Cruising Stories


The Niehoffs’ Two-Year Adventure



Falmouth Harbor, Antigua

17 ° 01.227N, 61 ° 46.557W

We left Grenada to visit friends who were waiting for us in St. Lucia. On February 13 the weather forecast was calling for building winds and seas. Knowing we needed to head north, we decided to get going before conditions worsened. Stopping for overnights in Martinique and Dominica, we sailed hard. During the final 12 hours the winds shifted northerly and continued to build, blowing a steady 20 to 22 knots. We pounded into 10- to 12-foot seas with the occasional 14-foot roller. Adelaide shouldered her way through the waves, causing water to pour down the decks and occasionally over the dodger, soaking everyone in the cockpit. It was nice pulling in at sunset and anchoring in such a secure harbor. We were all glad we were not at sea that night!

MARCH 14  

Fajardo, Puerto Rico

18 ° 17.314N, 65 ° 37.993W

We left Antigua and the Windward Islands on March 3, bound for the British Virgin Islands. The breeze was good, and we reached westward at a good clip, passing the island of Saba at sunset. The following morning Tortola came into sight and we headed for a marina in Road Town.Sam, a friend the boys had met in Antigua, was in the boat docked next to us. It is amazing how often you run into the same people while cruising. As soon as school was over, they all headed out to surf the breakers. Beth, Suzanna, and I got the boat cleaned up before heading to Trellis Bay, on the backside of Tortola, for some serious shopping. We stopped for a snorkel and lunch at George Dog Island.

All winter we had been planning to meet family friends who have a house on Vieques, the former naval training range located just off the island of Puerto Rico. So on March 14 we headed for the Spanish Virgins. After the hustle and bustle of the BVIs, Vieques was a wonderful respite. We spent three days with our friends and fell in love with the area.Culebra and Culebrita, also off the island of Puerto Rico, were our next stops. The islands are beautiful, with magnificent beaches and friendly people. It is amazing how close to the Virgin Islands they are but how few cruisers venture over.

From Culebra it was just a short sail to the big island of Puerto Rico. Fajardo is on the eastern side of the island and we came into the Puerto del Rey Marina to provision for our next leg. This marina is the largest in the Caribbean and has more than a thousand slips! The area also has a Walmart, Sam's Club, and Outback Steak House.We will leave Tuesday to begin our cruise to the south coast of Puerto Rico before crossing the infamous Mona Passage and eventually heading to the Bahamas to close the circle we began last year.


Big Majors, Exumas, Bahamas

24 °10.78N, 76 ° 28.78W

We really enjoyed our cruise down the south coast of Puerto Rico. The wind was generally at our back and the passage less than five hours. We left on April 14 for the Turks and Caicos islands, crossing the Mona Passage in moderate winds. The next morning there were 20- to 25-knot winds off our starboard stern quarter. We winged out the jib and were virtually flying off the 10-foot waves, truly exhilarating sailing. We had a great sail overnight, and after dodging a few thunderstorms arrived at South Caicos a few hours after dawn. We stayed four days in the Caicos area and spent most of the time doing schoolwork and cleaning the bottom of the boat.We left the Caicos on April 22, bound for Hogsty Reef. This is a really neat place, the only atoll in the Atlantic. It is a circular reef formed by an extinct volcano in the middle of the ocean between the Caicos and the Bahamas. Navigation has to be spot-on as the reef rises straight out of 3,000 feet, as attested to by the big wrecks strewn around it. After threading our way through the reef cut and dodging coral heads, we anchored in 20 feet of water with the ocean waves crashing all around. It was eerie! There is a small island with a sand beach, but other than that you are anchored in the middle of nowhere.

Hogsty turned out to be a great place for us. We were sailing with another boat that had a boy Petersen's age on it. The boys found a terrific break where the surfing was really gnarly, man. They spent hours perfecting their cuts, turns, and occasionally tucking into a barrel. The adults gathered conch for dinner and snorkeled on some of the wrecks.From Hogsty we headed for the Jumento Cays in the southern Bahamas, and then pushed on to Cat Island. This closed the circle for us, as it was the southern extent of our trip last year. We spent a couple of days at the marina, charging our batteries and cleaning the boat. We had been on anchor for more than a month. Tyler and I went scuba diving on one of the walls. It was beautiful seeing the coral at 70 feet.

On May 5 we crossed Exuma Sound and anchored at Big Majors off Pig Beach. We had traveled this area extensively the previous year, so it almost felt like home waters. The next day we had conch burgers at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club (they make the best in the Bahamas), and then went snorkeling in Thunderball Cave, a location for part of the James Bond movie of the same name.

This morning we sailed down the Exuma banks in an 18-knot wind on a broad reach. Adelaide is scooting along at 8.2 knots. We hope to come into Grand Bahama Island late tomorrow morning, putting us 70 miles from West Palm Beach, Florida, where we expect to arrive on May 12, Petersen's birthday. From there we will rent a car and head to Alabama, where we will spend about 10 days before heading back to the boat to prepare for our trip north to Maine. So far our log shows we have traveled 4,908 NM.

I want to add a Winston update here, for those of you who can't get enough of our feline mascot's derring-do. Winston seems to have begun accepting the sailing life as a permanent thing. He paces the deck each morning in the hopes of finding a flying fish that has sacrificed itself for his enjoyment. He now is occasionally willing to take watch duty, however we don't trust his judgment about how close that giant container ship needs to be before we change course.


North Brooklin, Maine

44 ° 18.46N, 68 ° 33.55W

Adelaide is once again resting on her mooring in Maine. We spotted the hills of Mount Desert Isle, Maine, the morning of June 12, and were tying up at our dock by 1 p.m. Our little cottage sure looked good. As we were getting the dinghy down from the davits and putting on the outboard, Winston was pacing the deck meowing like the crazed cat that he is. He obviously had no trouble recognizing the cottage. He was one happy cat!So here we are, safe and sound after our nine-month adventure. Looking back we have been very blessed. After 6,400 miles at sea we have had no serious illnesses, no major accidents, no close calls with big ships and no storms we couldn't handle. I am really proud of my family, and of how they have learned to work so well together. No one ever complained about doing a night watch, or that they were sick, or that they would prefer to be somewhere else other than on a wet pitching boat bouncing around in the middle of the ocean. We are better sailors than when we left last year, but more importantly we're a better crew. The end. Maybe ...

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