Friday, April 30, 2010

Vero Beach to St. Augustine


We spent a week at Aunt Dar’s house and enjoyed meeting with family and spending some time on land. On our return to Vero, we were invited for dinner at Jay and Di’s lovely new townhome and cracked open a 94 Silver Oak Napa. Ah, that one glass of wine a night should always be this good! The night sounds of the whippoorwill and hoot owl were especially mellow on this evening at the anchorage.

We decided to stay one more day to put everything away that we had moved from Dar’s, purchased, or received in the mail, and in the late afternoon, looked up to see Emotion 3 driving by. Carole and Michel joined us for cocktails and delivered a good chunk of swordfish that Michel had caught. These guys are what make cruising so much fun, even when no fish is involved.

We just anchored at St. Augustine, following a 31 hour trip from Vero. On our departure from the Vero mooring field, we were graced with a lone dolphin leading the way out, which I always take as a good omen for a safe trip. Coming down the Ft. Pierce inlet, we marveled at these two dogs going fishing, complete with sealegs. I need my own.

Inspired by Michel, Peter dragged the fishing lines and had four hits and one catch, a Little Tunny. Tonight we will do these on the grill, although the fish catcher is not anxious for the gastronomic opportunity!
Along the way we saw a four foot turtle paddling like there would be no tomorrow and various cruise ships exiting from Cape Canaveral. Peter spoke with one Captain to be sure he saw us, he did, and altered course to make us feel more comfortable. Passing Cape Canaveral at night is one scary mission. There are about 50 million strobe lights along the shore and several unlit buoys marking the security zone, and tonight, four very strong light beams emitting into the sky. While I am sure it is very cool to be here during a launching, it is not otherwise.

Once again it appeared we would have a wonderful sailing adventure but the 20 knots of wind took a turn directly behind us. For most of the night, the main sail slapping and the boom slamming (despite the preventer) sounded like a garbage truck lifting and dropping a dumpster, repeatedly, so sleep was fitful. During the 1 am watch change we both noticed that the refrigeration had stopped working, not a welcomed situation ever, let alone at this hour of the night and with boisterous seas slapping us around. We decided to just ignore it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Vero Beach

Fort Pierce is a great port to enter when coming back into the US; it is an easy inlet to enter, is less than 24 hours from the North west Bahamas, and once there, you are only a few hours away from Vero Beach.

Vero, also referred to as Velcro Beach (it’s hard to part from it once you are there) is an upscale community with a wonderful harbor and city marina, complete with numerous moorings and some slips, fuel, a laundromat, clean bathrooms, and a fantastic and free bus system that stops at the marina and will take you to all of the cruiser’s hot spots: several good grocery stores, a fantastic liquor store with great wines and values, a West Marine, great gift and clothing shopping, Home Depot and Walmart. At the marina, you are encouraged (and required) to raft up with other boats, so we were able to share some more quality time with Tamure and Thethys without having to dinghy over in the dark and during the last few days, persistent drizzle.

After a good night’s sleep and multiple boat chores, we hosted our raft up buddies to chocolate cake and ice cream, while Scott provided the entertainment with his slide show of his and Kitty’s circumnavigation, thirty years ago. No chartplotter! No GPS! Only a sextant! Winds topping 100 MPH (gulp)!! They regaled us with their two and a half year journey around the world during which they became entrenched in the various cultures and the very small world of cruisers way back when.

Vero is also the home to several cruisers and two of our good friends, Jay and Di from Far Niente whom we got to see. The Howells arrived just a few weeks prior to us, and quickly expanded the family with the addition of Lucille 2. It’s hard to tell who is happier: Jay, the proud new owner with magnificent renovation plans, or Di, delighted with Jay’s giddiness and guilt-free shoe shopping opportunities.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

We're Back!

On Thursday the 15th of April we departed Green Turtle at 0810 with Tamure, and once in the Sea found several other boats headed out. Winds were glorious, 20-25 knots, on the stern quarter, so we had a robust sail to Great Sale Cay, 61 miles away, arriving at 1750. By the time the sun set, there were about 15 boats in the harbor (which can accommodate many more), all chattering to each other about their plans, where to go, when to leave, etc. It was an uncertain forecast as to seas, with the potential for rocking and rolling if you left before Neptune settled down after the big winds. And, if you were to stretch the trip too long, you would likely run into a cold front accompanied by squalls with thunderstorms welcoming you back to the US of A.

