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24 July 2017

Mingling With The Posh Crowd At Highbourne Cay Marina, Bahamas

I have a confession to make - we're not very posh people.

I guess that really isn't a confession. It's not like I revealed one of my deep, dark secrets. To hear one of those, you'd have to offer me a few glasses of champagne first.

It's more a statement of fact. Anybody who has met us would agree. We're not posh. We don't have fancy clothes or fancy cars, I haven't had a pedicure in ages and I can't remember the last time I had a glass of decent champagne.

I've worn the same outfit for more days in a row than I'd care to admit. (If I told you exactly how many days, that would be a confession.) I have a Yengling beer for my nightly sundowner. Not exactly a champagne flute full of Veuve Clicquot. And I live on a 34' sailboat, not a mega-yacht. Oh, and don't look at my toes.

I'd kind of forgotten how non-posh we were until we anchored outside of Highbourne Cay Marina among all of the mega-yachts.

We dinghied over to Highbourne Cay marina in search of the essentials - diesel, water and milk.

The folks on the mega-yachts send their crews over in search of the essentials - champagne, caviar and OPI nail polish.

This is where you dock your dinghy at Highbourne Cay. It's a nice dinghy dock. No boards rotting with termites which you're worried are going to crumble underneath you. No rusty nails sticking out threatening you with the excitement of tetanus.


Another snap of the marina's snazzy docks. See our blue water jerry can on the right hand side? 50 cents a gallon for RO (reverse osmosis) water. We don't have a watermaker on our boat, so we have to buy water.


There was dock space available, but we're too cheap to stay at marinas, especially when there's a perfectly good anchorage nearby.


Highbourne Cay is privately owned and if you want to explore the island you have to pay $25 per person per day. I think the fee helps keep the riff-raff out. You know, folks like us. It looked lovely, but we opted to go back to our boat instead and start planning for our visit to the Exuma Land & Sea Park.


We did check out the marina store. We had hoped for fresh milk, but all they had was chocolate. Seemed like kind of a strange milk variety to stock on an island in the Bahamas. But maybe the folks on mega-yachts have a real hankering for chocolate milk. There weren't prices on anything. You know how the saying goes - if you have to ask, you probably can't afford it.


My favorite part of the visit was seeing all of the sharks and stingrays hanging out at the pier looking for handouts. When I asked one of the fuel attendants what kind of sharks they were, he told me to jump in, tickle one on its neck until it opened its mouth and then I could tell by its teeth. I decided not to take him up on his suggestion.


After getting our fuel and water, we headed back to Tickety Boo for sundowners in the cockpit drinking cans of cheap beer and hoping the folks from one of the mega-yachts might stop by to offer us a bottle of champagne.

Cruising Log | Tuesday, 30 May - Thursday, 1 June 2017
 
30 MAY
Had the absolute worst night ever at Rose Island (near Nassau). The most roly-poly anchorage we've ever experienced. I thought one of us was going to flying out of the bed onto the floor. Anchor up at 7:00 AM. Very slow passage - beating into waves and wind. No breakfast or lunch was served which made for an unhappy skipper and crew. Anchor down at 5:15 PM at Highbourne Cay in the Exuma Islands. Nautical Miles = 42. Engine = 9 hours 30 mins. Spending = Nil

31 MAY
Did some planning for next destination - Exuma Land & Sea Park. Went to Highbourne Cay Marina for water and fuel. One of our lifelines broke. Glad it didn't happen while on passage. Nautical Miles = Nil. Engine Hours = Nil. Spending = $90.29 (5 gallons water & 20 gallons diesel).

1 JUNE
Anchor up at 10:45 AM. Beat into the wind all day. Very choppy. 20+ knots at time. Reefed mainsail and headsail. More stuff broke - furling line lead, zipper on bimini and loose connection on solar panel. Anchor down at Shroud Cay at 3:00 PM. Number of sailboats and mega-yachts at anchorage. Doesn't everyone know it's hurricane season? Nautical Miles = 20. Engine = 1 hour. Spending = Nil.

