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Best Sailing Destination in the Caribbean


The holidays are coming… Snowbirds fly south and families start booking vacations. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go? Would it be to one of these Exotic Sailing Destinations or maybe somewhere a bit closer to home?

Because we live on a boat, the question for us then becomes “What is our #1 favorite sailing destination?” There are literally THOUSANDS of islands in the Caribbean. While we have only visited a few of them so far, one group of islands sticks out in our minds as being somewhere we would go back to over and over again. Any ideas?

You guessed it… The British Virgin Islands!

Here are our top 10 reasons why the BVIs are our all-around favorite sailing destination:

1. Diving – The environment here meets all the requirements of what we like to call the 80-80-80 Rule, which makes for some incredible snorkeling and scuba diving.

vg snorkeling-8peter island-6sopers hole-68vg snorkeling-18sopers hole-37Guana-28

2. Beaches – All of the islands have their own unique and picturesque beaches. White sand, crystal clear water and palm trees frame the shorelines turning every anchorage into the picture perfect backdrop for taking magazine quality photos.

Guana-3virgin gorda-23Sandy Spit-13Sandy Spit-5JVD (28 of 37)

3. Sailing Conditions – The islands are scattered perfectly in such a way where the prevailing East winds will allow a beam reach on a short day-sail to a different island every day. This is a great place to learn how to sail or just brush up on your skills. A sailing playground if you will; many will consider this the Charter capital of the world. Choose from an easy mooring ball, or a quiet anchorage away from the commotion.

JVD (7 of 37)sopers hole-27peter island-1

4. Fishing – The North Drop and the South Drop are the two best fishing locations where you’ll find billfish, tuna, shark, wahoo, mahi mahi and most other pelagic game fish. Inshore, you can catch bonefish, tarpon, jacks and snapper.

grenada-7sopers hole-21

5. Surfing – World class point breaks can be found in Cane Garden Bay and Apple Bay, but are usually only breaking in Winter months during a rare North swell.

sopers hole-29

6. Transportation and Accommodations – The BVI Tourism Authority has made this destination easy and affordable to enjoy. There are tons of cabanas, houses, resorts and even private islands for rent. Ferries operate daily to carry visitors and locals between the major islands. Even airlines offer specials flying to and from the Virgin Islands. It’s a quick hop back over to US territory if any emergencies arise.

virgin gorda-21virgin gorda-19sopers hole-2

7. Tourist Attractions – There are a dozen world renown attractions in these islands. Take a trip to The Baths on Virgin Gorda, The Bubbly Pool on Jost Van Dyke, RMS Rhone Shipwreck near Salt Island or The Caves at Norman Island.

the baths-16the baths-4The Bight_Norman Island-6

8. Beach Bars – Experience one of the infamous Full Moon Parties at Bomba’s Shack at Apple Bay, sip on some Foxy’s Firewater Rum, kick back with Ivan, or swim up to The Soggy Dollar Bar to try out the original Painkiller.


9. Sunsets – The most spectacular colors will fill the sky at sunset each evening.

Cane Garden-1

10. It’s the Caribbean, mon! – When we arrived in the BVIs, it was the first time we felt the laid-back tropical vibe we had been waiting for. We set our clocks for Island Time and the rest is history!

Guana-15JVD2-23virgin gorda-26Guana-24Sandy Spit-7

What’s your favorite travel destination?




Valentine’s Day at Lover’s Beach, Great Harbour Cay, Bahamas

Thursday 2.13.14 we spent a good portion of the day putting the boat back together and cleaning up. We filled our water tanks, did some laundry and Peter fixed the anti-siphon hose on the generator. Turns out the boat right next to us on our dock used to cruise with the previous owners of our boat, Steve and Judy, all the time! Jon and Arline (SV Kasidah) probably know our boat better than we do :) What a small world! Jon helped Peter with the hose and they talked boats for awhile. Josh and Leah made a trip into town to grab some groceries while I stuck around the boat to finish laundry and write a few blog posts while I had wifi. Dinner that night was grilled steaks we bought at Costco before leaving Florida :)

Friday 2.14.14 Valentine’s Day – We left the dogs to watch the boat from inside the cabin and got a ride from a Bahamian man that runs the water company. He didn’t want us to pay him for the ride but we gave him a little anyway. He drove us to the east side of Great Harbour Cay down a dirt road. There were big houses scattered along the way with beautiful patches of countryside in between.


