that way. Same mystery crop. Same great walking paths.

Once out of our hidey hole, we had a day of great sailing on the back side of the cold front.

Arrival in Spring Cove Marina in Solomons, MD was a homecoming of sorts. We were here last October (by car) for a blue water sailing workshop led by the masterful John Kretschmer. We missed him this time, but took a photo in our lecture hall for old time’s sake.

After getting a few boat projects done, we rented a car in Solomons and drove back to New England for a few weeks to tend to a variety of different things. Most notable among them was attending the Staten Island Half marathon to watch son Nate run and almost win the race. Must have been those red shoes.

Back aboard Sundance in Maryland, Hurricane Ian came and went without much issue. We used the rental car to load up on propane, dog food, booze and human food. Then dropped the car and dropped lines and were under way once again. South of Solomons, The Chesapeake widens noticeably. We had good sailing south past the Potomac. Then things got calm, really calm. I can’t remember ever seeing this much water this calm. With a slight haze, it was hard to find the horizon between sky and sea.

Deltaville, VA was a similarly tranquil stop for the night.

Long days of travel means we were up early. Sunrise rows and walks with Bill were a pleasure.

From Deltaville, we made our way towards the mouth of The Chesapeake and into the tight anchorage in Hampton, VA, college town and home of a perfectly situated riverfront brewery. Also, home to one of the nicest harbormasters we’ve met (and we’ve met some really nice ones!)

And from there it was only a short predawn run across to Norfolk, past half the US Navy, and on to Mile Zero on the Intra Coastal Waterway (ICW). Another new and totally different chapter in our voyage. We missed a lot of The Chesapeake this time, and look forward to exploring more when we come through next.

New York, New York, Big City of Dreams

Heidi and her dad in NYC Harbor

The highlight of September had us sailing through Hell’s Gate, down the East River, and straight into the heart of New York City. With family aboard, we had a two day adventure, first spending the night in Brooklyn then moving on for a brief visit to Jersey City before tackling the rest of the coast of New Jersey on our way south.

But. About New York. We started in City Island, where we spent the night, provisioned and picked up crew (family). If you’ve never been to this little gem of a place, we can’t recommend it enough! Once you hit street level, you’re unmistakably in NYC, yet…you might also think you were on the Cape from time to time. Our mooring at the City Island Yacht Club had spectacular views of the New York skyline, and the friendliest and most welcoming people we’ve met in a long while. It’s a place for people who love their boats and the water and they’re so happy if you feel the same way.

The view from the City Island Yacht Club

Once the crew was aboard, we headed out on a hot, hot afternoon and slowly made our way past power plants and playing fields, LaGuardia Airport, the hulking horror that is Riker’s Island and into the heart of the city. Seeing it all from the deck of our floating home, surrounded by our loved ones, was next level awesome.

Into Brooklyn we went, where the end of summer was in full swing! The grilling, the music, the gorgeous green spaces full of families, all of it was a feast for the senses. We saw a baby yacht called EBITDA, which is all the reminder of a career in finance that Alex will ever need, and a gorgeous wooden boat called Rarebit which looked vaguely familiar. Later on, after seeing her owner (hint, a famous Welsh actor) carrying his trash and joshing with the very chatty dock hand, we remembered that there had been a great story in the NYT about her loving restoration. Only in New York.

Brooklyn delivered a HOT night’s sleep. In the morning we changed crew, taking on board four recent college graduates for an afternoon of trading tacks with Lady Liberty. What a thing to sail around those waters full of ferries and jet skis and cargo ships. After dinner at a JC ‘beach bar’ with the kids, we were on our own once again. An evening of laundry and US Open tennis on the TV at the Liberty Landing Marina capped off a perfect New York visit.

In New Jersey, the weather took a turn towards stormy. We decided to hang out for a night in Sandy Hook NJ, a quiet little anchorage by a Coast Guard base with a great sandy beach for dog walking where you can still see the skyline of New York. We thought we might have to be there for a couple of days, but the bad weather was less bad than we expected so we decided to push on after one night and head for Manasquan. The truth of the New Jersey coastline is that it’s long and there aren’t a lot of places to take your elderly poodle in for a walk. We came into Manasquan after a hectic day of sailing that Bill decided was not so fun. The remnants of a tropical storm churned up large seas that would be with us for days off of NJ.

In Manasquan, we poked about for a place to tie up in the harbor still surging with the outside swell. After several less than satisfactory stops at unwelcoming docks and some minor scratches to the dingy and her mothership, we found a home with the other Capitan Bill.

