15 March 2017

A Sailor's Paradox: Turks and Caicos

Turks and Caicos has been an adventure and despite it's reputation as an island paradise, our experience is perhaps best described as, uh, interdenominational. 

Captain Linda Perry Riera

Antagonistic Views

Bob:  Where the heck do we land the dinghy?
Linda:  Wow this water is beautiful!
Bob:  I'm exhausted. Damn, where's the Customs office?
Linda:  The turquoise colors are intoxicating!
Bob:  You mean we have to anchor on a ledge a few boat lengths from 2000 feet of water?!
Linda:  The snorkeling is fantastic!
Bob:  I need data!
Linda:  I love this secluded paradise.
Bob:  I'm taller than this god forsaken island, there is no wind protection in any of these so called anchorages.
Linda:  This expansive area behind the reefs is a breathtaking place to drop the hook.
Bob:  Holy crap this place is expensive!
Linda:  The boys will have so much fun here!


If looking for pristine beaches with silky sand, the clearest water punctuated by ribbons of different hues of blue, and not too worried about your spending rate, then this is the place. However, for a cruising sailor it presents challenges.

Turks and Caicos is surrounded by reefs to the north and vast expanses of shallows dotted with coral heads to the south

Turks and Caicos Islands


Turks and Caicos (TCI) is often just a quick overnight rest stop for cruising sailors transiting northward to the Bahamas or southward to the Virgin Islands. We stayed here for nearly three weeks including a week's visit with a couple of our kids. TCI is an extremely short country (with elevations not much taller than Bob generally) consisting of 300 islands located south of the Bahamas and north of the Dominican Republic. Only eight of the TCIs are formally populated. These low, flat, limestone land masses have extensive marshes, mangrove swamps, and well over a hundred miles of beach front. Most of the TCI is guarded by beautiful yet prohibitive reefs and shallows... these precarious shallows, along with no wind protection from the low lands, do not make for easy sailing of a 6 foot draft vessel and offer very little protection from wind.

Bob is taller than most of TCI. There are scant options for protected anchorages. Gone are the volcanic and mountainous islands we explored south of here the past several months.

TCI has a population of about 30,000, with vast majority residing on the island of Providenciales (Provo). The weather cannot be beat... usually sunny and dry (30 inches of rain annually resulting in fresh water to be a precious resource) with comfortable temperatures between 75 and 85 year 'round. 

The Three Regions of TCI


(1)  Mouchoir Banks

This is an expansive area of shallows with water breaking surrounded by several thousand foot depths. A major migration route for humpback whales runs between Mouchoir Banks and Grand Turk from the north Atlantic waters. These are the same humpback whales that the Boston based whale watching boats bring thousands of tourists to watch every summer.

This 40 second video clip shows a bit of humpback whale tail slapping and dolphin action:

We saw only one whale in the distance but it was an impressive sight. This humpback spent many minutes raising its tail flukes out of water and slapping them forcefully on the surface of the water. When the flukes hit the water, a loud resonant noise can be heard for miles. It is suspected that humpbacks do this as a warning to nearby whales. Dolphins occasionally swam along side also.

Motoring out of San Juan Harbor at 0500 hours at the start of our off shore trip to Turks and Caicos.
After a bit light winds requiring motoring the first part of day one, the breeze kicked in and seas kicked up. It was a fun, fast stretch for a while.

The two nights were long and difficult with robust winds and seas and scant moonlight. I was not as happy as I look in this picture. This was the first time we had to suit up in foul weather gear in many months. Waves were on our side with several giving us, the deck and the cockpit a good washing.

We were rewarded on the second day with an end to our fishing curse. This mahi provided several good meals despite my weak filleting skills. Reeling her in was tough as Argon was sailing at 8kts and as we were already going downwind, it is not really possible to slow down.

We kept the Mouchoir Banks safely to starboard as we approached Grand Turk. This was a challenging two and a half day passage of more than 365nm with conditions ranging from calm, to perfect; then to challenging when winds were 25+kts and seas built, and culminating in downright uncomfortable for the last 30nm leg having to turn high in to the wind and crashing the bow hard in to seas. We arrived in Grand Turk exhausted but safe.
In hindsight, I made a navigational error as we could have had a Plan B and instead of having to head north in to the wind to Grand Turk, we could have proceeded northwest at a better angle to the wind and gone to Cockburn Harbor in South Caicos.

We are always anxious for dawn to greet us after a dark and difficult overnight passage.

