Our trip last year to the Bahamas was a little underwhelming to our social life. We met some really terrific people, but learned that when surrounded by an older crowd the key is to have a baby around. Otherwise, as a young couple on a small boat you may as well be invisible.
Well, we’re not ready for a baby so hopefully the cutest puppy imaginable is the next best thing!?!?! Everyone is planning to invite us over to see their boat, go on a fishing adventure and explore a new beach now, right??!? Let’s have a long and fascinating conversation about our sailing adventures and the cruising lifestyle that doesn’t end with condescending comments like: “Do you know what radar is?” or “Do you have charts?”
So, we’ve had our hands full the last couple of weeks with our newest addition! This has been in the works for many months now, and it was finally decided that the Captains needed their “Crew.”
Crew is a Miniature Australian Shepherd. Today was his first puppy training day and he is at the top of his class with “sit” and “down.” He’s gone for his first swim, sailed in the new dinghy and likes to hang out on Velocir!
(All joking aside about babies and puppies, Crew brings joy to our lives that far exceeds any wistful social life….the part about being an invisible young couple on a small boat is not far from the truth.)
Just this last month we’ve started a new video series called “I’m On A Boat.”
It will cover all sailing projects and endeavors apart from our cruising on Velocir. Here are the first three installments about a Camper Nicholson 31 owner fixing fiberglass, gelcoat blisters and running rigging.
Hope you enjoy! And if you haven’t watched our other series “A Day in the Life: Cruising Albin Vega Velocir” you can watch at www.youtube.com/svvelocir
We have left Velocir for a larger ship! Well, only temporarily to crew the tall ship Bounty. Bounty was built in Lunenberg, Nova Scotia in 1960 for the 1962 Marlon Brando movie Mutiny on the Bounty. A wooden ship- she is 180 feet long overall. The height of the main mast is 115 feet. (www.tallshipbounty.org)
This ship is significant to us because it is how we met! Grant was a professional crew member and Amelia was a volunteer when they crossed the Atlantic together on Bounty in 2009. Being back on the ship three years later is a fun experience. It is also a lot of work! Bounty has over 18 sails to hoist, furl and many projects to attend to.
Our watch the first morning was from 4-8 am, so we enjoyed the beautiful sunrise on the calm waters of the Chesapeake Bay as the anchor was hauled up and we got underway. We had spent the night near Turkey Point, where the C&D Canal and Susquehanna River part. There was a lot more current here then we expected, and moving into the Delaware River the current picked up even more.
During the day, the barque rigged tall ship Guayas from Ecuador (launched in 1976) moved past us in the channel just before the entrance to the C&D Canal. Many crew members were aloft in orange work suits and waved to us.
From 12-4 pm is work party! During this time the Bosun gives the off-watch crew (crew not on watch) maintenance projects to do around the ship. Today all the lines were taken off the pin rails so that the wood could be oiled. Amelia and other crew also went up to the top of the rigging to tar the shrouds while Grant hung off the side of Bounty to do some painting. We’ve tried to highlight these interesting and unique projects in our videos!
Amelia stood bow watch as we came into our anchorage. Just for a fun challenge, the mates turned off the GPS and used traditional navigation (compass bearings and paper charts) to get us near shore. We were only .2 miles from our intended destination, so we did rather well. Dodging crab pots was also a challenge but we managed to avoid them all!
Later in the day privateer Lynx anchored near us. (www.privateerlynx.com) After we are at anchor Bounty goes into a rotation called “anchor watch.” One person spends each hour on watch logging our GPS position, writing down the compass bearings of three specific buildings on shore, completing a boat check and pumping the bilges. We spent the night off Newcastle, DE in anticipation of our next stop, Philadephia!
Check out more tallship activities at: www.sailtraining.org
The cost of cruising is always a hot debate. The general rule is that the smaller you go, the less expensive. Every foot of boat increases costs exponentially. The Albin Vega is about the smallest one can go in, and we think our costs reflected that.
Many people are curious about these things, and we hope this is helpful for any planners out there.
Amelia has tackled the ominous mega-binder of everything Velocir to bring you a pretty fair outline of our costs.
Ways We Saved Money:
– Grant’s employee discount at Bacon Sails, so most of our budget was slashed 30%
– Buying a large portion of our materials and gear secondhand.
