Slow Sailing

14 May 2018 | Vero Beach, FL
29 April 2018 | Dragon Point, Melbourne
02 April 2018 | Chub Cay, Berry Islands
24 March 2018 | Farmers Cay, Bahamas
12 March 2018 | Grand Turk
28 February 2018 | Culebra, Spanish Virgins
21 February 2018 | St John
01 February 2018 | St Pierre, Martinique
17 January 2018 | Marin Marina, Martinique
08 January 2018 | Fort de France, Martinique
01 January 2018 | Atlantic - Still!
26 December 2017 | Atlantic Ocean
19 December 2017 | Mindelo, Sao Vicente, Cape Verde
17 December 2017 | Mindelo, Sao Vicente, Cape Verde
07 December 2017 | San Sebastian, La Gomera
28 November 2017 | Garachico, Tenerife
18 November 2017 | La Palma, Canaries
07 November 2017 | Puerto Santa Cruz, Tenerife
16 October 2017 | Graciosa, Canary Islands
09 October 2017 | Rabat, Morocco

Week 1 Overland RV Conversion

14 May 2018 | Vero Beach, FL
Heather
After a 5 day trip in the boat from Vero Beach up to Green Cove Springs, FL we arrived and saw for the first time where we've "lived" since 2007. Our mailing service, St Brendan's Isle is here, and since our sailing home moves everywhere we go, we use this as our permanent address. Although its been good to do this initial work on the truck here and be able to pick up our mail in person once or twice, it will be fine with us to leave soon as it feels sort of claustrophobic being 40 miles up a river and also this area just isn't for us. Can't say enough good about St Brendan's mail service though!
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On May 3rd, we biked to Enterprise in town, picked up a car rental, drove to the port of Brunswick, GA and picked up the truck. I had to wait outside the gate as only the driver is permitted inside the secured area. In about 30 minutes and after a $50 bill was handed to the escort (usual policy in union covered ports when picking up vehicles) our truck was finally in our possession. We used Dan Ozdinec from All Ways International Shipping out of Baltimore to arrange all the shipping from Norway to Georgia and he was great to work with. Turns out it WAS as easy as shipping the boat but a lot less expensive! It is OK to import a truck not originally sold in the US as long as it's 25 years old. And because we purchased a fire service truck, the USA doesn't assess the 25% duty as they ordinarily would. We knew this ahead of time which is one reason why we zeroed in on a fire truck, well that and they are generally stored inside at the fire station and well cared for.
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We drove it back to Green Cove Springs Marina where we'd already arranged a trade with the welder there. He could have the firebox which he wanted to use as a storage shed as long as he removed it for us. Along with an extremely heavy duty water pump and a big tank to carry the water, it has nice several spacious lockers with roll up doors. We really wanted to get it off ASAP so we could see the chassis and get things ready to have the subframe built. We spent the weekend pulling off vinyl letters and stickers, getting to know the truck a little, and Jon disconnected a myriad of wires, hoses & fittings that ran from the truck cab to the firebox along with 4 blue lights and several floodlights. Who would've known how much interest there would be from anyone passing by not only about this project, but in the blue lights themselves. During the drive back from the port, Jon said that the truck felt a little swervy at times especially when going over bumpy bridges or the like. Then we discovered that the water tank in the truck was full of Swedish water! We set the valve to drain and then went for a couple hour walk and when we returned there was still more water to come out. Interesting that they shipped it that way...

It took the guys all day Monday to remove the box but it eventually got done. The chassis looked really good, very little rust and we found that the truck had been undercoated with an oily protector and so for better or worse, we'll have to get that off entirely in order to paint the chassis. We both spent some time scraping in subsequent days to remove some of it. We've got more to do. It may be that we get the chassis sand blasted right before we paint but we've decided to hold on this till we get up to VT. The whole next day was spent pressure washing the chassis.
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We ordered up some key blanks since we only got one key with the truck. And we've also ordered new rims from a company in Germany since our truck has an 8 lug pattern rather than the usual 10 and you can't get these in the USA unless they're custom made. We'll use Dan as our agent again. With the RV conversion we'll only need 4 tires rather than the dual rear tires and they'll be larger & taller on/off road tires that will give us better fuel mileage and speed than what we're doing currently with studs on the front!
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The Total Composites fiberglass box that will be the actual camper box comes in white both inside & out. It's shiny gelcoat actually which is just like the boat and so we're not planning to paint it. So our color scheme is going to be white with black or dark gray trim and underbody boxes. While not our favorite colors it should really help keep the box cooler and we can get on the road sooner. We'll prep & paint the truck cab white also. The front grill of the truck was cracked and needed repair, plus it was white so we took that off and fixed it, then painted it black and put it back on. It felt good to get something small done.

