Provisioning For The San Blas Islands

We plan to spend the winter months in the San Blas Islands, located on the northwest coast of Panama, in the Caribbean Sea (more to come).

Image result for map of the san blas islands

The islands are remote and primitive, so Scott and I have gone into “food panic,” buying as much as we can stuff onto this poor boat. The consensus is that there are veg boats (with iffy produce and uncertain selection), and locals selling bread, fish and lobster; aside from that, you’re on your own.

While we were in Bocas, and familiar with stores and stock, Scott and I took the Aluminum Princess on a provisioning run from Red Frog Marina to Bocas Town. We tied to the small pier outside The Pub restaurant, having been told that the expat owner was friendly to cruisers.

Once in town, we hit the ground running. Our first stop was to one of the larger hardware stores, where we emerged with miscellaneous items for Scott, and a huge trash bag full of paper towels and toilet paper. From there, we went to Super Gourmet, who stock hard-to-find and specialty items from the U.S. After that, our two regular grocery stores, ending at Isla Colon, owned by our new friend, Felix.

As we checked out, with two carts full of items, in addition to the pile of stuff we’d lugged in with us and the stack of beer and sodas that Felix had brought out from the back, the girl behind the counter offered to have our pile of stuff driven to wherever we needed to go. Our plan was to take a taxi back to The Pub, but a free ride was even better!

In no time flat, a pick up truck pulled up in front of the store, and three men loaded our endless packages into the back, bucket brigade-style, tossing our heavy items in the air to each other; Scott tried to help, but was politely squeezed out. We’d asked the counter girl about tipping, and were told, “Nothing. This is a service that we provide, free of charge. No tip is necessary.”

Once all of our things were loaded into the bed of the truck, Scott and I hopped inside, into the frosty-cold, air conditioned truck (it was only a three minute ride, but any a/c is good a/c); all of the “loaders” got in as well! As an added treat, the driver serenaded us in Spanish for the short ride, much to the chagrin and groans of his co-workers.

Once at The Pub, all three men got out with us to unload. Scott and I were barely able to grab a bag, as the caravan of Isla Colon employees made it’s way through the restaurant and out onto the pier where we prepared to load the Aluminum Princess ( for a moment, the restaurant owner thought he was getting a forgotten order delivered). The three made two quick trips with our things, and then smiled and waved us goodbye. Wow.

Now that the heavy lifting was done…literally, Scott and I quickly loaded up the Princess, and then took time to have lunch. We were hungry, and wanted to give a show of appreciation to the owner of The Pub, for allowing us to use his pier and haul our things through his restaurant.

After recharging with food and drink, we made our way back to the marina and unloaded everything onto Sea Life.

We then got to work finding space for everything, beginning with loading up the area under the couch. The sleeper sofa in our saloon has been “gutted,” allowing for a huge amount of storage space. I resisted at first, but am now so grateful for all of that room!

I also resisted keeping a log of our food and toiletry stores, but have since come around to the idea. It’s much easier to zero in on where something is, and keep track of what we have, if it’s all written down.

By the way, when you panic about stocking up on food, this is what happens. I’d forgotten to buy spreadable butter, and Scott offered to go back and get it, saying that he’d seen some in Isla Colon. When I unpacked everything, here is what he’d bought.

Notice the amount…..five pounds! Seriously, it’s huge; I measured the stupid thing, to make sure it would fit in the fridge! (it just fits)

Once the couch was stuffed full, we crammed the tower of sodas and beer into the guest stateroom, along with bottles of wine and bags of flour, sugar and rice.

Various things were placed in plastic bags or tupperware containers, and stored in the lazarette, up on the flybridge and in bilge areas. After that, any remaining items were jammed into any cabinet or closet that had an available nook or cranny. Sea Life just kept “swallowing it up,” as Scott likes to say. She’s full to the brim, and we’re heavy in the water.

In addition to and inordinate amount of canned goods, paper towels, toilet paper and various liquids, we’re stocked up on dry goods (pasta, instant potatoes, Bisquick, crackers, spices, etc.), jarred sauces, candy, snacks, cheese, BUTTER, all types of frozen meat and various other refrigerated and frozen items.

We’ve also filled up on as much ice as room will allow. Scott’s anxiety for running out of this precious item is off the charts. He loooves his ice, and we won’t be able to buy it in the San Blas. We have an ice maker onboard, but running it on our batteries for a day yields enough to make two drinks; he’s panicked.

So we’re as ready as we’re going to be, for three or so months of off grid/grocery store living. If we starve, it’s our own fault. Who knows, maybe we’ll open our own San Blas grocery store!

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

 

Our Last Days On Roatan

As I’ve mentioned, we returned to Fantasy Island to prepare for our journey toward Providencia, and eventually Panama. Scott was finally able to repair our refrigerator with only a few slight snags along the way. Things were pretty disheveled for a few days, but well worth it to finally have normal cooling and freezing on board…hurray!

