Upon arriving in the Florida Keys in late February Jeannette and I were anxious to get in the water and do some serious freediving. The entire sail down from NC was filled with strong winds, oddly enough from the southwest, and once secured to a mooring in Boot Key Harbor the winds continued. Front upon front that marched across the states would find us down here and blow as they passed through then increase in strength as the high pressure filled in behind. Well all this wind is obviously not good for diving. A few days when the wind settled down to around 15kts I would charge out for a beating in the dingy. The first two times I went out the water was clear one day and cloudy the next. My first thought was a change in wind direction had caused a change in water clarity. In NC an onshore wind will bring warmer cloudy conditions, while an offshore breeze will bring cooler, clearer water in. As I experimented with the winds with each passing front my theories were being blown out of the water, nothing was being consistent relating to wind direction and water clarity. As a result I began to question other variables that could effect visibility on the reef. It was on a bus ride back from Key West that it became apparent what had the most effect on the visibility. Riding over the seven mile bridge I could see the green cloudy water of the bayside in contrast to the blue clear water on the oceanside. The tide was coming in and the clear water was rushing by the pilings of the old bridge. It was like a light bulb went off in my head. So over the next few weeks whenever the wind slacked to 15kts or less I would review the tide charts and go out on an incoming tide, and voila, more consistent clear water. Thinking about it it all makes sense. The high nutrient rich waters surrounding the shallow mangroves has that green cloudy characteristic, while the deep cool ocean water has the clear visibility that is needed for more enjoyable diving. Watch the tides and you have your own calendar for the best times to make the run out to the reef without getting burned. Now it’s mid April and the fronts have finally settled down. The wind and sea has calmed and the water is becoming clearer each trip out. There are truly some amazing reefs to dive, and if you venture to the greater depths there can be some rewarding spearfishing as well.
How much does it cost to go cruising? We all know the answer to that… exactly as much as you have. But that is not very helpful, now is it? I’m going to simplify this question and tell you how much it costs myself and my husband to go cruising. We have been cruising for seven years, far and wide, so I feel I can give you an accurate report. Then, you can take my information and plug in your own numbers, because it is different for everyone. For example, the boat might cost $30,000 or $300,000. Cost of Cruising aboard Puff…Boat: $50,000Equipment and Gear (self-steering, new sails, fishing and diving gear, inflatable dingy, etc.): $30,000 (spread out over several years as we acquired new stuff)Yearly Maintenance (including annual haul out and bottom painting): Average $4000 (how I got this average: some years this is around $2000 if we have no major repairs and some years it can be higher, like $12000, if you have major replacements or repairs like the engine.)Dockage, slip fees, marinas: $1500/year (Explanation: We live out at anchor while we are cruising or island hopping through paradise, but 5-6 months out of the year we live in a marina in the USA while we work, we have paid anywhere from $200 – $750/month for marina rent)Mail Forwarding Service: $10 – $14/monthCharts and Guidebooks: $30 – $50 for a guidebook or cruising guide; $100 – $300 for paper and/or digital charts of each area. (We attended a Seven Seas Cruising Association Marine Flea Market and bought paper charts for the world from a guy who had just completed a circumnavigation for just under $3000)Provisioning: $1500+ for a 6 month cruise (This is all dry goods, rice, flour, canned food, nuts, seeds dried fruit, spices, etc. We do it cheap, of course. You can buy gourmet or organic everything or lots of sodas, liquor and beer and spend 5x as much.) Grocery and Eating Out Allowance: Ours is quite small, $30/week. We don’t eat out except maybe once a month, very cheap burgers or something, and we work hard to catch our own food almost every day, fish or lobster. We buy fresh local produce every week from local farms.Water: $30 – $60/month (Usually, when you are cruising, you pay for freshwater to fill you boats tanks, .10/gal to .50/gal.) Diesel/Gasoline: $200/month (And that is being generous. We sail all we can and try to use the engine sparingly. We do use gas for our dingy a lot to go fishing and diving, and of course it is our only vehicle while cruising.)Medical Supplies: $300/year (We stock up on basics like antibiotics, suture kits, emergency medical supplies about once a year so we are prepared while cruising. We had our doctor show us proper procedure for everything.)Licensing and Documentation: $150 one time fee usually (Make sure you get proper documentation for your boat in your country of origin or you could be facing fines and legal penalties)Customs and Entry Fees: $0 – $300/per country (This depends on what country, your best source for current entry fees is Jimmy Cornell’s site, www.noonsite.com) I’ve probably forgotten some things, so I may have to do a part two of this article, but all the basics are here.