Where Are We Heading Next?

By Carolyn Shearlock © 2016 • all rights reserved

We just got back from the Bahamas, but already we're planning where we're going next . . .

Whenever cruisers get together, one of the first questions is always “where are you needed next?” Frankly, it’s also a question that most cruisers frequently ask themselves.

Our answer: the Virgin Islands.

Dave and I have loved every bit of time we’ve spent in the Virgin Islands on charters and we’ve periodically talked of sailing our own boat there. So we’re going to try to make that happen this winter.

No, that wasn’t really our plan when we bought Barefoot Gal. When we bought her, we thought we’d use her in the winters, just around the Keys. That lasted one year, then we sold our house to cruise full-time.

And that resulted in us spending four months in the Bahamas this summer. While it was a great trip in its own right, it gave us the itch to go further. To the Caribbean.

We plan to island-hop down, although we haven’t decided the exact route yet (and some of that will be decided as we go, in response to weather conditions). No matter what we choose, there will still be quite a few open-ocean legs, even if they are 100 miles or less.

For those not familiar with this area, the total trip will be around 1,200 miles. Basically, we know we’ll head south and east through the Bahamas . . . then we have to choose between going along the north coast of the Dominican Republic (fewer miles, but a lee shore more exposed to the east trade winds) or west around Haiti and then along the south coast of the Dominican Republic (no lee shore, go south of the true Mona Passage but more miles):

We just got back from the Bahamas, but already we're planning where we're going next . . .

So we’re going to spend the next three months readying Barefoot Gal and ourselves for a bigger trip. The big jobs?

  • Replace standing rigging and most lines/sheets that we haven’t already replaced.
  • Add automatic bilge pumps (Geminis were built without them).
  • Fill the flotation chambers with positive flotation and seal off the sail locker from the rest of the boat so that water entering the sail locker cannot flood the bilge.
  • Improve ability to get weather forecasts (a friend is loaning us a sat phone and we intend to add a cell phone booster antenna).
  • Haul out: fresh bottom paint, routine drive leg maintenance and replacing the hydraulic drive leg lift cylinder.
  • Keep our skills up by sailing frequently and in stronger winds. We’re lucky that we have “open ocean” just 3 miles from our mooring ball.

Plus a hundred smaller things such as charts, more spare parts, fixing/replacing things that broke over the summer or just didn’t work the way we want them to and so on. The trip to the Bahamas was a great shakedown – most of our gear worked well, but the trip showed where we needed improvements.

We hope to be leaving mid-December. Depending on weather and our explorations along the way, we’re estimating that we’ll take about three months to get to Puerto Rico.

We’re excited!

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  1. Come a little bit further and visit us in Anguilla. We also live in nevis and sail back and forth for work. Love your site.

  2. Yeah! Cannot wait to have you three over for sundowners aboard Beagle Knot! Enjoy the process.

  3. Can’t wait to see you three!!

  4. Exciting!

  5. Glad you weathered the storm

  6. That sounds like a great plan! The Virgin Islands are my favorite too. We are heading to Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda for vacation in 34 days (not sailing, staying on property), but we hope to have a boat down there someday. That’s the dream and you are living it!!!

  7. We have the same plan with Whisper so looking forward to seeing you again (we met on the street in Annapolis last year). I scored a new set of NV paper charts for the Windwards and Leewards, but I need DR and Puerto Rico. What brand are you choosing for this area?

  8. Sounds fantastic!

  9. We hope to see you in the VI. Sounds like you have a bit of work to do. Good luck!

  10. Maybe Cuba will be open

  11. Larry Whited says:

    If you don’t want to bash to windward the hard way (to the Caribbean Islands) may I suggest Bruce Van Sant’s enlightening books, “Tricks to the Trades” and “Passages South, The Thornless Path to Windward” They provide insight into the intricacies of the routes based on safety, comfort and good planning. He basically recommends not fighting the trades, but using weather windows and diurnal timing to minimize the trade headwinds. It was an eye opener to me. Sometimes motoring in the early hours and during lulls is preferable to bashing and crashing. Just saying. Good luck and enjoy your adventures.

    • Thanks for the recommendation — we’ve both read it numerous times along with “The Thinking Man’s Guide to Passages South” by Frank Virgintino. Barefoot Gal is a coastal cruiser — no way are we doing it in one offshore hop! The question is just whether we go aloong the north or south coast of the DR. Van Sant vs. Virgintino . . .

  12. Kathryn Orr says:

    You’ll enjoy the Virgin Islands. We’ve had our boat there (BVI) for the last two years. I think you’ll find the weather and winds more consistent than they are in the Bahamas. We will be bringing our boat back to the US in the spring – spending a couple of months in the Bahamas along the way. Keep an eye out for Braveheart!

  13. Hello there! Welcome (back) to Florida!
    We have our houseboat docked on the St John’s River between Welaka & Georgetown.
    Are you familiar with our area of Florida?
    Happy & Blessed travels to you!

  14. I’m sure this is already in your plans, and on previous charters you may have already been there, but just in case make sure you spend at least a week on Anegada – a Caribbean picture postcard from the past, and one of our favourite places on earth.

  15. Sounds like a fantastic plan – Great to see you continuing to expand your horizons as your skills and knowledge advance.

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