This is the final part in my seven part series of going from the US Virgin Islands to Wilmington, North Carolina. Below the list of previous videos and articles there’s a video showcasing our experiences getting a CopperCoat antifoul and servicing job – more about that written down below. If you’ve missed any of the previous articles/videos, here’s a list of them:
Part 7 of 7: Getting a CopperCoat Antifoul and Servicing VIDEO
My family and I had several reasons for sailing to America. The first reason was to excape the tropical hurricane season. Our insurance company requested that we sailed above the 30 North latitude line before the end of June.
The 30 North line is roughly parallel to Jacksonville Florida
Having family in North Carolina, only a couple states north of Florida, we decided to base ourselves in Wilmington, a city off the coast of North Carolina. We wanted to take a break from sailing, visit with family and put our 6 year old daughter, Sienna, into school for a term.
The video shows our haul out at Bennett Brothers Yachts – in Wilmington, footage of the CopperCoat antifoul process, what my family did while off the boat, work and trips we took to the boat while she was on the hard and finally, I have some clips showcasing Britican going back into the water.
If you’ve never taken a boat out of the water through the use of a crane this video will be helpful in that it demonstrates the process
Furthermore, many readers on my various social media platforms have show a large interest in CopperCoat. This video will show various images and clips of the stages Britican went through to get the job done.
While getting work done in Wilmington, North Carolina my husband, daughter and I moved into my brother’s house in Cary, North Carolina. For six weeks we spent time with my brother and his family in addition to spending time with my mom and step-day.
The work we had completed included a full rigging check with some repairs, new anodes for the bottom of the boat, getting one of our alternators fixed, some minor engine repairs, our bowthruster fixed, a new VHF radio installed (after our incident with the US Navy – read Part 5 of 7: Sailing to Fort Lauderdale Florida (USVI to North Carolina) for that story, and the main work was getting a CopperCoat antifoul treatment applied to the bottom of the boat.
Antifoul is needed to keep barnacles and other marine growth from growing
Any growth on the bottom of a boat will drastically slow the boat down. Considering that sailboats are slow to begin with, most sailors work hard to prevent growth.
Normal antifoul treatments last around a year or two whereas CopperCoat antifoul should last 8 to 10 years. It’s very expensive but, in theory, a boat owner should save money in antifoul costs, labor, and haul out charges over the long run.
If you’re thinking about getting a CopperCoat antifoul treatment please email me at Kim@SailingBritican.com if you have any questions. My husband, Simon, or I would be happy to explain our experience.
Interestingly, an on par with our past experience, our plans had to be changed. The work on the boat went as scheduled however my plans to put our daughter, Sienna, into school in Wilmington did not.
The school districted to the marina in Wilmington is a rough inner city school with several children with behavior issues. After enquiring about other schools and looking into private options nothing was working out.
Schools outside the district would not take a child that didn’t live there. Private schools cost the same amount as me hiring a full time teacher to live on our boat! We had to look for other solutions.
My husband, Simon, and I travelled up and down the North Carolina coast. Either our boat wouldn’t fit into a marina (draft too deep or mast too high to pass under bridges) or the school district wasn’t a good one.
Our search led us to Charleston, South Carolina…
…one state below North Carolina and a four hour drive from my family (Wilmington was a 2 hour drive).
One thing led to another and we found a marina that allows live-aboards and an excellent school. Although the distance between my family and our new home increased it was a no-brainer solution.
Never did I think I’d be living in Charleston, South Carolina but then again, never did I think I’d buy a 56’ Oyster and sail the world
So…the plan now is to chill out for a bit, allow Sienna to grasp the concept of education, do some cosmetic work on the boat (re-do the teak deck sicoflex, renew our ceiling lights, caulk our bathrooms, make new curtains, cockpit cushions and covers and more.
Simon, Sienna and I have been sailing for 2 ½ years and we’ve been going non-stop for around 15 months without staying anywhere longer than a few weeks. After our 6-month wintering in Marina Di Ragusa in Sicily we’ve been sailing the Med, the Atlantic and the Caribbean.
Before I get to the part about how we’re living on a boat in Charleston South Carolina, USA, let me first give you a bit of background on how we got there…
My shoulders are tight. There’s a knot in my neck so my side-to-side head motion is painful. When surveying the rest of my body I notice that my breathing is high in my lungs and shallow. I feel as if my whole upper body is scrunched up and fizzing with a tightness that can’t be released.
The last time I felt so stressed, my family and I were moving from land to sea boarding Britican for the start of our around the world sailing adventure.
Britican coming out in Wilmington, North Carolina
Now, over 2 ½ years after leaving land, we’re moving Britican from Wilmington, North Carolina, where she’s been on the hard being serviced, to Charleston, South Carolina, where we’ll be based until…who knows?!
Let me back up a bit more….After sailing the Mediterranean for two years, crossing the Atlantic Ocean and sailing in the Caribbean for a season (December to June) we made our way north to North Carolina, USA to escape the tropical hurricane season.
[Note: If you’re interested in our journey from the US Virgin Islands up to North Carolina I document and videoed the trip in seven parts. To read and/or watch part one, start at: Part 1 of 7: Sailing from USVI to North Carolina: Puerto Rico]
Back to our reasoning for heading to North Carolina…
While my husband, Simon, and I discussed plans to find a hurricane hole along the east coast of America an idea popped into our heads. We thought it would be an excellent opportunity to put our six year old daughter into school. Up until the present time we’ve homeschooled our daughter, Sienna, and unfortunately it hasn’t gone as well as we would have hoped.
Due to many reasons, homeschooling has become a time of anxiety, distress, screaming fits and, at times, family blowouts. Perhaps half of our lessons went well but the other half were painful. I’m sure there are many contributing factors that have hindered our success…perhaps the lack of routine, long passage sailing, our child’s temperament and our lack of training didn’t help?!
Needless to say, while in the Caribbean, Simon and I had a long discussion about eventually seeking some sort of help
Our initial idea was to put Sienna in school in America for three months so she’d get some sort of baseline understanding of what ‘normal’ school is like. Perhaps if an independent teacher showed her the way in addition to watching her peers do schoolwork she’d understand the importance of learning?
Moving from a three month stint to a full school year…
As discussions ensued and practicalities became more and more complicated our plans expanded to possibly provide a full year of schooling for Sienna. The cost of staying in one place for a long duration is considerable. There are marina fees that reduce drastically over longer-term stays and the cost to buy a car rather than renting is less costly if done for a year or so. Other financial considerations also came into play.
Britican getting new antifouling in Wilmington North Carolina
Our first plan was to put Sienna in school in the city of Wilmington, North Carolina
There’s a fantastic new marina that’s within walking distance to the city and it’s located in a lovely setting. Additionally, my family would be a 2-hour drive from the boat. Sienna would have access to her grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins!
Unfortunately, however, the school district and private school options in Wilmington didn’t work for us. The school districted to the marina area has a very poor rating and the private schools wanted a massive amount of money.
I could have hired a private teacher to live on our boat with us for less
One thing let to another and my husband and I started to look for schools along the east coast with higher ratings in addition to places for us to park our boat. We drove to a beautiful vacation town called Beaufort in North Carolina making enquiries for both a boat slip and good local schools.
The schools were all rated very well however we couldn’t find a slip for our boat that ticked all the boxes. One marina was ‘safe’ yet it didn’t have any facilities (no bathroom, showers, laundry, etc.). Another marina had facilities but had a reputation for being destroyed or damaged every time a big storm came through.
The one place we seriously considered had a hurricane evacuation policy
In other words, if a hurricane was on its way we’d have to move the boat out of the marina, anchor her in a river, get off the boat and hope for the best. We couldn’t leave the boat in the marina!
Although hurricanes rarely hit North Carolina, I just didn’t feel comfortable with the possibility of having to motor our boat into a river and anchor it with loads of other boats having to do the same. What if our boat dragged? What if someone else’s boat dragged?
For us, it’s not just our boat that might get damaged or lost – it’s our home!
Not feeling comfortable with the options in Beaufort, I started to research Charleston, South Carolina as I knew that the city had larger marinas. To our surprise, due to our 85’ mast and our almost 8’ keel our options are extremely limited. We assumed the the eastern coast of America would be a playground for larger boats but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
So…what about living on a boat in Charleston South Carolina?
When I discovered that the public schools in Mount Pleasant, a Charleston suburb, had top rated schools Simon and I jumped in our rental car and drove four hours south to check it out.
We found a marina called the Charleston Harbor Marina that’s facing Charleston but based in Mount Pleasant. We then looked up the school district for the marina and discovered that the school had a 10 out of 10 rating. RESULT!
Feeling anxious we then had to get the marina to accept us as live-aboards, visit the school and get confirmation that they’d accept Sienna into the school and then work like mad to get Britican to the area before school started.
Today, as I write this part of the article, it’s the 5th of August and Sienna’s school starts on the 17th!
Ryan (friend), Bryan (brother) and Simon (hubby) ready to leave for South Carolina
In an hour my mother is meeting me at my brothers house. My brother, husband, mom and I are then driving to Raleigh Durham Airport to pick up a friend. From the airport, we’re all driving down to Wilmington (2 hours) where mom and I will help Simon, my brother and a friend leave the dockyard.
Mom and I will then drive home. While the boys are sailing 24 to 36 hours down to South Carolina, my sister-in-law and I will drive down with our three kids (my daughter, niece and nephew) to meet the guys. We’ll all spend the weekend checking out Charleston and then my brother’s family and friend will drive back north leaving us to get situated in our new home.
Driving down to Charleston South Carolina with the kids.
Can you understand why my stress levels are high?!
What’s interesting is that for the twenty years I’ve lived in England (after growing up in Rochester, New York) whenever someone asked me if I’d move back to America, I always said, ‘no way!’
I think that I spent my 20’s and 30’s reflecting on my negative American personal memories rather than the positive ones. The thought of going ‘home’ made me feel uncomfortable and thus I made up reasons why America wasn’t that great.
Seriously…if you asked me three months ago if I’d ever move or stay long-term in America I’d come up with a whole host of reasons why I’d never stay. My largest argument was about the ‘live to work’ rather than ‘work to live’ ethic that many Americans have. In America you’re lucky to get a week off after you work for a year. In Europe you get twenty days off the day you start a job and then you get another 11 public holidays!
Interestly, if I was ‘forced’ to move back to USA, I would never have considered the south! I’m originally from the North in America…we’re trained to think the south is not that great (not that I really believe that).
Why the change of heart? Why do I now feel comfortable moving back to my country?
Well…first of all, I don’t think I valued my country as much as I do now
After sailing around many third world countries, it’s amazing to come home to a country that truly has everything. There’s an abundance of food, entertainment and every kind of facility possible.
When you grow up in America you don’t really understand how truly amazing this country is. It’s clean, the service is great, people are friendly, you can get anything you want at any time you want it…it’s nice to see that every toilet in a public place has a toilet seat, toilet paper and even soap!
For over two years I’ve had to work hard to communicate in other languages, spend hours getting something as simple as milk (often long-life rather than fresh), or enduring extreme frustration when locating an Internet connection to work on my website and download homeschooling lessons.
(As a side note I’ve also had the freaking time of my life too! It’s been brilliant sailing around the Med and Caribbean but it’s not an easy ride)
Second, my decision to come ‘home’ to America is because I really need help
I’ve realized that I can’t do the homeschooling right now. I’ve exhausted all my resource and strength. I’ve never been one to say ‘I give up,’ but I am comfortable at admitting failure.
To sum up my feelings quickly about homeschooling the best thing I can say is that I want to be a mom…just a mom. I don’t want to be a mom and a teacher. I can’t effectly handle both roles – I don’t know how.
