Monday, October 15, 2012

Well, sometimes you have to stop sailing and take care of things at home.  Both of our cruising trips were preceded by a quick-fix project of nailing a new tarp on the old garage roof.  Now is the time to really do something about that GARAGE!
Here we are ripping off the layers of old tarps and replacing with a sheet metal roof.  We hired a great friend--Charlie Boardman--to help us know what needed to be re-built and what could be saved.  And then to teach us how to do it!  We started in the middle of September (2012) and finished a month later.

As you can see--lots needed to be replaced.  This is Charlie on the ladder.

And here's the new roof going on over the old one.  John and Charlie are up there together---such a team!

Then new hardie board


Then new hardie board was added.

Charlie added the new people door on the side.  John and I assembled and installed the big car door on the end.

Finally we painted and painted!


So---now let's do someting else.  Think we will go camping in the handy dandy camper John made for our minivan.  Yay!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Overnight Motor-Sail to Charleston, SC

On March 28th we left St. Augustine and motor/sailed north to Charleston, SC.  It was a nice clear day and a very pleasant passage.  We anchored in the Ashley River right across from Ashley Marina, Charleston, SC.  It took us two or three tries to get the anchor set where we wanted it and then we just crashed.
We shared a piece of the ocean with this towboat and huge barge.

And the sun comes up over the ocean after sailing through the night.

The next morning, March 29, we called our Charleston sailing buddies Laurie and Rob Kramer (s/v Moon Shadow) who we'd enjoyed being with in Marathon, FL months ago.  Well, as luck would have it, the Kramers were docked in Ashley Marina and were happy to come get us in their dinghy.  Wow!  What nice folks!  We spent the rest of the day and evening getting caught up with them and visiting their beautiful Charleston house.  Then we wandered around Charleston with them----fun, fun, fun.
John and Rob in Griffon's Bar.

Laurie and Penny in Griffons.

Laurie and Penny on the Kramer's front porch.

What a nice Charleston house!

This morning Laurie call and said that Rob would come get us for coffee and homemade pumpkin muffins aboard their boat.  Thanks!
The four of us from Moon Shadow's nicely varnished toe rail.

March 24-28 in St. Augustine, Florida

Ahhh-- it was mighty nice to come ashore in St. Augustine.  We spent the first day getting our boat and ourselves cleared through US Customs.  Then we reconnected with family via email and telephone.  After that we treated ourselves to some terrific meals, great music, first rate showers, quality laundry, great grocery shopping and --alas--a very disappointing basketball game Sunday night.

We were so tired, we forgot to take many pictures.  This is all we have of St. Augustine:

We shared a table at Harry's Restaurant with this nice little lizard.

I got to attend my favorite Episcopal Church in St. Augustine.

Alcazar Cafe' .  This used to be a huge indoor swimming pool  a hundred years ago.  The cafe' is set up in the deep end of the pool.  And the food was fabulous!

March 22 and 23 Crossing the Gulf Stream

Three years ago we were lucky to ride the Gulf Stream for three or four days and nights straight to Beaufort, North Carolina.  This time we could not find a weather window big enough to do that much sailing in the Gulf Stream, so on March 22 we sailed west (northwest) from Bimini to St. Augustine, Florida.  So far we had been able to sail every day of our trip home and we were hopeful that this passage would be all sailing too.  However, sometime during the night of March 22 the winds died and we had to turn on the engine.  In the morning we tried launching the spinnaker in the light air, but the sail went crazy wrapping around itself such that it was quite a challenge to get the thing unwrapped from the furled jib and down on the deck.  After that we resigned ourselves to motoring on to St. Augustine.

At one point we were moving long with about 20 dolphins--all of us going about 7 or 8 knots!  After it got dark the dolphins beside our boat kicked up an impressive light show with the phosphorescence in the water.  Here they are:

Our original calculations had us arriving in St. Augustine sometime in the daylight of March 24; however, things got confusing and we found ourselves facing a night time arrival at St. Augustine.  Entering any harbor--even ones you know well--is tricky business and really should be done during daylight hours.  But it was 2AM in the morning of March 24 with no moonlight when we arrived.  Captain John said we could sail up and down in the ocean until the sun came up, but we were so very tired he decided to try picking our way into the harbor.  It was going well until we came upon a huge dredge barge with tentacles of pipes all over the inlet channel--yikes!  We got the dredge boat on the VHF radio and he told us to keep the barge and all its tentacles to our starboard.  Of course it wasn't quite that simple, but John did a terrific job of getting us safely into the harbor.

We found a vacant mooring ball at the St. Augustine Municipal Marina and tied up and slept like dead people.  The next day we started working on clearing through US Customs.

March 20 - 21 Lovin' Bimini Sands

Oh my--what a nice place Bimini Sands Marina/Resort is!  We rented a slip for a couple of nights and had access to internet, a fresh water pool, laundry, and a great little grill for breakfast and lunch.  Also there was free bus transportation to an affiliate restaurant at the end of the island--so nice!

Here's John posing with a terrific breakfast sandwich made with thick slabs of yummy Bahamian bread.

