Monday, December 31, 2012

Little Bay

The morning after the front came through we had had enough of  rolling around and a sleepless night, so we hauled anchor for a 45 minute jaunt to peace and comfort around the bend at Little Bay. Herb and Linda on Utopia, whom we had chatted with at Black Point, also saw the wisdom in the move, and hailed us with an invitation for Christmas dinner aboard their vessel.

Photo compliments of Blue Heaven.

Herb and Linda have been together for a little over a year and are what we would describe as a "colorful couple". Herb is not shy about sharing their exploits, some times at Linda's embarrassment, and has quite a background. An Austrian, Herb shared tales of the Nazis and WWII, serving aboard the Bounty, the sailing vessel recently demised during Hurricane Sandy, and starting a Ministry for Wayward Boys. Herb has fought with sharks and Colombian drug runners, and has an arsenal onboard even our friend Jay would envy. He has a lovely singing voice and is entertaining without it.

On our first night at Little Bay we hosted the gang for cocktails and laughs. The following morning we took a good long walk to the beach on the Sound and had a good sea glass harvest. Christmas Eve Blue Heaven hosted us all for dinner, and afterwards Peter and I exchanged gifts in front of the Yule Log.
Our Christmas Dinner aboard Utopia was nothing less than a feast. Herb prepared enough Christmas Schnitzel, as Arlene termed it, for the Bahamian Army, along with the best and unusual potato salad ever. Herb and Linda regaled us with songs Herb had composed and some extemporaneous jamming. Quite a delightful evening shared with new friends, and more Christmas memories in the Bahamas.

Black Point

We left Pipe with Blue Heaven and hoped for fresh fish after the couple hour ride to Black Point. Not a bite. We rushed in to Rockside Laundry and were greeted by Ida as if we were family, "First Edition, how did the house come out?". Ida is one hard working lady, and as I have said before, you could eat off of her floors. We handed over our $21 for 3 loads of laundry, and chatted about her kids, her weight loss, and building a house in Virginia. If everyone ran a business like Ida did, there would be no worries here in the Bahamas. Or anywhere for that matter.

We stopped in to say hello to Lorraine at her Café and she tells us business has been very slow. We dropped in at her Mom's house for bread, and Mom is now weaving as well as baking.

We made the mistake of sitting out a front here at Black Point with the NW winds sneaking around the corner and rolling us all over the place. But we had to have our walk at the Black Point beach, where I scored bigtime with this shell, which I think is a mini triton, about 4 inches long. And you have to see this Halloween bean in person as the picture does not do it justice. Blue Heaven found a good unoccupied helmet, which is a type of conch shell.

Most of the town was closed down as during any holiday the folks head to Nassau to be with family and the Rosenzweigs, who are headed to Atlantis and Junkanoo. Donna and Alan and eventually their two boys would spend every Christmas Eve with us at our traditional party until one year when we both had made travel plans.  Peter and I were in Nassau pushing my aunt around in her wheelchair and happened upon their Junkanoo parade when we heard "Aunt Doris!", and turned around to find Donna behind us. Donna, hope you are enjoying your vacation as much as we are.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Thomas Cut at Pipe Creek

Peter and I left solo for a night or two at Pipe Creek, with Blue Heaven following the next day. At low tide there is an abundance of shells, sea glass, and sand dollars, some out in the open and some on beaches requiring a little local knowledge and fortitude to find them. We were not disappointed.
It just didn't feel warm enough to snorkel, although this is a great spot. We like to get to Pipe through Thomas Cut, which is deep and wide, and anchor off of the  "yacht club" pictured above. The water is around ten feet or more and there is room for about four boats. If you are brave and have good eyesight, you can cross over the reef to the south behind which most of the boats anchor, coming in from the banks on a long and often shallow route which we would only take at high tide.
The water is so clear you can spot loads of sea life just  by looking overboard.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Delayed Christmas Greetings from First Edition

Sorry we have been out of touch. Before we took off for the Bahamas we overinvested in tools to increase our internet capability, and of course, nothing worked like it should have. I declined to purchase any internet connections since I should have had the ability to use my Bahamian Data Plan and did not want to waste another nickel. I am in business, having visited with Julius in Georgetown who in five minutes and $25 did what needed to be done. It will take a while to catch up on our travels, but suffice it to say, we have been safe, weather has been good, my collections are on the increase, and I miss you all.