Then we took a much needed break and played for a couple of days- visiting Fort Caroline in Jacksonville which has great trails and interesting history and St Augustine, before heading down to Vero Beach where we are now, having the subframe built. We made decent progress over the past week and a half although we can't wait to redo the inside of the truck cab and get AC installed as it is loud and hot with the windows down. We won't start that till we get to Vermont though.
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Moving Forward

29 April 2018 | Dragon Point, Melbourne
Heather
I know I haven't written anything here in a while and I guess it's because I've been in a state of writers block and adjustment. We spent our last days in the Berry Islands of the Bahamas mostly in the water trying to live in that world until the last minute that we had to set sail. Even though the cruising guides describe the Berry chain as focused on sportfishing, we saw very little of anyone around anywhere and haven't had that solitude since ??? It was great. We snorkeled around islets, floated in the water in our wetsuits taking in the scenery, took dinghy rides over the flats and drift dove cuts. One cut was filled with the most eagle rays we've ever seen, more than you could get into a photo frame. And we saw shoals of fish in the shallows that went on forever and even sea hares which I have a special love for-even baby ones. We had a good long chat with some Bahamian fishermen who anchored nearby us one night, one of them a kid whose father died of the bends (DCS) and he still wanted to be a fisherman! Because of the demand for fish to make a livelihood and the decrease in overall fish stock, the divers go deeper & deeper after the big kill and eventually some succumb to it. Sad. The Bahamas are beautiful and close and I hope we can scoot back over even if briefly next winter.
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We sailed off from the top of the island chain in light air and had a lovely Gulf Stream crossing with virtually no shipping and good wind to blast up into Ft Pierce inlet under sail. In my mind I knew it was the last overnight we'd be doing for a while and I had mixed feelings about it. We pulled into Vero Beach marina to a mooring and were picked up by Jon's parents the next morning to stay with them for a bit and catch up. It was great to see them again after over a year apart. And their dog Katie hasn't changed, thank goodness. She's a real nut.

It didn't take long for us to dive into some house projects that needed doing at Jon's parents one of which was paint the house. It took about 5 days, each of us working away in our own corners. It made sense to take down the porch fans and paint them too (Mariette is doing this in the pic) and Roland supervised the project while keeping the dog out of the paint! I have to say the only experience I have with paints is on the boat, all of which are toxic expoxies, varnishes & heavy bottom paints. I thought this water based stuff was great! No respirator or gloves needed!
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The house looks all spiffy now and hopefully no one will notice that I painted around the resting tree frogs rather than make them move for my brush.
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Most of the other projects required Jon's skill so I had time to bike back to the boat on a few of the days to do some cleaning and catch up on maintenance. It wasn't an overly long bike ride but Florida's roads feel very dangerous and it always felt good to reach the marina with all its old trees & nesting woodpeckers and peaceful feel and know I'd made it one more time without being clobbered by a car.

