This was our 9th season in the Bahamas after spending the past 4 winters in the Caribbean. So, this was a review tour of the best places. The best part of the Exuams is between Shroud Cay and Rudder Cay. We focused on these places. Here was the planned route inbound, A direct run from Miami to No Name Harbor….No need to stop at Binini when the wx window is open. Run east as far as you can reach.
After checking in, we powered on east to Highbourne Cay, then south to Staniel Cay, and onto Black Point as well. After Black Point, we pushed down to Rudder Cay and swam the Piano. From there we turned around and sailed back to Black Point, Staniel then Compass and Cambridge, and Warderick Wells and Shroud. Here are the best photos of the past month. Enjoy.
Photo Essay of Sailing the Exuamas 2023 One month…
This was a very short Bahamas season for us, only a month. We usually are over here in Jan, Feb, Mar, and April, then we sail back to the coast May 1. This season we did not sail over until the second week of March! Still, it was well worth the effort and time, and the push east to reach the 200 nm it takes to reach the Exuma Chain of Islands. No place has better watercolor and better beaches. Hands down, the Bahamas are a dream.
We are sailing north to Freeport Bahamas where we will dock for one week at OCEAN REEF CLUB April 16-23. Then after that, we will sail for the Florida coast. This season we will store the boat May 15-Nov15 at Brunswick Landing so we can get an early start at the Caribbean. We want to spend Christmas in the USVI. One more Caribbean Season for us. That is the plan.
We are excited to share with you our recent sailing adventure from No Name Harbor near Miami to Great Harbour Cay in the Berry Islands.
We have a fleet of five boats!
We departed from No Name Harbor on March 7, 2023, at 7 a.m. We were eager to set sail on this exciting journey with IP 35 Just Ducky, IP 350 Traveller, IP 370 Sea Lyon and Fleming 55 Our Eden with former IP380 & 440 owners aboard. Our destination was Great Harbor Cay, in the Berrys, a group of islands in the northwestern Bahamas. We charted a course via North Rock, which is located north of Bimini. After passing North Rock at 2:45 a.m., we prepared ourselves for a night of motor-sailing on the Bahamas Banks which are only 10 feet deep.
Sunset brought Full Moon Rise!
As the sun began to set, we eagerly awaited the rise of the full moon on the Bahamas Banks. Finally, at 7 pm, we were greeted with a spectacular view of the full moon as it rose above the horizon to the east. The moon’s radiant glow illuminated the surrounding shallow waters and gave us an amazing view of the white sandy bottom. It provided us with awe-inspiring sights that we’ll never forget. The sound of the waves against the hull and the gentle rocking of the boat put us at ease as we motor-sailed through the night.
Digital Radar Approach at Night
At 3 am, we navigated the approach to the island and dropped anchor at last, feeling a sense of accomplishment and excitement for what lay ahead. The Berrys are known for their pristine beaches, crystal clear waters, and abundant marine life, and we couldn’t wait to explore Great Harbor Cay from the marina of the same name, renowned for its friendly staff and fun activities.
The Bahamas Waters are the BEST
In conclusion, our sailing journey to the Berrys was an incredible experience that we’ll always cherish. It was the calmest Gulf Stream Crossing we have ever experienced. From the stunning full moon rising on the Bahamas banks to the exhilaration of motor-sailing through the night, this adventure was one for the books. If you ever have the chance to sail in this beautiful part of the world, don’t hesitate – you won’t be disappointed!
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We never leave Florida and go to the Bahamas without first spending time sailing Biscayne Bay and enjoying “The Grove” and Miami Beach! I have said many times that Biscayne Bay is the second-best sailing and cruising area on the entire USA East coast after Block Island Sound which to us is #1. So, after departing Stuart Florida, our first destination is always Miami. Many people pass right on by this dream sailing area on their race for Marathon Key or Key West. We love boating around this area! Upon arrival at Government Cut we were met with a cruise ship heading out. But first our route…
Stuart to West Palm
We ran down the ICW inside on the waterway from Stuart to Peck Lake, to Hobe Sound to West Palm Beach where we always head south one bridge past the inlet and anchor between the bridges. West Palm Beach is a dream spot to anchor, except for the reversing current and some boat traffic. We spent a few days here and enjoyed the famous ROCCO TACOS.
