This past year has been a big learning curve for us. For sure, there have been big surprises, like lots of engine work, but there have also been many little surprises along the way too, which have made the journey just a tad more interesting.
Here are our top five surprises from our first year:
First – No bugs!
Mike and I thought that living in the hot Caribbean would mean a lot of bug management on the boat. We had read many articles and posts about not bringing cardboard onto the boat as they are likely full of roach eggs (yikes!) and that the mosquitos down south would be a lot to handle. Yeesh, this was not something I was looking forward too. Back home in the Thousand Islands, I was constantly fighting to combat bugs. Mosquitos during the day, no-see-ums at dusk and spiders all the time. Well, so far, bugs are a non-issue for us in the Caribbean. We have taken cardboard onto the boat on several occasions throughout our trip and have never suffered for it. We also never put the screens in our hatches, preferring to allow as much wind to flow through the boat as possible. Mosquitos seem to be more of a land issue, thankfully. And spiders? I have not seen any on the boat, I mean, not even one, since we left the New York State canals. At anchor, we are blissfully bug-less 😊.
Second – How challenging it would be to get stuff
We had no idea how difficult it would be to get stuff along the way on this journey, that includes deliveries, marine supplies and our groceries. I mean, we knew we would have to walk to grocery stores and that walk would sometimes be long. We just didn’t realize how many towns along the New York State canals, in the Chesapeake, along the AICW (Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway) and further south in the Caribbean, wouldn’t have stores at all. Or, if there were stores, that they would be only marginally stocked and the size of a convenience store back home. Thankfully, my ultra-conservative self decided to stock up on lots of groceries and house supplies before we left Canada. When a good store couldn’t be found, we simply shopped on Wild Horses!
Marine supplies were similar. It wasn’t always easy finding a marine store and when we did, we couldn’t always find the right parts. It was a big surprise that something as simple as an oil filter for our Westerbeke engine could not be found once we left the United States. Truth be told, knowing what we know now, we could have done better with our spare parts before we left Canada. Too often, we had to borrow from our boat buddies until we could get the part we needed.
The other challenge was getting deliveries like warranty parts, bank or credit cards, SIM cards and amazon deliveries while travelling. When the weather was good, we wanted to keep moving and it was painful to have to stop and wait for a delivery to arrive. In Grenada, getting those same deliveries is a huge and expensive process. For example, it would have cost $130 CAD to get our replacement bank cards couriered from home. Yikes! Thankfully, a cruiser friend was able to bring them back for us when they flew back to Grenada from Canada.
Third – The beers keep getting smaller
How is this even possible? So unfair…
Fourth – What a blend of people we would be cruising with
Of course, we figured we would meet people from around the world (and we have) but what was surprising was the wide variety of people from all walks of life that are cruisers. Our little anchorage alone is full of retired (or working!) lawyers, business owners, government workers, realtors, medical people, police officers, teachers, tradespeople, kids, animals, young people, older people and everything in between. You name it, we got it. This diversity was hugely highlighted one afternoon when a young lad and his friends were fishing off the docks. All of a sudden, there was screaming. One of the young boys had gotten a fish hook in his cheek. Yeesh! Within minutes, several cruisers were on the scene. A numbing agent was applied by a retired dentist, then a retired ER doctor removed the hook while a retired nurse assisted. Incredible!
Fifth - Ocean’s popularity with the locals
We were definitely unprepared for how much attention Ocean would get on our travels. From our first moments in the Bahamas and all through the Caribbean, Ocean has caused a stir. Locals react strongly to her, in a very respectful and positive way. Kind of like she is a loaded weapon. Eyes become wide as we walk down the street. Women usually give her a wide berth and say “woo-wee, that is a big dog” while guys will challenge each other to get close to her. Almost everyone will finally ask to meet her though and when they see how calm she is, well, then they want to know if she can have puppies (she can’t). They want a dog just like her. And once we throw on her sunglasses to take off in the dinghy, it is game over. We get big smiles from everyone, or a thumbs up. It is an incredibly fun experience for us and we have met so many wonderful people. And the word spreads. Walking along a roadside or arriving at a dock, people we have never met will ask “Is that Ocean”? Well, yes it is! Our little girl is pretty popular!
These surprises are exactly why we are enjoying this lifestyle so much. Not all of it is fun but all of it keep us captivated and on our toes! 😊
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Victoria is a hiker, dog-lover, blog writer and planner extraordinaire. Oh, yeah and she is kind of fond of living on a boat.