S.V. Gratitude

Brewer 44, hull number 284

31 December 2018 | Stuart, FL
21 December 2018 | Stuart Florida
21 December 2018
17 December 2018 | Stuart, FL
14 December 2018 | St. Augustine, FL
13 December 2018 | Sister’s Creek
12 December 2018 | Atlantic Ocean
11 December 2018 | Windmill Harbour
01 March 2017 | Exumas
26 February 2017 | Jumentos Cays & Ragged Islands
09 February 2017 | Hog Cay, Jumentos Islands, Bahamas
27 January 2017 | En Route to Nassau
23 January 2017 | Sister Creek, Marathon, FL
06 January 2017 | Cayo Costa State Park
17 March 2016
14 March 2016
12 March 2016
08 March 2016
01 March 2016

There is always something!

31 December 2018 | Stuart, FL
EVS: Sunny
Living on a boat is not all grapes and reclining in the sun with fans to keep you cool. In fact, we experience very little of that! It is almost always the case that something needs to be checked, tightened, fixed, or replaced. And that seems to be the case most often when a boat just sits.

When in operation, all systems are exercised and keep up their functionality — until they don’t. But, when a boat is not used, things tend to get creaky and stiff. (Sound familiar?) Because Gratitude had not been used for over a year and a half before this trip, we had a list of deferred maintenance items that needed tending. Our stop in Stuart, FL has provided a good opportunity to play catch up.

We arrived here December 17 and flew to LI, NY on the 22d to celebrate Christmas with our daughter, Kea, and her sons, Ethan and Hunter. We had a grand time with them, and even had the privilege of helping the boys (both teenagers) literally shovel out their room, which is set up like a dormitory, only messier. The good news is that they had no hesitation throwing away stuff (old pens and pencils, puzzles missing pieces, broken computer parts, etc.) and clothing that was too small was bagged for the thrift store. The bad news is we all had to spend the better part of a day on the project. However, once done, all agreed it was well worth the effort!

Returning to Stuart on the 27th, we enjoyed a wonderful dinner out with Nancy and Burger Zapf, sailing friends who have graciously loaned us a car for the myriad of errands over great distances while we are here. We have replenished the LP, done laundry, done some grocery shopping, been to the hardware store and West Marine for necessary parts, etc. We have washed the boat, checked the oil, tightened “fan” belts, bought and stored more oil for future changes, checked various fittings (only to find three hose clamps broken and in need of replacement; fortunately, they were backed up by others), tightened the “dripless” shaft gland, found a broken bolt on a head pump so ordered a new one, and a host of other items too numerous and boring to name. Suffice to say, it has been a worthwhile few days.

One item we had to attend was to move the boat to another marina to have the head holding tanks pumped out. (The county pump out boat utterly failed to provide the necessary service, so it was a significant undertaking to get that done. For example, along the way, we had to pass three bridges in close succession — one a railroad bridge that is closed by the railroad, so one must pay attention to the unscheduled train crossings, and another a highway bridge that opens on demand, much to the consternation of the vehicle drivers.) We took the opportunity to fill up on diesel while there, so we will have plenty for our ultimate trip to the Bahamas.

Now, we await the “weather window” for a safe and comfortable crossing of the Gulf Stream (that flows northward, so winds from the north [heading south] can build some fierce waves, nicknamed “elephants” for their shape and size. We saw enough elephants in South Africa and have no need to ride any now). While we wait, we are amazed periodically by the size of the trains that rumble through here on an unscheduled basis. Yesterday, I counted one with four engines, with fuel tank cars between them, hauling a train that took 5 minutes to pass at about 10-15 MPH. Many of the cars were filled with sand, and who knows what was in the tank cars, box cars, and assorted others. It was an impressive sight, and one we see repeated daily or even more often here in Stuart.

At the moment, it looks like we may be able to move on Thursday, but that is open to debate. When we can go, we will go. We are in no hurry and we have this slip for a month, so no one is pushing us out. Stay tuned!

Someone has to do it!

21 December 2018 | Stuart Florida
EVS: clear, cooler, and breezy
We often joke with people who remark about our chosen lifestyle (cruising on a sailboat to the Bahamas in the winter) that it is a tough life, but someone has to do it. Lest anyone be concerned about Thumbelina and her visit to the veterinarian, here is an updated photograph showing that life indeed is tough!

All set to go!