The 365+ mile track from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Cockburn Town, Grand Turks.

(2)  Turks Islands

Turks consists mainly of Grand Turk and Salt Cay. Grand Turk is a small island (only about 5 miles north to south and less than 2 miles east to west) and was our landing point. Although small and sparsely populated compared to the Caicos region of the country, it is the government center. This is where we had a frustrating (and expensive) welcome getting to and clearing Customs and Immigration after the difficult transit from San Juan.  But the water is so beautiful! And Bob was able to get 7G at a decent price through Flow. I need data!

Our second anchorage along the open, exposed western shore of Grand Turk. It took us more than an hour to find a large enough sandy area among patches of rock and coral in depths Argon could handle. The famous Grand Turk Wall with an immediate depth change from 20 to 2000 feet is just a few boat lengths beyond our stern. I was pretty sure we would not drag.

The winds were blowing about 20kts so we monitored our swing carefully to ensure we were not dragging towards The Wall. No problem... time to go play.

There was about 100 feet of visibility and the snorkeling was great right off the boat.

The west coast of Grand Turk has a skinny rim of shallow water (mostly <= 20 feet) abruptly plunging to thousands of feet. The shallow water is to the right in light blue; the deep water is to the left. This Turks Wall is a unique and popular snorkeling and SCUBA site.

I snorkeled along the Wall just a couple boat lengths behind Argon. Bob hovered in the dinghy as the wind and current were away from shore. Swimming and peering over the ledge in to deep blue nothingness was the scariest and most fascinating snorkeling I have ever experienced.

Bob got his data but only after an arduous beaching of the dinghy (as there are no dinghy docks on this part of the island) and eventually finding a Flow store. You can read more about our Caribbean data woes and learnings here.

After two nights anchored off the west coast of Grand Turk (enchanting waters but completely exposed) we needed to get moving as the winds were forecasted to stir up even higher in to the low 30's. With no land elevation or enclosed anchorages for protection, we needed to leave.

We weighed anchor a couple hours before dawn to make the 75nm downwind and rolly passage to the Caicos part of TCI.

(3)  Caicos Islands

Caicos is the group of islands that most people associate with TCI, especially the most populated island of Providenciales, known as Provo, that is home to 80% of the population plus most of the tourists. Caicos also consists of the islands of Middle Caicos, North Caicos, South Caicos, West Caicos and Parrot Cay.

We anchored in Pine Cay behind reefs in a wide open sandy bottom area. I loved the simple beauty and seclusion. Bob not so much. The winds were going to be 30+kts starting the next day so after one night here, we moved to a nearby marina.

Navigating the reefs, shifting sand bars, and random coral heads in to Blue Haven Marina can be tricky. The marina provides a Pilot Boat for unfamiliar mariners to follow.

We arrived at Blue Haven Marina several days earlier than planned to escape the high winds. And then enjoyed welcoming Jon, Christian and Brittany for a visit!! A day trip from the marina out by the reefs allowed us to sample the gorgeous reef waters.

We grabbed a dive mooring along the reefs just east of Grace Bay.

Bob rode out in the marina pilot boat to examine the shallows and routes the prior day, then successfully navigated us from and back to our marina slip without the guide boat for our snorkeling day trip. Definitely not as straightforward as pulling in to Constitution Marina back in Boston.

Day sail fun.

There are dozen of day fishing charters that go out from Blue Haven Marina every day. I purchased a small yellow fin tuna from one of the charters and Ronald gave me a filleting lesson.

Grilling up the fresh tuna. There was plenty left over for the next day.

More snorkeling off Grace Bay Beach. In addition to a myriad of fish, we enjoyed seeing spotted rays and turtles.

The marina was part of a resort which was a major splurge. We indulged in beaches and pools at Blue Haven Marina and were able to visit her two sister resorts, The Alexandra and Beach House. This spell with the boys has definitely felt more like a vacation than cruising. Even boat chores have been on hold.

Jon in full Caribbean mode: Drinking a Red Stripe, standing on a sand bar and wearing his BVI shirt

Exploring shallows at low tide by dinghy and paddle board.

Loving my time with Christian in TCI; missing Joshua and Sharon very much.

Christian and Jon jumped in to the water at the marina to try to get some pictures of a large nurse shark hanging around. The marina waters are plenty clean enough to comfortably swim in.

Large nurse sharks and sea turtles are common near the docks at the marina.

