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Why We Stopped Cruising (And Why We Can’t Wait to Cruise Again)

Why We Stopped Cruising (And Why We Can’t Wait to Cruise Again)

I remember the moment I started feeling really weary. We had spent some time in the more isolated and beautiful Berry Islands, Bahamas and were pulling up anchor to travel just to the other side of the island. It was the shortest trip we’d had up until that point, only three hours motor sailing to reach the next anchorage, but it was the worse passage yet. The waves were choppy, and the wind was at an angle that made our trip less than comfortable. Two of our three girls actually got sick from the motion we were experiencing. It was an uncomfortable three hours.

When we finally arrived at Hawk’s Nest Cay, the spacious anchorage was nearly as choppy as our sail. Dropping anchor helped of course, but this particular anchorage had poor protection from the wind coming in from the east. We went to Hawk’s Nest Cay to station ourselves for our passage to Spanish Wells, Eluethera, a passage we were planning on making the next morning with a buddy boat, s/v Totem. But the waves and my girl’s sea sickness pulled me down for the count. “Clean up on Gromit!” was the running joke, but in reality it caused me a great deal of stress.

We had been through choppy passages before. Two of our four days across the Chesapeake were very rolly and no one got sick then. I was cold and thankful for the dock, but had plenty of spirit to keep going. Now in the Bahamas, I was begging for a break. What changed?

Making our way down the east coast in December. Cold, but ready for anything! A pre-crawling Haven lays down at my side

It could be that our once little bundle of baby joy had recently blossomed into a curious climbing toddler, and now a sea sick one at that. I could have been feeling weary because our fridge stopped working, and I wasn’t prepared to be sans fridge in a remote island of the Bahamas. Also, our oldest daughter was increasingly having a hard time being away from her friends and grandparents in Texas, and I was silently grieving that my mom and sisters were missing out on Haven’s first year. It could be that I had lost the vision that propelled us out on this grand adventure in the first place.

Our first time as a family on Gromit in Edgewater, MD

But I could have been feeling weary simply because I needed a break, and maybe every cruiser just does at some point.

Whatever the reason, I was ready to just stop moving. I was looking forward to spending an indefinite amount of time in Spanish Wells, but we decided to stay a couple more days in that agitated anchorage to gather rest before moving on. And I’m so glad we did. We met another amazing cruising family on s/v Gone Walkabout (are there any who aren’t amazing?) who played happily with our girls and carried our baby on hips across the beach. We exchanged stories and bread recipes and I felt refreshed.

The two weeks we spent in Spanish Wells were also the reprieve we needed, and continues to be one of our favorite cruising destinations, but I still didn’t feel ready to take on new shores. Even after our two weeks there, I was ready for a more substantial break. We decided to make our way to Texas for the Summer, but somewhere between Spanish Wells and Green Cove Springs, Florida, my husband accepted a job in Houston and our plans for a break morphed into moving back home.

Having a relaxing picnic near our dock in Spanish Wells, Eluethera

It was a whirlwind Summer. We fell in love with a house just two days after stepping foot on Texas soil and began a contract to buy it. Mike went back to work, and we had to acquire or purchase everything all over again just one year after selling it all. Forks, plates, glasses, beds, work clothes, shoes (can’t be barefoot here)- everything. And to top it all off, we put s/v Gromit up for sale, an inevitability, we assumed.

But what were we doing? Were we really going back to a house, a job and life in the suburbs?

We had a newfound appreciation for the many things we went without while cruising, like daily showers, freezers, and washing machines, but the truth was we were having a hard time adjusting to life on land. Did we just give up on cruising forever? Did we make the right choice for our family? Did we rush into these decisions? We were grieving the loss of cruising, and grieving hard. It’s true that I loved seeing my little ones run around the house, loved seeing Haven have spaces to safely play and do things she hadn’t before, but every day was bittersweet.

