Favorite Live aboard Anchorages/marinas

Ahoy mate! Welcome to my blog! My name is Megan and I live aboard a Westerly Sealord sailboat. We have traveled close to 15 nm in our 3 years of traveling and have a better idea of what has been our favorite and least favorite spots to drop our anchor. When it comes to living aboard a sailboat we have giggled over the reviews on active Captain on what people claim is a good/bad anchorage. We are honestly amazed how many negative reviews are just because of the rocking and rolling because for us, if you dont like the boat to move then you shouldn’t be on a boat. Sure places like St Augustine and Key west can get annoying with the inconsideration that happens with bigger power facts who think its better to semi slow down and create a huge wake instead of just staying on plane of slowing down to a no wake speed and pass as close to you as possible. but If I am brutally honest.. The movement never truly bothers me Its the act of inconsideration that bothers me . If we were an elderly couple with poor balance I could understand the need to express your frustration on apps like active Captain. Again, for us.. We are ready for the worst of wakes and it doesn’t affect where we anchor.

 

Galveston

 

Below I am going to write about my favorite anchorages and why they have been our favorite!! Im going to start with where we began which was Galveston Texas. Although I dont suggest that anyone stays in Texas for extended periods of time on a sailboat mainly because it is soooo hot there for 10 months of the year, the water oil/water ratio has been a problem for so many years with giant commercial vessels to blame. I am not kidding when I say to make sure you shower after swimming in Galveston and dry your ears or you are at a big risk of a double ear infection. It is a nasty reality. 

Minus those handful of negatives about sailing in Texas, I have to admit that Galveston has a lot of cool pirate history and a larger sailboat racing community. The downtown area has painted doors to signify what the building history used to be like. Many famous people used to travel to Galveston for the street brothels and lack for common law back in the day. The beaches are nice and laced with awesome food around most corners. I have to admit.. Texas knows how to eat, From Breakfast tacos to BBQ, Every corner of Texas is loaded with delicious grub! If you go a little further in you will arrive in Kemah which is a super neat little town. This is where we lived for the first 8 months living aboard before becoming full time cruisers. We stayed at Watergate Marina which I think to date is still the nicest marina we have stayed at for its price! The showers are cleaned regularly, the club houses are spacious and they have 2 pools on the property. There is a breakfast joint called Skippers which is a greek owned breakfast joint. The food is amazing and the staff is super friendly, oh and its cheap! We love cheap! There is also a super cool coffee shop called Soul Freak which has an art studio theme to it, Very funky! The Grocery, West marina, Target, are close by– and the board walk has theme park rides and bars with personality! I suggest checking out Voodoo Bar which is a neat artsy bar located right in the center of everything. 

If you plan to anchor we loved going out to Redfish Island but it isn’t too connected with the rest of the world. There is an anchorage right outside of Watergate and it is a good anchorage that is a close dinghy ride to anything.  We loved our time spent in Kemah but as I said before.. IT IS VERY HOT! 

 

Caladesi Island

Our second favorite anchorage was outside Caladesi Island which was north of Clear water Florida. We anchored right outside the beach which is a fantastic anchorage if the sea state is easy. We wouldn’t recommend this anchorage with a heavy sea state for sure, It will be super rolly. However!! We arrived with almost no sea state and no humans because it was in the prime of the Covid shut down. We explored this beautiful island in its rawest form and loved it! Also this area is prime snorkeling! Tourists from all over the world travel here to get an eye for snorkeling and we were not disapointed with our finds. The fuel dock is across the street from a well priced fishing shop. So If you need fishing gear this is a good shop to stop in.  We had a lot of fun exploring this island and wish we had spent more time here but the sea state was picking up  the following days and we were on a mission to head south so we were only able to spend a couple days here. I have to admit the sun setting behind our boat is a a memory I will never forget. If you are cruising on a boat, go anchor right outside Caladesi Beach!

 

 

 

 

St Augustine, Florida!

