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Big Majors Spot

Not Quite Staniel Cay

sunny 70 °F

Debbie, our friend on S/V Illusions, moored at Warderick Wells on Wednesday evening. We spoke with her briefly then but the weather was not very good and she headed straight back to her boat after checking in with the office. The next morning, more or less as we were getting ready to get underway, Debbie came by and we chatted for a while and compared some notes. We still plan to see her at Little Farmers Cay.

At 0900 we got underway, the wind and current not requiring any special maneuvering, a good thing for the captain. I had checked the weather and nothing seemed like an issue. By the time we cleared to the Exuma Bank, weather was an issue. If the wind was ever less than 20 knots, I didn't notice, and it was running 130 to 140 true; our general course was 135 to 150 degrees, messy and bumpy, made worse by the depth of the water, about 20-ft., which created very choppy water, not waves like in deeper water. In the big picture it was the perfect day not to do what we did; we should have stayed on the mooring ball. At least I didn't screw up like the captain of the Costa Concordia.

After almost two months we did actually sail the boat. We found a leg that had good water to the west so we were able to run close to the wind and then tack back to the way point. I thought that I had this right. In the event, I came up a half mile short on a leg of 4.5 miles, pretty poor. On the other hand it's been a long while since we truly sailed; an even longer time since we have sailed and tacked. Anyway, we will probably not get drafted for the America's Cup team. But it was really nice to sail.

I have been trying to get out of the point A to point B "are we there yet" mind set. Hard to do. So, the thought was to anchor near Sampson Cay, a small, tight, very well protected anchorage near a pretty nice marina with a good restaurant, and to go for a nice anniversary dinner. Didn't happen! When we headed to the anchorage we could see that there were several boats there already and that other boats had been forced to take less sheltered positions.

It was still blowing 20~25 knots, so the next idea was to go to the marina on Staniel Cay, only another 5 nm with plenty of light and time. But with the wind, and the current that I believed would hit us in that channel, it seemed a bad idea, never having been there before.

No profiles in courage here! We saw all the boats anchored in the lee of Big Majors Cay and headed there hoping that there is, in fact, safety in numbers. I nosed in with all the other sailboats and we anchored in about 10-ft. of water over sand. I did do my swim out to the anchor and it looked good. Of course, I do not actually know how a well set Danforth anchor should look, so I'll have to make that a conditional statement. Maybe after a few more dives I will have a functional clue.

It's a pretty crowded anchorage, at least 30 boats, giving just the right protection from the SE wind. Lots of sailboats but also several big motor yachts of the 60~100-ft. variety, the type that I thought never anchored and always went for the marina.

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This was the first time we have been around so many other boats at an anchorage. It's not crowded, just busy. At night it had its own tableau. Most sail boats showed just a single anchor light atop the mast; the large motor yachts, presumably with full time AC generators, were lit up like a city street with cabin lights, deck lights and, most, underwater lights that surround their boats in a luminous glow, which actually looks kind of neat. Most boats now have anchor lights that are LED for power saving. They also have a clean blue/white color that is quite distinct from incandescent bulbs. Their color and number look like an alternate Milky Way when this many are together in one place.

This morning we are headed to the marina on Staniel Cay for a couple of days, probably a trip of no more than 3nm.

Posted by sailziveli 09:20 Archived in Bahamas Tagged boats boating bahamas Comments (0)

Warderick Wells Cay

The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park

semi-overcast 83 °F

We called the park on Saturday and asked to be put on the waiting list for a mooring ball; the park does not accept reservations. Carol called at 0915 on Sunday to see where we were on the list and they told us to "come on down." So, we did, leaving at about 0930 with a flotilla of other boats that, we guessed, were also going to the park. Actually, none of them were. Boats are like herding cats: if they go the same direction it's an accident and doesn't last very long. (We were subsequently told that getting a mooring ball this quickly never happens. Things are slow in the Bahamas now)

The trip was about 30 nm and took less than six hours but there were a lot of way points to get here. The front portion of the Explorer Chart books have a page with lots of pictures on how to read the water. I never gave this much concern and told Carol, the self professed color queen, to learn the techniques. It didn't take either of us very long to notice that when the sun went behind a cloud reading the water got harder and we really missed the color clarity.

The color issue could not have been more clear than Sunday, when we entered the park. The channel is very narrow but fairly deep; the channel was turquoise surrounded by almost white sand bars. We, actually me, had to turn the boat around to put the bow into the current to approach the mooring ball. Once again I thanked Joe V. for teaching me the trick for turning a sailboat around in very confined spaces. It has saved my bacon on several occasions including this one.

I would have loved to have made a video, shot from our bow, of entering the park; I cannot image prettier imagery. Unfortunately, I was busy driving the boat and Carol was on the bow engaged with reading the water. So, in lieu of that our offer is these panoramas courtesy of my new Nikon camera:

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Quite by accident, Ziveli is almost in the center of the second picture.

After checking in and, Carol electing to join the park, basically make a donation, we hiked across the island to Boo Boo Hill. The etymology of that name is: a ship wrecked on this island and all aboard perished with no bodies ever recovered for burial in sacred ground. Now those uninterred shades wander the island making the boo sound heard best on the hill. A good story! But when we looked at the windward side of the island it's easy to see how a ship could founder and wreck with no survivors. The rest of the story is more problematic.

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Life on the island is tough for plants. They all seem to have developed some similar traits: they can deal with salt in high concentrations; many have thick leaves to reduce moisture loss; they do not grow very tall because with the thin top soil tall things topple in high winds.

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Only the strong survive and, sometimes, not even them, or not for very long.

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I guess that I had always assumed that "tropical islands" would be lush and verdant, and many are. These islands are dry, arid, very few having any naturally occurring fresh water. I have read that in earlier days the islands were more wooded than today, those trees having been harvested for fuel. On the out islands we have seen only a few palms and an occasional rogue Australian pine standing taller than about 15-ft.

One different thing we have noticed here is the average age. Most cruising locales look like AARP conventions; here there have been many boats with younger folks, say 30's~40's, some with their kids. We're too old to feel guilty, but we never took Sean on any island hopping boat trips. We have met several "cruiser kids" and observed many more. What has struck us is that they are the nicest, most polite, most well mannered kids around. They also seem very well adjusted socially, able to interact with people of all ages, young to old. I have thought about this but do not yet have an idea about why this should be.

Here we are in a remote island paradise; we are on a boat not tethered to shore; we cannot make a phone call because BaTelCo has no cell towers within 20 miles. There's no water, fuel or food available. And yet -- there is pretty good internet service, not cheap but something is better than nothing. And, in addition to the ubiquitous book exchange they have about 200, or so, DVD's that they rent for not very much money. So, we rented a DVD for the evening just to try to stay awake past sunset. It probably won't work but it's worth a try. (Post Script: we did watch the video on the computer and played the sound through the FM radio. Big mistake! We used over 10 Ah which shocked me. The computer DVD drive must require a lot of power. No more DVD's unless we are on shore power.)

It's clear to me that some boat owner would have benefited from having my computerized maintenance checklist.

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This skeleton of a sperm whale that perished near by is on the beach close to the office. It was 52-ft. long before its untimely demise from having ingested some plastic. The skeleton, I think, does not do justice to the bulk and mass of the animal from which it came.

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And this is just about one of the coolest boat toys -- ever! If we had the room, which we do not, this would evoke a major case of boat envy. It is just a kayak with outriggers and a sail. The owner is on a large motor yacht, maybe 60-ft. The sad story is that he has probably done more real sailing in the past two days than we have in the past two months. Oh well, the park has a few kayaks that can be used for free; one of those will just have to do.

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We had dinner in the cockpit tonight, and like the several that preceded it, watched another unique and glorious sunset. I was struck that we live in a beautiful place, Spring Creek in Madison County, NC, and we are traveling in a beautiful set of islands. It may be easy to become inured to all of this and to accept the beauty as commonplace, normal, and not to respond with awe to the miraculous sights that our eyes behold. Carol's pretty good at this; I may need to work at it some more. This was our view on Tuesday morning when we had a few minutes of rain. It was worth at least a little bit of awe and wonder; unfortunately the camera did not capture the richness of color in the rainbow. To my comments in an earlier blog about the horizon, we have seen lots of rainbows but not so many where the whole 180 degree arc was visible.

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Ed Sherwood died a year ago this month, an event which jolted me at the time and must continue to engage me at some level since he has been much on my mind recently. It might just be the fact that this is January, the month of his passing; it might be that there is a boat moored 100 yards away that could be Da Vinci's twin; maybe it has to do with him wanting to come to the Bahamas but not having the time to overcome his hurdles and obstacles while Carol and I, facing our own set of hurdles and obstacles have, finally, made the trip. I do not suppose that it is important to know the why of these things and I hope that it is enough to cherish the memory of a man we both liked, enjoyed and miss and to count the blessings and good fortune that has been given to Carol and me in our lives and in each other. On January 27th, we think, we will have been 44 years married.

We took the dinghy down to Rendezvous Beach to check out the ruins of the Davis Plantation. There's not much in the way of information about the place, just a land grant to 1785. There's not much to see, just the ruins of a few stone huts, no Tara-like manses about. It's hard to imagine what they might have planned to harvest other than rocks, a crop that would have done very well.

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Another bird invaded the cockpit of our boat, probably finding crumbs from cereal that I spilled. I think that the specific breed is: yellow breasted cockpit scrounger. Or, maybe, it's a Bananaquit (Coereba Flaveola) but I'm just guessing at this. If nothing else this just goes to show that I need to clean the cockpit. This bird was persistent turning up again and again, seeming untroubled by our presence other than the fact that we interrupted his food search. Several times he flew into the cabin.

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Narrow Water Cay is the western boundary of the cove that holds the mooring field. It is not quite Pirates of the Caribbean but it does a pretty good imitation.