It was good to hang out with Jon's parents for a while, pretend their dog Katie was ours (she likes to visit our room in the morning and cries at our door) share many great meals, eat ice cream late at night and meet their neighborhood friends who are now our friends. We even had two couples over to our boat so they could see it and it was nice to entertain them there and be at "home" for a couple of nights. The marina really is in a beautiful spot, with manatees and dolphin doing rolls around the boat but the water is brown so no getting in. We both think that what makes Florida so nice for us is the weather & the birds. Its great seeing osprey & pelicans again and pink spoonbills flying around. Vero Beach also has decent shopping. We tried to pitch some of the most faded clothes we have and get a few more presentable things to fit in better. We were also given pretty much free use of the car so we could get some chores done.
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Now the fire truck update! It seems a lot of people want to know what's happening. Well, its coming into Georgia today! We can see it on Marine Traffic sitting just offshore. We're confused because it looks like its going in to Savannah rather than Brunswick as planned and we'd hoped to actually bike to the port (long bike ride) rather than rent a car. Now it is too far. Oh well. Another Canadian couple we know had their truck shipped and it was supposed to go to Halifax but ended up in Baltimore instead so we're not complaining- yet! We delayed the shipping of it to give us time to get back and try to arrange things before it arrived. In case you missed it, we (hopefully not foolishly) bought a 1988 Mercedes Benz 1120AF fire support truck from Sweden (the broker was in Norway) and had it shipped across to the US. We will remove the firebox (it has a pump and lockers for equipment) and use the truck & chassis to convert to an overland expedition RV that is world ready. For many reasons I won't bore you with here, we decided this route was the best option for us (and it is gaining traction in the USA) as it will allow us to have a vehicle that will run on any kind of diesel wherever we are and be able to take the rougher terrain of some of the faraway places we hope to visit. It should also be easier to fix when it breaks down. Even Alaska will be better in this type of truck. Our plan is to travel the world this time by land, in a comfortable home (we already know how to live small after 21 years of living aboard boats) taking with us our backpacking gear, bikes and an inflatable kayak. Because we will do the work ourselves (much brain and heavy work by Jon) we will build this truck to a budget and feel confident that it will be another portable home that can provide us with the same freedom and quality of life that our boat does. We were going to call it "Bad As" since we loved Australia so much, sort of a take off on sweet as, but then we jokingly played with the name Pole Dancer- dancing the poles silly, not what you're thinking! And it stuck. Jon has worked like crazy lining up the project details, sourcing equipment and we've been reading books, blogs and watching Youtube videos of all the overland builds we can find to learn as much as we can. We're both really excited about the project and hope it all comes together in the year we have planned while still leaving time to spend with family & friends. I will chronicle the build once we get rolling with it, I'm not sure if it will be on this blog or a different one but I'll keep you posted. We feel compelled to share our experience and decisions with others because we've relied & benefited so much on the things other people have shared although I don't know how many videos we'll pull off!

It wasn't easy at first to find a place to do the initial work on it that we need to do. We couldn't decide whether Jon should take up the welding on his own or if we should try to have someone else do it. We need to have a steel subframe built right away which will be bolted to the chassis and be the support for the fiberglass camper box that we want. The box is from a company called Total Composites out of BC in Canada. Because it takes several weeks to get the camperbox once its ordered, we feel pressured to get that rolling so we'll be able to stay on track with one step following the other and not get held up waiting for stuff. We tried to rent a workshop or garage so that Jon could do the welding and no one wanted anything less than a year lease. We also tried local boatyards and they were all too full or too fancy. We visited and/or contacted a few local welding companies and no one was showing any interest until just a few days ago when a well established company called Turner in Ft Pierce got back to us and we met in person to discuss the build. We had a great conversation about our project and while most of their business is for agricultural welding, they're up for this & interested and we think we got a great price. Because trump is still throwing around the wrecking ball that is rippling out all over the world, Turner thought it best that they order up the steel for us right away because the price of raw steel is going up some 25% with the tariffs and is very unstable. Great for the country! Well anyway, its such a relief to have this arranged.

We said goodbye to Roland & Mariette yesterday morning and left Vero Beach for Melbourne on the Intracoastal Waterway. We were sent with raspberry pie of course! Its easy going and there is a lot of birdwatching except you do have to steer.
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We're anchored at Dragon Point where we anchored and stuffed our boat to the gills with provisions way back in 1997 before our first trip to the Bahamas. This was where we blew away half the staff of the grocery store Publix when we asked if they stocked canned whole chickens. There is such a thing- a whole, cooked chicken in a can, great for having in the Bahamas when you can't eat another bite of seafood. They ordered us in a case of them and then more for other sailors to buy as word spread. The staff was quite surprised that there was such a thing. The dragon that graced the entrance to the anchorage fell over in a storm years ago and the place has a lot less boats due to local ordinances, but we can stay for 48 hours. We took a long walk today along the river and then this evening, we met up with my nieces Michelle & Nichole and her husband Gil and son Francisco. It had been too many years since we'd gotten together. We had great craft beers and dinner in an outdoor garden atmosphere which was perfect for catching up. Nicki told me that a couple of the running races she's participated in were to raise money to rebuild the dragon. Here we are all lined up- Jon, Nichole, yours truly, Michelle, Francisco & Gil. It was a great day.
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Tomorrow we'll continue motoring the 200 or so miles we have left to Green Cove Springs which is just south of Jacksonville on the St Johns River. We'll use the marina there as a base to keep Evergreen while we go to Georgia to pick up the truck (hoping this goes smoothly) and bring it back to the marina yard to remove the firebox, prepare the chassis for the subframe, and then we'll drive back down to Vero to have the welding done which should only take a few days. The logistics are complicated but things are falling into place. We will then move our operation up to Washington, NC where we plan to haul Evergreen for the summer to dry out in prep for stripping & painting of the hull & mast and of course more brightwork with toxic chemicals!

