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Retirement to Bahamas
Mike and Judy have been sailing for some 25 years. We have dreamed for years about retiring and sailing to the Bahamas and Caribbean. We are living our dream!
Home for the Summer

We arrived at our home in Fredericton tonight after a long but uneventful drive from New Jersey. Chopin is sure happy to be home. I miss my boat!

04/20/2011 | Kent Ross
Hi guys, glad to hear you made it safely home, enjoy reading your blog, and looking forward to the next chapter whatever that may be.
04/22/2011 | david
Glad you are back, Have a boat for this summer yet?
06/10/2011 | Gail MacMillan
I am searching for a couple named Judy and Mike McKendy and a song they once composed and recorded about the Phantom Ship of Chaleur Bay. I'm a Bathurst writer and would very much like to use this music on my web site
Reflections on Cruise 2010/11

I'm now in New Jersey, reunited with Judy and Chopin, enjoying the hospitality of Judy's parents as well as her siblings and their children. We expect to head to Fredericton tomorrow (Tuesday).

This completes our third year cruising and it's been a great season. Here are a few observations about our third year aboard......

We got an early start this year to the Bahamas. We crossed on December 16, whereas two years ago, we crossed on January 2; last year, recall that we stayed in the US. The weather this year was very good; far better than the past two years. While dealing with cold fronts is a reality of Bahamas winter sailing, they were far fewer and much more widely spaced than the past two years. And, we had plenty of time to find a good place of shelter to wait out the fronts. I think we had one very short rain shower in the entire time we were in the Bahamas and we had long stretches of time with warm, gentle winds and calm seas; ideal for exploring the wonderful Exumas.

Our crossings back and forth to the Bahamas were fine. We did have a few challenging days like the December crossing from Frazier's Hog Cay to Nassau but there were few times when conditions were uncomfortable.

Despite my complaining earlier in my blog about the challenges and travails of boat maintenance, Sea Sharp served us very well. I did have my plumbing challenges and the breakdown of the wind generator (which I eventually repaired) but everything else worked fine and Sea Sharp continues to be a comfortable Bahamas cruiser. We did, however, succumb to that terrible affliction, "two footitis" as the season progressed, lusting for a larger, centre cockpit boat with more space and more amenities but decommissioning and storing the boat is usually a good cure for this as, all of a sudden the boat seems to grow again.

Tropical cruising is hard on a boat and while Sea Sharp is standing up well, I need to put in place a more rigorous maintenance plan. For example, I need to have a replacement regime for my standing and running rigging; need to examine and routinely replace hoses and pumps and not wait for things to break before turning my attention to them. Remember my earlier definition of cruising, "boat maintenance in exotic places!".

We were pleased to not have to have spent any appreciable amount of time in Nassau. Now, I've got nothing against Nassau, but it's a big bustling city and does not depict the Bahamas from a cruising perspective. Two years ago we got stuck in Nassau for a week or more on the way down and again ont eh way back. This year, we spent one night in Nassau on the way down and did not even enter the harbour (we stayed in Rose Island ) on the way back.

We did spend much more time in the Exumas, exploring wonderful, remote and beautiful islands an Cays. And there's so much more to explore.

We did a lot of snorkelling this year., thanks in part to Georgina, whose energy an encouragement inspired us to explore many fantastic sites. We swam many, many colourful and strangely shaped reef fish, seemingly oblivious to our presence in their beautiful aquatic environment. We saw lots of sharks, huge rays, turtles, barracudas and other fishes.

We had some fantastic sails; in particular I recall our trip to and from Conception, our sail back from Long Island and our return from Highbourne Cay to Rose Island. While we still do a lot of motoring and motor sailing, there were great days when we sliced through the pristine waters without the aid of our fossil fuelled iron sail.

We still struggle with energy management on board. Despite having solar panels, wind generator, two battery banks, a gasoline generator, a high capacity alternator on the diesel and miserly power utilization we have a hard time keeping up without needs. I have some ideas what to do next fall to remedy this.

