Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Top 10 Tuesdays: 10 Things We'd Do Different

While we did a lot of things right when we shoved off a year and a half ago - we would be remiss if we didn't reflect on our time away and make a note of the things we didn't do right or, rather, would have done differently if we could have.  There were a lot of extenuating circumstances that led us to make many of the decisions we did (I got pregnant, Scott got a job...etc) but here are some things that we would have done differently if we lived in a "perfect" world (which, we do not!)...

Ten Things We'd Do Different 
  1. We'd have left earlier - this isn't really fair because there was work to be done and there were factors beyond our control that played into our timing, but in a perfect world we would have left for this trip earlier.  Leaving from Chicago in September was 'pushing it' timing wise.  While we left as soon as we could and it wasn't that big of a deal, it would have been nice to have been able to take more time going through the Erie Canal and down the East Coast without the threat of snow looming over us each and every day stopped to smell the roses.  We have vowed to return to both areas to explore under less of a time constraint in the future because both areas were incredible.  
  2. We wouldn't provision like we were crossing an ocean - Note to new cruisers:  Don't provision like you are crossing an ocean unless you are crossing an ocean.  I don't know who got it in my head that we had to provision like it was the dawn of Armageddon and we were readying our bomb shelter for years of underground living but it was not necessary.  Scott and I gave away about forty pounds of food in cans and bags the other day - most of which was leftover from our initial provisioning trip in Ft. Lauderdale!  Not only could we have saved ourselves some precious space on our boat - but we could've saved ourselves some coin too.  Seriously, if you are island hopping, don't go nuts like we did.  Believe it or not, they actually have grocery stores and eat food just about everywhere and, if you aren't too picky, you'll be just fine.
  3. We'd have spent more time in certain places - This sort of goes hand in hand with numero uno, but we felt like we rushed through some places that we wished we didn't.  We spent over two months in the Bahamas, and by the time we left there - we had to really cover some ground to make it somewhere "safe" for hurricane season.  Particularly, we would have liked to have spent more time cruising Puerto Rico (for example we only spent 2 days in Culebra, and easily could've spent a week or two) and we just skimmed the surface of many of the islands down here due to timing.  Luckily, we're going cruise the Windward and Leeward islands extensively next season - and much talk has been had about enjoying doing this at a much slower, steadier pace. 
  4. We'd have explored shore more - One of our "whoopsie" mistakes was leaving without any guidebooks (well, we did have one from 1982 but that was used more for comic relief than anything else - I mean, what were people thinking in the 80's with those outfits?!?!).  This made shore exploration difficult.  Sometimes it really is best to do a little homework on a place and find out where hikes, hot springs, waterfalls and other attractions might be.  Having guidebooks for reference really helps out in this regard. We are happy to report that we are now proud owners of updated guidebooks for the entire Windward and Leeward island chain and we plan to explore more with our baby girl strapped to our backs next season.  We also bought a Caribbean hiking guide that lists hundreds of hikes and walks throughout the island chain and we're looking forward to strutting our stuff all over the place with our baby girl.
  5. We'd do more research on places - See #4.  In addition - if you do your homework, you can time your trip with cool festivals and local events that are happening in these islands (of which there are many).  This is a GREAT way to really get involved and get to know a place when it's at its best.  For example, you might want to make it down to Grenada for Carnival, or to Bequia for the Bequia Music Festival or St. Maarten for the Heineken Regatta.  All this can be achieved with a little research and a flexible schedule.
  6. We'd be better at meal planning - I'm not a cook.  For those of you who have been long time followers you know I have really been kicking it up a notch, but I still have a long way to go.  I tend to find something that I like to is easy to make (i.e. soup, beans and plantains, rice and beans, toast and peanut butter...) and make the heck out of it.  Next season we're going to focus on having a more varied diet that explores more than four recipes.  Plus I'll be a baby food making machine.  Look out people!
  7. We would not have sat idle for six months - while we LOVE Grenada, we have no idea how people can sit here for six months every hurricane season year, after year, after year...While this was more or less out of our control because of planned visits back to the USA and Scott getting a job (which will allow us to keep cruising for a LONG time now), when we come back next season we're going to try to plan our timing a little better and either find areas we can cruise during the hurricane season, or do something else like rent a little beach house in Costa Rica and spend three months exploring and learning how to surf with our little beach baby.  Who knows?  You'll just have to keep reading and find out where we end up!
  8. We would have left with a better dinghy - this was a BIGGIE.  We left with a twenty-five year old 2hp motor and an even older dinghy.  This is not an ideal cruising set-up.  We had so many dinghy problems the first eight months of this journey that we could do nothing else but laugh.  In all honesty, however, it really hindered us.  Not having a reliable dinghy is a serious handicap out here.  There were times we had to stay in marinas because our dinghy motor wasn't working, times we couldn't explore certain places because were weren't sure our dinghy would make it there, and - overall - a lot of missed opportunities all because of a dodgy motor attached to a heap of inflatable hypalon.  Obviously, we're all sorted now thanks to our sponsor Island Water World, (we have an 8ft Caribe hard bottom dinghy with an 8hp Mercury 2-stroke outboard) but for those of you planning a similar trip - do not brush the dinghy issue under the rug.  It will impact your trip in a HUGE way.
  9. We would not worry so much about hurricane season - we rushed through the Windwards and Leeward islands mostly so we could get down to Grenada in order to fly out for two weddings we were in this past summer but we also rushed to be here by the June start of the "hurricane season".  One of the perks of not having any insurance is not having to answer to anyone about where we need to be and when (insurance companies often deem that a boat must be at "x" place by "y" time in order to be covered).  We rushed south just like everyone else and we really didn't need to.  While hurricane season is not to be taken lightly and cruising during this time should be done with caution, LOTS of people continue cruising throughout the hurricane season.  I'm not saying you should cruise through hurricane season - so please don't take this as a suggestion!  I am just saying that, for us, we would have slowed down a bit and taken our time (with prudent weather monitoring through our sponsor, marine weather guru Chris Parker, of course).  A huge reason we didn't cruise more, however, was also due to the fact that Scott got his fantastic job with Island Windjammers (he has now been offered a permanent position in the rotation and we'll time our cruising around it!!).   We all know that the cruising kitty is as essential to a journey like this as a reliable vessel and we consider ourselves VERY lucky that work and play seem to work symbiotically!
  10. We'd have refrigeration - our next boat* will have refrigeration.  Been there, done that, bought the tee-shirt.  We want cold beer.  Do you blame us? 
All that being said, do we have any regrets??  HECK NO!  But if someone else can learn and benefit from the things that we would have done a little different, then our mission is accomplished.  If those people also happen to be us being better prepared for next cruising season, then all the better!

