St. Kitts: Wreck Diving

While anchored in White House Bay, we dove this awesome wreck in shallow water. See for yourself!

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Would you go explore an underwater wreck? Leave us a comment!

Tiny House Blog: Adjusting To Simplicity

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Check out my latest post on Tiny House Blog!

Click <HERE> to read about Adjusting To Simplicity and how Peter and I got acquainted with our new tiny home one whole year ago!

In what ways have you adjusted to simplicity? Leave a comment and share your inspiration!

St. Kitts: White House Bay and Salt Plage

Back in July we were glad to get away from Basseterre where the local ferry remained at anchor. We cruised down the St. Kitts coastline toward White House Bay. Interesting architecture scattered the lush and green hillsides. A thick layer of fog blanketed the mountain tops.

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Nestled into White House Bay is the newly built bar and grill, Salt Plage. We took a ride in with our friends Dustin and Courtney on Captiva for some small bites and tied up at the gorgeous dinghy dock.

The service was exceptional, the food was delicious and the surroundings idyllic. This new beach bar is just a preview of the ultra-exclusive Christophe Harbour currently under development on this part of the Island.

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What a relief we felt to finally be back in a calm and quiet anchorage!!

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Tiny House Blog: Helpful Tips For Downsizing (PART 3)

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The third and final part to my Helpful Tips For Downsizing series has just published on Tiny House Blog!

If you or anyone you know could use a little hope and inspiration for beginning the process of downsizing or organizing, please take a moment to consider the tips and tools I’ve described in Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. (Click each link for the individual posts).

If you missed the announcement on how I became part of the Tiny House community, click <HERE>!

Did you find this article helpful? Please share it with anyone you know that might need a little help getting organized.

If you’re still stuck, send me a message and I’ll be glad to help you ‘sort it out’ 🙂

How We Almost Lost The Boat In St.Kitts

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As the sun was setting, we pulled in to the anchorage at Basseterre. It was a commercial and unprotected bay, yet the regulations in St. Kitts left us no choice but to anchor here for the night and check in to Customs the next morning. Other cruisers had warned of skipping this stop where, if caught anchored in the more desirable locations to the South without checking in first, the fine are astronomical.

The entrance to Port Zante Marina was right in front of us, but daylight was quickly fading. We had tried hailing the marina on the radio from 4:45 pm all the way up until our arrival at 6pm with no reply. (We later found out the marina staff had decided to leave work at 3pm that day. How convenient.) Without being able to see the approach and availability of slips, we decided to not enter the narrow channel and instead anchor just outside in 20′ of water. Only one other boat was in the harbor; a 226 passenger ferry named Caribe Surf, anchored maybe 200′ away. We dropped the hook, made sure our anchor was set, and went to sleep after a rough passage from Statia.

Monday Morning 6.30.14, 6:15 AM

Peter had been awake all night worried about our anchor holding. He had finally fallen asleep around 5am. I awoke a little after 6:00 to the sound of Windy (our wind generator) cranking faster than we’ve ever heard before. With a quick peek outside, it was apparent that we were smack in the middle of a squall. Winds were gusting at 45+ knots and we were surrounded by a wall of white.

I woke Peter up immediately and within seconds he flew up the companionway ladder into the cockpit. Still in bed I called out, “is everything okay?”

“NO!” he shouted back.

“Are we dragging??”

“NO!”

I was a nervous wreck as I climbed outside as fast as I could. Rain started pouring in from every direction. I looked around. We had left the mizzen sail up overnight for stability so we were a bit concerned that the sail might blow out in the squall, but I quickly saw we had bigger problems.

Big is an understatement. The 90′ ferry was coming right for us, backwards.

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It just didn’t make sense. Why was it getting closer and closer? Just then we realized, “there’s nobody on that boat and it’s dragging!” The crew had left it anchored overnight with no one on watch. Surely no one was expecting a squall to blow through.

The big blue power-cat was swinging like a pendulum in the wind as it grew closer and closer to our bow. Back and forth it swung on an arch, with each gust getting dangerously closer to us.