My amaryllis which I potted in September at home bloomed in time for Christmas festivities. More to follow on that subject.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Exuma Park at Warderick Wells

Strathspey, Blue Heaven and First Edition pushed through big seas to get here to avoid the predicted NW winds that have since been removed from the forecast. But we did manage to have some good social events while here.

On the first night Blair demonstrated his musical talent aboard First Edition by serenading the anchorage and mosquito infestation with a sunset bagpipe medley, to every one's delight. The next day we took a long hike with Arlene and Al and found incredibly high tides and a changed layout, perhaps the effect of Sandy. We dinghied over to Summersalt and introduced ourselves, and welcomed John and Suzie to cruising in the Bahamas. We passed along our tip to insert all of the waypoints from the Explorer Charts while in the Exumas, and ignore the Navionics chart data. All new cruisers here saddled with this software discover this sooner or later. Bear this is mind if buying new equipment! Blue Heaven hosted us all for dessert and espresso made by Strathspey and the girls whooped the boys at games.

This morning First Edition meanders down to Pipe Creek for some sea glass and shelling, and perhaps some fishing on the Sound. Report to follow when internet is available again!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Nassau to Shroud

While in Nassau, we returned from our traditional Chinese dinner to find a "love note" from a boat a few slips down by the name of Strathspey, requesting that we quiet our halyards. Apparently, the noise of our clanking lines had kept them awake all night. Not knowing what kind of greeting I would receive, the next morning I dropped by and apologized and made the acquaintance of Canadians Blair and Mary. Strathspey, a Tartan 35, was returning for their second visit, the first having been in 2007. 

Upon departing Nassau we were greeted with winds 17-24 knots from the southeast, sufficient for a rollicking sail over to Shroud Cay. Blue Heaven had left a little while before us, and as we slowly caught up to them it was quite clear a race was underway between us. Except it wasn't Blue Heaven; it was Strathspey, one fast boat. In big winds our halyards really make a racket. I hope they enjoyed our music as they were most often behind us!

We anchored at Shroud and the next morning finding it to be high tide suggested a mangrove exploration. In the past we have found abundant sea life but this time, nothing. Peter was able though to give the island native a good idea by deftly planting a light bulb in his cranium.

Friday, December 14, 2012

High Water at Nassau

Come hell or high water everyone seemed intent on leaving Dinner Key to make a crossing on December 12th. Our weather guy had been promising benign weather, but at 6:30 in the morning when we talked to him, he cautioned us to wait until the winds had died down to 10 knots for two hours at the Fowey Rock buoy before taking off. Synergy, Blue Heaven, and Discovery decided to throw caution to the wind and take off at sunrise since the grib files, Chris Parker, Windfinder, and Passagemaker all forecast a decrease in the velocity, which I would describe as slightly less than howling. First Edition, with fresh recollections of Barcelona (my granddaughter's word for upchucking, it's a long story) decided to hang back and wait for Fowey Rock to signal kind seas.

So, four hours later the wind in the anchorage had died down a bit and we took off. We hail Cookie Monster who we had been talking to about crossing, and Corbett reports that Fowey Rock is 23 knots! Oh, what the hell, we are already on our way, and good changes are in the making. Exiting the Biscayne Channel became increasingly "interesting" and we proceeded nevertheless. Cookie Monster stayed behind. We hailed Blue Bay and Night Hawk and found that they were transiting the inlet and would be out there with us. It's always good to have some one to talk to.

And so began a 26 hour journey. Winds did die, seas did decrease, and unanticipated lightning flashes stayed North. At night the nearby skies were illuminated with mast lights and falling stars. We missed the chatter we enjoyed during our last eastbound crossing with "The Entourage", but were favored with 15 knots or so of wind on a beam reach.

We arrived at Nassau Harbor Club around 1:30 in the afternoon to find our friends all settled in, no bouts of Barcelona, but little movement undertaken below decks.

