Cruising Tips | Distant Shores Sailing Newsletters

Caribbean Sailing Strategies

Do you dream of sailing the Caribbean someday? Are you looking for your next tropical sailing destination?
Come along with us as we explore the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean and show our process for route planning. We show how we use the PredictWind app for weather forecasting and route planning to design a comfortable cruise in the Caribbean as we sail from St. Martin to Anguilla, St. Barts, Saba and then do a nightsail to the British Virgin Islands.

Two devastating hurricanes - Hurricanes Irma and Maria - hit the British Virgin Islands in 2017. In this video (in 2019), we return to sail the BVI and get an update on recovery efforts before making a fabulous 3-day offshore passage to the Turks and Caicos.


Distant Shores Meet SV Delos

This time on Distant Shores we run our boat up on the beach in Antigua. We get invited to a pirate birthday party, change the zinc on our Varifold propeller and meet up with YouTubers aboard SV Delos.

Drone footage beaching Distant Shores courtesy of SV Delos
Additional Footage Courtesy SV Delos
Additional Footage Courtesy of Endless Playtime

This time on Distant Shores sail from Antigua to Montserrat… Nevis… Statia and St Barts - and talk gadgets with Brian and Karin on SV Delos…

Check out Delos Channel Here
And thanks to Brian for the excellent aerial drone shot of the Antigua anchorage :-)


Sailing Azores - Flores

By Sheryl Shard, copyright 2015. All rights reserved.
Sheryl and Paul at the waterfall at Poco do Balcalhau, Flores

"Flores is the most beautiful of all the islands of the Azores!"

This is the comment we hear time and time again about the island of Flores (meaning “flowers” in Portuguese) from sailors and other visitors familiar with the Azores and also from many Azoreans who have to made the trip out to the most western island in the Azores Archipelago. We had stopped here briefly in 1997 to catch our breath after a previous transatlantic crossing and since then have longed to return to spend more time discovering the island's charms.

Arrival at Porto das Lajes Marina
This year's passage from St. Maarten in the Caribbean with just the two of us on board took us seventeen leisurely days (see links to blogs below) but regardless of the gentle conditions it is still always a delight to reach land and a safe harbour. The fact that our landfall was in the beautiful island of Flores just added to our anticipation to reach this distant shores!
Anchorage and harbour at Lajes das Flores on the southeast coast

Since our 1997 visit to Flores, a small marina has been built in Lajes on the southeast corner of the islands but there is still lots of room to anchor outside if there isn't space inside the tiny harbour when you arrive although there is always a bit of a roll but you also find that inside the marina. The entrance to the marina is a bit tight and it is recommended that you go in slowly prepared to back out if the slips are full. flores-azores-porto-das-lajes-marina
Small marina in Lajes das Flores.

Fortunately, I had the mobile phone number of the marina manager, Tiego Pimentel,
which Paul had found in the online update to our Imray RCC Pilot Guide to the Atlantic Islands by Anne Hammick, so I made a call from sea using our IridiumGO! satphone connection to learn the status before we arrived. You can also call on VHF 16, working channel 10, but Tiego is not always at the harbour or near a radio. The marina email address is also in the guide.
Distant Shores II at the marina in Lajes das Flores

Tiego speaks excellent English and let us know that, at that moment, the T-head at the end of the main pontoon was available with lots of space for our 15 m Southerly 49 to tie alongside since a group of boats had just left for Faial. We were very fortunate! When we arrived sailors from boats already secured came out to help us with lines and greet us. Several of the crews we knew from St. Maarten but there we boats there that had arrived from all parts of the globe. Everyone had all been at sea for weeks themselves so realized how much it meant to be welcomed and safely tied to a dock. When you go cruising on your own boat, you become part of an international brotherhood of sailors that look out for one another. A very nice community to belong to!
Clearing In
Clearing in is easy in Flores. The marina manager, Tiego, can do all the paperwork right in the marina office and often will come to your boat when you arrive. Later you will receive a visit to your boat from the Guardia to check your paperwork, but despite the initial seriousness of these officers they are all very friendly and welcoming to visiting sailors.
Guardia checks over our papers

Paperwork completed, we walked up the hill to the Clube Naval (a bit of a challenge to our wobbly land legs after being at sea for over two weeks) to satisfy our cravings for French Fries and ice cream. We smiled when we saw the crew of the Dutch yacht "White Witch in Blue" who arrived just before us enjoying the same menu. We eat well at sea but there are a few things you just can't do easily on a moving sailboat. A little further up the hill towards town is the sailors bar and local restaurant, Beira Mar. The owners speak good English making it easy to order their delicious but affordable meals of meat, fish, omelettes and pizza.

Other Harbours
There are only a couple of other harbours in Flores. They are rarely used by cruising sailors and only in the most calm of conditions. These are:
The old harbour at Santa Cruz

The tiny harbour at Ponta Delgada, Flores, on the north coast

Taxi Tour
Although we longed for a day of sleep and boat-tidying after our arrival, the weather for the next couple of days was going to be extremely clear and perfect for filming so the Flores Tourist Board, who we were working with to produce a new episode of Distant Shores, had organized a guide and driver for us first thing the next morning. We were up early (and in fine shape since we were still in the rhythm of keeping watches) to meet with Silvio Medina, owner of Tours of Flores, a knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide who, after having lived in Boston for many years, speaks excellent English. He has several vehicles including two vans so can accommodate groups of sailors and other visitors for cost-effective and enjoyable tours. He also works with tour operators organizing hiking vacations for which Flores is a great destination we were soon to discover.

There can often be mist or fog for parts of the day in Flores especially at the top of the island where the main attractions of the Sete Lagoas (Seven Lakes) filling the islands' seven inactive volcanic craters as well as several interesting volcanic rock formations are located so Silvio whisked us up there at 8:00 AM to take in the spectacular views. The roads are all newly paved and in beautiful condition so it was a very comfortable ride.flores-azores-morro-das-frades
The Morro das Frades look like 2 monks at a monastery.flores-azores-rocha-dos-bordoes-basalt-columns
The vertical basaltic columns Rocha dos Bordōes called the Walking Sticks by the islanders and Pipe Organ by tourists.
There are 7 inactive volcanic craters on Flores that are now lakes.flores-azores-lagoa-rasa-and-funda
Lagoa Funda and Lagoa Rasa are close but at different altitudes.
Flores has many waterfalls and beautiful flowers.
This modernized cottage Moinha da Cascada (Waterfall Mill) is available for rent for 80 euros per night in the high season and is near the natural seaside bathing pools at Faja Grande. flores-azores-moinha-da-cascada2
If you needed to get off the boat for a few nights, Moinha da Cascada would be a great retreat!flores-azores-faja-grande-bathing-pools
There are few beaches in Flores but these natural seaside pools are popular swimming holes in summertime.flores-azores-ponta-delgada-picnic-area
Picnic area at Ponta Delgada, Flores
At many of the seaside villages in Flores there are fabulous public picnic areas with wood-stocked BBQ's, clean bathrooms and showers like this one at Ponta Delgada. If you love outdoor activities, Flores is a tranquil place to get away from it all.
BBQ with sink and counters ready for woodfire cooking

We had a full but extremely pleasant working day filming around Flores on Day One which concluded with the 500th Anniversary of the Parish of Lajes and a procession at the church in town. We marvelled at the loving preparation of the flower carpets leading up to the church. Unfortunately it rained for the procession but that didn't deter anyone and following the ceremony we crashed into our berth to get up early again the next morning to continue our tour and to experience one of the islands most beautiful coastal hikes.
Islander preparing flower carpet for the procession and 500th Anniversary celebrations of Lajes das Flores

Stay tuned!

< Previous Newsletter

You Might Also Like
Passage to Azores Part 1 - Week One

Passage to Azores Part 2 - Arriving

Sheryl and Paul Shard have now been cruising internationally for 25 years. They are sailing authors, instructors/consultants and the fun-loving hosts of the Distant Shores sailing adventure TV series (AWE TV, Vimeo on Demand). The Distant Shores series profiles the world's best sailing destinations and provides insights into the joys and challenges of living aboard a cruising sailboat. The shows are also available on DVD and as HD downloads.


Part-time Cruising: A Boat and Home in the Caribbean

By Sheryl Shard, copyright 2015. All rights reserved.

I have written previously about the benefits of part-time cruising, maintaining a home base while cruising and earning money while cruising but on this year’s visit to St. Maarten we were contacted by friends from Canada who, with their families, are enjoying all of the above in a way we’ve never considered before.

