Sailing Puerto Rico – Video

In this new Sailing Puerto Rico video, episode 12 in our fifth season, we show you our first stop in Puerto Rico – Marina Pescaderia. We explain why our plan was to skip several islands and head straight to Antigua. We discuss the need to collect departure papers from US Customs and Immigration before leaving Puerto Rico.

We’ll also show you our day of provisioning and sight seeing in addition to the arrival of our boat buddies Pura Vida and Rondo. We’ll then show you some of the most breathtaking sights of Antigua, the city of San Juan Puerto Rico by air, our passage plan to our next anchorage and sights of Gilligan’s Island.

Sailing Puerto Rico Video

Resources mentioned in this Sailing Puerto Rico video

Marina Pescaderia article and video review. Read my article and watch this review if you plan on sailing from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico. Heck – check this marina out even if you plan on skipping Puerto Rico. We know so many people that meant to skip PR only to get stormbound there.


If you haven’t done so already, make sure to get ‘Passages South’ for sailing directions from Florida to South America.

It’s not the best book in the world and the author has a bit of a chip on his shoulder but there’s some very good information in here.

You can get the book on Amazon here: Passages South

 


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Sailing the Caribbean – A journey update

Can you imagine one day enjoying quiet sundowners with your fellow buddy boats, in a secluded calm harbor, and then the next day sailing the Caribbean through massive Atlantic swells, turbulent frothy white waves and at least one dark gusty squall?

Contrast beautiful green lush mountainous rainforests, brown and black volcanic beaches and the deep blues of a safe anchorage with sporadic passages filled with bumps, crashes, banging in addition to salt and fresh rain water dousing’s.

The term whirlwind most aptly describes life on Britican for the past month.

We’ve travelled nine islands in less than 30 days.

Sailing The Caribbean

We left the British Virgin Islands on May 10th (American Mother’s Day) and since then have MOTORED (not sailed) to Saba, St Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat and Antigua. After Antigua we have been able to finally SAIL, heading south instead of east, making life much better. We’ve sailed to Guadalupe, Dominica, Martinique and I’m currently sitting on our boat in St Lucia.

Motoring east from the Dominican Republic to Antigua was fairly horrible.

Even though we picked days when the trade winds where blowing the least and the swell was as small is possible the passage was still terrible. Yes – terrible. If it wasn’t for the promise of yet another incredibly amazing island and more special memories to make with our several boat buddies, I’m not sure how I’d last.

Heading east along the Caribbean is not fun. I often think that new sailors have no idea what they’re getting themselves into.

Winds are always on the nose, the bow is always crashing into the waves and the roll of the boat is nonstop. Water almost always finds a way into the boat. We have had to wait days and even weeks for the weather and sea state to be acceptable to make a passage. And ‘acceptable’ is nowhere near the right word. I’m not even sure that ‘tolerable’ makes the grade.

Thankfully, however, the passages are relatively short. There’s only one overnight passage necessary from Puerto Rico down to the bottom of the Caribbean. Most passages are three to eight hours at most.

Sailing The Caribbean

And like I mentioned, the destination is always incredible. Always.

So, we’re heading through the Caribbean rather quickly right now. Hurricane season has started so we need to be in a position to get out of dangers way if a storm starts to form. We usually have five to ten days notice. Every day we check the National Hurricane Center – so far, we’ve seen, ‘there is no threat of a hurricane for the next five days.’ I like seeing that message.

Grenada used to be the safe haven where cruisers would ride out a hurricane season but since the 2018 hurricane season many insurance providers won’t fully cover boats anywhere in the Caribbean – Grenada included.

Our plan is to head to Trinidad if and when a storm threatens to head our way.

Sailing The Caribbean

Otherwise, we’ll hang in Grenada as much as possible. So far, Trinidad has not been subject to a hurricanes path. Looking at the the map, however, one might be concerned about the proximation of Trinidad to Venezuela. Venezuela is not a place sailors or any visitors want to visit. A few years ago there were pirates or water criminals in the area but nothing has been reported recently. Let’s hope it stays that way.

After living through one tropical storm and two major hurricanes last year I’ll do almost anything to ensure my family, boat and I are out of harms way. Never did I consider the emotional, mental and even physical drain a hurricane can take out of you. My husband and I would spend three days getting the boat ready and move Britican to the safest location (out of a marina and anchored up an inland river). We’d then leave the boat, wait for the hurricane to pass all the time wondering if she’d be there upon our return. More on that, read Sailboat Hurrican Plan – Anchoring up a river.

I never ever ever want to seen the sight of another hurricane.

Sailing The Caribbean

Monsterrat

The most magical season yet!

Bad motoring conditions and hurricane aside, I have to say that this fifth sailing season of ours, however, has been the most magical season yet. In the Bahamas we met several cruisers and since then we’ve been buddy boating with at least two other boats and sometimes up to ten other boats at a time.

At every anchorage we have a group of friends. We’ve enjoyed volcano tours, mountain hikes, historical walks, waterfalls, incredibly tasty Spanish/Caribbean/French/Danish/WestIndian foods, potluck dinners, group provisioning stops, zip lines, snorkeling, taco Tuesdays, sharing our fresh catch and loads and loads of laughs.

There are two other boats with us that are kid boats.

Sailing the Caribbean

Sailing vessels Pura Vida and Rondo

Since the Bahamas our daughter has had at least four other children to play with and at other times there have been loads more.

Being able to buddy boat with other kid boats has truly made our season outstanding. In the past we’d buddy boat with kid boats for a week, month or two but inevitably one of us had to go a different way.

This year there are so many kid boats heading to Grenada that we’ve been blessed with loads of kids.

The children get their homeschooling done in the morning and then afterwards they swim, snorkel, drag the parents to an ice cream shop or simply sit around and chat kid stuff. The great majority of the time they’re outside on the floating mat, swimming or off on some sort of excursion but from time to time, especially on passages, you’ll also find them creating a network to play Minecraft.

On one of the buddy boats there’s a lovely 13-year-old boy named Michael.

He started off the season making cookies and selling them to other boats. His technique was incredible – he offered the cookies for free for a while making all the boaters addicted. Once we all craved the cookies, he started putting a price on them. We surely didn’t mind paying for them!

In the Virgin Islands, Michael sold his cookie business to his 10-year-old sister, Katelyn. She’s been doing a great job keeping the business going. Our daughter puts in an order often! And for birthday’s Katelyn gives a free dozen to the birthday girl or boy. Katelyn is almost always smiling and eager to chat. She’s full of light!

Michael has now transitioned into operating a fishing lurer business. Cruisers from far and wide visit his boat to put an order in. Once again, if you’re lucky to have a birthday and Mike is around you might just get a lurer too! Both of the kids on Rondo are beautiful – inside and out. A testament to the amazing parents they have.

Saba

On another boat there’s a boy named Heyward and he is quite special.

It seems that Hayward and Sienna are quite smitten – both eight years old. When they’re together they’re always very close. It’s an innocent closeness but no on can deny that they have some sort of beautiful bond with each other. And the recent rumor going around is that a dare was made for Sienna to kiss Heyward. Needless to say, Simon is keeping his eye on Heyward now.

Making things even more special is the friendship Sienna has with Heyward’s older sister, Katie Grace (KG) – nine years old. KG is beautiful, kind, chatty and eager to talk about anything and everything. Whether the three of them are together or just Sienna and Heyward or Sienna and KG they are so loving to each other. (Again – testament to the great parents they have.)

In fact, all the children seem to play together as if they’re a family. Sure, there are fights from time to time but the love they have for each other is truly remarkable. I often overhear compliments about how great a drawing is or one of the kids telling another kid, ‘Don’t say that – you are amazing. You’re perfect just the way you are.’

There’s no bullying. There’s no leaving anyone out.

Sailing The Caribbean

Katelyn, Sienna, Katie Grace and Heyward

When problems arise and the kids can’t work it out the parents help out.

We often talk as a group letting the children know that it’s normal to get angry. It’s normal to get irritable. It’s okay to argue or stand your ground but it’s not okay to hurt someone or lash out. And when new kid boats are in the anchorage or mooring field the kids go over and introduce themselves. Instantly all the kids seem to act as if they’ve known each other for a long time. Boat kids seem to be tolerant, inclusive and eager to have a good time. They’re amazing.