There is a lot to like and dislike about this spot! We love exploring and walking around the downtown area but it is super crowded! Even during the prime of the pandemic, during Christmas time we witnessed a lot of weird things such as heavy non english speaking tourists who were amazed by the bascule bridge. A lot of the store fronts had signs that said no mask needed, Covid isn’t real, sheep the people … It was a bit to take in on our first adventure into this city! We were suckered into the convenience of a mooring ball but the current is strange there and no matter what you do, the mooring ball is rubbing on your boat. We didn’t much care for the mooring so we went back on anchor and it was way better than the mooring ! We suggest anchoring right in front of the fort! At night it is lit up and super pretty! Also the tributaries are great for fishing or gathering bait. There is an island right there and a beach appears in low tide. Perfect for pup play! 

If you need to go to Ace for propane Make sure you are aware of the tide timings! We made this mistake once and just needed to accomplish some errands. We parked the dinghy at a boat launch that is closest to the Ace- Our adventure lasted about an hour  and when we arrived back at out dink , our entire dinghy was 4-5 feet beached lol. Lesson learned!

The St Augustine Marina–  Most likely you will be paying the dinghy fee here. It is super convenient and gives you access to showers and laundry. Their mailroom is never locked so if you need to have something shipped don’t bother calling and asking permission 🙂 Just ship it and go pick it up. — Honestly I have done this for most marinas. If I need something shipped they will always tell you its for patrons only.. So instead I call when it arrives and tell them that my package has arrived late, and I am no longer there but will be sending a family member to pick it up asap– Then go pick it up.. Asking for forgiveness is far more rewarding then asking for permission 🙂 Sometimes I just show up and pretend I left my key somewhere. I wait patiently for someone to walk by and ask them to let me in the room.. But this isnt an issue with St Augustine, They don’t regulate their mail at all so its a pretty safe place to have things shipped. 

If you have kids aboard we head over to the lighthouse for exploring. They have some pretty neat trees, a skate park, a gator museum, pirate themed put-put ( golf) and and easy access dinghy dock. 

Cruisers with pets– Be aware! 

We had plans to get our pup ready for the Bahamas here. We were told the best bang for our buck was to go to the St Augustine humane society and vet which is located about a half a mile from the grocery store. We did so, got her shots up to date, fixed and so on.. It was indeed very cheap.. But when it came down to the Bahamas pet permit the vet would not sign the paperwork for the final check before crossing. They said because they were a non profit they are not allowed to. Which is fine had they told me ahead of time. We spent weeks communicating about our arrival, post surgery check up and boosters, what paper needed to be filled out and so on. Never once did she mention that they wouldn’t be able to close it up! So we ended up having to do another vet permit with a stranger vet in another city.. So I don’t think it was actually any cheaper than had we just went to a normal vet. Just something to consider. They do provide quick and cheap services, I think we got everything done for $200 but then had to cough up another $150 just to walk into a vet , give them my paperwork, and have them sign a closing form >.< 

Dry Tortugas

 

YES QUEEN! The Dry Tortuous is a magical place that could never be captured in photo/video in a way that your eyes capture it. It is  a cell phone dead zone so  checking weather is limited to what your VHF radio will tells ya. Make sure you know where the Gulf Stream is and plan the best you can for the right weather windows. That being said.. This might be my favorite place travelled so far!! The anchorage is beautiful! The water is so clear, and the marine life is protected so you can see all sorts of sea life floating around your boat all day and night. During the day the tourists take the helicopters and charter boats to the island and they serve $5 strong margaritas aboard. Feel free to walk right up on the boat and order a sandwich and drink for lunch! After 3 pm the island dies down to the liveaboards and campers. This is the time to go enjoy snorkeling and walk the fort. We have hidden a log book in the oven  in the kitchen you can find it right in the opening of all the old bricks. If you plan on going there go find our book and sign it! Dont forget to climb to the very top of the fort and take some photos during the sunset/sunrise. There is a small anchorage fee, I think it was $5 -$10 dollars and you just drop it in a box in the main office area. Campers pay hundreds of dollars to travel there and are only allowed to stay a weekend. Enjoy your time spent there because its a magical one. Also! Dont be shy and go check out Loggerhead key which is an hour boat ride away. There are some pretty beautiful ship wrecks outthere and is  prime snorkeling. Unfortunately the sea state was rough when we were there so we were unable to dive on the super cool looking ship that sunk out  near Loggerhead but hopefully one day I can return! If you plan on going to check out Loggerhead key, there are some mooring balls out there and we were able to bring the sailboat over ( 6 ft draft) and grab a mooring but be aware that the waves are intense on the beach. Plan to anchor the dinghy in the water to avoid chaos! Lastly, WEAR SHOES!!! Those sticker burrows are heavy on Loggerhead Key. Don’t make the mistake I did which was explore the island barefoot! OUCH! — I did not have this issue roaming the main island lol. Lesson learned.