We meet up with Linda and Mario, fans of Distant Shores, at the St. Maarten Yacht Club

Mario from Calgary is both passionate about sailing and dreamed of sailing and cruising in the Caribbean one day. However, his wife is not comfortable with the idea of living aboard or spending extended time on a sailboat. So our friends have both come up with the idea of building a dream home in the Caribbean, in St. Maarten to be specific, where they can continue working, escape the cold winters of Canada and sail to their heart’s content all year long in glorious tropical splendour.

Mario and Linda will continue their careers in real estate and interior decorating in St. Maarten

Mario and his wife, Linda, were motivated to seek a slower paced lifestyle in the tropics following a health scare as a result of stressful times at work. After a lot of research they came up with St. Maarten as a good location to build a new home mostly due to the tie to the EU the island has. Mario holds an Italian passport which allows him work opportunities as a real estate agent in St. Maarten. The standard of living is good and the international airport makes the island easily accessible for family members such as their grown children and parents remaining in Canada. Separation pains were difficult at first but everyone is adjusting now that they see how healthy and happy Mario and Linda are here.

They bought a beautiful condo and joined the St. Maarten Yacht Club where they can sail with new friends and crew in island regattas, so Mario’s dream of sailing in the Caribbean has come true in a whole new enjoyable way from what he originally imagined! Linda, an interior decorator, is enjoying setting up their island home and establishing her new business in St. Maarten.

Mario being interviewed for House Hunters International before filming on Distant Shores II began

Mario and Linda are long-time viewers of the Distant Shores sailing adventure TV series and when they saw on the Distant Shores TV Facebook Page that we were in St. Maarten they contacted us to say hello. At the same time their story was being documented by HGTV’s TV series, House Hunters International, and the producer called to ask us if they could film the final segment of the episode aboard Distant Shores II. Great fun! We had Mario, Linda, and some of their new island and yacht club friends plus the film crew aboard our boat to toast their new found life ashore and afloat.

Linda and Mario conclude their story for House Hunters International on DS II

If full-time cruising doesn’t seem possible for you but you long to get out on the water in the Caribbean, there are many variations on part-time cruising that just may satisfy the itch and keep everyone in the family happy.

Sheryl and Paul Shard have been cruising internationally for 25 years. They are sailing authors, instructors/consultants and the fun-loving hosts of the Distant Shores sailing adventure TV series (AWE TV, Vimeo on Demand). The Distant Shores series profiles the world's best sailing destinations and provides insights into the joys and challenges of living aboard a cruising sailboat. The shows are also available on DVD and as HD downloads.

You might also enjoy:
Maintaining a Home Base while Cruising
Making Money while Cruising
Keeping Romance Alive while Cruising

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Caicos Banks

What a spectacular day we had for crossing the Caicos Bank! We left the anchorage at South Caicos around low water to head out and onto the banks. It will be about 50 miles all told to get to Provo... Sailing around we are in 1000 meters water, then it immediately shoals to 6-7 meters as we enter the banks!
You can see the water is quite shallow... It started about 6 meters deep and gradually shoaled to 4 meters then finally less than 3 near Provo.
We were looking out for coral heads carefully as there are quite a few sprinkled around. Charts can never show them accurately since they grow taller. A low coral head sitting in 6 meters will be well under your keel but in a few more years it may be getting nearer the surface. Do not go over a head unless you are absolutely certain there is enough water.
Sheryl hoisted me up the mast to see how much the height helped to see the heads. Basically any extra height helps see much further ahead. But the additional height above 10 feet or so makes less difference. (Here is a link to our classic Cruising the Bahamas how-to video with segments on piloting in shallow water)
I went to the upper spreaders. The motion is a bit worse there as everything is magnified by the height, but the view was worth it! WOW!!
Happy Crew enjoying this blue marble!!

Fair Winds

Paul & Sheryl
PS. For more adventures exploring the shallow waters check out our Distant Shores Episodes on the Bahamas here. Downloadable episodes on Vimeo here and here plus our classic Cruising the Bahamas how-to video with segments on piloting in shallow water.

Tell us Your Story

A real joy for us while we're out cruising and filming new episodes of the Distant Shores sailing adventure TV series is the many chance meetings we have with people who have been inspired in some way by watching the shows we've produced over the years. We’d like to introduce you to some of them.

David MacDonald and Alex Palcic of Halifax, Nova Scotia, discovered the Distant Shores TV series on Travel and Escape Channel in Canada (now airing on Cottage Life channel in Canada). They were dreaming of going cruising and watched the morning broadcast of Distant Shores, Monday to Friday, before work to help keep their dream in front of them. We met them here in the British Virgin Islands several months after they had made the long journey from Halifax aboard their Jeanneau 40 Sun Odyssey sail boat, S/V Banyan.

Distant Shores is now in it's 10th season and is broadcast worldwide in over 24 languages so these encounters happen several times a week now. A dream come true for us!

We also enjoy receiving comments through the Distant Shores Facebook Page, on Twitter, our YouTube Channel and by e-mail where people write to us to tell us their cruising stories and send us photos of their boats. How about you?

Culpepper Family
Distant Shores fans from New York chartered a sailboat in the British Virgin Islands. They spotted our boat and we invited them aboard. They watch the show on DVD and follow our adventures on Facebook too. They’re hoping to go cruising in the future.

We are really delighted that the Distant Shores series has helped so many people discover the joys of sailing since our main goals for the show are to:
  • provide insight into the cruising lifestyle
  • feature top boating destinations as well as places with intriguing maritime history
  • share information about traveling safely by boat
  • inspire confidence in those hoping to set sail to explore distant shores themselves.

From comments and encounters we’ve learned that some viewers head out in their own boat, some charter a boat in an exotic locale, or take a river tour or cruise ship voyage that they may have never considered before.

Many have written to say they knew nothing about sailing but were inspired by the show to get into the sport. They have enrolled in sailing classes and are having the time of their lives!

Distant Shores fans from Mississauga, Ontario, were inspired to get into sailing and came down to the British Virgin Islands to take a sailing course here. They stopped by Distant Shores II to say hello and we learned that they are now members of our yacht club too!

Has watching the Distant Shores series helped or inspired you in some way?

If so, we'd love it if you would tell your story in the comments below and attach a photo of you and your boat, or you and your family/friends having an adventure somewhere as a result of watching episodes of Distant Shores.

Here are a few questions to guide you:
  • How did you discover the Distant Shores sailing TV series?
  • Do you watch the shows on TV, on DVD or download, or a combination of these?
  • What do you like about watching episodes of Distant Shores?
  • How has Distant Shores inspired you or helped you to fulfill your dreams or goals?

So please tell us your stories as comments on this post. We appreciate all the interest and support you have given us during our voyages so we're keen to hear about your adventures or plans!

And to make it even more fun, posting your story will make you eligible for a draw on April 1, 2014, to win a Distant Shores SuperPack. This contains all 117 episodes of Distant Shores from seasons 1-9 on 23 DVDs in a compact wallet (handy on a boat) PLUS all the shows as digital downloads. Info and description of DVDs here.

If you own all or some of the shows already and become our winner, then please pass on your prize as a gift to a friend who is longing to get out on the water too!

Many thanks again!

Sheryl and Paul Shard
Aboard S/V Distant Shores II
Eustacia Sound, British Virgin Islands


Making Money while Cruising

Sheryl conducting a seminar at the Toronto International Boat Show

Happy Winter! We hope you are keeping warm wherever you may be and keeping your mind on boating by attending one of the many boat winter shows, taking a boating course, or attending a local yacht club’s Speaker’s Night. For most of January, Paul and I have been on the road conducting seminars and doing presentations for snowbound sailors in the Northern USA and Canada since speaking, writing and DVD sales are an important part of how we earn a living in addition to the license fees we earn for our sailing adventure television series, Distant Shores.

Paul filming on the wreck of the Rhone in the British Virgin Islands for Distant Shores season 9.

One of the presentations we give that is always popular and generates lots of ideas and enthusiastic discussion is "Making Money while Cruising". This was the case once again recently at the Strictly Sail Chicago boat show where we had full houses for our weekend presentations as we also did at the Toronto International Boat Show. Now back on board our Southerly 49 sailboat, Distant Shores II, in the tropical warmth of St. Maarten in the Caribbean, I thought I would write about our experiences and those of other sailors who have found interesting ways of earning while cruising since we always get lots of questions about this.

At the Travel Channel studio in London, England.

