Friday, July 17, 2015

And Then We Were HOME

Dolphin pod at Elliott Kay
Time is a very strange thing.  It’s difficult for me to believe that we’ve been back in the US for three weeks.   In so many ways it’s like a lifetime because it requires a different mindset… Flip off one switch and flip another one on…  But then when I sit in the cockpit with a sundowner and gaze at the changing cloud patterns at sunset, my mind slips back there and it still feels like we’re in the Bahamas.  Island Time truly has nothing to do with your physical location.

Elliott Key
In these three weeks, we’ve hopped and skipped our way to the west coast of Florida where we will be spending the summer.  Why the Gulf Coast?  Several reasons, the most obvious being proximity to our Florida-dwelling daughter. Getting some time with her is a huge consideration. 

But with family ties aside, we didn’t want to go north of Florida because it would take us just that much longer to get back south in the fall… We fell into the Time Trap the past two seasons and want to be as close to our jump-off point as we can when it’s time to leap!  
Ice Cream Cart on Ft. Myers Beach
Delicious Daiquiris with my Daughter
Roseate Spoonbills and Raccoons at Low Tide Ft. Myers Beach
Independence Day at Ft. Myers Beach

Blackwater Sound
The water on the GOM (Gulf of Mexico) side is nice.  The ICW is murky green as expected, but much of the Gulf waters along the coast are beautiful. There are lots of places to sail should we find ourselves with some time away from boat projects and land travel.  Last season on the east coast, we found that although the places and people were lovely, we prefer the Gulf Coast Intracoastal Waterway to the the mostly brown Atlantic Intracoastal waters from Florida to Charleston, SC. 

Gasparilla Bay Squall
Storms are also a consideration.  (we don’t like to say the H-word)  We feel that we are less likely to be hammered by a storm while tucked into a tight little spot over here, instead of being on the more exposed Atlantic side.  We pay more per year for our boat insurance so that we can stay inside the" H-box”. (Insurance companies have a “box” known as Hurricane Alley where you CAN be, but your coverage is different for named storms - ranging from higher premium and deductible to no coverage at all - during storm season).  The quote for east coast vs. west coast was almost $400 higher, which leads me to believe that the insurance companies think it’s more dangerous over on the east coast.

Smooth passage
Foremost in our decision making criteria is the fact that there is less “Big Money” over here.  The southern east coast of Florida is just miserably jam-packed with BABs (Big Ass Boats).  You can’t fling a cat without hitting one and to us, it seems as if the welcome mat is only set out if you’re in that income bracket.  It’s no wonder they don’t want to waste their time with Small Change like us when they can cater to people who primarily own boats as a way to spend their money.

Kitties love flat water days
The “feel” here on the Gulf Coast is more relaxed and less frenetic.  People are more friendly and there is less hustle and bustle. Prices are better for essentials and we are just more comfortable in the “small town” atmosphere.  There’s a lot of “Old Florida” here with funky little pockets that seem lost in time.  The 50’s and 60’s are alive and well here on the west coast of Florida. So… here is where we will call “home” for this summer. 
Chowin' Down Under Way
Where does the sky end and the water begin? 
Lazy Frigatebird

We tried to use the emergency white thingies...
And... what’s next on our agenda?  Where will we go, what will we do?  Crossing back from the Bahamas we were asking ourselves that same question.  Making it to the Bahamas has been our primary goal for so long, we never really put much thought into what’s next?  

Cape Sable Sunset
Now comes the time to decide.  Well, during this Limbo Period, we seem to have come to a decision.  We will make a stab at going down to the Caribbean.  We aren’t getting any younger, and although there are still lots of Cays in the Bahamas left unexplored, we can always go back there and pick up where we left off.  The Bahamas are easy!!  We will be doing our research and as soon as we are able to get ourselves ready and the calendar says it’s OK, we will go and see where we end up.  

Cape Sable Moon
But first, we have a full summer of boat projects and some land travel to fill our days.  Our Limbo Period ends today as we take over our slip in Gulfport, Florida.  We have a plan.  We have purpose.  Most strangely, we have a true Agenda with dates and milestones beginning to take shape.  Installing a water maker is our biggest summer project and that’s already under way.  We need to give some attention to our sails and do myriad other smaller projects and maintenance… then there’s the big Wedding Road Trip.  