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On our last day here this huge catamaran, maybe four stories high came in and secured itself on a mooring ball. I thought that this would be way too much weight but when I checked with the office the lady said that they could accommodate boats up to 150-ft. long, something that I would not have guessed.

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Tomorrow, Thursday, we will head south toward Staniel Cay. If we go directly there it's only 20 nm.

Posted by sailziveli 13:33 Archived in Bahamas Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises beaches birds boating bahamas tourist_sites Comments (0)

Boat Miscellany

sunny 82 °F

One thing that could not be more different between the mountains and the boat is horizon awareness. In the mountains the sky view is always truncated by a ridge or three. On the water almost every point of the compass is completely visible. Not better, just different. One day at anchor we watched these rain squalls move past us without leaving a drop on the boat.

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We were three nights at Highbourne Cay and watched a lot of boats come into and leave the anchorage. There were several things that struck us:

  • This was the first place that we have ever seen power boats at anchor, including some very big ones, maybe 80-ft.
  • There have been a lot of Beneteau sailboats. This is to be expected like a lot of Chevrolets in a Walmart parking lot. But, no Fords? There have been almost no Catalinas or Hunters. The last evening at Highbourne Cay there were at least five Beneteaus among the dozen sailboats there. The first night Highbourne there was another Oceanis 361 anchored closest to us.
  • The Bahamas may have been annexed as the southern province of Canada. It seems like at least 1/3 of the flags flying have the red maple leaf. It's probably hard to see but the flags are, L>R, Canada, France and the USA.

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I have been trying to get back in the habit of using fins and mask to check on the anchor after we shut down the boat. Most cruisers carry a 5-gal. bucket with a clear bottom on their dinghies and motor out to inspect their anchors. Since I have been using nature's largest bath tub for my daily ablutions the swim out is a good way to get used to the water. When I checked our re-anchor at Highbourne Cay I was not pleased with the set, thin sand over rock and the anchor position was marginal, but acceptable with not much wind expected. That convinced me that I have to check every time which, of course, I knew but did not want to do.

The trade winds have arrived a little earlier than usual bringing predictable and steady winds from the SE. Our general plan has been to move from Freeport to George Town, almost a perfect line to the SE. The point being we have not been able to sail without the motor going, and the sails giving an assist. The good news, I guess, is that we are in no danger of wearing out the sails. The return trip will be better, though, we hope. Our best sail ever was from Nassau to Marsh Harbour with SE winds and a NNE heading. We flew -- a great twenty hours.

The new engine has been steady and reliable and, with the new propeller, much faster. Even with that, the old engine had some nice points, at least by comparison: we were able to have oil pressure and engine temperature gauges, not possible with this engine without creating unacceptable problems. In lieu of the temperature gauge, we use an IR heat sensor, like firemen would use. The old engine also had a bottom drain for changing the oil, much better than we have now. Still, reliability and speed vs. convenience is no contest. The only issue I have noticed is an occasional drip of coolant, maybe a couple of teaspoons a week. Not an issue, and if it were, we have identified the leak and fixing it would not be hard.

We have used the new engine enough in enough different circumstances that it looks like we may have found the sweet spot: 2,500~2,700 RPM's gives us 5.5~5.8 knots at 0.65 gal. per hour or, perhaps, a little less. This far south, the days are almost, but not just yet, 11 hours plus another hour of twilight. So, a cruising range of at least 55 nm has so far been good enough. In the Exumas, from Nassau to George Town, our passages will be anywhere from 20 to 55 nm.

There is an issue on sailboats called prop walk, a tendency for the stern to want to pull in the direction that the propeller is turning. Rarely an issue going forward, it is almost always an issue in reverse. With the new, larger propeller our prop walk in reverse seems to have increased proportionally with the new diameter, maybe more. This will just take some time for familiarity to develop. Like with the engine: additional speed vs. handling convenience is no contest.

A bit of good news has been electrical usage. We have had some 12~14 knot winds so the wind generator has been pumping in the amp hours 24 hours a day and the solar panels have topped things off by mid afternoon. This will probably change as the weather warms and the wind attenuates but it has been nice so far.

The weather, so far, has been just about perfect. Mostly sunny, warm days and a few cool, but not cold nights. Carol, of course, is sweltering, the temperature occasionally getting into the low 80's. I have yet to put any winter clothes away since at night the temperature has dipped below 70, my threshold for freezing. Carol did, however, store the wool blanket. On average we have enjoyed the climate. After a day in the warm sun, a night breeze can seem very cool.

Now that we are anchoring a lot we have been using our radio headsets to communicate from the bow to cockpit. We had seen many cruisers using these but could never locate them on the internet despite a jillion searches with all sorts of combinations of key words. Someone finally told us where to locate them on a website called Cruising Solutions. The reason that we could not find them was that they were marketed as Marriage Savers, not radios. Truer words were never spoken, having done stuff without them and, now, with them. They are one reason that Carol may make it to our 44th anniversary in a few days.

I tried to listen to the two football games on Sunday on the SSB radio by tuning to the Armed Forces Network which, I assumed, would be carrying the games. I did get to hear some of the first game, Ravens v. Patriots, including the exciting, but disappointing ending. The reception went south on all of the AFN frequencies and I was unable to listen to any of the Giants v. 49er's game where I would have pulled for the Giants, cousin Les' team.

Posted by sailziveli 11:07 Archived in Bahamas Tagged beach boating bahamas Comments (0)

SW Allens Cay

Jurassic Park in the Bahamas

sunny 80 °F

After a fairly typical morning on the boat, not much activity, we decided to take the dinghy to Allens Cay, about two miles north to see the iguanas. There is about a one mile reef/rocks between here and there with one good way through so we broke out the portable GPS with marine charts to make our way through the opening.

Not much of a problem, the GPS doing its thing well. However, having gone on the north side of the reef into a north wind the ride got bumpy. Again, not a problem. It also got wet ... Carol's description: the two of us fully clothed in a bath tub being drenched with a fire hose. Pretty close. Back at the boat I pumped out several inches of water.

The GPS was in a zip lock baggie and became pretty unreadable at that point and my glasses we so wet and salty the we just headed for a beach we could see. Turns out it was SW Allens not Allens, but who cares. We took the dinghy well up on the beach and put out the anchor. The boat is anchored near the tower to the left of the dinghy on the island in the background.

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Down the beach comes Iggy Iguana, no fear, no concerns, no problems, the local Jurassic version of Welcome Wagon. They are about 30-in. long and can move pretty quickly when they want to do so; they are vegetarians so not any real threat. They used to be ubiquitous throughout the islands; now they exist only on these few islands and are an endangered species. So, no more worrying about becoming a pair of Tony Lama cowboy boots for these guys.

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SW Allens is not very big, basically a large U shape. There are two defining items: a knoll, maybe 30-ft. above sea level and this single palm tree (lots of palmetto trees) which was just about on the beach where we landed.

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Walking in the water we noticed these conch shells, I figured empty. Not so. There were hundreds, none larger than about six inches. We did finally find a couple of conchs that were, maybe, legal size. I offered these up to Carol who, after personally devastating the conch population of the Northern Bahamas for her dining enjoyment, eschewed any more needless slaughter of the defenseless conch population. Oh, and she wants world peace too. On the plus side, I now know where to get my bait for fishing.

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Most of the island was eroded limestone with bits of sandy patches. The erosion pattern on the rocky part produced some very sharp areas; Carol slipped and punched a hole in the palm of her hand. I shredded and left about a quarter of the bottom of my not very good reef walkers there. We found this cairn and Carol added "our rock" to the pile.

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The ride back was much drier with the waves on the stern; we had dried out during the island visit. About halfway back, in an exposed, windy area, the engine quit. Oh s.... it's a long way to row. A simple fix ... I had pushed something against the fuel tank and disconnected the hose. Then the GPS stopped. A simple fix .... just reboot the thing and we made it back through the gap in the reef. Back on the boat, Carol tended her wound and we decided that it had been a good day but that we were through -- no more adventures.

Posted by sailziveli 14:10 Archived in Bahamas Tagged beach boating bahamas iguanas Comments (0)

Highbourne Cay

semi-overcast 77 °F

On Tuesday, after much anxious thought, I decided that our weather options were not working. We are at the extreme fringe of the XMWeather satellite coverage: the wifi antenna needs a fairly tight radius to work; there is Chris Parker SSB reception and sometimes not. So off to BaTelCo go Carol and I to get some sort of cell antenna for the laptop that will allow internet access. No such deal. But they did have 4G phones with a data plan that can also produce a wifi hot spot. Carol has been wanting a smart phone and has a birthday in not so long, her 66th for all who count these things. She is now the proud (and clueless) owner of a really sporty Samsung smart phone that we will use through the Bahamas and then will become hers when we return to the states. The only problem was: slower than slow download speeds when we had be promised 8Mgbs --- we were more than 100 times slower than that. So, rather than leave on Wednesday, as planned, there was another trip to BaTelCo to get an explanation. An arcane setting, one that I could not have known about but that the salesperson should; it's always so comfortable to be able to blame others for our own failings. An easy fix and things work fine. This also gave us a chance to refill an LP canister, not critical but nice to have done. A left handed benefit of this: much lower power consumption with the phone and iPad than with the laptop which won't get nearly as much usage.

In a way of thinking, the trip actually starts now. To date, on this trip, we have always had tethers to the shore: lines to secure us at marinas; electrical cords to power us at the dock. Now, we will start to sweat those not being at hand. Will the anchor drag? Almost certainly, at some point, yes! Will power consumption be an issue? A given with our refrigerator. Will I go nuts worrying about these? You betcha'.

As I was configuring things for the second anchor on the bow, I made a note to reread the section on anchoring in The Annapolis Book of Seamanship, a practical reference we keep on board. There were, as expected, well illustrated and described maneuvers for setting two anchors; not a thing on how to recover two anchors. Maybe that's supposed to be common sense but it doesn't seem very common to me.