So…where better to get my daughter a good start with her education?! Sienna IS American…she has spent her first 3 ½ years in England and now she’ll spend a year or so in the States learning about the history, culture and the truly abundant opportunities that are presented here.
The boys making it to Charleston South Carolina
Who knows if our stay in Charleston South Carolina will last one year or ten?
Perhaps we’ll never leave South Carolina? Or maybe in a year we’ll continue on our around-the world sailing trip through to the Pacific Ocean?
Maybe one year in school will teach Sienna the necessary understanding about what school is, why it exists and the benefits of an education? Perhaps she’ll be eager to get back out on the seas and start back with homeschooling? After the age of six, children in America have to be affiliated with an accredited homeschooling program that helps with the ciriculum, testing and routine correspondence.
Perhaps if I’m armed with everything I need and Sienna is accountable to a teacher on land I might be able to simply be a mom that’s helping her get her school work done?
I don’t know?
Sailing and the sailing lifestyle has taught me that life is always changing and often it’s changing into something I could have never speculated about or imagined.
Saying goodbye to family after moving Britican to Charleston South Carolina
Thus far I haven’t been disappointed
I’ve seen many things, met incredible people and have learned to be more open about what the universe wants to provide. This situation is no different.
It’s stressful, but it’s certainly fulfilling. I’m certainly alive. So…here comes yet another chapter in the Sailing Britican journey…
From the practical side of things, our current plan is to live-aboard our boat in Charleston Harbor Marina while Sienna attends first grade. Hubby and I have a long list of boat improvements we want to make so we’ll work towards getting Britican to be even better than she is now.
Some of our projects to improve our 2003 56’ Oyster Sailboat include:
– Fixing the teak deck (removing and relaying the black sycoflex between the teak boards
– Re-caulking the bathrooms and changing mirrors, upgrading fittings
– Working on damaged interior wood-work
– Making new curtains for all the rooms (a massive undertaking!)
– Making new cockpit cushions
– Redoing our black water system pipes/tubes (they’re discolored and a wee bit smelly)
– Sorting out all our recessed lights – many are rusting along the edges
– Fixing several of our Gebo side windows. The knobs are disintegrating and falling off!
– Replacing some of our engine exhaust piping – it’s cracked and warn
– Changing all our ceiling screens/shades as they’re falling apart!
– And more…
After checking weather reports, studying the tides and filling the boat with water and diesel, Simon, Sienna and I slipped lines saying good bye to Hyatt’s Peir 66 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Exiting the marina was far easier than entering it. We pulled out of our slip, made a tight right and then another tight right and motored forward between two super yachts.
It didn’t take long to enter the river leading us out of Fort Lauderdale
With ten minutes to spare before the bridge opened, we got hit with a squall. While pulling in the fenders and warps (lines that hold the boat to the slip) I got drenched! At least the rain cooled us down a bit. The temperatures were in the 90’s when we left.
The bridge opened at 11:30 and we easily motored through and on out the channel. There were several tankers, fishing boats and sight seeing boats all progressing towards the big open Atlantic Ocean expanse.
Simon and I tried to sail but due to very light winds we had to motor for a while
The three of us ate lunch, watched ‘Monsters University,’ and waited for another squall to hit us.
Sometimes squalls, or short storms, happen upon us quickly. Other times it can take hours before they quickly come and go.
While waiting for the weather system to move through I felt our boat pick up speed. Normally we motor along doing 6.5 knots around the 1400 rev mark, but our indicators showed us doing 10 knots!
We must have found the Gulf Stream again!
Woo woo! It’s great to get more speed for our diesel output.
Eventually, the wind picked up to 20 knots and sailing was the name of the game. We had dinner, I washed the dishes and was in bed at 7pm getting some sleep in preparation for my 1am night watch.
At 1am Simon woke me up. We were sailing in another squall and it was pitch black. With 20 knots of wind we were sailing at 10 knots with the wind behind us. I noted that the cruise liner, Carnival Victory, was behind us but otherwise there was no light.
Feeling a bit vulnerable, I asked sim to sleep in saloon so I could call down to him with any problems
While looking out at the pitch black backdrop I easily noticed the phosphorous bursting into life along the hull of the boat. It reminded me of those buzzy bee fireworks that burst to life, fly around in circles and are gone just as quick as they came.
Sitting around trying to become acclimated to the dark night watch I noted that nothing was on AIS plotter. I thought, ‘easy-peasy…nothing to worry about.’ The AIS plotter tells me what ships are near, where they’re heading and how fast they’re going.
Still feeling unsettled and half-asleep, I listened to the foam wash hissing loudly
I thought about how happy I was to leave Florida and how eager I was to get to North Carolina – our final destination. Being able to see my family and getting necessary work on Britican was overdue.
The wind picked up and I noted that our speed went up to 10.5 knots (see night picture above). Normally we’d only be doing 7 or 8 knots with the wind speed but the Gulf Stream was seriously helping us on our journey.
Eventually I settled into my watch and in wet pants on a damp cushion I started reading my new thriller entitled ‘Gone.’ The book is about a family that suddenly disappears without a trace and a police detective has to figure out what happened to them.
Engrossed in my book I kept hearing a ‘Securite,’ or safety message, broadcast over our VHF radio
The person announcing the Securite kept requesting listeners to switch to Alpha Channel X (can’t remember the exact channel).
The VHF radio on our boat is an old European radio and doesn’t operate on the American system. There was no way for me to pick up the channel mentioned. I assumed that if there was something serious the broadcaster would simply announce the message on Channel 16 so all boats could hear it.
I also thought that over the past couple years I’ve heard hundreds of Securite’s and I have never been anywhere near the problem at hand. Examples included floating logs, military restriction zones, sinking vessels, refugees and so forth.
Around 4:30am I noticed that it sounded like someone was hailing us directly on the radio. I ran over to the VHF speaker and turned it up to make sure I wasn’t imagining our name being called. Within seconds I again heard, ‘Britican, Britican, Britican, this is the US Navy…’
I yelled, ‘Oh Crap.’ And then I yelled, ‘SIMON!!!’
Simon begrugedly woke from his sleep asking me why I didn’t respond to the radio call. It wasn’t that I was afraid to answer the call…I was afraid that the US Navy was going to yell at me.
Apparently the US Navy was broadcasting the Securite. When they asked us why we were ignoring the message and sailing dangerously close to the restricted area we responded that our European VHF doesn’t have the necessary channel to listen to the message!
After a bit of discussion the Navy gave us a latitude and longitude for the restricted area. Apparently we had to stay at least 12 miles away from the coordinates yet we were 3 miles from going straight over it!
We were instructed to take a hard left and sail out until we hit the 12 mile mark and then we could proceed north. Simon explained that we’re a sailboat and we don’t go very fast. He also explained that if they let us carry on we’d be through the zone quickly as we were in the Gulf Stream.
The US Navy delined our request to stay in the Gulf Stream doing 10.5 knots
We then had to head east, doing 5 to 6 knots sailing into waves.
The US Navy called us again asking why we weren’t moving quicker. Simon explained, again, that we’re a sailboat and we can’t go much quicker. In the end, we took our sails down and motored at 6.5.
A month after this incident Simon discovered that the US Navy was shock testing the hull of a new naval ship. Apparently they were detonating bombs under the hull!
Can you believe that?!
After all the excitement, Simon took over the watch at 5am and I went to bed.
Later on in the morning I woke up. It was Simon’s 50th Birthday so Sienna and I wrapped some presents that Sienna got him before we left Florida. I gave her $10 to spend at the Dollar store so she got: reading glasses, camouflage sun glasses, one beer cosy, a woopy cushion, a freezer mug (for beer), a card and decorations.
Sienna was so excited to wrap and prepare for our little celebration
One by one, Sienna gave Simon the presents and although they were all silly things it was a memorable birthday. It’s not every day that you turn 50 years old while sailing on the Atlantic Ocean opening presents from the Dollar Store!
After the festivities, I noticed that we were doing only 4 knots with 10 knots on a close haul. Then, out of nowhere, the wind shifted and suddenly our head sail moved to other side. I jumped up and tacked so to bring the sail over to the correct side.
Within seconds we went from a slow poodle to 8.7 knots
There were dark clouds on the horizon so the the change of wind direction and speed was the result of a weather system moving through.
Just before the increase in wind, Simon was saying that it will take three more nights to get to NC rather than two going at 4 knots.
Getting 8 knots brought our ETA (estimated time of arrival) way down.
Watching the ETA can be exciting or soul destroying
By lunch time we were back down to four knots.
After Simon played with his calculator for a few minutes, he explained that we did 190 miles in 24 hrs. We might have broke our record (208 miles) if it wasn’t for the US Navy pushing us off course. The darn Navy!
For lunch we had pitas with tomato, cheddar, honey ham and blue cheese dressing. We also had left-overs of store-bought Mac and potato salad. I was feel huge – for some reason I’ve been eating like a horse since we got to the States.
After our midday feast, I laid in the cockpit feeling like a beached whale
Sim and Sienna were in the aft cabin watching a Harry Potter.
With no one around I started to contemplate my life. Half of me wanted to sail for weeks and the other half wanted to get into North Carolina. My parents offered their house and car to us for a week while they go on vacation… I thought it would be nice to play house – just the three of us living back on land with lots of space.
Looking out over the sea, I noticed that the waves had increased in size and we were sailing right into them. The motion was very rocky, but an up and down rocky rather than the side to side rocky that usually makes me green.
Trying to reduce our ETA, Simon and I tried to pole out jib and staysail
We just didn’t have enough wind but making the sail changes ate up almost 2 hours of time. Eventually, we had to turn the engine on.
While Simon and I were messing around with the sails, Sienna got ‘hangry,’ a term used when you’re so hungry that you get angry, but we had a good chat about it.
It’s amazing how sailing along at the pace of a turtle isn’t as boring as you’d expect. There’s always something to do, to try or to deal with. Whether it’s play with the sails, prepare for a squall or teaching a 6 year old about moderating emotions.
After a dinner of beef stew and special birthday éclairs (long narrow donuts filled with cream) I went to bed.
Around 12:30am Simon woke me
We were doing only 4.5 knots with the engine on. The tide was against us and we had no wind. Bummer!
Simon went down to bed and I once again abosorbed my surroundings. It was pitch black with no moon. The Milky Way was very easy to spot and I noticed quite a few high planes. The sea was flat but there was the typical Atlantic undulating swell so the ride was not smooth.
As usual it took me a few minutes to grow comfortable with my night watch. I almost always use distraction to get over the discomfort of sailing into blackness. I either read or play on the IPad. My distractor tools help me to forget that I’m sailing a 35 ton boat into pitch black surrounded by millions of creatures below me – some of which would happily eat me.
Around 4:45am I swapped my night watch with Simon and passed out quickly
At 8:30am I was back up. Sim made made me a coffee and I drank it while admiring the flat calm Atlantic. Never did I expect to see this beast of an ocean as flat as a pancake. The air was so fresh. The blues were so calming.
I piered down the aft cabin hatch and noticed that Sienna was watching Hotel Transylvania 2. I then felt a pang of guilt for not playing with her but I reminded myself that in a couple days she’ll be going to a summer camp, enjoying her cousins and being a ‘normal’ kid.
My thoughts then drifted over to that funny smell I noticed yesterday
I told Simon that we had some bad food or the bilge was stinking up the place. Later I realized it was me. That’s what happens when you don’t shower for three days!
Gone are the days when I showered and groomed myself to a high standard. Am I letting myself go or has the desire to fit in disappeared? Perhaps a bit of both.