Queue Up to Depart for Miami
We left the town and moved up to the Lake Worth inlet where we anchored just inside the inlet and to the south. This spot is perfect for heading out the inlet at 0500, which is zero-dark-hundred. Being anchored here makes it so much easier to simply get up, brew some coffee and up anchor and set your main sail to a double reefed main and go. This Lake Worth Inlet is short and very easy to navigate. This was a first-time run of the inlet for our buddy boat, 35 JUST DUCKY and it was simple. Still very nerve-racking when you have never done this, but it was a great day.
Before nightfall, Steve Job’s yacht motored on by with a route to the Bahamas as the weather was fantastic. We were planning a direct run to Miami where we could wait for the next weather window to cross on the FULL MOON on March 7th, 2023.
The OFFSHORE run to Miami
Heading out to sea at 0500 it is DARK, and there was no horizon except for the city lights to the shore to the west. That was comforting as we simply headed out the inlet and, at the 35-40 foot water depth past the jetty, we turned south and pointed towards south Florida. Within an hour and a half, 0630 the sun rose and we had a spectacular day of motor sailing down the coast.
Hello South Florida
By keeping the beach to starboard and staying close in the 30-40 foot or less water depth, we avoided a south-flowing counter current to the north-flowing Gulfstream and picked up 1/2 a knot of speed closer to shore.
Hello MIAMI Inlet, (Government Cut)
Arriving at the inlet we were early with the ebb tide coming out and the east winds blowing in so you know about wind against current. YUP, it was crazy rough going in. Then add to this the insane 50-60 foot sport fishing boats doing 30knots as they pass you on port then another on starboard and they hit your beam with their 4 foot waves, your boat is going midship cleat to midship cleat water to water. Plus all items below deck have now hit the cabin sole and your boat is trashed. Yup, welcome to Miami. Oh yes, add in a cruise ship and this is typical.
Fishermans Channel to the left
You are not allowed to enter the main channel due to the cruise ships, so you have to turn into Fishermans Channel to the south. This takes you by all the container ships and their cranes busy loading and offloading the containers. Look at the size of these ships!!!!
Biscayne Bay Fun #1 BOCA CHITA
With our first anchorage off Virginia Cay and watching the Miami City lights come on, it was a very peaceful night. After a few yacht services at Crandon and a tour of Dinner Key, it was off to Boca Chita for a night. Linda and Mahlon wanted to see this island, part of Key Biscayne National Park and the beautiful building that is NOT a lighthouse. It is a simulated lighthouse built by Honeywell because he could. Lucky for us a park ranger/tour guide was there and we all got to climb up the lighthouse and take a tour. We really enjoyed our time at Boca Chita.
Our hero sails by, Jeffrey and family
While we were running south for Boca Chita, our dear friend Jeffrey Cardenas and his family were sailing south to Key West on their new catamaran! So, we all decided to meet up at Boca Chita and enjoy a bottle of bubbly to celebrate their new yacht. We followed Jeffrey for the past few years as he solo circumnavigated the globe on his Island Packet 460 named FLYING FISH! We first met him in person a year ago in St. Croix. His blog is a fascinating and a wonderful read. Jeffry is the best of the best writers. Please see his worldwide stories here:
From here, we sailed back up to Dinner Key where we enjoyed “THE GROVE” and then…..oh yes….then we moved over to Miami Beach. Well, that is the subject of the next post update, as I try to catch up on this blog……
Meanwhile, please see my menu link for all the great places to explore in the Biscayne Bay area.
We have been here in Stuart Florida since Nov 14, 2022, and as we have always posted and said: “This is the BEST Place in the USA to winter your boat!” So here we have been here for nearly three months! We have no complaints.
What have we been doing?
That is a very good question, and the answer is, simply living on our boat in one of our favorite towns and upgrading and working on yacht systems. We had thought that all of the refit work we did this past summer in Rock Hall, MD, would have made our boat totally ready for her 5th winter in the Caribbean. Our destination was Bonaire this year, but with a busted KBW10 transmission, we lost a good month or more just with that issue
So, let’s work on da boat!