We rented a car, to visit Eldon’s for a fill up on cold and frozen foods. Luckily, I remembered that Howard is soon due for his rabies shot. Since I’d much rather take him by car, than by dinghy and cab in Panama, I searched out a vet on the island. Dr. Soto, at Animal Kingdom, was great. He saw us with less than a day’s notice, and was very good with Howard, despite my cat’s “sassy-ness” (If anyone happens to be cruising in Roatan, and are in need of a vet, I’ve included Dr. Soto’s information in my photos).

Howard pitched such a fit that I think only half of the vaccine actually went in, the rest running down my hand. Nevertheless, I left with paperwork that shows Howard’s rabies vaccination is good for another year, which is most important to customs officials. The charge for our entire visit was 13.00 U.S.!! At home, the vaccine runs 60.00, in addition to the cost of a vet visit…so Animal Kingdom’s price was a great surprise! Howard was not as impressed or happy as I was about this.

Even thinking about the whole experience stressed him out.

Now that Howard was set, we focused on the rest of our pre departure errands. We first grabbed a quick lunch at Bojangles. They are the only U.S. fast food-type place on Roatan, and we were surprised that they beat out McDonald’s. Pizza Inn also shares the space. Apparently, it’s also in the U.S., although we’ve never seen one in our area. After our chicken lunch, we made stops at the marine store, Ace Hardware and Eldon’s, for a final “fill up.” I’ll miss that awesome American item-filled store!

Next up was the Megaplaza Mall (I think “mall” is a stretch”). There are several useful places here…two phone stores, two banks, a pharmacy, several clothing stores, a few food places, a second hand store and a place much like Walmart, which had everything from furniture, to electronics and appliances, to housewares, to toys and mattresses. We found some shorts for Scott at one of the clothing stores, and scored a 4.00 salad spinner at the second hand store!

We also made a stop into the pharmacy. They operate differently here than in the U.S., in that everything is located behind glass cases. You ask the counter person for whatever you need, there are no off the shelf items.

After we’d run all day, it was time to make some popcorn for the cruisers, and head to the pavilion for Friday movie night. The movie of the night was Captain Ron, a favorite of Scott’s (I’m learning that it’s a favorite of most cruisers). It was a fun way to unwind from our whirlwind day. Here a a few more photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

A Rental Car Day In Roatan

Scott and I rented a car for the day, to load up on groceries from Eldons, run other errands and drive the island a bit. The car was delivered to the marina, and the man who dropped it off took almost 30 minutes to look it over and check us in. He was frustrated that Scott’s credit card didn’t have raised numbers. They still use the sliding imprint contraptions here, so he had to hand write the numbers down..a daunting job.

We invited our new British friends, Jan and Richard, to come along with us (our first new British friends left last Saturday, and Richard and Jan arrived a day later!). They are cruising on s/v Morpheus, and we were all in Isla Mujeres at the same time. We never crossed paths there, but are having a great time together here!

First stop, Ace Hardware. Scott had been here before, and was surprised to find that it was just like walking into an Ace in the U.S. It’s a large store, with a great selection of a variety of items. We shopped, checked out and were on our way.

The phone store was next. Jan and Richard needed a sim card for their phone, and we wanted to buy some minutes for ours. The power went out while we were there, which happens regularly here on Roatan so we weren’t surprised. It usually comes back on quickly, and most all businesses have generators as well. However, computers obviously take time to re-boot, so we had to wait a bit before completing our check out.

After two unsuccessful atm attempts at two different banks in the shopping center, we decided to move on. I’m not sure if they’re effected by the power blips, but if so, they definitely needed more time to come back online.

It was on to Eldon’s, where Scott and I loaded up with non refrigerated/frozen items (they’ll have to wait until we get our new compressor installed) like canned and jarred foods, cleaning products, paper towels and Kleenex, cat litter, wine, rum and bug spray. Jan and Richard weren’t doing such a big run, so Scott ran them back to their boat. We didn’t want them to have to wait on us, and our two-cart list. It proved to be a good idea, as our things filled both the trunk and back seat of the little rental car.

With our errands finished, it was time for fun. The four of us set out for lunch at Cal’s Cantina. Both cruisers and locals have told us that the views are terrific from here, and they were correct!

We had lunch and then continued on. I spied a sign for Lionfish Louie’s, turned the car around and began following the arrows. We took the poor Kia up some steep road, but it chugged along. Eventually, we made our way back down to the water and parked in the sand. Louie’s is a huge property, but since there wasn’t a cruise ship in port, we had the place almost all to ourselves.

There were neat “tree umbrellas” along the beach. An original idea!

From there, it was on to the east end of the island. I was searching for La Sirena, a place that our friends Elizabeth and Ed had visited when they spent a few months anchored off of Fantasy Island in January. I’d also read a lot of good reviews about it online.

The paved road soon turned to gravel and dirt, with sizeable ruts, and I had to slow our speed considerably. As we traveled, it was really noticeable how dust-covered the trees alongside the road were. It has been usually dry lately, with no rain to speak of at all.

