20 September 2015 | Deltaville, VA (Dozier’s Regatta Point)
12 August 2015 | Deltaville, VA (Dozier's Regatta Point)
20 April 2015 | Stuart, FL
09 April 2015 | Hobe Sound, FL
08 April 2015 | North Lake Worth, FL
04 April 2015 | Alders Cay, Berry Islands
03 April 2015 | Bonds Cay, Berry Islands
01 April 2015 | West Bay, New Providence
01 April 2015 | West Bay, New Providence
31 March 2015 | West Bay, New Providence
28 March 2015 | Norman’s Cay
25 March 2015 | Norman’s Cay
23 March 2015 | Norman’s Cay
22 March 2015 | Norman’s Cay
21 March 2015 | Shroud Cay
20 March 2015 | Shroud Cay
19 March 2015 | Big Majors Spot, Staniel Cay
18 March 2015 | Big Majors Spot, Staniel Cay
16 March 2015 | White Point, Great Guana Cay
14 March 2015 | Cambridge Cay, Exumas

SSCA commodores

20 September 2015 | Deltaville, VA (Dozier’s Regatta Point)
We joined the ranks of SSCA commodores back in August and have been flying our new red burgee ever since. We’re really excited and honored to achieve this goal!

Detour back to Virginia

12 August 2015 | Deltaville, VA (Dozier's Regatta Point)
Susie and Brian
Hi to everyone again! We didn't know we'd be back updating our blog so soon, but here we are! Just a heads up - this is going to be pretty long since a lot has happened over the last few months. In a nutshell, we're back in Virginia! True to the cruising life, plans are often set in JELLO and it's important to stay flexible and switch gears on the fly. A little bit of improvisation also helps! At the end of June, we found ourselves changing course from our original intention to stay in Florida. As it turns out, Brian is resuming his career with the family business located in Fredericksburg. Official start date? That would be determined on how fast we could get Stella the 1,000 miles back home.

We pulled together a quick action plan and got to work. First, we had to finish up a few chores on Stella like fixing the never ending leak in the dingy. Then we put a deposit on a dog-friendly apartment in Fredericksburg. Next up, getting our car back to Deltaville and driving a rental car back to Stuart. Finally, emptying out our storage unit in Stuart, putting all of the "boat stuff" back on Stella, and doing some provisioning at our favorite farm stand, Publix, and CostCo. Within ten days, Stella and crew were back on the ICW heading north!

The ICW can be challenging at times and the summer is no exception. We're pretty used to dealing with the tides, currents, shoaling, bridges, and anchorages. We were also prepared for the hot weather - or so we thought! But the list of hurdles to jump seemed to grow even more with the non-stop local boat traffic, hungry bugs, and daily thunderstorms. By the time we arrived at Fernandina Beach on the sixth day of travel, we'd encountered eight lightening storms, two complete downpours with zero visibility, a hostile takeover of no-see-ums, and temperatures hovering around 90º inside the cabin. Whew!

At this time in late June, the chance of daily pop up thunderstorms was consistently 50-70% for what seemed like days on end. Fortunately, when we arrived in Fernandina Beach, the next day was predicted to be only a 20% chance near the Florida/Georgia border and no rain north of the Altamaha Sound. It seemed like we'd be in the clear if we reached the mid-section of Georgia by afternoon and then the night sail towards Charleston would be free of storms. We didn't like the option of traveling on the ICW in Georgia since we knew that some areas would be nearly impassable on Stella (except at high tide) and the swampy anchorages would be unbearable with the bugs. We don't have a generator to run the air conditioning on Stella, so we rely on the cooler night breezes to keep comfortable. But opening the hatches in the summer - even with bug screens - is risky because the mosquitos and no-see-ums sneak their way inside. So, it's either bugs or heat - neither of which is very appealing! Going offshore was really our only option and we almost made it without running into storms. We just clipped the northern edge of a front that brought winds around 40kts with one gust up to 60kts. Except for being surrounded by lightening, the sailing part was fun! With a third reef in Stella's main and small waves, we moved along at 7-8kts all in the company of four dolphins. Seeing them swimming alongside Stella and playing in our wake definitely took our minds off of the scary weather.