And while the kids are doing business, playing in the water or having a tickle fight, the adults are enjoying each other’s company. Most nights we eat together. One boat will host with a main meal and the others bring appetizers and side dishes. If we’re not eating on the boat, we’ll grab a lovely meal on shore.

We share car rentals to go get provisions or see the sights.

And when we’re sailing we keep each other up to date with changing conditions, crab pot sightings and ask for help if something breaks or goes wrong.

Sailing the Caribbean

Cane Garden, BVI – Rondo, Cool Change, Vela, Savanah

Not everything is all rosy though. We all have our down times. We receive the news of a death in the family or problems back home. We get homesick and question our future. We wake up on the wrong side of the bed. But for some reason our down days are few and far between. I’m not sure how the other boaters feel but I feel so comforted by the fact that I have a network of dear friends around me. They provide me with a sense of stability – something that is hard to find in our lifestyle.

Surely we’re just like gypsies. I always frowned upon their way of life but now that I’m one of them I can certainly see the benefits.

When listening to people tell me about the ‘good ole days,’ I often think to myself…’I never want to reflect back to the good ole days.’ I want all my days to be good – indefinitely. In other words, I don’t want to get stuck in a time period of my life thinking it was the best time of my life.

That being said…if I do get stuck I’m almost positive I will be stuck focusing on the incredible times I’ve had with my dear boat buddies on Pura Vida and Rondo. And those that we bump into every other harbor – Carpe Ventum, Sea Yawl, Vela, Savanah, Temerity, Dauntless, Cool Change, Serena 1 and Love & Luck.

It sure had been a whirlwind but WOW…what a trip we’re on 🙂

Sailing the Caribbean

Montserrat

That said, what’s next?

As long as a hurricane doesn’t head this way anytime soon we’ll sail St Vincent and the Grenadines down to Grenada and hang out in this area for the next several months. We might head over to Bonaire or just hang in Grenada. I suppose it all depends on where the kids are and what our boat buddies want to do.

Our lives are not predictable at all but over time there is a sense of routine in our unplanned way of life.

There are lows and there are highs but as I’ve said time and time again I can’t think of a more fulfilling life than the one’s we have. I’m ever so grateful that I took an absolutely scary leap of faith, quit my job and moved aboard Britican.

Sailing The Caribbean

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Marina Pescaderia Puerto Rico – A review

Rough seas suck. Pounding into the wind, waves and swell is not fun. Feeling like you’re in a washing machine is not fun either. Why do many of us sailors do it? Why do we put ourselves through crappy passages?

Well, I suppose it’s because we know that the positives outweigh the negatives. We know that within days or hours we’ll be safely anchored or in a marina enjoying a new destination – eating new foods, taking in new sights and essentially getting out to see and experience the world.

Is there anything, however, that can make a passage better?

Heck yes! There’s two things that make a passage easier. The first is good food on the passage. That means making sure you have a yummy home cooked enjoyable meal. Some of my favorites are chili con carne, pasta bake, shepherds pie or soft tacos. I also make sure to have loads of snacks and sweets on hand. Some sailors even go to the extent to make a ‘passage pie’ to eat!

Aside from having good food (prepared before the passage) the other thing that makes life so much better is knowing that you’re going to arrive somewhere calm, beautiful and relaxing.

That ‘somewhere’ might be a nice marina with good facilities or it could be a deserted beach with no swell and perfect blue waters.

When crossing the Mona Passage, an overnight journey that we recently made, I knew it wasn’t going to be nice. We had to beat into the wind and waves using our engine most of the way. The Mona Passage is the waterway between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. It’s notoriously not nice.

However…we had things all sorted out. Our food was prepared and our destination spot was chosen. Although we never paid a visit to Marina Pescaderia before, we were certain it would be a welcoming destination.

Marina Pescaderia Puerto Rico Review

Marina Pescarderia was not great…

It was fantastic. In comparison to a supposed top-notch marina like the Charleston Harbor Marina (read and watch my review of that dump here: Charleston Harbor Marina Review) it was on the other end of the spectrum. No – it didn’t have pools and fancy restaurants but it had solid and safe docks, clean and well kept facilities, a restaurant/bar that didn’t cost a fortune and the best customer service we’ve ever experienced.

So, allow me to tell you a bit about Marina Pescaderia…

Marina Pescaderia is one finest and most convenient locations in the west region of Puerto Rico. It’s located on Puerto Real Bay, Cabo Rojo.

Customer Service

As mentioned above the customer service provided by Jose and his staff was 10 out of 10. Previous to our arrival we sent packages to the marina that Jose kept safe for us. Since Puerto Rico is part of the United States getting Amazon deliveries is easy. Getting packages easily does not happen easily within the rest of the Caribbean (or the Bahamas)!

Jose met us at the dock as we entered our slip. He helped us get all the lines on and then sat and chatted with us for a while. Instantly, my husband and I knew he was a genuine, kind and caring man.

Jose also helped us to source a technician to help us with our engine, a few rigging issues and a driver to take us to the airport and back. We also rented a care a couple times and all we had to do is walk to the end of the jetty and our car was waiting for us. Unbelievably it was often waiting for us with the air-conditioning already turned on!

Marina Pescaderia Puerto Rico Review

Britican is the bottom boat 🙂

Scenery

Some marinas are ugly. This is not one of those. There’s a beautiful bay to look out at with loads of pelicans diving, manatee’s popping up for air and a variety of fish swimming by.

Comfort of Mooring

Our boat barely moved in our slip. We had the best night sleep at Marina Pescaderia.

Noise Levels

In the early morning you can hear roosters crow and birds chirp. During the evening there’s a bit of music from the local restaurants and bars but it’s turned off rather early. There’s a little noise from the road but overall it’s quite peaceful.

General Atmosphere on the Pontoon

All the static live aboards we met up at the bar were friendly and chatty. They meet every Monday at the bar taking advantage of the empty area. The bar is closed on Monday’s. We shared a jetty with a few other live aboard cruisers making their way south. It didn’t take long before we all decided to meet on one boat for drinks and pizza.

Facilities on the Jetty

There’s water, electricity and wifi on the pontoons. Everything worked for us. You can also get Diesel and gasoline in addition to a pump out.

Facilities on Land

Once you leave the dock and head to towards the facilities, you’ll find a washing machine and dryer that works great, spacious bathrooms with fantastically pressured warm showers, a restaurant with ample seating area, fish market (that can be a wee bit stinky!), the marina office and a mini market, a marine electronics store and a fishing tackle and bait shop. You’ll also find the marina office with Jose the owner/manager.

Outside the marina there’s a small town with residential homes, a few bars and fish restaurants, some grocery stores, and an absolutely incredible bakery (make sure to order any one of their amazing submarine type sandwiches and stop by for breakfast too – the value for money is incredible).

Within twenty minutes, you have access to anything and everything you can imagine. There’s a Sam’s Club, Walmart, Home Depot, pharmacies, banks and more. If you like American fast food chains, you’ll find them all in Puerto Rico! And if you need something from West Marine, a marine chandlery, you tell Jose what you need and he’ll get it delivered for you. Marina Pescaderia is a West Marine Certified dealer. The closest West Marine is in San Juan if you want to drive to it – a 2 1/2 hour drive. Having all the great American stores makes Puerto Rico a logical place to provision before heading southeast along the Caribbean.

Shower Stalls

They’re great. The water is high pressure. The stalls are very spacious. It’s a very nice shower after a turbulent passage.

Repairs, maintenance and servicing

Upon arrival Jose will provide you with a 10-page guide on marina facilities, vessel technicians and mechanics and things to do in the surrounding and greater area.

We had some electrics on our alternator repaired in addition to a few rigging issues fixed. Everyone that Jose recommended to us responded quickly and did a great job.

Anything negatives?

Well…I have to say that it’s not a fancy marina. But then again, you’re not paying a fancy price. At $1/foot/night we felt that we got value for our money. We felt very safe, comfortable and at ease. The staff and other boaters were kind and helpful. It was an enjoyable stop and we’ll certainly return in the future.