Travelling by boat, as I'm sure you'll agree, offers many pleasures and freedoms but can present plenty of challenges and heart-pounding moments as well. Adding financial stress to the adventure can really take the fun out of cruising so it's important to maintain a good financial base when out sailing long-term. As in life ashore, financial security provides freedom and peace of mind. The ability to earn a living while cruising then seems the ultimate freedom.


Paul and I feel blessed that our work as authors, speakers and the producers of the Distant Shores sailing adventure TV series as well as other travel documentary series has enabled us to earn our keep while living the cruising lifestyle for 24 years now. Although making money while cruising can be a tricky thing to manage, it is possible, and throughout our years of cruising we have met many sailors who are making cruising pay in positive and creative ways. There is probably a way that you can too. Here are some ideas...

Sheryl on assignment in Malta in the Central Mediterranean.

Earning without Working - Investment Earnings
The easiest and most common way to make money while cruising is to have a nest egg of investments that earn a reliable interest rate while you're out having fun on the boat. Earning this way is the least work while you're sailing and, if carefully planned before you set sail, should hardly interfere with you're cruising itinerary as opposed to trying to take on jobs along the way. Ideally your investments should be low maintenance and easy to cash in with little or no penalty. This is not difficult to set up with the help of a financial adviser. Most cruisers we meet doing this have down-scaled their living costs by moving on board and sailing in affordable places so their investment earnings or retirement funds go further than when living ashore back home.

Since communications can often be tricky when travelling, it is generally advisable to establish a portfolio that doesn't require a lot of attention. If you have to be checking the stock market constantly or risking disaster if you're caught out in bad weather and can't get a call in to your stock broker or get on the internet it's just going to add to your stress level and be dangerous financially. This of course depends on where you're cruising since technology has improved to the extent that in so many places, even at sea or in a remote anchorage, you can get internet access and have good affordable phone service on board. We know of several cruisers who earn their money through serious trading but they are very experienced and treat it as a job by dedicating several hours a day to the process. They spend a lot of money on communications systems to guarantee they're connected.

Looking at things from the other side of the coin, when we sailed to Bermuda for the first time in 1997 we met a cruising stock broker from Connecticut who was handling the complicated investments of his high profile clients while cruising on his boat. He'd made the offshore voyage to Bermuda, something he'd always dreamed of doing, and having accomplished this he then set himself up at a dock in the harbour for several months with phone, fax and e-mail and was enjoying island life while working for his clients. Very occasionally he had to fly back to his office at home but by remaining in one location for a long period he was able to establish the reliable communications he needed to handle the investments of his clients and earn his living while cruising in paradise for the summer. This is an example of “Working while Cruising but Earning at Home” which I'll elaborate on later on.

Paul at work in the Bahamas.

Royalties from intellectual property that you have created in the past such as a book, computer software you have developed or, as in our case, license fees for television programs we have made in the past plus DVD/download sales is another way to make money without working while cruising since the income is from work you have done in previous years. For us, the income from DVDs and downloads of Distant Shores episodes which feature the world's best cruising destinations goes towards production costs of making new shows. By the way, many thanks to all of you for your support over the years. It's always a pleasure to meet sailors “out there” who have used the shows as resources for planning their own adventures. We hope they do/have done the same for you.

Every year we release new Distant Shores sailing DVDs that profile the world’s top cruising destinations to help you plan your own adventures.

Rental Earnings
Another popular method of making money while cruising without working while you sail is to move aboard your boat and rent out your house or other property that you own at a rate that covers the house expenses plus enough to maintain a simple cruising lifestyle, probably in addition to savings or other investment income. (I wrote more about this in a previous newsletter about “Maintaining a Home Base while Cruising”.) We meet many cruising sailors who are renting out their homes especially if they are out cruising for a set period of time – a summer, two years, etc. - and are planning to return home afterwards, or if they have just begun cruising and want the reassurance that they have their place to go home to if they find the cruising life isn't for them. Since property values generally increase over time, renting also helps maintain any investment in a home or other property. Then if you do eventually decide to sell, you can wait for a good time in the market and hopefully get a good return on your investment.

The importance of having access to good communication is also an issue when renting property. You must be in touch to look after your tenants needs or assign a reliable representative at home that your tenants can contact if they need the plumbing fixed or repairs made. A property manager can be hired if you do not have a friend or family member to help you out with this but hiring a property manager will reduce your earnings somewhat. The hassles you may be spared however will probably make it worthwhile.

The key to success with rental income is to be sure you have good tenants for the long-term that are not causing trouble with the neighbours or damaging your property. Bad tenants or a high turn-over of tenants which results in increased administrative time and cost can make this form of earning-while-cruising a nightmare but with carefully chosen tenants, earning income by renting your home or other property works well for many cruisers since it offers emotional as well as financial security in many cases.

Paid Sabbaticals
We've met many teachers who have arranged a sabbatical by deferring part of their salaries for several years in order to self-finance a planned leave of absence, with the guarantee of a job upon return. The typical model is the Canadian "five over four" in which 20 percent of a teacher’s pay is deferred over four years, and then the teacher is paid 80% of salary over the fifth year for the sabbatical leave of absence. Cheques are coming in while they playing beach volleyball on a tropical island somewhere. Could this be you?

Doing Work while Cruising but Earning Money at Home
Today with the accessibility of the internet while cruising, most sailors we know keep a blog or website and generate a following. If your numbers are significant this may be an opportunity to make money while cruising by monetizing your website. For example, selling your music CDs or downloads (cruising DVDs and downloads in our case). You can get sponsors for your page, sell advertising or set up affiliate links with companies such as Amazon and West Marine whereby if you mention or promote a product they sell while writing your blog, and visitors to your website click through to their website from yours and purchase a product, you receive a small commission. You have to work very hard at promoting the products to make much money at this but it does provide some additional income. The Zero to Cruising blog by Mike and Rebecca Sweeney and The Boat Galley by Carolyn Shearlock are good examples of this.

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We work while cruising but earn money at home filming our sailing television show. Similar to travel writers and photographers on assignment, we do the physical work of filming, interviewing and scripting while traveling in foreign countries but we are selling the finished product at home. Since we're not earning money in the territory we are documenting in our television programs, work permits are not required although we must work with the tourist boards to obtain filming permits.

One of Paul’s cover shots on the October 2013 issue of Canadian Yachting magazine.

Other examples of working while cruising but earning money at home are working as a Virtual Assistant, writing a book or magazine article, doing software development or IT consultation while on your boat for clients back at home, the way the financial planner I mentioned earlier was doing.

Working Part-time
Many cruisers go home to do contract work or do work on a part-time basis for the company they worked for before setting sail. This is appealing since it provides some financial security and a chance to stay connected with your industry while sailing for a large part of the year. We've met sailors that run a B&B when they're home for the summer, then close down for the winter and go cruising in the tropics. Like us, they mostly store their boat in the location they finished their voyage in the year before rather than sail it back and forth each year. Marinas and boat yards around the world are set up for this. You fly back, launch, and carry on to new destinations. Job-sharing is another set-up we've seen working for part-time cruisers. Teachers share a class and each work different semesters. We met two brothers that owned a dinghy repair and servicing business who took turns managing the business so each could go cruising for six months each year. And yes, they shared the boat too.

With advanced communications these days your boat can be your mobile office in beautiful locations such as the British Virgin Islands.

Finding Work Along the Way
Perhaps the most obvious way of making money while cruising is to set sail and work along the way. Unfortunately, this can be a very unreliable method of making money while cruising if you are constantly on the move and if it is your only source of income it can be very stressful. Most cruisers who work along the way do it only as a supplement to their travel funds. Having said that, we know lots of cruising folk who have worked their way around the globe and who find that working in a new place adds greatly to their cruising experience and understanding of the world. They generally have a specific skill that travels well such as carpentry or waitressing or bartending or teaching English as a second language or they charter their boat for part of the year or provide yacht maintenance services. But these folks are generally willing to take on any variety of jobs depending on what is available, so flexibility is key.

Selling off old gear at local boat swaps and "Treasures of the Bilge" sales is quick way to put some money in your pocket while cruising.

Working in other countries can often present limitations in the form of requiring work permits, local certificates of qualification, special coding for yacht insurance if you're running charters as well as charter permits and upgraded safety requirements, language barriers, and the like, but with advance planning the paperwork can be applied for and these obstacles dealt with and overcome.

If you have dual citizenship be sure to carry passports for both nations since this will open up work opportunities for you while travelling in other countries. In the Azores we met an American cruising couple who had dual citizenship in the UK and were computer professionals. They enjoyed taking on short-term contracts in countries they could sail to within the European Union. This way they had an interesting mix of cruising and job security in the countries they arrived in. We've met doctors, nurses, teachers and other professionals doing this too.

