We fly to Toronto tomorrow and it looks like Volver made it to West Palm Beach without any major war wounds. The winds on our final passage were much lighter than forecast. Hence, we ended up motoring for the 2nd half of our journey, which was long and slow. The first night, there was a new moon, and we were surrounded by a halo of lightning storms, with a crown of clear, starry sky overhead. The second night, we motored right through horrific lightning storms. Captain did not awaken the first mate for her 4-6 am watch, as he was soaking wet from a deluge of rain, and figured there was no reason for both of us to be suffer through a monsoon. Volver and crew made it through unscathed, and are grateful to have returned safely to resume our land based life.
|Captain captured this shot of a large herd of dolphins frolickling in the bow wave while first mate napped|
|Enjoying the clubhouse at Palm Harbor Marina|
West Palm Beach has great restos, live music venues, and a movie theatre, as well as a cute trolley to help you get your groceries home.
We enjoyed celebrating another Happy Family birthday, as Michelle turned (a lady never tells) a year older during the last days of full time cruising life, at least for now.
|Happy Birthday, Michelle!|
We developed a fondness for handmade ice cream at Sloan's, whose interior is a confection itself.
|Sloan's downtown West Palm Beach location|
The majority of beaches, shopping, and beautiful gardens are in Palm Beach, which is on an island, just across the Intercoastal Waterway.
|Store window, Palm Beach|
|Sculpture, Via Amore, Palm Beach|
|Watching the children (above) playing|
We won't miss storms, waiting for weather, or being salty all the time. We won't miss the anxiety of navigating the Bahamas, which presents a whole other level of skill involving waiting for good overhead light and tides that makes even short hops between islands a challenge. For example, there was no way to leave our last anchorage at high tide AND cross the yellow banks at high tide to get to Nassau. We doglegged around the yellow banks and crossed just before low tide but in good light. Overall, we experienced more anxiety than predicted. But we accept that cruising is NOT vacation, it is another way of living. The first mate won't miss seasickness, which never fully extinguished, and likely triggers migraines. We won't miss looking for a SIM card or WiFi. We won't miss the paucity of fresh produce and the sameness of the restaurant menus.
|We spent alot of time in places where you are not warned that the beverage you are about to enjoy is hot, or the rocks at the bottom of the cliffs will hurt you, should you inadvertently fall on them|
We will miss the joys of discovering what each new anchorage, town, and countryside has to offer. We will miss walking slowly, rarely being in a hurry (no worries, we are on Caribbean time), and seeing nearly every sunset. We will miss the majestic beauty of nature at every turn. Cruisers are very friendly and helpful in the islands: we will miss the casual chats with strangers who become friends. Locals were also friendly and helpful and we met many that genuinely welcomed us to their island. We will miss having a flexible timetable, allowing us to stay in many places longer than expected when we wanted extra time to experience the beauty. We will miss dolphin sightings, and turtle watching from our cockpit/dining room. We will miss fantastic snorkeling, enjoying the colourful corals and fish, usually just a short dinghy ride from our anchorage. We will miss the stars: who knew there were so many up there?
|Shopping on Worth Street, Palm Beach|
Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda: the wish we did list:
1. Have boat cards made. Very handy when meeting new friends. We appreciated receiving them, especially months down the road when we were thinking, "what were their names?" Photos of people are better than boat photos!
2. Ensure that your dinghy engine is reliable and can be started by all adult crew members. We think it creates an unhealthy dependency otherwise, and there is little opportunity to escape if the spousal temperature overheats in context of confinement in close quarters. Consider a dinghy with a console.
3. Install a high quality water filter.
4. Ensure that all clothes worn on wet dinghy rides (most rides) are quick drying. Leave the heavy cotton at home, please! This never dries once it gets salty: osmotic attraction of the water in air is powerful. Quick dry clothes are easily rinsed in fresh water with a touch of ammonia (which readily evaporates) and good as new after a quick hang on the lifelines.
5. Never sail the Bahamas without the Explorer brand charts, which are both exquisitely rendered and more accurate than other offerings.
6. Leave as much junk at home as possible. We could have done without our gennaker (light air sail), 2 sets of cockpit cushions (we use the folding chairs the most when just the two of us), and a bunch of extra lifejackets.
7. You can find almost anything you want to purchase in the Caribbean if you travel far and wait long enough. There is little need to mention this, for you will bring many spare parts (fuel filters, spark plugs, etc). We suggest bringing some hard to come by pantry items from home, such as jars of artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, pesto, olives, hearts of palm, smoked oysters, etc, which are great to dress up pizza or pasta salad, or serve to nibble with cheese for a light supper. Our hard to find items included gatorade powder and alcohol based hand sanitizer.
8. Buy the biggest inboard engine you can find/afford. You always end up motoring more than you expect. Our 29 hp Yanmar has been a faithful friend, and is an enormous improvement over the 13 hp of our previous boat, but Volver is hopelessly underpowered for the winds, currents and seas of the Caribbean.
9. It is a long distance from the bow to the cockpit and very hard to hear when the wind is up and especially if the bow person is looking ahead. We used walkie talkies but a wireless headset (we saw some marketed as "marriage savers") would have been useful.
|Volver on the travelift|
The Highlights list:
We visited: British Virgin Islands, USVI, St. Martin/Sint Maarten, Anguilla, St. Barts, Nevis, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique, Antigua, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Bahamas, USA
Favorite island: Puerto Rico! Beautiful beaches, fantastic snorkelling, terrific anchorages, friendly and helpful people, good shopping, and best restos. What's not to like?
|Captain and Amy on the dock|
in their colour coordinated
outfits, Palm Harbor Marina
Runner up: Isle de Saintes.
Beautiful setting, hiking trails, vibrant town and cafe culture.
Best tourist attraction: the Botanical Gardens at Deshaies
Favorite Natural attraction:
Victoria Falls, Dominica
Best farmer's market/fish market: Roseau, Dominica
Most beautiful anchorage: Warderick Wells, Exuma Cays, Bahamas
Best Customs and Immigration process: France!
Martinique, St. Martin, Guadeloupe, St. Barts (self help computerized system, no hassles!)
Best Snorkelling: Cousteau Marine Park, Pidgeon Island, Guadeloupe
Best Cruiser's Hangout: Tie between Sal Pa Dentro,
Salinas, Puerto Rico and Chat and Chill/Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Bahamas
Best place to stay awhile: Salinas, Puerto Rico or Georgetown, Bahamas
Best way to miss a wicked Canadian winter: cruising the Caribbean on Volver!
|That's all Folks!|