With the transmission ripped out and sent back to Schooner Bay Marina for Alfred Holzer to review why his repair in June failed, we decided to focus on what else we could rip out. Ha Ha. Well, that led us to…..why not the sewer hoses, as we have not ripped them out in 7-8 years. Oh, that sounds like fun, yea, let’s take the Dremel tool and cut the sewer hoses out. Well, we did, and it took us 6-8 hours, one day only and we had all new sewer hoses and a new head. Now that was a quick turnaround.
Well that was fun, what next?
Once the head and sewer were rebuilt and all brand new we decided to look into the water heater which was rusty and leaking. Nothing lasts in the saltwater, salty air of the yachting world. This water heater was installed in 2013 by the Island Packet factory when we gave them our yacht to explore the brilliant idea of creating the Island Packet Yacht Refit program. Well, after 6 months and a full refit yacht, the IPY factory said, NO THANKS, and shortly thereafter they went out of business. Next, I present the idea of the IPY Refit program to Colin Mack, and being a smart businessman, he decided to go after the work. Today, 2023, I bought my new water heater from Colin because he has now built the ULTIMATE Island Packet Yacht service company. Every Island Packet Owner can no benefit from his work. www.MackYachtServices.com
So, with a newly delivered water heater, we went after that job and now we have a new system there:
With the transmission still not back, and with it getting lost in the mega snowstorm over Christmas, I decided to take Colin Mack up on his new upgraded deck hardware. YUP, we bought all new deck hardware and removed our old 1994 blocks, and installed all new MYS blocks which are made by Garhaurar Marine custom for Mack Yacht Services. This Island Packet Yachts Refit program really seems to be a great idea I outlined back in 2013. Colin was smart enough to take it up when the IPY factory said no. Great job Colin! Check out these new custom blocks.
Who wants White sails? I do!
Again, since we were not going anywhere, we dropped the jib and the staysail and sent them over to Mack Sails for upgraded WHITE sun covers. I really do not like the color on the sails, we had blue for many years. I prefer white sun covers, so we had them changed up to white. I know, the white will not last as long as the blue, but I like white sails and so now we are back to all white. Thank you Travis.
We test sail the transmission!
Well, the transmission was found lost in a trucking center in Michigan, and it finally made it back to us at the end of December. It took me 3 hours to reinstall the transmission. I then hired Simply Yachts #1 mechanic Chris, to do an engine alignment, and off we went for a test sail. On Jan 1, Team Island Spirit was back on the launch pad ready to make her run for the Caribbean Sea…
Wait, did I tell you about the welded lifelines?
While waiting for the transmission in Nov Dec, we decided to hire the most creative and artistic metal fabricator and welder in the Stuart area. Alexander and his team replaced our top and bottom lifelines around the cockpit with custom hull-matching curved solid stainless steel bars. WOW, I never expected these to be curved to match the hull shape, and he said if they are straight, they do not look as good. Well, he is right. These curved hull matching bars are a work of art, and he is very proud of his work. We are thrilled and we love the added safety of these bars around the cockpit. Look at this work!
Did someone say STARLINK?
Well ok then, let’s add StarLink satellite high-speed internet to the boat. Elon Muck and his company SpaceX have been launching 2 rockets a week with 55 satellites on each launch for a long time now. He has placed these Starlink low earth orbit satellites to provide internet around the world. Well, guess what? It really works and it works very well. It is not cheap, as the antenna and router cost $700 and the mobile RV service is $135/month. The RV version allows you to relocate and move to a new location. Reports are that this works down the island and nearly everywhere, so we will give it a test run this March and April. We installed this into a standard fishing rod holder and clamped that onto the bimini frame. The power consumption is about 4 amps 12v, but it runs on 120-volt AC, so we have to run the inverter to power the outlets.
So, here we are….on the launch pad
With all systems upgraded yet again, and with some new systems, we are once again on the launch pad and will be heading out soon. We always like to move to Miami and sail Biscayne Bay testing all systems. There we will also fire up the Spectra watermaker and get that system running before sailing over to the Exumas. We plan to simply sail the Exumas this remaining season and then for a new process, we will store the yacht in-water at Brunswick Landing Marina, May 15-Nov 15. When we return we will set sail ASAP and as fast as we can to return to our Caribbean challenge. For now, Sunset Bay Marina is a dream stop.
