It was supposed to be a smooth passage …

On March 10th, we finally headed south from the Sea of Abaco. After 10 days in Marsh Harbour, hiding from nor’easters, we had staged ourselves off Lynard Key, watched the weather, and listened to the cruisers net every morning to hear the status of the cuts. The cuts are gaps between Bahamian islands that allow you to pass from the protected waters of a sea or bank (such as the Sea of Abaco) into the open ocean. They can be tricky; narrow with rocks and reefs on either side, and a strong current either pulling you forward or fighting your progress. You need to time a cut passage properly, preferably at slack tide, when the wind is not working again the current and building up strong, high waves. I have a goal for cut passages, and that goal is “No stories.” There are many salty sailors who take pride in their horror stories, “I was passing through Whale Cut in northerly winds of 35 to 40 knots! The waves were as tall as houses! Only my arcane skills as a sailor and my brave heart enabled me to make it through unscathed!” Well personally, I prefer the uneventful, safe passage. Oh, and I passed through Whale Cut a few days ago. It was fine. Nothing happened. That makes for a boring blog post, I know. Sorry!

Anyway …. We had listened to the cruisers net hosted out of Hope Town every morning. The net coordinator shares a weather report from Barometer Bob, and invites folks to describe the conditions they are observing in the cuts. We decided to head south when the Little Harbor Cut transitioned from a “bouncy 3 out of 5” to a “very passable 4 out of 5 and improving” We had mapped out a course of approximately 60 nautical miles to Spanish Wells at the northern tip of Eleuthera. The trip was supposed to be calm and uneventful. We might even need to motor if the winds were too light to sail. We departed the anchorage just at sunrise, giving us almost 12 hours of daylight to make the passage. I had a book ready.

And the weather man was wrong! Winds were as high as 25 knots. Seas were 6 feet in the wrong direction to the wind. On the positive side, we sure had enough wind to sail! We spent the day heeled over at 15 to 25 degrees and sailing at 5 to 6 knots (fast for Sanitas). The wind was on our bow, as it always seems to be, and the seas were on our beam, so it made for “uncomfortable” conditions. I claim that I don’t get seasick, but I put that claim to the test today! At one point, I built myself a little nest of pillows in a corner of the salon, and wedged myself into the small space to avoid being tossed around.

All three ships in our tiny flotilla were battered today. On SE of Disorder, a bail broke on their main, causing lots of noise, and tangling the main sheet in the rigging. On Sanitas, the bilge pump stopped working, and the propane sensor broke so that we couldn’t use our stove. But Orion had the worst luck of the passage. They had sailed all day, bearing west of our rhumb line because it provided a better angle to the wind for a close reach. We could just barely see them on the horizon when they started up the engine and planned to motor straight into the wind to reach our destination for the evening. Over the radio we heard “Orion is having a very bad day.” They were getting absolutely no thrust from their motor, and feared the prop was missing – the victim of a large patch of seaweed they’d sailed through ten hours earlier. Bob had to get in the water, in those high seas, out of sight of land to check on the prop. (There would have been a lot of tears shed if that happened on Sanitas) Bob diagnosed that the prop was there, but the prop key was missing, allowing the prop to spin freely. Essentially, Orion had no working motor, and could only proceed under sail. That meant they couldn’t make it to Royal Island which was directly into the wind, and couldn’t get to Egg Island Cut and the hopefully calmer waters on the other side. Instead, they sailed all night long in deep safe waters, until they saw the lights of Nassau, and headed back north to join us in daylight and under better wind conditions. Capt Mike and I felt terrible as we watched them sail further away from us, and we instead made our turn toward Royal Island. We knew they’d soon be out of radio range and on their own for the night. And I have never been happier to hear Bob’s voice than when he hailed us at 6:00 am the next morning, after making it safely through the night, and only about three miles from our anchorage!

We’ve nicknamed Disorder “Toolbox” because Stan, a retired fire fighter, has every tool and part and spare you could possibly need aboard. Between our three boats, we had everything Bob and Mike needed to replace the prop key with Orion in the water. Even a small dive tank to facilitate the underwater repairs. The trip that took 12 hours and 60 miles for Sanitas took 120 miles and 30 hours for Orion, but she was finally anchored, repaired, and safe. And her crew could get some much needed sleep.

Real Women Move

While in Marathon, I received the good news that I have been selected as an ambassador for Skirt Sports for the second year in a row. I love this woman-owned, Boulder-based company that provides high-performance cute workout gear (with pockets!) for women of all shapes, sizes, and ages. I’ve made a lot of friends through this group, and when I moved to Florida, local Skirt Sports sisters welcomed me to town.