We also had to make our way over many speed bumps, that were very challenging for our little Kia. I found it odd that there were so many, considering you couldn’t travel above 10 mph due to the road conditions! No matter how much we slowed down, there was always a crunching or scraping noise as we went over them. It seemed as if they were meant to slow for four-wheel drive vehicles, being so high, but we saw endless scooters and motorcycles run over them just fine. Poor Kia.

At many points along the way, it seemed we must have missed a turn, as the road got worse and worse. Thankfully, there would be a sign every now and then for La Sirena…10 miles, 15 minutes, 2km. However, with the random distances and times, we had no idea exactly how far it was, and just hope it was soon…La Sirena must have read our minds!

Hallelujah, we’d finally made it! I have to say, it was worth the drive. La Sirena is just a shack that sits out on a pier, with two smaller covered seating areas.

It was definitely remote. We passed a “local,” napping in the sand, on our way to the pier.

I’d heard that they make a killer rum punch, and Scott concurred.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t linger long. With sunset nearing, we wanted to be on our way. Getting back onto paved road by dark would take some time, traveling at a snail’s pace.

Before leaving, I used the bathroom. Contrary to what you may expect, there was a working toilet inside, and it was very, very clean.

However, here’s the view through the wall, from inside said bathroom.

We piled into our poor, dust covered Kia (even the inside door jams were caked with the stuff) and started back up and down the mountain, stopping for a few quick photos before dark.

Scott took us on a Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride back to the marina, getting there just after dark. We stopped into the pavilion for a drink with our neighbors, before calling it a night. Here are more photos of our rental car adventure.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Groceries In Mexico

In keeping with the grocery theme, and starting with Mexico..

Isla Mujeres provided several grocery options for us. Chedraui was a large store, with many food options. It was the furthest from a dock, but the selection was worth the walk.

There are have nifty escalators inside that firmly hold your cart, both coming in empty and leaving fully loaded. It amused me every time!

They have an “American/import” aisle, where we can get things like curry paste, pickles, olive oil and imported meats and cheeses. The selection of beer, wine and liquor is also decent. You can also buy clothes, dishes, a stroller, souvenirs and a stove if you like.

When purchasing baked goods, you take a tray and choose your own items (everything is out on open shelves). An attendant then weighs, bags and tags it. Much like the baggers at check out, they like to try an fit as many items as they can into one bag.

Some of our favorites items:

I love this “Mexican Chex Mix.” Scott, not so much, but that means less sharing for me!

Scott has found a favorite ham, for sandwiches, and I did a taste test for the best bacon (FUD, pronounced “food,” but I still say fud).

The Super Express, located in town, is just a few blocks from a dock where cruisers can leave their dinghies, making it a quick and easy go-to for food.

Although much smaller, it still offers an ample selection of our day-to-day needs.

We also made several trips to the Walmart in Cancun, which obviously offers a much greater selection. The seafood department is large, and operates like the bakery in Isa. You choose your fish (gloves are provided), and then it’s weighed, bagged and tagged.

Near the end of our stay, we finally ran out of paper towels that were purchased in Florida. What we bought in Mexico are “crappity-crap-crap.” They practically dissolve when any amount of liquid hits them…maybe a stand-in for toilet paper!

Once we’d stocked up in preparation for Honduras, I emptied out the storage area under our couch, to clean the floor and do a fresh inventory. After purchasing a sleeper sofa, Scott removed the sleeper part, and installed wooden braces so we have support for the cushions. We can now pack a ton of food and toiletries in this space!

All in all, we can’t complain about our shopping experiences in Mexico. Selection, a choice of stores…and cheap! Here are some more Mexican grocery photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Our Cruising Life – Grocery Shopping

I thought that I’d start including posts about our cruising life, and how we live and do things here aboard Sea Life. I use the term “our” cruising life, because I’m sure that all boaters do things differently. These random posts are about our life, and the routines that we’ve developed.

First up…groceries. At typical trip to the store in the U.S:

Get into (air conditioned) car, drive to (air conditioned) store, buy groceries on list, buy groceries not on list (that you either forgot or just want), check out and bag groceries, load everything into car, drive home (with air conditioning on), unload groceries (in air conditioned house) and put them away.

Now, a typical trip to get groceries for us while cruising:

Gather backpacks and various bags to hold groceries;

perform circus balancing act while loading bags, trash and selves into Aluminum Princess, usually resulting in wet feet, bumped head and spray from Scott’s flinging of wet lines; choose place to tie up, and perform another circus act, combining balancing with acrobatics to climb onto pier (higher piers usually result in the act ending with a “finale shove” by Scott, to get me onto solid ground); walk to store-of-the-day (if lucky, ride bike, resulting in less time of copious sweating); arrive at store, where the only cooling is provided by fans hanging from the ceiling; stand under one of said fans, to try and dry off sweat-soaked body; perform Sherlock Holmes investigation to find items on list (if lucky, mystery search will also result in finding familiar items from home!); check out, pay and watch elderly bagger put a riduculous amount of myriad items into each small, plastic bag (seriously, boxed milk, tomatoes, two packages of chicken, bag of snacks, bakery items, cans of coke and eggs in one bag); tip elderly bagger for this “service”; walk outside and repack bags (freeing poor fragile items), then place into backpacks and additional bags; sweat like a prize-winning pig on walk back to Aluminum Princess; perform circus aerial act getting back down into boat with groceries, while trying not to crush or break fragile items; slog back through chop to Sea Life (because it always seems to be choppy); perform final circus act in climbing back onto boat with groceries; find available nooks and crannies in cabinets, fridge and freezer for said stuff; cross fingers that food lasts as long as possible, to delay next grocery outing.