Mike and I started having a series of honest conversations about our decisions, our future, our desires and our boat. We talked about everything we would have done differently, the attitudes that carried our decisions, the way we function as a couple, and what we loved about cruising. We underwent the difficult process of recognizing the less than healthy ways we handled fatigue and stress. It wasn’t easy, but it was life giving and healing for us during our time of transition and reflection.

The conversations led us to recognize that we didn’t want to sell Gromit, and we didn’t want cruising to be a thing of the past. Yes, cruising with children is not easy, there are sacrifices to be made, but we were far from ready to make land life permanent. We took Gromit off the market and for the first time felt a wave of hopeful anticipation wash over us.

Haven at the helm

Part time cruising and full time cruising are no doubt unique in their challenges and rewards. We cruised full time for 8 months and reaped the benefits: we grew as people and as a family, we acquired new skills, visited wonderful places and met incredible people. Now we’re ready to continue the adventure as we cruise part time throughout the year. We’ll have a home base here in Texas, but will take trips out on Gromit, traveling the coast of Florida and even possibly making the passage to Texas one day.

We’re SO excited to say that we’re not done with cruising just yet! Our feet are on solid ground for now, but we’re dreaming of our next adventure out on those salty seas!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When One Adventure Ends and Another Begins

When One Adventure Ends and Another Begins

This week my thoughts flow toward the idea of transition. This week approaches the Biblical time of Shavuot, some may know as Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks. It is a very important time of the Biblical year. Shavuot is the fourth of the seven Biblical feasts. It is represented by the main candle in the menorah and it signifies the center of the year, all activity flowing from it. It separates the spring feasts from the fall feasts, and because of this it marks an important time of change. It stands solidly each year as our doorway from one season into the next.

It is in this time we also find ourselves transitioning from one incredible season into another. So much has happened since we began the journey back up the coast of Florida from the Bahamas preparing to leave s/v Gromit for the Summer. We knew we wanted to spend the Summer on land with family and friends, but as we traveled back North to Green Cove Springs, Florida, we felt it was time for even greater changes.

We had about two solid weeks of travel (it took longer because in reality we didn’t travel everyday) to make it to the marina by the middle of May to pack and return to Houston by the end of May. It was a long few weeks. As we made our way to our destination, preparing to be on land again, the joy we once felt in cruising together, exploring the coast line, and seeing new places slowly began to fade. Our fridge dying in the Bahamas, while seemed possible to do without at first, now seemed unbearable. I longed to go to the store and get produce that would last more than two days in the hot cabin, but we didn’t want to fix the fridge just yet, knowing we would soon be visiting land. Our seven fans throughout the boat began to malfunction intermittedly. Haven, our one year old, was blossoming from babyhood to toddlerhood, but we were constantly relegating her to her crib because she loved to climb. It seemed it was all too easy for her to get into everything we owned, even with babyproofing, and she didn’t have the space she needed to explore freely. We were hot and tired and not sure what was next for us.

We started discussing options for a new season for us. Liveaboard and stay stationary? Being in one place at a marina would at least give us some stability and familiarity. Would Mike go to school and change careers? Which school and where? Would we live on land somewhere else for a while? We discussed every option you could think of. Through an interesting chain of events, Mike began talking with his former boss and co-worker, and decided to accept a job at the company he previously worked for, a job that he had about five years ago and really enjoyed.

At first I (Brittany) was really hesitant when Mike was discussing taking the job. I was looking forward to visiting family in Houston, but return to a job and house? Give up cruising? Stop traveling? It took some time to process what this transition would mean, and unfortunately, a lot of my hesitation stemmed from what others would think. Would they think we’re giving up? We couldn’t handle this life? Weren’t strong enough? Would they think we didn’t like it, were secretly unhappy and just putting on a show? In my heart I knew none of these things was the truth. I felt stronger than ever. We had traveled down the coast and across the Gulf Stream to another country, and back! We had faced challenges of many kinds, and had not given up. We had experienced the highs and lows cruising brought us. Without worrying about what anyone else might think of us, I had peace about this transition, knowing that God was simply bringing us into another season, a new time that didn’t involve the boat we had come to call home.