This got me to remembering our first and only time we tried to set two anchors, that being during our first trip south. It was in Awenda Creek, in SC, an experience I have not yet forgotten and was recounted in some blog entry during Nov/Dec 2008. Since that event we have covered several thousand miles and have accumulated three more (checkered) years of experience. It's hard to connect the dots between then and now. We have learned so much and have so much more confidence, if not in ourselves, then, at least, in our decision making. The simplest lesson seems to be this: Do not knowingly put ourselves in a situation we are not sure we can handle. Those situations will happen often enough without any extra help. But, the simple fact is that however much more we may now know, it's not enough and will never be. We started boating too old and too late in life to be able to develop the breadth and depth of knowledge that we would like to have.

So, when Thursday morning came we were way past ready to leave Nassau. Not, maybe, so ready to see if the nav plan to skip the Yellow Bank and to skirt the White Bank would work. Coral heads v. white sand seemed like an easy choice since the water depths were about the same, minus the height of the coral heads, of course, but it added several miles to the passage. But, Bruce & Dawn had done something similar so we weren't the first to jump off that edge.

We left the marina at 0715. There is an inconvenient shoal that guards marina row and we wanted the maximum water during the falling tide. No problems there, plenty of water if you mind your location. As we were leaving we finally got to see Fort Montagu, apparently undergoing some restoration or renovation. It's tiny, maybe bigger than our garage but probably not as big as our house. It's hard to appreciate the fort as an impregnable redoubt holding pirates and the Spanish at bay for a century or two.

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The non-Explorer Chart nav plan worked out great; we never had less than 13 feet of water and saw no coral heads which, of course, doesn't mean that they were not there. About an hour before we hit the anchorage a modest front blew through -- a band of clouds, one minute of not very much rain, an a wind shift from 270 to 010. We were anchored by 1430, putting out more than 100-ft. of chain, and we were only the fourth boat in the anchorage which seemed fine to us. At about 1630 the action got a little more intense, with about 10 more boats pulling in and doing so in a way that seemed a lot like amateur hour bumper cars... anchoring too close, anchoring in a way that could foul another boats anchor line. I thought about getting on the VHF to say something and finally decided that this is life in the Bahamas: mostly adults and a few figurative teenagers. In every anchorage there has to be a last boat in.

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That evening came some ugly news. The promised high speed internet does NOT work in the out islands; this was a question that I specifically asked. It does work at speed maybe 10% better than dial-up, so a problem but not a deal breaker. I downloaded Android apps for the WSJ and the Economist. The WSJ is a big change; two years ago I was reading, maybe, six square feet of news print, now eight square inches of OLED screen.

On Friday we went to SW Allens Cay, a separate blog entry.

On Saturday we went ashore on Highbourne Cay. It's a smallish island, maybe two miles long. The marina facility and its store are about as nice as any we have seen. We replaced my shredded reef walkers; who would thought to have found those here. We went down to the beach, less idyllic and much angrier with some weather coming through.

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We were concerned about the weather so we headed back to the boat, stopping only to appreciate that the Bahamas are a mindset as well as a place.

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After lunch we decided to reanchor the boat. The wind had shifted almost 180 and that could be bad for anchor holding. After we did this, several other boats made similar adjustments.

In the next day or two we hope to be able to move down to Warderick Wells Cay and get a mooring ball there for a few days. This cay is the center piece of the Exuma Park, more or less the Bahamas equivalent of Yellowstone.

Posted by sailziveli 14:08 Archived in Bahamas Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises beach boating bahamas tourist_sites Comments (0)

Still in Nassau

and that is not a problem

semi-overcast 72 °F

Having looked at the weather forecasts, several days of 20~25 knot winds we elected to stay here. Well, we're still waiting for the high winds; today we cannot even ruffle the flag. But the weather forecast will be right eventually, maybe even in my lifetime. The newest crisis de jour: no diesel fuel. We tried to refuel in Great Harbour; they were dry. Chubb probably had some but Nassau seemed like a sure thing. Well, not so sure as it turns out; both adjacent fuel docks are dry. Our needs are small, only 20 gallons, but we're not leaving until we have that fuel on board.

So, Carol elected herself as tour guide and we have been doing some touristy things, the first of which seemed to require that we walk to the other end of the island; well, at least the other end of the harbour, which happens to be where the cruise ships are. There were five ships moored that day and there was a lot of foot traffic in the area. The instructive lesson for the day was: don't hike cross country for miles and miles in flip flops; it's hard on the feet.

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We accomplished the most important task of the day: selecting my souvenir t-shirt for Nassau. Carol's goal was to locate and purchase a beach umbrella, although I don't know why she thought we find such an arcane item let alone carry it on the boat. In lieu of that she purchased yet another hat, to go with her growing collection, this one with the virtue of a diameter almost as large as that of a beach umbrella. She must have a secret hiding place for this cache since I rarely see them except on her red head.

Both in Freeport and here there have been "straw markets," an aggregation of small booths where vendors, almost exclusively women, sell various shirts, hats and other tourist type tschotskes. We didn't give the "straw market" name much thought until we visited the Historical Society. In there was a display showing the various weaving patterns that local folks used to make straw goods, e.g. hats, baskets, etc. Today there did not seems to be much, if any, in the way of locally produced straw goods, but it is easy to imagine the evolution of the concept going back a century or two.

The Historical Society was, overall, a disappointment for a place, and a British place at that, that has such a long and remarkable history. It looked more like a thrift store than a museum. But, there were a few gems. We learned that before cruise ships that the harbour was different: the west end was closed, or impassable, due to coral heads, and the main entrance was at the east end, guarded by a fort, of course. This lighthouse was added sometime at the west end when that area was cleared.

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The Nassau economy, like most other places, appears to have suffered in the past couple of years. At the east end of the harbour, where the private boat marinas are, and also there are the two bridges to Paradise Island, things seem generally OK. The far west end where the passengers from the cruise ships shop also seems mostly OK. In between, not so much ... lots of empty store fronts and buildings. Carol thought that many of the women at the straw market seemed "desperate" so maybe things are not so good below the surface.

The Bahamas have been independent of Britain since 1964 but the residual imprint of almost 400 years of British presence is still visible. This statue is of Victoria, Regent and Imperatrix. Despite that history with the British Empire, you have to like a country that ignored that past and devised a Great Seal, on all paper currency, which has a flamingo and a fish. No lions rampant, eagles, one or two headed, griffins or such, no bellicosity explicit or implied. You can almost imagine that someone had a sense of humor. The fish is easy and obvious; the flamingos are on Great Inagua island. They have been producing/drying salt on the island for a long time and in the salt flats there exists a particular type of brine shrimp that West Indian flamingos like to eat. There is a national sanctuary on the island for those birds, and others, and we would love to go there. But the island is the southernmost in the chain and is off the eastern tip of Cuba, requiring several days of cruising for our boat to get there. So, it's probably not gonna' happen.

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Today was Paradise Island day and knowing about the traffic we decided to go early in the afternoon. We went to the Atlantis Hotel & Casino intending to visit the water park. The arrival at the hotel is pretty cool.

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The water park thing did not work out ... only for paying guests which we were not. Carol, even in her full throated Nordic Princess mode could not talk her way in, a rarity. So we went down to the village arcade which last trip had we had so enjoyed. Today, it seemed like just another bunch of stores. So, over to the Bahama Craft Center, just across the street. This was better, there being some actual hand made basketry, purses and hats and ladies that could talk about the materials, techniques and patterns. There was also some hand carving like we had seen some men doing down at the straw market. Sadly for those ladies, the casino seemed a bigger draw than their hand made efforts.

On the map was a note for "the Cloister," we having no idea what that was about. Off we hiked, me, this time, in more sensible shoes and socks. What a great surprise it was, the remains of a 14th century French Monastery that was imported, stone by stone, to the United States by the newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst in the 1920s; 40 years later the Cloisters were bought by Huntington Hartford and installed at the top of a hill on Paradise Island overlooking Nassau Harbour.

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Across the street was a long mall with flowers, statuary and pools. The whole thing was rather stunning when looked at from afar. It was such an unexpected oasis in such a sea of commercial activity and real estate development.

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The diesel crisis got resolved. The two fuel docks at adjacent marinas were out. This marina does not have a fuel dock, but it does have diesel fuel, no gasoline, for boats that are moored there. So, we are ready to go when we get ready to go.

The marina had been mostly empty but on Thursday and Friday with the inclement weather on offer, it really filled up, almost all sailboats except for a 100-ft. motor vessel. It seemed a bit like small world week. First, the couple on our starboard side kept their boat in New Bern. Then, while I was walking down the street a man stopped me and commented on my Whittaker Point t-shirt, since he had been keeping his boat there. Turns out we had met in Oriental four years ago and we had left that marina probably a day or two before he arrived. We spent some time together doing beer & football over weekend. On Saturday, after the game I met another couple from New Bern who are aboard a 30-ft. Nonsuch. Knowing only one other person who has such a boat I asked if they knew him. They allowed that they had never met Joe but had corresponded with him on a boat owners bulletin board.

Monday was pretty lazy also. The one task I accomplished was to rig a second anchor. It's really a goofy system, but it will mostly work. I figure that the crisis for which we are prepared is not so likely to happen. It seems improbable that in several months of anchoring that we will never need a second anchor out. It's good to be prepared.

We had planned to leave tomorrow, Tuesday, but on the advice of several experienced sailors have moved that back to Wednesday. Between New Providence Island (Nassau) and Highbourne Cay, our next stop, there is a bank with lots of coral heads, some with not so much water on top. It's better to make this passage with very sunny, clear skies so that the coral is easily visible against the bottom.

Posted by sailziveli 17:32 Archived in Bahamas Tagged beaches beach boating bahamas tourist_sites Comments (0)

A Little Bit More of Great Harbour Cay

sunny 68 °F

A lot of restaurants on the island have gone under, no longer open for business. Carol and I had dinner here, the Rock Hill Restaurant. It looks better in the picture than it does on the ground; the food was mediocre and too expensive. The setting was great, almost like a Graham Greene novel.