To get more information about marina Pescaderia visit the website here: https://www.marinapescaderia.com/

Marina Pescaderia Puerto Rico – A review

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Sailing Across The Mona Passage

If you fail to plan for sailing across the Mona Passage, the waterway between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, you might find yourself in some majorly harsh sea conditions. I’m talking about big swells, big waves and big winds. You can also throw in a few potential thunderstorms too!

The Mona Passage is not a waterway to take lightly.

So, most cruisers heading south to the Caribbean stop in the Dominican Republic (DR) to wait for a good time to cross the Mona Passage.

We tried to sail from Turks & Caicos to Puerto Rico directly, skipping the DR and quickly discovered it wasn’t possible. As we rounded down along the top northeast corner of DR the sea state became horrific.

It’s not too often that I can say that we had troubles keeping in our seats.

We were heading into huge waves with big swells hitting us on the side of the boat. The wind was over 30 knots and we were getting battered. It was worse than a washing machine – it was a washing machine that was being tossed in the air while on spin cycle.

Simon and I decided to divert into DR to find relief from the harsh conditions. To our absolute delight we stumbled upon one of the nicest marina’s we’ve been to for years. And not only was it nice but it was only $56/night (Only $1/foot/night). The value for money was fantastic – especially when comparing it to the worst marina we’ve ever stayed in, the Charleston Harbor Marina.

The Puerto Bahia Marina is located in Samana Bay.

This marina accommodates boats up to 150 feet length overall, handles deep draft boats, is full service offering everything and anything a cruiser would need. There’s wifi, a mini market, a few restaurants and bars in addition to access to the lovely pools and beautiful lounge areas. We highly recommend stoping at this marina to wait for a weather window to cross the Mona Passage. Check out our video on YouTube showcasing our stay in Puerto Bahia here.

Let me define ‘weather window’ – it’s the term used when a variety of elements come together to ensure a safe and comfortable passage.

As a rule, the trade winds blow in the direction that you need to sail when heading east and south along the Caribbean Islands. They’re often strong and can create quite a bit of chop and high swells.

Sailing Across The Mona Passage

The Mona Passage near Puerto Rico – it became very calm 🙂

A weather window is when a period of low activity in the trades allows for you to sail or motor.

For the most part, the only time that the trades quiet down is when the wind blows lightly from the southeast. Now, you can’t sail straight into the wind so many cruisers motor a direct route or at least the shortest route that is most sensible. Some sailors sail but this will obviously take much longer.

Regardless, the window allows for a far easier and less bumpy voyage to your next destination.

The six things that cruisers look at when determining if a weather window is opening up include the wind direction, wind speed, the height and direction of the waves and the height and direction of the swell.

The key to crossing the Mona Passage is to wait for light winds (under 15knots), no unusual swell with waves no bigger than 4 to 5 feet.

We waited for a few days feeling the pressure to get going.

Our plan was to get to Antigua to meet friends and we not on schedule. In fact, our chances of seeing our friends before they flew back to America were diminishing quickly.

Side note: I write this quite a bit but it’s worth repeating. Never, never, never sail to a schedule. We’ve done it too many times to know that it never works well. You can’t force the weather and sea state to act the way you want it too! And it seems that it’s Murphy’s law that anytime you must get somewhere you never get there OR you get there and you’re almost broken by sailing through bad weather. My advice is to get to a location and then have people fly out to visit. It’s the only way that you can guarantee to see your visitors.

Anyhoo, our weather window eventually arrived.

The plan was to leave just before dusk to take advantage of the night lee but Simon and I got anxious. We left at 3pm. That wasn’t a good decision. The sea state was quite turbulent and I know that if we waited it would have been better. How do I know? Two other boats crossed several hours after us and had a very easy passage.

That aside, we did see whales so that wouldn’t have been noticeable during the evening – silver lining?! Not sure? If you’re planning a trip, keep in mind that the Humpback whales are all around the Dominican Republic December through to March.

Sailing Across The Mona Passage

Here I am preparing myself for the Mona Passage!

Anyway, let me back up and explain ‘night lee’.

Provided the winds don’t exceed 15 knots, you can benefit from the night lee. The night lee creates calm waters following the daytime heating of land. What happens is the land cools quicker than the deep sea which deflects the tradewinds. The larger and higher the land mass the stronger the daytime heating and the calmer the waters will be near land.

So if we did it again, we’d motor along the coast after the sun set. That being said, it wasn’t too bad. Once the sun set the sea became calmer along the coast. And once we headed east into open water it was a bit rocky to start but by midnight it was very calm.

Overnight Simon and I took turns keeping a watch while alternating naps in the cockpit and our daughter Sienna slept like a log all tucked up in bad. There wasn’t much to do or see so we all played on our electronic device of choice. Not once did we see any other boats or ships. And there was very little VHF radio chatter.

Sailing Across The Mona Passage

The sun setting over the Dominican Republic

When the sun came up the sea was very calm and by the time we got to the coast of Puerto Rico, the sea was like glass.

We choose Marina Pescaderia for our first port of entry into Puerto Rico. The marina and manager came highly recommended by other cruisers. We were able to ship stuff to the marina prior to our arrival. The manager, Jose, helped us source parts and technicians and booking into Customs and Immigration was relatively easy from this location.

We stayed in Marina Pescaderia for over a week and Britican stayed there for ten days without us. We eventually realized that we couldn’t make it to Antigua to see our friends by boat so we flew there!

Sailing Across The Mona Passage Video

Resources mentioned in the video

Enjoy more of our season five 2018 articles and episodes here:

Any questions, comments or thoughts?! Leave them below.

Visit our Sailing Britican sailing guides books shop if you’re thinking of buying a boat, are in the process of buying a boat or if you own a boat! All guides are digital. Some hard copy versions are found in our Etsy shop and on Amazon. The guides will help you to save money, avoid making mistakes and ultimately allow you to get out sailing quicker.

Check out our one-of-a-kind nautical t-shirts and other sailing gifts at our Sailing Britican Etsy shop. We have great stuff for men, women and children. Grab a t-shirt, bathing suit cover-up, spices for sailors, nautical pillow covers and more!

Profits from the guides and t-shirts are allowing us to keep this website going but it’s not enough!

If you enjoy what we offer please support us. Buy a guide/guides, a t-shirt, become a Patreon Patron (click the link for more information).

Or donate to the cause  below through Paypal (see button below). Proceeds from the guides, Etsy shop and Patreon supports are keeping these articles and videos free. If you like what you see and want us to continue please support Britican today. (And if you already have, thank you very much!)

The post Sailing Across The Mona Passage appeared first on Sailing Britican.

Turks and Caicos

Introducing our video about our lovely time spent in Turks & Caicos. We sailed from Georgetown, Bahamas to Provo, Caicos. The journey took two nights. We had a few issues on the trip – our genset died and we found an oil leak but the worst was having our backstay go lose.

Watch the video to hear about our adventures, get a tour of the Blue Haven Marina and see some of the amazing sights we came across.

Turks and Caicos Video

Enjoy more of our season five 2018 articles and episodes here:

  • Bahamas Sailing Trip – First Stop Royal Island Part 1 of 2
  • Bahamas Sailing Trip – Royal Island Part 2 0f 2
  • Sailing The Bahamas – Governor’s Harbour
  • Swimming With Pigs In The Bahamas
  • Tunderball Grotto & Iguana Beach in The Bahamas
  • Sailing in The Bahamas – Engine Failure
  • Where To Live Aboard – 13 Benefits To Liveaboard Anchorages (Featuring Georgetown, Bahamas)
  • 8 Steps To Anchoring In A Storm

Any questions, comments or thoughts?! Leave them below.

Visit our Sailing Britican sailing guides books shop if you’re thinking of buying a boat, are in the process of buying a boat or if you own a boat! All guides are digital. Some hard copy versions are found in our Etsy shop and on Amazon. The guides will help you to save money, avoid making mistakes and ultimately allow you to get out sailing quicker.

Check out our one-of-a-kind nautical t-shirts and other sailing gifts at our Sailing Britican Etsy shop. We have great stuff for men, women and children. Grab a t-shirt, bathing suit cover-up, spices for sailors, nautical pillow covers and more!

Profits from the guides and t-shirts are allowing us to keep this website going but it’s not enough!

If you enjoy what we offer please support us. Buy a guide/guides, a t-shirt, become a Patreon Patron (click the link for more information).