The answer to the burning question many of our cruising friends are aching to ask: ONE HUNDRED EIGHTY DAYS. Big smile.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Dinner Key

We arrived in Dinner Key, which is not in the Bahamas, and neither are we. Stronger weather than forecast kept us from leaving, but every one wanted a change in scenery. So we moved south for about an hour and a half and picked up a mooring at the Dinner Key Marina.

To enter the mooring field you have to head west into the marina via the Dinner Key Channel, pass the marina, then head east into the mooring field to avoid the shallows. We saw plenty of water for our 5 1/2 feet. Synergy, a Baba 40 drawing 6'6" was told to choose a spot near the #10 marker; during their last visit here they sat on the ground at low tide. The mooring field is intended for boats up to 40 feet, although we don't seem to be the only boat exceeding that limit. It seems to be a "don't ask, don't tell policy".

We went in for lunch with our travelling group and Arlene and I found a great casual clothing store where we made a few buys. Dinner Key has a load of little boutiques and something called the Coconut Walk, where there are more stores that we missed. There is a park with a walking/running track and various pieces of exercise equipment (bikes, weights, stuff I know little about.) Within walking distance there is a Home Depot, a supermarket, and closeby is a Fresh Market. A free water taxi runs on the hour. Near the dock are private showers.

We will try again tomorrow to cross the gulfstream and get to Nassau after a two night stay here.
Longing for aqua water.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Happy Chanukah

Peter says that being in "the Land of My People" (Miami) for Chanukah is very fitting. We found chopped liver and potato pancakes which we served as hors d'oeuvres to friends on Discovery, Synergy, and Blue Heaven, for their first Chanukah party ever. They arrived bearing gifts and we were rewarded with more than their friendship! Marilyn googled the holiday and thought it appropriate to bestow a bottle of olive oil to recall the history.

We enjoyed a good dinner and our traditional bon voyage dessert, apple pie with ice cream. Tomorrow if the weather holds we depart for the Bahamas. Toodle-loo!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Venetian Causeway by South Beach

The opportunity to cross to the Bahamas evaporated, so we remain here in Miami. We are actually anchored between the islands near the Venetian Causeway, Rivo Alto and Di Lido in particular. A short distance away is Belle Isle, where most of the cruisers congregate but this spot is more protected and less rocky. We are here with Synergy and Discovery, and we remet Al and Arleen on Blue Heaven, whom we first exchanged boat cards with in Nassau a few years back.

With the help of a wonderful tech at SeaLevel I have solved my driver problem for Sailmail, and Carl from Discovery has helped us figure out our Bad Boy wifi booster. The genoa is now repaired thanks to UK Sails on S.W. 31st Avenue and an incredible turnaround time, albeit at a price. After paying the $50 cab ride there, we figured out it would be cheaper to rent a car, and Enterprise Car Rental delivered one to the sail loft.

This location is very special. For years I had read about the horrors of anchoring in Miami, with the authorities chasing you away after a short stay. We have never had a problem, and enjoy the proximity of shopping, movies, a laundry, and Publix and the beauty of the night skyline.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

We were growing weary of sitting around at Lake Worth, so we became optimistic about the weather forecast and heard the lower part of the ranges predicted. 15-20 knots can mean 20 knots gusting higher and increasing in squalls, and 4-5 foot seas can mean, well this time, 8 feet coming from different directions. It is not like me to expect the best. But I did, and was really looking forward to a night sail and a trip to Miami. Our friends on Synergy and Discovery are already there, and planning a possible departure for the Bahamas the next day. No hanging around waiting for a window!

We arose at 2:30 am and Peter commented that it seemed like it was really howling. I reminded him that was expected but it would settle. Around 3 am we were exiting the inlet with a tide opposing the wind, so First Edition became a bucking bronco, but I was sure it would stop once we cleared the inlet. At 4 am I took a Stugeron tablet (anti seasickness) without even being encouraged by the captain. At 5 am I puked. My first serious mal de mer ever. And only eight hours to go.

This was a miserable trip. But it was not until we reached the anchorage that we realized we had ripped out the UV protection from the genoa. Well, actually Chris on Synergy pointed it out to us. We were so oblivious at sea we had not noticed, even when taking the sail in.