We connected to internet and enjoyed the pool as we planned our big ocean crossing to the states.

Thought you all would enjoy this sign posted on the docks at the fish cleaning station.  It asks folks to be sure that all the fish guts they dump into the water sink----and stay sunk.  But the best line is hard to read in this picture.  It says, "puncture the eyes, gut, swim bladder, etc."  Nice huh?

March 18, 19, and 20--Non-stop sail to Bimini

On March 18th we headed out for a wonderful sail north long the Exuma Banks.  We spent the night of March 18th anchored in the lee of Norman's Cay.  Again we did not leave the boat--just got a good night's sleep and headed out first thing in the morning.

So March 19 and 20 was a non-stop, through-the-night sail across the Exuma Banks south of New Providence Island (Nassau), the Tongue of the Ocean, and across the Great Bahama Banks to Bimini.  The sailing was terrific--honestly the best sailing of the whole trip.  John did some serious fishing along the way and we had a couple of terrific meals of Spanish Mackerel.

Ahh--the sun set on March 19th, but we kept sailing northeast to Bimini.  And, what a lovely night sail it was!
At about 3PM on March 20th we sailed into South Bimini to rest and plan our passage across the Gulf Stream to Florida.

Homeward Bound--March 17

On March 17th (St. Patrick's Day) we left George Town, Exumas and headed home.  The first leg of that trip was a day-long sail north in the deep waters of Exuma Sound.  We were happy to be sailing--no motoring necessary!

At the end of that day we sailed through Dotham Cut just north of Black Point, Exumas onto the Banks side of the Exuma Chain of Islands.

Anchoring up in the harbor at Black Point, we spied s/v Windward and were treated to a brief visit with Windward's captain and crew--our good friends Ian and Lynn Bashaw.  Then we crashed for the night--slept very soundly!  We hope to see Lynn and Ian when they come through Beaufort in a month or so.  We had plans to head out early the next morning without getting off the boat.  The weather was good and the wind was perfect for sailing home so we needed to press on.

Life in George Town, Exumas

The idea was for us to sail to George Town, Exumas and pick up the mail that had been forwarded to us at the Exuma Markets.  The postal service in the Bahamas is not too swift, but it had been three or four weeks since Mom sent the bag of tax forms and misc. mail.  We anchored in Elizabeth Harbor near Volley Ball Beach/ Stocking Island and dinghied over to George Town.  Here's what that looks like:

Of course, we were expecting too much--the mail never came.  We were in George Town for a week (from March 11 to March 17) but no mail!  Finally we left a self-addressed envelope with $20 to cover postage with the Exuma Market lady who said she would forward our mail back to us in the states.

Here are some pictures of our stay in George Town.  This is me lounging in front of the Chat 'n' Chill on Volleyball Beach.

And this is the Chat 'n' Chill where barefooted drinking and eating is required.

This a view from the beach out into the anchorage in Elizabeth Harbor.  There's no way to tell which one of these boats is ours--they all look the same.

 And this is John at the Peace and Plenty in George Town looking out at Elizabeth Harbor.
And finally, here's a short video of the friendly stingray who likes to entertain folks in the shallow waters of Volleyball Beach.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Trip to George Town via Little Farmers Cay

At 7:15 AM on Friday, March 9, we weighed anchor to head as far south along the Exuma chain as we could get. It was not an elegant exit from Shroud Cay, however. We were trying to drag the dinghy behind the big boat assuming that the waves on the banks side wouldn’t be bad. After about 15 minutes of watching the dinghy bounce around trying to capsize itself, we motored back to the shelter of Shroud Cay to get the dinghy out of the water. We caught a mooring and scrambled to secure the outboard engine on the stern rail and to lash the dinghy to the foredeck.

Okay now, with the dinghy and outboard secure, we headed south again. We had hoped to sail but we were into the wind again and needed to motor—boo! We made VHF radio contact with our friends Lynn and Ian Bashaw aboard Windward as we passed the Wardrick Wells part of the Exuma Land and Sea Park. Wow, it’s so exciting to reconnect with fellow sailors! Unfortunately, Lynn and Ian were going to Staniel Cay and we needed to press on south to Little Farmer’s Cay.

The challenge for us was to get as far south as we could, so the next day of travel would be do-able. The route to Elizabeth Harbor and George Town, Exumas requires at least 40 or 50 nautical miles of deep water travel on the eastern side of the Exuma chain. During this past week of heavy wind and squalls, the seas were big with waves around 10 to 12 feet—not exactly my cup of tea! The weather guys were saying that by Saturday, March 10, the seas would be way down to 7feet---still sounds like a lot!

We made it to Little Farmers Cay in about 8 hours, in spite of our restart from Shroud Cay. Again, we were not able to sail, but as the day wore on the sun came out, the wind died down a bit, and the banks-side waves became smoother. John tried fishing, but it seems the fish don’t like to bite while we’re running the motor. At Little Farmers Cay we anchored with several other boats planning to sail down to George Town on Saturday as well. We didn’t go ashore as the dinghy and outboard were already secured for tomorrow’s travel. It was a peaceful night.