So here we are. We’re buying a house in a neighborhood with a backyard and monthly bills. Mike has a job and we’ve got the family car. We’re transitioning back to land life, and we’re actually really excited about this new season, about starting over. In fact, it was one reason we decided to say “yes!” and take the crazy leap to cruise in the first place- we always knew we could start over. And now that we are, we’ve learned that life is much more flexible than we once thought. You can go and sell everything and come back and land life will be here waiting if and when you want to come back.

But there’s one thing I won’t be able to do back on land. I won’t be able to fully express how much cruising and our boat s/v Gromit has meant to us. I know my landlubber friends and family will never understand, try as they may. I think our family has deemed us “back from the dead” or like the prodigal son returning from a wayward, rebellious journey. I think others may believe that we’re glad to be back because cruising wasn’t worth the effort. Nothing could be farther from the truth. And I know that only those salty, adventure loving sea lovers, all those wonderful cruisers and liveaboards we met on our travels can understand what I mean when I say it was worth it. Gromit will always hold a special place in our hearts. She kept us cozy and protected. She steadied the swell of the sea and carried us to our destination. She was our home.

As we neared the marina in Green Cove Springs, Florida, Mike pulled our dinghy up on the davits for the last time. We both felt that little painful stab of sadness when something life changing and amazing is coming to a close. We’ll never pile the kids in that dinghy again, see their smiles as the waves playfully splash over the bow. We’ll never pull up to a new port ready to taste land and see what adventure awaits. At least, not for now and maybe not in that boat again. We’re not ruling out cruising forever, but we’re committed to following God wherever His Spirit leads. It may lead us back to the sea one day, it may not. But for right now, we’re looking forward to all God has for us here.

For there is always a new adventure with God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Perfect Way to Say Goodbye to the Bahamas

A Perfect Way to Say Goodbye to the Bahamas

Spanish Wells was amazing, but our two weeks at the private dock was coming to an end and we had a decision to make: Keep going south (knowing that meant a longer return trip to Florida) or start heading back to the States.

Since the conception of this idea to go cruising in January of 2016, we have always sought to hear the still small voice of God and lean on any direction he was giving us at the time. You may think God doesn’t care about cruising plans or whether we go north or south, east or west. Many people think his guidance only matters if you are a missionary, traveling the world carrying Bibles in your backpack. But that is a perspective we do not share. Our goal isn’t to over spiritualize every little thing, but at the same time we don’t want to disregard the obvious presence of God in the details of our life. God definitely cares about the details, and we believe that means more than compulsory attendance to a religious service. It means more than dropping an offering in a basket, and it means more than trudging through an earthly life hoping to get to a heavenly one.

Like a tour guide, we know we can point out the presence of God to others wherever we happen to be. We believe God can direct us to people we are supposed to meet, conversations he wants us to have, a place he wants us to see, a city he wants us to pray for, an opportunity he wants us to take part in. We’ve seen God do amazing things in the smallest of circumstances, and we’ve seen God bring small things together in a really big way. It’s a life we would not want to have any other way. Because of this, we try not to have solid plans, plans that make it impossible for God to redirect us.

Getting ready to leave Spanish Wells, I (Brittany) began feeling uncharacteristically unsettled. As much as we loved the Bahamas, and even though we had plans to meet another cruising family, I couldn’t seem to shake the feeling that we shouldn’t continue our travels south. Mike and I prayed about it and waited to see how the next few days would unfold. Would we even have the weather windows to travel back to Florida? Would the other cruising family understand that we wanted to change our plans? (They did, of course). It turns out the week ahead of us held a wonderful weather window for traveling west. Very little wind and calm seas were the forecast, and we knew if we didn’t take that weather window, we would have no idea how long we would wait for another. We didn’t feel like waiting, so we decided to begin the four day journey back to Florida’s east coast.