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This is my 20th year of creating the Island Packet Yacht Owners Association calendar. I create this to make $5.00 profit off each sale. The profits go to offset the $1,000+ cost of hosting the website for IPYOA.com where we have nearly 20,000 digital photos uploaded by IP owners. My calendar sales are usually 75-100 calendars total, netting me $350-$500 per year. So, you can see that I am living off this income and going sailing…ha ha ha! NOT. Please take a look at these fantastic photos. Enjoy…
This is an easy section of the ICW, Georgetown SC to Charleston SC, with your biggest challenge being the Ben Sawyer Bridge and the Charleston harbor current. After a lovely few days walking the town of Georgetown and buying shrimp at the coop, and taking in the many beautiful homes on self-guided walking tours, we decided to move on. Again, we have no schedule, no agenda, just working our way south to the warmth of Florida. Of course, our near-term goal is to be in Stuart Florida for the best Thanksgiving on the waterway, but other than that, no rush at all.
Shrimp and Grits…..ahhh
Radeen is a great boat chief and she loves to cook, so when in “low country” you always buy some shrimp. In Georgetown, there is a local fish coop where the fishermen dock and sell directly to the public. Large shrimp with the heads off costs $7.00/lb! We bought two lbs and steamed some for a chilled shrimp cocktail and then Radeen made some wonderful shrimp and grits for a mid-afternoon meal. What a joy…..
Walking Tours of Georgetown, SC
With the many rice plantations and then indigo plantations nearby, this was a very prosperous town. Add in the deep water harbor and the close ocean access one can easily imagine the many colonial ships docked here in the early 1700s. The town’s museum is amazing and has been here for decades. The visitor’s center has a free self-guided walking tour of over 50 homes. These homes are within blocks of the harbor and we always walk the town and study the architecture of these beautiful colonial homes. Here are two beautiful examples.
Moving on to Whiteside Creek
Departing Georgetown, takes you back into the ICW for a simple two-day run to the next dream stop of Charleston, SC. Day one is about a 40+ nm run to a remote creek called Whiteside creek. These long and deep (15-20 ft) creeks run into the salt marshes and wind their way back off the ICW. With four Island Packets running together, this creek was a perfect stop for our fleet. We easily arrived by sunset and anchored for the night. The current will ebb and flood in and out of the creek, and your boat will always bow into the current. Your anchor may be under your stern with the anchor chain going aft, but that is the way it is in a fast-flowing creek. Not a problem at all, just something to get used to,
Charleston in Sight….YES!
The next morning we planned our short run to make the Ben Sawyer Bridge opening at 10 am, then once thru there it is a quick 45 min run up the Cooper River to the Charleston Maritime Center. The challenge to docking in the fast currents of Charleston is to time your docking at slack tide. Today for our docking this was at 11 am and we hit it right on. I have seen many yachts crash into other yachts when trying to dock in these currents. It is something to take seriously.
One of the photos we always try to capture is the view of the Ravenel Bridge from just after the Ben Swayer Bridge. This always raises excitement because that is a landmark of current-day Charleston. When we see this bridge over the horizon we know we are near one of our all-time favorite stops. Charleston South Carolina.
Docked at the Maritime Center
Many boaters will arrive in Charleston and dock over on the Ashley River to the west at the MEGA DOCK. but, those that know the city and where all the action is will dock on the Cooper River to the East. This places you directly on East Bay Street where you want to be. From the Maritime Center, you are a few blocks from Harris Teeter grocery store and all the fine restaurants and markets on East Bay Street. You are an easy walk a few blocks into the College of Charleston where you will then intersect King Street for a fun walk past all the amazing shops. This will lead you down to Market street where you turn east and take in all the local vendors and maybe even a horse-drawn carriage ride. Charleston, what a joy to discover and re-discover. We always book one week here and have for over ten years. We love this town. This is a must-stop location on the ICW.
The next post will show more of Charleston….
Thank you again, for sailing along with Team Island Spirit. with this being our 11th year of running south, we still love this activity. As long as the boat systems are running well, life is good. So far, lucky for us, all systems are running well. Imagine, after a full summer of tearing apart the entire motor and drive train, along with Autopilot, radar, B&G network, and the windlass, we simply then took off. Today, we feel relieved that all systems are performing well. Lucky we are and we know it.
In the words of Neil Young….LONG MAY YOU RUN…..