How much would you pay for a gallon of water? Would you tickle a shark on its neck? Do you consider yourself to be posh?

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21 July 2017

Tickety Boo Speaks | Berry Islands, Bahamas

I've often wondered what our sailboat, Tickety Boo, might say if she could speak. In English, I mean. After all, she does talk to us in her own way.

The creak of her anchor chain as the wind shifts direction. The snapping noise as her sails fill with air. The rumble of her engine when we're under motor. The clanging of her halyards if they aren't tightened up correctly.

We're used to that kind of communication from her, but what if she was able to use complete sentences instead? I imagine it might sound something like this.

****
"Finally, we're anchored someplace decent. Just look at those views. Wait, wait, turn me back around so I can see! Stupid wind, always pointing me in a direction I don't want to look at."


"Sure, go ahead. Take off in the dinghy and abandon me. Again. I wouldn't be surprised if something 'accidentally' breaks while you're away."


"How come I don't get to play in the Blue Hole too? And don't give me the excuse that it's a landlocked body of water. If you really loved me, you'd find a way for me to anchor there."


"Who do they think they are coming into the anchorage? This place is mine, all mine!"


"What, are you some sort of savage. Get your feet off of me!"



****

Cruising Log | Thursday, 25 May 2017 - Monday, 29 May 2017
 
25-26 MAY
Passage from the Abacos to the Berry Islands. Lumpy getting out of Ginn sur Mer, heading directly into the wind. Turned, then lumpy on our beam. Good size waves, but nothing breaking. Motorsailed most of the way. Lots of traffic, but all freighters and cruise ships so hopefully they saw us on their radar. A number of squalls, but we managed to avoid them. Anchor up at 7:00 PM. Anchor down next day at 10:00 AM at Goat Cay (near Great Stirrup Cay). A "clothing-optional" Canadian boat anchored nearby. Nautical Miles = 79. Engine = 14 hours 15 mins. Night Sailing = 10 hours. Spending = Nil.

27 MAY
Anchor up at 9:00 AM. Anchor down at 12:00 PM off of White Cay (near Hoffman Cay). Got our outboard motor out of the lazarette and put it back on the dinghy. Went swimming in the Blue Hole on Hoffman Cay. Amazing! Saw sea turtles and dolphins while sitting in the cockpit. Super amazing! Nautical Miles = 17. Engine = 3 hours. Spending = Nil.

28 MAY
Very roly-poly overnight. Went to the Blue Hole again. Love that place. Went for a walk on White Cay. Love that place too. More sea turtle spotting, plus rays and sharks. A number of boats came in and anchored nearby. Our little slice of paradise has become crowded. Nautical Miles = Nil. Engine = Nil. Spending = Nil.

29 MAY
Passage from Berry Islands to Nassau. Anchor up at 6:00 AM. Anchor down at south side of Rose Island at 6:00 PM. A very long day due to fighting current, wind and waves. Very little traffic until got to Nassau. Nautical Miles = 51. Engine = 11 hours. Spending = Nil.

Did you ever wonder what your car, boat or RV might say if it could speak? What kind of voice would it have?

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19 July 2017

Wordless Wednesday | Welcome To Staniel Cay, Bahamas





Wordless Wednesday is supposed to be about posting a photo(s) without any words. But, I'm a rule breaker, so here are a few words:

1 - I liked the colorful sign welcoming folks to Staniel Cay which painted on a wall running along the beach.

2 - On the other side of the wall, there's a mural painted with pictures of different people.

3 - You wouldn't necessarily know it was there unless you moved the benches running alongside the wall.

4 - Don't worry, we put the benches back after taking photographs.

   
What words does this picture(s) bring to your mind when you look at it?

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here

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17 July 2017

Cost Of Cruising In The Bahamas & Florida | May & June 2017

 
We track and report every penny we spend living aboard and cruising on Tickety Boo, our Moody 346 sailboat for a couple of reasons.