Cape Sable Sunrise
Our daughter is getting married in San Diego, CA in August.  We will take the cats and head off across the country in our car to spend some time with her before the wedding.  She will be moving to Guam soon afterward and who knows when we will see her again!  

After the Road Trip, (about mid September) we will haul the boat for a much needed bottom job and then spend the rest of storm season getting ready to go.  We hope to be headed out by the end of October or the first of November.  Oh, and our car will be up for sale at the end of October… so if you know anyone looking…
Never far from shot as we skipped north on the west Florida coast
San Carlos Bay Sunset
We are excitedly anticipating this time.  There are so many things we’ve missed about being in the US.  Air conditioning,  (yes) TV and online movies, lower prices for groceries, more plentiful and less expensive drinking water,  and communication with friends and family that were possible but very costly from the Bahamas.  But there are so many things we will miss about the Islands during this time in our Summer Home.

Emergency landing in Gasparilla Bay
Finally the Sunshine Skyway and Tampa Bay
Almost there!
Things we Miss:

  1.  Going Barefoot.  Our feet have become accustomed to being bare, or wearing flip-flops.  We often forget our shoes when we’re getting ready to leave the boat.
  1. No Keys.  Living a nomadic life on the boat, the only “key” we had to keep up with was the kill switch for the outboard motor.  Now we have car keys and gate keys and it’s difficult to remember to grab them before we head out.
  2. No Traffic.  There were times when we would NOT take our bikes ashore in the islands because of the crazy Bahamian traffic… but now I laugh when I think of that.  That wasn’t traffic at all!  
  3. No Hot Car Seats.  I had forgotten how HOT it gets inside of a locked-up car, and while having a car now seems like a luxury, there are downsides.  Didn’t miss getting into a hot car at all.  
  4. Public access.  We really felt welcome in the Bahamas.  The people recognized that we were a source of income and treated us with open arms and big smiles.  We enjoyed open access to shore by dinghy where most of the things we needed were within walking distance.  All beaches were public access to the high water mark.  
  5. Weekends were like the rest of the week.  (except for Sundays… nothing was open on Sundays)  Weekends here in the ‘States are crazy.  There are scads of boaters out on the water zipping around like maniacs on weekends.  In the Islands, there was SOME of that, but not like here.  We consciously limit our movement on weekends to avoid the chaos.
  6. No Schedules.  The weather was our scheduler in the islands.  Here, it’s the calendar and (even for us in many ways) the “work week”.
  7. No Bridges.  Movement in and around the islands was so easy.  The bridges that I once found thrilling, have become just tedious.  
  8. Free Anchorages.  You could just drop your hook almost anywhere that seemed prudent for the expected weather conditions.  Dropping anchor in some off-the-beaten-path spot can be very rewarding.
  9. The Water.  The most obvious and important of all the things we miss.  Being able to open my eyes and drink in the limitless beauty of the Bahamian waters is the thing I miss the most.  
Quick Haul at Embree Marine
Since we're here... we might as well get to work.  After a few days at the Vinoy Mooring Field in Downtown St. Petersburg, we've had the boat hauled out for removal of our prop.  It's going in for servicing to be re-installed in September when we haul out for a bottom job.  
Max Prop off and old fixed prop temporarily on

This bottom was clean three weeks ago!


  1. Wonderful post - you really sum up nicely the differences between being out there cruising and being back in the States waiting to get out there and go cruising again :-) Very informative on why you chose to stay on the Gulf Coast - I imagine taking people through your thinking process will be helpful for others who need to make similar decisions in the future about where to wait out H-season. Cheers - Ellen

  2. Thanks so much for your feedback. It's been so difficult to come back. I knew we would miss the Bahamas but it's such a profound difference...I'm really struggling with all of the influx of things to do and time is going by so quickly. You know, I am happy to help others in any way I can, but first and foremost, everyone must make their own plans and decisions... there really are no rules other than the weather.