Eventually the wind started to increase and we were finally sailing again. With the wind on our beam at 9 knots we were able to sail at 4.5 knots.
I noticed my thoughts oscillating – I’m hungry, what should I have for lunch? Mac salad, potato salad, tossed salad and a sausage?
What do I want to at our next stop – boat stuff, work, Sienna school/social, sight seeing?
Then, once again, I felt the deep love I have for sailing on the sea. Wow… I love this. Just sailing along on the flat sea. Do I actually want to return to land? Not when the sailing conditions are so smooth…when they are so perfect. I must say many times per day…it’s so beautiful yet I look at the same thing every day – deep blue sea and graduating Sky Blues. It’s a lot of blue. When I see green land, however, I am happy too!
We sailed for a good chunk of the day in light winds and a favorable current too. Simon and I started the day thinking we’d be out for two more nights but recent thinking is that we’ll be in around 4pm tomorrow.
With the flat seas, I was able to play with Sienna much more than usual. We did some reading and worked on rhyming. She only partially understanding rhyming so I thought about coming up with some different rhyming games for the next day.
We also did fashion plates – Sienna made the etchings and I colored them in. Sienna’s plan was to sell the designs for money when we get to land. Gosh – is she her mother’s daughter or what?
While coloring we saw a pod of dolphins
Otherwise we played Uno for four hours having a shower break in between for all of us. It felt great to be clean. Sienna also gave us a dance, singing and acrobatic show. With the boom pulled in and the preventer dangling down she discovered that she could spin around the lines from the boom to the traveller – a new addition to her act.
I’d love to get her lessons in dance and even singing or acting. She has the ability and confidence to entertain.
For dinner we had pork loin, stuffing and salad. After tidying the saloon I went to bed.
My final night watch was pure black again. There was no moon and loads of stars. I had two ships to watch at my start. One passed quickly behind. The other lingered for what felt like forever. I just wanted it to pass so I could go back to my reading.
During Simons watch we got twenty minutes of massive waves and I mean MASSIVE waves
The whole boat was going side to side with severity. I thought there was no way to sleep. I said to myself after position 20 if I don’t fall asleep soon I’m going to try sleeping on the sofa. I must have fallen asleep as I woke in my bed!
Sim later explained he had troubles staying in his seat. I wonder if the waves were created from the US Navy detonating a bomb? That would be interesting if that’s what caused the waves. What else would do that? Waves from tankers can be big but they don’t go on for 20 minutes.
In the morning, we finally saw land
We saw North Carolina. Sienna and I were so excited. We had big plans to look forward to – seeing family, getting the boat fixed up, Sienna attending a summer camp, Simon and I getting work done.
The plan was to stay in Wilmington for three months to a year depending on Sienna. We felt it was important to put her in school so that she gained a solid grasp on what education is, why it’s important and what ‘normal’ kids do. My homeschooling efforts were usually effective but often after a screaming match and many refusals to do the work.
What should have taken a couple hours could take up to a full day and it wasn’t fun for anyone
Before arriving in Wilmington, North Carolina we had to motor up the Cape Fear River. The journey took around 4 hours as we traveled with the tide. Along the river we noticed one town, several houses, a bit of industry, some islands, many crab pots, loads of grassy lands and a few other motor boats.
Eventually we made it to the bridge before the city. Simon rang the operator saying that we’d be at the bridge in about twenty minutes. To our surprise the bridge operator started opening the boat bridge almost immediately!
We couldn’t go much faster and we felt terrible to see all the traffic pile up as the drivers waited for us to pass the bridge.
I think the poor people in the cars waited over 10 minutes for us to go through
Once on the other side of the bridge, we passed several lovely waterside restaurants, noticed a few tour boats and saw the back of Wilmington’s main street.
Fortunately for us we’ve visited Wilmington a couple times in the past so we knew the general area
We finally spotted the marina and started to line the boat up to moor on the outer wall. We arrived after the marina attendants were gone so they made it easy for us to simply moor on the outside.
Thankfully, the tide, wind and Simon’s driving skills were good. As we approached the wall, the bow thrusters failed. It’s always possible to moor a boat without thrusers moving the bow left and right but it’s a bit unnerving when you expect them to work and they don’t.
Simon had no issue. We came close to the wall, I jumped off with the midship spring in my hand and between the rope and Simon’s boat handling skills we were in a perfect position to tie Britican down.
We quickly cleaned ourselves up, jumped off the boat, walked into town and got ourselves the biggest yummiest meal we could.
Sailing to Wilmington North Carolina Video
Whats next?! In the next post in this series you’ll see Britican being hauled out of the water and put on the hard ready for her antifoul servicing. Make sure to sign up to my newsletter to ensure you are notified of new articles
For our first full day after leaving the paradise of Hogsty Reef, sailing to Fort Lauderdale, we had our normal routine. The adults drank a lovely cup of coffee, Sienna had her Lucky Charms, we had fantastic discussions about the state of the world and we cleaned up the cockpit and boat.
Before 11am one of our fishing reels went off.
Hogsty Reef in the background – this is us leaving 🙁
Simon hopped up and started reeling in. I furled our headsail in and pulled the main into the boat to quickly slow us down. I then washed down the back deck, grabbed our fish cleaning towel, our cutting board and Kyle and I dug out our huge wash bucket.
After fifteen minutes Simon pulled up a 86cm Mahi Mahi (also called Dolphin Fish or Dorado). Kyle was in awe of how colorful the Mahi Mahi was – when you seem them alive they’re spectacular.
Simon’s MahiMahi catch!
Once they’re no longer living they quickly turn gray and pale
Kyle offered to fillet the fish. We have a ‘Cruisers Guide to Fishing’ book onboard so Kyle read what he had to do and went to work. To date, Simon has only filleted one fish while crossing the Atlantic. As for me?! When I was younger I remember filleting fresh water Bass and Perch but I’ve become more emotional as I’ve gotten older. I never kill anything – whether it’s a spider or a fly I catch it and put it outside. I don’t even like killing mosquitos. Whenever I kill one I say a little prayer and wish them well…not that I’m religious or anything. Perhaps I just value nature more than I ever have before? Hmmmm. I’ll have to ponder this line of thought, but not now.
So – Kyle filleted the fish and Simon went downstairs to cook it for lunch
Sim cut the fish into fingers, dusted it with flour, dipped it into egg, then into breadcrumbs and the Britican Galley Seafood Blend and finally cooked the fingers up on our electric hotplate.
MahiMahi dipped in flour, egg and then breadcrumbs with Sailing Britican Seafood Blend- YUM!
The end result was two meals worth of fresh natural deliciousness
We gave thanks to the universe for providing the Mahi Mahi and of course thanked the Mahi Mahi for giving his life. Hopefully our daughter will grow up valuing where food comes from due to these experiences. In the past I wanted to shield her from the filleting process but I’ve never stopped her from watching.
Kyle was extremely pleased with the meal. I think he said, ‘this is probably one of the best fish meals I’ve ever had.’ I couldn’t help but wish that Kyle caught the fish. There’s something very rewarding about catching a fish and then cooking it. I explained to him that there’s plenty of time for him to get one.
Interestingly, Kyle mentioned after the meal that he felt a bit emotional regarding the Mahi Mahi and the killing process. I think it was brave of him to share his thoughts. We’re all so far removed from where our food comes from that we just eat it and fail to consider that a few hours ago…or perhaps a few days ago it was a living being. Unless you come from a fishing or hunting family it’s a somewhat uncomfortable experience to kill something.
I feel I’m getting way off on a tangent so allow me to get back on track
After cleaning up from lunch we were all so hot. With a lack of wind and full bellies we all were desperate for a dip in the dark blue waters. As chance would have it the boat was passing over Columbus Bank having only 15 meters below us. Not liking to swim in deep deep waters we were all eager to jump off.
Simon tied a fender to a rope allowing it to trail behind the boat. With all the sails removed the boat moved at around 1 knot. With one person on the boat at all times we took turns jumping in and holding onto the rope as the current pulled us and the boat along our route.
At first I was super scared to jump in
It wasn’t until I grabbed my mask that I had the confidence to hang off the moving boat. At least with the mask I could clearly see the ocean floor. We spent a good 15 minutes being pulled by Britican and noted a Barracuda and Trigger Fish that joined us.
After the swim, Kyle hooked another Mahi Mahi but lost it before he got the fish to the boat. Later on that day Kyle hooked what we thought would be a big one only to discover it was a plastic bag. Ho-hum…
I explained again that, ‘you still have time…it will happen!’
And about the plastic bag. I wish I could report that the amount of rubbish in the Atlantic is reduced from what I saw in the Mediterranean. Sadly we’ve passed and have successfully collected a wide range of plastic bags, wrappers, broken buckets and unidentified crap.
Kyle’s first Baracuda
Finally Kyle landed a fish! A Baracuda…
Errr…Kyle managed to get the silver, sharp toothed, big-eyed predator to the side of the boat. As he kept it dangly in the water while we went to seek pliers and gloves the beautiful fish detached from the hook. On one had we were relieved as Barracuda’s are aggressive fish but on the other hand I couldn’t get the iconic picture of Kyle holding a 3’ to 4’ Barracuda stretched out in front of him out of my mind.
Luckily we were motoring when Kyle hooked the Barracuda so it was easy to slow the boat down. With no sails out we simply put the engine in neutral and went to work preparing for the fish.
And then the alarms went off. Beep….Beep….Beep….Beep.
None of us knew what the Beep was for. We have loads of alarms. Alarms for waypoint arrives, boats being within one mile, shallow depth, a clogged water separator filter (Racor), anchor alarm and on and on but this alarm we’ve never heard before.
And then the smell hit our noses! CRAP – Turn the engine OFF! TURN THE ENGINE OFF!
Simon opened the engine door and smoke, heat and the dreadful overheated engine smell wafted out of the small compartment.
CRAP…There’s no wind. We’re in a shipping channel. CRAP.
We all went into problem solving mode. I said to Simon, first thing first, let’s get the sails out so we are at least harnessing what wind we do have. Even if we’re going 1 knot at least we’ll have more control over the boat rather than drifting.
After the first survey Simon noted that the area below the engine was filled with rust colored water. In hindsight I should have immediately known that it was an issue with our closed looped water cooling system rather than our raw water (sea water) intake…but when things happen you seem to default to what you know.
Simon and Kyle checking the raw water intakes.
We waited for the engine to cool down and first checked our raw water intakes
There are large filters that catch anything that can clog the system. We then took the raw water impeller out. In the past we’ve overheated due to the impeller breaking down. The impeller pushes the water through the system and cools the engine.
While surveying the engine for the fifth time Kyle yelled out, I found it!
It was a u-bend hose connecting the closed water system near the oil intake. The hose was busted allowing all the water to spill out.
Simon removed the hose and we considered how we might make a repair. We wondered if we could extend the hose and re-clamp it. We discussed whether or not we had extra hose on board…
Duck tape was even mentioned, but only as a joke!
We discussed our passage without use of an engine. Discussion was had about diverting to Cuba but after a quick look on the maps we couldn’t find a safe haven. Considering that the forecast was calling for little to no wind I started to wonder how many days it would take us to get to Florida! Key West was mentioned…And then we spoke about having to get a tow from the entrance of Ft Lauderdale and how we might make arrangements.
Before the engine overheated I used our Satellite phone to pull down the latest weather report. Finding 10 knots of wind seemed to be a challenge! What a predicament.
While Kyle and I sat in the cockpit looking at the defective part we heard a ‘YEEEEEESSSSSSS!’ come from down below. Simon found the spare part we needed, the hose, in our Perkins Spare Part Kit.
The u-bend pipe that split and the mess the leak made!
The excitement in the air was full-blown!