1 - It helps us see where our money is going, helps us make informed choices about where to spend our money, which in turn helps us stretch our money further so that we can keep adventuring longer.

2 - We found it really useful to check out other people's cost of cruising when we were starting out, so we figure we can return favor by sharing ours.

You can find details of how much we spent cruising in the Bahamas during May and June 2017 below. Keep in mind that this is what works for us. Everyone has their own budget and priorities and everyone tracks and reports things differently.

You can find links to other cost updates from ourselves (on Tickety Boo, camping across the States and our previous boat in New Zealand) and others on this page, as well as on The Monkey's Fist.


Cost of Cruising In The Bahamas & Florida  | May & June 2017


Overall, we spent $2,986.23 during May and June, which was almost $1,000 more than we spent in the previous two months. 

It's interesting to note that there was a big difference between what we spent in May ($2,619.36) compared to June ($366.87). That's because during May we had to head back to the States to fix things that broke on our boat (dinghy davit and water pump). That meant money being spent on boat parts and marina fees, plus some Little Caesar's pizza and Taco Tuesday. We spent all of June back in the Bahamas. Nothing broke on the boat, we anchored every day (which is free) and we only ate out a couple of times (cheap snack type food).

Before we get into the nitty-gritty details of the details of what we spent, here are a few things to note:

1 - All costs are in US dollars. The Bahamian dollar is on par with the US dollar, so no conversion was required. It's pretty cool that you can use US currency in the Bahamas. No need to worry about exchanging money.

2 - Not all expenses are included - here's what we've left out:

(a) We don't report how much we spend on alcohol. I remember reading some horrible, judgy comments in a blog post a few years back about how much someone spent on booze, so I left it out when we first started tracking our cruising costs back in New Zealand. For consistency's sake, I've continued to leave it out when tracking our cruising costs.
(b) We've also left out our costs for medical insurance. We didn't think it made sense to include insurance costs as they can vary so widely depending upon your nationality, where you cruise, what level of coverage you want and can afford etc. In case you are curious, while we're back in the States, we do have insurance through the health insurance marketplace (aka ACA/Obamacare), primarily to protect our assets and cover us in case of a catastrophic medical condition.
3 - I've included any shipping and taxes we've paid in what we report. Florida has a 6% sales tax. The Bahamas has a 7.5% VAT.


GROCERIES | Total = $433.20

This category includes everything we put in our bodies in terms of food and drink (excluding booze) that we prepare ourselves. It doesn't include things like paper towels and ziploc bags, which I know some people would classify as groceries. Sure, you could probably eat them, but they wouldn't taste very good.

While we were back in Florida, we took advantage of Walmart and Aldi and restocked the provisions on our boat. We also bought groceries in the Bahamas - mostly dairy, meat and produce. 


PERSONAL & HOUSEHOLD | Total = $20.88

This is the category where we include household things (like paper towels and ziploc bags) and personal hygiene items (like soap and shampoo). We also capture items for the "home" here - like bug spray.


ENTERTAINMENT | Total = $96.50

In terms of drinks and eating out, this includes everything we don't prepare ourselves, even if we get something to go and eat it back on the boat. We also track how much we spend on books, magazines, DVD rentals and going to the movies in this category, as well as the occasional lottery ticket.


COMMUNICATIONS | Total = $190

Our cell phone is actually one of our biggest non-boat related expenses. We have a $60 monthly GoPhone plan with AT&T which includes 8GB of data and unlimited calls and texts. We continued with that plan while we were out cruising so that we can keep our US cell phone number.

In the Bahamas, we're on a 30-day data plan ($35). The data plan we bought was billed as "Limitless" which the woman at BTC assured us had no data cap, nor would it choke down our speed after we used a certain amount of data. Turns out that was rather misleading. Once you use 15GB of data, they shut you down without warning. Fortunately, we didn't use up our data allowance, but I know other people who did. To be fair, the cost per GB is actually pretty good compared to our AT&T plan.