While we spend an extended period in Georgetown, and thoroughly enjoyed the socialization and numerous events and happenings, we did not get "stuck" here like two years ago. In fact, we made two mini-cruises from Georgetown which were highlights of our overall cruise. The first was our trip to Conception which is probably my overall favourite place. The second was our visit to Long Island and our day adventures with Roger and Jacquie and Jim and Irene.

We met lots of new cruisers but renewed acquaintance with numerous folks we had met over the past three years. It's a huge expanse of cruising territory but surprisingly small in terms of the likelihood of crossing paths again with folks we have met before. Particularly enjoyable was the time we spend with Jim and Irene on Escapaid, who we met in the Bahamas twelve years ago when we spent a memorable week with Ann and Harold on Rumpot.

Poor old Chopin continues to be a great crew member. He is slower and more careful as he goes up and down the companionway, and seems more and more dependant on being in very close proximity to Judy but he seems to endure the discomfort of being on a small vessel on the water and when he does his usual late afternoon sojourn around the deck or his beach walks with Judy, he seems to be downright content.

We very much enjoyed our visit in December with Bob and Carolyn as we always have. We did regret that for various reasons our other intended visits from Colleen and James, Jim and Jackie and a return visit from Bob and Carolyn did not turn out. Perhaps next year!

Having said that, we did spend virtually the entire time in the company of Roger and Jacquie on Audacious. We have sailed with them and their family for at least twenty five years and they have been wonderful companions on this trip. It certainly eased the loneliness and made for a more comfortable and contented season. Rarely was Judy homesick knowing the Roger and Jacquie were anchored a few hundred meters from us. Thanks Rog and Jacquie!!

Finally, we continue to heal from the terrible tragedy and loss which we endured two years ago. Judy, in particular, was happy and content and her several times a day, long swims in the azure waters of the wonderful Bahamas was a true balm in helping heal a broken heart!

So, while I'll proclaim as I did the past two years, that I will try to make at least sporadic posts to our blog during the summer I can't commit to this and you may only hear from me again in this forum next fall. Nevertheless, thank you for your readership and interest. Fair winds from Sea Sharp!

04/20/2011 | Joe Wienecke
I have been reading your blog Thais for writing it.
We have a hunter 376 that we want to use to do the same thing you guys are doing. How has the boat been? Is a bigger boat better? What improments did you have to make? What would you do different? Thanks for you feedback.
Finalizing in Fort Pierce

With Judy an Chopin safe at her parents' home in New Jersey after an uneventful flight, I turn my attention to getting the boat ready for summer storage. While in Stuart, I service the engine, outboard, generator, remove the sails, wash the boat thoroughly inside and out and continue to pack all of our stuff.

Our last leg of this journey is the short hop (30 miles) from Stuart to Fort Pierce to Riverside Marina where we have Sea Sharp hauled and stored on land for the summer. I make this last leg as we started this season, in the company of Audacious. I have arranged to go directly to the haul out slip once I get to Riverside and this works out great as it is a congested and complicated marina with shallow water, tides, winds and other navigational complications and I'm on my own on Sea Sharp.

Shortly after I get in the slip, Sea Sharp is hauled out and blocked up in the yard. While Judy and I have both worked hard over the past week to get here ready for storage, there remain many things to do and I'm going to be busy for the next two days. Also, living on a boat stored on land is no fun but the folks at this Marina are very accommodating and allow you to stay on the boat while you finish the storage or launch chores. Also, there is a healthy camaraderie among the cruisers in this yard, and I know lots of folks here, including many Canadians; so there's no shortage of socializing.

I spend two very busy and tiring but rewarding days putting Sea Sharp to bed and, on Friday around noon, bid adieu to Rog and Jacquie and others in the yard, drop the key off at the office and begin the two-day trek north to New Jersey. It's with mixed emotions that I leave Sea Sharp. It's an exciting and rewarding lifestyle but we have our families, friends and other avocations home in Canada and I'm particularly anxious to see my Mom.