– Wedding gifts (tools, cookware, safety gear, SPOT, AIS etc)
– Lived with family and on Velocir while working
– Completed all installation and work ourselves
– Under age 26 (health care covered through parents)
– No debt to pay
– We were given hand-me-downs and many materials were lying around the family workshop
How much do you spend before you even leave!?! Many people, Grant included, are very wary of knowing the actual cost of outfitting Velocir. Well, Amelia can’t calculate it 100% anyways because we didn’t keep perfect track. We’d also like to point out that we went above and beyond in preparation. It was worth it for us, but many of these things certainly do not need to be completed before going cruising. It was as much a journey as it was an education. Velocir was not purchased to go cruising. Amelia got it with her Dad as a father-daughter project and completely re-built it from the hull up. A budget-minded cruiser would probably buy an already outfitted boat to save time and money. But then you can’t have it “your way” and know every inch of your boat. Ah, compromise.
Approximate Total Cost: $27,000 (without employee discount 30% more)
To give a sense of our discount here are a few stats:
– Our New Sails: $2768 (Retail $5500)
– Our Chain: 85 cents a foot (Retail $3 afoot)
Our cruising costs are 100% accurate. Every receipt was recorded into a spreadsheet and reviewed monthly. Our goal was to spend no more than $1000 a month. As you can see, the average cost per month was $920, and could have been less if not for our towing incident! The total we spent during 8 months was $7421. It turns out, once the boat is cruising-ready, it is the cheapest thing we can do. (Not many lifestyles where you do not pay to sleep at night.)
Month 1 (Annapolis, MD to Wrightsville Beach, NC)
Boat Items: cleaning supplies, hose fittings, fasteners, extra manual water pump, deck wash pump
Misc Items: surf wax, cleaning supplies, books, postcards, fishing supplies, fishing license, etc.
Month 2 (Wrightsville Beach, NC to St. Augustine, FL)
Boat: new Nature Head composting toilet, hose, installation parts
Dockage/Mooring: St. Augustine
Misc: fishing supplies, leisure
Month 3 (St. Augustine, FL to Marsh Harbor, Abacos)
Boat: oil, fasteners, hardware, paint
Dockage/Mooring: Cocoa, FL
Misc: Bahamian Customs, snorkeling gear, fishing gear, rum
Month 4 (Marsh Harbor, Abacos to Governors Harbor, Eleuthera)
Dockage/Mooring: Spanish Wells Mooring
Misc: rum, beer, taxi
Month 5 (Governors Harbor Eleuthera to Georgetown, Exumas)
Misc: rum, ice, festival tshirts
Month 6 (Georgetown, Exumas to Morgans Bluff, Andros)
Dockage/Mooring: Fresh Creek, Andros 3 nights
Misc: straw market, Androsia
Month 8 (Fort Pierce, FL to Morehead City, NC)
Boat: tow offshore, hoses
Dockage/Mooring: Fort Pierce, FL (towing related), St. Augustine mooring & NC
Misc: books, taxi to customs, local art
Month 9 (Morehead City, NC to Annapolis, MD)
There was a lot of excitement about getting back to a house. This last month we had really been pushing ourselves with long days. Laundry and other projects had been put aside.
We LOVED our trip but there were some things to be desired- showers, real bed where you can stretch your legs out, standing up straight inside, refrigeration/freezer, and knowing when it rains the bed will stay dry/and when there is a storm, waves will not roll you. It’s not that many things, but we do miss them after 8 months of cruising and 11 months of living aboard Velocir.
As a special treat, our family and friends gave us a welcome-home party! So much delicious food and amazing to see everyone again. It was a taco party, and we made white sangria like we’d had in St. Augustine. There was also tons of ice cream and cake!!
We had waited in Old Point Comfort, VA two days for good weather. It would take us three days (140ish miles) and realistically the weather didn’t look good for the entire week. Our family had planned a party and relatives were coming- oh no!
It was a tough to be so close but yet so far. We’d gone out and come back one morning when NOAA called for S 10-15 knots but it was ENE 25 knots all day. With 4 ft choppy swell on our beam, Velocir couldn’t make much speed and we were getting tossed around, so it wasn’t worth it.
The next day the wind finally turned S 25-30 knots. A bit rough for Velocir, but we were headed N so the angle to the waves was okay. We put up our main with a reef in it, kept the engine going and let out a scrap on genoa that keeps us from rolling in heavy seas downwind. We were screaming down the bay at 7.5 knots the whole day!!!! From 6AM to 8PM we made 98 miles to Solomons, MD. Quite a feat for us and a distance we’d thought would take two days.