If working while cruising you may need a different set of clothes from your regular sailing attire.

Cruisers with skills useful to other cruisers such as refrigeration and engine repair often earn their keep just working within the cruising community wherever they go and where they are in constant touch with potential customers. Here you must be very careful since you may be taking work from local service people and work permits will be an issue. Realize that you risk large fines, deportation, or having your boat confiscated by working illegally.

On our last visit to Malta we met up with a British sailor spending the winter there before sailing on to Greece for the summer. He was a certified RYA instructor so was approached by many local sailors wanting to achieve various levels of training and RYA certification. He spent the winter teaching them on their own boats and was offered several delivery jobs as well. Like many work-along-the-way sailors, he didn't rely on this work as his only source of income but it was an enjoyable and rewarding way to top up his cruising fund and get involved in the local boating community while cruising at the same time.

Long-term cruisers generally find that it is nice to stop and stay in one place from time to time to catch their breath, maintain their boats, and find seasonal work while they do. Once they have established work contacts they often return to the same place each winter or summer or tourist season when extra workers are needed during busy times.

There are lots of wonderful and unusual ways to earn a living while cruising. In the Bahamas we met a statuesque Swedish hairdresser who gave topless haircuts on the beach! In remote places where she wasn't infringing on the business of local hairdressers she announced her services on the VHF net and only charged $5.00 for a basic cut or beard trim but always made a bundle. Sorry no photos :-) Musicians top up their cruising kitties performing at local events and by selling their CDs. Artists take on commissions and sell their artwork. The list is endless.

Making money while cruising is possible. It just takes a little patience and imagination - qualities all boaters with a dream possess!

Have you found ways to earn money while cruising? We’d love to hear about your experiences too. We welcome your comments and questions below...

Warm regards,

Sheryl and Paul Shard
Aboard SV Distant Shores II
Simpson Bay Marina
Sint Maarten, Dutch Antilles

Maintaining a Home Base while Cruising

tobago bow
Aboard Distant Shores II in the Tobago Cays, St Vincent and the Grenadines

Right now we're counting the days to getting back to the boat in the Caribbean since we’re facing a major snow storm in Southern Ontario. But in 3 more days we'll be back on board our sailboat, Distant Shores II, in Grenada preparing for another season of sailing in the Caribbean.

Paul and I have been home in Canada for the last few weeks completing post production on the final episodes of Distant Shores season 9 which document the experiences of our recent cruise through the Leeward and Windward Islands of the Caribbean starting with the British Virgin Islands for the BVI Spring Regatta, St. Maarten for Carnival, diving and hiking in Dominica, riding out Tropical Storm Chantal in Martinique, and a special episode featuring top canal voyages that you can do with your own boat or by chartering. (The shows will soon be airing on television but if you can't wait, you can get them on DVD as well as HD digital download.)

Being home has got me thinking about the pros and cons of maintaining a home base while cruising, so today I thought I'd share our experiences. Paul and I have now been cruising for 24 years. We initially opted for the “sell up and sail” style of cruising (1989 to 1998) but for the last 15 years we have maintained a home base - a condo town house in Ontario's “cottage country” north of Toronto - so we have lots of experience with both options.

Sell Up and Sail
When Paul and I were married in 1985 we had only been out of school for a couple of years but were committed to our dream of building a boat and going cruising before settling down. The dream had been burning since high school and we knew that if we didn't do it we would live with the regret forever. So it didn't make sense for us to put down roots and immediately start saving for a house like the rest of our 20s-something friends were doing. We were paying off our student loans and investing in our dream, which was building our own sailboat from a bare hull and deck and taking a 1-2 year sabbatical to sail it down south - a delayed “gap year” of sorts.

We got a lovely, yet surprisingly affordable, waterfront apartment overlooking the Port Credit Harbour Marina and Port Credit Yacht Club, our home club on Lake Ontario west of Toronto, where we could build our Classic 37 sailboat in the boat yard right at our doorstep. It was a convenient, supportive, inspiring environment for our dream. When we launched the boat after 2 years of building, had sailed her for a couple of seasons, and were ready to set sail, it was easy to just let the apartment go, store a few things with friends and family, sell our student furniture (we were so focused on our boat project we weren't tempted to buy new stuff for the apartment), car, etc., and say goodbye to financial commitments ashore . We no longer had to budget for things like car and home insurance, utilities, rent, cable TV, and all that goes with life on land.

It was quite freeing. Life afloat is is simple life and so is managing the basic expenses of the cruising life when you don't have financial commitments back home. Building our boat didn't save us any money. Home builders don't benefit from the volume discounts on materials that commercial manufacturers pass on to their customers but building our Classic 37 sailboat, Two-Step, allowed us to put our money into our project gradually, kept us involved and committed to our dream, and most importantly gave us knowledge and skills which saved us money once we were “out there”. When we sold up and went sailing we owned the boat free and clear which is also liberating.

That first cruise stretched into a 3-year voyage from 1989-1992 around the Atlantic Ocean via the USA, Bahamas, Bermuda, Azores, Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar, Balearics, Canary Islands, Brazil, Caribbean Islands and then back to Canada. We found our savings stretched out since we anchored a lot, shopped in local markets mostly cooking on board, and did all our own repairs and maintenance. It was an amazing life-altering experience but by the end we were travel weary and looking forward to getting home. The travel documentary we'd filmed, Call of the Ocean, was picked up by Discovery Channel and we got requests for a full TV series that would follow upcoming voyages.

Part-time Cruising
By then we'd been home for a year, living with my (Sheryl's) mother who is a widow. It was a good arrangement because Mom wanted to stay in the family home and us being there helped all of us financially, plus we felt good about being able to help out with chores and projects for the house. Paul's parents lived just down the street (Paul and I went to school together and have been friends since we were 7 years old) and our brothers nearby in neighbouring towns. It was the perfect arrangement since we were longing to be back with our families after being away for 3 years. They had all come to visit us on the boat during our time away of course and we'd had amazing times together, but a week here and there is pretty different from the real family involvement we find so enriching.

It was great to be home but after a year ashore Paul and I were itching to get back to sea. We missed living in the outdoors, working as a team running the boat, the stimulation of no two days ever being the same, the new sights, sounds and friendships which are the real treasures of the cruising life. Our brief time back home had re-charged our batteries. We were enthusiastic once again and a contract for our first full TV series, Exploring Under Sail, (co-produced with Canadian director, Peter Rowe) required us to sail and film for 6 months of the year with time at home doing post-production for the rest of the year.

We discovered this part-time style of cruising worked well for us since it provided a nice balance of long-term cruising and life ashore, meaning we never got tired of either. In fact, it made us savour and appreciate all the benefits of both more full. Sharing a house with my mother meant that while we were away we didn't have to worry about leaving an empty house and we were anxious to get caught up with one another when we got home. We kept up this arrangement living with Mom and cruising for part of the year for 6 years.

At the time, Mom was working as a full-time pharmacist. Then Mom retired and one of the things she was looking forward to in retirement was doing lots of entertaining. Paul and I had been working at home and this started to make it difficult to work sometimes. Also, us being there meant she didn't have the space for extended family and friends to stay while visiting when we were home. At about the same time Paul and I were at a point where we were missing having our own nest to feather. Our own furniture, dishes, artwork, and many other personal possessions that we treasured, including beautiful wedding gifts we'd never had the chance to use, were still in storage and had been for years. We'd also collected lovely things during our travels that we didn't have the space to display, use and enjoy either on the boat or in the rooms we stayed in at my mother's. We realized it was time to get a place of our own even though we'd only be there for part of the year. We both have a great relationship with my mother and we didn't want to strain it by this change in circumstances. The time was right.

Maintaining a Home Base
So we found a small but lovely condo townhouse north of the city in Ontario's cottage country on Lake Simcoe where Paul and I had both got our start in boating as kids.

It gave us the space for family and friends to visit on weekends. That it's a condo means that maintenance is handled by the condo association. We can just lock the door and leave when it's time to go cruising again. We have 2 neighbours, Dawn and Nancy, who run our office while we're away. They coordinate production details, fulfill DVD orders, and manage the administrative tasks involved with running a television production business. So our place isn't empty and is paying for itself through the business.

Many of our cruising friends who maintain a home base to come back to, rent out their condo or home, or sublet their apartment. This helps to cover costs and in many cases provides income as well depending on the type of property.