Egg Island

Our first day leaving Spanish Wells was a short day, positioning ourselves off Egg Island to shorten the next day’s mileage. There we met another kid boat anchored near us and we invited them to Egg Island’s beach for the evening. The evening turned out to be a magical night (except for the incessant NO-SEE-UMS!) talking with the Mom and Dad on s/v Salt Shaker, hearing their stories and watching our kids play freely on this unpopulated island.

A tree swing, a sign of past cruising kids on the island

The mom on s/v Salt Shaker showing Haven the water

My husband, Mike, surprised me by making a little fire on the beach, something I told him I really wanted to do while cruising. We made very messy, but delicious s’mores on the beach using the half bag of marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate bars I was saving especially for a night like this.

Everyone helped to make the fire

Each cruising family we meet is special!

The crew on s/v Salt Shaker brought a treat for us too, firecrackers!

Firecrackers!

A spontaneous gathering with another sweet cruising family, decadent s’mores, sparkling fireworks…all on empty beach with the sun sinking behind dense trees- every bit of this night was beautiful.

We didn’t plan this night, and that made it even more perfect. A perfect gift to us as our last time on shore in the Bahamas. The family on s/v Salt Shaker were also headed back to the States, their cruising journey coming to an end and their life on land resuming. A beautiful night for us all to remember. A perfect way to say good-bye to the Bahamas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Relaxing in Spanish Wells, Eleuthera

Relaxing in Spanish Wells, Eleuthera

After a couple of weeks in the Berry’s, we were ready to make our crossing to an island in the far Bahamas called Eleuthera. We heard raving reviews of cruiser’s time spent in Spanish Wells, Eleuthera and we were ready to find out for ourselves. We had moved around a lot in the Berry Islands, from anchoring outside of the island, to inside at Great Harbor Cay, then twice in Hawk’s Nest Cay that we were more than ready to stay solidly in one place.

Taking a walk in Spanish Wells, something we did everyday

Once in Spanish Wells, we rented a private dock and stayed for two weeks. The private dock was far cheaper than a marina dock fee and we could spend our two weeks easily getting on and off the boat to explore the island. Strong winds rolled through right after we arrived, so we were even more grateful about tying up to a secure dock. Even more perfect, the house directly in front of our dock housed a sweet local couple with a girl Marlee’s age and a boy a little younger than Hannah. We soon became friends with this generous family!

Hannah on the dock
The girls and their new playmate fishing in her backyard

With gorgeous turquoise waters gently rolling into crisp white beaches, bright flowers in front of candy-colored island homes, and the typical laid back island feel, Spanish Wells was the perfect place for us to take walks, play at the beach and just relax. But Spanish Wells also had the kind of grocery store that we were used to back in the States (albeit still more expensive), plus restaurants and ice cream shops as wells as shopping, so it didn’t feel like some other places in the Bahamas where resources are limited.

The water was captivating
Exploring the beach
Haven really began to enjoy being in water

We found the people to be friendly and accommodating. Their tight knit town has a strong belief in community and God, and the island holds three prominent churches despite having a population of only about 1600 people. There was an additional church on another part of the island for the Haitian community that resides there, and even a separate church for the Mennonite/Amish families that also live on the island. We loved being invited to The People’s Church services, meeting more people in the community and being able to get a feel for the life of the body of Christ there. Being able to visit and study God’s word with other believer’s around the world has been a dream that God began planting in my heart a few years ago. We have been able to visit a few different kinds of congregations along the east coast (a Messianic synagogue in Virginia, a budding home church, a Kingdom Hall in Florida) and two Baptist-style congregations in the Bahamas so far and they have all been interesting and eye opening experiences!

Other things that we did in Spanish Wells include a fun, local favorite on the island, an ice cream shop called Papa’s Scoops which only opens for three hours at night and only serves two flavors a night, each night boasting two different flavors. Their homemade ice cream was so good we went back several times enjoying flavors like Goombay Punch (a local soda), coconut and root beer.

