Browsed by
Month: April 2017

Embracing the Unexpected (Or How Our Fridge Broke on a Remote Island in the Bahamas)

Embracing the Unexpected (Or How Our Fridge Broke on a Remote Island in the Bahamas)

Sunset near Great Harbor Cay

Bimini would soon be behind us as we set off for our longest day passage yet- 83 miles that took 12 hours of motor sailing. We were ready to discover a more unknown side of the Bahamas, the Berry Islands. They are less traveled and underestimated as a cruising ground, but worth the stunning views.

The first evening, daylight was slowly fading and we didn’t have enough sun to make our way into the anchorage, so we anchored just off the island as the sun was setting. There was nothing but ocean behind us and gorgeous clear waters beneath us. It was probably the most magnificent sunset we’ve seen, and I’m not sure any other will top it.

sunset on the ocean

Our first couple of days on the Berry Islands were a whirlwind of activity. We met a another family through s/v Totem and we tagged along as they showed us the island. We dinghied through dense mangrove canals, sometimes just wide enough (barely!) for one dinghy. We went through a broad, clear turquoise lagoon where sea turtles swam around and under our boat. We walked along beaches, saw waves crash over rocks and found some beautiful shells. It was quite the introduction to the island, and we have s/v Mahi to thank for that!

Mangroves! photo courtesy of Behan on s/v Totem

The next day, Mike and the girls followed along with s/v Totem and s/v Mahi as they explored the island by car, while I stayed on the boat with Haven. They visited a shallow beach cave, gorgeous beach flats and found some beautiful marine life.

when the tide is out, the beach is dry and beautifully pattered by waves
photo courtesy of Behan on s/v Totem
photo courtesy of Behan on s/v Totem

The island is fairly remote. In 2010, the population of the islands was about 800 people. The town near Great Harbor Cay (“Cay” is pronounced “key”) is small. There is no bank, only two small grocery stores (about the size of a gas station mart back home), plus a couple of small restaurants and a marina which brings a lot of boats to the area.

visiting the first local grocery store with Carla from s/v Mahi and Behan from s/v Totem
the second store

I bought a bag of fresh fruits there and felt content that we still had more than we needed. After all, we had a fridge stocked with butter, plenty of cheese, some sausage, vegetables and a freezer that kept things even colder for longer. Plus we had lockers packed with canned foods, grains of all kinds, desserts and snacks.

After a few days at Great Harbor Cay, we traveled around to Hawk’s Nest Cay to be closer to our destination of Eleuthera when we were ready to cross. We met another boat family and decided to hang out on the gorgeous, pristine beaches for a few extra days. There was no marina there, just nearby a little restaurant on the other side of the beach. And that is where our fridge catastrophically broke.

a rough passage to Hawk’s Nest Cay
the waters at Hawk’s Nest Cay were breathtaking

It had been showing signs of malfunction back in Florida, and Mike, being the handy man that he is, had been tinkering with it since then, trying to get it to begin functioning normally again. It was cycling too often and not maintaining a cold temperature, but eventually, it would always get cold again. It was a minor annoyance until we were anchored in a beautiful, but remote part of the Berry Islands. There, its temperature skyrocketed and it was officially done being a fridge.

We quickly gave the bulk of our cheese (one huge block, one huge bag of shredded, and a few blocks of cream cheese) to our friends traveling with us. We kept a little cheese that we knew we could eat. We started eating through the 2 dozen eggs we had left and decided to keep the butter, even though we still had a ton. It seemed like the old saying “Cruising is just boat maintenance in exotic locations” was absolutely true, but the fridge finally dying meant that there was one less thing we had to figure out how to fix with only the supplies we had on board. Truthfully, we were relieved!

From our experience so far, embracing the unexpected is an integral part of happy cruising. But that doesn’t mean it is always easy. Being flexible, changing plans, embracing set backs is all part of this life. It’s a part of every life, but traveling on a boat, it’s a much more daily, in our face reality. One that we are choosing to accept.

