Tag Archives: cruising

Stuart, Florida: The Best of Both Waterworlds

Stuart, Florida is a nice stop for cruisers for many reasons. First and foremost is it’s prime location on Florida’s Treasure Coast with ocean access through St. Lucie Inlet and more than one comfortable anchorages right off the ICW. If you’re a water person, you’ll find no end to the activities available in Stuart. You can anchor in one of the two anchorages in Manatee Pocket, which is a hurricane hole at Port Salerno in Stuart.  There are plenty of marinas to offer fuel and water. Within walking distance, less than a mile, there is a West Marine, a Winn Dixie, coin laundry, canvas maker, fantastic produce stand, incredible marine consignment shop and flea market, not to mention the numerous waterside restaurants, boatyards, and fishing docks. There is a huge warehouse right on the water in the southern anchorage of Manatee Pocket that has been made into a coffee shop and artist’s co-op with free WIFI and fabulous original pottery, tile, painting, and stained glass.  And here is a little gem of cruiserly local wisdom, a 5 minute walk from the dingy dock will reveal a 24-hour ice machine that dispenses 10 or 20 lb.  bags of ice, or loose ice into your ice chest, for $2.00!

There are two public parks to dingy to, this is especially nice if you have a dog. The parks are beautiful and full of birds, squirrels, palms and pines. The landside amenities for the cruiser are endless. And here’s another secretto look for while you’re here, there are colonies of wild, green parrots living  in large nests in the tops of the palms. They are quite vocal and scold you if you get to close. They are great fun to observe.

In the harbour, you can expect to see bottlenose dolphins hunting their breakfast every morning. Since we’ve been here I’ve seen a baby dolphin spyhopping, (that’s popping his head out of the water and looking around), and an adult dolphin tossing a large mullet into the air over and over, like a dog playing with a toy. There are herons, sandhill cranes, gulls, and lots of pelicans. We’ve seen several spotted eagle rays gliding gracefully below the surface, leaping out of the water every now and then. The Spring is a wonderful time to be here because all of the wildlife is very active this time of year.

If you want to have some fun, take the dingy or kayak up one of the numerous creeks and see if you can spot an alligator or a manatee. Or, pack a picnic, and dingy out to one of the lovely deserted islands between the ICW and the inlet. We did this and had a blast. These little islands have clean beaches with sandy shoals that you can walk out onto at low tide and watch tiny crabs and minnows hide in their nurseries of marsh grass and shallows. Big Causaurina pines provide plenty of shade, and the water is cool and refreshing.

You can also go all the way out to the inlet in your dingy and fish around the rock jetties. We spoke to someone who dove the jetties and spotted a huge spiny lobster there. People are catching mostly mackerel, pompano, kingfish, snook, and catfish. Offshore, not for the dingy motorist, there are an abundance of sailfish, after all, Stuart is the Sailfish Capitol of the World! Stuart can also boast a six square mile reef, which is considered the northernmost of tropical coral reefs. The reef is accessible by dingy on the outside of the inlet, or if you dingy to Peck Lake, part of St. Lucie state park.  Or take the big boat and anchor there as it provides a nice anchorage, and beaches on both the ICW side and ocean side.

There are all sorts of hidden surprises for fun and relaxing in the area of Manatee Pocket. We’ve yet to discover everything. During a sunset cruise last night in our dingy, we met a couple on a trawler from Maryland. They told us about the Bathtub Beach, (where shallow pools of ocean water are warmed by the sun), and the surfing beach, ( where local surfers maintain a tough front and build surf shacks at their favorite break). Guess we’ll just have to do some more exploring…

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Preparing To Cast Off the Docklines