Papa’s Scoops!
Goombay Punch and Vanilla ice cream

Probably one of our most favorite experiences though, was being invited to tour our friend’s (the husband who lived in the house in front of our dock) lobster boat. Spanish Wells is largely a fishing town, relying heavily on the revenue from catching lobster and crab. It was really neat being able to see first hand what many of the men in the town do for work. It was a wonderful “worldschooling” experience for the girls as well!

The local fishing boat we toured
Showing us around the deck
Peering down the hole where the lobsters at stored
Where the lobster’s are hung and kept frozen

We loved Spanish Wells, the people, the colors, the small-town community. Now to decide where to go from here…move on to South Eleuthera or head back to the States? We were torn, but felt God whispering the right direction to us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

First Days in the Bahamas! Exploring Alice Town, Bimini

First Days in the Bahamas! Exploring Alice Town, Bimini

We made it! We motored into the crowded anchorage as the sun was getting low. We were relieved, excited, tired. All the work, planning, and preparation to be ready to leave the US, and now here we were ready to explore this chain of islands called the Bahamas. But the Bahamas would have to wait. As the forecast predicted, the next day brought strong winds with gusts in the 30 knot range. Not the worst we’ve experienced, but poor weather for island exploring. We decided at least to explore a jetty of nearby rocks and survey the anchorage by dinghy.

While we waited for the winds to stop howling, we passed the time getting together with the crew from s/v Banana and s/v Totem, whom we sailed with from Ft. Lauderdale.

Haven with Behan from s/v Totem

Finally, the winds quieted, the waves calmed and we decided to explore the island of Bimini. A small island, the north end where we anchored, is home to a large resort and casino, so it didn’t feel like we had traveled to an exotic little getaway. But it still had its treasures: the water being one of them. An array of blue, green, clear and turquoise jewel tones, the water absolutely beckons to all who have the privilege of seeing it.

The day before we planned to leave Bimini for The Berry Islands, we decided to take a day to walk around Alice Town and swim in the sparkling turquoise water. Our walk proved to be very interesting. The stark contrast between the resort section of the island where we happened to be anchored, and Alice Town was surprising and a little uncomfortable. On one side stood a towering resort; popular music flowed out of the casino, a beautiful fountain gushed in the middle of a pool. As we walked to the other side of the island, we walked through an arced entrance separating the resort section from the rest of the community.

Alice Town is beautiful in its own way. It has the flavor of a town straddling two worlds: it’s an easy jump from the United States, but it’s also it’s own country, with a distinct island culture.

We walked through the narrow streets, stopping for cars or golf carts driving by. The buildings were small, but colorful. The people were very friendly, smiling and waving to each passerby was very common. We stopped by a house with a bakery sign posted in the window. We opened the door and walked in to see a lady at her kitchen table, food simmering in the background. She greeted us and we bought a loaf of bread stored in a plastic tote under her window. As we left, she gave the girls a warm chocolate chip cookie, fresh from her oven. A very different experience for us- but wonderful and tasty too!

We heard their was a library nearby, something I was eager to see, but this was not the kind of library the girls and I were used to!

I was really glad we took the time to see more of the island before we continued on our journey. The Berry Islands was a long hop from Bimini, over 80 miles, but we were looking forward to an island more isolated from such a busy port.

Bimini was only the beginning of our sojourn, but I am really glad we got to experience this little island!

Preparing + Provisioning for 3 Months in the Bahamas

Preparing + Provisioning for 3 Months in the Bahamas

Just a fraction of our total provisions

It’s crunch time! We’re making lists and checking them twice, and no we’re not getting ready for the Christmas holiday. We’re getting ready for our first jaunt out of the country and into Bahamian waters! That means for this family of five, we’re shopping and storing all kinds of food and other items to use while we are there. But why? Don’t they eat in the Bahamas? Don’t they have grocery stores? Yes!

It will take two days to arrive at our proposed first destination, Nassau, Bahamas. It’s always a good idea to have extra food on board for a passage, since it takes time to get where you are going and get acquainted with the nearby stores. But what we have heard and read about the Bahamas is that their food is expensive! We’ve heard cruiser horror stories of a single bell pepper costing $8.00, and a few meager vegetables costing as much as a entire cart full back home.