*Yes, many of you who follow us on Facebook know we are looking at bigger boats.  It's possible that this "hiatus" home will be filled with new boat talk and possible trips to visit potential contenders.  We'll keep you posted.  Exciting things are in the works, that is for sure!


Dave said...

Hooray for cold beer!!!

Darwin Grenwich said...

Your point about the dinghy is well considered. The first time out I had a Walker Bay 8 and a 3hp motor. They were both terrible! A fast planing inflatable is so much more fun and opens up a great deal of territory to a cruiser. Also, in 2006, just after the record breaking 2005 hurricane season we packed it in early too. It turned out that we missed a whole lot of nice weather that summer due to fear of hurricanes.

Unknown said...

I love this post. Learning from this trip will make you THAT much better prepared for your next No Doubt! We have learned so much and really feel we've got it down now. At least, the parts we know we like and don't like! AND HELL YES, Horray for cold beer, and cold yogurt and cheese and milk and every other awesome thing that tastes better cold in the hot Caribbean! Feel ya there girl!

Mid-Life Cruising! said...

Love the tip about, "Don't provision for crossing an ocean unless you're crossing an ocean" ... Makes sense! We're worried about storage and don't plan on crossing any oceans so glad to hear this.

We'd like to add a refrigeration system to our boat, and I think we're gonna have to go for it. Cold beer is a must! =)

Rick said...

Where do you keep the dinghy on the boat? Do you tow it behind you while you are sailing or is there plenty of deck space?

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