 

You are allowed to fish at the Dry Tortugas but make sure you understand the laws and only fish what you plan on eating.

 

On our way home from the Dry tortuous we witnessed a heavy flow of bioluminescence, The kind that is activated by movement. It was like you see in a Disney movie when magic sweeps the water. The neon blue and green travels as far as the eye can see and if you are lucky like we were, we were sailing past a whale mating zone and could hear their song amongst the beautiful colors rushing around the water. If you plan on going to the Dry Tortugas I suggest that you take a good chunk of time to unplug from the world and truly take in the magic that happens there.

Returning from the Dry Tortugas

Sailors beware as this can be a traitorous adventure. Our 14 hour sail to the Dry Tortugas was a great sail, our 29 hour sail back was full or tacking and we were harassed by a pair of fisherman who  continued to charge at us for 2 hours! Our weather window wasn’t pleasant and the Gulf Stream was closer than we anticipated so we had done a lot of tacking and bucking the currents. It was not a fun return but when we arrived we were sooo happy to be in the chaos of Key west… If you are planning to be in key west for extended periods of time dont leave your boat if the winds go above 20 k hahaha This anchorage is by far the WORST anchorage we have ever been in.. A lot of locals buy a boat to live on and have no idea how to do anything with the boat.. Including how to anchor. I would be willing to bet money that most of their boats cant even move >.< so when they go adrift you better be ready to help with a dinghy and and fenders ready to go.  This post isn’t about terrible anchorages so Im going to move on to my next favorite anchorages.

 

Charleston South Carolina

We are so flabbergasted by people’s perspectives of Charleston. We love Charleston but a lot of cruisers do not enjoy it AT ALL. I do have to admit that the growth that happens when you sit in Charleston is amongst the worst that we have any encountered. It’s a long stringy seaweed that grows on your chain and is very difficult to remove when picking up the anchor. However, I think that is all I got to complain about! Our favorite Anchorage keeps the Catamarans away because the bridge right before the Ashley Bridge is 62′? I think, ( double-check ) and during low tide, our friends with a cat made it through but it was very close! Most Catamarans cant make it through tho. Most people don’t anchor over there so it’s almost always just us and maybe another boat. What makes this place special is that a fishing pier is a rock throw away and the pier leads to a park that has a big playground, climbing trees, and a dog park. The best feature is that the Publix is right down the street and the complex that the Publix is on has a whole lot of food options if you are looking to treat yourself. We love the poke bowl restaurant located right outside the grocery store! The bus transportation is free in that area too so it is an easy ride to the French quarters. We walked to the French quarters the first time we were there and it was a wonderful adventure. It is our tradition as a traveling family to take in a history lesson as a homeschooling lesson for our son. Charleston has a lot of history and a lot of cool places to acquire bits and pieces of it. We learned a lot just walking around but spent the extra money to go see the underground prison, and some art studios. If you are a cruising family like us, I suggest you take the .9 mile walk to Hampton Park. It used to be a Horse race track and slave trade but they have turned it into a beautiful oasis and exercise track. Every 1/4 mile there is workout equipment and directions on what to do. This was a super fun way to get a little work out with everyone in the family. My dog even loved jumping over the equipment. I wish I had captured more photos of the park but I only took a couple photos

 

 

Cruiser tip: We make an effort to be friends with everyone that surrounds us. This means going and saying hi to your boat neighbors , and sparking conversation with the fisherman on the dock. We have come to this anchorage now 4 times and every time we come here the same fisherman are on their daily grind to catch dinner.
Of course new people are always there but the same 3-4 people are always there. This past time around I made it a point to truly integrate with all of them individually, get to know them better, and was taken back by all the struggles they have overcome through this covid era, I learned a lot of history about Charleston on a more modern perspective, and bonded pretty heavy with them. We have heard horror stories from other cruisers about how that dock is trouble for cruiser. Lots of theft issues but we have never had any issue with anyone, I am willing to put money down on the fact that we spend so much time acknowledging people in our passing, being friendly goes a long way but I truly believe it makes all the difference. Dont judge the people on the dock by how they look because deep down they are all very nice people just trying to survive. We learned so much about the regulars this last time we visited. I have a whole new perspective of the locals. Before knowing them on a personal level, I was very open minded and kind. Now I am amazed by their life journey and what life hurdles they had to go through. Fishing is their happy place and that dock has created a lot of good memories for them.  Moral of the story— Dont judge a book by its cover, people are people and their appearance should not determine if you acknowledge their existence or treat them differently. AKA Don’t be a douche bag. 