Friends of ours, a family of three cruising the Bahamas currently on their sailboat, s/v Sandflea, gave us some interesting advice. He said,

“Go to the store and don’t come out until you’ve spent $1,000.”

He warned us of small jars of peanut butter costing $9.00, a simple loaf of bread for $6.00 and a package of Oreos for $12.00! We’ve read especially that snack foods can be very expensive so we were told to be sure to bring your own with you. (Check out all the adventures of s/v Sandflea here!)

We’re planning on exploring the breathtaking islands in the far Bahamas first then possibly making our way back to the Abacos. We don’t want to rush, so we’re expecting to use up the remaining months of cruising season in the Bahamas (2-3 month trip) before finding a protected nook to wait out hurricane season, most likely on the east coast. So our food buying has been based around this number- at least 8 weeks of provisions.

We were able to make one trip to Sam’s with the help of a friend’s car
Getting it on board is not the easiest!

So what are we storing and where do we store it? Besides the non-food items like sunscreen, bug spray, motion sickness medicine (as well as a medical kit with bandages and other medicines), toilet paper, paper towels, and cleaners, we are storing mostly non-perishable items plus some cold items in our freezer. Our freezer doesn’t truly freeze so we’re not stocking up on fresh meats. Our freezer is currently stocked with a ridiculous amount of cheese in all forms(shredded, bar, sliced), a little turkey sausage and butter (with a bag of ice on top). Our fridge holds the rest of the butter, lots of eggs, fresh vegetables and a little meat, as well as condiments.

For those who wants more detail, here are some amounts of things we have stowed:

Non-perishable:

  • 15 boxes of cereal (variety)
  • 3 boxes of pancake mix
  • 4 canisters quick oats
  • 2 bottles of honey
  • Peanut butter, 6 jars of crunchy and 5 of creamy
  • 3 packages of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 16 Tetra paks of Almond milk
  • 29 cans of fruit (variety)
  • 5 large jars of unsweetened applesauce
  • 5 packages of raisins
  • 1 large bag of almonds
  • 2 large family size boxes of Ritz crackers plus a box of saltines
  • 9 cans of chicken breast in water
  • 19 cans of black beans
  • 16 cans of corn
  • 7 cans of baked beans

This doesn’t include staples like flour, sugar, rice, juice, other canned meats and vegetables, plus a few packages of cookies, graham crackers, dried fruit, chips, and granola bars.

Plus perishable items like:

 

  • 5 dozen eggs
  • 9 boxes of butter (4 sticks in each box)
  • 2 half gallon containers of cold Almond milk

We also have a large gear hammock stocked with fresh produce: a bag of apples, oranges, bananas, kiwi, plus avocados, onions, sweet potatoes, white potatoes and spaghetti squash. In the fridge we keep carrots, sliced cantaloupe and broccoli.

You can quickly tell what is important to us! Peanut butter, butter, beans, fruit and cereal! Every family will have their own things that they like and want to have while cruising.

Counting, sorting…
I have the best helper!
Moving the rice into zip lock bags

So where do we store all this food? We have a good amount of storage on our boat, but it’s an art to learning where and how to store things safely and easy to get to.

Under the cushions on our settees, there are lids that open to deep lockers where we store almost all of our non-perishables. We have storage under both our settees on either side of our table.

One of our settees
The lockers where we store our food

We also have a tall locker in the “hallway” before entering the girl’s v-berth, where we store some food items, white vinegar and the many diapers and wipes we keep on board.

We are the rarer breed of cruiser in that we have two small children and an infant on board. That means a lot of diapers. We keep diapers for Haven (1 year old) Hannah (3 years old) for night and nap time and even for our oldest (6 years old) occasionally for nighttime.

On board we have stocked over 1,500 wipes, over 250 infant diapers and almost 60 pull-ups! I’m hoping this is enough!