Blue Haven Marina & Resort in Provo has excellent concrete floating docks and full services. Our stay here was way longer than planned due to scant other options when winds are high. Cha-ching.

Being away from our kids is the most difficult aspect of our cruising journey. Whenever any of them can step away from their busy lives and visit us during our travels is a special time. Therefore, the time with Jon, Christian and Brittany was priceless.

I loved loved loved our time with these wonderful young adults.

In Closing...


I am quite happy that we kind of got stuck here longer than planned (Bob less so). It's a special place. However, it is doubtful that we would ever plan to sail here again (except for potentially a quick overnight rest stop to break up a long north or south passage as seems to be the norm for most sailors). TCI is just not set up geographically or logistically very well for sailors. I do hope to come back someday... traveling by air and exploring the waters from the land perhaps.

How could this be wrong?

Soon it will be time to say good bye to TCI and head for the southern Bahamas.

22 February 2017

Where is Home?

Recently I left the warmth and sunshine of our cozy harbor in the Caribbean to fly back to the frigid northeast.

Captain Linda Perry Riera

In conversation with my Bostonian friends, I found myself responding to questions with "...I will fly back home Thursday", or "It's been a great visit but I look forward to returning home". It dawned on me that despite living happily in Boston for nearly 12 years, it is not really home anymore. Home is now wherever Argon is.

Antigua home

Montserrat home

Saba home

Les Saintes home

Virgin Gorda home

St. John home

It has been two years since we sold the house, purged most of our possessions, and moved aboard Argon. Some of our preparations and process of downsizing our lifestyle is chronicled in a prior blog post, The Three Year Plan. We were proud to have retained only one small 6x10 storage locker but now we know that most of what was saved in that small space was not necessary.

Moving on to Argon in Boston 18 months prior to departing for our trip allowed us to focus on preparations. The warm months were much more fun than winter. Our home during this time was located at a slip on D dock and our neighborhood was Constitution Marina.
Pulling our home away from home 6 months ago at the onset of this one year trip.

I love our presumably impermanent semi-nomadic cruising lifestyle jumping among Caribbean harbors, islands and countries frequently... often deciding day by day where we will go tomorrow (this has been a much needed contradiction to my type A personality). Figuring out where (or if) to go, how to get there, and what are the options once there is part of my regular routine. However, driving around the familiar streets of Arlington, Lexington, Boston, and North Reading recently felt, well, comfortable. And easy. I forgot how relaxing it can be to not have to constantly study maps (or charts), to know where to arrange to meet up with a friend for a nice dinner, or pick up fresh produce. Being able to visit with my son for long or short visits, scheduled or ad hoc, across several days was heaven. Having WiFi or mobile data all the time. To have a car. Catching up with many friends over coffee, wine, or just chatter filled my yearning to keep these relationships alive. I guess my recent time back in Boston was just... normal. Do I want normal or do I want adventure?

When a nor'easter came roaring in just as I was scheduled to fly back home (which at that time was Soper's Hole, Tortola) and delayed my return, I enjoyed an additional day with a dear friend as we curled up on her sofa watching and discussing movies as the snow and wind whipped outside.

Back Home on Argon

  • How long will we have this mobile, floating home?
  • When will we have a conventional land dwelling again? Where will it be?
  • Do we return to our lives before later this year as scheduled with a land house and crazy jobs?

Although there are still many months ahead for this sailing trip, I find myself pondering these questions frequently. Argon's track is generally (and somewhat hesitantly) northward these days as we weave through the British, US, and Spanish Virgin Islands, and soon off shore to Turks and Caicos, then on to the Bahamas. Then back stateside. I will keep considering these questions... but not too much just yet.

Recent view from the family room (aka cockpit) at anchor.
Pre-dinner evening stroll around the neighborhood. I was probably pondering the questions above a bit while paddling. But not too much.

03 February 2017

The Data Post - Cruising while Connected (or not)

If this blog post was being dictated, it would be NSFW and if I was using Dragon Speech recognition, I would surely have taught it some new words. Staying connected on this voyage to the Caribbean has been by far the most frustrating, swear-inducing, and unexpectedly expensive aspect.

Bob Damiano

This is definitely not a how-to, because I certainly can not claim that we've done things right all the time. In fact, we've made some huge (expensive $$) goofs. What I can say is that we've learned from our mistakes, discovered some techniques, and are now much more savvy about how to stay connected island and country hopping. And, if you are preparing to cruise over an extended period of time or even near home, perhaps you will find some helpful information below.

I thought being dis-connected was the whole idea?