 

 

Hampton Virginia

There is a lot of reasons why I like Hampton but I think one of the main reason I love Hampton is because of the people. We arrived in Hampton the first time when Covid was still a huge threat. We anchored in a small anchorage that was located between the Hampton City Marina, and the college. We dinghied to shore and was greeted by the dock master. he informed us that there was no dinghy fee, and gave us the code to the bathrooms and shower room if we needed to freshen up. He then offered the marina bikes to take to the grocery store if we needed it. The bikes had little baskets which was super convenient however it was better to dinghy to a local hot dog shop and walk from there so we never took him up on the bike offer. We stayed at a couple other anchorages and it seems like the trek to land is always easy and laid back. Unlike Florida where they try to make a dollar on every movement of liveaboards Virginia is relaxed and has easy access. We took the time to explore the fort which is backed by a neat beach that has giant vessels coming through. We say these giant fan propeller boats ( HUGE – I have never seen them this big ) and they skid across the water. . The beach is dog friendly and a huge walking path is open to the public 24-7. There is a restaurant that is owned by the government called Paradise It has a $10 door fee but if you dinghy there you can get in for free. Inside is an outdoor dance floor, private beach with a lot of chairs and umbrella and even a giant pool with a slide!  The only downfall is they close by 10 due to government regulations and have the deepest security I have ever seen at a bar! They have security on the rooftops!  

One of our favorite marina spots is here in Hampton . Its called Salt Ponds Marina. It is affordable and has several shower/bathroom options. The pool is well taken care for and their staff is super nice and accommodating. They sell snacks and icecream. My favorite feature is that the beach is literally across the street. There is a farmers market that is a few blocks down the street  which also plays music and hosts all sorts of cool events. The only downside to the location of this marina is that the grocery store is a good trek away. There is a lot of liveaboards here though so if you are friendly enough you can probably hitch rides. Fishing here is pretty heavy too! There are Drum and giant Cobia! Red fish are common here too. All are great eating and come in abundance. 

If you are looking for a great hurricane hole to wait out the season before heading south, this is a great place to hang out. 

Conneticut/Long Island Sound

What a beautiful area these are for the liveaboard community. I couldnt really put my thumb on just one anchorage here because all of them come with beautiful scenery and wildlife. Lots of lighthouses pave the way into the long island sound. Old wooden boats are often found here since they do better with out the warm humidity in the south. The trees and hill tops provide a scenery that is beyond gorgeous! If you are brave enough to hold out until October you will witness fall without having to suffer in the snow! My favorite stops here were the essex train mooring balls ( which are free for this part of the year) The hillside is beautiful and the essex train is an old steam train that runs its track on the weekends. The sound of the train and the scenery of the hillsides paints an image that feels like your frozen in time. The grocery store is near by, and on the way you will pass a delightful smelling bakery, and a marine shop that is well priced! We spent many days sanding on deck in the perfect weather. 

Another favorite spot is the mooring or marina at Cove Landing Marina. This is a true gem in the boating world. Lots of  Native American history and is an oasis away from the rest of the world. Phone service is spotty out there so the mooring ball is a better option if you need phone service. The marina its self is a full boat yard so you can accomplish any on the hard duties you might need. The property has kayak rentals and a giant barn that houses half for an old wooden boat and the other half is a full kitchen and bar. If you need to do boat work this is an excellent stop ! 

And many many more!! -- these are my favorite !

I could make an endless supply of different anchorages that I love for certain reasons. We have travelled 10,000+ nm over the past 3 years and have a lot of secrets that we only share with special cruisers! If you would like a deeper connection with out travels join our patreons! We are building a community  and would love for you to be a part of it! 

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