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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.