The next morning, with the sea state somewhat moderating, we headed off for Atlantic City. “Wind from the East, three days at least.” We surfed our way down the coast topping 9 knots at times.

Pulling into AC was an exercise in cognitive dissonance. Casinos to one side and on the other….the loveliest, most peaceful anchorage with a long stretch of white, sandy beach for Bill to run on.

After a good night’s sleep we were up and out early and headed for Cape May. The good ole Northeast wind kept coming and gave us the opportunity to sail wing on wing. We made it to Cape May quickly.

The anchor went down in front of the Coast Guard base, along with a dozen other cruising boats. We began to pay attention to boat names as we expected (and did) see those boats again and again as they too head south. The cruising guide and sites told us we weren’t to walk to dog on the beach on the base, but we took our chances and Bill got a nice stretch of his legs at sunset as the Coasties played Taps. Fortunately, neither the dog, nor his owner, were shot for trespassing on the Coast Guard base. Now that I think of it, its funny how often we anchor directly in front of Coast Guard bases. And also odd that so many of them have nice beaches on base for dog walking.

With our New Jersey adventure behind us, we headed up into the Delaware Bay. No wind–A big change, and hot hot hot. The bay is wide and brown and full of huge cargo ships and oil tankers and power plants, nuclear and otherwise. Finally, we took a left, into the C&D Canal, a Cape Cod Canal duplicate.

We spent a couple of nights in the Upper Chesapeake in small, still coves with southern country names like Cabin John Creek. At one point, we met up with our friend, Hattie, from JKU. Hattie sails Iris, an early 1970s Tartan 34 sistership to Fearless, a boat Chris once owned.

Sundance and Iris

And then down the bay and into Annapolis for an extended stay.

Annapolis is a sailing Mecca. We picked up a City mooring and settled in. The next few days had us taking turns exploring this historic city, touring the campus of the Naval Academy, catching up with Alex’s high school friend Mike, and his kids Bridget and Seamus, and attending a folk music concert that happened to be on stage a stone’s throw from our cockpit. (Madison Cunningham & Amos Lee)

As luck would have it, we were in Annapolis on Defenders Day, a Maryland holiday that marks the battle during the war of 1812 that inspired the writing of the Star Spangled Banner. In Annapolis, every day feels like Defenders Day because they play the Star Spangled Banner at the Naval Academy at 8AM every day. Points off if you are still sleeping.

With the boat once again well stocked with food and fuel, and her crew on the ready with clean laundry and a fully stocked liquor cabinet, we were off for the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake, and the intracoastal waterway route south from there.

Enjoying a Pain Killer in Annapolis on Defenders Day

August Visitations

August was a social month full of visits with family and friends. Sundance and her crew enjoyed a lively New England farewell tour.

In Cushing Maine our friends Deb and Doug Morgan hosted us once again to a delicious dinner on their deck while Sundance bobbed below on their mooring in beautiful Davis Cove. As luck would have it, the family we purchased Sundance from nine years ago happen to live two doors down from the Morgans. Deb somehow managed to figure this fact out and organized a visit for us all on her deck. We were total strangers to each other, but the one boat we had in common was hugely important to all of us and and that provided a powerful bond. Sitting there looking out at her and trading stories of our formative experiences aboard was pretty intense. Something like meeting long lost siblings that we never knew we had.

Meeting the Wood family, previous owners of Sundance.

Soon after Cushing, we made a stop in Portsmouth, NH to attend a family wedding. (Congratulations William and Christina!) The wedding venue, The Wentworth Hotel, also has a marina where we tied up. How convenient! The wedding had been delayed for two years by the pandemic and it was great to finally catch up with family that we hadn’t seen in a long while. While in Portsmouth, we rented a car for some provisioning and logistics. Booze, propane, food, we bought it all.

The rental car also kept us from looking like boat-bums at the wedding. We don’t have room aboard for appropriate wedding clothes and shoes. Luckily, dear friends Alex and Josh have agreed to hold a bag of wedding/funeral clothes for us. The idea is that we’ll return from wherever we are, presumably by plane to Logan, go to their place in Boston, bathe, dress in our finery, and then make our way to whatever local wedding or funeral we want to attend. The best part is that in addition to the wedding and the funeral, we also get a built in bonus visit with Alex and Josh! This was our trial run and it went swimmingly. We ended up meeting them at their house in Cape Elizabeth Maine instead of Boston on this occasion, and our bag of clothes was there waiting for us. (Unfortunately, I forgot to put my dress shirt back in that bag. That’s going to be a problem at the next wedding/funeral.)