Back in Stuart

We remain another night in the West Palm Beach area although we move to north Lake Worth to a more serene anchorage. We had sort of planned to head further today but, with the nasty weather this morning and the traffic on the ICW, we decided to remain. There was a very large power boat show over the weekend at Palm Beach and it disbanded this morning meaning that dozens, more likely hundreds of large power vessels are returning from whence they came; many north along the ICW. We would be competing on the waterway with them and it's no contest. So we have a quiet and pleasant afternoon and evening in north Lake Worth.

We leave early on Tuesday to ply our way up the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway), through numerous bridges and some tricky passages intending to make it to Stuart. Our passage is uneventful and we make good time transiting the 10 or so bridges along our intended route.

We get to Sunset Bay Marina mid afternoon. This is the place where we spend some time at the beginning and the end of our winter cruise. It's a wonderful marina and an equally impressive town. We pick up a mooring and are warmly greeted by the courteous Marina staff. As soon as I get settled, I hustle into town to pick up our Jeep from storage. I get to the storage facility to retrieve the Jeep but I'd forgotten in December when we stored it to disconnect the battery so, of course, it would not start. Fortunately, a neighbouring garage came and boosted me and away I went.

We stayed in Stuart for a week, preparing the boat for it's summer storage, cleaning, packing clothes but also going for runs/walks, going to restaurants, socializing and generally chilling out. Similar to the last two years, our plan is for Judy and Chopin to fly from West Palm Beach to New York/New Jersey where she will visit her family and I will finalize the preparations of the boat. Even though it's a short (3 hour), direct flight from PBI to EWR (Newark), it is quite traumatic for Chopin, therefore, for Judy and I as well. The biggest challenge is to try to force the tranquillizer down Chopin's gullet. He squirms, howls, scratches and battles our best efforts but we manage to get some down his throat and soon his eyes begin to close so the trip should be fine.

I spend the next two days feverishly doing the many chores necessary to decomission the boat. I do have a pleasant distraction, however, in that our good cruising buddy Ray from Whisper is in town with his son and friend and we spend a great evening with them. We originally met Ray in the Dismal Swamp on our way down the ICW in 2008 and have kept in touch in the interim.

We endure two days of vigorous thunderstorms and squalls and I'm glad to be in the security of the strong moorings of Sunset Bay Marina.

Our Friendly Neighbours Part 2

While we have completed the Immigration part of our check in we still have to deal with our cruising permits; the document/process which allows our Canadian licensed/registered boats to remain in the US. But this'll have to wait until Monday so we have to stay put until then.

Now you have to visualize West Palm Beach on a fantastic Sunday in late March. There are more boats of all sizes and descriptions than you can imagine, from 200 foot mega yachts to kayaks, all circulating in a very congested and complicated harbour. Add to this melange, dredges, barges, cruise ships, police boats, freighters, tour boats and you might have some idea what a aquatic cacophony this presents. As the day wears on the land breeze picks up and this adds to the tumult. It's absolute mayhem. Judy and I take our dingy to visit a cruising friend and then intend to go to dinner at a shore side tiki bar. But, I'm terrified and once we leave our friend's boat we opt to head back to the relative security of Sea Sharp. I've never seen anything like this!

Oh, well, dinner on Sea Sharp is always a treat!

We get up the next morning and while he weather portents violent wind and thundershowers, Roger and I head dutifully in to the Customs and Border Patrol Office to renew our cruising permits. We are warned about violent thunder and lightening storms but figure with an early start, we can do our business and get back to our boats before the tumult hits. We are first in line but the office opens late and the bureaucratic nonsense takes much more time than we figure. I get a cellular call from Jacquie who pleads with me that the wind is piping up and she and Judy are concerned about being on the boats alone. About fifteen minute later I get another call from a more agitated Jacquie who reports that it is gusting to 45 knots and very violent and that she and Judy are very concerned. Finally our paperwork is complete and Roger and I run back to the dinghy and head back post haste to our boats. By this time it has settled down some but we understand that our Admirals endured some very tense moments with the boats pitching and lurching on their anchors. Should the boats have dragged could have had calamitous results. Nonetheless they did well.