It then took Kyle a good 45 minutes to get the hose replaced and clamped on. In the end our engine problems started around 10am and by 5pm we were ready to use the engine again. Fingers crossed we turned the engine on and she purred as usual.
With our engine working again we motored through flat calm waters. I know that it’s not proper sailing but I felt great!
No seasickness at all when we’re motoring without a swell
I managed to create a Mahi Mahi stir-fry meal for dinner that had garbanzo beans, broccoli, red onion, green pepper, Chinese mushrooms and rice noodles. I used some lime, soy sauce and a wee bit of sugar. The meal was a success.
In addition to the stir-fry I also made a batch of brownies and boy did we all enjoy them.
It’s amazing how something small like brownies makes everyone happy.
The night watches were uneventful. We had some squalls but we were actually happy to find ourselves in a storm – it was the only time we got some wind. I did the 2am watch and Kyle didn’t get me up so I woke around 3am. I sat reading from 3am until 6am, letting Simon sleep in.
The thriller I was reading, ‘The Girl on the Train,’ was so, so, so captivating that three hours went in a matter of minutes. Never did I read thrillers before doing night watches but now they’re my definite go-to to keep me awake!
During my watch I could make out one lighthouse but other than that there were no ships. The sky was magical. With a crescent moon behind some clouds I had a full view of the Milky Way.
Around 6am Simon came up into the cockpit and asked, ‘why didn’t you wake me up at 5?’ and I explained that he needed some sleep. The book was so engaging that I was happy to stay up longer.
I then slept until 9am when I woke and drank my lovely coffee
Unfortunately the real milk had run out so we moved over to the cartons of long-life milk. One thing is for sure about how I’ve changed by living on a boat. I am certainly not picky anymore. In my land based life I wouldn’t even drink coffee from home…it had to be from an overpriced gourmet coffee shop. Now I love my coffee brewed by our Brazilian coffee maker…and I’ll settle for long life milk.
Incidentally, I’m not even afraid of bugs being on my fruit or vegetables either
Before I’d throw away the whole piece of fruit or veg if I found something living in it. Now, I cut the bad part off and eat the rest. In some ways I’m not even that concerned if I have to eat bugs. Weird or what?! Perhaps I simply feel that any food is better than no food!
So I drank my coffee while considering what to make for breakfast. The day before I made pancakes for everyone. Today, however, it was only me that was hungry. I quickly scrambled up some eggs, threw in some jalapenos and onions. Added cheese to them and slid the concoction into a pita. YUM.
While eating my pita Simon and Kyle decided to see if they could fix the manual furling unit on our gennaker
Our gennaker is a downwind sail (a sail you put up when the wind is behind you) and might just allow us to sail instead of motoring. We have enough fuel to make it to Florida but we’ll be getting close to empty. Ideally, we want to sail! Watch Sailing with a Gennaker
Kyle and Simon fiddled around for a while and discovered the problem! The furling unit was being attached to the deck upside down – that’s why it wasn’t furling. Hehehehe. We all make silly mistakes. We’ve flown that gennaker loads of times so I’m not sure where the brain fart came in but it did. Needless to say, when the guys got it set up correctly the sail unfurled and we managed to sail for a bit.
After going below 1 knot however, we furled it in and turned on the engine
As the three of us where on the foredeck packing the sail away, I heard the noise I didn’t want to hear again.
Kyle ran back to the cockpit, turned the engine off and took a quick look. We once again overheated but there was no water on the engine floor. We decided to let the engine cool down and then check the vitals.
After checking the oil and the water Simon discovered the water was down. What we think happened is that we added water to the closed water cooling system but only to the bladder rather than the whole system. Once the engine ran it pulled in the water that we added but it needed more.
Simon added more water, we turned on the engine and everything was fine.
We then started checking the engine and water every three hours. It was so hot…with no wind we were all feeling it – even our lovely workhorse of an engine.
Here’s a picture of our Log Book during the journey
Our log book!
After five days at sea we eventually saw a line of buildings on our horizon!
It was Miami. Big smiles were on all our faces. Knowing that we’d be on land soon caused us all to discuss what we wanted to eat first – a hamburger, chicken wings and a huge salad were mentioned.
Sienna keeping an eye out in the Fort Lauderdale channel entrance
Our trip from Provo, Caicos to Hogsty Reef was okay. After we left my stomach didn’t feel too well – probably from all the fried pub food we had the day before! On top of having a sickly tummy the swell and the angle of the wind caused me to feel green (again).
The full run down about our trip to Hogsty Reef, our discoveries and much more is laid out below and at the end you’ll find the video I made. Unfortunately I don’t think it’s possible to capture the amazing beauty in a video but I did my best!
Around 8pm I went down to our bed without eating any dinner to try and sleep off my various ailments
It was a loud night filled with very disturbed sleep. At first I blamed the sound of the main sail banging as it bobbed with the swell and then bounced back when the wind filled it. Even though we had a preventer, or rope attached to the boom to stop it from swinging, there was still enough motion in the boom to cause a loud crashing noise.
Then a squall hit while Kyle was on watch
Simon and I listened to the wind increase, the boat speed pick-up and various noises in the cockpit. Kyle’s first reaction was to spill some of the 40 mph gusts of wind off the main. He then furled in the front sail. Simon joined him to help out and then both Simon and I slept in the saloon to be available if Kyle needed us quickly.
Hours later closer to dawn we hit another squall – this one was much larger and longer
Filled with lightening and thunder the seas were very rough and the wind was terribly gusty. Thankfully the swell was slight so we weren’t tossed all over the place. Simon and Kyle put a reef in the main and weathered the storm. (To understand what reefing means, watch Rigging, Sails and Reefing our Oyster 56′)
By 9am the storm was gone and by 10am we were anchored in Hogsty Reef
Upon sailing along the reef the first thing we noted was a shipwreck, then we noticed another and after that we saw a small patch of land with a tiny structure on it looking like a small lighthouse.
Our plan was to sail along the north side of the reef and then enter on the north west corner at its deepest point.
While waiting to get to our destination we put two fishing poles in the water
Within ten minutes the first pole went reeling away. We all jumped up and Kyle started reeling it in. Whatever took the bait literally took the bait. When we reeled in the line the hook was completely missing.
The next line then went and whatever took the line seemed to be in a hurry!
Simon reeled for quite some time. When he first started he reported quite a fight going on but after a while the fish seemed to be lighter. By the time we saw the fish we noted that it was skipping along the top. ‘What the heck,’ we all thought?
When Simon pulled up the line all we had was the head of a Tuna
We presume that a shark must have eaten our dinner.
Ten minutes later the line went again but this time it was only a tiny little tiddler. At least we managed to get a whole fish into the boat! We threw the tiddler back and prepared to anchor the boat.
When entering the reef we couldn’t believe the clearness of the water and the absolutely stunning colors. Talk about 50 shades of blue and green! Visibility was remarkable.
Surveying the ocean floor we noted loads of sand with patches of grass and coral
Kyle and I dropped the anchor in 8 meters of sand and let out 40 meters of chain. The anchor dug in quickly and Simon jumped in to check the anchor. Kyle and I had one concern – there was a dark patch that we were liable to swing over and we didn’t want the chain to hit it if it was coral.
Simon looked at the anchor and gave a thumbs up. He yelled out, ‘it’s dug in perfectly.’ Then he surveyed the surrounding ocean bed and noted that the boat was over grassy patches.
Any small coral patches were behind the boat
We all quickly cleaned up the boat. The sail cover was back on in no time and our small messes were dealt with. Within twenty minutes all four of us were in the water checking out our surroundings.
The first thing we noted was the abundance of starfish under the boat. There was loads of white sand and these dark stars dotted all over the place. Interestingly, by the time we left the following day they were all gone.
Around the boat there were small patches of coral teaming with loads of little fish
The colors of the coral and the fish were outstanding. There were deep reds, bright yellows and blue-black’s that made my eye’s smile. The four of us where giddy with excitement.
We then ran into two good sized barracuda’s
They seemed to be just as interested in us as we were in them. When they weren’t playing around with each other they were following us to see what we were doing!
Sienna explained that she saw a jellyfish and started swimming back to the boat. I didn’t believe her as she’s made similar comments before and there was no sign of the stinging fish.
Low and behold, right in front of me I could see three lovely transparent box-looking jellyfish
I assumed that when I saw a jellyfish I’d get out of the water. For some reason, I didn’t freak out. I was so enthusiastic about the coral and life in the sea that I decided to simply swim away from the stingy inhabitants.
At first it was hard to focus right in front of my nose and then down on the coral but it worked. Interestingly we all got stung quite a bit but I don’t think it was from a full-blown jellyfish. Perhaps there’s jellyfish particles in the sea?! The stings were not too bad. Every time I felt one I just wiped it off and carried on. When we returned to the boat none of us had any marks so it really wasn’t too bad.
Like a drug, the coral beckoned us to view more
We ended up quite a distance from the boat so Simon swam back to get the dingy. We then took our gear to the patch of sandy land nearest to the boat. We hauled the dingy up the sandy beach and we were all in awe by the lack of anything on it!
There was sand and then a higher patch of sand – perhaps more compact? And then there was a single structure to house a light that no longer works.
A rainbow at Hogsty Reef
On top of the compact sand there were hundreds of birds
The inhabitants didn’t seem very thrilled by our appearance so we kept well away from them. Several birds were on the sand and looked like they might have been sitting on eggs so we stayed on the further end of the island.
Simon and Kyle put on their snorkels and headed over to the shipwreck located at the entrance of the reef. Sienna and I followed. Again, we had a wonderful snorkelling experience. The wreck was very visible and once again there was an abundance of all sorts of colorful fish. Simon found the engine and we all gathered around to check it out. There were no jellyfish or stings so that was great.
All of us feeling a bit exhausted clambered back into the dingy and headed back to the boat
Simon saw a stingray so jumped back in. Kyle followed. I took the dingy back to the boat with Sienna and decided to have some girlie time.
Sienna and I ate lunch, I painted her fingernails and we played some games together.
While us girlies were doing our own thing, Simon and Kyle took the dingy to the see a shipwrecked Liberty Boat made in the 40’s that ran aground in the 60’s. It was 2.7 miles away from Britican so it gave Sienna and I some good alone time.
While Simon and Kyle were gone I couldn’t help but wonder what I’d do if both of them were eaten by a shark! I know it’s a terrible thing to think but what would I have done?! Sail the boat to Cuba? Carry on with just Sienna and I to Florida?!
Perhaps I should stop reading thriller books during my night watch!
Sim and Kyle came back. I was very happy to see the dingy speeding over to Britican. They both recited all the fish they saw and explained that the wreck was very interesting to snorkel around.
Feeling tired everyone took a nap. Kyle and I crashed out in the cockpit listening to laidback house music, Sienna was in her bedroom and Simon was in the aft berth completely passed out.
Here’s what the reef looks like on our plotter
Around 5pm I woke everyone up
We cleaned up and prepared for dinner. The plan was to take the dingy over to the sand patch to have a BBQ but our light was fading fast. A storm was on the horizon and we couldn’t determine how fast it was moving.
Just before we started preparing for dinner, we were all sitting in the cockpit chatting. And then we all got a feeling that something wasn’t right.
It wasn’t a feeling that a shark was around or that the storm was imminent. We all instantly heard a noise that didn’t jell with our surroundings. Being 40 miles from any land, off the beaten path, with no one around we all noticed an engine.
Was it another boat? Could it be a plane?
Suddenly on our horizon off the beam of the boat we noticed a very low flying helicopter heading straight for us. Instantly I thought it could be the US Coast Guard…and I hope it’s not because my mom has been watching our track and thinks we’re marooned.