BOAT FUEL | Total = $238.52

We've bought 15 gallons of gas (for our generator and outboard motor) and 55 gallons of diesel during the past two months. It's definitely cheaper in the States than in the Bahamas.


LPG & BUTANE | Total = $37.17


We have a LPG (or propane) cooker on our boat. Not long after we left Indiantown Marina, our stove broke while we were cruising in Florida. Fortunately our oven still worked, so between that and our BBQ, we were able to get by cooking-wise until we got back to Indiantown Marina and picked up our butane camping stove. The camping stove works fine as a temporary solution until we're able to replace the cooker sometime this summer, but butane cartridges are pretty expensive, especially compared to LPG.

We refilled one of our propane tanks when we were back in the States, as well as buying six more butane cartridges. To our delight, we found butane cartridges are cheaper in Rock Sound, Eleuthera than they are at Walmart. We bought four more cartridges there.


MARINA COSTS | Total = $519.40

Anchoring out is one of the things we love about cruising. Not only is it nice to relax on the boat in a quiet anchorage and fall asleep to the waves gently lapping against the side of your boat, it's also free. We like free! Of course, anchoring out isn't always all that it's cracked up to be - we've been in our share of roly-poly anchorages and not been able to sleep at night wondering if we're going to drag anchor, but it's still free!

Sadly, because we had to come back to the States to deal with our broken dinghy davit and water pump, we ended up shelling out a pretty penny on a slip and pump-outs while at Indiantown Marina.


BOAT STUFF | Total = $1,031.42

This category is for all the stuff we've been buying for the boat, as well as repairs and maintenance costs. The big expenses were for a replacement Kato dingy davit ($660) and a new water pump ($144).


TRANSPORT | Total = $78.87

This category is for costs related to our vehicle, mostly for gas to keep it going and drive into the nearby "big city" of Stuart for errands. We put $36.47 worth of gas in it while we were back in Indiantown. We also pay $21.20 a month to store our vehicle at Indiantown Marina while we're off cruising.


MEDICAL EXPENSES | Total = Nil

This category includes medical expenses outside of our monthly insurance premium (which aren't included here - see section on exclusions above), like over the counter medications, prescriptions and things for our medical kit. It also includes the costs of doctors visits and medical tests which aren't covered by our insurance.

Although there were a few cuts and bruises while we were cruising, neither of us needed medical attention.


OTHER | Total = $330.37

In this category, we break out how much we spend on clothes and travel expenses. We also include a catch-all miscellaneous group for stuff that doesn't fit neatly anywhere else - things like laundry and trash disposal.

The big expense in this category was a flat screen TV, which we installed in our aft cabin so that we can watch shows from our hard drive at night. I know a lot of cruisers would look down on having a TV on their boat, but we're really enjoying it.




Did we spend more or less than you would have expected? Do you track your monthly expenditure? What are your cost saving tips and tricks? 

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14 July 2017

Anchoring At A Ghost Town | Ginn Sur Mer, Bahamas

Have you ever spent the night at a ghost town? Were you worried what would happen when the sun set? Were you scared by the thought of ghosts, zombies or vampires sneaking up on you in the dark?

We spent the night anchored at a ghost town in the Bahamas back in May and I have to confess that I was a little nervous about who or what was lurking in the shadows.

Ginn sur Mer was a big development project at the West End on Grand Bahama Island in the Abacos. Much of the infrastructure was put in place - canals, golf courses, roads, utilities and an airport - but then the developer defaulted and the place was abandoned. 

Several people had told us what a great well-protected anchorage it was and it seemed like the perfect place to wait out a front that was forecast to come through before we made our way south to the Berry Islands.

We entered the inlet, made our way through the canals and found a good place to drop the hook.

This is what it looks like during the day. You can see a water tower, roads, stop signs, electrical lines and a golf course on shore, but no people or buildings. It's quite surreal. It's like some sort of hurricane came through one day and sucked up all of the houses and people, leaving the infrastructure behind.


At night is when things really get creepy. The wind started howling through the palm trees.