That car also enabled a day trip to Mt. Monadnock for my annual climb and a visit with my parents and a swim in Dublin Lake. Then the car took us back to Maine to catch up with old Brookline friends and check out their new places, both in Kittery. Next the car became a storage locker. Son, Nate, happened to be passing through Portsmouth and stayed overnight aboard the boat with us. We made a place for him to sleep by moving half our gear out of the forward cabin and into the truck of the rental car.

Somehow, my camera stayed stuck in my pocket during all this time and I have no photos to share.

From Portsmouth, we sailed straight to P-town. I took a ferry from there to Boston to see my friend Anna become a US Citizen in Faneuil Hall. What a cool ceremony. Welcome to America, Anna. (And thank you to old friend Lewis for hosting me in town for this visit.)

After Anna’s big milestone, we had one of our own: Our final transit of the Cape Cod Canal. Along the route from Canada to The Bahamas, I’d say there is no more significant milestone than the Cape Cod Canal. The water and sea and landscape are just so different on either side of that short canal.

Alex in command

Lots of friends welcomed us on the other side of the canal. During our week in Cuttyhunk, Adam and Cindy stopped by. As did Ben & Kat. We saw the smoke from the Mattapoisett Boatyard Fire while on Cuttyhunk and that made for both a figurative and literal dark cloud. The Mattapoisett Boatyard was was home to Sundance for 7 years. (And home to Fearless for many years as well.) Our heart goes out to all of the Mattapoisett Boatyard community.

Ben and Kat on S/Y Balara enjoyed a beach day (or two?) with us on Cuttyhunk. We’re all smiles before the cause of the smoke on the horizon was identified.

In Edgartown, we visited with Nick & Victoria, and then later with Emily & Ryan, all from Alex’s professional past.

E & R’s daughters, Ellie and Sidney, enjoyed rowing lessons, and a boat tour. Of particular interest was the foot pump at the galley sink.

And then on to Naushon

The new American and her family aboard the S/Y Tyee hustled down through the canal after us for a meet up in Kettle Cove
Sailing Red Stripe in Kettle Cove. Photo credit to Anna, the new American
I once wrote a school application essay about the schooner Shenandoah, and I consider her a friend too. She also came to visit in Kettle Cove.

Then Menemsha

Finally, it was the Hogans: Jenny, Jo, Max and Mabel. Jenny delivered twins two years ago and we had yet to meet these children. We tried to see them in Oregon–twice. But both times the pandemic blocked us. In a parallel to the family wedding earlier in the month, the pandemic had caused a two year delay. But also like the wedding, this time, family won. We met in Menemsha.

The Hogans found us in Menemsha and together we made a trip out to Gay Head Light.

June, July and August were the prologue. We slowly visited familiar spots in Southern New England, leaving a track behind us that looks like a rat’s nest. This place and these people are the foundation for the new places and people that will come next. It was important to stop and see as many of them as we could before pointing the bow toward new waters.

Sundance has a bone in her teeth as we blast out of New England.

July in Maine

Merchant Row

Maine is home to many spectacular harbors. Our plan this month was to return to our favorites.


For us, the middle of the coastline including Muscongus Bay, Penobscot Bay, Jericho Bay and MDI are the best of the best. (We also have a few favorite spots along the Bold Coast down by Canada, but in an effort to keep our schedule leisurely, we did not go east of MDI this year.)

We did some hiking in Acadia from our anchorage in Valley Cove, Somes Sound. A dive off the rail was a good way to cool off upon return to the boat.

Somes Sound
Our home at anchor

We foraged for food. Clams in Vinalhaven, Quahogs in Merchant Row, and Blueberries in Acadia.

Bill helps sometimes.

We went on many rowing/paddling excursions. Including an epic 9 mile round trip row from Seal Bay to Northhaven and back via the inland, high tide only route.

I row one boat
And Alex paddles the other one.

Bill sometimes rides in the rowboat, but he has made it clear that he prefers the paddle board.

Sailors often schedule a cruise to Maine for August when the chance of fog is low. This July, coastal Maine was blessed with exceptional weather. Cool nights for sleeping, warm water for swimming and almost no fog. My theory is that fog begets fog. No sun gets through, the water stays cold and fog returns more fog. The opposite corollary also holds. A stretch of sunny days early in the season warms the sea water and that staves off the fog. This is not a proven or researched meteorological theory, just me thinking…

Happy days with a happy dog

MDI was the eastern most point in our cruise. The moment we pulled anchor and sailed west and south from there, was also the start of our long trek towards winter in The Bahamas.