Or donate to the cause  below through Paypal (see button below). Proceeds from the guides, Etsy shop and Patreon supports are keeping these articles and videos free. If you like what you see and want us to continue please support Britican today. (And if you already have, thank you very much!)

Turks and Caicos

The post Turks and Caicos appeared first on Sailing Britican.

8 Steps To Anchoring In A Storm

So, what do you do if a storm is on its way and you’re anchored in a harbor? Anchoring in a storm or in high winds is part of the sailing lifestyle. Many storms arrive unannounced and others, although predicted, can turn out to be worse than expected.

Use these eight steps to anchoring in a storm. As a sailor it’s important to understand key steps to ensure your boat and crew are safe. Click To Tweet

After reading the steps make sure to watch my video, located below, showcasing The Big Blow of 2018 in The Bahamas. For three days we were stuck aboard Britican dealing with sustained winds of up to 45 knots and gusts well over 50 knots. The video also shows a catamaran dragging and important information about how we handled the high winds.

Anchoring In A Storm

8 Steps To Anchoring In A Storm

1. Analyze your surroundings

Survey your current anchor spot and determine if it makes sense to move the boat – either to another safer anchorage or to another spot within the anchorage. There are a multitude of factors to consider when analyzing the safety of a harbor; especially when a storm is on its way.

Ideally, you want the wind, when it hits, to blow you away from land and/or any obstructions (rocks, shallows, etc.) in addition to having good holding for your anchor. Look at the forecasts to determine if the wind direction will change and if you can safely swing on your anchor.

Another key consideration is the amount of boats in the anchorage.

With more boats, there are more chances of another boat dragging and hitting you. There’s also the position within the anchorage to consider. If you anchor close to shore and you drag, how many boats will you take out on your way? Or what happens if you get your anchor line fowled in other line?

TIP: We usually choose to anchor the furthest away from land and other boaters in a harbor. Our feeling is that if things get really bad, our best bet is to up anchor and head out into sea away from other boats, land, etc. The downside of doing so is that the wind can often be stronger as there’s less protection from the land.

2. Dive on your anchor.

Wherever you decide to anchor, if it’s possible, make sure to dive down to visually ensure that it’s bedded in. Later on, when the storm hits this action will provide a higher degree of comfort. In many cases it’s not possible to do a visual inspection, but if you could have done it and didn’t, you’ll regret it when the winds start blowing.

When diving, make sure that the anchor is set well. Also take note of the seabed. If you’ve anchored in grass or around grass you might want to switch to an alternative anchorage. When dragging in grass the anchor often gets filled with grass and mud preventing the anchor from being able to reset.

Important note: Many sailors fail to understand the art of anchoring. I think that people assume it’s easy or that it’s just one of those things that comes natural?! If you have any doubt about your knowledge on anchoring and/or whether or not your ground tackle is correct for your boat, this is one aspect where ignorance is not bliss.

Get my step-by-step guide on how to anchor. Not only will it decrease your likelihood of dragging, it will provide you with an increased peace of mind that you prepared properly.

How To Anchor ***READER REVIEW***
“This is was the perfect guide for me to read! We’re about to sail around the Mediterranean for the season and I’ve been waking up night after night worrying about anchoring. Your tips on how to anchor are spot on. No one ever explained it so simple, yet concise. And I love the tip about the marriage savers. I’ve order some. Thank you for writing this guide Kim. Like all your guides they’re easy to read but pack a punch.” S. Mann

3. Let out enough scope

If you’re happy with your current location and you’ve done your best to verify that the anchor is well set, the next step is to consider your scope. Scope is the ratio of anchor rode (anchor chain or rope) let out according to the depth of water you’re in, taking into consideration of your freeboard (length from the deck to the water line). Most sailors use a ratio of around 3 to 5 times the depth in calm weather. So, if you’re in 15’ of water (including freeboard), you’ll let out 75’ of rode using the 5x ratio.

When you originally anchored, if your scope was between 3x to 5x the depth, you’ll want to increase that figure. Many sailors will aim for a scope of 7x to 8x scope during storm situations if doing so does not put the boat in danger. The key concept to grasp is that more rode causes more of a horizontal pull on an anchor and less rode cause a vertical pull.




During a storm, the wind causes the anchor rode to pull back and waves cause it to jostle up and down. The more rode that’s out the less likely that it will pull up and out.

And if the anchor does pull out, with more rode, you’ll have better chances for it to drag rather than get pulled through the water. In other words, if the anchor drags it’s more likely to reset itself provided enough scope is used.

It’s important to note, however, that too much scope is not necessarily good either.

Too much rode can put you dangerously close to obstructions. Furthermore, in really high winds, your boat can start to sail. We’ve seen boats sail right off the anchor due to too much rode out!

In short, before a storm hits, ensure that you have a scope that is suitable.

Best anchor for your sailboat

Simon with our new Mantus Anchor

4. Make sure you have a snubber, or bridle, attached with anti-chafing guards.

If you don’t have a snubber or bridle, and plan on anchoring your boat often, you’ll need to put that on your shopping list as a number one priority. Time after time I see boats with out snubbers and I can’t believe my eyes.

A snubber takes the load of the ground tackle, wind, and current, off the windless mechanism (thing that pulls the chain in and out) and places it onto the hull, or superstructure, of the boat.

The windless is just a tiny bit of kit. You wouldn’t want something so small to hold the weight of boat, would you? By using a snubber, you effectively create a small bit of slack in the anchor chain removing any pressure on the windless. The load is then transferred onto strongpoints on the hull of the boat.

Again, if you’re not accustomed to using a snubber, make sure to get my anchoring guide as it’s a vital piece of equipment. Within the guide, I offer information how to use a snubber.

Get the How To Anchor Guide here!

Additionally, in high wind situations the snubber can move about over the top of the anchor chain plate. There’s a high chance of chafing so the use of anti-chaffing guards is vital. If you don’t have chafe guards, you can wrap areas of the snubber with heavy duty tape.

5. Check that your anchor alarm is set

In fact, use a couple anchor alarm systems to ensure you’re covered. We use our built in GPS anchor alarm system in addition to an Ipad anchor alarm app (We use SafeAnchor.net). When our alarm goes we know that it’s time to jump into action.

Anchor alarms allow you to program the position of your anchor and then set the radius that you’re happy to swing within. If the boat goes outside the circumference of the circle the alarm will trigger.

In 99.9% of the cases, our alarms are triggered due to naturally swinging outside the limits we set, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you’re dragging you want to know as soon as possible.

6. Reduce the amount of windage on your boat

Before the storm hits, remove anything that will catch the wind and increase the load on the anchor tackle. Pull down your sprayhood, bimini, cockpit enclosures, and so forth. Not only will this protect them from tears, or blowing off, but also it will provide your anchor with a higher chance of holding.

7. Decide upon an anchor watch system

If it’s really going to blow and your in a crowded harbor it might be worth setting a watch rotation. We often do three hours on and three hours off all through the night, similar to our night sailing watches. On an anchor watch you’re ready to respond in the case of a dragging and, often more importantly, you can see an oncoming boat dragging towards you. We’ve had many boats drag in front of us, behind us and a few have even hit us. Luckily, we were always on sight to use fenders to fend the boat off or work with the other boat owner to find a solution.

8. Have anchor faith

If you have loads of time before a storm hits, (perhaps you’re reading this before you’ve even purchased a boat?!), my biggest piece of advice for you is to understand your anchor system. Find out how your anchor ranks in the world of best setting anchors for the seabed you plan on anchoring in. Research the areas you plan on anchoring in and make sure you have enough rode or chain.

Side story:  Good friends of ours purchased a boat and set sail for the Bahamas. By the time they got to Georgetown they had anchored a couple times and already realized that their anchor was not adequate. Having a Bruce anchor they dragged time and time again. When The Big Blow of 2018 hit they had three sleepless nights. Thankfully they didn’t drag during the high winds but they did drag at other times. As soon as they made it to Puerto Rico, where they could source a new anchor, they purchased a Rocna.

Nothing is worse than being stuck on a boat in high winds for 48 hours or 60 hours not having anchor faith. To reduce fear and be able to sleep at night, you want to know that you have an anchor that will keep you safe.