Many cruising boats do not have fridges and they get along just fine without it. Now we are experimenting to see if we can do without one too. Bonus for us: we get to keep way more power now that we don’t have a fridge! The fridge and freezer used a lot of power that we made from our solar panels and wind generator. Now we can use that extra power to keep lights and fans on a little longer, and even use the TV that came with the boat!

our favorite recipe that doesn’t need a fridge: energy balls made with peanut butter, oats, and dates

We are buying ice and keeping a few items in the section that used to be our freezer. For now this works for us: keeping a few eggs, a little cheese and butter from melting is all we really need. We mostly cook up pasta, hearty vegetables, rice and beans, potatoes, breads, Mexican dishes using flour or corn tortillas, canned fruit or some fresh fruit and soups with biscuits or sandwiches. Meat is a treat now. When our ice is cold, we may buy meat for one night or eat it when we are out at a restaurant. We certainly appreciate certain foods more now than before!

Haven loves the beach too

We have since moved on to a different island in the Bahamas called Eluethera and are continuing to face challenges and joys. With cruising, there are always opportunities to practice embracing the unexpected!



Cost of Cruising: Our March 2017 Budget

Cost of Cruising: Our March 2017 Budget

Photo courtesy of our friends on SailingTotem

This month’s budget recap is brought to you by… Michael! (Brittany usually writes it). Let me know if you think it’s entertaining/funny/awesome.

And to compliment it, I’ve made up this fancy chart breaking down our expenses by category. Cool, right? We really enjoyed our $1,500 month, and the key to that is setting a budget beforehand. So we made a new budget tracker in Excel and we set our budget at $3,284.14 (the odd number is because of some fixed expenses such as web hosting, most of the categories are just educated guesses).

Boat repair / misc – $1,289. The windlass (the electric motor that pulls up the anchor) was functioning, but we wanted to have it checked out. This is a critical piece of equipment that seems to get ignored until it breaks most of the time. We took the motor to an alternator shop and it only cost about $120 to have it looked over. The heat exchanger had a few leaks and needed to be rebuilt ($230). New hoses for the engine ($158). The mixing elbow for the exhaust had a leak and we had a new one made ($190). That, plus some spare anodes, fluids, filters and a few tools.

The salt stains are from a leak.
This had a very small leak, but it was dripping right onto the engine mount.
Marlee helping out with the windlass removal.

Dockage – $370. Because of the engine and windlass repairs, we didn’t feel comfortable at anchor. If we dragged or for some reason needed to move, we would be completely disabled. So we took a ridiculously expensive mooring in Fort Lauderdale. Seriously, never go to Las Olas Marina. Ever. Overpriced and run down. 8 nights at $40 a night. Also, unlike Vero Beach, there isn’t really anywhere convenient to land your dinghy for free. We had our choice of Las Olas marina who charges $20, or Southport Raw Bar who charges $10 (but will credit that to your food bill, if you eat there). Southport is where we went most of the time, $50.

Flying her kite in the mooring field.

Groceries, $1165.83. We went way over budget on groceries, namely because of a friend of ours who was in the Bahamas already warned us, buy everything you can in the States! So we did. This killed the budget for this month, but hopefully will repay us as we travel along. As we have found so far groceries seem to be about twice as expensive in the Bahamas.

Fuel – $286.11. With gas and diesel at over $4/gallon in the Bahamas, we topped up as much as we could in Florida. We filled the tank to full and all of our jerry cans as well.

Our sophisticated “dipstick” method for checking the fuel level.

Travel – $320.83. This category includes clearance into the Bahamas ($300) and a few Uber trips in Ft Lauderdale.

And of course there are those recurring expenses, web hosting (12.74). Phone which usually comes in around $80 with T-Mobile. We weren’t planning on buying a BTC phone card in the Bahamas, since our T-Mobile service claimed it would work here. Well it works, but is deathly slow so we bought a high speed data card from BTC for those times we just can’t wait. $49. However we’ve even found BTC’s service to be spotty.