Food specifics: Some things are packaged differently than we’re used to, and we have also found new items that we like. Some examples:

Boxed Milk: This seemed weird to me at first, and I wasn’t keen to try it. However, the taste is just like the refrigerated milk we get at home and there are just as many varieties, if not more.

Since the wording is in Spanish, here is how Scott has interpreted the different types..The woman feeds  her growing child whole milk. The young man, who Scott feels is most like him, drinks reduced fat, and active women choose skim. The couples are lactose intolerant (he’s recognized lactose in Spanish), with more active couples drinking the low fat lactose intolerant kind. We go with Scott’s Spanish version of himself, and what we think is the reduced fat.

Eggs: Found on the shelf as well. It’s always surprising to find far less cracked and broken ones in the packaging than I do at home.

I can buy them in packages of 12, 18, 24 and also in bags of 6.

They range in size, and mix up more easily (both whites and yolks not as thick). We  have been told to turn them every few days, and that they’ll keep for a few weeks. Friends of ours who circumnavigated for 15 years have told us if you coat eggs in Vaseline, sealing the porous shell,  they’ll keep for much longer.

Tomatoes: The only type we’ve seen so far are ones similar to plum tomatoes in the U.S.

This guy didn’t appear rotten on the outside, but when I slice through, it seemed to be sprouting..maybe I should have thrown it in some dirt!

We’ve found that vegetables and fruit in general have a much shorter shelf life. If I wait more than a few days, things rot. Fresh produce and fruit are delivered once a week. I’ve been in the store on days just before a delivery, and the rotting tomatoes could be smelled twenty feet away..ick.

So far, the varieties of fresh stuff that we have to choose from is good. Lettuce and herbs sell very quickly, and are hard to get, but most other items are plentiful (I was chastised harshly for buying packaged spinach when I saw it recently..pricey, at 6.00 a container!) It definitely calls for a bit more menu planning day to day than we’re used to.

Snacks: The selection is limited (we are definitely bagged snack-crazy in the U.S.!) Once in awhile, I’ll find something familiar from home (Cheetoes, and surprisingly Snyders of Hanover pretzels!). Scott likes potato chips with his sandwiches, but we’ve learned to buy them in a can. The stuff in bags are even more crushed than in the states!

Drinks: Things like diet soda and seltzer water are hard to come by. And we miss a larger selection of juices and flavored teas.

It’s also getting harder for Scott to find Coke in cans, as bottles become more and more prevalent. He swears that the carbonation in a can is better. Unfortunately, he has found (and we’ve been told by others) that throughout the Caribbean, it’s flat coke from a bottle when you order a drink. Which has him thinking of byoC (can-of-coke) to the bar!

Packaged Food: We’ve found it strange that things like cereal, crackers and cookies don’t taste the same. Most cookies and crackers, with a few exceptions, are tasteless, and Scott hates the Cheerios that he recently bought. They become mushy immediately, and have no taste. I was excited to find Hellman’s mayonnaise, only to find that the taste wasn’t nearly as good, and the consistency is much more “loose.”

Media Crema: Although I’ve never tried it, crema has become a popular item in the U.S. recently. This media crema has been compared to half and half, but I find it thicker. It’s everywhere, and we have seen it on the shelf and also refrigerated (Hans uses a version that is fresh made for his white pizzas).

I have learned that you can use this to make sour cream. Mix the contents of a small box with two teaspoons of white vinegar (mixing thoroughly after each one). Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, and voila…sour cream!

The check out process is stressful. We are always amazed at how much they cram into the little bags. Even if we try and separate things on the belt, they still get crammed in willy-nilly…and they’re fast little baggers! Scott is thrilled when there’s no one waiting at the end of the belt, and he can load things into our bags as they are rung up.

Walking back to the boat is the most fun. You never realize how heavy your groceries are, until they are loaded on your back and hanging off of each arm. Even when we set out for a lighter shopping trip, the bags still seem to fill up. We end up regretting the six pack of beer, bottle of wine, or cans of coke as we trudge along!

So think of us with a smile, the next time you come out of the store, load 15 plastic bags of groceries into your trunk and hop into the air conditioned goodness of your car to head home!

As we travel, I’ll post about groceries/stores in each location, keeping you in the loop on our quest for food.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

 

 

 

Adios Mexico!!!!

After ten weeks and two days, we are saying goodbye to Isla Mujeres. The wind forecast looks really good for us to make a run for Honduras, so the last few days have been frenzied.