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We knew we needed to get the sail down, but didn’t have enough time. From where I was standing it looked as if the ferry had already bumped us, though I hadn’t felt the massive aluminum hull bump us yet.

Our Delta style anchor was holding perfectly but Caribe Surf was about to either hit us like a freight train, or catch our chain and drag us to shore. Luckily it was a catamaran and swung just above our rode, avoiding a nasty tangle.

Peter was on the bow trying to hold on to the lifelines as we bounced up and down from the waves. He let go of the snubber after wrapping the main rode around the cleat. His original plan was to let out 50% more rode but just as the last of the rode burned his hands as it slid through his fingers, the ferry was within four feet of our bow. It wasn’t helping.

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My whole body was shaking at this point. Both fear and the chill of the piercing rain and wicked wind set me into an unstoppable tremble. Within a matter of seconds I turned the engine on and I yelled out, “Cut the anchor loose!!!!! HURRY!!

It seemed like the wrong thing to do at the time, but Peter knew we had no choice but to let the anchor go.

I scrambled to get the chartplotter, radar and instruments turned on. As soon as he confirmed we were free from the anchor, I hit reverse as hard as it would go. Everything was happening in slow motion. Rain had soaked our entire cockpit but that was the least of our concerns. Suddenly, we started pulling away from the ferry and just as it swung left, I gunned it forward right at 2,000 rpms. At that moment, I was more grateful than I had ever been for our 34 year old 80-horsepower tractor engine.

Still trembling, I motored out to sea away from that horrid ferry.

Peter quickly ran from the bow to the stern to drop the sail after we were out of immediate danger. The squall was still blowing 30+ with zero visibility. He singlehandedly dropped the sail as fast as he could, tying it to the boom in a big heap. Next, he pulled the brake on the wind generator, locking it down. We both looked back to see that the ferry had already run aground on the rocky shore. Whew! That was a close one.

We’re so grateful it happened in daylight. Even though the wall of rain reduced our visibility dramatically, we were still able to see the cruise ship pilings which matched up perfectly with the charts.

Entering a new anchorage, it’s always difficult to know which way gusts will come from and which way a boat might drag. As was the case in St. Kitts, this ferry was on top of us within seconds even though we thought we had picked a good spot to anchor.

After we were motoring out to sea I dug out the lifejackets. We were headed into larger seas and there was no telling when the storm would blow over. Eventually the winds subsided to a manageable 15 knots.

While we were motoring back and forth across the harbor, we saw a small orange tender arrive at Caribe Surf an hour later where they were grounded near shore. We motored closer to them as they prepared to reset a second anchor and we yelled off the bow for the Captain to turn the radio on.

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Peter tried a few channels before finding one without traffic and spoke to the Captain.

“Good Morning, this is Caribe Surf. How can I help you today Sir?” He had such a cheery voice, despite the unfortunate chain of events that had just taken place.

Peter wearily explained how their boat had just drug into us during the squall and that we had lost our anchor, leaving no way to secure our vessel. He calmly and kindly told us to pull up to his stern and toss them a line while we wait for his diver. “He can retrieve your anchor.” It was like de-ja-vu pulling up to their stern in the wind. Peter was on the bow while I was at the helm. The damn thing nearly hit us, and here we were getting back into the very position we tried so hard to get away from! A little PTSD ya think?

It turns out that Caribe Surf busted a fluke on their anchor during the squall, causing them to drag with half an anchor still buried. The crew laughed, “That was a nasty squall, wasn’t it?”

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After what seemed like an eternity in the early morning hours, the diver finally arrived. Peter went with him bringing our iPhone to show him where our anchor was on the Garmin app. The crew on Caribe Surf had gone back to shore and I was on Mary Christine alone with the dogs watching intently as the two men searched for the anchor.

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As luck would have it, the light winds turned fluky and Mary Christine gained slack on the line connecting us to Caribe Surf. I was drifting too close for comfort and even began to face opposite ways. I shouted across the harbor as loud as I could to signal Peter that I was in trouble. I quickly turned the engine on and began to reverse away from a second possible collision with this ghost ship. Of course our full keel and undersized rudder makes it near impossible to reverse in the direction I want to go, but I managed to get far enough away until Peter and the diver could release us from the ferry.