The mythical reason for doing a cruise like this is to disconnect and "find yourself" and "experience a new world".  Well, all that hippy crap is true, but for those of us who are not independently wealthy, we need to get stuff done while away. And these days, getting stuff done means being connected.

Ah, we are in paradise....

... Who cares about being connected in paradise??  I do!

We both need connectivity while cruising - mainly because I am working allegedly 10 but more like 22-28 hours a week - not to mention taking a peek at work emails or production logs at random times during the day or night. For standard cruising purposes, we do like getting Weather, GRIBs, Active Caption, Google Earth and other online resources to help us decide where to go next, get where we're going safely, and learn about where we are. We also have family and friends back home that we want to actually speak to once in a while and talking over IP is the only affordable way to do that. Besides all that, we're both podcast junkies and Linda can't survive without her Daily Show (she misses Jon but is enjoying Trevor). We also like updating this blog once in a while (and we thank you for reading it).

Linda prefers her outside office.

Bob working, or doing music or something that uses data.


Nothing works all the time here. It's important to have several solutions. Obviously, prioritize the free ones and degrade to the more expensive ones. Our most expensive fallback solution is a $90/GB plan with a global SIM card provider. We definitely have had to dip into this quite a bit when there are no other options. It becomes the primary solution more often than I wish.

Speed, Schmeed

If you expect fast data, don't go cruising. That said, we've occasionally gotten lucky and had some pretty decent connectivity. Not by US cable-modem standards, but good enough.  In general, for my work, I don't need extreme speed. I need stability. It's very frustrating to loose my connection during work as I have to re-establish connections to things on the internal network at the office. It's all the more painful if I have to switch connection methods to log back in. As for the photography for the blog, we will often initiate the upload before going to bed and hope to find the 28 photo upload completed by morning.

Typical weak signal and slow-ish connection.  Not bad though considering we're hundreds of yards away out in the anchorage and picking up the free A/P from a coffee shop.

How to Connect

When it comes to Wifi, Argon is equipped with a Bullet Titanium wifi router and high-gain antenna up on our radar mast (I've since seen other boats with them up on the second set of spreaders on the main mast). The nice thing about this is that not only do we get increased range, but all our devices appear as a single IP to whatever service we're connected to. It also ends up being our own LAN which things within the boat (like Chromecast) can connect to. Having the Bullet is one thing we did right. It's been absolutely awesome to have.

The Bullet Titanium Radio/Router with Antenna.


Open Access Points (A/Ps)

These fall into several categories:
  • Totally open - For these, there is either NO login web page after connecting, or just a "click here to accept our terms of service and promise that you will not browse sheep porn".  You will of course find that these are crowded with users and may be pretty slow (but not always).
  • Facebook check in - This is a new thing and I actually don't mind it. The deal is that to get the data, you do a Facebook check in which does a little promotion for the bar or restaurant on your timeline. To me, that's more than fair. Other people have a problem with it. If you don't like it, just delete the post on your timeline.
  • Login page - This is by far the most popular model. Within this category there are some variations. Usually you enter a password given to you by an employee of the establishment and it works forever (good). A newer variation is that you get a code that works for an hour or two (not so good).
  • Subscribe for some time period - These seem to be popping up in various places in the Caribbean.  In the West Indies, there is HotHotHotSpot! which had unlimited data for 30 days for $50. We definitely bought into that and it worked fairly well from the Bullet in Antigua, Guadeloupe and even in Dominica. There was also one in Bermuda run by the Doyle Sail Loft.  That one was about $35/week if I remember right and was up and down quite a bit but more up than down. Some of them are paid for per IP Address (so only one device). Here is where having your own radio/router is a big advantage since you can appear as a single client and have all your gadgets hanging off of that.
Sometimes we find a particularly bucolic spot to settle in to on land to connect.

Encrypted A/Ps

These are your typical access points where you need to enter a code at the time you connect.  The good news is that, these do not expire (typically) so there is never a "works for one hour" version of this.

Finding an A/P

Here is our typical method when we arrive at a new place:
From the boat, fire up the Bullet, connect to it with a phone and do a site survey.  Sort the results by signal strength and take a screenshot.

Site survey results from the Bullet.

If there are any NONE encryption (open) A/Ps, we give them a try.  Sometimes, we get lucky and find either a totally open or the Facebook Check In type with acceptable speed.  If so, our work is done here (and Bob is very happy and does not swear).