This morning I told Jon I felt like someone had injected me with a happiness shot. Sometimes I wake up feeling that way. I guess I'm happy to be onboard and moving again, I feel good about the visit we had in Vero and the things we were able to help out with and I feel hopeful and excited about our plans for the truck, our summer plans to be in Vermont and see my parents. I'm sad in some ways to know the cruise, which has shaped our lives for so many years now is completed, just because it is an ending but I'm transitioning. I feel grateful for the visit with Nicki & Michelle because it helps fill the void I have in my heart for having lost my brother, their dad, and I'm glad they're in my life. Things are moving forward.
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The Original Swimming Pigs

02 April 2018 | Chub Cay, Berry Islands
Heather
Well, another year has gone by without any Easter baskets on Evergreen. Its so sad. I made a cake with green frosting in rememberance of the green grass in our Easter baskets of years gone by.
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Our time in the Bahamas is winding down, we are now in the Berry Islands which leaves about 180 miles to Fort Pierce, where we'll continue on to Vero Beach to park for a bit and visit Jon's parents. Our truck is in Germany now, awaiting the transatlantic ship that will take it to Georgia where we can finally see what we bought-yikes! How many times in your life do you buy something somewhat large, sight unseen and then trust it to many hands and drivers to get it from one continent to another?
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We've had a splendid time in the Bahamas and have really enjoyed all it has to offer. Clear water, great snorkeling, spearfishing, calm anchorages and lovely beaches. That's all we wanted and it reaffirms that we could spend more time here cruising around, having plenty of zero dollar days. Whenever I'm not in the water, I think I should be because it is so beautiful. If I'm feeling stressed about all that will be happening in the next few months, putting my mask on and gliding over a reef takes it all away. I love the way the greenish blue glow of the shallow water is reflected on the bottom sides of the clouds here.
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Georgetown was so peaceful as the regatta was over from the week prior and a lot of sailboats had left so it had a quiet feel and I heard that there were less boats there this season than last for some reason. Megayachts don't come down that far which is nice too. It is so set up for cruisers and is basically unchanged from our point of view and Stocking Island is still a playground with long beaches, inland trails, shady palms to sit under, snorkeling, fishing and great anchorage. What more could you ask for? One day while out spearfishing Jon shot a grouper and quickly got it to the dinghy. Just as I swung my legs in to get in too a reef shark came blasting over to get a closer look & started circling. So we moved our operation elsewhere and later found out that the week prior, some guys out spearfishing there took too long to get their catch in and 2 sharks came, one taking a nip out of one of the guy's elbows. Despite this, we are glad to see the sharks around, as well as the barracuda, that give the reef the balance it should have. It feels plentiful here, not like so many other parts of the world. And as emotional as it feels to witness the killing of something, it is remarkable to be able to pick out something that is right, spear it with no by catch and then use all of it with little or no waste. We've had fish, lobster and conch so I've made conch tacos, cracked conch, lobster salad, lobster thermidor, buttered lobster, lobster risotto and fish various ways. If we had to pick a favorite it would be the fish. And no ciguatera relapse with the grouper although I made Jon eat it alone the first night to see if he came down with symptoms! He says that spearfishing seems to come easy to him this time and he hasn't been nervous at getting what he aims for.
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We started moving our way up the Exuma chain, reacquainting ourselves with reading the water to get in to shallow spots without bumping the bottom. We've reached new low levels on our depthsounder and have anchored in some gorgeous spots. Not like we had to, we just wanted to. It's like riding a bike, you never really forget how to do it. We've met a few other sailors, got to know them over cracked conch lunch and have also visited some of the unlikely tourist spots like the famous "Swimming Pigs" of Staniel Cay and Thunderball Caves, so named after a couple of James Bond movies were filmed there. Its fun to feed the sergeant majors and deliver our produce scraps to the pigs as they swim out to the dinghy. But my gosh, how this place has changed over the years! We first came in 1994 for our honeymoon. Now it is Tripadvisor documented, full-on tourist boats and megayacht tenders, not to mention sea planes themselves (no kidding) screaming over