After running Stella's air conditioning on full blast while in a slip at the Charleston City Marina, we knew there was no going back to anchoring out in the heat and bugs. Normally we don't stay at too many marinas since the fees can really add up fast. But, it was worth it to spend a little extra to keep the crew comfortable. Plus, we ended up making stops at places new to us like Barefoot Marina in Myrtle Beach, SC and also at Casper's Marina in Swansboro, NC. For the most part, the days flew by really quickly. We listened to a lot of Sirius radio and took two hour shifts driving. Everything was going along smoothly until we reached the Alligator River section of the ICW in North Carolina. This area is tricky for us because there aren't any anchorages with places to take Hanna to shore. There is one small marina but it has questionable reviews and higher than normal slip rates.

Based on the charts, we opted to anchor out in a location that showed a small dock just around the corner. Once we got Stella anchored, Hanna was excited to see land, so we hopped in the dinghy and headed towards the charted dock. There were some stumps just peeking above the surface of the dark water, so we veered away and continued at our normal clip. Suddenly, the dinghy lurched, hitting something hidden under the surface, and Hanna flew over the bow into the depths below. Whoops! As always, she was wearing her harness, so it was easy to pull her back into the dinghy. She seemed a little stunned, but still wagging her tail. Hanna is pretty resilient! Fortunately, the prop wasn't damaged, so we kept motoring along only to discover that the dock was in shambles and completely unsafe for landing. So, we motored back to Stella after a very dissatisfying trip for Hanna.

Since the day was really breezy, we thought that we'd be safe from the bugs too. The hatches were open with the screens in place as we went to bed. In the morning, we woke up and glanced up at the hatch above our bed. There were lots of bugs outside the screen - and on second look - inside the screen as well! Yikes! There were bugs covering every surface of Stella. The dinghy, dodger, bimini, sail cover, and down below on the ceiling and windows. We tried to look on the bright side - at least they didn't bite. They just liked to fly around a lot and leave black sticky blobs everywhere. Once we arrived at the Coinjock Marina and chatted with a few folks, we learned that there was a seasonal hatching of "fuzzy bells". They sound cute, but look more like miniature mayflies. Despite cleaning the boat inside and out with lots of water and vacuuming, the fuzzy bells stayed with us until Deltaville. We're still finding a few leftover ones inside cabinets and under cushions!

Our final sail up the Bay from Norfolk to Deltaville was lacking wind but not entertainment. We saw our friend S/V Sea Dream underway north from a weekend in Hampton and then saw more sailing friends on S/V Lio Kai heading south down the Bay. It was fantastic to chat with them on the VHF! We think they were both surprised to see Stella and did a double take. There were also reports of a "reindeer" swimming in the water near the Cape Charles-Kiptopeke area on the Eastern shore. Never a dull moment!

It's great to be back in our home slip at Dozier's Regatta Point with the familiar view of Broad Creek. Catching up with friends, walking Hanna in the mornings on the quiet, tree-lined streets, and visiting the coffee ladies at Café by the Bay have been the best parts of being back in Deltaville. We really liked our time in Stuart and will probably end up in Florida again someday. Our original plans still seem like a good solution for traveling to and from the Bahamas. If we've learned anything over our two year adventure, at least we know we'll be back out cruising again someday!

We also learned that traveling on the ICW in the early spring or fall is much easier for us than in the summer. On the plus side, the summer months bring extra long hours of daylight. It didn't seem as tiring to motor along for at least 8 to 10 hours to make headway. With the exception of an extra few days in St. Augustine, Charleston, and Wrightsville Beach for favorite restaurant stops and five days in Oriental, NC to replace our alternator, we traveled a total of 18 days with an average of 55 miles per day. That's about 15 to 20 miles more than we'd typically travel each day on our previous trips. Our total journey from Stuart to Deltaville took 26 days - the same as in April 2014!

Over the next week we'll be moving to Fredericksburg and settling into a more typical land life routine. It will certainly feel strange to live in a non-moving space with more than 400 square feet. Stella will continue to stay at Dozier's for sailing on the weekends. We can't wait to visit all of our favorite anchorages again - Little Bay, Onancock, and the Great Wicomico and Corrotoman Rivers to name a few. From Hanna's perspective, she misses chasing the lizards in Florida but the ducks around the marina are probably more her style. We look forward to seeing everyone again - in town and out on the water!

Hello Florida!