After much discussion and with Chris Parker's advice, Tamure and First Edition took off on Friday at 1700 (five in the evening), and tagged up with Tethys, who had taken off that morning from Green Turtle and chose to join us when they heard us discussing our plans on the VHF. Winds were more than expected but welcomed, with about 20 knots from behind, so we sailed out of the harbor leaving many boats wondering I am sure if they should stay or go. We thought we actually might be able to sail the whole way, but abandoned that notion a few hours later when the winds shifted directly behind us. Tamure, anxious to set the record straight after we bested them the day before, hoisted their spinnaker pole and took the lead, running wing-on-wing through the night. (This means that you put one sail on one side of the boat, and the other on the other side. It is hard to do unless you have a pole, which I can assure you First Edition will acquire in the very short future.) Seas were about 3-4 feet, as expected, and increased to 3-5 from several directions in the Gulf Stream. Thanks to Stugeron, no ill effects were felt on First Edition.

Near daybreak, I noticed a cargo ship's AIS signal showing up on our chartplotter. AIS stands for something like Avoidance Identification System, which is provided by another electronic thing you can buy for your boat that every once in a while proves the expenditure was worth it. Like today.

The AIS software has a feature that sends an alarm when a vessel which is transmitting an AIS signal comes within a dangerous range from your boat, providing the time and distance from and to the closest point of approach. Commercial vessels are required to use an AIS, and some pleasure boats have opted to do so as well. In the case of Euro Lima, the data showed that in short order she would come within 300 feet of First Edition. And trust me, this does not sound as close as it looks. Hailing Euro Lima did not result in a reply, so I changed course 30 degrees and still came close enough to count the containers on board.

At about 3:30 in the afternoon we picked up a mooring at Vero Beach City Marina and rafted with Thethys and Tamure. Charlie and Luisa on Thethys hosted us for a Bahama Grouper dinner, and then we all fell into our bunks, exhausted and satisfied with a good crossing.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Killing Time at Green Turtle

When you wait for weather, you do boat chores, read, watch movies, and party.
I began the several step process of sanding down the floor in the shower room before painting and recaulking, which will take several days which we, unfortunately, will have. I am nearly finished reading Lovely Bones, as Peter tackles Up Country which I just finished. We very much enjoyed seeing Into the Wild, which book by Krakauer I read earlier this season, but most of all, loved meeting a bunch of new people similarly situated, waiting for weather.

We have a lot in common, but have varying degrees of enthusiasm and experience. We were invited by Kitty and Scott on Tamure for happy hour, along with Sheila and Fred from River Bird. Tamure has circumnavigated, three times I think, and have numerous fantastic stories and sad, old lawyer jokes to share. River Bird is finishing her second year of cruising, each in the Bahamas, and if Sheila has her way they will cruise no longer. She has not taken to it. The boat in front of us is from Gibraltar and Hans and Monica and Coco and Whiskey, their dogs, are into their 15th year. Alongside of us the sweet little (50 foot)boat with an ill-fitting moniker, Barberic (Barb and Eric aboard) just started two weeks ago, brand new to the lifestyle. Peter very much enjoyed chatting with Pete, a lawyer on sabbatical, on First Draft with wife Candi. And let's not forget Mike and Jen from Counts Quarters, who owned a vending company and Jesse and Ginny, new arrivals on WindDust, heading South.

Everyone has different backgrounds, yet we are all in the same boat. Killing time in good company.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Green Turtle

Although it seems like an impossibility, the crappiest weather since we have been here has turned up in the forecast, out of the blue. We had been encouraged with good predictions for the upcoming week, so had enjoyed a leisurely time at Coconut Beach, instead of hightailing it to the Gulfstream towards Florida. Then, huge winds persisting for several days, combined with one day of westerlies (always difficult to find shelter in these babies), fell into the forecast.

We rushed over the White Sound at Green Turtle Cay with the hopes of grabbing one of the moorings before the rest of the world woke up to what is coming. Green Turtle brings back so many good memories, starting with jumping on a mooring three years ago and pulling down mere inches from the boat behind us…the start of our mission to make great friends by anchoring on top of them. And so, Bill and Deb on Deborah Lee entered our lives. Then, several days later, our first Junkanoo, and then meeting Rob and Christine, our winter traveling companions.

Green Turtle is a great place to hang out if you drink, with the Green Turtle Club and Bluff House seasonally providing dockage for a fee that can be wiped away dollar for dollar with money you spend at the restaurant and bar. The anchorage at the North end of the harbor provides poor holding in grass; during blows it is common for several boats to drag and wrap themselves around people, like us, that think they are safe being on a mooring. We’ll see what happens this time. Reportedly, good holding is to the South of the mooring field.

We tried walking into town, and found it a very long distance which I would characterize as unwalkable. Fortunately, golf cart drivers picked us up both ways into town and after our exploration of the shops and grocery store. The following day we rented a cart ($40 for 24 hours from Kool Kart), and covered all the navigable roads on the Cay, and then some.

A word of caution to all the tall folk walking through the entryways:We paid $5 each for an interesting tour at the Albert Lowe Museum, and had another educational experience at Reef Relief, located across the street. Here you can see a short movie about the life cycle of the Queen Conch, which we have spent a lot of time collecting and consuming.