We hopped the ferry to Cancun, and loaded up on things at Walmart that we may not get as easily as we travel south. We’ve learned to take our luggage with us, for easy transport back to the boat. As we prepared to go, Howard decided to try and stow away to Walmart.

We filled both bags and our backpack, and headed back to the island.

The next day, we shared a golf cart with Kevin and Marina, our friends on Lucky Seven. They were taking advantage of the weather window to make a run for Cuba, so we all headed to Chedraui for a big grocery run. We each stuffed our carts full of food and beer. I didn’t think that everything would fit on the golf cart, but we made it work.

Next, it was time to load everything into Kevin’s dinghy. I was sure that we’d have to make two trips, but the guys were determined to make it all fit. There was even room left for the four of us, around the tower of beer. With all that weight, it was a wet ride back to the boat!

After unloading our things, and a quick trip to the dentist for Marina, we stopped for lunch and then rode around the island a bit, before returning the cart. Kevin convinced Scott to take the cart “off road.” As you may imagine, it didn’t take much convincing. I was sure that we’d break an axle on the poor thing.

We also enjoyed one more look at the beautiful eastern coast of the island.

Then it was on to Villa Bella, for margaritas and mojitos. Marina turned 50 on Wednesday, so we took time to celebrate.

On our way back to town, we stopped in at the Soggy Peso, for a quick goodbye to our friends Ron and Delores, who have been so welcoming to us. Their help and advice on all things Isla Mujeres and Cancun were invaluable!

After returning the golf cart, we decided to stop in at the Drunken Mermaid, for 2 for 1 mojitos. Marina spotted a bottle filled with clear liquid and insects. We were told that it was tequila…with scorpions. With the 50th celebration underway, two shots were ordered, complete with icky insects. Before being served up, the stingers are cut off.

An intimidating presentation..

Needless to say, they weren’t the most tasty things. Marina put hers in her mouth, and promptly spit it out. Kevin managed to chew a few times, before doing the same.

On a recommendation from our Drunken Mermaid bartenders, we then went to Olivia’s, and had a great dinner. Dessert came with a sparkler, in honor of Marina’s celebration. Afterward, we stopped to pick up their laundry. There are no self serve laundromats here. You drop off one day, and pick up the next. For a few extra pesos, you can get same day service.

With a big bag of laundry in tow, we headed back to the Drunken Mermaid for one more cocktail, before calling it a night. We were glad to have a chance to celebrate with Marina and Kevin, who we’ve grown quickly attached to.

The next morning, the four of us went back to town to clear out of the country. It took three hours, and went as follows:

We started with some paperwork at the port captain’s office, and then a trip to the local stationary store for a copy of said paperwork. Back to the port captain’s office, and then to the bank, where we paid roughly 24.00. We needed two copies of the receipt for the port captain, so it was back to the stationary store. That receipt goes back to the port captain, then we waited for our paperwork to be filled out. From there, we went to immigration. Thankfully, they made their required copies on site for us..whew. After a few stamps, we were officially cleared out, and ready to leave what has become our temporary home.

We went out for a final dinner nearby, at the Sunset Grill, enjoying time with fellow cruisers who we have come to know and love!

As I type this, we are preparing to raise anchor, head out of the anchorage and break away from the fleet. I am torn, as we have come to love it here. It’s hard to leave friends that we’ve made, especially ones who are continuing north, and away from our path. There are several that we will cross paths with again, in both Honduras and later in Panama. The thought of familiar faces along the way is comforting.

Our passage to Guanaja (gwa na ha), Honduras will take between 60 and 70 hours, our longest yet. We’re both a bit nervous about the journey. After sitting still for so long, it’s going to be an adjustment as we hit the open ocean again. We’re hoping that the forecast treats us well, and that most of it will be somewhat smooth.

Look for my next post from Honduras, and remember that you can always see where we are through the link on our Where Are We Now page. Adios Mexico, you’ve been good to us!

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

 

Our Last Days In Key West

Our last days in Key West were spent provisioning and watching weather, while we prepared to head toward Mexico. We rented a car and headed to Miami, for some serious provisioning.  After stopping at Total Wine liquor store, Target, Walmart, Petsmart, Whole Foods and Dicks Sporting Goods, the car was stuffed full. By the end of the day, we were lowering the back side windows to load things in. I regretted not upgrading to a larger car, as we drove home without being able to see out of the back side or rear windows!

The drive to Miami is 3.5 hours, and we spent the hole day shopping. By the time we arrived back in Key West and unloaded, it was almost midnight, and we were spent. The next day, I headed to the grocery store on Key West, and again filled the car. The boat is now filled to the brim with food and provisions.

We’ve made great use of the storage under our couch. It was originally a sleeper sofa, and Scott removed the “innards,” giving us a ton of space for all kinds of things!

With an evening left before returning the car, we decided to drive out to the theater on the other end of the island and catch the new Star Wars movie…woohoo!! We thought it was great, and it was a treat to take in a movie before leaving the country.

