Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas at Pipe Creek

There’s no place like home for the holidays, no matter how far away you roam. The Ipod continually shuffling through Christmas caroles and the occasional Chanukah tune, the rituals of baking Christmas cookies and decorating the tree, and the festive atmosphere on the VHF radio, with everyone wishing everyone else a Merry Christmas, did little to recolor my holiday blues. My spirits were raised when Santa remembered to bring me slippers--as I had fortuitously forgotten that I had picked them out.
After discussing the merits of the Sampson Cay sit down dinner for $20, the folks we are anchored with agreed to our suggestion of a pot luck dinner on First Edition. And while it was not quite the large crowd that used to gather at our Christmas Eve fetes, sometimes for pizza, other times for fancy wine tastings, it was equally fun and well-oiled. The boys talked about whatever guys talk about when they are together around the cockpit table, while the girls, below decks, shared tales of first marriages, children’s successes and love lifes, and Mark, whom we all now hate.

Our menu: grilled cow and ham, pineapple sweet potato salad, Christy’s scalloped potatoes without the cheese or the milk, steamed green beans with almonds, fresh bread, pumpkin dip with gingersnaps, chocolate cake and copious amounts of wine, followed by more wine, after dinner drinks, and a way-too-loud rendition of We Are the Champions, complete with dancing and frolicking.
Followed by hangovers.

Monday, December 27, 2010

In Between the Mice and the Rat

We left with The Group bound for Normans, and made good enough time to get to Shroud with a significant contribution from Mooch. We were anxious to show Savage Son the mangroves, hoping to experience again our first visit with Ketch’n Dreams, Celebrian, and those folks whose name now escapes me who bought a boat on the internet, took a 3 day sailing course, and here they were, living the life and learning as they go. But, tides were not cooperating, and nightfall would shortly overtake us, so it was not to be. At least we go to wiggle our toes in the Exuma sand.

The next morning we peeked out a porthole and determined that Far Niente had taken off, as planned, to head to Georgetown, a rather long day’s motoring. We took an early departure and headed to Black Point so that we could collect our first batch of sea glass, and had a somewhat successful harvest, also scooping up two small (and uninhabited) helmets, one a reticulated cowry. We got back to the boat early enough to speed off to Big Majors, avoiding the planned trip the next day during which we would have been beating our brains out in 20 knots of headwind. Incidentally, we found out crazy-ass fast driving Jay and Di had made it all the way to Long Island. They would be able to share Christmas with their friend who seems to be winning the latest brawl in the proverbial battle with cancer.

With the timing of the tides, an approaching cold front, and a gaggle of boats chattering about heading to Pipe, we got another early start and made like velcro to My Destiny’s stern, reaping the benefits of their accurate software. Anywhere in the Bahamas with the exception of the Abacos, we are stuck with useless Navionics, the only Raymarine E Series compatible software--it’s like looking at a chart of Sandy Hook while trying to navigate Cape Cod. Pipe Creek is a great spot to get protection, but is fraught with shallows and reefs, so we were happy to tag along with the better informed. We joined up with Veranda, who was already neatly tucked in between Rat Cay and the Mice, while about a dozen other boats shared the usual Pipe anchorage and played dodge boat with each other.
While waiting for Christmas and the Cold Front, we joined a Pot Luck at the cruiser-constructed Pipe Cay Yacht Club, consisting of a crudely put together hut with flotsam and jetsam collected over the seasons, waded through the muck to access the sea glass beach, and walked the flats to collect sand dollars, seashells, and two very sharp objects which made camp in the bottom of my feet.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Nassau and Clearing Customs

We arrived at the Nassau Harbor Club in mid afternoon to a nearly empty marina with our "Q" Flag flying and hoping for a good result with immigration. There has been a lot of bruhaha this year over the snotty attitudes of the officials and their erratic enforcement of a new guideline handed down by Nassau which stipulates that visitors may only receive 30 days before they have to report back for additional permitted time to stay in the country. We heard that this was being widely enforced, no matter where you checked in, but heard from a few folks who had received 90 or 180 without any issue. This can be a real problem since check-in locations are limited, are not at every harbor you may be anchored at, and in fact, can be days away from your chosen temporary home. And, you could only check in "a few" days before your permit expired, and God help you if you let your permit lapse.