The Chesapeake is fun because instead of bouys our new marks are historic lighthouses.
Amelia saw some major commercial fishing on the Chesapeake Bay near the entrance to the Rappahannock that she didn’t know existed. There were three massive blue fishing trawlers (like you would see in Alaska). Bigger than shrimping trawlers, probably over 150 ft. They were doing circles off the channel, which was very confusing to us and other cruisers around us. Many people tried to call them on the radio but they did not respond.
As we got closer, Amelia realized each huge trawler was momma boat to two 30 foot silver fishing boats that were open-deck and had two giant 20 foot cranes on deck. The cranes supported giant nets, and the two smaller fishing boats would circle around dropping the nets and picking them up again, while the huge trawler circled them. (Three groups of momma trawler with 2 crane boats)
To complete the whole process, two white planes circled them in the sky the whole time, obviously a part of the fleet. Amelia was surprised this kind of fishing went on in the Bay?!? Also worried because she spotted a sea turtle nearby.
We made it to Solomons, MD with an hour of daylight left to spare, staying at a friend’s dock. Our last day is tomorrow!!!!
After a relaxing day at the town dock in Oriental, NC we headed out into calm calm weather and were greeted by a beautiful sunrise. The wind picked up as predicted mid-morning so instead of motoring inside the waterway, we sailed around a few peninsulas before coming up the Pungo River to Belhaven, NC.
Calm as can be outside Oriental, NC! Later that night in the Pungo River massive thunderstorms swarmed around us. To our north, lightening continued in bright bursts for hours and hours! It was fun to watch and we didn’t get directly hit.
The next day we motored through the Alligator River, which we’d skipped on our way down last Fall by sailing near the Outer Banks. It was a straight canal, with submerged logs and stumps everywhere. Thankfully no collisions! We made it to Elizabeth City a day later, sailing across the Albemarle Sound. It was some great sunny weather and warmer temperatures!
When we finally reached the Dismal Swamp Canal we felt home-free! Almost back to Annapolis. (After this we are practically in the Chesapeake Bay!) The swamp canal was just a beautiful as we’d remembered. Lots of birds, tons of turtles and lily pads.
The first lock, South Mills, raised Velocir up 8 feet with water gushing in.
At our second lock, Deep Creek, we added a conch shell to the lockmaster’s collection. The conch garden is quite full!
We headed to an anchorage we like near Old Point Comfort, VA. It was so close from the Dismal Swamp Canal but many obstacles were in our path. The only scheduled bridge was on a temporary schedule, so it was opening less-frequently than we thought. By the time it opened, a train bridge in front of it had come down and a train was stopped in the middle, not moving. It took two hours and there was a huge pile-up of boats waiting!
Now we will sit near Old Point Comfort for a weather window to sail north up the Chesapeake!
Happy Easter! We decorated some eggs and ate a bunch of candy.
After our busy social scene in St. Augustine, we headed to an anchorage we like on the Ft. George River in Georgia. It is by one of America’s oldest plantation homes. The windy weather ended, making for some good surf (we hoped!)
We took the dinghy Raptor and surf board to an inlet south of Little Talbot State Park, where to our surprise the beach was easily accessible. The surf was wrapping around the point perfectly. Grant used his bisecting longboard we keep in the v-berth. It has two sections that clip together with a rod in the middle for support.
Grant got a few good rides in. Amelia took a few tries for fun, but still can’t seem to stand up yet!
Grant also had a close call with the authorities this week. After his surf session, we were back at our anchorage. We were the only boat in a remote river, so Grant commenced showering in the cockpit. Minutes later, a Sheriff’s police boat zoomed up. They started shouting about how Velocir was dragging at anchor. Then, they realized Grant’s precarious position and yelled, “Hey man, you got pants on?” Grant replied, “no, you guys have perfect timing” (Note: extremely effective tactic to keep law enforcement at a distance…also true in this case).
Amelia came up from below and saved Grant. “You were way over there this morning,” the police boat insisted, pointing up current from Velocir. “Yes, but we have out some good scope and as the current moves our boat will too,” explained Amelia. (Just to clarify, we were not dragging). Then, they asked where our boat was registered, where we were going and where we came from. All simple questions, and soon they were on their way. Grant finished his shower with no more interruptions.