The good news is our friends aren't leaving yet and it seems we may have found someone to do the repair pronto.

Sailing: 5% exhilaration, 5% terror, 90% boredom.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Old Friends

Yesterday while at Lake Worth we visited with Susan and Ben Berzin, friends from NJ who have their winter home here. Ben was a client of Peter's, as was Susan, and Susan and I worked together for a spell until she wisely left the world of high finance. Ben is still working because Susan makes him. Someday the 4 of us may become RVers together. If Ben ever stops working. 

We spent a lot of the day trying to solve my computer issues which I have now concluded boil down to the fact that Windows 8 is so new there are no drivers for it yet. We also ate and drank a fair amount. 

This is Peter's new hobby. If you believe that I have a bridge to sell you.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Lake Worth

From Peck Lake down the ICW to the anchorage at Lake Worth there are seven bridges. Three open upon request (request may mean the guy will open it when he feels like it) and four at a specified time (which may also mean when the guy feels like it). The bottom line to transiting this area is, be careful. If the currents are going with you you may need to circle in a very narrow freeway, or master the art of going in reverse in a straight line. You should also do your calculations before you leave your anchorage, figuring how long it will take you between bridges, that way you can either hurry up or ride with the current and little forward speed. Just a recommendation. Some bridgetenders are accommodating, but most are plainly just pains in the ass and napoleanonic. If you get the picture. There is no rude word capable of describing the bridgetender at the 707 bridge.

Boat name of the day observed: Aloha Friday. Love it.

We managed to anchor smack dab in what looks like a channel here in North Lake Worth although where it goes is beyond me. We are in front of Plan B, a Hunter sailboat that dragged down on our friends on Civil Twilight causing major damage without accepting any of the blame. It appears that in the year we have been off of cruising there has been talk of an anchorage fee for boats located in a certain area (see the Skipper Bob guide, or ignore it like my Captain did). In any event, most of the boats are anchored away from us on the other side of the "channel", except for dummies on Plan B and us. Hmmm.

Heading Northwest from the anchorage you will come to an area that cruisers have designated the landing area. Lock your dinghy! At high tide you will be knee deep. Walking west you will come to a Publix where you can sneak your garbage into their dumpsters. There is plenty of shopping here but you will have to walk a piece and you will find aa good burger at Duffys. Don't mail anything in the drop mailbox in the Publix strip mall, two times it has taken several months for my mail to reach its destination. Hopefully we will find another or there will be no joy in Mudville for our children during the holidays. (Speaking of Mudville, we watched Moneyball the other night. Fantastic. I wish my aunt had seen it.)

Incidentally, our first year of cruising we entered the Lake Worth inlet and anchored in what is now known to us as the South anchorage. No wonder we didn't meet many cruisers, until we figured out there was a North anchorage. Duh.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Moving On to Peck Lake

Sadly, Savage Son has been unable to beat their overheat problem and they encouraged us to get a move on. So reluctantly, we left the Vero Beach Municipal Marina and dropped anchor a few hours later off Bob and Bev's marina at Fort Pierce where they had met Civil Twilight at our suggestion. The greatest part of cruising is making new friends and sharing them, passing along good companionship. So, that night we dinghied in for cocktails and dinner with Gerry, Al, and the Savages.

Today is Nov 27th and we are anchored at Peck Lake where on two previous occasions we have found wonderful cowrie shells. This time, no luck. But we enjoyed a good walk on the beach and found some less spectacular additions to our collection.

The chart shows no water here at Peck Lake, but we follow Skipper Bob's Cruising Guide and cut in off the ICW south of #19 to find a narrow strip of deep water, in excess of 10 feet. A short dink ride will lead you to a path to the ocean and some good exercise, if not a cowrie.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Trekking down the ICW to Vero and Thanksgiving

We have reached our first important destination, Vero Beach in Florida, after a two week journey. Early mornings, lots of wind, shallow water, early nights, drizzle and fog. Sound like fun?