Several friends of ours own waterfront condos in popular tourist areas. During the high season they're out cruising, a property management agency handles renting out and handling maintenance on their furnished condos on a weekly and/or monthly basis. Our friends store their personal items during the time tourists are renting it. In low season when sailing isn't good in the areas they're cruising in, they come home and move back into the condo for several months to take a break and re-connect with family and friends.

Other cruising friends rent out their homes on a longer term basis, say for a year or two, while they're taking a sailing sabbatical or on a voyage of a particular length. They will organize a friend to act as superintendent or hire a professional service. This works well if you have good tenants and a reliable person or property management service looking after things. There is less stress and strain on your home as compared to the high turnover of vacationing tenants like our friends in the first example have to deal with. And our friends who are renting out their condos weekly are often anxious if weeks aren't filled since they're counting on the income.

Although long-term rentals of your home base seem like less hassle, the down side is that if your own circumstances change, say perhaps one of you becomes seriously ill and you need to return home sooner than planned, your home is not available to you. Laws protecting tenants are strong and making changes to rental agreement can be tricky so it's necessary to have legal advice when setting up any rental arrangement.

One of the most important things is to do everything possible to ensure that you are getting good reliable non-destructive tenants. If the people you end up renting turn out to be the tenants from hell it can really ruin your cruise. Getting good references, doing interviews, being clear about your expectations, having a good legal agreement, and having a good property manager that checks up on the tenants and property regularly does help. Since most people that go cruising are pretty tuned in to other people, most of our friends have had really great experiences with good tenants.

House Sitters
Another option is to have a family member or friend house-sit for you. Friends of our whose home is in a university town have a young niece attending the university who house-sits for him during school terms. In the summertime when the niece heads back to her home town for a summer job our friends return to the house after a winter of cruising in the tropics. It is an excellent arrangement for everyone since our friends feel secure knowing the house isn't empty and their niece, a quiet responsible person, has affordable student housing. Also, if our friends need to make a quick unplanned visit home for a doctor's appointment or short-term work contract, it's not a problem to come back since they all get along well together under one roof.

The goal of most cruises is to live a more relaxed enjoyable life so make sure that you take steps to ensure that maintaining the security and investment that a home offers you, is hassle-free. There are definitely pros and cons to both “selling up and sailing” as well as maintaining a home base while cruising. When making up your mind about which option you're going to choose, it's important to consider which will bring you and your mate, the greatest sense of pleasure, security and peace of mind.

See you out there!

Sheryl and Paul Shard

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Celebrating 24 Years of Cruising - Lessons Learned

Sheryl and Paul Shard aboard their Southerly 49, Distant Shores II, in the Tobago Cays

September has been a month of celebration for us aboard Distant Shores II. On September 3rd the Distant Shores TV series was launched on the brand new Cottage Life channel and is now airing primetime across Canada in back-to-back episodes at 6:00 PM ET and 6:30 PM ET daily Monday to Friday. (Where to Watch). September 21st was Sheryl's birthday and also the 24th Anniversary of the day we set sail from Toronto, Canada, on our first international cruise.

Completing a transatlantic passage at Cape St. Vincent, Portugal, aboard their self-built Classic 37, Two-Step

All month we've been reminiscing about the magical places we've sailed to and the amazing people we've met over the years. And since September is a time that so many people head south on their first cruise we thought we'd share some thoughts on Lessons Learned during 24 years of cruising.

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Paul and Sheryl in the boat yard at Port Credit Yacht Club on Lake Ontario in early stages of building Two-Step

Before setting off on our first international voyage, Paul and I had been sailing our self-built Classic 37 sloop, Two-Step, (our wedding present to each other) on the Great Lakes of Canada. We were in our 20's, had saved our money after paying off our student loans, spent 3 years building and sailing our new boat, and were looking forward to heading south from Toronto for adventures in warmer climes. The plan was to take a 1-2 year sabbatical and then settle down. The “settling down” part never happened.
Lesson Learned – Going Cruising is Life Changing

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Two-Step at anchor in Warderick Wells, Bahamas, 1990

Our 1-2 year sabbatical to explore the Bahamas and Caribbean stretched into a 3-year Atlantic Circle taking us across the Atlantic to the Med then south to Brazil before returning home briefly via the Caribbean. We found that the money we'd saved went further than we'd thought as our experience grew. We anchored more than staying in marinas, discovered the fun of shopping in foreign markets and cooking on board versus eating out in restaurants and did our own repairs and maintenance which saved a bundle. Since we'd built our own boat we had the tools and know-how. We gave up our early-marriage apartment and sold our furniture, so had no additional expenses such as mortgage payments, house insurance or utilities, etc. while cruising. Our budget for that first cruise was $1,000 US a month and we lived and explored well. Here's a link to an article we wrote and recently updated about the Costs of Cruising.
Lesson Learned – Cruising Life Can be a Very Affordable Lifestyle

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Stack of cruising guides for the Distant Shores season 8 cruise, 2011.

Our background and work training is in photo-journalism and television production so it's natural for us to share our cruising experiences this way. Our one-hour travel documentary about our first 3-year cruise, Call of the Ocean, was picked up Discovery Channel in 1992. This led to our first sailing TV series, Exploring Under Sail, which we co-produced with Canadian director, Peter Rowe (Angry Planet, Adventures in Filmmaking) and required that we do another couple of years of cruising. Twist our arms! When that contract ended we were ready to go out on our own with the Distant Shores sailing adventure TV series which is now in its 9th season with 117 half-hour episodes and is broadcast worldwide in 24 languages. You can download all the episodes and also get them on DVD. We also published a book, “Sail Away! A Guide to Outfitting and Provisioning for Cruising”, which became a best-seller with 11,000 copies sold. We're currently updating the book to a 3rd edition.
Lesson #3 – There are Many Ways to Earn a Living While Cruising

Caught in a storm on their first transatlantic passage aboard Two-Step

During the 24 years that we've been cruising we've put over 90,000 nm under our keels. We've crossed the Atlantic Ocean 5 times, most recently last December as participants of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC), which we filmed in a 3-part series released in August. Our first transatlantic crossing was from Bermuda to the Azores in 1990. We were excited and nervous as we waited in St. George's Harbour in anticipation for front after front to pass by Bermuda so we'd have a good weather window to make the jump. Two weeks went by. Boats were gathering. We were afraid if we had to wait any longer we'd lose our nerve. There was a small break in the weather and a few us convinced each other we should go for it. Within 24 hours the coming front sped up and caught us at sea. The winds howled and there was no way of turning back. The seas built to the size of 2-storey houses and we fought the conditions for 3 exhausting days and nights. Finally we hove-to to get some rest and the storm passed on. We faced the nightmare and got through it arriving safely in Horta, Fayal, in the Azores 18 days later, somewhat shaken but undaunted.
We've never had such a bad experience again. Why? Now we wait for reliably good weather. We have the time. And how bad can it be to spend one more week in a paradise like Bermuda waiting until conditions are good?! I mean, really. Also, we have more experience now so we strategize better if bad weather does catch us offshore, which is rare with the excellent weather forecasting and accessibility to it at sea these days via SSB radio and grib files by e-mail. Plus we aren't so anxious about heavy weather since we know what to expect, what to do, and know just what we and our boat can handle. We are unmoved by the advice of others if their decisions don't gybe with ours. We've paid the price.
Lessons Learned: Wait for Good Weather. Do What Feels Right for You and Your Crew Despite What Everyone Else is Doing.

An adjunct to the lesson above is that having a set schedule or a deadline often tempts you to sail in conditions that you normally wouldn't feel safe or comfortable in. Things such as meeting guests coming to visit you at a certain location or time. It's so important to give yourself lots of lead time and to warn your guests that if you are delayed by weather they will have to make alternate plans until you can get there. Not easy to do but the dangers aren't worth it. This is also something to think about if you're joining a rally with a set start date. We were impressed with the organizers of 2012 Atlantic Rally for Cruiser (ARC) who delayed the start by 2 days due to weather – a huge logistical decision since there were over 200 boats in the fleet, most with crew who had deadlines for flying home at the other end. Even still the day of the delayed start turned out to be miserable but off we all went. If we'd been on our own, most agreed they would never have started a passage on such an unpleasant day.
Lesson Learned: Schedules and Cruising Don't Mix

Crossing the Gulf Stream from Florida to the Bahamas

Thinking back to our first real (but short) blue water passage in December 1989 - a one-night crossing of the Gulf Stream from Florida to the Bahamas where we were going to cruise for the winter of 1990. (We loved the Bahamas and have been back to cruise many times over the years!) Knowing it would be hard to get certain foods and supplies in the islands and that things would be much more expensive than in the US, we loaded the boat on that first crossing with so much stuff that she became top heavy. The lockers were bursting with provisions and the decks were covered in fuel and water jugs as well as a couple of extra propane cans. We waddled across the Gulf Stream in gentle conditions but later, in heavy weather down-island, the boat rolled dangerously and we took water over the decks.