Our official greeted us warmly alongside First Edition, and welcomed Peter to join her in her office, a lounge chair by the pool. Peter returned shortly with loads of paperwork and a big smile on his face. He was awarded 180 days! How did you do that, I query. "Well, I just asked for 180, and she said OK."
While toasting our good luck, our Bahamian cell phone rang. It was Bev on Savage Son. One of The Group who had chosen to go elsewhere.

We really thought The Group would have an easy time of it going to Morgan's Bluff, as it seemed they were at least two days ahead of the North winds, to be avoided when stiff at their location, and it is not a very popular check-in destination, so the agents were likely to be accommodating. Wrong on both counts. We chatted about their coming here to Nassau, and Peter talked his way into getting them slip reservations, although the Marina was to be full by tomorrow with many heading this way to ride out the cold front.
So, it was not all that long before we saw The Group again.

For years we avoided Nassau but once we were forced to come here to catch a flight home, we recognized we had given it a bad rap. Directly across from the marina is a small shopping center, with a US quality grocery store, a video store selling discounted phone cards ($18 for $20)a Dairy Queen, and a Starbucks with free internet. A short walk will take you to the bus stop where you can catch a $1.25 ride anywhere. Most importantly, it will provide transportation to those $27 bottles of Johnnie Walker. With what we save on scotch we nearly cover the cost of the slip!

Water is free here, but don't put it in your tanks. Electricity is available on an as-used basis. Most boats are here for several days, so there are loads of opportunities to make new friends and socialize.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Group

At around 11:30 on December 15th we picked up anchor to leave the U S of A and its freezing temperatures and well stocked grocery stores behind. We joined four boats who last year travelled together and spent a good part of the winter sharing the cays of the Jumentos, a formerly ignored and isolated part of the Bahamas where you are cautioned to venture only if you are self-sufficient. This year we are determined to make it there, come hell, high water, or lousy blood tests notwithstanding.

The boats with whom we travelled, Far Niente, Savage Son, My Destiny, and Veranda, are all approximately the same size as us, if not the same ages, backgrounds and political inclinations. They are a good Group that has formed a bond. First Edition is like the new kid on the block just joining the homeroom at the local high school.

We met Jay and Di on Far Niente several years ago, and our friendship began over two bottles of wine following more hearty cocktails, at one of our favorite restaurants in Beaufort. Jay is responsible for our higher horsepowered engine, and I suppose is therefore Mooch’s Godfather. Never ask a former race car driver for his opinion on this subject. Diana is stunning and outgoing, and according to one in The Group, never sweats.

We met the Savages, Bob and Bev, while docked next to us in Nassau last year and the morning following happy hour together, we were each surprised by a now outdated email from Di and Jay suggesting that we look each other up. We spent several weeks with Savage Son and hiked for several rocky hours to locate phone service when Bob found out his pregnant daughter was in jeopardy. Sharing times like that creates a closeness generally resulting only after years of friendship.

We met Greg and Judy from My Destiny last year at a Laundromat in Black Point in the Exumas, when Jay and Di told them to look us up. Like ships passing in the night, we exchanged hellos but had little time to get to know each other before My Destiny bounded South for a belated connection with The Group. Six months later Judy and I friended each other on Facebook, and found out we were born on the same day. In the same year. Judy professes to be younger than I, but I demand to examine her birth certificate, conveniently left behind in the mountains of Colorado, before accepting the role of Older Sista.

Two years ago Jay emailed us to tell us Veranda was in Solomons, Maryland, at the same time that we were. We never met, but for years heard stories about Christy and Bill’s unparalleled hunting abilities (in sailor speak, this means fish and lobster harvesting, requiring sharp spears and quick reflexes). This past summer I was turned on to Bill’s blog, which is a spicy collection of sailing tales and ramblings frequently leading to snorts and laugh out loud reactions. Bill is a man’s man, with a sensitive side. He has an incredible respect for his wife, who is one of the coolest people on earth. It’s no wonder; she’s a Jersey Girl.

So, it was difficult to part with this group of old friends and friends in the making. But the independent streak in Peter and me led us to a divergent path, and after losing wind and patience, we sped off in the darkness while The Group sailed on, merrily making their 4-5-6 knots, in no hurry to reach their short-term homestead. Off they go to Andros, while we head to Nassau, the home of discounted phone cards and cheap Johnnie Walker. And protection from the North.