And if you don’t already have a Mantus Anchor or a similar new breed of more advanced anchors, do yourself a favor and get one. Whenever I start to freak out, my husband looks at me and says, ‘Kim, we have the best anchor in the world. We have a Mantus.’

Best Anchor For Your Sailboat

Simon putting out Mantus together

Sailing and the sailing lifestyle is mostly exciting, enjoyable and fulfilling.

However, there are bits and pieces that really suck. And I mean really, really suck. Being at anchor in a storm or in a hurricane is scary. If you’re going to be a boater, storms happen. Needless to say, when a storm hits you want to know that you’ve done the best you can.

Out of the millions of things that a boat owner can purchase, it can be confusing as to what’s a necessity versus what’s nice to have. Having a plotter that provides a touch screen or a new fangled techy gadget is not necessity! Having a sound ground tackle system is.

We’ve come across loads of boats that have all sorts of bells and whistles and then you look at the anchor and notice that it’s an old generation anchor (like a Bruce, Delta or CQR). What the heck?! Priorities people. Priorities.

But sailing, sailboats and the sailing lifestyle is overwhelming to newcomer’s. Heck, I’ve done this for four years full time and I still consider myself wet behind he ears. We don’t know what we don’t know.

Living Aboard A Boat Video – Featuring The Big Blow of 2018 (Anchoring in A Storm)

Enjoy more of our season five 2018 articles and episodes here:

And if you’d like more information about anchoring, consider reading…


Any questions, comments or thoughts?! Leave them below.

Visit our Sailing Britican sailing guides books shop if you’re thinking of buying a boat, are in the process of buying a boat or if you own a boat! All guides are digital. Some hard copy versions are found in our Etsy shop and on Amazon. The guides will help you to save money, avoid making mistakes and ultimately allow you to get out sailing quicker.

Check out our one-of-a-kind nautical t-shirts and other sailing gifts at our Sailing Britican Etsy shop. We have great stuff for men, women and children. Grab a t-shirt, bathing suit cover-up, spices for sailors, nautical pillow covers and more!

Profits from the guides and t-shirts are allowing us to keep this website going but it’s not enough!

If you enjoy what we offer please support us. Buy a guide/guides, a t-shirt, become a Patreon Patron (click the link for more information).

Or donate to the cause  below through Paypal (see button below). Proceeds from the guides, Etsy shop and Patreon supports are keeping these articles and videos free. If you like what you see and want us to continue please support Britican today. (And if you already have, thank you very much!)

The post 8 Steps To Anchoring In A Storm appeared first on Sailing Britican.

Where To Live Aboard – 13 Benefits To Liveaboard Anchorages

Are you interested in knowing where to live aboard on a boat (sail or motor)? Many liveaboard boaters start off by living in a marina. An alternative is to spend a season in an established live aboard anchorage.  This article will define what they are, what happens in a typical live aboard anchorage and why you might want to consider calling one home for a season or several.

Where to live aboard

Furthermore, to whet your appetite, you’ll find part one of a two part video series about a very active live aboard anchorage in The Bahamas at the bottom of this article.

Many sailboat owners avoid marina’s and choose to spend the winter in one location at one anchorage, such as The Bahamas and the summer at another – perhaps the north east coast of America. Some boaters are chasing perfect climates and others are working towards finding the best place to live taking into consideration the hurricane, typhoon or cyclone season.

These type of boat owners effectively use their boat as a fairly stationary home that changes location only a couple times per year.

Now one of the biggest questions I get asked by my readers is, ‘how can I get my partner interested in sailing?’ And it’s usually a man asking about getting his wife onboard. Well…perhaps a first step is to sell your wife (or partner) on the idea of having an ocean view, sunny warm weather, surrounded by a social, helpful and kind community.

Your partner might not be interested in sailing, but perhaps a way to ease him or her in is to start with the live aboard lifestyle at anchorage. Later you can work on getting him or her out sailing?

Where to live aboard

Let me get back to where to live aboard and liveaboard community anchorages…

Let’s take Georgetown in The Bahamas as an example. The area accommodates many long-term live aboard boaters, mainly from North America, during the winter. Similar to what is know as ‘snowbirds’ that fly south for the winter, some boaters sail south to take advantage of the beautiful turquoise blue waters, warm temperatures and hurricane free weather.

Often, live aboard anchorages are host to several boaters – sometimes hundreds thus forming a vibrant, energized and dynamic live aboard community.

Where to live aboard

During our six week stay in Georgetown in February/March, there were around 200 boats in and around the area – some anchored for the full season and others just passing through.

But what are the benefits of staying in a seasonal anchorage such as Georgetown?

I’m going to list the things that we found in Georgetown but it’s important to note that other anchorages around the world are similar.

1. First of all, it’s free to anchor so that’s always a massive appeal. Yes, it does cost money to book into The Bahamas but for $300 you not only get to anchor for several months but you also can fish as much as you want!

2. The wear and tear on your boat is not as extensive as it would be if traveling frequently.

3. You can’t beat the weather.

Where to live aboard

4. The surrounding area is set up for cruisers so that means that there’s a dinghy dock for the supermarket, one for each restaurant and even the cruisers beach has a line laid out for dinghies to be tied to.

5. The views and surrounding areas are absolutely breath taking. I mean just imagine waking up every day to views you see in this article (all photos were taken in and around the Georgetown, Bahamas area).

And there’s more…

6. You’re surrounded by likeminded people eager to socialize and support each other. The boating community is known for it’s kindness and support. We arrived in Georgetown having to sail onto anchor. A hose busted on our engine causing the engine bay to flood. Our starter motor short circuited and it was a stressful situation. (Read and watch Sailing in The Bahamas – Engine Failure)

Simon went to the bar and a cruiser came up to him saying, ‘you look like you need a beer.’ Simon had a new friend to commiserate with and they became so close that they now call each other brothers from another mother. Doesn’t a community like this answer the question of where to live aboard?




7. Strong and deep friendships are made when you stay in one place for a long time. Of course strong friendships can be made while cruising around too but when anchored for a long time you get to see other cruisers often.

Whether you decided to attend a talk given by another cruiser, meet up at the grocery store, go to beach church or have a hand at poker night. We found that many cruisers met up around 3pm on the beach just to enjoy a drink, play a game of volleyball or simply sit around and chat.

8. The community has a radio net that is often daily or at set days throughout the week. This enables boaters to express any medical emergencies, ask for help with boat problems, discuss the weather, announce community activities like aqua aerobics, bread making classes or an excursion on land.

There’s also a buy, sell or trade section. This part allows the community to get rid of what’s not needed and pick up something that’s wanted. New arrivals and departures are announced. And the net is often opened up to local businesses to promote a weekend BBQ at a restaurant, salon services from the hair dresser or a local church fundraising event.

9. Liveaboard communities, like Georgetown, are usually based outside a town. This means they’ll have standard amenities like a grocery store, laundry services, bank, boat services and even an airport. So…it’s only a short dinghy ride to get provisions and such.

Where to live aboard

10. If you get tired of the scenery or the community you can take a break. You can often head in any direction to find a deserted island or quiet anchorage. In The Bahamas you might want to check out Bahamas Sailing Trip – First Stop Royal Island for a very quiet anchorage. When you’re tired of being alone you can head back to the community. And when you do you can show off all your pictures of the incredible lobsters and fish you caught.

And what about…

11. If you have been cruising around for a months or even years sometimes it’s nice to stop and grow some roots. (Or shall I say seaweed?) In a cruising community you can keep up the lifestyle without having to be on a constant move.

12. When choosing to return the following year it’s great to catch up with old friends and make new one’s.

13. Those cruisers that have kids will often find other kid boats staying the duration or coming and going. When we were in Georgetown there was an average of five kid boats ranging with kids from toddlers to teenagers. And one point I counted over 25 kids! Usually the children all do their homeschooling before lunch.

They then eat lunch and make plans for the afternoon. We enjoyed joint homeschooling sessions, time on the beach, going snorkeling, enjoying hikes, having sleep overs and more.

Where to live aboard

So…if you’re interested in getting into sailing but don’t want to head out around the world in your first season. OR you’ve been sailing around for a while and need a break, why not give an established live aboard anchorage a go?!