Paul clipped on during rough conditions

A propane tank broke loose and started bashing against the fibreglass hull. Although Paul was safely clipped onto the boat with his safety harness, it was a risky manoeuver in the pounding seas to get that propane tank back on board. Now we keep our decks clear and cargo weight as low and centrally distributed as possible. We still carry a lot of stuff since we like the independence and self-sufficiency, but now never at the expense of the safe performance of the boat. This goes for gear and equipment too. Better to have a simply equipped boat that's seaworthy than have a boat loaded with all the latest equipment, toys and appliances that makes the boat dangerous to control.
Lesson Learned: Clear the Decks


Paul had a lot more sailing experience than I did when we set sail in 1989 so we made a deal that if I wasn't comfortable with the conditions on a planned day of sailing that we would wait, change the plan, or turn back if we were already at sea. Paul knew that even if my fears were unfounded, if I got traumatized that would seriously affect the future of our cruising plans. We both were committed to making our sailing sabbatical a happy experience for both of us. Because we respected this agreement I felt safe to stretch myself if I was a little nervous about the conditions since I knew if it got to be too much Paul would turn the boat around or head for shore sooner than planned. This really helped me to build my experience and confidence and I am forever grateful to him. Twenty-four years later we're both still loving the cruising life!
Lesson Learned: Respect the Fears of Your Mate and Crew

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No need to rush. Keep it fun for everyone. Sheryl strolling a Bahamian beach 1990.

Something that I don't see written about very often with regards to cruising is “travel weariness”. This often sets in when you've been on the move for awhile and start to get impatient with things and each other. Stuff you got excited about in your early days of cruising you don't notice anymore or start taking for granted. You feel physically uncomfortable. The fun has gone out things. This is the time to stop.

You may need to stop for only a day or two if you've been on the move at a fast pace for a few weeks, a common problem with first time cruisers used to one-week packed-full boating vacations. You can't keep the same pace long-term. Sometimes you need to stop for a month or so to do maintenance and enjoy the pleasures of getting to know a place really well and make local friends. Sometimes it's good for the crew to get off the boat for a night or two and enjoy the luxuries of comforts in a hotel ashore if you've had some miserable weather.


Sometimes the break needs to be even longer – a year or several years due to family or work issues. But think of it as just a break. Not that “it's over”. Most people head out again sooner or later.

After our first 3 years of full-time cruising we really started getting travel weary so knew it was time to head home. Within a year we had regained our enthusiasm and were back “out there”. Our work now requires that we're home working in the studio for several months each year and this half-on half-off the boat experience is the perfect balance for us. We never get tired of things and are enthusiastic wherever we are – home or ashore. Many cruisers we meet have adopted this part-time cruising lifestyle, storing their boats for part of the year to make visits home to work or see the family or travel in different ways.

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Paul doing a rigging check in the Tobago Cays

You should never feel bad if you start noticing that you've lost some of your enthusiasm for the cruising life. People commit so much to making it happen that they feel as if they are giving up on the dream when they realize they aren't having fun anymore. And they're often afraid to voice these feelings to their partner or crewmates which just makes it worse.

Sometimes it just takes a small change to put the sparkle back into things again.
Lesson Learned: Take a Break Once in Awhile

Experiencing the local cuisine in Croatia with cruising friends.

But really, it's pretty easy to keep things fun while cruising. You meet such great people wherever you go, both from the cruising community as well as local people. The friends you make become good friends since you have so much in common and are sharing exciting experiences together. And you will be blown away by the kindness you are shown by strangers. Throughout the world we have met so many amazing local people who have helped us out, invited us to their homes, given us a lift, even loaned us their cars!
Paul and Sheryl with Jean at the Dead Man’s Beach Bar, Peter Island, BVI

When you watch the news you can feel that the world is an unfriendly dangerous place. Sure there are dangerous places but you can avoid them and if you don't like something or someone you can just raise anchor and leave when you're cruising. I don't deny that there are baddies out there but on the whole we have discovered that the there are a lot of nice people out there and meeting them is one of the greatest joys of cruising.
Lesson Learned: The World is a Friendly Place

So if you're cruising now, just starting out, or still dreaming of cruising, we wish you all the best and look forward to meeting you “out there”.

Fair winds,

Sheryl and Paul Shard
Aboard SY Distant Shores II
St. Georges, Grenada

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Martinique - South and East Coasts

Hello Everyone!
IMG_8693 storm
We've had a rather exciting time during the last few days in Martinique as Tropical Storm Chantal blew through the islands on Tuesday! We have just untangled the boat from the mangroves where we had tied ourselves onto the mangrove roots in a spiderweb of lines and anchors to protect the boat from the 50+ kn winds. Paul has written a few detailed reports in his Tech Blog about how we set up the boat for the storm and how we fared as Chantal vented her fury, so I refer you to those for the Tropical Storm update:
Tropical Storm Arrives
Securing in a Mangrove
Tropical Storm Chantal is coming

My newsletter is about our cruising adventures preceding the storm as we sailed to some lovely places on the the south and east coasts of Martinique.
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Anchored off the seaside village of Ste. Anne. Photo by Sheryl Shard

Ste. Anne & Marin
After sailing down the west coast of Martinique (see previous newsletter) we arrived at the south coast at the seaside town of Ste. Anne.

There is an enormous anchorage here which is the outer harbour of Marin, the yachting capital of the Eastern Caribbean. Every kind of yachting facility and service can be found in Marin and its inner harbour, Cul de Sac Marin, is also huge with over 1,000 boats there.
Better yet, it's a huge hurricane hole with several mangrove creeks running off it so for summer cruising during Hurricane Season it's a nice place to be close to.

Outside in the anchorage off Ste. Anne, which is a quiet little town built around the village church, there are many lovely white sand beaches and the atmosphere is relaxed yet festive with numerous beach bars.

Ste. Anne has lovely clear water for swimming and snorkelling.

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In Ste. Anne there are a couple of small grocery stores, a vegetable and fish market, a post office and bank that both have ATM's, several internet cafes that frequently aren't working, a couple of really good dinghy docks with free garbage disposal at the main pier, and many boutiques and souvenir shops for fun shopping.

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We have been spent many nice days at anchor here while we work on our latest assignments taking breaks to go snorkelling and enjoying beautiful sunsets in the evening.

When we need more supplies or a visit to a chandlery we just raise anchor and in 15 minutes are in Marin where we can fill our water tanks at the fuel dock at the huge marina there and anchor while we run to several good grocery stores, phone centres, etc. When our chores are done it's an easy run back to peaceful Ste. Anne.

When we left the island of St. Maaretn/St Martin in June we felt as if it was the end of the season with yachts migrating back to Europe, north to the US and Canada, and south to Grenada and Trinidad for Hurricane Season. But here in Martinique the season is on-going. Marin has numerous active charter fleets and lots of places around the island to cruise to, local boating families are now on summer holidays, and the French live-aboard cruisers are basing themselves here as they do annual maintenance or get seasonal work to improve their cruising funds. (I will write more about Working While Cruising in a future Life On Board article.)
When we arrived in Ste. Anne on June 20th we were greeted by a group of French sailors that we had shared a dock with in Rabat, Morocco, 6 months previously.
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Jean-Noel saves the day in Rabat, Morocco, by swimming lines across the harbour to the opposite pontoon. This is where we first met and are now having a reunion in Martinique on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean - and dealing with another storm together!

We had ridden out a bad storm with them in Rabat (related to weather weirdness following Hurricane Sandy) where Jean-Noel of Julie 1re swam across the harbour to the opposite pontoon to secure our boats from the strong crosswinds that had broken the pontoon in several places.
Our French friends had been sailing together in a casual flotilla of 3 or 4 boats and, while we sailed west from Morocco to the Canary Islands and across to the Caribbean, their route to the Caribbean had been to continue south visiting more ports along the west coast of Morocco before heading offshore to the Cape Verde Islands, then Senegal, then French Guyana from where they jumped off for the islands of the Caribbean. This seems to be the preferred route of French-speaking sailors just as our route is preferred transatlantic route for most English-speaking sailors (with some overlaps in the Cape Verde Islands for example.) Language and cultural familiarity seem to be the determining factors in these choices as well as wind and currents.
Babette and Jean- Noel, French friends aboard SY Julie 1re.