We finally arrived at a clearing in the trees that opened up to a white sand beach. Our new friend offered to come back to pick us up in a few hours so we entered his phone number into the sat phone so we could call him later. The water was the most gorgeous color of clearish turquoise and just barely covered the sand that extended out to a small island about a half mile away.



We began trekking across the sand bar towards Lover’s Beach. The current had carved out areas that were deeper than others and as we waded through, the water came up to our bellybuttons. We carried our beach bags, backpacks and dive bags up on top of our heads like they were precious baskets of water being brought back to a village.


The sand was soft beneath our toes and there was only a tiny bit of sea grass and urchins in the water to carefully step around. On the other side of the sand bar I found my first whole sand dollar!!IMG_4675

The cove in front of us was what dreams are made of. The many colors of the water here in the Bahamas are so surreal.





We walked a little further around the point where Peter and Josh could go diving for lobster. It was very rocky and sharp on that side of the island where the waves had eroded away the lava rock. As we set down our bags Josh saw a bunch of coconuts growing behind us. He took one of the Hawaiian slings to knock down a couple coconuts. We really are WHERE THE COCONUTS GROW! Leah had no trouble busting one open on a lava rock. The water inside was like a taste of heaven. It was so refreshing on a hot day and definitely helped rehydrate us all. Livin’ the dream :)





The guys went out diving and Leah and I put our masks on and checked out the shallows on the inside of the cove. Eventually Josh came back to bring Leah and I out to where the guys were diving. Leah had on her Nikes and I had my fins. We put on our masks and snorkels and started exploring the underwater world in front of us. We saw pretty bright blue reef fish and colorful coral up and down the valleys of white sand. We wished we had brought our underwater camera! Unfortunately there were no lobster here or anything else to spear but we had a blast snorkeling around anyway.

After awhile a while sand beach appeared on the shoreline as a signal it was time to come in. I was the only one without shoes or booties so I carefully climbed over the lava rock barefoot. Just call me Jody Lundin! (one of our favorite TV shows back on land is Dual Survival with Cody Lundin. Everywhere he goes, he is barefoot. He treks through the most dangerous places to survive like the Amazon, Sahara and Alaska wilderness)


Back where our dive began, we brought out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and some fresh tangerines that Jon and Arline gave us. After lunch we trekked back across the sand bar. Along the way we found dozens of sand dollars in a path back to shore, almost like a yellow brick road.


While we waited for our Bahamian friend to pick us up, Peter and I walked up the riverbank a little bit and saw a lionfish in the seagrass. Those suckers really are everywhere now. Crazy how fast they have become an invasive species. They carry a wicked toxin and have killed off much of the existing reef life.


Can you see the lionfish?


We also saw a starfish close by. First one of the trip!


When we got back to the boat we had to break the news to Jon and Arline that we didn’t have any lobster to contribute to the BBQ we had planned for that night. Jon was making his conch fritters. Luckily, the guys from the fishing tournament gave us a huge filet of King Mackerel. Peter served it up sashimi style. Holy crap that was good!!! Nothing like fresh sushi straight out of the ocean. We all crashed hard that night after a long day.





Holiday Baking on a boat!


Before we get too far away from the holidays I wanted to post a few pics of how my holiday baking turned out. It’s tradition for us to have fresh-baked Christmas cookies and pie every year so this year was no exception. The only part that was a challenge was the lack of counter space. Having a tiny oven just meant I had to bake smaller batches and only one cookie sheet at a time. We didn’t mind having the oven going all day since it was so chilly during the holidays and the oven heat kept us toasty inside the boat.