Below you’ll find a part one of two parts about our long stay in Georgetown, The Bahamas. The video will give you an idea of what the lifestyle is like. It will demonstrate what liveaboards do at anchor and on shore.

Liveaboard Lifestyle: Where To Live Aboard Video

Enjoy more of our season five 2018 articles and episodes here:

  • Bahamas Sailing Trip – First Stop Royal Island Part 1 of 2
  • Bahamas Sailing Trip – Royal Island Part 2 0f 2
  • Sailing The Bahamas – Governor’s Harbour
  • Swimming With Pigs In The Bahamas
  • Tunderball Grotto & Iguana Beach in The Bahamas
  • Sailing in The Bahamas – Engine Failure

Any questions, comments or thoughts?! Leave them below.

Visit our Sailing Britican sailing guides books shop if you’re thinking of buying a boat, are in the process of buying a boat or if you own a boat! All guides are digital. Some hard copy versions are found in our Etsy shop and on Amazon. The guides will help you to save money, avoid making mistakes and ultimately allow you to get out sailing quicker.

Check out our one-of-a-kind nautical t-shirts and other sailing gifts at our Sailing Britican Etsy shop. We have great stuff for men, women and children. Grab a t-shirt, bathing suit cover-up, spices for sailors, nautical pillow covers and more!

Profits from the guides and t-shirts are allowing us to keep this website going but it’s not enough!

If you enjoy what we offer please support us. Buy a guide/guides, a t-shirt, become a Patreon Patron (click the link for more information).

Or donate to the cause  below through Paypal (see button below). Proceeds from the guides, Etsy shop and Patreon supports are keeping these articles and videos free. If you like what you see and want us to continue please support Britican today. (And if you already have, thank you very much!)

The post Where To Live Aboard – 13 Benefits To Liveaboard Anchorages appeared first on Sailing Britican.

Sailing in The Bahamas – Engine Failure

Today was difficult. We started to take on water while traversing a very turbulent waterway. Water was rushing in fast and the bilge was working hard. It took us around three minutes to find the issue. I headed to the stern of the boat (back) pulling up floorboards.  Andrew, our volunteer crew member, went to the one side of the engine and my husband, Simon, went to the other.

Here’s the video I put together but to really get the full story, read below for the full play by play…

Andrew discovered that an elbow connection on our raw water system (cooling system that brings in seawater from the sea) had split. When I looked, all I could see was gallons of water spraying out everywhere in the engine room. As alarms where going off the three of us started to discuss options. We considered turning back to anchor or pulling out the sail to get the engine off quickly.

Sailing in The Bahamas Engine Failure

Can you see all the water just below the battery box?

Imagine having a discussion about what to do as there’s water filling the bilge below your feet.

Luckily we had over 20 knots of wind. Simon pulled out the headsail and managed to head out into the Atlantic, away from rocks. We still had a bit more turbulent water to go through so the boat was being bounced all over the place.  Once the engine was off, the water stopped flowing into the bilge…After ten minutes or so, most of the water was out of the boat. Our plan was to sail down to Georgetown.

In the mean time, Andrew went to work to fix the cracked elbow.

While Simon and Andrew were below, the engine started up. We all looked at each other thinking, how did that happen? With all the water in the engine room the starter motor was shorting out and starting up. In other words, all the water in the engine room caused the electricity to flow to the starter motor. Simon managed to turn the engine off by the pedestal switch but we heard a very loud odd noise. Our starter motor was freaking out. Andrew went to the battery bank and cut the power to the engine. The noise stopped.

Sailing in The Bahamas Engine Failure

The cracked elbow

Back to fixing the cracked elbow.

We thought that if we could manage to reduce the leakage of water we’d be able to use the engine for a short period. Simon wanted to sail as far as possible and then turn on the engine to maneuver through the rocks and set anchor. We used a special self bonding tape that’s used on leaky pipes for emergencies. And then a caulking that works under water for the seam of the crack. All we had to do is ensure enough water was going through the engine to keep it cool.

For a few hours we sailed through the Atlantic Ocean towards Georgetown. Before we got near land we tested the engine and elbow.

Everything worked. The elbow dripped a little bit but that was okay.

To enter the anchorage we had to turn to starboard (right) and then turn to starboard again. We had to do various zig zags to avoid shallows and rocks. Thankfully our engine was still working.

Sailing in The Bahamas Engine Failure

The start of our passage towards Georgetown, The Bahamas. The + are all rocks.

As we approached the rocks and necessary turns, we went to start the engine. It didn’t start.

The starter wouldn’t turn over. Furthermore, Andrew could smell a burning smell. We turned everything off. I thought to myself, ‘we’re going to have to anchor by sail in a bay we’ve never been to. But first we have to navigate through a minefield of shallows and rocks.’ (Side note: I’m still feeling ill writing this and it’s several hours after it happened).

As we entered the channel (err…it’s not a channel, but more of a waterway leading between islands), I kept telling Simon where the rocks where. I used the plotter and he was using the Navionics App on his iPad. As one of the first rocks approached, I said, ‘we’re getting close, we’re getting close….’ It’s an ‘+’ on the screen. Simon calmly said, ‘it’s okay…’ We went right next to the ‘+’ and I was seriously holding my breath.

Thankfully, we managed to sail around the the rest of the rocks without getting too close.

Realizing we had a phone/Internet connection, and with a few minutes to spare I tried to look up how to jump start a starter motor. We all knew about a trick you can do with a screwdriver to create an arc to start it. Andrew tried it. I saw sparks fly but nothing happened.

Sailing in The Bahamas Engine Failure

Simon and Andrew working on the problem

Eventually the time came to anchor under sail power only.

As we made our way down the passage Simon explained that I’d control the headsail. Andrew would be ready on the anchor and Simon would get us to a place where the ocean floor holding was listed as ‘Good.’ When we anchored it had to dig in. If it didn’t dig in we were in trouble. Big trouble.

Simon eased my fears by reminding me, ‘Kim, we have the best anchor in the world.’ (If you don’t have a Mantus Anchor already, get one. We’ve used it for the last couple months and we’ve never experienced a better anchor. It sets instantly.)

Upon approaching the anchor site there was only one other boat. We found a place to anchor just before the very popular bay near Georgetown. Simon powered up the sail and then headed a bit into wind (which reduces your speed). He then did that one last time to get enough power to head towards land. As soon as he made the final turn, the sail depowered and I furled it in.

Sailing in The Bahamas Engine Failure

Our only power – our headsail!

Andrew dropped the anchor.

Once the sail was furled in, I joined Andrew to help with the anchor. And of course, the chain was twisted and didn’t come out of the windless very well. We were all frazzled. It took us a bit longer than usual, but after we had 15 meter (in 7 meters depth) I noticed that the Mantus had dug in. We let out 35 meters.

It was nice to be anchored, but I couldn’t help but worry that our engine couldn’t start.

Andrew got on the phone to his brother, Toby, who has an extensive background in engine mechanics. Toby talked us through the starter motor, what had happened and how to rectify the situation. Within an hour, the starter was jumpstarted and the engine was on. The starter has melted itself to the ‘on’ position so we need to use it to start the engine and the remove the electricity to it. Toby is currently in France on a ski trip and we rang him quite late at night!

Sailing in The Bahamas Engine Failure

YES! I did get seasick but not too bad.

So…now that we’re anchored and we can start our engine, how do I feel?!

Well, it took me a while to stop shaking. But after I stopped shaking I started to relax and reminded myself that everything turned out okay. And as I was pondering everything, Andrew came up and gave me a hug. He explained that it was a good day for learning. Now I have even more experience. Now I have more confidence about engine breaks, anchoring without power and dealing with slight emergencies.

And Simon came up a bit later, also giving me a hug, saying that he wasn’t worried. He knew we could all work together to find a way to safety.

When you’re in the thick of ‘crisis’ it’s hard to look at it from a more elevated perspective. At one point during the day I did ask myself, ‘how much more of this can I take?’ But, heck… I’m out living life. A couple days ago I swam with pigs. Yesterday I sat amongst 100’s of iguana’s. Today, I worked with my family to stop us from sinking and finding a way to find a safe anchorage. It’s better than what I did before I lived on a boat.