to see these domesticated pigs that live on a beach! Unlike their ancestral humble beginnings of being placed on the island to fend for themselves years ago, these new wave domesticated, tagged, named, photographed pigs with water & food troughs and a sturdy shaded shelter, have a full time job entertaining tourists who come to feed them all day until sunset. And there are liability releasing signs to remind you that these are pigs and you can't sue them! Late in the day half of them are comatose under the shelter because they are fat & full and tired of swimming! We got a lot of laughs out of watching the going's on of all this being anchored right off the beach for a few days while it was windy. We joked about what the pigs would be saying to each other like oh brother, here we go again, I am so tired of eating, I need a vacation with no one around! When I spoke with the lady in the Staniel Cay Yacht Club office, a native of the Cay who remembers what it used to be like, she said what made it famous was those swimming pigs! Now other islands have tried copying it but Staniel is the original.
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We've spent a lot of time snorkeling & drift diving through the cuts and around islets. It is so fun to ride the current through the cuts and see all the sharks, turtles and rays hanging out there. When you slow down back on the sand bank you hop back in the dinghy and motor back up to the opening and do it all over again! The water is such a crazy liquid blue that it looks wetter to me than usual, the color of my favorite blue Slush Puppy flavor. At the end of Wax Cay Cut we saw a whole group of nurse sharks laying on the bottom all lined up- never seen that before. On one snorkel a huge, old, sea turtle came over to a nearby coral head, sunk to the sand and went out like a light! He had 2 big remoras for company on his old shell. About a half hour later I returned with the camera and he was still zonked out. I ended up waking him and felt bad but he didn't swim away. I got this pic and left him be.
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We moved over to Allan's & Norman's Cay where we could do some long island walks. The Bahamas seems to be doing well, fortunately and it is growing, unfortunately. You hate to see more & more private homes & developments and their No Trespassing This Means You signs but there is still a lot of open space for now. I liked the way in lots of other places like Europe there are not all of those signs and there is an expectation that there will be walkers passing by, the old greenway thinking much alive elsewhere. We enjoyed walking around to the ocean side and having a picnic lunch in the breeze. Allen's is famous for all of the vegetarian iguanas that come out to greet you on the beach, especially if you're cleaning fish or conch. Like Staniel's pigs, they too are popular and bikini clad tour patrons hold apple chunks on long skewers to feed them. But those boats disappear soon enough and then it is back to just the sailboats. We find it really amazing that they come all the way over from Nassau on day trips to make several stops in the Exumas. It is really quite an adventure and good on the Bahamians for figuring out tourism in this way where their islands have very little else to offer in the way of work. It is selfish to want it all to stay the same.
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What we haven't had is much in the way of stores to buy things like produce. We've now run out of coffee mate, beer and are getting food cravings like blueberry pie and ice cream. We'll have to leave when we get down to our last roll of toilet paper. Won't be long now! But we still have plenty of cans of Spanish meatballs and we're saving a couple of bottles of cava sparkling wine to share with ourselves & Jon's parents when we finally reach the US shore. Then we can dig in to our list of broken things and start fixing them. In the last 2 weeks my laptop battery shit the bed, along with my watch. It would be nice to grill some fish but oh, that has long since rusted out. Every time something breaks and I say we need to get a new one, Jon starts whistling the "hi ho, hi ho, its off to work I go..." But we hope we don't have to. We think we can get ahead selling off some of the must have gear that we put on the boat before we left and then proceeded to never use.

But first, a few more days soaking up these pretty islands and stuffing ourselves into our wetsuits for a look at the reef. Oh and one last big bottom scrub!

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Vessel Name: EVERGREEN
Vessel Make/Model: Tashiba 40 Hull #158
Hailing Port: E. Thetford Vermont
Crew: Heather and Jon Turgeon
Extra:
Over the years, we've explored much of the Caribbean Sea & Atlantic East coast on 3 different long term trips. In January 2012, we left the USA and headed for the Pacific. We visited the Galapagos, French Polynesia, Samoa, Cook Islands & Tonga before heading to New Zealand. We've enjoyed thousands [...]
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