 

 

It’s a lot of work: shopping, carrying bags back in the dinghy, wiping all cans clean of salt water and removing labels, stowing and keeping track of what’s on the boat. But it’s fun too! We’re gearing up for an experience, an adventure that we will remember forever!

{For those who want to know how we calculated how much food we needed, we used this spreadsheet here.}

Reflecting On Our Purpose Before We Leave the States

Reflecting On Our Purpose Before We Leave the States

 

Walking in Norfolk, Virginia

There have been a few stops along our journey cruising down the east coast of the United States, that my husband and I have paused long enough from traversing the constant challenges of this new way of being, to sit and stare at each other in amazement and ask “how did we get here?”

It was only one year ago. Only one year ago that the thought of sea, sand, salt and wind came into our hearts. The idea that God had more; more life existed just beyond the edge of our comfort zone. Just beyond the edge of the familiar. Something we couldn’t name, but only imagine. Something waiting for us to discover.

And now here we are. A family of sojourners on the sea.

Discovering the sea

Nearly five months in; just over 1,000 miles traveled and we’re still new and often clumsy, like toddlers learning how to walk. We’ve slowly made our way down Florida’s east coast, and now we’re preparing to leave the States for the first time as cruisers. Bahamas bound!

But what is our purpose here? What is the reason we call this boat home? What is the reason our sights are set on distant islands? Is it a selfish pursuit as some thought before we left? Is it dangerous as others claimed? Are we missionaries? Are we on a sabbatical? Are we running away from our responsibilities? We’ve heard it all.

The truth is, this wasn’t our dream. This wasn’t something we planned, or thought of, or dreamed about as the years of our life ticked by. I can’t explain it any other way than to say it was an idea birthed in us by God. An idea that sprouted and grew when it seemed leaving everything behind was against all common sense.

It was only 11 months from conception to reality. 11 months from hearing God whisper to unpacking boxes on a sailboat in Virginia.

Our little floating home

 

Our purpose at the beginning of this journey and our purpose now is to follow God wherever he may lead. To live our lives in reckless pursuit of the knowledge of God and to abandon our lives to what we discover in that pursuit. Living and traveling on a sailboat was the path God placed before us, and we followed. In doing so, we had to cling to our faith with each new step, and little by little, we saw evidence of God’s hand in the process. From the selling of our houses, to the finding of our boat, to the timing of our leaving, God was leading us deeper into trust in him, and expanding our vision of who he is.

Throughout the first few months planning this adventure, God spoke to me about Abraham. His story spoke loudly to me. God told him, “Go, and I will bless you.” (Genesis 12:1-3) God promised him a purpose for his going, an outcome Abraham could not fathom at the start of his journey. But he believed God and became God’s friend (James 2:23). But first he had to obey and go.

Abraham’s story is my story. It’s the story of all people who are willing to believe God. To believe God can and will do incredible things for those whose hearts will trust him.

For me (Brittany), time away from all that is familiar has forced me to draw my comfort from other places. It has forced me to look at my weaknesses and required me to accept the things that are difficult, but I cannot change. This isn’t easy. I can’t change the way some may feel about our decision. I can’t tell them when we’ll be back because I do not even know that myself. I can’t reassure them that we’ll never get hurt, either. Cruising is not always easy. But I am using this time to draw deeper into God’s word, and I know with certainty that my purpose is rooted in exactly that. The more I meditate on his truth, with the beauty of his creation all around me, I am filled with a single minded mission: to tell others the story that God is telling. His story is a story for all of us, and it is overwhelmingly good. It’s his story, his purpose that I am on a mission to discover- in his word and in this journey. And everyday he writes a little bit more: Another gorgeous sunrise. Another day when a stranger becomes a friend. Another port left, and another one reached.

A fellow sailor

It required faith to leave. It requires faith to remain. There is much ahead, but we can only take one step at a time.

So far, we have been rewarded with sunsets akin to wildfires, playful dolphins leaping right before us, friendly faces, humbling generosity from others, and moments when we knew the presence of God was with us. We are challenged and inspired to be a family that can work together better, traveling the emotional seas of raising children, being a wife or husband and maintaining our own identity and space with grace and love.