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We hailed the marina again letting them know we were coming in to tie up and the diver promised to deliver the anchor to us at the marina.

After a few attempts to tie stern-to with our boat that doesn’t like to reverse, we eventually got the boat secured. Shortly after, the diver brought our anchor over as promised and helped Peter feed the chain back into our anchor locker. He didn’t locate the snubber but at least we got the anchor back free of charge!

We got a great deal at the marina and spent about a week recovering mentally from that ordeal.

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“My worst fear was having to cut the anchor loose in a squall,” Peter admitted. Back in the Bahamas we met some young guys on Humdinger that had to cut their anchor loose in an squall and their engine couldn’t overpower the current and wind. They ended up on the rocks totaling their boat and crushing their cruising dreams that had only just begun. Ever since we heard their story, it became Peter’s biggest fear. I still can’t believe it actually came true.

If only the marina staff had not gone home early… If we had just gone into the marina and found a place to tie up… But we’re safe now.

What’s your scariest moment at sea??

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Tiny House Blog: Helpful Tips For Downsizing (PART 2)

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Are you ready for Part 2?

Click through to my article on Tiny House Blog to learn some helpful tips on how to make a decision about what to keep and what to get rid of.

You can find Part 1 <HERE> on Tiny House Blog.

If you missed the announcement on how I became part of the Tiny House community, click <HERE>!

The third and final segment of this series will give you some new ideas on what to actually do with everything… from displays to donations to storage. Stay tuned!

Did you find this article helpful? Please share it with anyone you know that might need a little help getting organized!

If you’re still stuck, send me a message and I’ll be glad to help you sort it out 🙂

Quick Haul Out Checklist

untitledHauling out SV Winterlude from www.CommuterCruiser.com

Mary Christine is scheduled for haul out tomorrow morning for some fresh paint and a few minor repairs to be made over the next few days before we begin heading North, up island.

Before we go, we wanted to make sure we are totally prepared. We knew our good friends at Commuter Cruiser would have JUST WHAT WE NEEDED! Jan and David have put together a very helpful checklist of all the things we need to remember to do BEFORE, DURING and AFTER our time on the hard. The process may seem like a no-brainer for some, but Peter and I both found some very helpful things in this article that we wouldn’t have thought of otherwise during our first time hauling out.

With many of our cruiser friends also getting hauled out this time of year, we urge you to take a peek at the wisdom Commuter Cruiser has shared.

Check out www.commutercruiser.com for a TON of helpful how-to articles!

Tiny House Blog: Helpful Tips For Downsizing (PART 1)

Do you get overwhelmed with clutter? Does it stress you out to open your closets? Can you find what you’re looking for in your home? Are you getting ready to move to a smaller space?collect memories

I’ve put together some helpful tips on HOW to actually begin the process of downsizing. For those of you that have already moved onto a boat or into a smaller home, you know this is no easy feat. For those of you that are dreaming of your new boat or preparing to move into a smaller space, I hope these simple tips will help make the process a little less daunting. They are also good things for anyone to practice to stay clutter free, downsizing or not!

You can find these tips <HERE> on Tiny House Blog.

If you missed the announcement on how I became part of the Tiny House community, click <HERE>!

Part 2 comes out in a few days with tips on HOW TO DECIDE what to keep and what to get rid of.

Did you find this article helpful? Please share it with anyone you know that might need a little help getting organized!

If you’re still stuck, send me a message and I’ll be glad to help you sort it out 🙂

Best Sailing Destination in the Caribbean

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The holidays are coming… Snowbirds fly south and families start booking vacations. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go? Would it be to one of these Exotic Sailing Destinations or maybe somewhere a bit closer to home?

Because we live on a boat, the question for us then becomes “What is our #1 favorite sailing destination?” There are literally THOUSANDS of islands in the Caribbean. While we have only visited a few of them so far, one group of islands sticks out in our minds as being somewhere we would go back to over and over again. Any ideas?

