Deciding to move aboard with our family and sail to the Caribbean seemed like an amazing opportunity to bond with our boys and give our family an amazing experience. Our extended families were apprehensive, but supportive of our decision. Friends and family were truly excited for our “vacation”.
I can tell you with absolute certainty…..there is no single word in the English language that is so wildly inaccurate in describing this experience as “vacation”. The word vacation inspires images of lounging on a beach with an elaborately decorated pineapple drink in your hand (which is true at times), and not a care in the world (this part is never true).
Don’t get me wrong, this experience is amazing and I believe that our family is incredibly lucky to get to do this. The boys have already grown and changed in ways that Rachel and I could have never imagined. They are more able bodied, adventurous, accepting, confident (they didn’t need much help with that), and comfortable in environments that are so foreign to them it is ridiculous. They are fast to make new friends and can play with just about anyone. Language barriers and age differences have all but disappeared. Kids are kids, and they all want to play! Watching that has been a real pleasure!
We have been living aboard full time for six months, and I guarantee we have felt just about every combination of emotions possible within the human condition, and some that are outside it as well! Every cruising sailor that we have met agrees that this experience is more like an endurance trial than the despised “V” word.
There has been so much that has happened, it is impossible to sum it all up into one post. We may cover it all one day, but for today, I think a summation is all I can handle.
So here goes:
- We dodged a hurricane while moving aboard.
- We had to move aboard twice…
- We both broke bones in our feet just days apart from each other
- Winter in Northern FL is COLD! We were not prepared!
- A boat sitting idle for years needs A LOT of work! More than can be imagined. Once you start using the systems, their age becomes apparent and things break!
- Life with pets onboard is difficult and messy….
- No hot water in 40 degree weather means no showers….ever
- Dealing with the failing health and eventual loss of a pet while living aboard is immensely difficult
- Relationships in close quarters……enough said!
- Heads (toilets) onboard break in the most disgusting way……repeatedly
- Boats break constantly!
Through all of the trying times, we are constantly given glimpses of the great things this lifestyle has to offer. There have been incredible sunsets, beautiful moonrises and sunrises, more stars than can be imagined while at sea at night, and some of the clearest water we could ever imagine. We have only begun to experience some of the wonders of traveling in this way. Again, there are too many instances to give adequate space to in this post. We have so many photos and videos of the things we are experiencing, it will take a lifetime to organize and go through them all. I will try to run down just a little of what we have be lucky enough to see along the way.
Florida GOM and the Keys
Our time in Florida was turbulent, to say the least. Our first couple of months cruising were the most difficult. I am amazed that we are still here, married, and sleeping in the same cabin. And, it seems as though we still like each other…imagine that! Our passage down the Florida coast gave us our first sunset at sea as a family. It still ranks as one of my favorites.
Our first overnight was a major achievement since I was the only person on board with any sailing experience. That is not the case now. We have a crew of increasingly salty sailors! After arriving in Boot Key Harbor, we were met with a community the likes of which we have never seen. The sailors in the harbor are devoted to preserving their niche community and help/advise is only a Cruiser’s Net announcement away. We could see how it would be easy to stay there indefinitely!
Crossing the Gulf Stream was going to be a major step for the SOLUNA crew, and we received so much help and so many tips from the community that we were confident in our window choice and cast the lines off. We had such a good trip across that we decided to forgo stopping at Bimini and continue on to Great Harbor Cay in the Berry Islands.
What can I say about the Bahamas except this place is like a cruisers’ playground. To have this incredible cruising grounds just off the US coast is awesome. This country is filled with ridiculously beautiful water and empty islands at every turn. We saw just a fraction of what the Bahamas has to offer, and we loved our time there.
The Bahamas are not without their own problems, though. The cost of provisioning/fuel is something to be aware of and ready for. Coming from Texas, we love bell peppers and avocados. Both of which cost more than gold……when they are available at all. A bag of frozen blueberries cost us $46.00 US.
Once we got past the sticker price of food, we really got into our own groove while cruising through the Exumas. We met so many people and sparked some instant friendships. I think that is a major draw for cruising here. There are so many sailors (both true sailors and those lacking sails) that every anchorage is just a few sundowners away from a great time! I think that is the single thing I miss the most about our time there…….our fellow cruisers! The ebb and flow of salty dogs and vagrants is one of the best in the world!
There is never a shortage of people ready to have a few drinks at Chat n Chill as well as head out to a reef and shoot some lobster. The Bahamas is truly unique, and it is the roving cruiser community that makes it so special. We even made some friends as we prepped for our crossing to the Dominican Republic in the Out islands. Great Inagua is one of the more remote Bahamian Islands, but it was one of our favorites. Everyone there had such a welcoming vibe and were ready to help us at every turn. It seemed vastly different from other islands in this country, and I think it was due to the people. All the other Bahama islands were great, but these people make that island something special.
As I am sitting on SOLUNA in Boca Chica writing this, the only thing I can think of to describe the DR is the omnipresent music. This country absolutely LOVES music and dancing. I can hear no less than four boats/cars blasting an endless variety of music, some of which I have no idea what kind of music it is! But, all of it is good. I catch myself tapping my foot to the beat and singing along even though I have no clue what I’m singing.
In addition to the music, the produce in this country is unbelievable. The variety and color in unmatched in all the places we have seen so far. The low price is also astonishing, as well. From the Bahamas to here is a relative short distance, but their fresh fruits and veggies are worlds apart! We have not eaten so well since moving aboard.
Unfortunately, we haven’t seen too many beaches in the DR since we are hopping from marina to marina. But what we have lacked in beaches, the countryside has more than made up for it. This country is astonishingly beautiful. Driving into the interior is a necessity for anyone traveling here. The views are spectacular, but they are second to the people.
The people of the DR as always smiling and ready for a laugh. They have been extremely patient with our utter lack of ability with their language. They even help us with words and pronunciation at times. We have never felt out of place or that we should not be where we are. We even felt at ease and said thank you to the guy charging us $140.00US for three pizzas and a few mojitos. He smiled, saying about the bill, “But it was good pizza, no?….You ate it all!” I mean…..it was pretty sound logic. We had to laugh and remember to discuss pricing PRIOR to ordering.
We are winding down our time here in the DR, and preparing for our transit to the VI and beyond. I think that the DR is definitely a place to return to and head off into the mountains for a week or more. I am sure we are missing so much here, but we have other places to venture to and explore on our way south.
We are looking forward to getting more miles under our keels and seeking out new places, things, and people…