The Islands of Southern New England June Cruise

June sun sparkles on Block Island Sound

After a hectic May spent closing up our land based life and moving aboard the boat, we needed a slower pace in June. The Islands of Southern New England provided the perfect setting for adjusting to boat life.

Kettle Cove, Naushon

Our plan was to revisit some of our favorite spots. Instead of rushing from one to the next, we only moved the boat when the wind was good for sailing. Naushon has always been at the top of our list and we started there.

Tarpaulin Cove

Martha’s Vineyard gave us the opportunity to reunite with family and do a little farm stand shopping with our new bike.

GRAPENUTS the Bike getting the job done

And then it was on to Cuttyhunk where we nearly had the place to ourselves and saw the Strawberry Moon.

Cuttyhunk Pond
Strawberry Moon

We hadn’t planned to go to Block Island, but when an unusual fair weather Northeast wind was forecast, we decided to take advantage of the good sailing that promised and off we went.

Departing Cuttyhunk

Alex caught a fish along the way:

Approaching Block Island

Upon arrival, we enjoyed the traditional mudslide at The Oar. There was also plenty of time for beach walks and cockpit relaxation before the west wind filled in and we sailed back to Massachusetts.

On to Nantucket

Where we enjoyed the tranquility of the Head of The Harbor anchorage

Along with plenty of rowing, hiking and biking.

Eventually we retreated to the mainland. It’s a good place to get rid of trash.

Photo by Cape Cod Canal enthusiast Stan Wasserman

Now we are through the canal and bound for July in Maine.

This Corner of The Boat: Part 1

Nav Station and port qtr storage

The port quarter storage arrangement aboard Sundance is one of the more unusual aspects of the Morris Justine design. It’s also one of my favorite features of the boat. Most 36′ sailboats will be laid out with both a forward and aft stateroom. On Sundance, we have well organized storage spaces in the place the aft stateroom would ordinarily occupy. It’s a tradeoff that suits us well. We have little need for the missing bunk and the copious storage space is much appreciated.


We use the space behind this door as a pantry for food. The lowest space works well as a cool dark root cellar for our potatoes and onions.

18 food storage tubs

The centerpiece in our food storage system on the three shelves in here are these 12-cup plastic food storage tubs. We can fit six per shelf for a total of 18 containers. It’s a bit of a Tetris game to get the one you want, but it works. Enough left over space in there remains for a collection of other smaller jars and boxes.

When we load food aboard, we do our best to decant the food from its packaging into these reusable plastic tubs in an effort to rid ourselves of all food container trash before we depart from the food purchase harbor.

Hanging locker

Once our foul weather gear has dried hanging on the hooks outside the hanging locker, we move it inside for storage until the weather becomes foul again. But this is just the tip of the iceberg for what we store in behind this door.

At the floor of this locker, we keep a cutting board that I use as a mini workbench for boat projects, a crib mattress cover that we use to protect the boat from the boat worker (me) during various boat projects, a portable ice maker, a bag with various anchor gear, and our ditch bag. The autopilot computer is also mounted in back down there.

Ice maker out from storage and in use.

The entire locker is ringed with 2 courses of shelves. On these shelves, we store:

  • Electrical supplies kit parachute bag
  • Spare stainless fasteners parachute bag
  • Epoxy kits: Underwater epoxy, West Six-10 and other misc. fiberglass supplies.
  • Sewing kit
  • Sealants kit: 5200, 4200, 4000, silicone, butyl tape.
  • Lubricants kit: WD-40, Boshield T-9, winch grease, pawl spring oil, Lanocote, Tef-gel, SAE 30 and some crazy glue.
  • Wire ties in a variety of sizes
  • Spare RayMarine electronic cable kit.
  • Spooled wire, mostly 12 AWG
  • Emergency VHF antenna
  • Tape: Shrinkwrap, Duct, Electrical, painters tape
  • Battery powered drill and saw
  • R-134A refrigerant
Contents of sewing kit displayed on nav desk
Battery powered saw and drill
Misc. Electrical connectors and stainless fasteners

The locker below the nav desk was designed for large, rolled paper charts. We tend to work more with chart books and folded charts that we mostly stow elsewhere on the boat. We do also stow a few charts in this locker, but mostly this locker works well for us as a place to keep engine spares: Fuel filters, oil filters, belts, impellers, water pump rebuild kit, replacement water pump. The engine is brand new, but we’ll likely add a few other items to this spare kit before we get too far away from home.