Our friends were making Martinique their base while they worked for the season. Babette, a nurse, had gotten contract work for several months filling in for women on maternity leave, etc. Her husband, Jean-Noel, an engineer, was working at the shipyard in Marin as well as doing yacht deliveries. And Virginie of SY Marjalou was working as a waitress at a local restaurant while her husband David made repairs and modifications to their boat, their fulltime home, for the coming winter sailing season. All were enjoying the break and the sociability of their new jobs in a new community. Working is fun if it is part of an adventure!
Many of our cruising friends with shallow-draft yachts had waxed poetic about cruising the east coast of Martinique that is wild and natural and full of quiet coves and bays that you often have to yourself. But the east coast is the windward side of the island which is open to the ocean swells of the Atlantic. This means you have to wait for calm conditions to sail safely into these anchorages since you enter with seas behind you. Many of them have bars at the entrance which can be dangerous in large seas and because of this you must cruise here fully provisioned with food and water in case the weather turns suddenly and you get trapped here for a few days.
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Courtesy Navionics Mobile

So last Saturday. July 6, we finally got the conditions we were looking for and raised anchor from Ste Anne to spend the weekend in quiet solitude – or so we thought! It was an absolutely beautiful blue-sky day and as we headed around Point Dunkerque to sail past the gorgeous stretches of white sand beaches on the south coast there was a parade of charter yachts, speed boats and jet skies headed the same way! Uh oh. Was everyone taking advantage of the weather and heading for the east coast for the weekend too?!
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However, when we reached Anse des Salines we saw that they all stopped there since there was a huge beach festival going on. The largest raft-up of small power boats we'd every seen, probably more than 50 boats (later we saw that stern moorings had been laid out to make this safe) was strung out in front of the beach with probably another 50 or so yachts anchored further out. Music was blaring, people were dancing on the beach, bubble machines were filling the air with sparkling bubbles and foam, and lots of Martinique rum was being consumed – at 1030 in the morning! What was up? We had to stop and get the story. Turns out it was Mercury Day, the island's biggest beach party sponsored by the company Mercury that manufactures outboard motors.
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After partying for a couple of hours we said goodbye to new friends and continued on around the corner to the east coast.

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What a change in scenery! It was rough and wild exposed to the Atlantic swells.

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But today it was lovely and we had no problem navigating into Baie des Anglais.

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However when we got into the anchorage we discovered it was now a nature reserve and anchoring no longer allowed in certain areas. But moorings had been laid and we joined 2 catamarans there for the night. We always dive on moorings to make sure they are safe and these looked well maintained.

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We had a very pleasant weekend there and the Mercury Day party provided quite a contrast to the peacefulness of Baie des Anglais.

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But then we got word that Tropical Storm Chantal was on the way ETA Tuesday so we headed back to the safety of Marin on Sunday afternoon.

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The weather was still great and we had a lovely downwind sail back to Marin past the south coast beaches and right into the harbour.

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What a weekend!

Warm regards,
Sheryl and Paul
Aboard SV Distant Shores II

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10 Tips for Cooking at Sea

By Sheryl Shard, Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.
Up until now most of my newsletters have focused on our travels with the aim of sharing our experiences to help you plan your own adventures in the many different destinations we have visited during 23 years of international cruising. But one of the most popular boat show seminars we conduct is "Outfitting and Provisioning for Cruising", so I thought for a change that I’d write about something related to this and Life On Board. Today’s topic is Cooking at Sea.
transatlantic crossing crew eat dinner
A calm day on the Atlantic with Paul and friend, Matt Heron. After days of rough weather and strenuous watch-keeping during the 2012 Atlantic Rally for Cruising (ARC) it was nice to have a sit-down meal together in the cockpit . Photo by Sheryl Shard

One of the things Paul and I love about cruising is that we have more time to prepare and enjoy delicious meals than when we’re rushing around during our busy lives ashore. We love to shop in foreign markets, experiment with new foods, and entertain friends aboard our Southerly 49 sailboat, Distant Shores II.
Cured ham at the city market in Valencia, Spain. Photo by Paul Shard.

When on passages, however, food preparation takes on a different meaning and significance. Good nutritious meals are important to maintaining our health and energy at sea, not to mention our sense of well-being when spending weeks in isolation on an ocean crossing. But the physical challenges of passage-making sometimes make meal preparation an energy-depleting exercise. In rough weather it can be downright dangerous.
paul wearing foul weather gear in rain
Paul at the helm after wet crossing of the North Sea from Shetland to Norway. Photo by Sheryl Shard
More injuries at sea are caused by working in the galley than in any other way – burns from hot spills, cuts from knives or rough edges of cans, bruises and worse from lost footing while juggling pots and pans in rough weather. During 23 years of international cruising, Paul and I have developed a set of guidelines that has made cooking at sea easy, safe and pleasurable:
sailboat galley at sea
The galley on our Southerly 49 sailboat, Distant Shores II, set up for sea. Photo by Sheryl Shard.

Top 10 tips for Cooking at Sea

1. Prepare meals ahead of time: Before leaving on a passage, we try to prepare as many meals as possible before we leave the dock. It takes a few days for your body to adjust to around-the-clock watch routines so make everything easy. Like many long-distance sailors, Paul is especially susceptible to seasickness during the first 3 days of a passage so we plan light, easily digestible foods.
2. Store everything you need for meal preparation near the galley: If everything is close at hand, you will do a better job of preparing good meals since it will be less tiring than running here and there digging deep in lockers on a pitching boat. You will also be less likely to fall or injure yourself.
3. Know what you’ve got and where it is: Don’t waste your time and energy digging through lockers unnecessarily. Keep a good inventory list so you know exactly what you’ve got and where it is.
4. Top everything up before you leave the dock: Running out of dish detergent, having to change a toilet paper roll or finding the flour canister empty can bring me to tears if a storm is raging. Topping everything up before you leave the dock reduces effort and irritation.
5. Clean the boat like crazy: Odours can do you in if you’re on the verge of “mal de mar”. Make sure there are no sour sponges, dirty dish towels, gruesome laundry or icebox gremlins waiting to turn your stomach. Do your best to clean up spills so you don’t slip and fall. Check your fresh produce supply regularly so you’re not caught out by a rotting potato or mildewed melon.
6. Add safety features and use them: The safer you feel in the galley, the more pleasant your galley tasks will be. There should be lots of handholds in the galley and a galley strap at the stove so when the going gets rough the chef doesn’t land in the soup. We have pot clamps on our gimballed propane stove to keep things where they should be. We have a stainless steel safety bar in front of the stove (between the cook and “the cooker”) for added protection from burns. At sea I also cover our countertops with non-skid mats to keep bowls and utensils from flying around.
7. Keep it simple: When the weather is rough, it’s really better to stay out of the galley, if possible. Design meals to be quick and easy. We snack a lot on passages, especially in foul weather, often having several small meals rather than three major productions per day. It’s easier on the digestion and easier on the cook.
8. Come up for air: Stick your head out the companionway occasionally if you’re going to be in the galley for a while. It clears your head and makes you feel better.
9. Make clean-up easy: Design your meals so clean-up isn’t a major chore. One-pot dinners served on paper plates makes life easier for everyone when the going gets rough.
10. Make time to sit together and eat: Being only 2 people on a yacht most times while underway can make it tempting to alternate long watches and pass each other like ships in the night. Help your relationship and avoid loneliness by sitting and eating together. Even if it is only for 10 minutes, take the time to catch up and ask each other how you're feeling.
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Town of Ste. Anne on the south coast of Martinique

Greetings from the French island of Martinique! July 1st was our national day so yesterday Paul and I celebrated Canada Day anchored off the quaint town of Ste. Anne on the south coast.

We arrived in Martinique, the largest of the Windward Islands, after a great week exploring Dominica, the island to the north (see previous newsletter) and the most southern Caribbean island in the Leeward Islands group.

