Boating in the Bahamas, East Coast, and Florida

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BOATING IN THE BAHAMAS, EAST COAST & FLORIDA
By Betsi Hill
 

 

There’s something magical about the early morning solitude on the water. Watching the sun slowly make its way above the horizon as the sky turns shades of pink, red, and orange is breathtaking. Sitting on the bridge of our 34’ catamaran Saltwater Gypsea sipping a cup of coffee, this scene plays over and over again wherever we might find ourselves – along the East coast of the US, or in the Bahamas.

This is how my husband Jim and I, along with our 10-year old Maltese rescue Zach, spend up to six months a year. We are semi-nomads. Our land-based home is on the water on North Hutchinson Island, Florida, but the ocean is in our blood. As a freelance writing and photography couple, we take our work with us.

 

We’ve been boating and exploring together for the last thirty years and hope to be doing the same for the next thirty years. We began exploring the waterways along Virginia and Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay area and then gravitated to sailing offshore to the Bahamas about ten years ago.

 

On one of our first trips to the Bahamas, we left Norfolk, VA about 8 pm one evening on board our first catamaran Two Sheets to the Wind. Jim and our friend Bruce took the evening watches, and I went below for 8 hours of sleep. The next morning I stepped out in the cockpit with my cup of coffee and was amazed to see this enormous wave to our stern. I asked Jim how high it was and he calmly responded “about 20 feet.”

 

 

Why Boating?

Growing up in Virginia my parents were big boating fanatics. I was put on a sailboat when I was just six months old, and have never stopped boating. My dad would take off summers, and we would sail up the Chesapeake Bay, stopping and exploring some fantastic waterfront towns.

 

Jim grew up on the island of Guam in the Pacific. At 15 he sailed from Guam to Long Beach, California on a 27’ Cheoy Lee with the father of a friend and his son. The sea is so much a part of both of our lives and plays an integral role in our work as freelancers.

 

2013 was a turning point for us as we sold our Virginia Beach home and moved aboard our newly purchased 47’ sailing catamaran, Indigo, in Norfolk, Virginia.

 

We certainly did not sit idle at the marina dock – we took one to two-week sailing trips up and down the Chesapeake Bay, getting our two dogs used to sailing and life onboard. But we were feeling the tug to get back over to the Bahamas.

 

Life Aboard and the Big Bahamas Adventure

Mid-April 2014 found us setting sail with the Bahamas in our sights. We left the Norfolk Harbor, headed for the Bahamas. This trip was all blue water as we were 50+ miles offshore from the US coast.

 

We had a couple of extra crew with us on this trip, which made the watch standing schedule a little easier. Fresh fish was on the menu almost daily, and life was good! Arriving at the West End on Grand Bahama, we cleared customs and sent our crew back to the states.

 

Leaving Grand Bahama, we slowly made our way to the Abacos, and felt like we were home! We spent time anchoring in little coves and exploring numerous cays. We’d spend our days snorkeling, swimming, and finding the best beaches. Then we’d make our way over to civilization to pick up provisions, and of course, making a stop at the local beach bar.

 

For boaters and tourists alike the local beach bar is like the post office: a place to meet and chat. The locals love to share their slice of paradise and will direct you to some of the favorite hangouts. We’ve met some fascinating locals this way.

 

At Man-O-War Cay we met Andy Albury, a local woodworking artist who comes from a long line of boat builders, dating back to the 1800s. Andy took a liking to Jim and me, and we spent many an afternoon just hanging around his shop and talking.

 

We met Kevin Macintosh, lead guitarist for the Gully Roosters at the Bluff House Marina and Resort on Green Turtle Cay. Kevin chatted about his passion for music and the unique sound of the Gully Roosters, the #1 Band in the Nation.

 

After several years of sailing on Indigo, we made the hard decision to sell her in 2017. We had made a permanent move into a home on the water in Florida, and Indigo did not fit our current lifestyle.

 

Where We Are Now

Our adventures continue onboard our 34’ power catamaran Saltwater Gypsea. Gypsea has undoubtedly spoiled us, as she has so much room, a gorgeous galley area, watermaker, and washer onboard.

 

We’ve taken her across to the Bahamas on two trips, and are planning a third trip in the Spring of 2019. We’re continuing to explore the coast of Florida from Fort Pierce to the Keys, and spent twelve weeks last summer down in the Keys searching out the best beach bars and tiki bars these islands have to offer. We’ve made friends with some of the locals and have had a heck of an adventure.

 

One of our most memorable adventures was heading to the Dry Tortugas by seaplane to explore Fort Jefferson. Imagine being just 500 feet off the water, and looking down and seeing huge sand dunes under the water, hundreds of sea turtles gracefully swimming along, and sharks so numerous you couldn’t count them. We were even able to see the wreck of the Northwind, a Mel Fisher Treasure Salvor’s salvage vessel that went down while working on the Atocha find off the Marquesas.

 

Once on Garden Key, you’ll have a chance to explore the Fort, sunbathe, and snorkel the Fort. The visibility is usually good, and the day we were there we saw a Goliath Grouper, a school of tarpon, a collection of reef fish, and lots of lobster. It is breathtaking to see coral fans, so many species of fish, the occasional lobster or octopus and other sea creatures that call the ocean home.

 

Jim and I have no intentions of stopping our boating adventures! In addition to a Spring trip to the Keys, we’ll be heading over to The Bahamas for a writing assignment on sustainable travel, and are contemplating a trip up the East Coast of the US this summer; unless we just decide to stay in The Bahamas, and play in the water and sip Bahama Mamas on a beach somewhere!

Betsi Hill, a sought-after freelance writer, resides in South Florida. She writes on travel, food, wine, libations, history, and culture. Her focus areas are Florida, the South, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean, with travel by land or by sea onboard Saltwater Gypsea, her 35’ power catamaran. Like an artist painting on canvas, Betsi paints pictures of her travels with words and photographs (courtesy of her husband Jim, a freelance photographer). Her passion shines through in her writing as she brings readers along with her for the journey. She seeks the story behind the restaurant, the distillery, winery or destination, allowing others to see behind the scenes. Follow her adventures on www.BetsiWorld.com

International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association

 

 


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About the Author:

Betsi Hill, a sought-after freelance writer, resides in South Florida. She writes on travel, food, wine, libations, history, and culture. Her focus areas are Florida, the South, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean, with travel by land or by sea onboard Saltwater Gypsea, her 35’ power catamaran. Like an artist painting on canvas, Betsi paints pictures of her travels with words and photographs (courtesy of her husband Jim, a freelance photographer). Her passion shines through in her writing as she brings readers along with her for the journey. She seeks the story behind the restaurant, the distillery, winery or destination, allowing others to see behind the scenes.

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