I look forward to the connections we will make with people, cruisers and locals, people who we are always on the lookout to encourage and tell God’s story to. Connections that encourage us too. Connections that could turn into life long friendships.

We are grateful to be on this path. It is one that we hope to be on for a long time. We pray often that God will direct our steps, and we are confident that he is doing just that, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

Some may be thinking, do you need to sail around the world to follow the call of God? Of course not. You must hear his voice for yourself, walking in relationship with your Creator. He could speak to you in an office cubicle, in a minivan, at school, or at your kitchen table.

But…

There is something wild about God. He lives in the deep places; the places only arrived at by faith. He isn’t far away, but he isn’t safe either. He often calls his people to follow him, where he is, to places mysterious, perhaps dangerous, but always full of wonder. That is where we want to go. To the unknown places where there is more of God to be revealed. More exquisite beauty, more people to connect with, more creatures to marvel at, and more of everything that God wants to share with us.

 

Thank you for following us on our journey! Connect with me on Instagram @familyatsea or on Facebook! Leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!

Cost of Cruising: Our February 2017 Budget

Cost of Cruising: Our February 2017 Budget

Finally a budget I am proud to share! This is much more representative of where we’d like to settle in as far as spending money goes. We’ve also been so encouraged by YOU- your comments to us that sharing our budget with you has helped you plan for your own cruising adventure! Thank you! It can be so hard to plan for something when you have no idea what it will be like. Granted, it will be different for each family, but we’re glad we can share a little piece of what we’re doing, helping others realize that you do not have to be wealthy to go cruising.

Motor sailing about 1.5 miles off shore

The amount of money we’re spending each month is going down, which is exactly what we want it to do and what we’ve been told is typical. You’ll spend a lot in the beginning (maybe even more than we have) but that it will get easier and hopefully cheaper as the months progress. Here’s the details of the month of February:

All amounts are in US dollars for a family of five

Dock fees (actually mooring fees) $195.65 – After spending a crazy amount on docks in December, we vowed never to do that again. We anchored the entire month of January, but this month we ended up being moored for a short period of time. A mooring ball is a floating ball attached by rope to something really heavy in the water. It’s not going anywhere. Then, you attach your boat to a rope on the floating ball. Moorings are cheaper than tying up to a dock, but you still get access to the marina (their showers, lounge and washers/dryers). It’s a good compromise if you don’t want to be anchored, but don’t want to spend the money on docks. And dock fees in south Florida can be really expensive! The moorings we’ve used can be anywhere from $15.00 to $40.00 a day. We also spend a little on dinghy dock fees. Basically, when you are anchored and want to go to shore or use a nearby marina, they ask you to pay a fee just to tie your dinghy up. Sometimes this fee includes access to their showers and laundry facilities, sometimes not.

Ft. Lauderdale

Groceries $813.93 – This includes about $155 worth of groceries we put away in long term storage for our planned cruise to the Bahamas. We’ve heard food is really expensive there, so we want to stock up on some essentials and foods that might be hard to find.

Eating out $148.08 – This is a little much for us on eating out. We can usually comfortably have a couple of meals out a month for less than $100.

Boat parts and projects $207.87

Cash $50.00 – $20 of this was changed into quarters and used for laundry. This amount is typical if we do some laundry by hand on the boat as well. $12.00 of this cash was also used for two different dinghy dock fees.

Cell phone $80.04 – One phone for me and my husband with unlimited data plan.

Insurance $0 – Still in the market for an affordable travel insurance.

Marlee’s Birthday $26.76 – A few party supplies and a trip to Funderdome!

An indoor playground for Marlee’s birthday

Kindle books $12.83 – Paid for one month of kindle unlimited (kind of like a digital library service) plus a couple of .99 books.

Web hosting $12.74 – for our two websites, Family at Sea and my land based blog, The Gentle Home.

EZ pass $12.00 – an EZ tag fee we needed to pay.

Total = $1,559.90