We headed the next day to Fernandina Beach, a cute beach town. On the radio we heard someone calling Sandpiper. It could have been anyone, but sure enough it was our friends from Georgetown! We walked around town and had dinner with them. It was fun to catch up on where we had both gone since Georgetown. They have been ambitious, sailing offshore quite a lot.
The next day we visited Cumberland Island, one of our favorite stops last Fall. This time the beach had even more shells!
We saw two groups of wild horses for the first time on Cumberland Island!!
Now we are trudging through Georgia. Six days of motoring, with a little genoa every now and then helping us keep our speed up in the current. It’s a lot of marshland and curvy rivers. Every inlet we see at least one US Border Protection boat is zooming around, but they never seem to bother anyone.
The winds at Pipe Cay subsiding, we sailed for Staniel Cay and anchored at Big Major Cay which is home to Pig Beach. “Wild” pigs actively live on the island, and their favorite hang out spot is this beach. (This is likely because tourists go over and feed them multiple times a day.) Amelia was excited there were five piglets— super cute! We motored over in the dinghy to see them up-close.
We didn’t have any food for them, so when one started swimming toward the boat Amelia wanted to keep our distance. Thoughts of the pigs jumping into/capsizing the dinghy and getting bitten flashed through her mind. Grant thought it was funny how nervous Amelia was about the pigs near our dinghy. When we got back to Velocir other cruisers went over to feed the pigs. Amelia’s fear of them jumping into the dinghy was not unfounded!
The next day we walked around Staniel Cay, a quiet town. Instead of paying $5 at the marina, we walked 10 minutes to the dump to get rid of our trash. Then we treated ourselves to lunch at Staniel Cay Yacht Club. It was the most popular place in town, festively decorated with flags and swarming with cruisers (as well as people from private planes who fly down for the day from Florida). The food was really yummy (we had a Club sandwich and fish burger with onion rings) The waitress even gave us free Pina Colodas because she was practicing for the bar!
Walking around town later in the afternoon, we went in search of fresh produce. None of the islands we have visited have had a produce boat in weeks, which we are told is strange. We walked up to the first store we came by and workers were moving in boxes of fresh produce, just arrived by plane! We thought we’d lucked out, as we were among the first to arrive. The prices even seemed reasonable. We picked some things out and went over to the counter. Waiting, we heard the cashier tell the couple in front of us that the prices would be more than marked, because it was flown in. The couple said, oh yes, we had thought as much, it doesn’t matter to us (we have heard this “rich” attitude ruins it for other cruisers). When it was our turn Amelia said, how much is this bag of celery? We don’t even like celery that much, but it is usually cheap and keeps well. It was $5! If celery was $5 ($1.50 on the tag) we could not afford any of the other food we had gathered up. Grant put it all back while Amelia purchased some eggs and a small bag of carrots. Looking back, our lunch was pretty cheap in comparison!
The next day was very busy. We got up early at low tide to snorkel Thunderball Cave, made famous in an older James Bond film. It was very beautiful and fish followed us around everywhere we went. To enter the cave, we swam under a shallow ledge. At high tide, this ledge is submerged and you actually have to dive down and then up into the cave. It was early in the day, so the sunlight wasn’t shining directly in through the holes above the cave, but we could still see some beautiful coral and fish!
Some of the best coral was outside the cave!
We waited until high tide and then took the shallow route south to Bitter Guana Cay, home to endangered Iguanas. They are said to live up to 80 years old and are one of the most endangered Iguana species in the world.
Their home was on a strip of beach with white cliffs towering overhead. We anchored right off the beach and went to visit the Iguanas.
There were a lot of them! They had interesting reddish coloring, and some were as large as a cat. The way their skin hung off their bodies, their limbs looked like stuffed beanie toys.
Their tail-streaks lined the beach.
Our anchorage by the Iguanas was a bit rolly, so we went farther south to Black Point a small “local” town, crowded with cruisers. It had a small grocery store (no fresh produce), a cute cafe and a very nice laundrymat (a little pricy but popular). It was the weekend, and a lot of local men were coming to the town pier by boat with their fresh lobster tails. They started a fire and grilled them on the rocks.
We went back to Velocir and ate some more canned food for dinner, enjoying a beautiful sunset!