All those last minute things to do before leaving the dock for an extended cruise.  It is such an exciting time.  Filling the fuel and water tanks to capacity.  Lashing extra fuel and water to the deck in jerry jugs.  Securing all items on deck, bicycles, surfboards, kayaks, jerry jugs, anchors, etc.  Stocking up on stores: food, toiletries, clean linens, rum! Checking the route, the weather, the charts…  Paying up all debts, arranging mail forwarding or holding, getting up to date on prescriptions and immunizations, saying goodbyes…Stowing all items properly to prevent chaos and injury in a rolling sea.  Items must be lashed down or behind locked cabinet doors.  Having most meals prepared in advance for offshore passages, so whoever is on watch has only to unwrap and eat.  This takes pressure off the crew to prepare meals while underway.  Make sure the Dramamine is on hand for the crew and a bit a rum for the captain.  Run jacklines on the deck and get the harnesses and life vests ready for offshore passages.  File a floatplan with family and authorities.  Have good books and good music ready.  Stash a little, but not too much, cash.  Get the foul weather gear out and ready to don quickly.  Make sure all lines are able to run free and sails will be unobstructed when you are ready to unfurl or raise them.  If it’s cold, have appropriate clothing to keep warm.  If it’s warm, keep the sunscreen and shade handy. Get a good night’s sleep the night before.  This is easier said than done. Discuss with captain and crew what sort of watch schedule you’ll be keeping.  Use a watch with an alarm to let you know when it’s time to take over, and wake up. Make sure your radio, VHF, Epirb, ditch bag, life raft are functional and ready to use in an emergency. Check the weather, check the weather, check the weather.  The weather decides your schedule, not you!      

Route Planning

imgp1439.jpgOne of my favorite aspects of planning for an extended cruise, or even just a simple day sail to a new anchorage is reviewing the charts and visualizing the possibilities.  Being the captain of Puff, these options must be reviewed in order to take into account each and every possibility.  Of course these options must be reviewed with the crew, but in the end the safest and most reasonable route is left to my discretion.  There are so many variables to take into account when planning a passage and as long as a timeline is not trying to be met you can find yourself in some wonderful places simply by being blown in that direction.  As all sailors know, sailboats (at least most cruising boats) don’t point nearly as well as we plan.  Therefore along with the inevitable windshifts, one cannot be too headstrong to reach a certain destination.  Of course there are those glorious downwind sails where the apparent wind feels light and the sun warms your skin, but for those days when the wind is not aft of the beam one needs to have options in order to retain sanity.  Pouring over the charts the night before and seeing all the possibilities is one of by favorite aspects of living on a sailboat.  A good rum drink and all the possible charts spread out before me just gets my mind running.  Thinking about the possible wind shifts, tides upon departure and arrival, what the surrounding land will really look like, how the ocean swell might refract into the anchorage, the possibility of arriving in the dark, so many variables to think about and options to have just in case.  So many times I’ve planned a route only to find the wind is just a little to much on the nose. Option 1: Tack into the wind and calculate the new time to reach the destination (always a disappointment), Option 2: Choose a new destination and fall off on a more comfortable heading (usually the best option, just take into account for the wind shift for your next day of sailing).  Whatever it ends up being it’s always easier to face the facts if you’ve reviewed the options the night before.  Reviewing the charts and planning the passage gives you a better sense of time required to reach the destination, but it also helps you visualize what to expect once you arrive.  The more you sail to new anchorages the more you can picture what the new harbor will look like in comparison to the charts.  Sometimes the land you had been planning on seeking shelter behind during a blow is nothing but marsh leaving you totally exposed to the brunt of the wind. Other times the ideal looking anchorage has a swell wrapping in and upon anchoring the surge rolling under the boat makes for an uncomfortable rocky-rolly night. With more and more experience these unforseen possibilities can be realized and avoided, which make life on board much better for both captain and crew.  I mean who wouldn’t want to pull into an ideal anchorage in the lee of the wind, with no swell rolling you around, and before it gets dark-  even if it wasn’t your first choice?! There’s always tomorrow. 