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The ICW, Intracoastal Waterway from Mile Marker Zero to Georgetown SC is so diverse and so interesting. We never get bored with this trip due to the many changes in the waterway from place to place. This diversity is the true beauty and joy of this run. Again, this is our 11th run south (we think, as we are losing track) but still, it is a real joy. It is even more fun with a fleet of Island Packet Owners and lifetime friends, Jeff & Sharon on 420 Lucille. At various times, we have been joined by RuthAnn & Larry of 37 Cambiar, Linda & Mahlon of 35 Just Ducky and Rose & Mark of Painkiller. Presented here are the best photos along the way as we moved into the ICW.
Departing Mile Zero
The famous GILMERTON BRIDGE at Norfolk. This is a combination railroad bridge and a highway bridge. This bridge is one hour from Portsmouth and it is your first challenge. The large vertical lifts are the structure to lift up the highway bridge. The bridge is restricted from 0630 ( which is oh dark hundred) until 0830 when they provide the first lift. With that schedule, you leave Portsmouth at 0730 and plan to arrive here for the 0830 openings. As we experienced, there might be a train coming that causes the RR bridge to lower and now you need to wait on the train. Eventually the two bridges open and off you all go heading south into the waterway.
On to Coinjock vs the Dismal Swamp
We used to run the beautiful Dismal Swamp, but with the convenience of Coinjock with fuel, water, and pump out at each slip, we have started to run the VA Cut and go that route. Plus who can resist a PRIME RIB dinner and a class of Red Wine? Not me. But the first stop on the way to Coinjock is the town of Great Bridge. Due to speed, time and distance, you really can’t easily make it from Gilmerton to Coinjock in one day. You can, but you will arrive late in the day 5-6 pm and who wants to do that? So, you stop on the free docks at Great Bridge and enjoy the town. The Great Bridge lock is simply a lock to hold the brackish waters of the river, back from the saltwater of Norfolk. It does not change in elevation very much, so there is only one lock on this VA Cut vs. two locks on the Dismal.
Cross the Scary Albemarle Sound
The next leg takes you on a sail across the 14 miles of the famed Albemarle Sound. It is shallow and with a strong wind, it can be rough. Like 1-2-3 foot waves! YIKES, and many people are always concerned about this crossing. With many crossings, we have never had a bad crossing, Usually, we can sail across, and this day we had a dream sail. We fley the code zero and deployed it on a wing on wing set. Unreal.
Alligators and Pungo River Canal
The anchorage at Deep Point, the stopping point before running the 22nm canal, is always a sunset paradise. Arriving about 1-2 hours before sunset, we all anchored in the 6-8 foot waters along with many other boats running south. Then at sunset, there it was again, the famed Deep Point beautiful sunset. For me….schedule the tugboat pushing a pile driver for sunset….perfect….thank you!
The next day, we had to wait out the fog and by 9 am it lifted and we could see the canal, and off we all went into the beautiful 22 nm canal where you might see turtles, eagles, deer, bears, egrets, and osprey, all of which I saw none. A first for us. I still enjoyed the reflections of the morning light and the peacefulness of this run. I like these long canals, you can’t go wrong with your navigating, just stay in the middle 🙂
Dream Sail Across the Neuse
We spent the night on the anchor in Belhaven and had a great walk around town. The next day we had a surprise sailing day. None of us anticipated this, and we all started out with a motor and a jib, only to discover 12-15 knots on the beam, so up went the mainsails as well. Now we had a race! Everyone out on the water was racing down the river to cross the Neuse River and it was incredible. One of the best sailing days on the ICW ever. This rarely happens. What a joy this was. Of course Big Momma 420 LUCILLE blew us all away, and the 35 Just Ducky and Island Spirit and 37 Cambia tried to sail with her. NO WAY, not possible. What a fun day! This photo will make the 20th edition of my IPYOA sailing calendar.
A new SOUTH RIVER anchorage
Thanks to IP owners Jim and Lynn, local to this area, they told us about South River. We needed a place to wait out one day as the strong SW winds of 20-25 were blowing down on the coast at Beaufort NC. We did not want to run that, so we decided to wait a day on anchor. So into the South River off the Neuse, we diverted, and what a joy that was. Thank you. We stays an extra day there and waited out the winds. It worked out great. Of course with a lay day, that brought out the baker on Island Spirit and we made our first batch of coconut cranberry scones. See www.BoatRecipes.com for my recipe.