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Our last evening on the island we saw the moon rising in the east and reflected on the water while the sun was setting over the hill in the west.

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Posted by sailziveli 19:40 Archived in Bahamas Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises boating bahamas Comments (0)

Great Harbour Cay

sunny 75 °F

Wednesday was not a great day for either of us. Carol, the CFO for the trip, tried to use her Wells Fargo card and discovered that her card did not work; mine did. All the others did and this is not a problem, only an inconvenience. Regardless, Carol got uptight. For me, it was the calculation of time, rate and distance; would we be able to get to the harbor with enough light to navigate a tricky channel. Plus there was the Berry Island Curse, our version of the Bermuda Triangle. In our two trips to the Berry Islands we have hosed the motor, fried the electrical system and tried to sink the boat with leaking transducers. We're not superstitious, but there is a definite trend line here. The old habits die hard and intensity is a useful trait at the proper times. If it's difficult to get an old dog to learn new tricks, it's impossible to get an old dog to unlearn old tricks.

Ken, a dock neighbor went fishing today and gave us some wahoo fillets which Carol decided to keep for another night. When the going gets tough, the tough go out to dinner, at least on this boat. We had a nice early bird special, basically a kid's meal with a glass of wine. It was tasty and just the right amount. After dinner we walked over to the water which I wanted to see since we were leaving the next day. Despite the weather reports indicating fairly heavy seas, the water was almost glassy -- no surf on the beach. We could only hope that it will also be that way for the trip.

Our verdict on Freeport/Lucaya? Two thumbs down, an interesting place to have visited once; not sufficiently compelling to visit twice unless the port is part of a transit plan.

It was cool on Thursday morning, 47F, when the alarm went off at 0430. Carol dug out the warm clothing, for me a fleece vest. When I looked at the vest in the light it was covered with Wile E's red and buff dog hair. It was good to remember the old pooch; he would rather be on the mountain in Spring Creek, but he's a dog and he does not get a vote. His picture, just because I like my pooch.

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I was not going to check the engine oil level, having done so when we changed it on Monday. But Carol was being helpful, hint, hint, to help me remember to do this, So, I figured, why not! It might help me establish the pattern. Imagine my surprise when the oil was well over filled; I knew that I planned to run the engine hard and too much oil would have been a seriously bad idea. So, out comes the pump to draw off the oil level at least to the maximum level. This helped pass the time while we waited.

We had hoped to get underway soon after 0500 but we were defeated by the dew point; all of the strata-glass windows were covered with moisture, inside and out, and as fast as we wiped them off, the dew reappeared. Functionally blind is not a great way to transit a difficult channel. At 0600 we said screw it and left the dock; about 10 minutes later we were in the channel, it being silhouetted against the very faint first light of dawn, and we made our way to the open water. We had thought that we would be the first boat out that morning but were, in fact, the second, a catamaran having left, maybe, 15 minutes earlier. There was another sloop about 5 minutes behind us.

The numbers were tough, at least in old think: cover 57.2 nm in nine hours hitting the Bullocks Harbour waypoint by 1600. That meant going slightly over six knots. In the event, we hit the waypoint at 1530, despite having given away some time to take in the sails. It was a good thing to have picked up some time, because I do not think that we could have successfully entered this harbor in fading daylight. This island is quite different from any others that we have seen. It has the aspect of being an atoll, a hollow center surrounded by a ring of land. In this case, the channel through the ring of land was not visible from a distance. We might not have found it except that a couple of power boats sped by us and went through the channel. The trick is/was head straight for a cliff, maybe 20~25-ft. high and, just before you crash into it, make a turn to the left of more that 90 degrees, dodging shoals and shallow water, entering a man made channel cut through the rock cliffs. It was harder than it sounds. But it proved, once again, that the Explorer charts are to be trusted. The way point the for channel entrance was spot on.

The passage itself was very pleasant. Warm and sunny with cotton-ball, fair weather cumulus clouds. The forecast was for seas in the area of 6-ft. The fact was seas more like 6-in., flat but not glassy. There was a trailing wind that provided a little more speed on the trip. A very nice boat day.

This was our first day trip, a hard day being better than a hard day and a hard night. Making this transit would have been impossible with the old engine, maintaining more than six knots being a hallucinogenic dream. We even passed and stayed ahead of the catamaran that left before we did, the only other times this happened was when the catamarans were anchored.

At day's end, after a cold drink and a hot meal, Carol was snoozing on the settee by 7:30 PM and I was nodding at the nav station. What a pitiful pair we are.

On the way in we passed Great Stirrup Cay, along with Little Stirrup Cay. The larger island is owned or leased by cruise ship companies. The large vessels anchor on the north side of the island ferry their passengers to the island for, we assume, for and drink, swimming and snorkeling and other fun bits. When we passed their were two ships anchored which must have meant an awful lot of people on the island. There is an anchorage between the two islands and cruising lore has it that, if handled politely, the folks don't mind an extra guest or two.

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We have not seen too many of these islands but this one is different from any others on which we have been: high ground. The harbour here is surrounded by a hillside that probably goes 30~50 above sea level. We were told that this is the best hurricane hole in the Bahamas, quite believable. The scale is that the condos are 3.5 stories tall with the roof making them about 4.0 stories.

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There are about 40 of these condos built around the cove. Last night there may have been 5 that had lights on. I found one offered for sale at $385,000 for 1,900 sq. ft. Needless to say Carol and I are not making any deposits or down payments.

We had a walk about on Friday, deciding to visit the town of Bullocks Harbour. Going to town a nice young mas gave us a ride most of the way. The town is small but, with our other visits there seems to be a pattern. It's not quite like the Eloi and the Morlocks but: the black population seems to live in the old, established town in a relatively dense format, probably having a century or so of continuous residence; the towns seem to be built around what is or was the harbor. The white population seems to occupy all the land that is not part of the town. It's not good or bad, but it seems to be consistent.

The other noticeable thing was that there was a lot of incomplete construction. Sometimes it was just a foundation; other times walls were up; and on a few, the roofs were in place. At some point the music died and has not played since. There is no hint that these will ever be finished. On the whole, Bullocks Harbour seemed much more prosperous than Bimini. We were told that many of the residents work for the cruise lines on Great Stirrup Cay which would put good money into the community. Carol at the causeway between the two islands, although causeway is a rather grandiose word for some landfill, culvert and two lanes of black top.

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On Saturday the walk about was to the beach, which Carol had already scouted out in the morning. It is magnificent. On the local brochure they call it a sugar beach, a pretty fair description. It is almost white; it is almost as fine as confectioners sugar. As for the water, there are not enough words to describe the shadings as the depth changes, as the bottom changes and as the sun changes. The camera is wholly inadequate.

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Carol, of course, always finds the shade.

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On the way back we notices swarms of these butterflies on these succulent plants. There were some very small flowers which must have been the attraction. My best guess is that these are Fiery Skippers, or not.

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We will leave tomorrow and wend our way to Nassau, a trip that will take a night and two easy days of about 35 nm or so. We had planned to stay at the Berry Island Club mooring field as we have done before. It seems that they are closed for renovations so we will probably anchor off Chubb Cay for the night before heading to Nassau.

Posted by sailziveli 15:04 Archived in Bahamas Tagged beaches beach boating bahamas Comments (0)

Freeport, the Bahamas, #2

overcast 59 °F

With all of the stuff going on, we had been so busy enjoying the trip that we neglected to reflect on the fact that we actually made it to the Bahamas without mishap, almost getting run over by large ships not withstanding. And, we did it several months earlier than on our other trips. Of course, we have not yet gone to the Berry Islands where our other two trips foundered with (old) engine problems. So, our next stop will be the acid test.

On New Years eve I had my first illegal smoke. Not the ganja of the islands but a real Cuban cigar, illegal in the states but we are not in the states, after all. It was really good, although I could not taste much difference from Dominican cigars which are, presumably, pretty much the same. It was a Romeo y Julieta, from Havana, desde 1875. While I was enjoying this treat Carol opted for an island drink, a Bahama Mama, which seemed appropriate to her, she being in the Bahamas and also being a mother. About two sips did it for her -- she did not finish it. It might have tasted better if there had been the obligatory little paper umbrella. No such luck. Probably a good thing too since we both had already had a gin and tonic on the boat and I could not have carried her back to the boat were she to have finished it; she being too big, me being too puny.

At 9PM the party started. There were probably several hundred people on the mall, which is all of 50-ft. from the end of the pier at which we are moored.

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There was a five person musical group, two of whom were female singers. I was a little surprised perfectly fitting the profile of an old, clueless white guy. With the pervasiveness of American popular culture I would have guessed that Rap music would have a high profile here. Absolutely not the case. Reggae and Rastafarian rule. There is not a single t-shirt shop that does not have a Bob Marley offering. The music on offer was very eclectic, but done well. We stayed for a while and then retired to the boat. Sleep was problematic since the fireworks started at midnight, en punto. They only lasted 10 minutes but it was a very loud and very bright 10 minutes. Then the boats started with their horns. By 12:30AM the party was over.

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We had a quiet Sunday, no work, and on Monday started working, but not as planned. We went from being people on a boat to boat owners with responsibilities. The toilet stopped working early on, 0600 ..... big problem! Five hours later, smelling about the same as the project on which I was working, and after a complete rebuild, the toilet was re-installed and functioning. What a mess it was. The marine toilet is a complicated piece of engineering, entailing about 10 times as many parts as the porcelain pots at home. I would not work on the dock for fear of losing small parts through the spaces in the planks; so, we did it all in the cockpit. It was a good time to be at a marina and to have a hose handy. I discovered a toilet part that probably will not last very long. Hooray for the satellite phone and Boat Owners Warehouse in Ft. Lauderdale. They will have a couple of those parts waiting for us when we get to Nassau.

