Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Not Quite the Bahamas, BUT

 
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We are back in the States, and this is the view from the anchorage at Fernandina Beach. We cleared customs, a short walk from the dock, with a very efficient and no-nonsense agent. The water is not the aquamarine we are used to waking up to each morning, in fact, it is the color of strong tea, likely due to the paper mill pictured. However...

When we entered the inlet, there were actually buoys marking the channel. About 30 miles offshore, we turned on our NOAA radio station, and weather was there, continually updated. Our internet signal was immediate, and strong. We made a few phone calls, using minutes rather than building a $500 monthly phone bill. We walked into town to the post office, which was open. We shopped yesterday for trinkets, and I was able to buy clothing other than tee shirts (and use a Mastercard without paying the store a 4% markup for the privilege, and a 1% charge to Mastercard). Today we will probably go to the grocery store, and I am sure we will find fresh fruit and vegetables.

We had planned to leave this morning with Carolina Breeze and Sojourner, bound for Charleston, another overnight trip. But when we tried to turn on the chartplotter, it would not come on. Not really a big deal except for the fact when it doesn't work, the auto pilot does not work either, and hand steering for 30 hours is really no fun. So Peter is now trying to figure out what is going on, and if he can't, there are at least five service agents listed on the Raymarine website within 35 miles of here, another benefit of our great country. Hopefully we will not need one, but hope one will be available if we do.

Count your blessings, as Americans we take so much for granted.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Heading Home

 

Pictured here is a dolphin. As I previously recorded, these creatures love messing with boats. On several occasions we were visited during the crossing, as sailing was wonderful and the engines were quiet on day one. Picture perfect weather, wind, and visits from our friends.

On the second day the wind died but the seas were flat, good for motoring. We had problems with our chartplotter, which have been longstanding and for which a boatyard visit is planned. We also must have taken on some bad fuel, as the engine conked out and I needed to wake up the Captain to change the fuel filters. Then, no issues. We are headed for Fernandina Beach, Florida right below Georgia as the cold front has accelerated and we would have to approach Charleston in the dark, no fun with bad weather on the way.

Carolina Breeze is a great buddy boat. When Sojourner ran aground on the Lily Banks they quickly noticed and hailed them to assure them they would circle and wait. When we lost the engine, they volunteered to tow us for 20 miles if we could not get it restarted. Great folks and an inspiration.

Carolina Breeze was hailed by Band of Gold, a shrimper dragging its nets. It was a crack up to listen to Larry's Southern drawl speaking with the shrimper for about a half hour. The shrimper commented on how he had overheard the women talking about headings and RPM's (Cathy and me) and how we knew what we were talking about. He repeated a lot of our conversation verbatim! I guess these guys can get really bored out there, so the next time you bite into a juicy shrimp, think of these guys working the water.
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Planning the Crossing Home

 

We had a vigorous sail from Manjack to Spanish Cay to stage ourselves for the 3-4 day crossing to either Charleston or Beaufort or some other port required by weather. We plan to take off with Rick and Linda on Sojourner and Larry and Cathy on Carolina Breeze early Friday morning. We gathered on Sojourner for cocktails along with Suncatcher, piloted by Gerry, a single handler from Mathew, Virginia, Carolina Breeze, and Gerry and Linda on Always for Sail, a 34 foot Hunter, our first boat. Luscious hors d'oeuvres and good conversation was shared. 7:30 departure following single side band weather reports.

Holding here at Spanish is not great. We took two tries to set our anchor and watched a nearby boat try at least six times to set. It is convenient because there is fuel here, but little else. I would not anchor here again.
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Good Bye to Rob and Christine

 
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We spent some incredible days at Manjack Bay with Celebrian, taking great walks, collecting tons of sea biscuits, some sea beans and shells and enjoying the wonderful bay. But, all good things must come to an end and Rob and Christine parted ways with us to fly home to Canada. I have been blessed with many good friends in my life, and to be able to bond so quickly and completely in such a short period of times with folks who will stay lifelong friends was such a bonus to this cruise.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Passover Complete with the Little Hats

 
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We hosted Fine Lion and Celebrian for Passover, and my dear friend Christine was amazed that we even had "those little hats". Although it was a bit crowded, we had a good time sharing Passover, I am sure the only seder going on in the immediate area. We served gefilte fish, matzoh ball soup (sinkers, ugh), matzoh, chopped liver (try this on a boat with a potato masher), chicken, potato kugel, and much wine.

