Charleston, SC, to Marathon, FL

We left Charleston on November 18, 2019, and had a three-night offshore passage to Ft. Pierce, FL.  It was a mixed bag of weather but overall was a good trip.  Because the 373 nm miles took us 71.5 hours to travel, we really got in the rhythm of standing watches and got more rest than I would have anticipated.  It showed us how easy it is to acclimate to multiple-day passages if you are adequately prepared.

Crossing Winyah Bay, we ran into some heavy weather that wasn’t in the forecast. We beat into 6-8 foot seas for a few hours, and afterward, Kestrel was absolutely encrusted in salt that built up in every nook and cranny.

From November 21 to 23, 2019, we grabbed a mooring ball at Vero Beach City Marina.  It was a great place to refuel the boat, reprovision fresh veggies, do laundry, and work on routing.  We also reconnected with cruising friends and enjoyed catching up with their news.

Ingenuity at its best. This billboard boat has been near the Vero Beach City Marina for years now.

We left Vero Beach on November 24 and traveled offshore overnight to an anchorage off of Rodriguez Key.  We were planning on stopping at Key Biscayne, but we hit Miami at dawn and decided to keep on going to Rodriguez Key to chop a day off of our route.  The 171.5 nm trip took us 32.25 hours.  Rodriguez Key proved again to be a quiet, settled anchorage, and it’s one I highly recommend.

On November 26 we motorsailed the 47.5 nm from Rodriguez Key to the Marathon City Marina in Marathon, FL, in just under 8 hours.  We were lucky enough to be assigned a mooring ball and were “home” for a month. 

The sunsets in Marathon are absolutely breathtaking. As the sun sets, you can hear conchs being blown all across the harbor. In this picture, Kestrel is in the foreground.

We stayed in Marathon until December 29, 2019.  Marathon is a very easy place to be for a cruiser, and we’ve fallen into its “just one more week” trap in years past.  But not this time! We were determined to be out of the US by the end of the year.

In addition to lots of showers, lots of washers and dryers, fast wifi in the lounge, and package and mail delivery, Marathon City Marina has loaner bikes that make life a LOT easier. Ten pound propane tanks, when filled, are heavy enough that carrying them for a long distance really stinks. Enter my favorite loaner bike, The Tricycle.

Our time in Marathon was a mixture of work and play.  We enjoyed cruiser potlucks for both Thanksgiving and Christmas as well as Sunday brunch potlucks, and we had plenty of time to attend dinner parties and go out to see live music.  I was able to fly to the Admiral’s house to visit her for a few days before Christmas, and that was a wonderful trip.

The biggest tree on the marina property, The Tree of Knowledge, is decorated for Christmas. And what do you hang on a tree in a mooring field? Mooring balls, of course! The marina invited the boat kids to paint them during a pizza party and then hung them for us all to enjoy.

Our work was all focused on preparing ourselves and Kestrel to leave the United States for the next few years.  This involved tons of research on routes through the Eastern Caribbean and answering the endless questions that plague the nomadic lifestyle: 

  • how much cash should we bring, and where can we restock
  • will any of our credit cards/ATM cards expire while we’re gone
  • will our health insurance cover us in foreign countries
  • will our doctor extend our prescription refills
  • do we have all of the immunizations we need
  • how many “X” do we need (coir bricks for the head, filters for the watermaker, filters for the water tank pump, oil filters for the engine, gallons of oil, fuel additives, etc)
  • where is it feasible to have our mail sent, both in terms of cost and in time

And on and on it goes.  We renewed the medications in our ship’s medical kit and got our satellite devices up and running.  We updated our electronic charts.  We replaced our wire lifelines with Dyneema line.   We downloaded TurboTax so we can do our taxes later this year.  We bought extras of special things we like or things that we know will cost more later.  We sewed, we spliced, we epoxied, we polished.

What we love about Marathon is that people aren’t afraid or ashamed to be who they are. Do you like tricked-out, street legal golf carts? Well then make it how you want it.

Finally, the day came where there was no more time for preparation, and it was time to go.  We were sad to leave Marathon but excited to know that the real adventure was just beginning. On December 30, 2019, we left Marathon bound for Bimini, Bahamas.