We thought these flowers were hibiscus; they are not but are pretty just the same.

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About half of the boats in the marina headed for home on 01/01 and 01/02. The boat next to us, a charter I think, intended to do the same but was forced to return to port after developing engine trouble. The captain says that he will have to wait for a rebuild kit of some kind to arrive from Italy. Makes our issues seem kind of small.

On Monday night a front blew through and we are living with the attendant weather; 35 knot winds, 14-ft. seas and very cool temperatures, middle 50's or less. The heater definitely came back on for this. It was so windy there were even white caps in the protected area where we are moored. The winds should die down on Wednesday and the seas, maybe on Thursday but surely on Friday. The temperature is not too bad, but the wind really makes them bite. It was strange to see the shopping area and bars bereft of people.

We had to go to downtown today to get the computer fixed after I screwed it up. We assumed that there would be a old, central downtown located in some proximity to the port with buildings dating to HRH someone or another. Well, there is not. This is almost like Tokyo, smaller, of course, by several orders of magnitude: an amorphous place with no particular geographical focus. We never even considered renting a car. We would have a survival interval measured in nanoseconds from driving on the other side of the road. The thing that we forget .... crossing the street. We always look the wrong way and then, maybe, remember. Fortunately, the speed limits are very low and, seemingly, obeyed.

Freeport/Lucaya seems to be fairly expensive. Part of that may be due to pricing for tourists, of which there are many. When my computer was being restored I looked at their prices for laptops; I would estimate that a similar product at Best Buy would have been at least $300 less than here. I have wondered many times if there prices for out landers and prices for local folks. Probably not. We had taken taxis a couple of times to the tune of $15~$20 each way. Then a nice man offered us a ride and while doing so told us that the buses are $1. We now like the bus, a great value.

Things are kind of gray and ugly here .... not a peak tourist day. We'll be busy today doing chores necessary prior to getting underway tomorrow, we hope. The trip to Great Harbour Cay is about 60 nm, or so, pretty much of a stretch for us to complete in one day. We have about 10.5 hours of daylight and another hour of good dawn/dusk twilight. It's doable but we will have to leave very early, probably before first light and try to exit a narrow, rock lined channel to the open water. The good news is that we'll have a following wind and should be able to motor sail. More good news: we called the marina this morning ... no one there but a boater picked up and we talked. He said that the last 4 nm to the harbor are over sand and that you can anchor anywhere. Good to know, if he's right. The seas will be higher than we want, but, still, not bad: in the 4~5-ft. range settling down later in the day.

Posted by sailziveli 08:55 Archived in Bahamas Tagged boating bahamas Comments (1)

Freeport, the Bahamas

sunny 75 °F

This was a strange stay at the Hall of Fame marina. First, on the south side of the dock there were only six boats, occupying less than one third of the slips. It seems like this should be the busy season. Second, we were the only people on a boat at this dock. Usually there are at least a few folks around and about with whom we can schmooze; not here. I had not really noticed until now .... not being great at the weather, I usually talk to folks to see what their thoughts are and compare those to mine. It's all independent action for the weather here. The stay has not been a bad thing, just noticeably different.

When the front passed through Ft. Lauderdale on 12/27 the weather really cooled down, maybe 12 degrees on average. What had been warm enough to make Carol think about turning on the AC during the day (we didn't) became cool enough to make me think about turning the heat on at night (we didn't). But the cold weather clothing that had worked its way to the bottom of the pile after leaving Brunswick was pulled out again; the wool blanket that had been stored was opened up, at least on my side of the bed. For all that, the night time temperatures did not go below 57 degrees, which is at least 50 degrees warmer than at the house. So, no complaints here.

The weather window to head out looked like it would last about 36 hours so we took it. The plan was complicated by the New Year weekend. The Immigration & Customs offices were open on Friday but probably not over the weekend. I'm not sure what we would have done had we arrived later.

So, we left at 1300 for the fuel dock where we took on fuel and then headed down the waterway for the channel. The auto pilot had been acting weird on the way down and the problem was that the nut which holds the helm onto its axle had loosened. An easy fix with a crescent wrench. When we left the fuel dock I noticed that the nut was again loose, so out comes the wrench and we're working on the wheel while trying to steer in traffic. Not a problem, just another form of boat owner multitasking.

When we turned the corner to enter the channel we noticed some tug boats working a big container vessel but is was not apparent, to us anyway, what the vessel was doing. As luck would have it, the ship exited the channel right behind us. Love the new motor; we revved it up and were able to stay ahead, just barely, of the ship which was being followed by another of similar size. The wide channel seemed very small with these guys crawling up our stern.

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I guess that this set the tone for the crossing ... no empty ocean for this trip; it was all huge ships and our little piece of fiberglass. After the sun went down, things got fairly interesting. We were, after all, crossing a major north/south shipping lane in the Florida Straights and then entering another one: the Northwest Channel.

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Our radar has a plotting program that, generally, works OK. But it does goofy stuff some times having a contact heading north one minute and west the next. When the ship is probably within 3 miles it seems to settle down but it can be confusing until it does. And, all boats are required to carry specific navigation lights. But until the get closer it can be impossible to read them which I can do very well. Forget about being able to sort out green from red from white lights. Until the boats are close enough to collide, they all look the same. And cruise ships? It's like Where's Waldo trying to pick out the two or three lights that might appertain to navigation from the hundred others that are lit.

In the early evening there was a large bulk carrier headed for us. And, after some maneuvering, it passed fairly close astern, maybe 0.8 miles ... too close. Anyway, it was dramatically silhouetted against the glowing Florida horizon and the dark shape looked malevolent, like a Darth Vader death boat. Way cool or, maybe, I was just tired.

On that same watch I noticed two parallel light patterns on the water. I was sure that it was too soon to be hallucinating from lack of sleep. So I checked it out ... there was an airplane flying overhead, probably quite low, and the strobe lights on the wing tips were bright enough for their reflection to be seen on the water.

Later, when Carol turned over the watch to me at 0300 she said that there was a cruise liner ahead and that it was probably stopped, presumably waiting for daylight to enter Freeport harbor. I had to decide which way to go around this ship since it was between us and where we wanted to go. For the life of me, with all of their lights on, I could not decide which end of that boat was the pointy one. Choosing one, and having a 50% chance of being right, I moved. When I was later able to get a better look I found I had exercised the 50% wrong option and cut across the bow. Not good, but no danger as it was not moving.

The real fun came about an hour later. I had been tracking a boat for about an hour and it was getting closer and closer. My radar program plotted that we were going to collide. When we were about two miles apart the liner hailed me; the guy must have been ETL, i.e. English as Third Language. It's hard enough understanding any conversation over the VHF let alone with this handicap. My handicap was that my hearing aids were not in. He told me that his radar also plotted a very close CPA (closest point of approach), a code phrase for collision, and he asked me to turn south until we cleared. I was very glad to do this because our radar was not sure of his course and I did not know which direction would get me out of his way. All ended well and it was good to have learned that our boat and the radar reflector we use are visible to others. I had worried about that.

There was a nice sunrise -- aren't they all -- which looked like this in stages.

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We docked at 0830 on Friday, 12/30/11. Carol is nice; I am not. Carol is patient; I am not. Carol can handle bureaucrats with equanimity.; I handle them like Attila the Hun handled losing opponents: off with their heads. So, the sane decision was for Carol to treat with the people in Customs while I secured the boat, which we did. The outcome is that we were not permanently banned from the Bahamas for my ill behavior.

While Carol was doing the Immigration & Customs stuff I saw a wake go by our stern, but with no noise. After the second time I looked to see this small radio controlled boat speeding behind us at very high speeds, maybe 20~30 MPH, and kicking up a large rooster tail. It is, probably, about 18-in. long. This looked like it would be a lot of fun to do for maybe fifteen minutes; after that, not so much. What's cool to consider is relative speed, in this case: how long does it take for a boat to cover its overall length? By this standard, the little blue guy may be the fastest thing on the water.

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Carol picked this marina based on someone's advice, but I am not sure whose that would have been. It will be OK, but we are literally about 50 feet from a tourist shopping arcade complete with live music, the limbo and more bars than I can count. New Years eve may be a challenge.

We cannot use our stateside cell phones ... Verizon kills their customers with out of area charges. So we went to a store to get our unlocked cell phone reactivated by BaTelCo (the Bahamas Telephone Company). Since the place was several miles away we took a cab. It should not have been a surprise, but after Nassau and Bimini it was: if you missed a clue or two, you would have bet serious money that you were somewhere in south Florida. The architecture, the trees and bushes, the stores, everything is the same. The lot sizes and building spacing is very like stateside because this is quite a large island with lots of space, much different than Nassau and Bimini. And why should things not look he same? Freeport is only about 50 miles east of Palm Beach. The only thing that I saw really different? The cars are all american made, having the steering column of the left side of the car. But in deference to HRH Elizabeth II and the British Empire, they drive in the left hand lane.

Carol wants to go out to dinner this evening; she has become very creative in serving up reasons not to cook. Nothing wrong with that; it's just an interesting litany to which to listen. The nominal reason tonight: cracked conch which she likes for food and I like for bait. I, of course, am 100% right about this.

Strange things happen on the boat -- a black hole that claims wallets and boots -- Carol tossing out some of her clothing and stuff from the galley. We have had just about every variety of fly on board, many varieties of birds on board but never, that we can remember, have we had an invasion of Hymenoptera, in this case bees. Very strange! The first one arrived before we even hit the channel. When we docked there were even more. They look about like common honey bees and, while seemingly aggressive, they have not yet stung either of us. Carol, who has a Buddhist like respect for life, offered the well intentioned solution of opening more of the cockpit panels so they could escape. This, like almost all good intentions, produced the opposite outcome of letting more of them in -- lots more. My solution? Kill'em all, which we mostly did with a fly swatter. I cannot imagine what attracted them to our boat, but the attraction was ineluctable but, hopefully, not enduring.