I’ve been encouraged to fit exercise and healthy eating into my life by these strong women. And it’s good to know that I can always find a workout partner anywhere in the country. I think it’s pretty safe to say that I’m the only ambassador whose primary sport right now is sailing, lol. But honestly, the same clothes that keep you cool and dry on a run work great in the tropical environment of a sail boat. AND the dresses are really cute!

If you check out Skirt Sports in person at the Flagship Store in Boulder, or on line at feel free to use my discount code for 15% off full priced items. “41BAEH”

We Untie the Lines

Finally, after three months in St Petersburg, we are leaving this safe home base, and heading south. Ready or not! The marina does start to exert its own gravitational pull. The environment is familiar now; we even have our favorite walks and restaurants. We have made friends on the docks. TC and Suzanne who live on the beautiful sailing vessel Arabella and hope to start cruising next year. Robert and Rhonda on Eagle Too who have given us lots of good advice on cruising and provisioning. Doug and Glenda, from Ontario, who are doing the great loop of North American waterways, and have been fun happy hour companions. Pat and Melana who sail a beautiful catamaran and have been gracious hosts, hopefully leaving about a week after we do when their sails are replaced.

It would have been easy to keep puttering around on projects, socializing, and packing. But Drew and Sharon picked a date, and we used that as our motivation to get moving. I had to have a little heart-to-heart with Mike on our last morning in the marina. In my best wifely tone, I gently suggested “maybe it’s time to stop tearing the boat apart on new projects, and start putting the boat back together again.”

Our last few projects involved registering the car in Florida, so we wouldn’t get fined while storing it (which only took three attempts at the DMV) and selling our townie bikes. That part made me very sad, and I sent mike in to Play it Again Sports to do the deal so I didn’t have to watch. I asked if he told the clerk that her name was Olive Oyl and if he promised to take good care of her.

Anyway, on Sunday morning, 21 Jan, we finished our last fill of the water tank, last check of the electrical systems, said our last goodbyes, and finally untied the lines and left St Petersburg. Gulp!

Super light winds meant we were pretty much just motoring, not sailing, but they also ensured a smooth Tampa Bay, and an easy trip under the Skyway Bridge, past Eggmont Key, and sound into new territory. An easy six hour motor, and we were on a mooring ball at Marina Jack’s in Sarasota by 4:00. Just for comparison, to drive from St Pete to Sarasota would have taken us just over an hour. We are definitely doing slow travel now!

Put the dinghy in the water, and headed ashore to celebrate our first day at happy hour, and luckily stumbled into the Sarasota Seafood and Music Festival. Fun opportunity to dance to a soul and funk band while eating shrimp. So far, this cruising thing is off to a good start!

SV Sanitas is Named and Celebrated

Have you noticed while reading these blog posts that I keep referring to “our boat” and “the sail boat”? Have you felt a little bit insulted on her behalf that she isn’t being referred to with a more appropriate level of respect? Well, I shall remedy that today. Upon arrival at the St Petersburg Municipal Marina, we set out to throw one huge shindig to officially rename our new home, and to ensure that Neptune, god of the oceans, and Aeolus, god of the winds, treat her well forever onward.

Tradition has it, that you must throw a big party to celebrate the renaming of a vessel, inviting everyone in the marina, and showing your sailboat that you are proud of her, respect her, and are willing to lavish money on her (as if we haven’t been doing that already, see “Tool of the Day” posts.) So we set out to do just that. We stocked up on red wine, champagne (or a reasonably priced facsimile from Costco), snacks, burgers, and all the fixings, and we invited everyone who walked by to help us curry the favors of the gods.

Mike rang the ship’s bell and gave a toast to her previous captain Jock, and all of her previous adventures. Then we dropped an ingot inscribed with her previous name into the water, asking Neptune to erase that name from his records. We offered toasts to the North, South, East, and West winds, and poured wine over her bow. I offered a toast to Captain Mike and the hard work he has performed to get us to this point. And FINALLY, after much toasting and bell ringing, we unveiled the new name of Sanitas.

Sanitas means “healthy or sane” in Spanish, and is sometimes used as a girl’s name. We hope that this small life on the water will bring us sanity and peace of mind. Our home in Boulder, CO was at the base of Mount Sanitas – one of our favorite local hiking trails. So we love having this tie back to an important part of our old lives.

I hope that we followed the rituals correctly to ensure good luck and safety for SV Sanitas and her crew. I do know that we met and befriended many people that night, both fellow transients passing through the marina, and folks who live there full time. So I feel that we have already felt the benefit of good luck and a successful naming ceremony!