A big, BIG, treat for me, was receiving a cake from home!! I worked for Sugarbakers Cakes, in Catonsville, MD. They make the best cakes that you’ve ever put in your mouth! Since we left, I’ve been eating cake wherever I can, with no luck. So I asked the girls to make some of my favorites and freeze them. My friend Ted then stepped in to ship them overnight to me. Unfortunately, the size of the boxes made them pretty costly, so I chose to only have one sent (peanut butter truffle..yum!) and he kept the other (red velvet fudge..addictive!!).

The cake arrive in perfect condition, still cold and firm! I cut it into slices, shared only a few with friends at the marina, and froze the rest. I’m hoping to make them last as long as I can, as I fear an overnight to Central America will break the bank!

So we were stocked with provisions and cake, and the weather looked good to head as far as the Dry Tortugas. The only thing left to do was to head out for a farewell evening in town. We headed to some of our favorite spots, as well as some new locations. At a new happy hour spot, we met some retired firefighters from Baltimore County, Md…our neck of the woods! They are now living in Key West, and enjoying warmer winters. We learned that we have several friends in common! I have many good friends who are firefighters and paramedics, and started coming to Key West with a group of them 20 years ago, for the Conch Republic Celebration Week.

Here are some photos of our last days here. I have loved our time in Key West, as this island holds a special place in my heart. There are many, many good memories of time spent here with friends over the years. Every time I return, it warms me to wander the streets and visit familiar spots. As I find more great things to see and do, it makes me want to stay even longer the next time we visit! Thank you Key West, for another great time spent…long live the Conch Republic!

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Our Day On Staniel Cay

Earlier this week, we ventured over to Staniel Cay for the day. There are few options to dock your dingy on the island. You can pay to dock it at the yacht club, but the logistics of our dingy make that difficult. The public beach next to the yacht club is available for free, but you have to anchor off shore and wade in..hmmm. The general store that we visited earlier in the week has a dock behind it, but it’s reserved for their patrons.

There are several places on the island that rent golf carts, the general store being one of them. The idea of a golf cart was fun, and we would also have the most hassle free dockage. We again tied up at the dock behind Isles General, were given a golf cart, and told that there was a battery charger under the back seat should we need it. Hmm…people use golf carts for long periods of time (like playing 18 holes of golf) without needing to charge a battery, but oh well. We were off and running..

We first did a spin through “town,” which consisted of the yacht club, two other restaurants, a church, a clinic and two more grocery stores; the “blue” store and the “pink” store are literally right next to each other.

Pink Store

Blue Store

When getting our golf cart, we’d asked about buying fresh bread. We were told to check at the yellow house, before the blue store. We found the yellow house, just before the blue store like they told us. I expected some kind of bakery, with a sign, but this was definitely someone baking out of their house.

I poked my head into the open side door (of someone’s house) and gave a hello. A woman appeared behind us with a big smile, and asked if we wanted bread. We had a choice of either white or coconut, we chose white. She pulled a saran wrapped loaf off of a shelf, where it sat between her paper goods and various other things. I blocked out the condition of said kitchen where I assumed this bread was baked, paid her 7.00 and we went on our way (the bread, by the way, is terrific!). I’m sure this isn’t the last time we’ll go into someone’s home for what we need.

We continued on, stopping at the “wholesale” liquor store and laundry, where we bought beer and then to the Atlantic side of the island. There are really big houses being built there, complete with ocean views on one side, protected piers on the other, clubhouse, etc. I’m sure this island will look very different in the coming years.

As we continued on, we quickly realized why we were given a charger. Our battery was obviously on the older side, and wasn’t going to last us the entire day. Our golf cart had really hard time on inclines. This was a frustrating, as the hills here are not big by any means. Big, four-wheel drive-type carts would pass right by us, making Scott crazy. We’d rented the cart at 9:30, and by 11:00 we were at a quarter charge, and on the Atlantic side of the island. We decided to head to the yacht club for lunch and a plug-in.

All routes back to the west side of island involved a hill. We chose the one with what seemed to be the smaller hill. Once up that hill, our only road took us up another, bigger hill. Yeesh. Scott got out and walked to the top of the hill to make sure that there was a public road on the other side, and not someone’s private, do-not-enter driveway (this had happened before).

By now, our battery light was blinking, meaning that we were on borrowed time. Trying to save every bit of usable juice we had, Scott got out and pushed, while I floored the gas pedal (ha…if we only had gas!). We just made it up the hill without rolling backward, and Scott got his cardio for the day!

We paused at the top. Scott caught his breath, and we took advantage of the views.

The term “road” was used loosely, for the route down on the other side of the hill. It was a steep decline, made up of ruts and large stones. In addition to being power-challenged, our gimpy little golf cart also lacked good breaks…on a flat surface. The whole way down this stupid “road,” I was terrified that we’d blow one of the tires (which were low on air, so maybe that was harder to do), break an axle or just plain flip over. I prayed that disaster would happened sooner than later. Flipping at a slower speed meant less chance of death.

By the time we reached the bottom, the poor cart was rattling to beat the band. The road bottomed out into a big puddle from the previous night’s downpour, and veered hard right, toward the road to town. Thankfully, no one was coming or going, and Scott mercifully missed the lake-like puddle as we careened to the main road. At this point, I considered an entire liquid lunch. I hoped that their beer was cold.