You guessed it… The British Virgin Islands!

Here are our top 10 reasons why the BVIs are our all-around favorite sailing destination:

1. Diving – The environment here meets all the requirements of what we like to call the 80-80-80 Rule, which makes for some incredible snorkeling and scuba diving.

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2. Beaches – All of the islands have their own unique and picturesque beaches. White sand, crystal clear water and palm trees frame the shorelines turning every anchorage into the picture perfect backdrop for taking magazine quality photos.

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3. Sailing Conditions – The islands are scattered perfectly in such a way where the prevailing East winds will allow a beam reach on a short day-sail to a different island every day. This is a great place to learn how to sail or just brush up on your skills. A sailing playground if you will; many will consider this the Charter capital of the world. Choose from an easy mooring ball, or a quiet anchorage away from the commotion.

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4. Fishing – The North Drop and the South Drop are the two best fishing locations where you’ll find billfish, tuna, shark, wahoo, mahi mahi and most other pelagic game fish. Inshore, you can catch bonefish, tarpon, jacks and snapper.

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5. Surfing – World class point breaks can be found in Cane Garden Bay and Apple Bay, but are usually only breaking in Winter months during a rare North swell.

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6. Transportation and Accommodations – The BVI Tourism Authority has made this destination easy and affordable to enjoy. There are tons of cabanas, houses, resorts and even private islands for rent. Ferries operate daily to carry visitors and locals between the major islands. Even airlines offer specials flying to and from the Virgin Islands. It’s a quick hop back over to US territory if any emergencies arise.

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7. Tourist Attractions – There are a dozen world renown attractions in these islands. Take a trip to The Baths on Virgin Gorda, The Bubbly Pool on Jost Van Dyke, RMS Rhone Shipwreck near Salt Island or The Caves at Norman Island.

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8. Beach Bars – Experience one of the infamous Full Moon Parties at Bomba’s Shack at Apple Bay, sip on some Foxy’s Firewater Rum, kick back with Ivan, or swim up to The Soggy Dollar Bar to try out the original Painkiller.

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9. Sunsets – The most spectacular colors will fill the sky at sunset each evening.

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10. It’s the Caribbean, mon! – When we arrived in the BVIs, it was the first time we felt the laid-back tropical vibe we had been waiting for. We set our clocks for Island Time and the rest is history!

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What’s your favorite travel destination?

The OH-MY-GOD-A (Anegada) Passage

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6.26.14 – Sailing away from Virgin Gorda was a bittersweet moment. The islands we called home for an entire month slowly disappeared into a fuzzy haze on the horizon. The Saharan Dust layer was keeping the storms at bay as we set out for what seemed to be a beautiful day at sea.

Our new friends on Four Coconuts were 3 nautical miles behind us. We kept in radio contact checking in with each other every few hours, though most of the time we were out of sight. Just a few miles off shore, a dreadful feeling of uneasiness began to form in the pit of our stomachs. The waves got bigger and the fetch got shorter. We immediately recalled our first encounter with the Caribbean 2-step back along the Southern shores of Puerto Rico. We knew it would only get worse before it got better.

On a course 40-degrees Southwest to Saba we entered what is notoriously called the “OH-MY-GOD-A” (Anegada) Passage. It’s a straight in the Caribbean with some depths reaching more than 6,000 feet. Crazy currents flow through from the Atlantic as they feed into the Caribbean Sea and it’s not uncommon for waves to be slamming against the hull from three different directions.

“It felt as if we were riding a mechanical bull in a big blue pen”

It felt as if we were riding a mechanical bull in a big blue pen, slowly rocking forward followed by a quick jerk to the side in a wicked attempt to throw us from every spot we sat in. Around and around and up and down. The engine rumbled as the bull bucked on. This was the first time I had ever really felt seasick, even with medication. Seas were only 3-5′ but very disorganized.