I had a closer look on the shore and wondered who or what crushed one of the retaining walls. It had to have been something big. Maybe it crushed the wall trying to climb down into the water to attack people on one of the sailboats anchored in the canals?


You look around and realize you're the only people for miles around. Or are you? Although, are ghosts, zombies and vampires considered people? They're dead aren't they?


Fortunately, we made it through the night unscathed and lived to tell the tale.

Cruising Log | Tuesday, 23 May 2017 - Wednesday, 24 May 2017
 
23 MAY
Anchor up at 7:45 AM after a very roly-poly night anchored on the Banks. Had to use generator to start engine. Replacing our battery bank has moved up in priority on the boat project list. Very confused seas. 6' waves close together. Buried the bow on occasion. Fish on the line! Darn, just a stupid barracuda. Anchor down at 12:15 PM at Ginn sur Mer. Nautical miles = 30. Engine = 4 hours 30 mins plus another 30 mins at anchor to check engine. Spending =Nil

24 MAY
A peaceful night despite the spooky surroundings. Hung out waiting for the front to blow through. Nautical miles = Nil. Engine = 30 mins to check it. Spending = Nil

Have you ever visited a ghost town? Did anything spooky happen to you?

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12 July 2017

Wordless Wednesday | Scott's Feet & Sundowners In The Bahamas

 
Wordless Wednesday is supposed to be about posting a photo(s) without any words. But, I'm a rule breaker, so here are a few words:

1 - Scott doesn't like to have his picture taken, so I've been taking snaps of his feet lately while we're having sundowners in the cockpit of our sailboat in the Bahamas. {If you follow us on Facebook, you'll have seen some of the pictures there.}

2 - Scott suggested I get creative with this one, shooting the picture through his glass of gin and tonic. 

3 - I think he might be starting to get annoyed with the whole feet photography thing. He's threatened to start wearing toenail polish if I keep it up.

   
What words does this picture(s) bring to your mind when you look at it?

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here

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10 July 2017

Back To The Bahamas & Buddy Boats

S/V Wind Spirit, our short-lived buddy boat, anchored at Peck Lake.

It's always more fun to share things with friends. Except when there's only one slice of chocolate cake left. In that situation, it's perfectly acceptable to grab the cake and wave goodbye to your friend as you dash out of the room.

After spending way too long back at Indiantown Marina fixing our dinghy davit and water pump, we finally made our escape and were heading back to the Bahamas. We were excited not only to get back to the beautiful blue Bahamian waters, but also because our friends on S/V Wind Spirit were going to buddy boat with us.

Buddy boating can take different shapes and forms. Some folks do their own thing during the day and meet up for sundowners in the anchorage at night. Others make long passages together, staying in constant radio contact and adjusting their speed to arrive at the next port at the same time. Alternatively, some boats might make long passages separately and then connect up at their destination (we've done this before). Buddy boats with kids might trade off babysitting the littles so that each couple can enjoy some quiet time.

Regardless of what type of buddy boating you do, you're bound to have more fun because you're doing it with friends. Friends who might even have a stash of chocolate that they're willing to share with you when you run out.

****

Unfortunately, our buddy boating experience with S/V Wind Spirit was short-lived. We picked them up in Stuart and made our way down the ICW (intracoastal waterway) to Peck Lake for the night. We had a great time sitting in our cockpit, watching the sun go down and planing for the Gulf Stream crossing to the Bahamas and making our way down to the Exuma Islands.

The next day, we headed towards Lake Worth, our staging point for the crossing. The sun was shining and the water was sparkling. It should have been a great day. Unfortunately, it wasn't. Between an early morning attack by some noseeums, the usual nightmare of trying to make the bridge openings in time, and the crazy weekend boaters speeding up and down and leaving a huge wake behind (the worst we've ever seen in our time on the ICW), it probably wasn't the best introduction to cruising on the ICW for our friends.

We all finally made it to Lake Worth, dropped our anchors and started to get ready for the crossing. That's when our friends discovered they had a diesel leak. Just what you need after a long and stressful day. In the end they decided to hold off on crossing with us and take a few days to regroup before they headed to the Bahamas.