21 December 2018
When one travels internationally, one requires certain shots, immunizations, and certifications in order to enter a different country. The same is true for our traveling companions.

While we are in Stuart, and enjoying the liberty provided by a car, we have done a myriad of necessary errands — replenishing the LP supply, doing loads of laundry, preliminary (i.e. non-perishable) provisioning, and having Thumbelina, our 14+ year old cat checked out by a veterinarian. The Bahamas “requires” that animals must be seen by a vet within 48 hours of arrival. It is unclear whether that means after arrival (and there is no way to find a vet in some of the Bahamian locations where we may clear in) or before arrival in the Bahamas, and we never know when we are going to depart the US to go to the Bahamas. We only go when the weather forecast indicates a safe and comfortable crossing of the Gulf Stream, and we may not know that until immediately prior to our departure, at which point it is too late to schedule a vet visit anyway. The Bahamian authorities seem to recognize this because there is flexibility for boaters precisely because weather is so uncertain and changing. As a result, we have resorted to having the necessary certifications done when convenient and reasonably close to the time of crossing. (We even have visited veterinarians on the West Coast of Florida weeks before crossing because we knew they were available and we had the time.)

Yesterday was such a time, so we went to a local veterinarian recommended by friends and she had a thorough (and intimate, much to Thumbelina’s dislike) examination. As you can see, she is a pretty laid back cat, even to relaxing in the scales during the visit while the Dr. was checking on some requirement or another. Thumbelina has her “passport” (animal import license) and now her health certification, so she is all set to go!

We will be flying to LI for Christmas with Kea, Ethan, and Hunter, returning shortly thereafter, and crossing sometime after the first of the year once the weather window permits.


17 December 2018 | Stuart, FL
EVS: cool but sunny
When we were younger (so much younger than today [yes, we have been listening to the Beatles]), we used to “pull all-nighters” trying to learn all the material we were supposed to be studying throughout the semester in whatever course was involved. (We did that more in college than in graduate school — maybe we did learn something in college!). Nowadays, our all-nighters are not to study or cram materials, but to get something accomplished — a project, an assignment at work (when we were working), or, now, an all night passage from one destination to the next.

Yesterday morning, we left St. Augustine, FL at 7:30 AM (we actually left the mooring at 6:45 to catch the 7:00 Bridge of Lions opening) with the intention to get to Stuart (Port St. Lucie) FL after an overnight sail. Our departure from St. Augustine was uneventful, in the company of two other boats heading the same direction. The forecast was for winds around 10-15 knots or less, and we mostly got less, from the West-Northwest, favorable directions for southbound vessels. When we reached the outside of the harbor, the winds were in the 8-10 knot range from the West. The other boats raised their main and genoas, but we just used our genoa, which is much easier to douse (with that new roller furler we wrote about earlier) if the winds poop out, which they did. By mid afternoon, the winds had shifted to the south (not forecast) and dwindled to next to nothing. We furled the genoa while the other boats watched their main sails slat about with the wave action. We knew it was going to be a motor sailing trip, but then it looked like all motor.

As dark descended, the winds began to build and we set our sail again. By the time midnight rolled around, we were seeing steady 12-14 knots and at times over 17 (also not forecast). The winds were not an issue, but the wave action started to get a bit “active” so we pulled back on the throttle to reduce the surfing activity and allow the boat to settle more. While that cost us a bit of time, the ride was much easier and, at times, we had some really good speed, as witness the screen shot.

Dawn (grey light) at about 6:00 was most welcome and the wave action began to subside too. We arrived at the Stuart breakwater at 9:30, or 26 hours to cover about 180 miles. Not a bad days work [almost Beatles, but not quite]. The entrance to Stuart (St. Lucie Inlet) was dredged last May and really was a pleasant experience in contrast to the chart notes of danger. The worst part was the approach to the West with the wave action from the North, but once inside the breakwater, the water was very calm. It took us almost 2 hours to motor up into Stuart to the marina. Along the way, we marveled at the huge homes and the people who live there (or at least visit when they are not at another of their homes).

While this was not like our all-nighters of early days, we find this sailing life sure beats studying.