Sure enough, it was the US Coast Guard. I have no idea why they have a presence in the area?! The helicopter circled us and I noted an external camera that looked like it was filming us.
We all smiled and then the helicopter made a larger circle around the whole reef and was gone
For a few seconds I felt angry. I thought, ‘how the heck is it possible that we’re finally in the most remote place EVER and we get a visitor?!’
I got over it quickly as my stomach started to rumble and that always helps to change my focus.
Simon pulled out our Cobb grill. Kyle pealed some potatoes and chopped up some corn on the cob. We grilled the potatoes, corn and a few steaks. The meal was delicious. And what made the whole night truly spectacular was a bright rainbow set to a black sky to our bow and a truly amazing sunset off our aft. All of us couldn’t stop commenting about how beautiful our surroundings were.
And then it happened…
We all watched the very last bit of the sun go down and all four of us witnessed the green flash.
The first I heard of the green flash was when we crossed that Atlantic. Our crewmember, Murray, said that he’d like to see it during the crossing. When I asked what it was, Murray explained, ‘Just as the sun dips down below the horizon, if you’re on the sea and there’s no clouds it can produce a green flash.’
At first I thought Murray was joking but over the course of the summer I met several people saying they saw the flash.
Night after night I kept my eye out for the supposed green flare and never saw a thing
At Hogstay Reef I mentioned the flash and explained if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen in the next few seconds. We all waited and watched and low and behold, we all saw a green hue just as the last bit of sun dropped below the horizon.
It was anti-climatic. Heck – I thought a beam of green light was going to spread out across the horizon and somehow blow me away with delight. Instead, I simply saw a bit of green as the sunset. I must have played it up in my head too much! Either that or what we saw wasn’t the real green flash.
Needless to say, I can now say I think I’ve seen it!
Overnight sleeping was slightly difficult. The swell was a bit too rough for my liking. Considering our surroundings it was worth living through it.
The next day we did some cleaning, attempted to fix our second alternator. For some reason the output reads that it’s good but somewhere along the wiring the electricity is not charging our battery bank. Unfortunately we had to run our generator instead.
Midmorning we all clambered carefully into the dingy. The swell caused the dingy to rise high above the sugar scoop and then dip down low.
Jumping from one boat to the other was a serious task
We aimed the boat for a second patch of land about 2 miles from the boat. It was the only other part of land that can be seen running along the horseshoe reef. Half way across I noticed lightening and thunder and not knowing how fast the storm was coming we all decided to return to the coral nearest us. Sometimes storms move fast and the seas were getting very turbulent – especially for a small little dingy.
We anchored in sand along the reef closest to the light structure but still within the reef.
To say that the reef was extraordinary is an understatement
Having dived 50’ in the British Virgin Islands a week prior I could compare a typical deeper dive to the reef we could touch from the surface. The colors of the reef were amazing. The fish were abundant – we saw schools of 50 blue fish, 50 black fish… Tiny yellow, orange, purple and blue fish. The coral was just as colorful – if not more. I noted purple fans, yellow-orange brain and red coral that flowed in every direction.
There were little passageways for us to explore heading towards the coast
The coral fans were almost breaking on the surface but the passages went deep enough to swim around. Everywhere I looked there was color and life. I couldn’t help but humanize the fish thinking what they must be talking about with each other. When looking into crevices I’d find loads more fish – many peeping out to look us over.
Out over the deeper sandy patch we found a barracuda and one trigger fish just minding his business swimming slowly and deliberately.
I wanted to stay for hours but the seas increased in chop and the dark clouds were looming
Simon, Kyle, Sienna ungracefully pulled ourselves up into the dingy and headed back to Britican.
With dark clouds and no chance of any snorkeling left to do, we decided to say ‘goodbye’ to Hogsty Reef and start making our way along our longer passage to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We pulled up anchor around 2pm and started off with very little wind but enough to fill our sails.
To my absolute delight I was happy to find that the swell died down and my slight seasickness completely disappeared. Woo Hoo!
We started off with our front sail poled out on one side and our main let out on the other side – this sail configuration is sometimes referred to as ‘wing on wing’.
The first evening after leaving Hogsty Reef was rather difficult due to a lack of wind. Nothing’s worse than having the main flapping and the boom banging.
We tried our best to change our direction to make the best of any wind we could get
Before bedtime the four of us played Uno as the sun set. It’s interesting to see the evenings get longer as we move north. I didn’t think it would be so drastic but in the British Virgin Islands it was pitch black when putting Sienna to bed at 8pm yet now it’s still light.
Due to the banging sails I had a terrible night’s sleep. At 2am I woke to do my watch and lucky for me Kyle came up at 4am – an hour too early. Doing a two hour watch is definitely better than three hours!
Unfortunately, however, Sienna woke at 4am and it took me until 5am to get her back to sleep. First we tried falling asleep in my bed, then moved to Sienna’s bed, so to stop waking Simon and in the end of the two of us finally passed out in the saloon. Usually Sienna sleeps perfectly fine – even in Force 10 storms.
It’s funny because it’s the actual lack of wind that’s been walking us up!
Below is the brief video I put together for Hogsty Reef. Make sure to sign up to my newsletter to ensure you get notification for part 5 when we sail from Hogsty Reef to Fort Lauderdale Florida: Newsletter Signup!
Have you ever wondered how to pole out the jib? Or perhaps you’ve heard the term downwind sailing and wondered what it means and how you do it?! Read more and all will be revealed (video at the bottom of the article):
A sailboat can be propelled forward with winds coming from the front (at an angle), in addition to winds coming from the side and the back of the boat. The only time a sailboat cannot move forward is when the boat is heading directly into the wind.
When winds are coming from the front the boat is moved forward by the difference between the wind on the outside of the sail and the wind on inside of the sail… its a push-pull effect. When sailing into wind, a sailboat sails act just like the wings of a plane.
When winds are coming from the back of the boat, different principles are in effect. What happens is that the wind is actually blowing the sails and thus making the boat move forward.
This is called downwind sailing
There’s dead downwind meaning that the wind is directly behind the boat and then there are situations where the wind is blowing over the back left (port) or right (starboard) corner of the boat up towards the front (bow) of the boat.
Provided that the winds are not excessive, the general goal is to use the largest amount of sail to catch the wind and propel the boat forward.
When turning onto a downwind course in a regatta, or sailboat race, most boats will fly some sort of spinnaker (a massive colorful sail) to capture the most amount of wind possible.
For cruisers however, spinnakers are usually deemed too complicated and in its place a variety of other options are deployed.
Here are a few of the popular downwind sailing configurations for cruisers:
– Main sail and jib let out as far as possible (using a pole or not)
– Two jibs off the forestay – one on either side
– The jib and a genaker/asymmetrical sail or a staysail (or all three) with no main sail.
In the video I demonstrate how we pole out the jib to one side and have the main sail flying on the opposite side. This configuration works well when the boat is going dead down wind.
How to pole out the jib – follow these steps:
1. Put the pole in position along the foredeck preparing to attached three ropes to the end of the pole…
2. Attach the foreguy (a rope that stops the pole from slamming back against the mast and rigging)
3. Attach the topping lift (a rope that holds the pole up or parallel to the sea).
4. Attach the jib sheet (rope that lets the jib in or out) OR the clew of the jib/genoa sail. This enables the sail to unfurl attached to the pole and keeps the pole from slamming forward against the forestay
5. Adjust the foreguy and topping lift in addition to making sure the pole is parallel over the water (moving up or down along the mast)
6. Unfurl the jib pulling on the active jib sheet and let the sail come out.
Using the pole allows the maximum amount of sail to be flown in light winds. It helps to keep the sail tight rather than inflating and deflating with irregular winds.
After the jib is poled out, we then release the boom and swing the main over to the opposite side as far as it can go before hitting the spreaders.
For precautionary measures, we put a preventer on the boom to ensure it doesn’t accidentally swing to the other side. A preventer is a rope attached to the end of the boom (furthest from the mast) and tied onto the boat so to hold the boom forward.
Sailing downwind, especially in a swell, can be very uncomfortable in light winds. By using the pole and attaching a preventer boaters can ensure the maximum amount of sail is ready to catch the wind and reduce the noise associated to flapping sails and rigging.
After thoroughly enjoying Grand Turk we decided to leave the island at night so to arrive in Provo, Caicos the following morning. Rather than spend the evening sleeping we thought it made more sense to travel at night so to have more time exploring our next stop.
Just below are the video clips I took of Provo, Caicos. Watch the video and then continue below to read my full review of our stop in paradise.
Provo Caicos Video
Furthermore, Britican started to swing closer to a rocky patch and Simon, was getting increasingly uncomfortable
Throughout our stay in Grand Turk we kept diving down to ensure there was at least a couple feet of clearance under the keel. I still find it hard to believe that we anchored in the ‘Large Vessel Anchorage’ and still had depth concerns. Perhaps a 56’ monohaul is beyond ‘large’ for the area.
As we pulled up the anchor, and the boat lurched forward towards the shallows, I held my breath and prayed that we didn’t come across a large bolder or hit an elevated rock patch. As soon as we moved away from the 1 and 2 meter depths and out into the 100 meters I started to relax.
And it only took minutes before we once again started seeing depths of over 1000 meters
For dinner Kyle warmed up some defrosted Butternut Squash Coconut Soup with lentils that I made while in the British Virgin Islands. We had a lovely lunch on land and didn’t need a large meal for dinner. By 8:30pm all of us except Simon were in bed.
During my 2am to 5am watch the water was so calm. There was a total absence of wind. The moon was a little less than full and sea sparkled as the moonlight danced across the tiny swells. Having a flat journey I grabbed my laptop, put it in the cockpit and started typing about our experiences in Grand Turk.
To my amazement I typed for three hours straight and the time went by in a flash
I took a few breaks to survey the lights on the land, use my Skye Guide to determine a planet I noticed (it was Saturn) and I also noted a new smell. As we passed some marshy mangroves I sensed a musty odor that was unlike a smell I’ve smelled ever in the Caribbean.
Around 6am I woke Simon explaining that our final waypoint arrival was imminent. Kyle and Sienna were soon up ready to make our entrance into the Blue Haven Marina in Provo, Caicos.
The entrance to Blue Haven is marked by tall channel marker poles
It winded us from left to right and back again and seemed a mile long. Kyle and I stood at the bow of the boat ensuring to notify Simon of any large boulders. Based on our intelligence (pilot guide, RayMarine and Navionics Maps) the channel would be deep enough during high tide for us to make it in.
And then I felt us touch ground. And again. And again.
The delayed forward motion was very noticeable. The boat still went forward, but it was stunted for a second. Fortunately I was at the bow of the boat and yelled back to Simon that we were simply skimming the sand ripples. We all held our breath and Simon yelled out, we’re getting deeper again. After rounding another curve the marina came into view and I visualized being safely tied up and wandering around new lands.
Simon backed us in, two attendants helped us with the lines and within a few minutes we had the sail cover on, the boat cleaned up and were all checking out our surroundings.
To say that the marina grounds were amazing is an understatement
As we wandered towards the marina office, we noted lovely patches of white sand peppered with wicker sofas and navy blue patterned pillows, double sized hammocks and manicured walkways. Everywhere I looked my eye were met with beautifully maintained tropical trees and colorful shrubs all lining the most beautiful turquoise waterway I’ve ever seen!
We stopped off at the marina office where Simon showed us the incredible bathrooms. These bathrooms rank up there with Grand Harbour Marina in Malta and Nanny Cay Marina in the BVI. They are spacious, clean, have excellent water pressure, warm water AND they are air-conditioned!