We hope to reconnect with The Group somewhere down the line, but are also anxious to see Celebrian and our many other old friends and new ones we haven’t met yet.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Belle Isle in Miami

Troubadour finally showed up in Lake Worth and before we had time to exchange greetings face-to-face, we decided we needed to high-tail it down to the South Anchorage at Lake Worth for a 4 am departure the next day. Although it was forecast to be freezing in the morning, it beat the following day's prediction for rain. First Edition's enclosure works great, but combine wind, rain, and no sunshine with sub-normal temperatures, and it makes for a lousy transit. We had a great passage, sailing a good part of the way and picking up a sometimes two knot gulf stream counter current. Life was good. We entered the Venetian Causeway South approach, hugging the shoreline per Skipper Bob's discussion, and saw no less than 7 feet. Upon reaching Belle Isle we found many boats at anchor, including our friends with whom we had hoped to cross to the Bahamas.

This anchorage has good access to the Collins Canal, where you can tie alongside (using your Miami Vice-grade lock and dinghy cable) and walk to South Beach, Publix, the laundry on Alton and 15th, a CVS and Blockbuster.
If you are as clever as I, you can buy what turns out, upon removing the price tag, to be the second half of the first season of Nurse Jackie, never haven seen the opening episodes.

Nearby is the Holocaust Memorial and as is always the case, you are moved by the vision of the artist and the horrifying recollection of times unimaginable.

And where there are boaters suffering from ennui you will eventually find a gathering involving food and liquor, this time at the Flagler Memorial Island. Not only did we get to stretch our legs, we managed to spoil the plans of one Romantic, who, undoubtedly well before the pot-luck notion popped into some sailor's head, arranged to propose marriage to his Beloved precisely where we set up camp. The story is best told by a friend at his blog, veranda422.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lake Worth

We bought First Edition in 1999, and after many dollars and months, sailed her away from Ft. Lauderdale to bring her home to the Keyport Yacht Club in New Jersey. After taking a wrong turn in the canals and then running hard aground, requiring the assistance of Tow Boat US (of course, before remembering to reinstate our towing coverage)we entered the unfamiliar inlet of Lake Worth. All the books said you should anchor by Peanut Island, which looked weird to me, so amid a gentle rain we pecked our way into the South anchorage. For two glorious, rainy days, we sat out a blow and were delighted with our anchorage and First Edition. We still are.

At the North anchorage of Lake Worth you can find great protection from nearly all directions, a Publix, Chez Cherie where Sarah will give you a great haircut, CVS, West Marine, and loads of boats headed in various directions to consult and party with.
In early December, you will be lucky enough to join in the Boat Christmas Parade, where we have made it our tradition to gather a gang and drinks and all tie together with our dinghies and assorted headgear.

Before heading to the South Anchorage with Troubadour, we said goodbye to Sojourner and Civil Twilight, and Linda and Jim on Winsome, who had stopped by earlier with a surplus half gallon of Edy's, thereby acquiring a ticket to the farewell party. As it turns out, Winsome used to be members of the Keyport Yacht Club, yet more folk from one of the clubs we belonged to that we never met.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Vero to Peck Lake

We spent a week at Vero in order to receive my "vacation supply" of medications, which, predictably were shipped in incorrect quantities requiring two hours and thirteen minutes of phone time and and an extra day's stay awaiting the remainder amounts. But if you have to be stuck, Vero is the place to be. We ran into lots of old friends and partied around the mooring field,

had a photo lesson with Jim from Salty Paws, did laundry, rode the bus, overfilled the freezer and wine cellar (the bilge), and said goodbye to friends in a bigger hurry than us.

Five hours away we reached Peck Lake, which isn't even mentioned in some cruising guides. We had a great time here last year with Troubadour (so far unaccounted for), and once again, took a long walk on the Atlantic Beach which you access from a short walk from the dinghy landing. The wind was howling from the North and we got OK protection; the waterway is pretty narrow here so there is not much room for a fetch to build up. And, if you pass the green marker and turn left you will find well in excess of 8 feet of water in which to anchor. I found numerous cool shells but the prize this year goes to Peter who scooped up a cowrie that matched the one I found last year, again, recently deceased (honest) and in good shape.