We are now at Manjack Cay where there is a good anchorage, an incredible reef offshore which we snorkelled in flat seas, and a strong internet signal. We saw a baby turtle while snorkelling, Rob thinks a leatherback. Very cool. We will say goodbye to Rob and Christine tonight as they turn around to fly home to Canada for the summer. We will hook up with Sojourner and now plan to leave this Friday morning out of Spanish Cay to sail directly to Beaufort, North Carolina. As we do not know what kind of speed we will make in the Gulf Stream, we cannot predict how long this will take, but are counting on 4-5 days. We hope to pick up weather reports as we approach the US coast, listen to our single side band for weather, and will head in to an inlet if we detect any adverse weather. As it now stands, a cold front is approaching which should reach our waters by Monday night, so we plan to turn in by then. We are anxious to see everyone, especially that little girl.

This may be the last post for awhile unless I find some random signal out in the hinterlands.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Old and New Friends at Marsh Harbor

 
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We arrived in Marsh Harbor to find many boats we recognized from our trip South. Many people stay in the Abacos, the Northwest Bahamas, for the entire season, preferring the readily available provisioning and restaurants, and what appears to be a very active social life. We do not regret going South but see the merits of hanging here. But, the cold fronts are more frequent, and brutal.

We ran into Sojourner, who we first met in Lake Worth as we were planning to cross over to the Bahamas. Rick and Linda are great about getting folks together, and they throw one heck of a party. Here we met Claire and Paul who are on an Island Packet and Tom and Carmen, who had just arrived to spend some time. Carmen is a new chiropractor, and new to boating, and it appears, new to Tom. A good group with lots of laughs.

We spent a few days and then connected again with Celebrian at Baker's Bay on Guana as we staged to "round the Whale", which has been in rage conditions for several days. A rage occurs where the Sea of Abaco meets the Atlantic, and may or may not be associated with strong local winds. Although it was dead calm the day before, breakers and large rollers coming from Lord knows where made the passage not passable. So we wait.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Boat Harbor outside of Marsh Harbor

We are about ready to spend our third night here at Boat Harbor, where we were the third boat to anchor a few days ago. This is not shown as an anchorage on any of the charts or guidebooks, but Rob had stayed here before and upon approaching it, we all decided it look like a winner for the northwest winds that are forecast. Initially predicted to blow 20 knots, the revised forecast has the velocity up to 30 by even BASRA, Bahamas Air and Sea Rescue Association, which I contend is a cover for the tourist industry as they never predict nasty weather. There are now perhaps 20 boats anchored here.

Christine and I had a fruitful shopping expedition yesterday, as Peter dropped us ashore and we walked into Marsh Harbor. I bought a very cool set of sanddollar earrings and Christine bought the matching necklace. A few goodies for my granddaughter were also added to the shopping bag.

Today Rob and Peter changed an O ring on the camshaft, which had been leaking oil. Cruising: fixing things in exotic places.

A Great Haul at Little Harbor

 
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After crossing from Royal we anchored in Lynyard Cay outside of Little Harbor. The cut into Little Harbor was breaking by the reefs but was not bad to enter despite the swells we had experienced all day (4-5 feet). We had some difficulty setting our anchor until we found a good sandy spot.

The next day we went exploring and found tons of sea biscuits, see the little brown things on the dinghy. Rob and Christine had previously had a great harvest at Pipe Creek, so very generously contributed most of the findings to us. After we get a new batch of bleach we can hopefully turn these into beautiful mementos of our trip.

We dinked into Little Harbor proper, the home of Pete's Pub and an art gallery. Doing this in the big boat is tricky, as the entrance is only 3 1/2 feet at low water. Celebrian did spend some time here on the way down but we passed. Several boats were on mooring this day as another devil of a cold front is forecast. We had a successful visit to the harbor, intent upon viewing green turtles and we were rewarded with four sightings! But the little buggers never stayed on the surface long enough to get a picture.

Peter Catchs a Cuda

 
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We had an incredibly wonderful sail in 20 knots from Pineapple Cay to Royal Island off of Eleuthera. We had planned to tuck into Spanish Wells, but when trying to arrange a mooring as there is no anchorage available, we found out that that one just vacated had been occupied by our friends on Celebrian. When they heard us trying to rent it, they called us to tell us they were on their way to Royal Island, so we hooked up with them there. Rob and Christine hosted us for dinner after our long day's sail, and we planned our trip the next day to the Abacos, a sixty mile plus journey. I know this does not sound like a long time, like an hour car trip, but it is actually a 10-12 hour trip on a boat, and daylight is required.