We usually go offshore, which means we exit the intercoastal waterway through an inlet into the Atlantic Ocean and sail for hours and usually days without worrying about running aground or big sportfishers and assorted powerboats throwing big wakes as they pass you. But the weather wouldn't let us outSo we ran down the ICW being constantly vigilant. A few times I strayed and the ever aware captain became Ahab-like. I obviously wasn't paying close enough heed to the spoken word so he texted me "this is what happens when you don't pay attention":

We have never proceeded past St. Augustine on the ICW, but despite constant dreary skies and drizzle, it was quite pleasant. The vast majority of the bridges open upon on request and we found lots of water with a few exceptions. Lots of anchorages, and few power boats.

Vero Beach is mecca for boaters. Moorings at $20 a night are very protected and there is a great swap library, weekly pot lucks, a free bus that takes you everywhere (West Marine, Sams Club, Publix, ritzy shopping, consignment stores, Target, Home Goods, you name it). Tons of cruisers come here for Thanksgiving put on by the Power Squadron. We have never attended, being lucky to have friends who became CLODS here (cruisers living on dirt). We always run into lots of folks we know, this year Chris and Karen on Synergy, Marilyn and Carl on Discovery, Kitty and Scott on Tamare, and we are rafted with Corbett and Robin on Cookie Monster. There's another Hylas 44 here, and we dropped by to say heh to Prue and Burt on Exuberant who are also headed to the Bahamas.

This year we stayed a few nights with Bob and Bev Schneider from Savage Son, who live down the road from Jay and Di formerly of Far Niente and now land cruisers. We met Megan, Bev's son Brian's new fiancee and heartily agree she will be a great addition to the family and our circle of friends. We moved down the road and extended our land stay at the Howells. Lots of water! Lots of wine! Lots of great company, and Tinkerbelle the princess puppy.

Thanksgiving was held at the Howells with Bev making the big bird and all of us providing the sides. We missed the company of the Temples and Barlowes but commemorated our last Thanksgiving together with the traditional gravy moth. This year we met Robin and Michael from Sea Biscuit who accompanied the Savages while we supported the Northern Neck construction trade during our year off. And we were introduced to The Milk of Life, a locally retailed eggnog.

We have been providing moral support to the the Schneiders and their engine overheat issue, determined to wait out their discovery of the cause and repair before we move South without them. They are nearly out of possible solutions despite the significant talent available to them. We continue to cross our fingers, and my newly pedicured toes, complete with glitter.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

R38 Matanzas River

I forgot to mention in yesterday's post that we anchored by R38 on the Matanzas River. Apparently this used to be shallow but the daymarker was moved so we did not see any skinny water. We pulled west of the red and anchored in 12 feet of water at low tide. Not protected but winds were 15 or less and the holding was good. Bad Boy, our new internet booster, found us an unlocked signal so we enjoyed pulling down information on today's trip from Active Captain. This site is put together by a boater who has now aligned with Garmin (!) and has great info about marinas, anchorages, shallow spots, and boat goodies.

It is another dreary day with limited visibility but good currents are running so we can put miles behind us and find the end of this trough that is hanging over our heads.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cumberland/Fernandina/Made Up Anchorage by R38

On Sunday the 11th we set anchor by Cumberland Island right behind Civil Twilight, whom we have not seen for two years. At one time I knew what civil twilight meant but forgot by the time I met Gerry and Al, who reinformed me: "that time of day right after sunset and right before sunrise when twilight is the brightest". I try to use that term whenever I can. It's so cool, and a great time of day.

Cumberland Island is also very cool. There are hiking trails, a beach with tons of cool shells, including whelks which I owned zero of until this visit, wild horses once owned by the Carnegies and let loose by their mistress's upon her death years and years ago, and ruins to explore. There are trees older than us, elegant covered by spanish moss.
We love this place.

On the second night we had dinner aboard C.T. Gerry is a great cook and Al is a hoot with beautiful blue eyes. Unfortunately we spend little time together since they hang in the Abacos where they charter their boat, as they do in the summers near their home in Maine.

The next day we moved to Fernandina Beach. I love hearing the captains call in to the marina there. Men seem unable to pronounce Fernandina (including mine, at least in the days of yore). As remote as Cumberland is, in town here is high class shopping and Freds, where you can by anything you want. We finished our holiday shopping and that monkey is now off of my back.