You geeks will notice there is at least one WEP A/P in this list above. WEP is definitely hack-able if you know how. I don't, so to me these are as impenetrable as WPA.

Then go ashore and try to find the bar/restaurant/shop that matches the SSID names from your screenshot.  If I was in charge of one of these establishments, I would never name my SSID after my business but so far, most still do. Buy a drink (it's a dirty job but someone has to do it) and ask for the wifi password (either the encryption code or the "login" if it's an open A/P).

The cost of collecting a wifi code.  We're out in that mooring field and can see this bar's SSID with the bullet.

Enter the password and capture it.  If it's an encrypted A/P, check the box for "show password" and take a screenshot after entering it.  If it's a login page, save it in a note, or email, or write it on your underwear. Just don't lose it.
Our phones are getting full of screenshots like this as we do site reconnaissance.

Got one?  Great.  Move to another place and have more drinks and get more. The key to successfully staying connected is redundancy.  NOTHING down here works all the time (just like everything else on the boat).

Eventually, we return to the boat with our booty of passcodes and passwords and see which one works best from the Bullet. Often times, we end up switching between several.


The Wifi Passcode Arms Race

A new thing we've noticed is that when you ask for a passcode at a bar or restaurant, the waitstaff is required to enter it into your phone themselves and not tell it to you. They are catching on! So here is where a Key Logger comes in. A Key Logger app substitutes a fake keyboard instead of your phone's native keyboard. It records the key presses as it passes them on to the app. The typical use is for parents who want to spy on their kids, but it works great for spying on waiters too. Some of these have keyboards that look quite different from the native keyboard. Eventually, they will catch on if the keyboard does not look quite right. I suggest trying several and use the one with the most real looking (and behaving) keyboard. Download one of the free or cheap key logger apps from the android store and switch it into "hacking" mode when you hand over your phone.  The waiter types in the key and, you've got it recorded.  Don't tell anyone.

Recordings of keyboard entries. This could be used to capture anything typed by, say, a waiter in a restaurant such as the wifi passcode.

No WiFi...  Now What?!?

I guess I could tell the boss I'm not working for a couple weeks and just connect with nature. But then, I wouldn't get my podcasts either so that's unacceptable.

Your only solution now is Mobile Data. When cruising near home, it's fine to chew up some mobile data on your normal plan. So what if you go over a bit - you're cruising... have fun! When roaming out of the country though, this won't work unless you are independently wealthy. We have AT&T plans and they do offer a "Passport" where you can buy a chunk of roaming data for around $60 for the month.  It's a couple hundred MB and we did try that a couple times.  Unfortunately, we had some data accidents doing this and ended up with some five and six hundred dollar overages. Cha-ching!

At the upper extreme end of the pricing scale is the so-called Global SIM thing. There are several companies providing these including Go-SIM and World-SIM.  Basically they are data re-sellers who partner with local mobile providers all over the world to re-sell their data using one single SIM. This data is massively expensive - $90/GB. On a good work day, I'm using about half a GB. More if I dial into meetings and do VOIP. In theory, you should be able to find this same data locally at a much lower price. But being on a sailboat with limited transport options sometimes does not make this very practical. It could mean a $30 cab ride to buy a SIM that will only work while you are in one island for a few days and save you $20.

Our unlocked hotspot with $$$ expensive global sim.  Connected here to a 3G provider.

Sniffing out good 3/4G Mobile Data

Often when poking into remote anchorages where we are sure the only option will be Mobile Data, we will fire up a Signal Strength Meter app on one of our phones to monitor signal strength as we move along.  We sometimes end up choosing the place to drop the hook partially based on this reading!

Screenshot from one of our Signal Strength metering apps

Local SIMs

In addition to carrying the black unlocked ZTE hotspot loaded with the Go-SIM, we have a second unlocked ZTE hotspot that we figured we would load up with any local sims we could buy. Ha! Try going into a Digicell or Flow store in the Caribbean and saying you want a SIM for your hotspot. They look at you like you are from Mars. They've never seen one or heard of such a thing. "These work in only in phones" they say. We had a couple very frustrating experiences in stores meeting this kind of resistance. I'm sure this is not right. I'm sure I could get it to work. I'm also sure that I don't want to have a complication setting it up in the hotspot only to meet with "these work only in phones" from tech support.

So, we never had luck getting a local SIM for our second hotspot. And, I swore a lot.