We left the next morning with five other boats and had another great sail to Little Harbor in the Abacos. Along the way Peter managed to catch his first fish, quite an ordeal. Pull it in, squirt the heck out of it with booze, get the hook out, get the guide books to figure out what we caught, determine it is a Barracuda (not edible due to toxic potential as it eats reef fish which harbor bad bacteria), throw it overboard, and keep trying. At least we got a good picture out of it.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Extending Our Visas at Rock Sound

 
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We decided that the best route to the Abacos and a destination where we could renew our visas was Eleuthera, and Rock Sound had the best grocery store so here we are. We dinked over to the airport where we had read we could extend our visas in order to remain in the Bahamas beyond the 120 days initially granted to us. Although we hope to be home at the beginning of May, we did not want to end up in some Bahamian jail.

The immigration agent initially was pouring over all of our documents as if she wanted to find a reason to turn down our request, and clearly, not many cruisers try to renew at the airport. When we brought up the fact that our daughter in law Lisa works for the Department of Homeland Security in the passport fraud division, our agent warmed right up to us and was very impressed with Lisa's credentials.

So, we are valid for another sixty days!

We are now trying to figure out how to manage the trip to the Abacos which we accomplished coming down here with an overnight, which we hope to avoid. We are now at Pineapple Cay, a 20 mile trip from Rock Sound, trying to shorten the distance to Current Cut, the Bahamas's Hell Gate.

The Explorer Charts had said there were moorings here, and a new government dock. Well, there is one mooring, too scary and shallow to pick up. There is the structure of a dock, but it has no floor. Ah, the Bahamas!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Sea Glass for Future Generations

 
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It was quite accurately predicted that one of us would lose our very favorite drinking glasses during this cruise. Call me spoiled, but I just had to bring our custom-engraved-and monogrammed cocktail vessels with us. These were presented to us by dear friends Chuck and Kristin for some long ago occasion. There is nothing like a perfect CC manhattan with a twist served in my glass.

Until someone broke it. Of course it had to be the one with my initials on it.

Since I loved these so much they did not deserve to be tossed into some Bahamian garbage can, but instead, they were donated to Neptune hopefully to take the form of some collected sea glass in decades to come.

I will sure miss that glass.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Exuma Park at Warderick Wells, Again

 
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We are back at my favorite spot in the Bahamas, and perhaps, the world. We will only be here one night, as tomorrow we leave early to get to Eleuthera to extned our visas. Then, hopefully, a quick march up the coast of Eluethera to get to the Abacos, where all of our new friends have already gathered.

Rachel's Bubble Bath at Compass Cay

 
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While at Black Point we met Paul and Genelle on Yellow Rose, a Hylas 49 and joined them for another Lorraine's Cafe gettogether, a BBQ over attended by the cruisers. The following day the wind was still howling so we stayed, and had dinner at Lorraine's with Paul and Genelle and Ruth and Steve from another Hylas, Clear Day. We had the opportunity to walk our favorite beach without much consequence or addition to our collection.

The following day we began our trip back home, by turning the corner and heading North. We picked our way through shallow water to anchor at Compass Cay, yet another phenomenally beautiful spot. At low tide a creek forms, and we found an incredibly perfect conch shell in the shallows. We snorkelled at nearby Rocky Dundas where there are caves with stalactites and stalagmites, and a decent coral reef. On our second night here we were the only boat in the anchorage and celebrated the moment by skinny-dipping.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Beth and the Piggies

 
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After visiting Black Point, we went to Sampson Cay where Beth began to acquire the shelling addiction. Sampson is beautiful with great beaches, particularly at low tide. We anchored off the Club, and had a fantastic four star dinner. The next day we anchored off Big Majors Spot, AKA Pig Beach. Noteworthy was the absence of the brown pig, which rumor has it was killed by the natives after an episode where he jumped into a dinghy, a little too aggressively. Come to think of it, any act of pig boarding dinghy is aggressive. We spent three days and nights here due to weather. Fortunately, the anchorage is so protected we were able to shell, snorkel, and visit Bev and Dave on Cloverleaf and then Paula and Phil on Tramp for cocktails. Last night we had an incredible thunderstorm without consequence (perhaps with the exception of some temporarily elevated blood pressures).

This morning following an extremely wet dinghy ride to the local airport we said goodbye to Beth. We will miss her company, and her adjustments!

We left Big Majors and had a horrible trip in 27 knots of wind and huge choppy seas to Black Point. Tomorrow, laundry, then start heading back home.