We literally coasted into the yacht club, and were shown were to plug in (no one around us was plugged in, because their carts worked!).

Our lunch in the bar at Staniel Cay Yacht Club was great (I decided to add solids to my liquid lunch). The James Bond movie, Thunderball, was filmed throughout the Bahamas, and underwater scenes were shot right near the yacht club in Thunderball grotto. There are photos on the wall of the cast, hanging out at the bar. The yacht club has been around since the late 50s, and seemed to be quite the hangout in the 60s. It’s polished up a bit since then, but still has a great atmosphere.

So we’ve eaten lunch, had some beer and cooled off. It was time to check the battery. On the way, we stopped to see the nurse sharks at the sea wall. The yacht club feeds them, and some were sizable.

Back to the cart. The battery was still blinking bars for “empty.” It was time for a trade in. We managed to get back to the general store, having to push up a small hill along the way. They close from 12-2 for lunch, but we lucked out and found the man who had helped us in the morning behind the counter. We explained our dilemma, and he brought us a replacement cart to use for the rest of the afternoon.

It soon became clear that we had gotten his best cart the first time. This poor thing had an even harder time going up hill. It also made a random, scary, shuddering noise. Determined to see the ocean, we continued on. When we found the ocean path, Scott backed the poor cart up the path as far as it would go…until it stalled. I was now sure that we’d either have to walk back to the other side of the island, or spend the night right where we were. Luckily, we’d had a huge lunch and I had brought plenty of bug spray with me, so we were good either way.

We followed the rest of the path to the ocean over look. The views were beautiful, and we were glad to not be traveling out in it. There were white caps out as far as you could see.

When we returned to the cart, it had half a charge, and she thankfully started up for us. We headed back to the yacht club for another drink, and another shot at a better charge. Here’s our second, even sadder ride.

After some mango daiquiris, we gave in and decided to head for the general store. I wanted to make a stop at the blue store along the way, and it was getting close to sunset.

We coaxed the cart up the ant hill of an incline to get to the blue store. This one was half the size of the general store, not offering hardware or auto parts. I grabbed some fresh stuff for salad, more milk, some Ramen noodles and Scott added some cookies to the pile. Here’s the scale the the woman used to weigh my tomatoes. Scott loved it.

We drifted down the ant hill and back onto the main road. There was one more hill that we had to get up, to get to the general store. So once again, I floored it while Scott pushed the even bigger cart up the hill. The cart shuddered it’s way into the general store lot, and we left her to die. All in all, it was a fun way to see the island, and was worth the hassle and the heavy breathing.

On our way home, we stopped at the yacht club’s fuel dock, for gas. They are the only location on the island that offers fuel, and regularly run out! We’d heard on the vhf radio (aka island phone) that they currently had fuel so we stopped. It was comical how high the fuel dock was.

We paid for our 5.35 a gallon to fill the tanks for the Aluminum Princess and then headed back to the boat. Quite a day!

Here are the rest of our Staniel Cay photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grocery Run

Yesterday we ventured out to one of the three general stores on Staniel Cay. We’ve read that it’s one of the best stocked around and they also have a dock that we can tie up to, which is always a plus. I’ve stocked the boat with a lot of canned goods, rice, pasta, sauces and such, but wanted to get some fresh foods.

We arrived at low tide, so it was a bit of a challenge to tie up the boat and climb up onto the pier, but we managed fine.

Not a bad view from the pier either.

Disposing of trash can be somewhat challenging while cruising. Small islands usually don’t have dumps and trash service. However, Staniel Cay does have a dump, and the general store will take your trash, so we brought it along (Scott is still loving his big straw hat).

It was HOT, HOT, HOT inside! Within minutes, I was soaked in sweat. Aside from being a sweat box, they managed to fit a lot into the relatively small space. We found groceries to the right. Below is the produce section; this is all there is. We grabbed bananas, green and red peppers, avocados, romaine lettuce and “pink” tomatoes. Canned goods, crackers, sodas and such are at the back wall.

The baskets stuffed with food on the floor belong to crew members who were buying things for a charter yacht. We felt bad for the locals, as these guys put a dent in the fresh stuff. Stores on the island get their stock from the mail boats that come once a week, so these greedy shoppers irritated Scott to no end. He gave them the stink eye the whole time we were there.

Along the wall is the refrigerated and frozen food section. One refrigerator was empty, but the other had milk, eggs, butter, sliced and block cheese, some juices and sodas, yogurt, and limes. One freezer held chicken, beef, hot dogs, steaks and lunch meat. The other had frozen vegetables (peas, mixed veg., corn on the cob and broccoli) and ice cream (one flavor of Breyers, and some Klondikes). How someone, in a car or boat, was going to get ice cream back home without it  turning to liquid is beyond me. You’d have to bring your spoon to the store. Even then, you’d have to race to eat it in that sweat box.

Through the openings is the side which has hard goods.