So we said goodbye to our short-lived buddy boat and left early the next morning back to the Bahamas. Which was a shame because they're a lot of fun and I'm pretty sure they had some chocolate squirreled away on their boat.


****

Interested in reading more about other people's experiences with buddy boating? Check out It's a Necessity's blog post on Why Buddy Boats are Necessary, Zero to Cruising's blog post on their buddy boating experience, S/V Spiritus' blog post on what buddy boating means to them and Sail Magazine's article on different types of buddy boating.


****

Cruising Log | Saturday, 20 May 2017 - Monday, 22 May 2017
 
20 MAY
Did some last minute provisioning and prep. Left Indiantown Marina at 11:30 AM. Picked up S/V Wind Spirit at Pendarvis Cove (near Stuart). Anchor down at Peck Lake at 6:00 PM. Nautical miles = 28. Engine = 6 hours 30 mins. Spending = $615.80 (marina bill, hardware, gas, groceries)

21 MAY
Awoke to a zillion noseeums having their breakfast courtesy of our skin. Engine on 8:45 AM. S/V Wind Spirit had engine troubles. Headed back to Peck Lake to investigate. Back out on the water and heading down the ICW, trying to make each bridge opening and dealing with the insane weekend boaters who love to wake sailboats. Got diesel at Lake Worth. Dropped the anchor at 5:00 PM at our usual spot south of Peanut Island. S/V Wind Spirit decided not to make the crossing with us due to some boat issues. Did prep for the crossing and then off to bed. Nautical miles = 25. Engine = 8 hours 30 mins. Spending = $48.77 (diesel)

22 MAY
Awoke to the sound of glow plugs warming up. Anchor up 3:00 AM for our Gulf Stream crossing back to the Bahamas. Realized wouldn't make it to Ginn sur Mer before dark, so diverted to Memory Rock and anchored on the banks. Anchor down at 5:00 PM. Nautical miles = 57. Night sailing = 3 hours. Engine = 14 hours 15 mins. Spending = Nil.

Have you ever buddy boated or traveled with friends? What was your experience like? If you only had one piece of chocolate cake left, would you share it with your friend?

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07 July 2017

June In Numbers

Clockwise from upper left: (1) dinghy racing in Black Point, Exumas; (2) adorable piggy at Big Major's Spot, Exumas; (3) Tickety Boo anchored in the Exumas; (4) inventorying our remaining provisions; (5) shark swimming around our boat; and (6) pile of harnesses and tethers from a passage.

It's time for our monthly recap by the numbers. We spent all of June in the Bahamas, mostly in the Exuma Islands. We started making our way back to the States at the end of the month, stopping at Cat Island, Little San Salvador and Eleuthera. During July, we plan to continue on to northern Eleuthera and then to the Abacos before crossing back to Florida and getting ourselves tucked away back in Indiantown for the height of hurricane season while we work on boat projects.

Here's some tidbits about how the month went by the numbers:

  • 24 - Number of cans of tomatoes we have on board. Since we were planning on starting to make our way back to the States, I did an inventory of what provisions we had left. Certainly no shortage of tomatoes, beans or pasta.
  • 15 - Number of anchorages we dropped the hook at. In the Exumas, we anchored at Shroud Cay, Hawksbill Cay, Bell Cay (west and east sides), Pasture Cay, Warderick Wells, Big Majors, Black Point, Little Farmer's Cay, Hamburger Beach and Monument Beach; at Cat Island, we anchored at New Bight and Fernandez Bay; we anchored for a night at Little San Salvador Island (Half Moon Cay); and at Eleuthera, we anchored at Rock Sound. 
  • 314 - Number of nautical miles we sailed.
  • $13.50 - How much we spent eating out at the Miss Ida's laundromat in Black Point. Yes, the laundromat. You can order conch fitters and hot patties (kind of like a curry pasty) while you're doing your wash. We enjoyed it so much the first time, we went back the next day and had some more.
  • 3 - How many bags of stinky trash we got rid of, some of which we had been carrying around in our v-berth for far too long.
  • 45 - How many gallons of water we got in Black Point and Georgetown. It's been so hot that we've been drinking a lot more water than usual. A watermaker is definitely on the wish list.
  • $1.65 (excl VAT) - How much cream crackers cost in Georgetown. We've had a serious cracker shortage on board and it was nice to restock at a reasonable price.
  • $2.09 (excl VAT) - How much a dozen eggs cost in Georgetown. Great price so we bought three dozen. Eggs were plentiful, but sadly, there was no fresh milk to be found.
  • 2 - The number of cruiser get-togethers we went to. One at the Pirate's Beach at Big Majors and one at Hamburger Beach at Georgetown. Always fun to meet people out there living the dream on their boats, especially cruising families. What an adventure for the kids, being boat-schooled and exploring the world. It's off-season right now in the Bahamas, so there aren't as many cruiser social events this time of year.
  • 60 - Number of days we got an extension for to stay in the Bahamas. Although we don't plan on staying that long here, it's better to have more days than too few in case weather delays our return to the States.

In case you missed them, here are some of our favorite posts from last month:

Simon the Time Traveling Cat Plays Monopoly
Sailing in the Dark | Bright Lights & Stormy Weather
Morning Coffee | Random Thoughts & Oddities

How did last month go for you? What are you looking forward to this month?

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - we'd love for you to pop by and say hi!

05 July 2017

Simon The Time Traveling Cat Goes For A Walk | IWSG



The Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It's a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

Every month there's an optional question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they're struggling with what to say.

This month's question is:

"What's one valuable lesson you've learned since you started writing?"

Check out how people have answered this month's question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list here. If you want to see how I answered the question, have a look below.


****


"Simon, look what I got you!" I set a bag covered with tiny paw prints on the table and looked around for the large, gray cat who somewhere along the way had taken up residence on my sailboat.

After checking his usual hiding spots, I resorted to a surefire trick to get Simon to come running - pouring milk into a saucer.

A gray blur of fur tore past me and landed on the table.

"Hand it over, lady," Simon growled. "And it better be that full-fat milk, not that skim crap you keep trying to pawn off on me."

After he lapped up the last drop of milk, Simon pushed the saucer off of the table. Fortunately, I'm used to this sort of thing and caught it before it landed on the floor.

"What's this?" Simon asked, sniffing at the bag on the table.

"It's a present for you." I opened up the bag and pulled out a red harness and leash. "Now we can go for walks around the marina."

Simon stared at me with those strange clock face eyes of his. It wasn't a pleasant stare either. It was the type of stare that's usually followed by a demonstration of how sharp Simon's claws are. Just ask my throw pillows.

"You think I would ever wear a harness and leash," he hissed as his tail started swishing back and forth angrily. "You're even dumber than you look, lady, if you believe that I would ever put that on."

"But it's the marina rules, Simon. All animals have to be on a leash if they want to go outside."

"I'm a cat. The rules don't apply to me. If you want to put something on a leash, go talk to that beagle on the boat next to us. Dogs are stupid. They love to follow rules. I'm sure he'd slobber all over you in excitement if you took him for a walk."

"But, Simon..."

"Enough, lady," he snapped. "Jeez. You'd think with all of these writing groups you're a part of and this stupid book you're working on, you'd at least have learned one simple thing by now."

"What's that?" I asked as I put the harness and leash back in the bag. Maybe I could exchange it for some catnip instead.

"A leopard can't change his spots," Simon said as he stretched out on the table.

"Huh?"

"I'm a cat. You can't go around changing things in these stupid stories of yours and have me start acting like a dog. No one is going to believe that a cat is going to jump for joy over wearing a leash."

He rolled over onto his back and added smugly, "Especially a cat as smart as me."

"Just because you can travel in time, doesn't mean you're smart," I said.