This is, of course, Carol next to bougainvillea, a picture I put in the blog every year in the hope that repetition will help me remember how to spell this french fried word. Hasn't worked yet but there is always hope.

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We have seen lots of bougainvillea on our several trips south. In one garden through which we walked we saw our first frangipani tree in the islands and the first I have seen since my last trip to Singapore close to twenty years ago.

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This is our marina. It is actually something of a dump by stateside standards having the worst, dirtiest bath and shower facilities that we have seen ... anywhere. Our boat is somewhere in that mess which got even more crowded today as a half dozen more boats arrived. Ours is like the red headed step child amid all of these other craft. We are shorter by at least 15-ft. than any other boat here. And, ask us if we care. Not!!!

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We are actually in Lucaya, a city adjacent to but separate from Freeport. Freeport seems to have the business end of things and Lucaya is pretty much tourist oriented with hotels and condos. I am not too sure why people would want to stay here although visiting is great. The only activities seem to be: drinking, eating, fishing, gambling, sunbathing and not being cold. The not being cold part is easy to grasp but there are still 24 hours in a day that must be filled with some activity. Of course, with beaches like this maybe activity in pointless.

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There is an old(?) lighthouse that guards Bell Channel, through which we passed to get to the marina. It has been cleverly incorporated into a hotel building. We did not get to see the inside but we were curious as to whether it was accessible from the hotel's interior.

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We intend to go south when the weather will permit; Thursday, 01/05 looks like the earliest chance. Until then we will be hanging out. The new engine just hit 150 hours so we'll do a day of boat and engine maintenance which will include stuff like --- changing the oil.

Posted by sailziveli 18:43 Archived in Bahamas Tagged beaches boating Comments (0)

On to Freeport

sunny 61 °F

We are waiting for weather. We should have left on Monday arriving on Tuesday. But, we still had things to do; so, we missed that window. Regardless, Ft. Lauderdale is a great place to wait. It's sort of like Miami Beach but without the traffic and high prices. The city fathers did a smart thing either by accident or design; they have about a mile, or more, of uninterrupted open beach in the sense that it is possible to view the beach without high rises in the way. There is the west side of A1A, then two lanes only, and then a white beach and blue water. Carol and I like to have dinner at any of the several restaurants on the west side of A1A. They, quite literally, have tables on the sidewalk with a view of the beach 50-feet away. The traffic is not bad enough to detract from the experience and the people watching is great. It's slightly down market from, say, the Lincoln Road Mall but fascinating just the same. Carol much enjoys her morning walks, an irony of a sort. At the house I am the one up and working out in the morning; on the boat I am the sluggard and she is the one going strong. The daytime view from where we had supper at the table in the center of the picture closest to the road.

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I want one of our batteries replaced, the starting battery, a pretty important part of the boat's equipment. On the boat all days are fungible; not so on shore. Most places, including the battery guy, were closed Friday through Monday. So, we waited and missed the first weather window. We also want the other house batteries checked. The start battery is only 4 years old, and shows no signs of problems; the house batteries are only 3 years old. This is Ashley's concept of preemptive replacement: make the change before the thing actually goes bad and needs to be replaced under duress. I have had a very hard time adapting to this idea since it is so generally contrary to life on shore. But, it is a sound policy on a boat if it's applied wisely. I don't know that we do that but we try. So, a new start battery whether we need it or not. Getting to the batteries is a lot work: some for me and some for Carol. She has to take apart the rear cabin, where we sleep, to gain access to the start battery. I have to empty most of the port lazarette to get to the three house batteries. The good news ... none of the house batteries needs replacing.

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In the same vein of preemptive replacement, I would like to replace the standing rigging which is, now, almost 10 years old, about to the end of its useful expected life. We had it professionally checked in May and there were no cracks or concerning deterioration. The running rigging was almost all replaced last year in Marathon. Regardless, the standing rigging is now on my worry list. With a deck stepped mast the downside for failure is considerable.

We have been watching the big boats come into and leave the Bahia Mar Marina. We speculate that many boats went out for the holiday and returned on the Tuesday after Christmas. The boats are two and three times our length and beam and we think that they cannot possibly get around that corner or into that slip -- almost always backing in -- but they do, and seem to do it easily. With two propellers and all of the several side and bow thrusters on those boats they can literally parallel park more easily than any car. Our boat, being unburdened with all of that technology, crashes into things, scarring and scratching the hull. But, when by accident we get it right .... it feels really good.

Tuesday and Wednesday were hair cutting days. One of us memorized a red hair color formula and called all over town to find a beautician who could reproduce the special, selected red. The other of us plugged in the electric clippers and got a cruisers' cut, good enough on the premise that hair grows. I won't say which of us was which.

Having had such rotten "luck" getting to and staying in the Bahamas, one of the questions with which Carol and I have been working is whether we will go to the Florida Keys this year as we have done in the past. We think that we have seen enough of them the past three years and will forgo that journey this year. This means that we will miss seeing Cousin Sue and Jay, a serious regret since we always enjoy their company. But we have three years of island cruising that we have missed and will try to cram into this year.

We have been thinking about getting to the Bahamas, i.e. where to cross and where to make our port of entry to clear customs. If we were to elect for Bimini, more or less right across from Ft. Lauderdale, we would have to go south a day or two to be able to manage the Gulf Stream, our boat not being able to cross directly east against the current; we would be pushed too far north. So, we have elected to shoot for Freeport on Grand Bahama Island. This is north of Ft. Lauderdale and will make the Gulf Stream's current help us across. Carol has decided, I think, on some marina in the Lucaya area, there being no anchorages available due to geography. Freeport is the 2d largest city in the islands after Nassau. The trip from dock to dock will be about 95~100 nm, about the same as from Ft. Pierce to Ft. Lauderdale.

Posted by sailziveli 11:43 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

Ft. Lauderdale

semi-overcast 77 °F

My Favorite Thing Is to Go Where I Have Never Been
Diane Arbus

Another quote from the log book from Stan & Connie. Diane Arbus was, maybe, a degree or two away from true north but she was a noted photographer and she had this sentiment exactly right.

Carol and I have developed a rhythm for and division of tasks that must be done prior to getting underway. I'm not really sure how this happened; there was no conscious thought in the process. It just evolved and, like much of evolution, it is workable. It takes about an hour, more or less, to get things stowed, systems on, accoutrements in place, power unconnected and, finally, untethered from the shore. One of my major responsibilities is to check the engine oil level; diesels, generally, like to be well lubricated. I've missed this several times, but I've been better this trip since we actually left Brunswick; but, sometimes, quien sabe?

The trip planning for this leg has been problematic; the goal is to arrive at the channel just at/after full daylight. The new propeller may push us a little faster; my navigational record of managing the Gulf Stream is very poor, always staying too far east for too long before heading west to the shallower water. On the trip to Ft. Pierce we averaged about 5.2 knots, dock to dock. I'm not sure that we can manage 5.0 knots once we turn the corner at Palm Beach and are exposed to the Gulf Stream.

Leaving the marina, and Ft. Pierce, is always a problem. About 1/2 of the marina channel is narrow, less than 15 yards and shallow, close to 5 feet at low tide. This section runs east-west the marina guys always say that the channel is fine if you stay in the middle, but they always seem to forget that the tide runs north-south and in the middle with a sailboat is the impossible dream. On the way out we almost had a worst case scenario: a manatee feeding in the channel. Only one thing to do: put the engine in neutral so that if there were to be a collision, there would not be any cutting. Of course, when satisfying Florida law we violated the cardinal principle of boating: always maintain complete control of your vessel at all times. The manatee moved away and we didn't ground the boat.

Exiting Ft. Pierce is generally challenging. It's only 3 miles from the dock to the easternmost channel marker but when the tide is running out, like yesterday, one of those miles, the last, is purely ugly. When the fast water from the tide hits the slow moving water in the ocean the fast water backs up and creates waves. When we first saw the channel entrance there was a solid wall of waves and white caps from jetty to jetty. It was good for a rough ride and a little bit of excitement before we cleared into open water.

The open water was about like we expected, pretty lumpy and bumpy. This catamaran was all over the place, in this instant the hulls being mainly clear of the water. So, I guess, that means that we were too.

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Our boat has a bolt on keel, so the bottom of the hull is rather rounded from the bow back ... no vee to cut through the water. So, when it gets rough with waves coming onto the bow, the boat does the equivalent of a belly flop, smacking the water -- hard and loud -- with a predictable wash of sea water coming over the bow and back to the cockpit as the bow clears the water. At one point the strata-glass windows were so caked with salt as to be barely translucent. Fortunately, things calmed down and, as predicted, after dark and the ride got a lot smoother and quieter. Early the next morning there was a 30-sec. rain shower that was hard enough to rinse off much of the salt.

The anti-nausea patches make us thirsty, so lots of fluids have to consumed under way. Because it was fairly rough, Carol decided that the right thing to do was to give me my drink, iced tea, in a sippy cup. How humiliating! I'm a grown man after all, although I am sure that many/most women conflate the handling of small children with handling large men. The good news is that my sippy cup does not have anything to do with the Tele-Tubbies or Sponge Bob Square Pants. Miss Piggy might be cool, though.

I hope that we have not been getting cavalier about this. On this trip, so far, we have known the areas so well that we have not really bothered with charts, just had them handy for "just in case." Once we rounded Palm Beach we tried something new: rather than steering to a point, distance and bearing, we steered by the depth of the water, trying to avoid the Gulf Stream currents. This turned out to be simple to do. If the depth was greater than 99.9, steer to shore; if the depth was less than 90.0 then steer to open water. We zig-zagged down the coast anywhere from 0.75 to 4.5 miles off shore, seemingly never troubled by the northward flow. I wish that we had done this on previous trips.

