Whew, now that the latest hurricane scare is over for now, we’re six weeks away from our normal return to the boat and we don’t have a clue where we’re cruising next! Last winter was our “mini-refit” winter, spent mainly at the dock at Burnt Store Marina, Punta Gorda, FL. We accomplished our major objectives and then some … we have a wonderful new cockpit enclosure, commonly referred to as our family room since we spend a lot of time there, a new refrigerator compressor, an upgraded electrical charging system, the Icom warranty repaired our clipping M802 SSB, we upgraded our Icom 502 VHF to a 602, a tune up and an overhaul made our trusty Nanni Kubota diesel purr like a kitty, and we got a good start on redoing some of our teak… But now it’s time to decide what our options are…
Here’s what we know:
1. We never put our fins, snorkel and masks on last winter at all. We both love to snorkel and the beautiful clear waters of the NW and SW Caribbean spoiled us. Until you get to the Keys, SW Florida just doesn’t offer much in the way of clear water. And even if it did, the water is chilly until it gets well into spring (or late into fall).
2. Not only was the water chilly in SW Florida last winter, but so was the WEATHER! Winterlude doesn’t have any heat – we tried to buy an electric blanket, but didn’t frequent the right stores … or maybe they don’t sell electric blankets in south Florida! Regardless, when we returned to the Midwest for Christmas, one of our first stops was Kohl’s to buy an electric blanket for Winterlude.
3. We visited Maine and New England east coast to see if we’d be interested in cruising those areas someday. And maybe someday, but for now, we race Y Flyer regattas and enjoy our little mud-puddle lake for slalom skiing in the summers and cruise on Winterlude in the winters. Winter is not a good time to be contemplating cruising Maine or New England, so that idea is out. At least until we decide to cruise some summer months. We are still toying with the idea of having Winterlude in Washington D.C. sometime while son Billy is stationed with the Navy at the Pentagon. When we brought the boat to Florida from Annapolis, we were both still working and we didn’t have the opportunity to explore the east coast or the Chesapeake, both of which are interesting, but again, both are summer cruising locations.
4. Never say never, but we’re not returning to the NW or SW Caribbean — Mexico’s Yucatan Coastline, Belize, Bay Islands, Providencia/San Andreas, Panama or Columbia — although we loved all those places, we spent six years cruising there and would like to explore someplace new.
So where does all this leave us … we don’t have a clue … yet. Our experience has shown us that there are no perfect cruising grounds. When we left for the Northwest Caribbean, we didn’t know that yet. But the advantages outweighed the disadvantages and we’re still cruising. Originally we said we’d do it as long as it’s fun, which it will be again, once we can leave the dock!
There are other factors … we don’t like crowds … or crowded anchorages with boats anchored on top of each other. We’re tired of multiple overnights … which, in turn, limits our cruising options. We didn’t have the desire to cruise in the Eastern Caribbean when we started and the rationale is still intact — too many boats and too expensive for our budget.
So where would we like to go? The Sea of Cortez interests us, but there’s a small obstacle called the Panama Canal in the way. We should have gone through it when we were in Panama for a couple of years, but shoulda coulda woulda doesn’t get us back there now.
We’d also like to cruise somewhere with good protection from more than one wind direction. The cays of Belize are absolutely wonderful, but most lie north/south. Any wind from the north, west or south is open and protection is really only from easterly components.
Just prior to returning to the US, we wanted to cruise the south coast of Cuba, but the winds that year didn’t allow us to get there comfortably. We’d already done one week long passage and didn’t want to anticipate another with winds on the nose. The south coast of Cuba is still high on our priority cruising list, but now that we’re back in the USA, we’ll have to wait until it’s legal.
The Bahamas have never held much appeal, but they do have the advantage of clear water, and according to our research, it’s still possible to find anchorages where you can be as alone as you want … or not. Plus it has the advantage of being close.
A lot of the Bahamas are too far north to be warmer than SW Florida in the winter, so we’d probably head south to the Exumas. But there was a hurricane called Irene that recently impacted that area and we’re waiting to hear news from there. Northers in the Bahamas can be wicked, so we’d likely wait until they quit going through weekly.
Obviously we’re spoiled and want perfect cruising … but that doesn’t solve our dilemma.
Cruisers are much like fishermen and aren’t going to give away their favorite anchorages, but does anyone have any thoughts of favorite cruising grounds and why? We’ll likely wait until March-ish/spring just due to the fact that sometime over the course of this winter I’ll need to devote time to editing and finalizing our book, “Cruiser’s Galley and Cooking Manual”. Plus spring has the advantage of better weather and thus, better cruising.
So we’re back to where to go next??? Where would you go? Anyone have any input for us? Cheers! Jan