The sails were tight to the wind, 18 knots off our port bow. Spending the last month in the BVIs definitely softened us a bit after playing in the sun and taking easy hour long sails between the islands, dinghy in tow and snorkel gear in hand.

5 foot seas aren’t even considered rough weather. Theyre just uncomfortable – especially on a 24 hour beat to Windward. Our rough passages from the Bahamas South, across the Thorny Path to Windward and the Puerto Rico pummeling all seemed so long ago. In reality it had only been 5 months since we left the dock in Florida starting out on this journey with absolutely zero sailing experience at all.

Heeled over and bucking back and forth, we calmly remember how green Peter and I are and how much more this boat can take than us. She’s a strong vessel built to cross oceans. By that point we wouldn’t have been able to remember that if we had taped it to eachother’s foreheads.

It was a terrible 30 hour long passage. We tacked up over the shoals near Saba labeled “TO BE AVOIDED” then crossed back down to the leeward side of the massive rock. Four Coconuts tried to warn us of the nasty wind gusts shearing off the island, but we couldn’t make out what they were saying on the radio. Suddenly, a blast of 35 knots hit us under full sail. Nothing like a burst of adrenaline…

Just after passing Saba, Peter insisted on putting the fishing lines out. “REALLY?” I grumbled. We were both exhausted and darkness was fast approaching. Our destination of a hopefully calm anchorage in Sint Eustatius (or Statia) was still 15 nm away. Any delays with fishing would surely put us there after dark.

Not 20 minutes later, ZINNNNNNNNNNNNNGGGGGGGGGGG!!! Peter hooked his first billfish!! A beautiful sailfish appeared on the surface as he fought the line. I quickly began to slow down the boat, check the charts, set the autopilot and grab the camera. It was a quick fight. As he reached down and grabbed the leader line to release it, the sailfish shook off before I could snap any more photos. Enough excitement for one day, we thought.

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Still getting beat up by the Caribbean 2-step, we tacked all the way to Statia. Motorsailing as best we could, it still wasn’t enough to get us there before dark. 10 pm we finally neared Gallows Bai. Our radar screen warned us of the mooring field full of tankers. Their lights were deceiving and it helped to have a visual on each of them using AIS and radar.

Little did we know, there were dozens of steel oil drums floating amidst the tankers, invisible in the dark. These are mammoth sized mooring balls for the big ships and they float at water level, undetectable by radar. Even at 5 knots, it would be like hitting a shipping container if we accidentally ran into one. After safely making our way past the tankers we approached a small little anchorage toward the far end of town. We used our spotlight and weaved between some sleeping sailboats as we searched for an open mooring ball and picked one up on the first try.

Happy to be tied up, we had to accept the fact that our 30-hour passage wasn’t over. The anchorage was terribly rolly and just as uncomfortable as the passage itself. NOT what you want to experience after trying to hold your cookies in for hours on end. The dogs were happy to have a potty break and eat dinner. Peter and I managed to wolf down some cheese  and crackers before going to bed. We left the mizzen sail up for stability, which helped dramatically. Saba would have been more exposed to the ocean swell so even though our conditions were less than desireable, they could have been much worse.

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We spent Friday night and Saturday night on a ball and did not drop the dinghy to go to shore. We flew the Q flag and took our chances. Supposedly, moorings are $10/night on the honor system. You go pay on shore. Maybe it was because of the weekend, but no one came out to greet us so we didn’t pay. We were too tired to launch the dinghy when we didn’t plan on staying here more than a day.

Four Coconuts was feeling much more ambitious than us and took their kids on a hike to the top of the crater. Their boat is the catamaran with red sail covers in the photo, just to the left of us.

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Though we didn’t go exploring on land, we did get a glimpse of the historic beauty on this quaint little island.

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To the right of the old war cannons is a dead palm tree. Is it just me… or does it look like a native tribe member standing up on the wall???

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Our first sighting of island goats…

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How amazingly peaceful would it be to live here??

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We’re currently catching up on projects and waiting out the rest of Hurricane Season down in Grenada.

Stay tuned to read about our scariest moment yet!!