We always cover the distance from Palm Beach to Ft. Lauderdale/Miami in the dark. One way we could tell that we were getting close to Ft. Lauderdale is the Hillsboro Inlet lighthouse, the only working light from Palm Beach to Key Biscayne. It was a solid beacon for the last several hours of the trip., being about 10 miles north of Port Everglades. (photo not original)

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At the mouth of Port Everglades we saw another anchored boat carrier, maybe the same one from earlier this year. The big difference .... this carrier was loaded with boats, probably a dozen or more. The sport fisherman boats at the rear are probably 50-ft. and those forward are even larger. I never had a sense of the actual size of this thing until I saw how many boats were on board.

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We arrived at the marina at 0830 on Friday, 12/23 and, improbably, handled the boat well into the slip. Brunswick is bad for birds; as these photos show, Ft. Pierce is even worse. The solar panels may not have seen the sun for the past week. Hopefully, we will not have this problem in Ft. Lauderdale.

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We are at the Hall of Fame Marina, the hall of fame being one for swimming. The Hall of Fame has a couple of pools and diving facilities behind the main building; I am not sure why this hall of fame would be here; but, frequently, the logic of these decisions is not obvious. The marina, more or less, uses the sea wall around the facilities. It's a very nice location, only one block from the beach. And its main attraction: we can come in from or go out to the open water without having to wait for a bascule bridge to open. (photos not original) Our boat is on the south side (right hand) of the peninsula. The other photo is of the behemoths at the Bahia Mar Marina, about 50 feet south of our slip.

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The new propeller worked just fine. We were able to hit 3,600 RPM's and a few extra so it stays in place of the smaller one. I'm not sure that it actually contributed much in the incremental speed department, but my sense was that it may have helped and, certainly, did no harm.

Bahia Mar is mostly full of power boats. One of the few exceptions ... this sailboat. We thought that the snow flake "sail" is pretty neat. I have no idea how big the boat is, very being the right answer, probably 80~100 feet.

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This boat almost seems like our constant companion. When we were at the Lauderdale Marine Center waiting for the engine, it came in for work and was across from us. When we later moved to this marina to do sea trials, it arrived and was across from us. Six months later? Ditto that. The reason that Carol and I have noticed this boat in particular is its name: Never Enough. We have spent much time during cocktails discussing what the actual rationale is for the name. We did see, we think, the owners one day: a small, gnome-like very old man and a very much not very old woman. Generously, it may have been his daughter or grand daughter.
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On Friday we were able to get together with Steve, a friend from high school. Despite the short notice, and the holiday season the three of us had a nice dinner and a couple of celebratory drinks.

After our first, shortened trip we decided that we needed a better way to sit at the helm than a pile of fenders or the original piece of crap bean bag chair. So, this project has become my version of the white whale. If this were a software project we would be at version 4.something without having made any appreciable improvements since the beta version. On the way down I decided that this seat was not well enough padded for my bony butt; Carol admitted that it was not as comfortably wide as it might be for her decidedly not bony butt. Having rented a car for the weekend we were off to the newly opened, world's largest West Marine store. After testing several we compromised on a new seat. After about an hour of work to remove the old one and to install the new one I decided that I liked the old one better. Another hour to reverse the process and Carol was off to return the not so great idea toWest Marine. So, it seems that we will both have to be uncomfortable, each in our own way. Tolstoy got this just right. The interesting thing that I learned on this trip was that the "seat belt" actually does fit across Carol's womanly woman's lap.

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This will be our fourth trip but we have only spent one of the three prior Christmases "down south." Despite having lived here in our youth, the intervening decades have made the prospect of Christmas with palm trees surreal, sort of like life imitating a Corona beer commercial. On Christmas eve we listened to Christmas music over Pandora radio since we do not have any on the iPod or computer. The music was evocative, calming troubled waters and comforting to the soul. I wonder if this will be the case for young folks today when they are of a similar age. I would hope this to be the case, but I rather doubt that it will be. Anyway, Christmas breakfast on a boat looks like this ... and has for millennia from the Phoenicians to the Venetians, from the Dutch to the English, sailors have all celebrated Christmas with New York strawberry cheesecake and French eclairs washed down with champagne. I know it to be true because I read it in my blog.

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It can now be reveled: Carol dispensed with such conventions as cutting the cake into slices and immediately sunk a fork into the middle of the cheesecake and started eating. Later, she handled the segue from champagne to mojitos seamlessly, all this before 10 am.

On Christmas morning Carol and I reflected on he fact that, in a religious sense, we have been much blessed; in the secular sense we have been given good fortune beyond any reasonable measure. If it were to be within our power we would share these, give them away, the blessing and the good fortune, with those we love and hold dear. It would truly be a grace for us to be able to do this.

We had hoped to get out of here early next week. The weather, however, is looking like that probably will not happen. There are a series of frontal systems stacked up and headed our way. These typically bring north winds which make the Gulf Stream unpassable for small boats like ours. So, we'll wait. The weather here is 45 degrees warmer than at the house (75F v 28F) so, it's not a bad place to be stranded.

Posted by sailziveli 10:06 Archived in USA Tagged boating Comments (0)

On to Ft. Lauderdale

sunny 66 °F

The cliche about a small world sometimes proves stunningly true:

  • A couple that we met in Key West, on our very first trip, is at the end of the dock. One person mentioned that there are probably less than 1,000 boats actively cruising so, maybe, this is not an unusual occurrence.
  • The Episcopal priest here in Ft. Pierce counseled Carol when we stopped here while Carol staying with her sister during the Spring of '09. He was a scout in a troop that Carol's father once led, years ago, in Coral Gables, FL.

After the nice visit with Les and Jean things have been pretty low intensity. The to-do list is, largely, complete; the open items may never get done. The only thing that demanded attention was the autopilot which acted a little goofy on the way down. I think that I have corrected that concern and we have ordered some replacement parts that we will pick up when we get to Ft. Lauderdale.

On Monday we had a diver change the propeller, a couple of hours. Easy for me to say; I was not the guy under the water trying to follow the bouncing boat. We'll test it on the way south and make a decision in Ft. Lauderdale: keep this one or put the old one back. If the engine will turn 3,600 RPM's we'll let this one stay. Any significant loss in RPM's will mean that the old one is back for the duration.

The wind has been blowing strong, 15~20 knots, for the last two days. It's almost as bumpy in the boat as it was on the way down .... and we are at a dock. The wind in coming from the SE and there is a 3~5 mile fetch so the waves have plenty of space to gain momentum. The poor Christmas tree has not seen vertical in several days; there are more ornaments on the shelf than on the tree. This seemed like a good time to go off shore power to test the wind generator; we have seen that the solar panels work. No hay problema! It's cranking out power and topped off the batteries in only a few minutes.

Carol has been much taken with this area. She has already picked out the condo she wants, although I'm not sure where I fit in or if I even do. Me, maybe, not so much. There is a nice Christmas display at night in the park next to the marina. Day and night scenes of the same place. At night the lights, more or less, keep some sort of time to the music being played over the PA system.

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On Wednesday we woke up to a change, but it took a second to figure out what that change was: the boat was not rocking; the lines were not stretching and contracting; the fenders were not squeaking between the boat and pilings; the waves were not lapping at the hull ... it was quiet after several days of background cacophony. Throw in a bright sun shining and temperatures over 70 degrees and it's snowbird heaven.

We have been watching the weather offshore. Despite the calm at the marina, it takes a while for the ocean to calm down after the winds calm down. So, we decided to give it another day to settle down before we head south again, this time for Ft. Lauderdale, hopefully our last US port of call before the Bahamas. It will be bumpy, we think, but getting calmer as we move south. So unless something changes in the next few hours, we are off today.

Posted by sailziveli 05:56 Archived in USA Tagged boating Comments (0)

A Far Port

sunny 66 °F

Carol's words of advise rang true. She admonished me to leave soon, because we were approaching the time when bad stuff seems to happen. So we did!

On Wednesday, 12/14/11 we left the dock at 1140, caught the tidal flow out and hit open water in just over two hours. This was probably as easy a time as we have had entering or leaving Brunswick.

This leg of the trip is not one we look forward to doing. It's long and dull, rather like driving across Nebraska; you do it because you have to, but nobody really wants to. If we could have Scotty beam us and the boat south, it would be a good deal. On the other hand, it is a two day immersion in boating, a somewhat useful exercise after having been gone from it for six months. We are workman like on this leg; whoever is not on the helm is below resting, napping or sleeping.

There was not enough wind from the right direction to sail sans motor, so we motor sailed the whole way. The weather forecast, this time anyway, was spot on, with winds and seas being correct. The wind direction .... not so close. It doesn't matter; we made our 5.0 knots regardless.

What got us was the wave action. The forecast was for seas 4~8-ft. We must have seen only he latter part of that range. Not a big deal except that the waves were hitting the beam, square on, causing the boat to heel in one direction; then, the boat would violently recoil back the other way making the mast look like some sort of steroidal metronome intent on keeping the rhythm of the sea. Even using two hands at all times it was hard to stand up without getting tossed in some direction. How rough was it? Carol did not even think about cooking, despite the fact that the stove is on gimbals and it also has pot holders. We eventually put out sail which greatly reduced, but did not eliminate, the movement. We both put on anti-sea sickness patches prior to getting underway. I was fine; Carol had some issues. Assuming that we can eliminate morning sickness as a potential cause, that leaves the roly-poly boat. On reflection we were both lucky not to have been injured; the several landings were benign, only bumps and bruises.

Sometimes, for all of its immensity, the ocean can seem a very crowded place. Not this trip. There is usually a good bit of traffic going into or out of Jacksonville, FL. Nada! No pleasure craft, no nothing. That's OK, fewer right of way problems to solve. We spent the nights staring at an empty radar screen.

Our first night out was fairly clear. Carol had the watch when a waxing gibbous moon rose from below the horizon, the first time she said that she had seen this on the open water. Having seen several such risings myself I think that Joyce Kilmer should have written these lines, had she not been a landlubber:

I think that I will never see
a poem as pretty as a moonrise at sea.