Thereafter we walked past the Salt Bar restaurant, outdoor pool table, sand beach volleyball court, huge lawn chess set and over to the infinity pool that simply made my eyes smile.
Beyond the infinity pool, with a water bar, was a lovely beach, swim area and a massive sea trampoline
Through the marina hotel lobby across the parking lot you could also find a high-end convenience store serving coffee, hot food, groceries, beer and wine. And next door a Spa!
I treated myself to a pedicure and not only was the result fantastic but I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with the woman about her history on the island (she was from Hati), the difference between modern countries (like USA and UK) versus island life and the role of a parent.
Aside from enjoying the Spa, the four of us used the pool, enjoyed some cocktails, ate at the Salt Bar (I recommend any of the burgers – they’re exceptional) and spent hours in the bathroom.
During the first day on the island we chilled out around the pool and the second day we rented a car to explore the island
Waking to a rainy start of the day, it was actually nice to sit in a car. At first Kyle sat in the drivers seat while we waited for Simon but Kyle’s confidence waned the more he thought about driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. In Turks and Caicos drivers drive on the British side of the road.
Simon became the driver and Kyle opted for navigational instructor.
I think it would be fair to say that we saw every road on Provo, Caicos and that’s not due to intention. The map Kyle was using was a tourist map and didn’t depict the roads very well. When we ended up at ‘Departures’ at the Provo, Caicos airport Simon and I started questioning Kyle’s abilities.
After the airport we ended up in a junkyard where we had to dodge roosters and chickens and pray the transmission didn’t scrape along the potholed dirt road.
The few hours of driving around gave us a good feel for the island
By far it was a modern island with modern shops and facilities. I noticed a couple gyms, a yoga studio, many strip malls or complexes, a few grocery stores and restaurants.
In the main touristy area there were a variety of duty free stores and restaurants. We stopped at Danny Buoy’s restaurant and had what felt like an all-American bad food festival. We ordered nachos, potatoes skins, fried pickles and chicken wings. While I ate everything I moo’d like a cow but afterwards my body asked me when it was going to have access to a thing called vegetables!
The rain finally broke so we drove to Grace Beach, which is continuously ranked either number one or number two in the world for best beaches. The waves were mammoth so I admired the sea from a beach chair! We entered the beach through the a resort and to my surprise the attendants didn’t kick us off the beach chairs!
There were very few people on the beach so I think there was no need to ask us to leave
Simon, Kyle and Sienna had a sand sculpture contest. Themes included a sand castle, donut, turtle and footprint.
After Grace Bay we got in touch with some family members of friends of ours. Two sailing seasons ago, we met the owners of sailing vessel ‘Why Knot’ and quickly became very close. After spending two years sailing the Aegean and Ionian Sea with them we said our goodbyes and promised we’d visit their family in Turks & Caicos when we made it there…
So, Tanya and Gary said they’d meet us at the marina with their two lovely boys
The plan was to have a drink and then go to a restaurant to get to know each other. Our daughter, Sienna, quickly hit it off with the boys and they played with the lawn sized chess set while the adults swapped stories.
Just over three years ago Tanya and Gary decided to leave South Africa in search of a better quality of life. With an uncle in Caicos who had a business already started they moved over to help him expand. Tanya drives a semi-submersible submarine and Gary started out doing speedboat excursions. Now Gary has established himself as a photographer and video expert helping estate agents showcase some of the most expensive properties for sale.
When asking Tanya and Gary if they had any regrets, they quickly responded with a solid ‘no.’ They explained that their quality of life was excellent. The one thing they mentioned (and everyone else I spoke with) was that it’s extremely expensive to live in Turks and Caicos. After we went for a shop before returning the car we found out for ourselves!
Our evening with Tanya and Gary was fantastic
As we ate dinner in a veranda overlooking an inland waterway with islands we laughed, told stories and simply enjoyed each other’s company. The children played on the beach where they caught a jellyfish and a sea cucumber!
Before parting ways we invited the family over to our boat the following night for a couple drinks knowing our time in Provo was soon coming to an end.
Our third day in Provo was decision day regarding our next port of call
Simon and Kyle spent hours pouring over the pilot books and looking at maps. Eventually they came up with a plan to stop at four different spots in the Bahamas before getting to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. When discussing the passage plan I could detect a foreboding energy.
After some discussion and research a few things popped up as potential concerns and issues. To start, the cost to enter the Bahamas was $300. I didn’t mind paying the fee if we’d be able to see a good chunk of the area. Simon explained that the places for us to anchor or get into a marina were far and few between. Furthermore every area seemed to have potential depth issues. Considering that we hit bottom on our way into Provo I didn’t want to sail for four to five days constantly working about running aground. And then when Kyle brought up the fact that we’d have to sail against the Gulf Stream – going against a current of 4 to 5 mph – we all looked at each other and asked, ‘what are our other options?’
Simon found an atoll or deserted reef one days sail away from Provo called Hogsty Reef. The reef was 40 miles from any land, was 7 miles long and 2 miles wide with ample room to anchor. It’s not on Google maps on the map view but you can find it on the satellite view.
The idea of sailing to a deserted location sounded exciting
Looking at maps and areal images of Hogsty Reef we noted several ship wrecks, amazing blue water and two patches of land. The area looked amazing.
It didn’t take long to come to a unanimous decision to anchor at Hogsty Reef. The plan was to stay a couple days at the reef and then sail three to four days straight up to Ft Lauderdale benefiting from the Gulf Stream current.
A decision was made to leave Blue Haven Marina at midnight that night exiting at high tide
I felt okay about the plan. I was excited about Hogsty but not about the passage up to Ft Lauderdale. Ever since we left the American Virgin Islands I felt slightly seasick. Even when I put a Scopamine patch on my leg I didn’t feel great.
My belief is that so many things are psychological. Considering that I’m feeling conflicted about taking my home to my homeland I’m more negative about my seasickness than usual. For the most part I can shake it off a bit…but on this trip I’m feeling more stressed than usual. Read: Conflict! What happens when you take your sailboat home to your homeland?
Also…I wasn’t keen on leaving the marina in the dark
Considering we hit ground on the way in I wanted to have the use of my eye’s to get us out! I kept my fears quiet and simply started to prepare for a long time away from civilization. Knowing that there’d be no restaurants or grocery stores for five days at most I went to work cooking some food to freeze.
I made beef stew in the slow cooker, Spanish rice with olives, bacon, green and jalapeño peppers and tomatoes. Additionally, I made my easy cabbage and ground beef slop – it’s so easy and just so tasty while sailing.
Simon and Kyle prepared the boat, chased after Immigration and Customs to get sign out
And around 5pm Tanya, Gary and the children arrived for our last time together. They brought a roast chicken and beans and rice from the store. I made some bruschetta, herbal dip and opened a tub of hummus with some veggie sticks and crackers.
The children walked over to fishing boat to see them prepare the fish for market and the adults once again enjoyed a lovely evening of telling stories and sharing laughs. It was such a shame we had to leave them!
Around 9:30 we said goodbye to our friends and started to prepare the boat for a 24 hour sail to Hogsty Reef. Just as I was messaging my mom about our departure a message come through FaceBook from David Wheatley, a contributor to my VHF Messages Book and weather specialist.
To my dismay the message contained information about a tropical storm forming in the Atlantic with potential to cross our path!
My stomach instantly turned. I read the message out to Simon and Kyle and we all jumped onto the Internet reading as much as we could about the storm. After some discussion we decided to wait until morning to determine what the storm was going to do.
I took all the chicken left over on the carcasses and put it in bowl to make chicken salad the following day. After that, I hit the sack.
In the morning we woke and quickly looked at the weather forecasts
Fortunately everything indicated that the storm was going to head north rather than south or west, hitting Georgia and North Carolina rather then southern Florida. At the time of reading the report, the National Hurricane Centre still hadn’t issued a formal warning.
We decided to have one final lunch at the Salt Bar while waiting for high tide and around noon we said our goodbyes to Blue Haven Marina on Provo, Caicos. I took the opportunity to use the excellent WIFI to download a couple more thrillers from Amazon Kindle.
As you can image we all wondered if we’d hit bottom at the same point in the channel.
Sure enough we felt the keel drag along the sand – at least this time we expected it
Once we were in the deeper waters we pulled up our main, unfurled our genoa and headed towards Hogsty Reef.
It will be three weeks since hubby, my daughter and I arrived at our USA base-camp for the summer/fall. Having to sail out of the Caribbean hurricane zone for safety and insurance purposes we chose America for a variety of reasons.
The most important of them was to visit family
Several years ago my brother and his family along with my mother and her husband moved down from Rochester New York to the state of North Carolina. Having family near the east coast, and above the hurricane zone, made our decision easy.
Furthermore, Britican was in need of a somewhat specialized antifoul treatment (special paint for the hull that keeps growth off of it) and we found a boatyard in North Carolina that could provide the service we needed.
Finally, I’ve been increasingly interested in getting our six-year-old daughter, Sienna, into a real school for a while now. I feel as if I’ve exhausted all my capabilities of being a homeschooling mom. Try as I might, it’s been very difficult for me to research, prepare and teach lessons – even for a six year old.
Britican in NC just before she was taken out of the water
The subject matter isn’t difficult – it’s the time it takes to find interesting ways to teach the same thing in different ways that I find problematic
Especially when I often can’t get an Internet connection!
On average, I must spend around one full day preparing for a week of schooling. And in the end I’m not certain if our daughter is on par with her peers or not. And I say that from an academic perspective. Hands down, her education about the beautiful world we live in would beat the pants off most of the population.
What I’m fretting about concerns math, history, science and reading. Getting Sienna to read is definitely not as easy as I thought it would be. She’s not just ‘getting it’ despite all my efforts.
Perhaps I’m just looking for reassurance OR maybe I just want my daughter to understand what a ‘normal’ school is like so she appreciates all the hard work I put in. And…truth be told, I want a break. I put so much pressure on myself to do a good job yet my benchmark is probably some perfect ideal that’s never achievable.
The fact that I don’t know what my benchmark is inherently says it all…
So, let me get back on my topic. After sailing the Mediterranean and Caribbean for two years, and living in England for 20 years, I was worried how I’d feel about sailing to my home country of America. My worry was that I’d enjoy being ‘home’ so much that I might not want to get back on the boat and keep going around the world. Read Conflict! What happens when you take your sailboat home to your homeland?.
It’s been three weeks and my worries are still present. I feel like I want to call it quits to sailing.
My husband and I have Sienna in a YMCA summer camp and I’m loving my free time. I can start writing an article or work on my business plan without hearing: ‘Mom…I’m hungry,’ or ‘Mom…I’m bored.’
Over the course of two years I must say, however, that I’ve had loads of free time
Almost everywhere we went I found friends for Sienna – whether they played on our boat or another boat, free time was abundant. Free time, however, wasn’t scheduled. In other words, I never knew when I was going to get free time. That meant that I always had to be ready to work if I could. And by work, I mean build my SailingBritican.com website and business or write an article for a magazine/newspaper.
I knew that when we left land that I was going to effectively become a ‘stay-at-home’ mom and a homeschooler…something that wouldn’t normally be my first choice. On one hand I desired the opportunity to watch my child grow and truly spend time with her yet on the other hand I also wanted to keep my creative outlet going, not to mention the need to make an income.
Taking care of a child full time (including teaching), trying to create a business AND sail around the world was, perhaps, a bit too ambitious?!
Needless to say, I’m happy to be in America. I’m happy to be home
At this exact moment, as I write from the comfort of my mom’s house with air-conditioning, unlimited hot water (hot showers), next-day delivery of anything I want and an abundance of summer camps for my daughter I feel very removed from my live-aboard lifestyle.
