Sinking the Ship -December 5, 2002
Eileen fills the dinghy with a few more last minute essentials
Just a few more things to buy and we'll be ready to leave Florida. We said that a week ago and we've restated it every day since. The problem is that we're waiting for weather to cross over to the Bahamas and we haven't run out of money yet. That could change soon. Each morning, we wake up in a cold sweat, remembering yet another essential item that we must get before we leave the land of plenty. On a chart you might be surprised to find that the nearest Bahamian islands are only about 50 miles from the Florida east coast. Witnessing our frantic shopping behaviour, you'd think they were a few light years away in another galaxy.
Among cruisers of all stripes, the basic provisioning rule seems to be, if there's space on board, fill it. In terms of sheer volume of stores, we never seem to head out with room to spare. Over the years, however, we have become more selective in what we stuff on board. We discovered early on that people all over the world eat. They have food. Some of the food is a little different from what we're used to back home (sometimes this is a good thing), but we seldom risk starvation when we leave familiar North American waters. Now we try to stock up only on those items that are hard to find or are really expensive outside North America, or we really like. It's surprising how many things seem to meet these criteria.
We no longer bother schlepping a hundred pound bag of flour down to the dock. You can buy flour just about anywhere and even in places where the cost of living is high, flour is cheap. Bringing along three years' worth of flour just means you'll be feeding more weevils before you finally dump it over board. We also don't stock up on beer. Our boat is not big enough to contain the quantities of beer David is capable of consuming during a cruising season. Bringing a token case or two is cruel because it only makes him yearn for more. It's better not to bring any at all. David is not totally deprived. If he's really desperate for a beer, he can always buy a cold one in the islands, but at a price that encourages moderation.
It's not good to overload your boat. It doesn't perform nearly as well when the waterline is a foot or two higher than it should be. There's also a safety issue if you encounter seas of any size when you're already half-submerged. And don't forget access. Those Christmas treats you stowed away in the far reaches of a forgotten corner won't taste nearly as good in December 2005 when you finally find them.
For all of these good reasons, we decided to try lightening our boat this year. After much debate, we agreed to leave our bicycles in David's stepmom's garage in Vero Beach. We use them a lot in the States but rarely take them off the boat in the islands. They'll be waiting for us when we return to Florida in the spring. The video player on our portable TV set is broken, so it's sitting on the "give-away" table at the municipal marina. Two scuba tanks have joined the bikes in the garage. If we have to go to a dive shop to get our tanks filled anyway, we might as well pay a few extra bucks and rent their tanks instead.
For all of one day, our quarter berth looked amazingly empty. Then our departure date got postponed. Eileen went back to the grocery store. David dropped into the marine store. Meeting back at the dinghy dock, David complained, "Do we really need five different kinds of vinegar?" Eileen responded, "With the number of filters you have there, you must be planning to change the engine oil every other day!" We piled the bags into the dinghy. A short time later, the quarter berth was full, the waterline was back up to its usual level, and David was wondering where he'd stowed the candy canes.