14 December 2018 | St. Augustine, FL
EVS/Heavy rain
Before we head out on a trip, and in order to ease transition to life on board without the added burden of meal preparation while trying to get the boat organized and us used to living afloat, we prepare soups, stews, chilis, and the like and freeze them at home. We take them aboard in their frozen state and place them in the top of the freezer on Gratitude so they are readily available for the first few days. As well, Lauren is excellent at meal planning, provisioning, and organizing foodstuffs on board. There is limited space on a boat to store anything, much less fresh food, so order and planning are key considerations, and Lauren has those attributes in spades!

This year was no exception. We headed out with some containers of a delicious beef/vegetable soup and chili that we had made a few weeks prior to departure. The soup was left in the freezer while the chili was placed in the refrigerator to begin to thaw (and to help cool the fresh food and produce placed in the fridge). The first night out, we had chili with shredded cheddar cheese, homemade bread, and a salad for dinner. The next night, it was the turn of the beef/vegetable soup; and so on.

Now that we are back into the shipboard routine, we are back to cooking. As I write this, the turkey (which also thawed and helped the refrigerator along) is roasting in the oven, stuffed with onions, garlic, fennel, lemon, and thyme. We eat well aboard Gratitude, as any of our guests can attest. Lauren truly loves to entertain and serving friends meals is a great way to do it.

Of course, edible soups are not the only kind. Today, we departed our anchorage just north of St. John’s River (access to Jacksonville, FL) and headed down the ICW in the rain. At first, the rain was gentle, and it stayed that way most of the day, but soon, the fog rolled in and we had to slow down to be able to see the channel markers. So, for a time, we motored along in “pea soup” until that lifted, but the rain continued. We arrived in St. Augustine, FL at just before 1:30, transited the Bridge of Lions, and took on fuel during a gap in the rain. Just as we picked up a mooring here in the Municipal Marina, it started to rain again, and now we are experiencing a steady, heavy rain and it is foggy inside our cockpit enclosure. Time for a nap.

LBO, Don’t Leave Home Without It!

13 December 2018 | Sister’s Creek
EVS?Overcast and arming
During one of my (Van’s) wakeful hours, I remembered that our Local Boaters Option cards had to be updated because I have a new passport, which is linked to the LBO account. The LBO program is very helpful as it pre-registers boaters (e.g. Lauren and me) and one’s vessel (e.g. Gratitude) for foreign travel so that, when one returns to the USA, one does not have to report in person to a Customs and Border Patrol/Department of Homeland Security Office, which a few and far between (although they make it very clear they may require a personal visit) to “clear in”. Once one returns to US waters, one simply calls an 800 number, reports current position, and answers some pertinent questions, and is set to go (hopefully).

The last time a passport changed (Lauren’s) we had to go to the Port of Miami (and impose on a friend to drive us to the CBP office) to update our LBOs. It took the better part of half a day for perhaps 10 minutes of computer time. Hoping to avoid that, we checked our cruising guide for nearby offices and found one in Fernandina Beach, FL. We called and found we could walk to the CBP office from the waterfront. Because we were a day north of Fernandina, we decided to travel on the ICW (as opposed to in the ocean) and stop in. Somewhat easier said than done: the municipal marina was trashed in a hurricane and under re-construction, another nearby marina had no available space, and a fuel dock would not allow a transient stop (we even offered to buy fuel, but their 200 gallon minimum swamped our 25 gallon requirement). So, we anchored, dropped the dinghy and rigged the outboard for a quick run into town. What a cute spot! Lovely shops and restaurants that would be worth a stop — maybe when the municipal marina is up and running!

Van (as the Captain) walked to the CBP office and was well attended by the young officer there. All the SBP staff we spoke with were most helpful! All was accomplished and we were back underway (with the outboard and dinghy back aboard) in the space of an hour and a half. We continued down the ICW and are anchored just north of the Sister’s Creek bridge and the St. John’s River. The forecast is for rainy and nasty weather, so we may sit here, continue on in the ICW if not too bad, or go outside of the forecast is plumb wrong.

In any event, we are all set with up-to-date LBOs, so now we can leave home!
Vessel Name: Gratitude
Vessel Make/Model: Brewer 44 Ketch
Hailing Port: Brandon, VT
Crew: Van and Lauren
About: It is hard to believe, but this is our 7th season aboard Gratitude. It will be a short season and close to FL, but we hope to relax, enjoy the time, being on the water, and each other. Come along.
Extra: Live it while you can.
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Gratitude's Photos -

2015 Cruise

Who: Van and Lauren
Port: Brandon, VT