In fact, I’m surprised at how quickly I seem to have gone from being a full-time live aboard boatie to feeling completely at home with all the comforts of a typical American land based lifestyle.
Despite my original desire to get away from processed food, I’m loving McDonalds. Despite my longing to spend quality time with my daughter 24 hours a day every day, I’m loving the 8am to 5pm summer camp experience. Despite my need to have a proper work/life balance I’m totally enjoying spending most of my time working.
Furthermore, I can’t tell you how nice it is to live in a home that doesn’t have a list of 20 broken things all screaming for attention.
Does this mean I’m actually going to call it quits to sailing?!
A reader put the following comment on my website:
“Although the undercurrent of commercialized society may be repulsive, it is easy, easy, easy to get lulled back into the comfort zone. Family members will be “worried” and “just want the best for you.” Decades ago, I failed to listen to my grandfather (submariner) who told me to get back underway ASAP because others are “unable to comprehend…. have never tasted real freedom….”
(can’t remember his exact words). 1996 was the last time I weighed anchor, I pray this does not happen to you.”
When I read this reader comment I felt my heart sink. I could feel the truth in what he had to say
I spent a couple days thinking…is this it? Are we done? Am I going to call it quits to sailing?
And then I heard a very quiet voice inside me saying, ‘Kim – all you need is a break. This isn’t the end of your sailing journey…this is an opportunity for you to collect yourself, get balanced, regroup and prepare for the next leg.’
So…some people balance their lives in a daily fashion. They get everything they need every day. Some people, like me, get their balance by going to extremes. I might need to spend months with my family non-stop eating wholesome foods balancing my family time with my work time and then for months, I need to have lots of me time, pig out on McDonalds and work, work, work.
As always, there are no rules. There’s only what works for you. And more and more, I’ve realized I just have to follow my joy and not look ahead. Everything always works out.
Interestingly, however, I must say that the last two years have drastically changed me
Before we left I was against commercialism, processed food, broken systems (politics, education, health service) and so forth. I felt as if the world was broken and I needed to get away from it – find a new world.
I certainly found a new world.
The sailing community is amazing. Commercialism isn’t a factor – even if a boatie wanted to buy something there’s no room so it just doesn’t affect you. Finding a pre-made sandwich or ready meals in the Med or Caribbean isn’t common…and if you did you wouldn’t want to eat it. Politics/Education/Health systems aren’t really discussed because in our world, the sailing world, there’s usually something more pressing to talk about like how to repair a busted pump or where to find a bakery.
Now that I’m back in the ‘real’ world or on land…I still feel as if many systems are broken (heck, just look at the current race for the American presidency) but I don’t feel affected by them. I now realize I have a choice to just not focus on them – I can focus on what’s in my world…what’s important to me…and how I can contribute to making the world a better place.
We often spend so much time distracted by problems grater than us that we essentially stay distracted rather than doing something positive. Being on the sea has really taught me that if you’re not careful you can become so distracted by external things that you’re just permanently focused on stuff that 1. Doesn’t make you fulfilled and 2. Keeps you from being the best you that you can be…being a positive contributor to the world.
But who knows…give me another month on land and perhaps I’ll find myself caught up or distracted about something.
I just keep reminding myself to, ‘follow my joy…follow my joy…follow my joy…’
Our sailing to Grand Turk trip from Puerto Rico was relatively uneventful. A Carnival Cruise ship passed us early on and we saw a few cargo ships but otherwise there was very little wild or human life as far as the eye could see.
If you want to read all the good details about our sailing to Grand Turk trip, please scroll down and keep reading. OR, watch my short video showcasing our arrival, some footage of the island and an awesome Pink Flamingo that we came across.
Aside from doing my 360 visual look every ten minutes I mostly had my head in the thriller book, ‘The Prettiest One,’ by James Hankins. It’s the first thriller I’ve read in years – perhaps over 20 years! I’m more of a non-fiction reader but any book that has the potential of helping me forget my seasickness is more than a book – it’s a possible remedy.
Needless to say I got through the book in two days and it definitely helped me to ignore my queasy feelings
During one of my night watches I surveyed the horizon under a full moon observing a 360-degree vision of dark pale gray water met with a dome of lighter pale gray. When checking the plotter no other boats were in the area.
Considering the deep Atlantic Ocean, the high pale gray sky and the lack of visual stimulus I found myself feeling very alone. With the bright moon only a scattering of stars could be seen so it was hard to even visualize other life forms being ‘out there.’
Eventually a plane that must have been over 30,000’ went past and I said in my thoughts…’that’s nice, I’m not alone!’
My feelings of loneliness reminded me of driving at night. Whenever I was on a single lane road I’d find comfort in following a car or having a car behind me. There was something reassuring knowing I wasn’t on the road alone. Whenever my unknown travel companion turned off the road I said ‘good bye’ as if I developed some sort of relationship with the other driver. When the driver went a different direction and I was alone, I’d seek out another companion to avoid feeling alone for too long.
Perhaps my night watch simply spurred on my childhood fear of being afraid of the dark?!
During the day I don’t seem to need an exterior travel companionship! Although, saying that, during the day I almost always have someone with me in the cockpit.
Our guest, Kyle, taking down the US flag and putting up the Turks & Caicos flag.
When approaching Grand Turk, my first impression was, ‘wow, it’s flat and dry.’ After seeing so many tropical Caribbean Islands with super green foliage and hills if not mountains, Grand Turk certainly provided a different sight.
Sailing along the coast we had to keep quite a distance between the boat and the shore due to low depths and an abundance of rocks. From our viewpoint, we could see the blue Atlantic Ocean met with a long sliver of white sand, low green trees and inconspicuous properties dotting the coast. Aside from one large apartment complex there was a row of homes near the main town with restaurants and small accommodations houses dotted along the coast.
The only landmark that really caught my eye was a ugly cellphone tower half way down the island
Upon arrival to Grand Turk our first job was to clear Customs. The pilot book we used explained that a Customs Office was located at the cruise ship pier located at the south end of the island.
After our welcoming party of eight dolphins, we anchored in sand just outside a rusted shipwreck and saw no signs of life other than a large commercial fishing boat anchoring. My husband, Simon, dropped the dingy and headed for one of the three docks hoping to find Customs.
Within a short time, Simon was back. No luck – everything on the Cruise Ship Dock was locked up!
We then called all three of the Turks and Caicos Customs phone numbers in the pilot book and none of them worked. Considering it was a Saturday we expected a bit of difficulty.
Simon and crewmember, Kyle, returned to the docks and tried a couple other docks. A lovely local man explained that he had a friend that work in the Customs Office and he’d drive Simon and Kyle into town. Simon thanked the man but explained he didn’t want to leave our daughter and me on the boat for too long and asked for another option.
Eventually the guys went to the Commercial Dock where the security guard called a Customs Official who drove over to clear us all in. After all was said and done the whole clearing process took ½ hour and it was very easy.
Simon and Kyle returned to the boat explaining that the area was dead!
They found a large complex called Margaritaville that offers food, a pool and shops but it’s only open when a cruise ship comes in. The security officer explained that the cruise ships dock at Grand Turk during the week only. Later on, another local explained that most of the cruise ship people stay at Margaritaville and only 100 or so venture into the town.
With no restaurant options, we decided to up anchor and motor over to the large vessel anchoring area on front of the town.
Anchoring in Grand Turk was our scariest anchoring experience to date!
Looking at the depths and rocks on the charts and plotter we found a spot that ranged from 2.5 to 4 meters with rocks on either side. The sea goes from 1000’ to 20’ to 3’ in a very short space. There’s a massive ledge that leads to rocky terrain mixed with clear sand patches.
Our first two attempts failed as we tried to anchor on a small rock bed. Both times we dragged. After surveying the charts we noticed a sandy patch further inland however if our swing went too wide, we’d be in danger of hitting bottom.
Britican on the Horizon – we were the only boat there!
Slowly Simon inched us up to the turquoise sand bottomed water constantly watching the depth. I held my breath!
The anchor went down, easily set hard into the sand and we put out 30 meters (90’) of chain to ensure we were far enough back to avoid hitting bottom on low tide. Once the chain was out and we verified the anchor was set, Simon jumped into the water to survey the space under the keel.
Simon popped up and said, ‘let’s put out 10 more meters as we only have 2’ under the keel and if we go back a bit further there’s more depth.’
Considering we were the only boat along the whole coast we didn’t worry too much about putting out a lot of chain. Kyle and I let out more and then we prayed that the wind would hold its course and keep us in the same spot.
Feeling seasick from the swell having spent 2 1/2 days rocking back and forth I was ready to get off the boat and enjoy a beverage and nice meal.
Touching Grand Turk for the first time
Simon lowered the dingy and we all climbed aboard to seek out land, food and drink
From the boat Grand Turk appeared to have several jetties or docks lining the coast. Upon closer inspection, all of them were in a total state of disrepair. Not one jetty had cleats or anything a dingy could tie to. Most were concrete slabs providing no slats or places to feed a rope through. Perhaps hurricanes or bad weather has destroyed them all?! We followed the coast down until we found a restaurant with a place to tie the dingy up on the beach.
Simon and Kyle pulled the dingy up the sand and we tied it to the railing of the restaurant! In most instances the beach was too long for us to pull the dingy to a tree or post. Fortunately this one restaurant had a break wall with a safety railing.
As luck would have it, the food at the restaurant was excellent!
Kyle and I enjoyed blackened Grouper and I have to say it’s one of the best fish dishes I’ve ever had. The fish was cooked perfectly, the seasoning was not overbearing and the sides of salad and baked potato were perfect. Our daughter Sienna had Shrimp Pasta and I was fortunate to get the shrimp – again, cooked to perfection.
At the end of the meal all our plates were empty.
The view from the restaurant
In addition to enjoying our meals, the wine and WIFI were great too. The waitresses were fantastic and the locals all asked us how were doing and whether we liked the island or not. One woman said ,‘if you have any problems, you let me know because it’s very important to us that you enjoy your visit’.
While leaving the restaurant we noticed a golf cart hire option. Our plan was to get up the next morning, do our routine stuff (clean, fix things, etc.) and then head back to land to explore the island.
The following day, after a lovely nights sleep, we all woke and went for a snorkel
Right under the boat we found loads of lovely silver fish with yellow stripes. Some of them were almost 1 ½’ – we threw bread in the water while we were snorkeling and the fish swarmed around our heads. I felt as if I was in an aquarium. The fish certainly had no fear of us.
We found one Stingray, two Barracuda’s (with teeth showing!), several long fish around 3” with a 2” needle at the end of their nose – and on the nose was a big red ball. There were loads of blue, yellow and orange fish. It was great to just jump off the boat and enjoy our sea friends below us.
On another snorkel at the same location, Kyle found a stingray and Simon and Sienna came across a baby nurse shark – about 3” long.
After our snorkel we headed onto land once again
We tried to find another place to bring the dingy up but the restaurant seemed like our only option. We could have beached the boat anywhere but with the tides we didn’t know how far to bring it up nor did we necessarily have to strength to carry it too far.
It’s one thing to neglect locking a dingy and it’s another to not secure it to something on land!
Considering our dingy is brand new I was not going to take the chance of having the tide take it to sea
So…once again, we enjoyed a meal at the same restaurant again. We all had sandwiches and they were divine. Sienna used the pool while Simon looked at charts and downloaded any maps we needed. Kyle and I checked out Facebook and I answered some emails.
Simon figuring out the passage from Grand Turk to Provo, Caicos
Feeling concerned about the wind changing and our swing radius expanding, we decided we’d have to pass on the golf cart expedition and get moving to our next location. Furthermore, strong winds were forecasted and our need to find a safe berth or anchorage was high.