The meter might need some work but the concept is perfect.

The second day out, Thursday, everything was gray: the water looked like polished slate; the skies were variations on that same theme and no sun to speak of. In the midst of this monochrome expanse we came on a flotilla of white sea birds, a few dozen, maybe more. The white of their feathers against the gray was dramatic. Why they would be floating 30 miles off shore is a mystery to me. But, that mystery did not diminish the beauty of the scene. I imagined that birds would be concerned about hungry beasties from the depth coming to eat bird burgers. This is probably the case since one legged sea birds are easy to spot. One blog reader suggested that I get a Sibley Field Guide to Birds, which I did rather than the Roger Tory Peterson, which had been my original plan. Anyway, they seem to have been mature northern gannets, a very pretty bird in flight and very easy to identify through markings. (not an original photo)

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That Thursday we decided that we needed to refuel. I don't know which of us has the more difficult job. I have to go forward on deck and bring the jerry cans into the cockpit, each weighing about 35-lb's and hoist them onto the coaming. Carol has to go onto the swim platform on the stern, dodging the dinghy to open the fuel cap and to secure the siphon hose. She always wears two safety tethers so, if she slipped, she might get wet up to her waist. A good friend told us about Super Siphons, he having several of his own. So, we bought a pair. They are just great, being able to empty 5-gal. in about three minutes. Refueling sure has been easier since we got those. I was surprised at how much fuel we used ... we came into Ft. Pierce with the needle pegged on empty. The tank it was not all the way empty but it was way closer than was comfortable. Because this engine is better than the old one we can run at higher RPM's for more speed. That also means more combustions per minute, ergo, more fuel used. It's not a bad number, just 0.7 gallons per hour and within specifications, but I clearly did not think this issue all the way through.

The last night was cloudy. No land was visible to the west, we were too far out and the boat is too low in the water. But, there was a clear horizon created by the penumbra of lights on shore. To the east the clouds merged with the water to create a black wall that, seemingly, started at the edge of the boat. For some reason, maybe fatigue, I found this to be uncomfortably disorienting. Not a problem, just a strange reaction.

Friday morning, just about 0930 we hit the Ft. Pierce Municipal Marina and fuel was at the top of the list. 35 gallons later we were ready to moor, in exactly the same place they put us earlier this year .... on the wrong side of the marina but in the easiest possible place to park the boat. After 46 hours underway we really needed easy.

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The first order of business was to wash the salt off the boat; it was crusty from the 46 hours of waves that had broken over the bow, some with enough force and volume to make the boat shudder. Thank goodness for the surround. We were, (mostly), toasty and stayed dry the whole time. Attitude may be the difference between an ordeal and an adventure, but sometimes neither is the best choice.

We have stayed t this marina several times over the past few years, in part because location: two days north to Brunswick, one day south to Ft. Lauderdale or Miami. But, the old part of the city, near the water, is very nice. We have been here often enough to recognize the same boats in the same places, seemingly never visited by any human being.

Cousin Les and Jean were able to come down from Sebastian on Saturday for a visit.

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Every Saturday there is a farmer's market in a park adjacent to the marina with local crafts being sold, which we four decided to visit for lunch. It rather has the feel of a medieval market fair. There are not many actual farmers but lots of food choices. The craft area is fascinating, especially as the holiday nears.

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After good Greek fare for dinner we retired to our dock to await the Parade of Boats, boats decked out in holiday lights. It was supposed to start at 6 PM, which it probably did; there were rumored to be 23 vessels this year, which there probably were. However, the parade didn't make it to our dock until about 8 PM and only eight or nine of the vessels hazarded the narrow, shallow channel to this marina. These few were, however, the winners in the several categories which had to come to this marina as part of winning. The energy level rocketed upward after the long wait. The people on the boats were seriously into the Party Hardy mode and having lots of fun.

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So the sort of plan is to goof off and relax today, Sunday. On Monday we are having our propeller replaced with a slightly larger one (16-in. diameter vs. 15-in). We'll test the larger size on the run south from Ft. Pierce to Ft. Lauderdale which could come as early as Tuesday depending on weather and berth availability.

Posted by sailziveli 10:22 Archived in USA Tagged boating Comments (0)

Pre-Flight 2011 (continued)

sunny 60 °F

Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.
T.S. Eliot

Another wonderful citation from the journal/log that Stan and Connie gave us. Of the many correct criticisms which can be made of our boating adventure ... none of them involve quitting or caving in the face of adversity. We will see how far we can go and, maybe now, have an engine and boat that will support that get us there.

We had been working on the boat; busy, but only around the edges. As Yoda, the Jedi knight, would have said, maybe did, "You are not one with the boat." That state of being is not the correct one from which to initiate long passages. So, we segued from busy to involved. We have developed a checklist which includes every failure, every mistake, and every maintenance need that we have yet learned in our years on the boat. This list just keeps on growing. By the time we had been through all of the items in the interior of the boat, we had poked and nosed into just about every corner of the boat. When we finish the top side portion of the list we will be able to say that we are, in fact, one with the boat.

We had had an inventory list of all the stuff on the boat but that got corrupted during a computer malfunction. Recreating this list seemed like a useful exercise for a not very nice, weather wise, Sunday morning. If we had missed any areas when doing the check sheet items, we got to them here. It was humbling. We had ...........

  • Stuff that we no longer need;
  • Stuff that we cannot even remember the reason we needed it, or thought we did;
  • Stuff that was not where we remembered it being;
  • Stuff we had forgotten we had, some of it important.

Anyway, we were able to offload some more stuff from the boat. Almost every marina has a place where you can put stuff "up for adoption." Most boaters, being pack rats, glom onto anything that might have a potential future use, a benign form of recycling. One boat's trash is another boat's treasure.

One piece of equipment that was a question mark at the end of the cleanup was what to do about the wi-fi antenna, a really good tool if it were to work which I had never been able to get it to do on any computer including this one. So, I went through an uninstall procedure to remove whatever bits might still be in the system and downloaded the drivers again from the website. After a very tedious, long download for this large file and a simple installation .... miracle of miracles .... the thing actually works and works very well. It will probably work at the 1/4-mile range and might even go a little farther.

The fore cabin, Carol's exclusive domain, is now, for the first time in a while, mostly neat. We put in these plastic file folder holders (eight in all) to convert flat storage into cubic storage. The concept is pretty good until we need to get under the base of the forward berth which has some storage and one of the two 45-gal. water tanks, the forward one having a line that occasionally get clogged and must be cleared. Getting to the bottom of all this, and then replacing it, is a half day exercise and no fun. But, since Carol does all the work I do not mind so much.

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It's not all work. Carol decorated our Christmas tree, something she genuinely seems to enjoy, if only because she uses liberal applications of wine to enhance the creative process. Unfortunately, for this tree there was only a thimbleful consumed as the tree is on 18-in. tall.

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We turned the boat around last week from stern in to bow into the slip so that I could clean the other side of the hull. This is, more or less, the equivalent of cleaning a 72-ft. long bath tub with Soft Scrub. Not too much fun, but the boat does look better when it's clean. Boat handling, especially in wind and current, is not like riding a bicycle .... it does not all come right back. Anyway, I crashed the side of the bow into the dock and in the process smashed one of the covers that go over the anchor locker drain holes. On Monday we drove up to the Beneteau factory in SC to pick up a new one and some other stuff.

On Tuesday morning we finished the top side checklist items, having saved the least pleasant for the last: checking the anchor windlass and chain. The anchor windlass is a back saver; I know this having spent a week and a half on Victoria's boat, which has a manual windlass. So, we always want to be sure that the thing works, at least when we leave. Checking the anchor chain for deterioration is also necessary; no problems with our chain, it's only 3 years old and still in very good shape. Lastly, check the markers so that we can tell how much chain is out. There are lots of ways to do this ..... all bad, just bad in different ways! After trying paint, which lasted through about two anchorings, we settled on these simple, florescent cable ties. They don't last very long going through the gypsy, but they are cheap and easy to replace regardless of location and circumstance.

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We have been watching the weather closely and it had been strange. Our first week here things were delightful: sunny, shorts and t-shirt warm during the day; pleasantly cool at night. This was, of course, when we did all of our inside work. On the second weekend, things changed to cool, not quite cold, and cloudy .... alternately, sometimes concurrently, rainy and blustery, a time when we will do most of our topside work. The barometer this past week has been a mystery; it has not been below 30.10 inHg and at times has been as high as 30.60 inHg. This usually means fairer weather, clear skies if not warm ones. We have seen no such thing. So, I've done what sailors have done since the beginning of time: switch from warm weather gin to cold weather scotch. Arrgh, matey .... if you canna' change your weather then change your liquor.

I have been re-working the way points and distances for the trip from Brunswick to Ft. Pierce, a trip of about 240 nm. I am pretty sure that all the math is right, having checked several times. We covered that distance in June on the trip north in about 40 hours which means that we have to have averaged about 6.0 knots for the entire passage including the channels and inland waters. This number is so far outside our previous history of the three anemic, under producing Westerbeke gerbils that it is hard to accept for planning this trip south. The right number does matter so that we can arrive in daylight with enough daylight left to get to the dock; the alternative is figure eights a few miles off shore waiting for the sun. 5.0 knots seems better but we will have some winds from the north and then east which will mean we can put out some sail for a power assist.

The boat has spent, maybe, an hour away from the dock in the past six months. Despite all that we have done, the ongoing concern is: what did we forget? Last night, when I should have been sleeping one of those things landed in my brain. We should have spent at least a full day off shore power to check out power consumption and the batteries; this should also have included using the wind generator. We didn't, but will try to remember to do so before we leave for the Bahamas.

Today, Wednesday, 12/14 broke clear .... sunny skies, fair enough weather for the next 48 hours. We will get underway about noon to take advantage of the tidal current and head south.

Posted by sailziveli 05:53 Archived in USA Tagged boating Comments (0)

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