Engine spares and a few charts
Tool drawer

For the first few years with the boat, we stowed tools in the space we now use as a pantry. To free up this space for food storage, I built a large tool storage drawer that opens up across the entire 40” wide nav desk. When closed it fits into little used space in the top of the hanging locker.

This project was probably the last time I’ll get to use my blind dovetail jig for a while.
The space was already equipped with a smaller tool drawer

Other tools are stowed in other corners of the boat, but these are the ones I need most frequently and its great to have them at standing height in good light to help easily find the tool I want.

Small storage spot under the floorboard

Under the floorboard in this corner of the cabin, we keep spare zincs, Maxprop grease, a spare cutlass bearing and wooded plugs.

All this storage is one of three benefits from not dedicating this corner of the boat to a quarter berth. A second is the larger than usual nav station where I now sit. The third is an abundance of storage in cockpit lockers, but that’s another story for another time…

And We’re Off!

The Countdown is Over.

We have cast off…or been cast off??  It’s true, it’s real, the house is sold, the cars are gone, the furniture is stored, goodbyes have been said.  We now live aboard S/V Sundance, full time, all the time, on the water.  Holy crap.

First, a profound thank you to all of our friends and family who came out to cast us off – and to all of you who entertained us in the last couple of months on land.   The process of packing up our lives had its hectic and frantic moments (U Haul to Brooklyn anyone??!!).  But what abides for me is gratitude, and joy.  We saw friends from church, from work, from the neighborhood, from the old neighborhoods.  We ate and drank and laughed.  We hugged all the people we love.  We had time with the kids (the very, very grown up kids) and watched Heidi graduate from college, replete with honors.  

Maybe it’s because we’ve all been so isolated during COVID, or maybe just because it’s the part of human life I like the best, but these last few months of attending to our relationships, to our community, have been…spectacular.  We know so many good and kind people.  How lucky we are to have been reminded of that. And to discover a new version of it on the water.  On our second night out we celebrated a birthday with old friends.  The night after that new friends were found on the next mooring over.  Thank you Mike & Pearl for the coffee and lemon meringue pie.  

Photo Credit to Cindy Klipfel

This post, as some of you have helpfully noted, is a bit late given that we cast off a week ago.  I’ve learned that sunshine is an impediment to sitting down in front of the computer.  See also: rum drinks.  This is slightly problematic given that we plan to keep moving south (and we’re so thirsty!)  AND.  I am resolved to be more disciplined in the future.   My brother gave me a book of Joan Didion’s essays (thank you Justin) so I am studying the form.  Now I have a rainy morning.  While I roast some beets and Chris takes care of thank you notes, a blog post can be born.

Onward.  Deep thanks from us to you.

Video credit to Lewis Wheeler

Cooking With Gas

We consume one propane bottle (6 lb) about every three weeks when cruising full-time. After six weeks, we’re down to our last bottle and looking for propane. We recently did a few things to extend our range:

1. Two more bottles.

Now we can go 12 weeks before we’re down to our last bottle. I built the racks out of Starboard. Using a router table, I cut bowling alley gutters so the boards nestle into the pushpin for snug lashing. David at Fabric Works in Waltham, MA did a great job of sewing Sunbrella covers for them.

2. An electric kettle.

I figure about half of our propane consumption goes to making our morning coffee. We run the kettle off our 300-amp-hour lithium house battery bank. Our 3000 watt inverter converts the power from DC to AC for the kettle. Boiling the water draws about 3% of the power out of the house bank. With good sun, we can replace that power with our 600 watt solar array in less than 20 min. By the time we’ve finished our coffee, the battery bank is back to where it where it was when we started boiling the water. With the electric kettle we should be able to significantly reduce our propane consumption. Many sailors are going over to an all electric galley. I can see the attraction, but for now, I think we’ll stick with a hybrid approach.

3. Grapenuts.

Just this week, we were unexpectedly gifted a folding bike named Grapenuts. Now when we go for propane, we’ll have wheels.

We sleep amidships so the V-berth on Sundance is primarily used for storage. When folded, the bike takes on a triangular shape and fits perfectly in the forepeak. The storage bag keeps the boat clean. It’s an amazing bike.

More on this machine, and it’s name, later…