Right behind the restaurant was a small grocery store where I grabbed some tomatoes, a cabbage, broccoli, cereal, some soft drinks and some ice cream. Kyle and I gave the goods to Simon and Sienna who took them back to the boat. Meanwhile, Kyle and I took the opportunity to at least walk into the town and see as much of the land as we could by foot.
I couldn’t help feel like I was walking through a ghost town
From as far as we could see not one person was on the beach!
There was not one person on the beach, many houses where abandoned and several shut up with ‘For Sale’ signs on them. We happened upon one house that reportedly had a ghost and it didn’t surprise me.
Either the town shuts up on a Sunday, the month of May is quiet or Grand Turk simply isn’t a busy place!
Interestingly, however, many of the houses along the front street had plaques explaining what the property was used for, who built it and who the owners were. Grand Turk is known for producing sea salt so many property owners had something to do with the salt beds.
As we progressed into town, we came across an old prison – one that operates as a museum
Unfortunately it wasn’t open. We also found a pink flamingo in the salt beds in addition to some other really amazing looking birds.
The town itself consisted of a bus station, gas station, several small shacks offering food, barber services and so forth. We went into the grocery store and found a lovely selection of fruits, vegetables and dried goods. Everything was quite costly but that’s what I’d expect considering the location of the island.
What bowled me over about Grand Turk, however, were the people
During our walk every single person or group of locals all yelled out, ‘Hi Guys!’ with a friendly wave. The men at the bus stop yelled across the street to us. A group of eight young men on a porch said, ‘hey, how are you guys doing?’ A man driving his car while drinking what looked like a glass of scotch or brandy, yelled out the window, ‘Hey – how’s it going?’ While passing the one person on the whole stretch of the island taking a sea bath, he noticed us and yelled up from his swim, ‘Hi guys!’
Even when Kyle and I went to the beach to be collected by Simon, a man rushed up to introduce himself and helped us get in our dinghy. A young boy also jumped in the water to help steady the boat as Kyle and I jumped in.
Simon taking Kyle and me back to the boat
I felt as if the kindness offered by the local people was 100% genuine
Not once were we approached to buy something. I didn’t see anything touristy. Heck, during our evening meal at the restaurant one woman offered to buy our table a drink to welcome us to the island.
On our visit I didn’t see any large hotels or lavish tourist offerings. Many places along the coast offered small inconspicuous bed and breakfast type offerings. During our walk we did come across three dive shops within ¼ of a mile, so diving on Grand Turks is sure to be popular.
So…for our first visit to an island outside the Caribbean I thoroughly enjoyed it!
A house we passed on our walk
Sailing to Grand Turk Tips
Anchoring near the Cruise Line Pier is your best bet unless you have a small keel. Our keel is 2.5 meters and we really struggled in the large vessel anchoring zone.
Be prepared to hoist your dingy up the beach or go to a restaurant to tie it onto the rail! I suppose another option is to anchor it?!
The mooring buoys are all for dive boats. You can use them but if a dive boat comes you have to get off it immediately. We pulled up one of the buoys and half the strands were broke on the eyelet rope. I dropped it immediately deeming it totally unsafe.
There is a Digicel on the island (to buy a SIM) in addition to restaurants with good WIFI.
Both the grocery stores we went in had quite a selection of food. We stocked up on meat and dried goods before we arrived in the Virgin Islands. If you’re making our way from the south to the north and have a large freezer I suggest getting meat in Antigua (Grocery store: Epicurean) or Anguilla (Grocery store: Best Buy) before getting to the Virgin Islands and then up to Turks, Caicos and the Bahamas. When you get to Florida food becomes less expensive. OR…there’s a massive Wallmart in Puerto Rico where you can seriously stock up. It’s about a 1.5 miles away from the San Juan Bay Marina.
Since the end of March 2014 my family and I have been living and sailing full time on our 56’ Oyster sailboat. Aside from my husband, Simon, and daughter, Sienna (now aged 6), we’ve had loads of guests join us, from time to time, on our incredible journey.
Thus far we’ve circumnavigated the Mediterranean visiting Gibraltar, North Africa, Malta, Italy, Greece, Turkey, France, the Balearic Islands, Spain and the Canary Islands before taking 18 days to cross the Atlantic Ocean.
Once in the Caribbean, we stayed in St Lucia dipping down into the St Vincent and Grenadine Islands and then heading north along the eastern to western Caribbean and finally popping back into the Atlantic to visit Puerto Rico, Turks and Caicos, Florida and now we’re in North Carolina taking a break and having a new antifoul put on Britican. (Antifoul is a coating that goes on the bottom of the boat to stop marine growth – seaweed, barnacles, etc. Growth on the hull can massively slow the boat down).
We’ve also had the privileged to race in two Oyster regattas coming in first place at the last one!
Over the course of the last couple years we’ve had some serious lows like being laid up for a month longer than expected. We’ve had some serious highs like meeting friends that are so amazing that they’ve become family. Simon, Sienna and I have enjoyed nature at it’s best – hiking through rainforests, swimming with whales, watching volcanoes erupt, eating fruit right from the trees, and having the sea dance for us every day.
We’ve also experienced nature in bad times. In fact, the most scared I’ve ever been is when sailing our boat through gusts of 50 mph winds, massive 30’ waves, lightening and thunder in the pitch black off the coast of Morocco.
For the most part, I loved moving from one place to the next always finding new sights or meeting new people. Every once in a while I’d get a bit down; usually when stuck in a marina for longer than expected (Read: Don’t fall prey to the horrible condition of marina creep!).
Looking back, and although we took various courses and had our own smaller sailboat to practice with, nothing could have prepared us for buying a larger boat and taking on the world.
In the beginning money flew out of our bank account and the results were mediocre at best. I learned never to use a marine service provider unless I could come up with a handful of previous happy customers. Over 75% of the work we had done had to be done again.
Eventually, however, we did meet some exceptional engineers, technicians and marine service companies that became our life line. It took a while to find the good providers but when we did we were ever so grateful.
Interestingly, I also discovered that a boat is not like a house from a servicing and repairs perspective
With a house, you can do your best to keep the lawn and house looking good. Perhaps a lick of paint now and again in addition to routine lawn and garden maintenance. From time to time the boiler or heating system might break but after a professional comes out, it will be good to go for a while.
Sure…the fridge or the washing machine might give up the ghost, but a replacement is *only* $800. And repairs are a walk in the park. Something breaks, you get in the car, drive to the store, easily find what you need and return home to have it fixed the same day.
When living on a boat (used or new), servicing and repairs are a way of life
It’s not something that happens every now and again. Every single day there’s a list of things that need fixing – with the highest priority on top.
Usually the problem is intermittent and no amount of testing various scenarios provides a quick diagnosis as to what the actual problem really is. For two years we’ve had an issue with our AIS, a positioning signal that tells us what boats are in the area and lets other boats know where we are. Sometimes it works for weeks and other times it comes and goes every five minutes. We’ve had over 10 experts look at it and it’s never changed. A few times it’s gone down for a week or so and then miraculously it comes back to life.
The cost of the experts adds up to many refrigerators and we often have nothing to show for it
And when something ‘easy’ breaks it’s not a matter of going to the store, finding a replacement and then fixing it. Usually, it’s a matter of rummaging through your spare parts box and praying that if you don’t have the exact part you need, you have something similar that might work. Failing that, it’s a dingy ride to shore, miles of walking around asking for help, usually in a foreign language, and after a couple days the best-case scenario is to order a part from USA or the UK that might arrive in a week.
The part usually takes a month to arrive and in some cases you have to bribe the local post office to release it to you. (As a side note, if you need a part and you’re not in a 1st world country, your best bet is to pay for a friend to fly with it out to you. In the end, that is usually the least expensive option).
I’m sounding overly dramatic right now
In two years we’ve only ever had to wait a couple extra weeks waiting for a part. We have, however, had work schedules increase from one month to two (and even longer). It’s no one’s fault either – if you combine sun, salt water and stuff that shouldn’t be in sun or salt water you’re asking for problems! Heck, even fresh water can do a dozy on a boat if it’s not where it’s supposed to be.
And interestingly it’s not the extended stay’s that really upset me
When we thought our stay in Antigua (Caribbean Island) was going to be three weeks and turned into six weeks I really couldn’t complain about my surroundings. The island is beautiful, the food is amazing and everyone was super helpful.
Rather, my issue is with the cost of the extended stays
A repair that’s going to cost $2,000 can quickly turn to $5,000 due to more parts needed, an increase in labor, marina fees (when you would have otherwise been at anchor), having to pay for high priced food and so forth.
So that’s with servicing and repairs.
The other things that can catch a full time sailor out are the weather and inexperience
Once you’re on the sea for a year or so you’ll finally come to the conclusion that the generalized weather report has no reflection on what is actually happening in your local area.
More times than not we’ve headed out thinking we’d have 20 knots of wind heading from the east and it’s been 40 knots coming from the west. (Err…not exactly that situation every time, but more times than not the weather we experienced was not what was forecasted).
What we’ve realized is that weather reports, GRIBS and forecasts are a very loose guide. They’ll generally give you an idea as to what might be happening, give or take a very wide berth.
I’ve met so many newbie sailors that say, ‘don’t worry, if we think there’s any chance of a storm, we won’t sail.’ Well…that won’t work. No matter what, you will get caught in a storm or squall. And on the flip side, no matter what, you’ll find yourself in situations where there’s no wind. Recently we had several days of absolutely no wind.
And this leads me to inexperience
Heck, even the most experienced sailors in the world get into trouble often. It’s easy to get the tides wrong especially if you’re distracted or sleep deprived after a long journey. It’s easy to think you’ll be able to outrun a storm. It’s easy to think Google will have the answer to your latest catastrophe! It’s easy to think you’ll actually have access to Google (hehehehe).
The catch 22 is that you have to get out there to become experienced. The key, however, is that you have to realize no matter how much experience you have, you’re still vulnerable. The sailor that thinks they know everything is probably just as dangerous as the sailor that’s new to the game.
So…getting back to my question, ‘any regrets?’
Looking back, I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t sell up and sail away. I wouldn’t know how to fix refrigeration systems, pumps, diesel engines or know how to set our sails in the multitude of various configurations. I wouldn’t know what it’s like to be scared out of my pants.
I also wouldn’t know what it’s like to have the majority of my nights filled with family memories, beautiful sunsets, amazing fresh local food, peace and freedom.
Is it bad that we’ve paid a lot of money out? Is it bad that we’ve been forced to become electricians, plumbers, carpenters, engineers, (not to mention homeschoolers)?!
Not at all. Its amazing.
The crappy stuff has helped us to learn, grow and live life. It wasn’t necessarily fun to live through but the part of the whole experience that isn’t that great is far smaller than the part that’s truly amazing.
I suppose that in my old rat race life I lived in the middle of a continuum
Usually I was right between the extremely fulfilled area and the extremely unfulfilled area. Being in the middle meant that I was neither. I was numb, bland, and on automatic pilot. I wasn’t really living.
One thing is for sure, after sailing around the world for the last two years I’m definitely not on the middle anymore. Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, the continuum is gone. I can’t use that to explain my life – that model won’t work.
Now…I’m either fulfilled or not and since selling up and sailing I’ve been fulfilled. Perhaps a day will come when that changes but since leaving land I wake up every morning feeling excited and very much alive.
Now, I have all sorts of experiences
Some could be called bad or good but the label ‘bad’ and ‘good’ has lost it’s weight…it’s lost its significance. Instead I feel fulfilled. I’m certainly living life. There’s no doubt about it.
So what about you…can you handle living on the sea full time?