Both of our fancy expensive Samsung Android phones are dual-SIM and unlocked. So in theory, we should have been able to pop a sim into the second slot and been good to go. I am not crazy about opening these expensive phones though. And I especially don't want to open them again and again as we swap in different local cards.

In St. Maarten (shopping mall of the Caribbean), Linda had a great idea.  "Let's just buy a cheap phone for the local SIM". And so we did. Turns out, you can buy a BLU Android 4G LTE Smartphone for about $200. It's no frills, but it works as a data hotspot and it's also the phone we can use to make local calls. In hindsight, if we would have done this months ago, we would have saved thousands of dollars, hours and hours of time and a lot of swearing.

The cheap BLU Android Phone. Why didn't we buy you months ago?

We put a CHIPPIE card in our cheap phone in St Maarten and had 4GB of data for $30!  Worked great.  Then, we put a Digicell Sim in it in the BVI (after a $40 cab ride) and got 5GB for $75.  I'm sure that sounds expensive to anyone back in the states, but we're thrilled with this price!

Installing the CHIPPIE sim card in our new cheap phone in St. Maarten.  And it worked! (look at me resting on my arm the day before I broke my collar bone)
Ah, finally!!... Almost five months in to our trip and we are able to get 5GB for $75 with a Digicel local SIM in our new, cheap phone to use as a hot spot. This is our primary back up now when we cannot get free wifi.

Linda negotiated a ride from Leverick Bay to Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda with Ceril in the back of his very rickety touring pick up truck to buy a Digicel SIM card. The normal taxi rate would have been $76 round trip! Ceril transported us to Spanish Town, and waited at the Digicel store, and drove us back for $40. The 5GB SIM card was $75 for a total of $115 and about two hours.


Avoiding Data Accidents

The dreaded windows update...  Make sure that your computers are set to not automatically update anything. We did this part right. The last thing you want is an OSx or Windows update to happen overnight while connected to your mobile data.

Windows 10 has a configuration option called "Metered Connection". This lets you mark any A/P as one that no auto updates or phone-home stuff should happen over. My work laptop is Win7 so no luck there, but our personal laptops are Win10 and we have marked all our phones and hotspots as "Metered".

For phones, it's very critical to set them up to never update any apps automatically - even on wifi. Remember, when your phone connects to your expensive hotspot (or other phone) for data, it sees that as a regular old wifi connection. Your phone has no idea that this "wifi" has a really expensive mobile plan on the back end of it. In general, Phones are data pigs and you need to be especially careful with them. I wish Android offered the Metered Connection strategy like Win10 does. I have no idea if iOS or MacOS have any such thing.

DropBox, OneDrive or whatever else the kids are using for "cloud storage"

If you use some sort of cloud drive  that "syncs" data, you can potentially have a pretty serious data accident if you are not careful.  Let's say you have a DropBox account and you have some shared folders between more than one account.  Someone from the crew goes ashore, gets on some free wifi and and downloads some gigantic PDF manual for some gadget on your boat and puts it in your shared dropbox folder.

Now imagine another laptop sitting out in the boat running DropBox and connected to a mobile hotspot.  Please enjoy downloading that whole PDF over your expensive mobile plan. You can imagine similar scenarios if you have family members back home with whom you share a folder.  Be careful!  And don't get me started about putting videos in Dropbox!

We do use DropBox and we do have a large shared folder where all the boat manuals are. But we are very careful to set Dropbox up to NOT startup automatically when windows restarts.  Whenever we DO run it, we only enable sync when we are on some free wifi.

Going Forward

We've made a lot of expensive and frustrating mistakes with data on this trip so far. If we had it to do over again, we would have bought the cheap phone before we left and kept it loaded with local SIMs everywhere we went. I think that with this option available to us, we should have a much better time going forward.  The data is still very expensive and slow here compared to home, but definitely tolerable for what we need.

Is the data nightmare over?  Nope, but it's better.  As I get ready to publish this post, the Digicell plan is working about 30% of the time and the go-sim is empty. I had to dinghy ashore to find free wifi at a coffee shop in order to buy more GO-SIM data ($$$ Cha-Ching). While I was at it, I tried topping up the Digicell plan (it was nearly exhausted) and as my payment was processing, the phone dropped the connection. But at least the coffee is good.  Now, back to work. I have data to pay for.

You may also find useful information and suggestions via the following posts from a very experienced cruising family:
Sailing Totem: Getting on Line While Cruising
Sailing Totem: How to Use Less Internet Data

Now it's time to sit back, relax, and get the wifi password from this establishment.