Please share this story with your friends on twitter…

What happens when your sailboat floods with water and then your engine fails? Read this story.Click To Tweet

~~~

If you enjoy reading about our exploits – the good, bad and ugly – make sure to read my book, ‘Changing Lifestyles: Trading in the Rat Race for a Sail Around The World.’

You can get the digital version of my book right now in my online shop by clicking below. Or, if you’d like the hardcopy, I sell it in my Etsy store (by doing it that way you save on postage fees). I also sell it over Amazon – just do a search for the title.

Changing Lifestyles READER REVIEW
“I finished your book this week and absolutely loved it! It was great to read about your early days in many places we also sailed. I loved the way you combined your blogs/real life scenarios with advise on boat maintenance, letting go of your previous life and about your honestly throughout. I enjoy your style of writing Kim, and I loved the little Sienna quotes.” Jayne Eames-Thornton, s/v Delphinus

Sailing in the Bahamas engine failure

The post Sailing in The Bahamas – Engine Failure appeared first on Sailing Britican.

Thunderball Grotto & Iguana Beach in The Bahamas

Join us for a swim in one of most magical attractions – Thunderball Grotto Bahamas. Determine if you know how to treat your anchor and ground tackle with respect. And sail with us from Pig Beach to Iguana Beach where we become surrounded by hundreds of lizards. Read on…

While anchored off Pig Beach we were a short distance away from one of the Bahamas best natural attractions – Thunderball Grotto. Not only is the grotto full of colored coral reefs, high caverns and beautiful fish but we also happened upon a nurse shark!

Thunderball Grotto Bahamas

Upon arrival by dinghy to the grotto, your eyes would tell you that it’s just a tiny island or perhaps a big rocky area that has grown out of the sea. Surrounded by other islands it really doesn’t look like much of anything.

The grotto’s charm is heightened by the small, almost hidden entrance.

It is advised to enter at low or slack tide. We went several times and therefore were able to sample the grotto under different conditions. At slack tide, or when the tide is not running, you’ll easily enjoy the view. Unfortunately, everyone in the surrounding area is also there to enjoy the easy swim.

We also went during a running tide making our swim maneuvers a bit more strained but it was worth it to see the Grotto without loads of other tourists. We also went in sun and rain – both offering great views. In fact, during the rainy times it can be the best time to visit tourist attractions – we’re often the only people there!

Thunderball Grotto Bahamas

We anchored Britican at the anchor and took the dinghy to Thunderball Grotto

One of the guide books I read mentioned that you can’t snorkel at high tide – the water is too high. This was not our experience but to avoid disappointment, go when the tide is lower rather than higher.

The Grotto got its name from the 1965 James Bond spy film “Thunderball,” which was filmed there. It was also the site of another James Bond film, “Never Say Never Again” in 1983, also based on the Thunderball novel. “Splash” starring Tom Hanks and “Into the Blue” with Jessica Alba and Paul Walker where also filmed at Thunderball Grotto. And as a side note Johnny Depp, Oprah and Faith Hill all have islands nearby.

Thunderball Grotto Bahamas

If you can spot a bit of rope hanging down – that’s where you can enter Thunderball Grotto

There are several entrances where people can swim through the holes to get into the cavern inside.

Some of the tunnels are underwater and you have to swim through a short overhang and hold your breath for a few seconds until you come out the other end. Everywhere that I went I could freely use my snorkel. The only thing that bothered me slightly was that I had to be careful not to bump my head on the rock above me.

Our seven-year-old daughter, Sienna, enjoyed the Grotto immensely. She would have benefited from having a wet suit, as the water was cool during the month of February. I was slightly worried with the current on one occasion but my husband and I simply took turns holding onto Sienna.

Thunderball Grotto Bahamas

And what’s this about the shark?

Unbelievably I’ve seen sharks at every anchorage we’ve had in the Bahamas. After sailing around this planet for four years I’ve only ever saw one shark and it was a sleeping nurse shark. I saw my first shark during a dive so I just assumed they stayed deep.

Well…in the Bahamas if you don’t see a shark every day you’re just not looking.

Simon swam with a 15’ Hammerhead shark the first day we arrived in the Bahamas (make sure to read/watch Swimming With The Pigs In The Bahamas). At Cape Eleuthera Marina I saw three bull sharks; those are the one’s you need to watch out for. And in and around Pig Beach we saw several nurse sharks.

Nurse sharks won’t hurt you. In fact, I’m not even sure they have teeth. They seem to have more of a sucker mouth. Regardless, their eyes are white and it really freaks me out when I look at them.

Back to Thunderball Grotto…

There’s great fish, amazing views from inside the cavern and if you’re very adventurous you can climb to the top of the rocky island and jump into the middle of the Grotto. The drop is around 20’ to 25’. Both my husband and our volunteer crew member, Andrew, did the jump several times. If you ask them what it was like they’d both agree that it was a rush.

When visiting the caverns, bring some bread in a bag. If you feed the fish you can create a flurry of beautiful colors and movements.

Thunderball Grotto Bahamas

Thunderball Grotto Takeaways

  • Check the tide before you go and if you want an easier time, go when it’s not running (1/2 hour either side of slack tide). It’s also easier if you have flippers. And this should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway – if it’s rough weather, there’s a swell or you see lightening it’s not the place to go.
  • If you get cold easily (like me), wear a wetsuit. It will allow you to stay longer.
  • If the weather is not-so-good, go as it’s still worth it. In fact, if it’s raining you’ll probably be the only one there!
  • Bring your GoPro or similar underwater camera.
  • Make sure your dinghy anchor is in the dinghy as you’ll have to anchor in about 15’ of water.
  • On the dinghy ride to the Grotto keep an eye out for sea creatures. We happened upon several very large stingrays and some more sharks.
  • Before you go, watch all the movies that have Thunderball Grotto in them.



After thoroughly enjoying Pig Beach and Thunderball Grotto for three days we lifted anchor and sailed down to Leaf Cay. Just off of Leaf Cay there’s a beach filled with Iguanas. We had to investigate.

Our passage from the pigs to the iguana’s was relatively uneventful. We had to motor most of the time due to lack of wind. Sailors don’t like to motor but in some cases it can be just as scenic and relaxing.

On this particular day we motored out as the radiant sun was rising.

In the video I explained how we pull our anchor up. If you’re not an avid sailor you might think that pulling up an anchor is one of the easy tasks. Well, it’s not. I’ve seen so many inexperienced boaters think that you press a button, up comes the anchor and jobs done.

Thunderball Grotto Bahamas

Your anchor and your windlass, the mechanism that pulls or winches up the anchor, are precious pieces of kit. Treat them poorly and you’ll suffer! What is poor treatment?

  • Putting the winch under too much load forcing the anchor out of the mud/sand. The anchor needs to be eased up rather than forced up. You can also put the windlass under too much stress if you fail to move the boat over the top of the anchor. The windlass should not be used to reel you in. The Captain needs to move the boat to a position where it makes the windlass’s job easy.
  • Failing to use a bridle or snubber. The bridle or snubber take the weight of the chain/anchor and pull of the boat off the windless and displace it to the whole boat. This ultimately relieves the windless from being the only mechanism holding the boat to the anchor. When I see people anchor without a snubber I shake my head in disbelief. Usually the boat owner just doesn’t know any better.
  • Finally, it’s poor treatment to your ground tackle if you allow the anchor to come flying up to the bow of the boat and through the anchor chain plate without caressing it in. Going full speed ramming the anchor back on the bow is not a good idea. The anchor can hit the hull or the furling/forestay gear.

After softly caressing our anchor back onto the boat, we motored towards Iguana Beach.

The waters were shallow as we made our way into the area. Andrew stood on the bow making sure we didn’t pass any coral heads or get too shallow.

When a suitable anchoring spot was discovered, we set down the anchor, hopped in the dinghy and went out in search of Iguanas.

To our delight we were the only people on Iguana Beach. At first it looked fake as the iguana’s lined the beach but didn’t move. They were all frozen. We didn’t know what to expect when we pulled the dinghy up on the beach.

Thunderball Grotto Bahamas

Would the Iguana’s come up to us? Would the run away?

As we walked along the beach they started to move and act as if our presence wasn’t a big deal. I assume that tourist boats probably frequent the beach and feed them. Simon was able to scratch their heads and one of them ran over my feet! I screamed – of course. I’m such a scaredy cat.