Leaving Dominica
On Sunday June 16 we said goodbye to Dominica and, leaving Portsmouth at 0830, we motored in a southwesterly direction in the lee of the island.
It was a pleasant morning since we kept in fairly close to shore to enjoy the view of the picturesque fishing villages along the dramatic mountainous coast. Our destination was the town of St. Pierre, about 55 nm onwards which is a port of entry on the northwest coast of Martinique. (Note: We didn't need to clear-out when we left Dominica because when you clear-in you are automatically cleared-out two weeks later. You only have to visit Customs and Immigration to clear-out if you stay longer than 2 weeks. Very convenient and welcoming!)
Four hours out from Portsmouth at 1230, we arrived at Scott's Head, a rocky outcrop at the southwest corner of Dominica, and headed out into open water sailing close-hauled for 20 nm across the Martinque Channel. There is an “acceleration zone” here where the wind speed is accelerated as it whirl around the mountainous end of the island. A similar thing happens with the currents. The seas can look rather exciting at this point but smooth out once you get away from land. We had headwinds of 20 knots with gusts to 30 knots, borderline conditions for making this a comfortable passage, and were prepared to turn back and stay the night anchored off Roseau, the capital city of Dominica, if the seas were too nasty. We plowed on but Distant Shores II, our Southerly 49 sailboat, sliced through the seas and we made good progress.
The Martinique Channel divides the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean from the Windward Islands (although some sources include Guadeloupe and Dominica as part of the Windward Islands and make the dividing line further north).

Why are they called the Leeward and Windward Islands? In days of old when sailing ships were the commercial vessels of the time, ships sailing from Europe to the New World would follow the transatlantic currents and prevailing trade winds that blow east to west for the fastest voyage possible. This route would bring ships to roughly the dividing line between the Windward and Leeward Islands so named since the islands to the north were more to leeward for the sailing ships and the group to the south were to windward.

Our main resource for this part of our voyage south through the Caribbean is Chris Doyle's cruising guide, the 2013-2014 Sailors Guide to Windward Islands, and Chris defines the Windward Islands as Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada.

St. Pierre
After a good beat across the Martinique Channel we arrived at the picturesque town of St. Pierre at the foot of the Mt. Pelée volcano at around 5:00 p.m. - just in time for sundowners in the cockpit.
We anchored off the town quay leaving room for the ferry that comes to the quay. There is a shelf with comfortable depths of 3-8 m (10-25 feet) just off the town and then it drops off quickly to very deep water, so you need to be sure to get your anchor down securely on this shallow shelf. We anchored in 4 m (13 feet) with good holding. This is a good overnight anchorage except in heavy northerly swells.
Clearing-in is done at the tourist office at the waterfront which is open Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. so we waited and didn't go ashore until the next morning. The process is very easy and casual. There is a designated computer at the Tourist Office for Customs and Immigration and you fill in the documents yourself which require information from your ship's papers and crew passports. We brought all these documents with us since it's customary to show them to some kind of official but here it's the tourist office receptionist who welcomes you and she said she didn't need to see them. There were no administrative charges since it was a government office. We had the same experience in St. Martin and Guadeloupe, the other French Islands we've visited. In Deshaies in Guadeloupe, the DIY Customs and Immigration computer is in one of the local bars, so you can have a drink while you fill out the forms!
The history of St. Pierre is quite fascinating. In the late 1800's and early 1900's it was known as the “Paris of the Caribbean”. With a population of 30,000 people it was a prosperous town due to the success of the plantations surrounding St. Pierre. The shipments of rum, coffee, sugar and cocoa made several of the plantation owners multimillionaires. St. Pierre was the commercial, social and cultural centre of Martinique.
Cyparis, one of two survivors of the volcanic eruption of May 8 1902. He was later hired by the Barnum & Bailey circus.
But this ended abruptly when on Ascension Day, the 8th of May 1902, the Mt. Pelée erupted and a fireball with the explosive power greater than an atomic bomb blasted the town killing all but 2 people. One was a prisoner named Cyparis, imprisoned for murder in a stone cell. The thickness of the walls saved him but he was still badly burned.
We visited the museum on the waterfront that tells the story in French and English, then visited the cell that Cyparis survived in for 3 days until he was found by rescuers.
We also visited the remains of the once beautiful old theatre. Today the population of St. Pierre is about 5,000.
In French territories there are clean public washrooms everywhere. Here’s an example of coin-operated curbside toilettes.

Menu du Jour
You may recall that at this time last summer we were taking Distant Shores II through the canals of France. One of the things we enjoyed in France was that lunchtime is a sacred hour. Everything shuts down promptly for 1-2 hours at mid-day and people sit down to a proper relaxing meal. During the work week most restaurants offer a Menu du Jour (Menu of the Day) which has a starter, a main course, a dessert, and a glass of wine. Sometimes a cheese plate is included and tea or coffee. The Menu du Jour is excellent value so we were happy to discover that the same tradition is honoured in the French islands of the Caribbean.
In St Pierre we enjoyed a delicious mid-day meal at a little restaurant close to the waterfront called Le Switch. It was quite plain looking from the street but it was full of working people, not just tourists, always a good sign. We were welcomed in warmly by the women running the restaurant and everyone sitting at tables gave us a friendly “bonjour” (good day) then helped explain in bits of French and English what the Menu du Jour was.
We had a choice of BBQ chicken or fresh-caught fish with sides, salad, dessert and a glass of wine. The cost of each 3 course meal was 8 euros (around $10 US), wine was extra, and we had fun watching and talking to the local people there. Everyone was laughing and joking and talking to one another the entire time. Such a great atmosphere! And the food was really good too. Cooked with love.

Wi-fi Woes
Internet access is pretty important to the cruising lifestyle these days, at least to those of us that communicate by e-mail and skype, do research and check weather forecasts online. Most cruisers maintain a blog, website and/or social media sites to keep folks at home updated on their whereabouts and adventures too. So our afternoon plan was to buy a voucher from the restaurant La Vague on the waterfront that advertised in our cruising guide that they offered an internet service for sailors at anchor. We'd seen the signal and should have been able to sign up for it on the boat via PayPal but the link wasn't working. The news wasn't good when we went in to the restaurant. The system was down and the person that usually looked after it was on vacation. There were no other internet cafes in town that we could find. In Dominica, we were able to get really good internet service on the boat through a service called Hot Hot Hot Spot which also covered islands further south. There were several other options too. We were going to the capital city of Fort-de-France the next day so decided that one day away from internet wouldn't be too bad.

Fort de France
Tuesday June 18 we raised anchor and motored along the windless lee of the island from St Pierre to Fort de France where we anchored off the newly renovated waterfront of the city with a nice park and promenade and welcoming dinghy dock. In the anchorage were other boats we had seen up-island heading south like us. The southbound migration for Hurricane Season was underway.
At our bow was Fort St Louis. Off our stern was a very modern skyscraper! It was such a shock to see it because, since arriving in the Caribbean in December, I don't think we've seen a building more than a few storeys tall. The anchorage was good except for the constant ferry wakes during the day.
Beautiful fabric stores and fashion boutiques are a-plenty in the city of Fort-de-France

Our mission in Fort de France simply to get our wi-fi set up and do a bit of grocery shopping in the large supermarkets there. All we needed was a local Pay-as-You-Go data sim card for the Huawei E586 device that we use to connect to our computers for internet access onboard. It is a modem and portable local hotspot. Digicel is a Caribbean communications company that we had used in both St Lucia and the BVI with success so we went to the Digicel office to start the process. Well to make a long story short, we went back and forth to that store for 2 days and had no luck getting it to work. Our French isn't good and no one spoke English so that made things all the more difficult, I'm sure. In between we tried 3 internet cafes – none of them working or they only allowed you to use their computers which wouldn't work for the jobs we were sending. The only success we had was at the McDonalds on the waterfront right near the dinghy dock, not very satisfactory when we had a lot of things happening that required frequent back-and-forth correspondence. We didn’t want our time in Fort-de-France to spent sitting for hours in a McDonalds.

Fort de France to Ste Anne
So on Thursday June 20 we raised anchor and left, internet free. How could a struggling country like Dominica have great wif-fi service and not the very developed sophisticated island of Martinique, a French department? Go figure. Getting out to sea helped us feel better. That is the great thing about sailing! It puts everything in perspective. It was a rougher sail than we expected as we rounded around to the south coast the strong headwinds.
We passed the famous Diamond Rock that was captured by the British during the rule of Napoleon and named HMS Diamond Rock since they fired on French ships bringing supplies to Martinique. They held it for 18 months.
The seas and headwinds knocked down our speed so we arrived a little later than planned. But still time to go for drinks at the local internet provider, the restaurant La Dunette for 2 pina coladas (12 euros) to use the wifi. The ending to this story - their wi-fi didn’t work! Nor did it work in the 2 other internet cafes in town. It took days to repair. But now it’s flying like lightning and we are back in touch :-)

Until next time,

Sheryl and Paul
Aboard SV Distant Shores II
Ste Anne, Martinique