20 April 2015 | Stuart, FL
Susie and Brian
Hello everyone! We've been dragging our feet a bit in updating the blog - mainly because this will be our last one for awhile and it's been challenging to find the right words to wrap everything up. This past February somewhere down in the Jumentos and Raggeds, we started to consider what we wanted to do after we got back to the U.S. Hanna took charge and decided that for starters, we should skip the long trip back up the ICW to Deltaville. We know she's not fond of the occasional offshore passages, and the endless days of motoring are pretty exhausting for someone who's nearly 86 in people years. We also know that cruising will be a major part of our future. Life on the water seems to suit us well and we definitely want to go back to the Bahamas and beyond - maybe to the Eastern and Western Caribbean. So, that got us thinking about how to simplify the entire process. Eliminating the 2,000 miles spent transiting the ICW round trip will save around 240 gallons of diesel fuel, wear and tear on Stella's engine, and about 12 weeks of travel. That's where Florida comes into the picture!

We'll be "marine motionless" for the summer, living onboard Stella in a slip at the Sunset Bay Marina in Stuart. It's quite a change from being at anchor the last 168 days! We've only been here 10 days, but so far it seems like a good place to test the waters. For those of you not familiar with Florida (like us), Stuart is located on the Treasure Coast, about 30 miles due north of West Palm Beach and seven miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean. The area is known as the "crossroads" with Stuart at the intersection of the Atlantic ICW, St. Lucie Inlet, and Mile 0 on the Okeechobee Waterway. As you can imagine, it's an area packed full of all types of boats - cruising sailboats, power cats, sport fishers, and mega yachts. The historic downtown area of Stuart is a five minute stroll from the marina along a boardwalk on the St. Lucie River. There are lots of outdoor restaurants and bars with live music, a weekly farmer's market on Sundays, the Lyric Theatre for performing arts, a small museum, and a variety of shops with everything from upscale home furnishings to flip-flops. There's a very low key, non-touristy, eclectic vibe with folks of all ages and walks of life - including many current and retired cruisers. It's also one of the most dog friendly cities we've visited! Outside of downtown, Stuart melds into other nearby cities such as Port St. Lucie and Fort Pierce to the north and Hobe Sound and Jupiter to the south. Every type of major chain store you could possibly need is located on nearby U.S. 1 all the way down to Miami. Luckily, there are several huge nature preserves and state parks inland and on the ocean to provide plenty of green space. Another key factor in choosing Stuart is that the temperatures rarely dip below the low 40s in the winter. That's much milder than cities we considered further north, such as Jacksonville, FL or even Charleston, SC. Stella has a reverse cycle HVAC system, but we still don't want to wake up with ice or snow on the decks! The summer will definitely be toasty as temperatures are already in the high 80's during the day and the air conditioning has been working overtime already.

It's impossible to know exactly what we'll be doing in another year or even a month from now, but our hope is to explore the area and determine if it's where we want to stay long term. Finding jobs and a land-based home, taking summer trips to see family in the Midwest, Virginia, and the cabin in Canada, and cruising on Stella are the main goals. Getting the right combination will be the key! Hanna is perfectly healthy, but her retirement years and well being are on the top of our minds too. She's already adapting to marina life again and enjoying at least four walks a day, a steady stream of pats on the head, and plenty of lizards, squirrels, and pigeons to hunt. For now, we'll continue to be on island time here in Stuart while we officially change our residency to Florida. We're not in a rush to make any more big decisions just yet! Stuart is so different from Deltaville and we already miss our wonderful family and friends back home. Thanks so much to all of you for following along on our second adventure to the Bahamas. It was always nice to know that we had company along the way. Please give us a holler if you're in the Stuart area - we'd love to catch up in person!

A change of scenery

09 April 2015 | Hobe Sound, FL
It’s a bit of a culture shock to be back in the states after 19 weeks in the Bahamas. The first thing that always hits us is the noise - construction, sirens, and the non-stop chatter on the VHF radio. The sheer number of boats, traffic, and people in constant motion is pretty dizzying. It’s also weird to see so much over-the-top wealth - quadruple lot sized homes with perfectly manicured lawns, fancy outdoor living spaces, and swimming pools with fountains or waterfalls. We haven’t been to a grocery store yet, but it will definitely be overwhelming to choose from more than just one variety of tomatoes! It’s also funny that we haven’t traveled northbound on this portion of the ICW - just two trips going south. The scenery is really different from a new perspective. There was a neat red light house that we’ve never noticed before at the Jupiter Inlet. It’s hidden by trees from a southbound approach but hard to miss on the way north. After getting through six bridges requiring openings, we decided to take it easy the remainder of the day and anchored in a lovely spot a few miles north of the lighthouse in Hobe Sound. It was fun to watch other boats motoring by on the ICW - some we even recognized from the Bahamas!