Yummy vanilla buttercream frosting hit the spot for my wicked sweet tooth. I made some extras for neighbors and friends, and some for Santa of course!


I ran out of bowls for mixing the pie crust so I used the pie plate instead.


We brought pumpkin pie over to Carl and Cynthia’s boat for Christmas Dinner before our new friends set sail for the Keys and Bahamas. Since I don’t have a cooling rack anymore, an upsidedown cupcake pan worked perfect :)


After rolling out cookies the cloth can get pretty messy. I used the edge of one of the cookie cutters to scrape off the majority of the dough before retiring the cloth to the laundry.


There were a few more people that we wanted to bring cookies to so the next few batches were of sea turtles, starfish and palm trees as I was dreaming of what our New Year will bring!




A Christmas Visit

We’re a little behind on the posts as we get ready to leave Florida and head for the Bahamas but we still want to share a few pictures from our first Christmas aboard S/V Mary Christine. This year we got a very special Christmas treat. Peter’s Dad, Wiley, came to visit and spend Christmas with us on the boat!!!


We watched the weather and tides and waited for the perfect day to take him out on the water. We went for a day sail in the harbor and showed Wiley how we’re going to be living for the next few years :)

It’s still hard for me to believe we live on a boat and when we go sailing we are taking our WHOLE home with us!! It’s such an amazing feeling.

As we were heading out through the channel into the harbor we passed our friends David and Jan aboard S/V Winterlude. They were coming back in from a few days out at anchor.



Betsy just LOVED going for a cruise with her daddy and her grandpa :)



That little licker just never quits!! :)

Captain Pete at the helm…






Gunner was such a good boy this time he didn’t even need to be tethered up. He absolutely loves to relax in a sunny spot with a cool breeze… just like his mommy ;)



The weather was perfect. Not too calm, not too windy. Wiley got to see what it’s like on the boat and we got a little more practice in. Every time we take the boat out it gets a little easier and we gain a little more confidence. We played with the sails and made adjustments for the wind as we tacked across the harbor. We timed it just right to head back in at that perfectly golden hour before sunset where everything looks just magical.





We neared our slip and prepared for docking, this time with no trouble at all. Just a few quick engine thrusts in reverse, forward and reverse, then she walked right in :) One of these days Peter’s going to make me dock this boat myself. Maybe I’ll practice with the dinghy first? :)


We had a wonderful time and it was so nice to have family here for Christmas. Now that he knows what to expect when staying aboard S/V Mary Christine, we hope that Wiley will come visit again when we get further south into the islands :)

Stay tuned for a few more fun pictures of the holidays liveaboard style!


Are expired marine flares still safe??


Our boat came equipped with a standard orange plastic 12 gauge flare gun, a big-daddy metal 25mm flare gun, a distress signal flag, a bunch of expired flares and an orange container mounted behind the ladder at our forward companionway.

Unfortunately the 12 gauge launcher that the previous owner left for us is not fully operational and qualifies for replacement. There was a large recall on Olin 12 gauge launchers years ago for flare guns that don’t open properly. When you go to load it, you can’t get the flare into the gun. Peter is able to pull it open just enough to get one round in there so we decided to leave that launcher loaded. We’ve heard from quite a few cruisers that it’s good practice to have several flare guns stashed around the boat for quick access in the event that any dangerous characters are approaching your boat and you want to draw attention to yourself. Our safety from pirates is another topic all together, but as it relates to flare guns, we’ll keep this defective one as a backup weapon and distress signal :) We attempted to send the defective launcher in for replacement but the U.S. Post Office won’t let you just put it in an envelope and mail it off. The Post Office, wanted us to declare it as a weapon and it could only be placed in a box and wrapped carefully with a lot of bubble wrap.  They of course had boxes and bubble wrap available for purchase but at a ridiculous price. The line was getting longer and it was more of a hassle than it was worth. Plus, we don’t plan on staying in the U.S. very much longer and who knows how long it would take for them to send us a replacement. Those recall departments don’t exactly put a priority on giving you free products.