Simon glared at me. "I wouldn't be too sure about that, lady. After all, who got who to start buying full-fat milk. Now, rub my belly and then get back to rewriting this story so that the characters are believable."

****

One of the lessons I've learned while working on this book of mine is the need to keep characters true to themselves. There's nothing worse than reading through a draft and thinking, "Huh, why would so-and-so do that? It doesn't make any sense, especially after the last scene where he said he hates doing that."

While my main characters are pretty well fleshed out in terms of motivation, habits, traits etc., the secondary ones aren't. Which makes for some leopards who seem to have changed their spots halfway through the book.

I guess it's a good thing I have Simon around to point out the error of my ways. And insist on getting full-fat milk. It really does taste better.

Do you think a leopard can change his spots? Do you think a person's character can change? If you're a writer, what's one valuable lesson you've learned?

Internet connection has been really scarce lately while we've been cruising in the Bahamas, so apologies if it takes a while before I'm able to respond to your comments and/or visit your blog.
 
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03 July 2017

Inside The Heart Of Every Good Sailboat Lurks A Tractor | Thornycroft T80 Engine Repair

Can you tell which is the old water pump and which is the new one?

When we lived in Portland, we adopted an adorable black puppy from the Oregon Humane Society. She was part Labrador Retriever and part something else. We never did figure out what the something else was - possibly German Shepard?

Some people think mixed-breed dogs are better. Some people think purebreds are better. To us, it didn't matter what her lineage was. One look at us with those large brown eyes and we were hooked. We took our little puppy home that day.

I hadn't really thought about the whole mutt vs. purebred debate since then until I discovered that Thorny, the diesel engine in our Moody 346 sailboat, was a mutt.

Thorny is a British-made Thornycroft T80 engine. I had always assumed he was a purebred - 100% English from the top of his glowplugs down to the bottom of his oil pan. Usually he just growls at us, but if he could talk, I'm sure he would have one of those lovely English accents you hear on Downtown Abbey.

Turns out Thorny is a mutt. His mother was a Japanese lady who came from the venerable Mitsubishi clan. His father was a sailor from England. I'm not sure how they met, but the result of their happy union was a diesel engine based on the Mitsubisi K4D engine block with marinized parts added on and fitted out for use on a sailboat.

Thorny's mother must also have had some sisters because you can also find the same engine block used in tractors. Yes, tractors. I should have probably whispered that. Thorny is a bit of a snob and doesn't like to be reminded of the fact that he has lots of cousins out there who are tractors. He thinks sailboats are far superior to farm equipment.

Are you wondering how I found this out? Sure, it's possible I have way too much time on my hands and research the oddest topics on the internet. But, in this case, it was all due to the fact that we had to replace Thorny's water pump.

We couldn't source one through our usual supplier of spare parts, ASAP Supplies. So we started looking into spare parts of the Mitsubishi K4D engine block. You know where you can find them? Places that sell tractor parts. I ended up calling a few places in the States and found a nice man in Pennsylvania who had exactly what I needed in stock.

He was a little befuddled when I told him it was for a sailboat and not a tractor. I guess no one told him about the British side of the family.

Eventually the part arrived and we replaced it. Thorny assumed the water pump came from England. I think if he knew it came from some rural town in Pennsylvania he would have kicked up quite a fuss.

Cruising Log | Thursday, 11 May 2017 - Friday, 19 May 2017

I won't bother with giving you a day-by-day recap of what we did while we were at Indiantown Marina repairing our water pump. It basically came down to sourcing a water pump, waiting for the water pump to arrive, replacing the water pump and eating more Little Caesar's pizza. We also installed a flat screen TV in our aft cabin. Ah, the glamorous life of a cruiser.

Nautical Miles = Nil. Engine Hours = 2.5 (flushing antifreeze). Spending =$583.47 (water pump, hardware, groceries, TV, gas, propane refill, misc stuff)

What do you think about the whole mixed-breed vs. purebred debate? Have you ever adopted a dog or cat? Have you ever driven a tractor or worked on a farm?

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