We now have a thing on board our boat that you should NEVER EVER EVER HAVE: a schedule. We are trying to get to Vero Beach where many of our friends live or have already arrived, in record time. So, on today's voyage we spent 10 hours getting to our current anchorage about an hour past St. Augustine, another cool destination we will miss this trip.

So, this big butt sport fisher asks us today for a slow pass, (more on this some other time) and as he mosies on by I note her name: "Useless". I hail the captain and observe that his wife must have named his boat. He comes back and advises me she is named after his wife, and later confirms that he isn't kidding. I think that's a stitch. I am sure Mrs. Useless enjoys a large jewelry box.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Birds, Stars, and 2 Nights at Sea

On Wednesday the 7th of November we abandoned the comfort of River Dunes Marina in Oriental, North Carolina where we had run from the nor’easter that really never happened here. River Dunes is a luxury development in process that offers tennis courts, Southern styled cottages for rent or sale, a marina with fuel, a restaurant, a pool and a fitness center.
I would not be surprised to return here one day to find a golf course. Hopefully the owners are patient and have deep pockets. During this offseason visit, we paid $1 a foot for dockage. This compares to $2.25 charged last visit in Beaufort, North Carolina, where the fairways are narrow and the current fierce, adding to the customary drama of docking. The entrance to the manmade basin at River Dunes is narrow but carries at least the 7 ½ feet advertised. We ignored the sound advice of our friend Steve Snyder who suggested we modify our plan to anchor out by the Beaufort Coast Guard Station and take the time to head to the Cape Lookout anchorage. But this is about six miles away in the wrong direction (say, one hour each way in sailor time). Since the CG anchorage was well protected from the NW winds and several other boats had also ignored Steve and chose to drop the hook there, we chose to join them. Either as a result of the BBQ short ribs and perfect CC manhattan or the rolly wakes or surge or whatever, I did not sleep much. The freeze warning didn’t help my insomnia either. The next morning we took off after coffee for offshore, riding a favorable current out of the Beaufort inlet and raising sail. For a few hours we enjoyed a good ride until the breeze went west early, and we could not sail. Now it is over 36 hours later and we have no wind, but are enjoying the resulting flat seas for our second night underway. Crazy thing about stars at sea. There are trillions, obvious without the ambient light of the city. As civil twilight wanes, there seems to always be at least one star, or a planet, which you are convinced is a boat and where the heck did it come from. And maybe I am just lucky but regardless of the time of year of any night passage I have done, I have always seen a shooting star, and last night I counted three. This year the birds have been active, curious and frequent visitors aboard First Edition. We can count on an avian visit each ocean voyage, and this journey, so far, we have had multiple dropins from goldfinches and a larger brown bird I could not identify. Perhaps Sandy had blown these fellas North, and they, like us, are having a late start for our winter destinations.
Under power we are making decent time and our plans to make for St. Simon Inlet for a Brunswick, Georgia stop may be modified with an additional five hours tacked on to get to Cumberland Island. This former island resort of the Carnegies, electrified before every major US city but one by their good friend Mr. Edison, is the last stop before hitting the land of ballot chads and slow counting. Perhaps by the time we make landfall Florida will have determined their election results.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cruising Again after a Year of Changes

A year of changes. We built a house and watched as our friends still cruising headed South. Other friends took full time jobs, beat cancer, lost to cancer, became land cruisers, got new dogs, and started to date again. We took on new friends, neighbors with similar tastes and drinking habits. We rejoiced, and we mourned. On July 10th we were blessed with our grandson, Sullivan Elias.
No, he was not named for the pilot who landed in the Hudson River. But Peter’s father Elias has been memorialized and his memory will live on with this namesake. Sully is so precious. And huge. On July 20th my Aunt Dar passed away. Since moving in with us again in February, she faced many trials and became my full time job. I am so blessed to have had her in my life. She was the world’s biggest Yankee Fan, and we buried her with a Yankee hat, a bobble head Tino Martinez, and a picture of Robin Ventura. And added the Yankee logo to her headstone.