So this our second return to Lake Worth/West Palm Beach from Bahamas to unwelcoming conditions both climatically and bureaucratically.

Our Friendly Neighbours

With apologies to our many friends and fellow cruisers from the US, I have to say that our entries back to the US have been anything but easy and cordial. It's kind of like a moving target and you never quite know how you'll be treated of what you'll have to do to get back in.

But as a good law abiding Canadian, I immediately hoist the "Q" (quarantine) flag as soon as we anchor in West Palm Beach and activate my cell phone. I immediately call Immigration and report in. The officer is curt but professional and takes our relevant information and issues me a fifteen digit clearance number but informs me that we have to present ourselves in person to Immigration within 24 hours. I plea that this is almost impossible as we are on a boat at anchor and the usual office we go to just off the waterfront is closed for the weekend; we would have to take a cab to the airport, many miles away and leave the boat unattended in a busy and turbulent harbour. He tells me that this the way it I but I can call the folks at the airport and see if I can make some other arrangement.

I call them and get an agent who obviously is going to cut me absolutely no slack so I have to get very impudent and tell her that as far as I'm concerned this is no way to treat her neighbours to the north; particularly where we've unwittingly found ourselves in this situation by trying to comply with the arcane and mind-numbing regulations which appear to be more fluid than the sand bores of the Bahamas. She finally transfers me to her supervisor, who at first is equally intractable but eventually understands our predicament and finally agrees to send agents down to the closest marina to clear us in the next morning (Sunday). I push the envelope and ask if they'll also do our buddy boat, Audacious. He's a little put our but agrees. He warns not to publicize this (as I'm doing now) because he suggests that the cruising community is a close knit one and this particular treatment will get around. Anyway, we're relived and head to bed happy to be back on continental soil but already missing the Bahamas.

This anchorage is a far cry from the fantastic places we've been over the past three and a half months. Contrast the secluded, uninhabited islands and Cay with multitudinous beaches, pristine inlands and gracious and simple but wily inhabitants to Lake Worth South where on one side we have huge mansions with mega yachts tied up along side and on the other, freighters, barges, dredges and the "Great Hum" of the incessant drone of machinery, factories, population and transportations. The cultural shock is profound.

We sleep in the next day and don't even bother to listen to the weather forecast as we normally do each morning at 6:30 but as promised I get a call on my cell around 9:30 from a Customs and Border Patrol buy who on orders from his supervisor (the one I mentioned I spoke to yesterday) was arranging for us to rendezvous with him at the marina. We agreed to meet at 10:00. We assemble our ships' papers and Roger and I head in to do the check in. At first we are greeted by an office who has a canine member in his SUV. He is professional and tells us that the officers will be here shortly and will likely want us to take them back to our boats for an inspection. We have nothing illegal of illicit and are running very low on all supplies so we should have nothing to worry about but the anticipation of officers tromping through our boats is threatening. I'm even more worried if they take the drug dog on board; we don't any illicit drugs but I would worry about his safety if Chopin gets a hold of him. (particulary if he sniffs out Chopin's stash of Catnip).

Soon a large truck with four officers comes up and ask us where our other ship mates (wives)are a they're supposed to also present themselves. I was told this was unnecessary ad one office confirmed that he had told me by phone not to bring them in. They seemed a bit put out by this but proceeded to take our passports back to their vehicle and after what seemed to be an eternity, returned with our passports and wished us a pleasant day. I was some relived that I did not have to transport four burly offices and a German shepherd back to Sea Sharp!

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Preparing for Retirement Trip
Who: Mike, Judy and Chopin (the boat cat)
Port: Douglas Harbour, NB, Canada
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