Within 30 seconds of being on the beach, however, we all started itching. There was an onslaught of sand fleas eating us up. We could barely go one second without slapping them off or itching.

Needless to say, we didn’t stay long.

Thunderball Grotto Bahamas

Right across from Iguana Beach there’s a snorkeling spot so we all headed for refuge from the fleas.

The snorkeling was ‘okay’ but the tide was just too fast. I couldn’t hold Sienna and swim fast enough to beat it. Andrew went up ahead and when he returned, Simon and I went to take a look. There were some really nice coral formations and lovely fish.

After a full day, we were all tired, hungry and ready for ‘family movie night.’ We ate beef stew that I made in the Solar Cooker (and froze) while watching Guardians of the Galaxy II. Can you think of a more perfect day?

Little did we know, however, that disaster and I mean DISASTER would strike the following day. While leaving Iguana Beach we started taking on water. And it wasn’t just a little water – it was Niagara Falls.

Make sure to subscribe to my newsletter to get notification of my next article about our disaster. Perhaps if you learn by our mishaps you can avoid them when you’re out sailing?!

Thunderball Grotto & Iguana Beach Video

Enjoy more of our season five 2018 articles and episodes here:

Any questions, comments or thoughts?! Leave them below.

Visit our Sailing Britican sailing guides books shop if you’re thinking of buying a boat, are in the process of buying a boat or if you own a boat! All guides are digital. Some hard copy versions are found in our Etsy shop and on Amazon. The guides will help you to save money, avoid making mistakes and ultimately allow you to get out sailing quicker.

Check out our one-of-a-kind nautical t-shirts and other sailing gifts at our Sailing Britican Etsy shop. We have great stuff for men, women and children. Grab a t-shirt, bathing suit cover-up, spices for sailors, nautical pillow covers and more!

Profits from the guides and t-shirts are allowing us to keep this website going but it’s not enough!

If you enjoy what we offer please support us. Buy a guide/guides, a t-shirt, become a Patreon Patron (click the link for more information).

Or donate to the cause  below through Paypal (see button below). Proceeds from the guides, Etsy shop and Patreon supports are keeping these articles and videos free. If you like what you see and want us to continue please support Britican today. (And if you already have, thank you very much!)

The post Thunderball Grotto & Iguana Beach in The Bahamas appeared first on Sailing Britican.

Swimming With Pigs in the Bahamas

Swimming With Pigs In The BahamasAfter enjoying a fantastic meal, jumping along to a Junkanoo and getting a Bahamas SIM card we left Governor’s Harbor and made our way to the next destination – Cape Eleuthera Marina. We were all excited about swimming with pigs in the Bahamas. When planning our passage we initially wanted to sail straight to Pig Beach in Exuma but the distance was too far. We always plan our trips so that we enter a mooring during day light.

Instead of making the 12 hour sail to Pig Beach we made a pit stop enjoying a night’s stay at the beautiful Cape Eleuthera Marina. When we arrived a kind attendant helped us tie up the boat on the end of a T-dock. We all got of and were blown away with the beauty of the area. (Read more below the video…)

Swimming With Pigs in the Bahamas

The marina sits on a peninsula so there were beaches in almost every direction.

We noticed big tall palm trees, dark blue ocean waters and cute cottages around the marina property. It was amazingly quiet. Perhaps January is quiet season or it simply is a quiet marina?!

With our laundry in hand, we made our way to the marina office to book in and pay our fees. At the time of our visit these were the prices we paid:

  • Dockage: $2.25 / foot / night
  • Water: $0.35 / gallon
  • Electricity: $0.50 / KWH

Swimming With Pigs In The Bahamas

Not a cheap night’s stay but we made the most of it.

We did our laundry, got rid of our trash and took a tour of the property. There is a beautiful beach, well kept pool and a dive school. The marina and surrounding cottages/town houses looked in top shape. There was a very luxurious feel to the place.

Near the beach and pool is a restaurant however it’s not opened on a Monday, the day we arrived. We always look forward to having a beverage and enjoying the views but we timed or visit wrong. With the restaurant closed.

Swimming With Pigs In The Bahamas

Unfortunately the bathrooms and laundry facilities weren’t that great.

The bathrooms, although roomy, were outdated. And the coin operated dryer’s never managed to really dry our clothes.

After a lovely nights sleep, we left the marina early in the morning and headed south to the Exumas. We sailed for the first five hours, had to motor for a while and then eventually sailed again. Just before arriving at Pig Beach we had to go over a very shallow area.

I held my breath as Simon navigated back and forth through the shallows.

When I saw 0.9 meters below the keel I became very anxious. Simon and I usually anchor in 10 meters so we felt out of our comfort zone being so shallow. We just didn’t have a choice.




We anchored and then the heavens opened up. The rain was cold so Sienna and I went down below to do her homeschooling. We all decided that we’d taking the dinghy to pig beach in the morning.

With our awesome Internet package of unlimited gigs on the Aliv plan ($30 USD/week), we decided to stream Amazon Prime. Andrew, Simon and I watched Grand Tour. It was the first time in four years of living aboard that we had good enough wifi to stream a TV program. It was great to see something new! Usually we have to pull out our movie hard drive and pick something we haven’t seen in a long time.

The next day we all got up and were eager to see the pigs.

Swimming With Pigs In The Bahamas

It was still raining but we didn’t care. We all got into the dinghy and headed for the beach. To my utter amazement the beach was filled with pigs – BIG PIGS. As we slowly approached the beach, the pigs started swimming out to the dinghy.

We fed them carrots and they absolutely loved them.

Some of the pigs managed to get up on our dinghy and reach in to grab more carrots. They would then slide off with there hooves dragging along the side of the boat. I was so funny.

There must have been around 15 big pigs and then out came around 15 babies. The babies were all adorable! We spent two days on Pig Beach enjoying the snorts and grunts.

Swimming With Pigs In The Bahamas

Just a bit of background…

Pig Beach or Pig Island or Major Cay or officially Big Major Cay is an uninhabited island (or cay) located in Exuma, the Bahamas. The island takes its unofficial name from the fact that it is populated by a colony of feral pigs that live on the island.

Legend has it that the pigs are said to have been dropped off on Big Major Cay by a group of sailors who wanted to come back and cook them. The sailors, though, never returned; the pigs survived on excess food dumped from passing ships.

Another legend has it that the pigs were survivors of a shipwreck and managed to swim to shore. Others suggest that the pigs were part of a business scheme to attract tourists to the Bahamas. The pigs are now fed by locals and tourists.

Swimming With Pigs In The Bahamas

My take on Pig Beach?!

I think that there might have been pigs dropped off by sailors a long time ago. When we were in Bermuda there is a similar tale. The stories mention sailors throwing a few pigs off the boat knowing that when they came back there would be food for them. Although there’s probably a bit of truth to the pigs I now think it’s a tourist attraction.

On every island we visited there were claims that we could swim with pigs.

Enjoy more of our season five 2018 articles and episodes here:

    • Bahamas Sailing Trip – First Stop Royal Island Part 1 of 2
    • Bahamas Sailing Trip – Royal Island Part 2 0f 2
    • Sailing The Bahamas Governors Harbour

Any questions, comments or thoughts?! Leave them below.

Visit our Sailing Britican sailing guides books shop if you’re thinking of buying a boat, are in the process of buying a boat or if you own a boat! All guides are digital. Some hard copy versions are found in our Etsy shop and on Amazon. The guides will help you to save money, avoid making mistakes and ultimately allow you to get out sailing quicker.

Check out our one-of-a-kind nautical t-shirts and other sailing gifts at our Sailing Britican Etsy shop. We have great stuff for men, women and children. Grab a t-shirt, bathing suit cover-up, spices for sailors, nautical pillow covers and more!

Profits from the guides and t-shirts are allowing us to keep this website going but it’s not enough!

If you enjoy what we offer please support us. Buy a guide/guides, a t-shirt, become a Patreon Patron (click the link for more information).

Or donate to the cause  below through Paypal (see button below). Proceeds from the guides, Etsy shop and Patreon supports are keeping these articles and videos free. If you like what you see and want us to continue please support Britican today. (And if you already have, thank you very much!)


The post Swimming With Pigs in the Bahamas appeared first on Sailing Britican.