Monday, February 20, 2017

Our Plan for the Bahamas (or lack thereof)

Bahamian Flag

We have been asked many times over the past month about our plans for the Bahamas. We always answer that we want to head over around the first week of March and be back in the States in June. That is a pretty vague plan. Thankfully, many people here have made the trek across to the Bahamas several times and are willing to share their wisdom. We have attended meetings where travel to the Bahamas was the topic. We have been part of several Captain's meetings (ok, usually at a happy hour). And we have read everything we could get our hands on including the blogs of friends who are already over there. There seems to be two trains of thought: head straight to Bimini from here or travel up Hawk's Channel to Rodriguez Key (Anglefish Creek) and stage there for the jump across to Bimini. Either route is about half the distance we covered when we hopped across the Gulf of Mexico.

From there most suggest that you head through the Berry Islands to the Exumas at this time of year. Otherwise you are heading north to the Abacos. North means colder and that is not what we are after. People suggest that you save the Abacos for the end of your trip when the weather has warmed up. Who would have thought of any part of the Bahamas as "north". But if you look at the map, you'll see they are correct.

Once you are in the Bahamas, you have several areas to explore, although many never get past Bimini because they like it so much. Then there are the Berry Islands, the Abacos, Andros, the Exumas, and Eleuthera. That should keep us busy for three months. Everyone has their opinion on what area is best. Some like more populated areas and want to stay in marinas. We tend to like the more remote areas and are anxious to explore and snorkel. Where will we be when? Who knows. It all depends on the weather and what kind of adventuring we feel like doing.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Brenda Gets Spoiled For Valentines Day

Sunset on Valentines Day

For Valentines Day Brenda got what every woman on a boat dreams about. Yup, Mr. Romance bought her a new head (toilet for you landlubbers). But wait, there is more. He even bought brand new matching shiny sanitation hoses to hook it up. Geez, can this guy be any smoother? Oh yes he could. He was sweet enough to let her haul the toidy back from West Marine strapped onto her bike rack. Wow, is he earning big romance points or what?

Oooh, that is pretty.

So, the lovely couple spent all of Valentines Day sweating and bleeding as they installed the new head and hoses. What a lucky girl.


Monday, February 13, 2017

Local Boaters Option at U.S. Customs

Last Tuesday was our scheduled appointment at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection offices in Key West. As a small U.S. vessel we are able to apply for Local Boaters Option cards as part of the Small Vessel Reporting System. We applied online for the LBO which was free. Once that step is done you have to make an appointment at the nearest Customs office for an interview. (Also free!) Since Key West is the closest office, we made an appointment there. Upon completion of the interview a boater can file a float plan online with Customs and then return later to the U.S. with a simple phone call rather than an in person visit.

The local bus runs about every two hours, so we boarded just after 8 a.m. for the ride to Key West. The ride was lively, loud and crowded. Seems everyone was headed to Key West that morning. We arrived at 10 a.m. and wandered the streets until our LBO appointments at 11:30 a.m.

You can't take a cell phone into the Customs building, so Brenda held on to both our phones outside as Mike went inside. As soon as you go through the front door you pass through an airport type security line before entering the interview office. Mike reported to the office and supplied our boat paperwork and his passport. The officer simply verified the documents and Mike's ID before inquiring about Brenda's passport. Mike told the officer that Brenda was just outside the front doors. The officer walked Mike outside and verified that Brenda was there in person with a valid passport. He handed us our LBO cards on the spot and our task was quickly completed.

U.S. Customs

OK, time to play tourist. Strolling around Duval, Caroline and Greene Streets we enjoyed the beautiful weather. First we headed to the Schooner Wharf for lunch, but heard steel drums and took a detour. The artist was fun to listen to, but our stomachs were also talking. It was a quick walk along the harbor to the Wharf, where we had lunch with the family a few weeks ago. The singer was a little too mellow for us, so after we finished lunch, we wandered some more. We eventually made it back to Mallory Square and listened to the island music from one of the three cruise ships docked on the sea wall. The roosters entertained us almost as much as the music.

Sunset Pier

Because the cruise ships were blocking our view, we climbed to a second story restaurant bar that had plenty of public seating. There we had a splendid view of the festivities. The setting sun capped off a fun afternoon.

We quickly found the bus stop for our return to Marathon. We wanted to be sure of a seat. There we met many of the same people who were on the bus with us on the way down. It was almost like a reunion as we shared tales of our day's activities. Ahh, such is the life of a cruiser.