Paper products and “household” items were in the far corner. Jewelry and nautical charts were on either side (of course). I grabbed a box of quart-sized, Ziploc freezer bags….for 7.75!!

The last corner held tubs of interesting miscellaneous items.

In the center of the store were boat and motor parts and chemicals, cleaning and laundry items, hardware items, charcoal and snorkel masks. There were also racks with cards and videos. I meant to get photos of this stuff, too, but by then I had sweat in my eyes.

We were held up checking out, because the charter crew had so much stuff. The woman behind the counter looks up the prices in a binder, and adds it up on a calculator. Once it was finally all boxed and totaled, their card didn’t go through. Mercifully, another crew member appeared and payed with cash. By this time, sweat was running down my entire body. I was afraid that it was going to start to pool on the floor at my feet.

While we were waiting, a local man cut in front of us, wanting to pay for a can of WD-40 spray. They couldn’t ring him up, because the register was tied up with the greedy crew. The can was $12.00, and he had a 20.00 bill. The woman told him to come back for the change on Monday (they are closed on Sundays)…HA! How would that go over in the US?

Finally, it was our turn to check out. As she weighed my peppers, the woman thankfully let me know that, by the way, your red pepper is $6.00! ONE red pepper! It promptly went back to the bin. Our little basket of things came to $87.00. We loaded our cold items (which were now half warm) into the cooler bag we’d brought, and headed back to the boat. I managed to not succumb to heat stroke, and we are now experienced island shoppers!

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Our Wait Is Over..Bahamas Here We Come!

As you may have guessed, we did not leave for the Bahamas this morning as planned. The winds in the ocean have finally changed direction, but haven’t died down to a comfortable or tolerable level (for me and Howard, that is).

Yesterday, we went to shore for a final (yes, final!) provisioning run. The shoreline on Key Biscayne is made up of private homes, condominium properties, and the local yacht club, so getting to shore with a dingy is limited. For 8.00, you can tie up to the wall at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park (a mouthful) and enter into Key Biscayne from there.

So, we loaded up the Aluminum Princess with ourselves, our two bikes, two bike baskets, three huge bags of trash, two backpacks and a soft sided cooler for cold items (also a partridge in a pear tree and the kitchen sink), I am soo upset with myself, for not taking a picture of this spectacle. Seriously, we looked like a band of gypsies coming ashore. I’m sure that the patrons of the waterfront restaurant were concerned when we tied up and started off-loading all off of that stuff. And, I’m sure that eyebrows were raised when they saw us go from trash can to trash can along the wall, stuffing our bags in and jamming the lid closed (they were smaller cans, our bags filled them right up…oops).

Once aboard our bikes, baskets in place and backpacks at the ready, we pedaled our way through the park and into Key Biscayne. HA! It was quickly clear that we were definitely not locals! I didn’t see another fold-up bike all day, and there seemed to be one Chevrolet for every 10 Lexus or Mercedes. The medians are immaculately manicured, and lined with palm trees that are lit from below in the evenings. We shared the sidewalks with runners and nannys with strollers.

Our first stop was Ace Hardware. Scott came out wondering how the little bag in his hand had come up to 50.00. On our way to Island Sporting Goods (turns out that duct tape and zip ties can’t fix everything..the flippers are toast), we past 7-11. There must have been at least 20 people inside in line for food; cheap eats, I guess. Scott got himself a new pair of flippers, and a big straw hat. I had to beg him to cut the tag off of it. It was bad enough that we were the island gypsies without him looking like Minnie Pearl. He finally humored me and cut the stupid thing off.

We then went to Winn Dixie with our “Oops, I forgot….” grocery list. It’s always hard to gauge how much is gonna fit in our backpacks and baskets, and how much cold space you have. I always expect that we’ll have to leave some of our food behind on the sidewalk, but it hasn’t happened yet. I was getting pretty hungry, but the line for prepared food was insanely long. Obviously, the local workers know where to save a buck. My idea of having lunch in town quickly abated. My stomach would have to growl it’s way back to the boat, and a lunch meat sandwich!

When we came out to the bikes, I ditched as much of the packaging as I could, lightening the load a bit. As usual, we made it all fit and left with both baskets full, as well as the milk crate strapped to the back of Scott’s bike. Each of us was wearing a backpack full of food and Scott had an umbrella that he’d bought sticking up off the back of his bike. Our gypsy look was complete.

We’ll finally make our crossing to Bimini tomorrow, leaving at 4am! Scott spent the day looking at weather and pacing in and around the boat. He’s so excited to finally go, after two weeks of waiting, I don’t know how he’ll get any sleep tonight.

The trip should take 7-10 hours, landing us there mid-day. This is our target time, so that the coral in the shallow waters is most visible for navigation. We plan to clear customs, load up on Scott’s favorite rum and purchase a sim card for internet data usage while we’re here, when we can find a good signal. After a night at the pier we’ll continue on, visiting the Berry Islands and Eleuthera over the next few weeks.

I plan to upload posts whenever we have good internet, so stay tuned for updates. As of our next post, Sea Life will be international (and so will Howard)!

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”