Cold in the Mornings
It has not been that cold this year, and our lowest inside boat temp has been 49f. Usually, by mid-day, it is up to 60-65f, but at nighttime when the sun goes down, it gets cold fast. This is our usual gear in the morning…ha ha ha
We Reach Wrightsville Beach, a fav.
The first beach that we can access to walk and go shelling is Wrightsville Beach, NC. This town is an all-time favorite of ours. We always take an extra day here to enjoy the beach, walk the town, access some great places to eat, and simply slow down. This town is so active, people are walking, jogging and working out all the time. It is a college town with UNC nearby, but it is also a very wealthy town with really beautiful homes and docks on the harbor, The harbor is near perfection with easy access from the ICW and also a class-A ocean inlet. You can not get better than this. Wrightsville Beach, is a dream. PS: This day, Radeen and I walked 15,500 steps, 7.5 miles…ahhhhh
Southport Friends, Bill, and Trish
We all spent 5 winters together in the Florida Keys and Bahamas. Boating friends are lifetime friends, and this was yet another example. We have not seen each other for years, but it was like we just left. Bill and Trish build a custom cool home in Southport and someday we will drop anchor or dock at the Fish Camp and Provisioning company and walk up and see this. But with time and distance, we passed on that and docked at St James. So, they drove down and we had a great night together on Island Spirit just like in old times. Thanks for the gifts, you two are too kind.
The Wealth of Myrtle Beach, insane
We always can’t wait to push thru Myrtle Beach, because the waterway has been abused with concrete walls and mega homes on the waterway where t-topper boats can’t really go anywhere. So what is the point? It is a crazy contrast to what will follow, the historic Socccatee bridge and the Waccamaw River Forest. Here are a few homes in this area……
Finally Waccamaw River Valley
Hayden and Radeen
Georgetown, SC Reached
This is another town we always anchor off and spend a few days. There is Rice Museum and the Fish Co-op along with a fun waterfront and nice shops on the main street. Within a mile walk is a CVS and Piggly Wiggly and more. Welcome to Georgetown SC. We are two days from Charleston SC where we will be halfway to Florida. We are so grateful to be here….thanks for sailing along
This is our 22nd season on Island Spirit and it has NOT become old or boring. This is also our 20+th run on the ICW, 10 south and 10 north, and it is just as much fun as when we first ran this in 2009. We are excited to share this run with our longtime buddy boat svLUCILLE, Jeff and Sharon. We departed Rock Hall, MD Oct 6th, and anchored out in our home creek of Swan Creek. From there, we made our normal Chesapeake Bay run of Rock Hall to Solomons, then Solomons to Deltaville, then Deltaville to Willoughby Bay, then on to Portsmouth at ICW Mile Marker Zero. Each of these days is about 50 miles, taking 8+ hours to run. At the end of each day, we anchor, take hot showers and make a nice meal or go out with buddies. I have taken so many photos, as that is my hobby, and here are some of the best with captions to show the joy of this adventure…..
Photos of Rock Hall MD to ICW Mile Zero
There we are….
As you can see, this first week of running south has been full of wonderful stops shared with great boating friends. This is the beauty of the ICW and the many stops along the waterway. The diversity of towns versus remote anchorages mixed in with wonderful colonial history presents a very educational and adventurous time. Thank you for sailing along!
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With a ton of work behind us, after the summer of refit, we have finally untied the dock lines Thursday at Oct 6th, 2022 at 1900 hrs. Out to the creek we went and dropped the hook. Our 22nd season on Island Spirit has begun. The goal is southbound to Florida, then the Bahamas, and back to the Caribbean Sea where the water if indigo blue and the beaches are pristine. Can’t wait. For now, it is a 20-day run south to Stuart Florida for Thanksgiving.
Team Island Spirit is on the launch pad, and as soon as this Noreaster storm dies down and the flooding and high winds and wave die down, we are SOUTHBOUND. For now, here is an interesting post about our CAR, the 10′-6″ AB Dinghy with the 15 hp Yamaha 2 stroke that does 22 knots! This will get us to shore for the next 7 months!