We met Rob and Christine for our goodbye dinner at Miss Emily’s Blue Bee Restaurant. Supposedly Miss Emily invented the Goombay Smash, a rum concoction served all over the Bahamas. The fare included lobster sautéed with green pepper, mushrooms, and pineapple, served with the ever-abundant mac and cheese, plantains, or coleslaw. Delish, for $28.

A visit to Green Turtle would not be complete without a stop at the New Plymouth Liquor Store, where fairly priced spirits can be purchased along with breakfast and lunch at a small counter. For $5.75 you can purchase a conch burger and grab a Kalik from their Frig---just tell them about it when your bill comes.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Coconut Tree Beach

We had an easy ride around the Whale, which must be cautiously travelled as this cut in the Sea of Abaco can be untenable when the Atlantic Ocean and sea and wind conditions churn up. We had intended to head to Manjack Cay, a bucolic setting where the first owners ashore had built trails leading to the Oceanside, encourage trespassing, and providing a powerful internet signal for the cruisers to use. But alas, commercial internet providers in nearby Green Turtle apparently strong-armed our wonderful benefactors, and the service has been terminated.

So, we headed instead to the next bay North which is labeled Coconut Tree Bay on the charts, where we found Celebrian anchored. We enjoyed several days at this lovely spot.

We snorkeled on one of the wrecks in Manjack, right around the corner. The water is so shallow that it warms to bath temperature.

We walked the nearby beaches and found many green tinted sea urchins to add to our collection, and picnicked along the ocean.

We accessed one of the Manjack trails directly from Coconut Tree and followed it to the ocean beach where we collected plastic flotsam that had washed ashore. The owners leave large plastic bags by the beach that you load up, and then leave above the high water line for their later retrieval. The trail had many delights, reminiscent of the art park we visit with Willow and her parents at Solomons, Maryland. There is something about turning a corner to find a mobile of sea shells that takes your breath away.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Great Guana Cay

We headed to Great Guana Cay on Easter Saturday, and had a good walk on the Oceanside beach. There is a natural barrier reef that is reportedly a great snorkel and dive site, but it was too rough to access today. The reef keeps the shells trapped and unable to get ashore, therefore the only thing we got during our hike was exercise. You can pick up a mooring here or anchor with good holding.

Guana is known for Nippers and Grabbers, two hot spots serving potent alcoholic beverages and adequate food, accompanied by copious amounts of local flies which burning sterno on each table fails to control. A frozen Nippers Juice makes it all tolerable.

There is an OK grocery stop here, and the Art Café and Bakery sells very cool and very overpriced locally made crafts.

On the North end of the Cay you will find Bakers Bay, where multimillion dollar homes, a five star marina and restaurant, and a golf course are planned. We heard several boats hailing the marina so it must be open. The locals are not happy with the future golf course, the sign shown may have raised the local ire but failed to stop the issuance of the permits necessary for this project to get the green light.
If you anchor at Bakers Bay, a long dinghy ride will take you to Spoil Cay, which was manmade and seems to be a large hump of tiny shells of all kinds.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Fowl Cay Preserve

One of the delights of being in the Abacos in the springtime, even this year, is the totally excellent snorkeling opportunities during settled weather. Fortunately, we had at least one day of it, and headed to Fowl Cay Preserve found in between Man-O-War and Scotland Cays. When you dive here, you are actually in the Atlantic Ocean, and the reefs are spectacular, and numerous. Mooring balls are available for your dinghy.

Last year, turtles decided to swim with us, and they did not disappoint us this year. The ornery green moray eel I sited last year was absent this time, but we did see many fish.

Friday, April 2, 2010


We sailed with Celebrian to Man-O-War where Rob and Christine needed to tend to boat issues. Man-O-War is the shipbuilding capital of the Bahamas (think runabouts), and is a totally white community that abstains from the consumption of alcohol, at least in public.

In addition to full service boat yards, Man-O-War offers fantastic shopping for high quality souvenirs and to die for baked goods found at Lola’s Bakery, run out of her home. Mr. Lola is known for his famous conch fritter batter, which you can buy frozen for $8 a margarine-sized tub. We ran into Damien and Mark from Barnacle, whom we had met at Lorraines way back in January, and dragged them along for the experience.

Passover Celebration at Boat Harbor

We knew we would have both great protection and a strong internet signal compliments of the Abaco Beach Resort if we anchored at Boat Harbor (right in front of the Batelco tower), so that’s where we celebrated Passover. Once again, Christine and Rob were our guests.

The Seder plate may look a little unusual here in the Bahamas, as a lamb shank, horseradish root, and a scorched egg were unavailable (the fifth and last egg turning out to be rotten). Coral substitutes seemed to suffice.

Peter appointed Rob to be the Wicked Son, despite his significant practice in that role while growing up.