Updated on June 13, 2017
One year cruisaversary!
It’s been a whole year!! We moved on to our boat June 11, 2016; and here we are, one year later, hanging out in Panama. Our boat feels like home. We’ve lost our feeling of being imposters to the cruising life.
When experienced cruisers ask us if this life was what we thought it would be, I think they expect us to start in on tales of woe about clogged heads and engine trouble, dragged anchors and unexpected storms. We have some tales to tell, but really, this trip has been pretty much what we expected. The low moments are excruciating; but the highlights are astonishing. Throughout the year, as a family, we grow more competent, confident and flexible. It’s an accomplishment in itself to spend every day of your life learning new things; we can feel the neurons firing up and making new connections, even for objectives as mundane as finding a quart of milk in a new town. Whenever our kids head out to find a bathroom by using their Spanish, it feels like a victory.
In an attempt to organize a bunch of info, we’re reduced to a list:
Best free book score: American Gods, in Titusville
Best low-tech gear: TIE between the solar oven and the Windscoop, both of which really came into their own in Guna Yala. Honorable mention: deck of cards.
Smelliest part of boat life: you’d think it’d be the scrappy, infrequent showers, right? You would be so, so wrong. It’s a terrible toss-up between the odor of the holding tank vent being clogged—which shoots air from the holding tank in to the saloon—and the smell from the salt-water spigot in the galley when something has crawled up the hose and died. So gross.
Best boat upgrade: I was going to say the anchoring system, which has kept us safe and secure night after night; but then I remembered that stretch of time when the foot switches didn’t work, and how they’re corroding in general, and how we still haven’t installed the control switch at the helm. The anchoring system is still awesome and dear to my heart, but—hello, lithium batteries/solar combo, with backup super-alternator. We have never uttered the phrase, “Please charge that later; we are low on power.” We are charged to 100% capacity almost every single day. This is unheard of for most boats. Corollary: the refrigeration upgrade, which saves us boatloads of power in itself (even if things do occasionally end up frozen).
Favorite anchorage: Warderick Wells? Turnbull Island? Coco Bandero? Bahia Sangua de Tanamo? Impossible question. Stop it.
Biggest waste of money: wifi booster antenna.
Poorest tactical choice: the dinghy ride from our boat to Sapphire’s family rental near Georgetown. Why didn’t we take the shorter dinghy ride and take a cab? It was way too rough out there! Not to mention the terrible surf landing, iPad destruction, and minor concussion on my part. Lesson learned. Our passage from Club Island to Tobermory was no great shakes, either.
Most terrible week: look, there were a lot of intense weeks with extreme highs and lows (that first one comes to mind), but I think the worst was when we were pinned down on Long Island, Bahamas, waiting to head south. Really challenging shore access, no good way to get to our friends—just a few miles away!—crazy rolliness, very little sleep.
Worst seasickness victim: I know you’re expecting T, but actually Michu takes this prize. Passage from Fort Pierce, FL, to West End, Bahamas; changing an impeller upside-down in the engine room in rough seas. Possible negative influence from the Bonine, which he hasn’t tried since. It was ugly.
Best piece of clothing award: Swear to god, I don’t worry too much about what I look like out here, but you might want to hear this. I have a pair of Patagonia board shorts that I bought maybe 16 years ago that never fit. I didn’t get rid of them, because they are super-nice Patagonia board shorts, and maybe someday the stars would align and they would magically look good on me…and then I thought, they’ll fit F by the time we’re done with this trip, might as well bring them. Well. They fit. They are bomb-proof, quick-dry, and awesome-looking, and make me feel like I am 20 years old. In a very different category, I’m quite fond of my foul-weather bibs that let me drop the seat without getting totally undressed.
Best thing we brought that we were told we wouldn’t need: 300 feet of high-test chain. When we need it, we need it.
Things we brought that we have since realized were slightly idiotic: nice shoes (since sent home with my brother); PAWS Easter-egg dying kit (all the eggs in Panama are brown!); Bowditch’s Navigation Guide, coming soon to a free book shelf near you; the three-tiered copper hanging basket that would wing all over the place when we were underway
Best homeschooling success: math.We love the books the kids are using, and we’ve managed to be very consistent in studying.
Worst homeschooling failure: music. It was a big financial investment to bring instruments along with us, and man, does the cello take up space; but the kids aren’t playing enough to make it work, and Michu and I are terrible music teachers. Although F was rockin’ it last night with the open mic guys…
Ugliest boat-administered haircut: It’s fine, you guys. I like the asymmetrical look. I know it was windy when you were cutting it. Thanks for trying, honey.
Best home-cooked meal: those first lobsters in the Berry Islands of the Bahamas. Talk about knowing you’ve arrived…
Best restaurant meal: the all-you-can-eat sushi in Great Bridge, at the entrance to the ICW. Sounds like it would be terrible, but every thing was made to order and amazing.
Worst meal: I think the reheated, formerly frozen sesame noodles on the fourth day of our passage from Jamaica to Panama. No one even pretended to eat them. Food for the fishes.
Best Ice Cream: Peace Pies in Charleston. It was one of those things where there were lots of other options, and they were kind of expensive, and we almost went somewhere else…but it was AMAZING
Worst boat injury (since cruising): T’s foot, on the very first night on the boat. It was a brutal cut, and took forever to heal.
Best fantasy inventions to improve cruising life: bug zapper that kills all biting insects in a 20-mile radius. Cabinet that constantly delivers fresh, hot pizza whenever you open it, or ice cream, or chai tea. Toilet seat that doesn’t twist at the hinges and break when being jolted around (Brynn, we expect to see some progress on this one).
Best Public Library: Cleveland. Shakespeare First Folio–and amazing graphic novel section!
Best snorkeling: we all have different answers for this one. The Aquarium off Bell Island in the Bahamas may have had the most dense fish population; Thunderball Grotto was amazing to swim into; the best corals were off Sirichidup. Impossible question. Next.
Favorite marina: you’d think it’d be some place with amazing pools and pristine showers and a great restaurant. Our favorite marina had none of those things: the guys at Homer Smith in Beaufort, NC, were fantastic.
Worst Marina of All Time: Southwind Marine, in Milwaukee, where we started. Remember how they wrecked our brand-new bow roller? And how our neighbor witnessed the whole thing? They never compensated us. Jerks.
Best place we went that we were told we couldn’t go: You guys, we’ve been told we couldn’t go to so many places with this boat. The Bahamas, with our draft; Guna Yala with no watermaker; the Rio Chagres, again with the draft. They were all amazing. Do your own research, and don’t listen to the naysayers.