We ended up buying another 12 gauge launcher at the used marine store along with a few more super cheap expired flares. Even though they’re expired, it’s better to have extras in case we are ever truly in need. If we run out of the ‘current’ flares, then we can at least try the expired ones instead of being bummed out that we don’t have any more flares.

I had a hard time finding a clear and concise official description of what the U.S. Coast Guard requires us to carry for visual distress signals. From what I gather, there are lots of different combinations of flares that will satisfy the U.S. Coast Guard requirements but the easiest and most simple choice for us was carrying a minimum of three (3) day/night handheld red signal flares. We ordered a 4-pack of day/night handheld red signal flares and a 4-pack of 12 gauge aerial signal flares from West Marine on Black Friday and got 10% off :)



Now a little bit about the 25mm launcher…

It’s made of aluminum and feels more like a real pistol than the little 12 gauge launchers. There is a removable insert that goes into the barrel which allows you to fire 25mm shells or 12 gauge depending on your situation. If we are far out at sea I would much rather have the 25mm flares shooting up as high as we can get them! Another benefit of having an aluminum flare gun is that it will last much longer than the plastic ones. I’m not sure how many rounds a plastic gun will fire but I can’t imagine its good for very many.



It’s even harder to find out what to do with your flares once they have expired. There is not a standardized procedure for properly disposing of or recycling expired flares. Some local law enforcement and fire departments will not take expired flares off your hands. Some will. I’ve also heard of some West Marine stores taking them back. Sometimes a local Coast Guard auxiliary might take them in for training purposes, but again you would need to call your local chapter to verify this. Some organizations that used to take them in, don’t anymore. It all depends.

Some people decide to shoot them off on holidays like New Years Eve and 4th of July to create the least annoyance by local law enforcement and rescue teams when there are typically a lot of fireworks going off all over the place. We’ve been told that some expired flares still work just fine, but Peter and I wondered just how well they work…

Two nights ago on New Years Eve, “Pistol Pete” decided to try out the 25mm launcher instead of going out to buy fireworks. The only three 25mm flares we had in our supply expired in 1986!! We grabbed one of those and one of the expired 12 gauge shells and set out to a safe spot. Flares are definitely not something to mess around with and extreme caution MUST be used. It’s illegal to shoot off flares OVER WATER if it’s not an emergency situation so we went to an empty parking lot instead :) Many people might debate this and we’ve seen plenty disagree, but I read on USCG documents that its only illegal if you are shooting them over water in a non-emergency situation. Of course it’s always best to check with your local law enforcement.

We learned some very important lessons about what happens when you use expired flares. BOTH of the shells we tried DID NOT function properly. We tried the 12 gauge insert first. There was a minor flash at the gun when the shot went off with no aerial signal at all. It was pretty much a dud and had long since expired. The shell expanded when it was fired and got stuck inside the insert:





The 1986 25mm shell also performed badly. There was a huge explosion right as it exited the gun instead of igniting the flare way up in the air. If this had been on the boat it could have caught our sails on fire or severely burned us. You can see in the picture below that there was a lot of burning phosphorus inches from Peter’s hand and it was very hot. A tiny ember floated down and actually got into his eye!! We were able to flush it with water right away and his vision was not affected but it was still scary and VERY dangerous. We decided that if we are ever in a situation where we need to fire an expired flare, we do our best to wear protective eyewear, gloves and to stand as far away as possible from anything that could catch fire. In an emergency situation it may be difficult to grab protective gear in time but we will definitely keep it close by!

Back to the question… “Are expired marine flares still safe?” We’ll leave that up to you to decide :)