How To Select Your Cruising Sailboat

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There is much to address here, however, since this the How to Go Cruising…NOW! blog, safety and cost come first. In order to go cruising now, you do the best you can with what you have right now. A good cruising boat should first and foremost be seaworthy. That means it should be able to perform in adverse conditions, as well as those perfect sailing days we all dream of. You’re going to look for the integrity of construction. Whether the hull is fiberglass, aluminum, steel, wood, or ferrocement, it must have been constructed with quality in mind. You can get a survey done of the boat before you buy it. If that is not in your budget, then get a book on how to survey a boat and attempt to do it yourself. If you have a mechanically minded friend, bring them along to help spot deficiencies. Fiberglass hulls are easy to repair and simple to care for. I would recommend a fiberglass hull for a beginner. Now, the books about buying a new boat are going to tell you all sorts of guidelines that you must follow or risk getting burned. I’m here to tell you that if you have a limited budget, you’re not going to be able to follow all of their advice. As long as you’re prepared to work, learn and do things yourself then you are ready to buy your boat. The more learning, work and hands on projects you do, the better cruiser you will be anyway. I have had friends with towboat companies and the Coast Guard say that they rescue more people with really expensive boats and all the high tech, top dollar equipment than people who are on more low key, simple, even smaller boats. Boating really levels the playing field economically. A bigger and more expensive boat isn’t going to help you survive an ocean passage, only your personal skill level can do that. My point is, a lot of people pay others to do everything for them, survey the boat, repair the boat, maintain the boat. Unless you’re going to hire professional crew to operate the boat, it is best you begin doing what you can for yourself now. Real cruising is about self-sufficiency to me. Of course, if you feel you need an expert and you can afford one, go for it. I’m just trying to promote what I see as an essential trait of a successful, safe and happy cruiser. In addition to quality construction, you’ll want to take a look at what kind of rig the boat has, how many sails, and do a bit of research into the history of the performance of the type of boat. It’s a very personal choice, and nothing is more personal that the boats’s overall looks. Many people fall in love with a boats lines, but think about function, safety, and performance. Evaluate your personal needs. Just doing coastal cruising? Then you don’t need the capacity to store a ton of fuel, food and water. If you’re planning extensive offshore passages, you’ll need extra storage. If you’re single and you really want to escape, you have the most options. There are lots of quality boats for sale in the Caribbean that are cheap enough to pay cash for, relatively simple to work on, and plenty of room for one person. If you have a partner or a family, it’s a joint decision because everyone is going to have to live with this. Again, being stubborn about waiting until you can afford your dream boat is a pitfall. If you want to cruise now, be flexible, make doing it your top priority. Do it now, the best you can, with what you have. Compromise and promise yourself you will move up to your dreamboat someday. After all, once you get some real cruising experience, all of your priorities will change anyway. You might hate it and be glad you didn’t waste more money. You might change your mind about the way you want to do things… leave yourself some growing room.

Why Would Anyone Want to Go Cruising?

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Most of us don’t need reasons why we should go cruising.

Right off the top there’s traffic, crowds, the boss, smog, noise and rules, rules, and more rules. You won’t escape these things entirely by going cruising, but you’ll see a lot less of them for long stretches of time. And you gain a sense of freedom, excitement, and adventure that can hardly be found by dutifully going to the same job every day, following the same routine when you come home, and waking up and doing it all over again. Wouldn’t you rather decide whether to have snapper or lobster for dinner, rum or gin in your sundowner, my cockpit

or yours instead of what to buy at the grocery store for dinner,

which TV channel to stop on for more than 30 seconds, and whether or not you should have another beer because that might be too many carbs for someone who lives the majority of their life as a sedentary, indoor individual? There is nothing like the satisfaction of living a self-sufficient life. We live in a “nanny society” where we can pay anyone to do anything for us, so we don’t have to do it ourselves. We don’t have to care for or teach our children, maintain our property, or even our bodies for that matter, in this day and age of cosmetic and corrective surgery. When you find yourself living on your boat in some remote part of the world, you are forced to figure out whatever situation you may face. I know how to clean, anestheticize and stitch up a wound. I know a little about a lot of things like engine repair, dentistry, weather reading, electronics, sewing, and how to catch and cook my own dinner. Living this way, you realize, this is how life was truly meant to be. The natural word IS the real world, not the identical boxes and crowded infrastructure we force upon ourselves. The beauty of a sunset, an approaching storm, a seabird dipping and circling over the waves. I know why I go cruising, it makes me feel alive.