Bullocks Harbour and back to the U.S.

08 April 2015 | North Lake Worth, FL
Bullocks Harbour was our home for the last two days in the Bahamas. We departed Alders Cut at first light on Sunday and made the 35 mile day passage up and around the north end of the Berry Islands in order to arrive while the sun was still overhead. As we rounded the corner, a major cruise ship mecca came into view. Two huge ships were anchored off shore with all of their accompanying activities - ferries taking passengers to and from shore, hundreds of lounge chairs lined up like stadium seating on the beach, and boats zipping around for parasailing. It seemed out of place to see so much action in the middle of nowhere! Things returned to normal as we approached the tiny settlement of Bullocks Harbour. The anchorage is covered in heavy grass, but there were a few "less bad spots" to choose from and our anchor held like a champ - we love our 25kg Rocna! Bullocks Harbour is definitely unique. There's a narrow cut through a cliff lined shore that opens up into a surprisingly large lake. A busy marina that caters to sport fishers and cruising boats is tucked up into the southeast corner. Bullocks Harbour is the first settlement we've visited that has dockside condos, a nightclub with dancing under the stars, a basketball court, and even a sand volleyball court at the town park. The people were all incredibly welcoming - and enjoying their four day Easter holiday!

We spent Monday getting ready for the 134nm passage back to the states - preparing meals, checking the engine systems, securing safety equipment, and calculating the route. The weather forecast on Tuesday morning still sounded ideal, so we decided to give it a go! Hanna got one last shore trip before we hoisted the dingy and stowed the outboard motor on the side mount. We also activated our float plan with the Small Vessel Reporting System (SVRS) to help streamline our U.S. entry. We departed at exactly 0800 with an estimated arrival time at the Lake Worth (West Palm Beach) inlet in 24 to 30 hours. The tide at the inlet was flooding between 0600 and 1200, so it was important to arrive during that time slot while the east winds and current were in the same direction. All in all, the trip was pretty easy with winds 13-24kts and seas around 3-4 feet. With the wind mostly at our back, the sails sometimes misbehaved and flopped around noisily, but our speed stayed around 5.5kts. We kept the motor running at a slow 1800 rpm to ensure that we made decent headway. At the Gulf Stream, the current pushed our speed up to 10kts. Stella was really hauling! The night was pleasant with just a few clouds, lots of stars, and a bright moon. We like to divide up our passages into three hour shifts, so a little extra company from the moon certainly makes the watches in the dark a little less daunting. However, there were numerous cargo ships and cruise ships running up and down the coast that definitely made things exciting. By the time we arrived at the inlet, it was exactly 24 hours later. Our arrival was officially complete after calling the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and providing our SVRS float plan number. After anchoring, we sprung into action getting the dingy ready for a quick shore trip and then celebrated with a huge brunch of cheese grits, fried eggs with crumbled bacon, English muffins, and grapefruit. Hanna is already catching up on some zzzz's and we'll be doing the same the rest of today!
Vessel Name: Stella
Vessel Make/Model: Sabre 402
Hailing Port: Deltaville, VA USA
Crew: Susie and Brian
Hello and welcome to our sailing blog! We started sailing on Lake Michigan in 2001 and bought our first boat, S/V Otter, a 1986 Sabre 30 MKIII, in Chicago. We spent three fun filled years going out on day sails and weekend cruises from our mooring in Monroe Harbor. [...]
Hanna, a German Shorthaired Pointer, is our faithful third crew member. She adapted to sailboats as an 8 week old puppy on Otter, and thoroughly enjoys the life of leisure on Stella. When we first started cruising in late 2013, Hanna was almost 11 years old. It was perfect timing since she was [...]
Stella's Photos - Main
From spare parts, scuba equipment, and bikes to tools, dog food, and wine...everything fits.
18 Photos
Created 2 October 2013
Living below decks on a 40 foot sailboat.
8 Photos
Created 2 October 2013
Hanna goes everywhere with us on Stella!
13 Photos
Created 30 June 2013

Stella's Crew

Who: Susie and Brian
Port: Deltaville, VA USA

Where is Stella?