Well, we’ve officially been “cruisers” for one month now! Hard to believe. In some ways it feels like we just left Annapolis yesterday, and in other ways it feels like we’ve been gone six months already.
We’re really enjoying the trip so far, but it’s been a lot colder than we imagined! In fact, there’ve only been a handful of days where the weather reached the mid-sixties. I know, much better than the Arctic temps back home, but still cooler than what we had expected (especially in Florida!). Coldgear and sweatshirts have been in the wardrobe rotation way more than shorts and t-shirts. We’re trying to make Key West for Thanksgiving, and have been doing 10 hour days inching down the ICW. Not much of a casual, relaxing trip so far. Looking forward to being in a place with warm weather and clear waters so we can hang out for a few days (maybe a week?) and finally relax before crossing over to the Bahamas. Hoping we’ll find this soon in the Florida Keys.
With thirty days of cruising experience under our belts, what have we learned so far?
Water goes fast
We have a 100 gallon fresh water tank, which we used to think was huge. It’s not. Some cruising boats have 150-200 gallon tanks. When you think of all the things you use water for – cooking, dishes, showers, flushing the toilet, washing your hands – you can see how 100 gallons doesn’t get too far. And we haven’t even been showering that much! (Please don’t judge). We top off our water tank each time we stop at a marina for fuel and so far, the lowest we’ve ever been is a quarter tank after about 7 days (this averages out to about 10 gallons used per day). There are definitely ways that we can reduce our water consumption when we’re in the Bahamas, such as washing our dishes (and even ourselves!) in salt water then doing a fresh water rinse. We can change up our heads so that we flush with sea water instead of fresh water as well. We also have a water maker that we will play around with once we get to Key West. It’s been winterized for about two years now, so we’re not sure how well it will work until we’re able to get to cleaner water and try it out. Supposedly, it will produce around 15 gallons of desalinated water per hour. This is at the top of the list to look at once we’re in Key West.
Anchoring has gotten much easier
It’s no secret that perhaps my biggest fear of cruising is dragging anchor. The (very) few times we had anchored while in the Bay didn’t always go so well, causing me to sleep with one eye open and checking our GPS throughout the night to make sure we were still hooked. I was still doing this well into our trip. However, like all things, the more you do it, the better you get. Maybe the sand down here is better holding than the mud in the Bay. Maybe we’ve perfected our technique. Whatever the reason, we’re sleeping like babies at night, confident that we’ll be where we’re supposed to come the morning.
Money goes fast
Especially when you don’t have an income to replenish what’s spent! Marinas, fuel, groceries, restaurants… they all cost money. Some places more so than others. In all fairness, we knew our first month would be expensive since we mostly stayed at marinas and had a weeklong stop in Charleston. Now we’re back to our original cruising budget and have cut back our expenses dramatically. Dinners? Whatever we have on board. Fuel? Back down the engines and do more sailing. Marinas? Don’t need ‘em now that we’ve perfected our anchoring technique. Every dollar we can save means that we get to extend the burn that much more. Hoping that no major boat repairs need to be done this trip, but if it happens, we’ll deal with it. It just means that we may have to end our trip sooner. But what a trip it’ll be, even if it is cut short!
Logistics have been the hardest part so far
Where to get groceries? Stamps for postcards to our family? Where to have mail sent? These are some of the logistical puzzles we’ve had to figure out on our trip so far. For food, sometimes a grocery store is just a short bike ride away (this severely limits your purchases to what you can fit into your backpack, BTW), or not convenient at all, so we scavenge what we can find at a local convenience store or CVS. This is actually sort of fun though, and I can’t wait to do it in a foreign port here soon. Mail has been tricky too, since we’re not too sure where we’ll be at any given day. We’re at the mercy of the weather, the wind, and the infamous Florida bridge schedules. Luckily, we have a few friends down the coast that have lent us their mailboxes for important mail and, even better, care packages from friends and family to be sent. Usually marinas will hold your mail for you too, you just call to notify them that you will be expecting mail. Not at all difficult, just a little more involved than life on land.
We worry about different things now
No more worrying about the day to day stresses of life on land. Traffic. Meetings. What’s for dinner? Spending weekends running errands. Home improvement projects. Slow drivers. Depressing doomsday-esque news broadcasts. No.Time.For.Anything. These were some of the things that used to stress us out back on land. It seems almost strange that we don’t have to worry about worrying about any of those things anymore (well, besides what’s for dinner, but soup has become an accepted and simple option). Now the things we worry about are weather, running aground in the sometimes shallow waters of the ICW, finding a secure anchorage, avoiding freighters and other boats, the Gulf Stream. These worries are much more life or death/imminent damage to your boat, and thus more relevant to us now than stressing out about say, the neighbor’s dog barking. Not to say those things won’t creep back onto our radar at some point in life, but so far this life has definitely put things into perspective for us.
We are seriously grateful for the following:
1. Autopilot. Because hand steering just sucks.
2. The iPad. Doubles as a secondary GPS for when our chart plotter goes all wonky (it’s actually shown us on land on a few occasions), and for the Kindle. Because paper books are bulky and take up precious room onboard.
3. XM Radio. Any kind of music or news you could want on demand. And the signal stays loud and clear even when we’re 40 miles off shore. Totally worth the $11/month subscription.
4. Coldgear. Because it’s been freakin’ freezing here, especially when you’re stuck outside in the wind all day.
5. Celestial Teas. See above. Tea time comes about six times per day on this boat. It’s like we’re English.
So there you have it, our random musings after a month cruising. It’ll be interesting to see what we add or delete after we’ve been at it for a bit longer. We’re so excited to experience it all!