At 7:30 AM Saturday, March 10th we were ready to jump out into those 7 foot waves and sail 40 nautical miles south to George Town, Exumas. We motor-sailed out of Little Farmers Cay Cut on a rising tide so that the wind, waves, and current flow were all going the same direction. Capt. John reminded me that if the current in these “cuts” is going against the wind, the sea creates huge breakers called rages—so I’m guessing you don’t need further explanation about why it’s a good idea to avoid that sort of thing! Off we went—not a sign of any rages and those seven foot seas were quite manageable. Apparently, if the wave period (time between wave crests) is long enough the high seas are not bad. And, the wave period at this time was 9 or 10 seconds. Caribbean Soul did her “happy boat” thing where she merrily plows through the dark blue sapphire colored seas! The predicted eastern wind was coming right out of the southeast instead, so we couldn’t sail it without spending the day tacking back and forth which would have added too many hours to our trip. We furled the jib and left the mainsail out to motor-sail directly southeast making the best time possible. It was a full day—about 8 ½ hours

It was a nice passage. The skies were clear, the seas were blue, and we had lots of company. Three sailboats followed us out the cut at Little Farmers and a couple more came out through some other cuts. Caribbean Soul and her very fine Westerbeke diesel took the lead and stayed at the head of the parade the whole day. In addition to all us south bound sailboats, there were herds of north bound boats leaving the George Town area. These north bound boats passed us in groups of 8 to 12 at a time with sails way out and one with a beautiful spinnaker as they all had the wind behind them.

We snacked on granola bars and sipped lemonade all day, as this fair-weather sailor was feeling good and didn’t want to risk sea sickness by messing in the galley below. Capt. John stayed at the wheel and I sat in the cockpit sightseeing all day—nice. We were close enough to shore to see all the little cays along the way. The seas that were quite manageable under our boat were looking pretty fierce when they crashed into the rocky shores—they were putting on quite a show sending huge plumes of water high into the air. Sometimes the crashing waves were bright aqua in color—just beautiful. Then John thought he saw a blow hole along the coast sending geysers of water up like Old Faithful. As he was pointing to where I should look, something big in the sea between our boat and Old Faithful rose up and flipped its tail at us. Wow! It was a whale—honestly a whale! We slowed the engine to watch it play. It was about 25 or 30 feet long—almost the size of our boat—and seemed to be having a great time surfacing and doing its own imitation of Old Faithful.

By 3:45 PM we were entering Elizabeth Harbor which is where George Town and 250 sailboats are located. The seas turned from sapphire blue to a vibrant aqua. It’s hard to get the camera to take a good picture of this water. It seems that all the auto adjust things can’t deal with the intensity and vibrancy of this water color. That said, here are some pictures that come close to letting you see Elizabeth Harbor.

Our next challenge was to go ashore to find an internet connection for a Skype call home, pick up the mail, and get gas for the dinghy and fresh water for us. But it was getting late and we were starving (granola bars will only take you so far!). We anchored on the east side of the harbor near Volleyball Beach. George Town would be a 20 minute dinghy ride over to the west side of the harbor. So we decided to put that off until tomorrow and head into Volleyball Beach for cheeseburgers at the Chat in’ Chill (one of our favorite beach bar and grills). In hardly no time at all, we had the dinghy back in the water and the outboard mounted on her stern (guess all that practice makes us faster). In three minutes we were walking on the soft sands of Volleyball Beach---the first time we’ve been ashore since Chub Cay a week and a half ago! Chat in’ Chill did not disappoint us—great cheese burgers and chilly Kalik beers—ahh!

Tomorrow we’ll look for internet and such in George Town.

Hunkered Down in the Big Blow

After 8 hours of motoring from Finley Cay to Norman’s Cay, we anchored in the shelter of the cay and prepared to go ashore. We arrived at 3:00PM and had plenty of time to get cleaned up, put the dinghy in the water, and motor ashore. The Beach Club Restaurant/McDuffs was a pleasant 10 minute hike over to the little airport and across to the restaurant. As it turned out, the restaurant no longer had internet—they said that it got knocked out last September when Hurricane Irene blew through. They did have some good food, Bahamian beer, and a big screen TV with the Carolina v Duke game. We were disappointed about not getting internet, but the basketball game was certainly satisfying—Go Heels.

Sleeping in the quiet of Norman’s Cay on Saturday, March 3 was great. We had not slept well the night before so this definitely helped us catch up. Little did we realize that we needed to “store up” some sleep, because the next night—Sunday, March 4—was tough. The predicted cold front and all its heavy winds moved in from the east where we had little protection—another rocky night.

We, along with most of the boats at Norman’s, decided to find a better place to anchor. Although the wind was already howling, we put out just a little of the jib and sailed right down to Shroud Cay—it only took a couple of hours. This provided good shelter from the new wind direction—northeast and east. We stayed at Shroud Cay until Friday, March 9th—almost 5 days. Yikes! I got some cleaning & rearranging done in the boat and John made some repairs as one of the brackets holding the wind charger brace needed replacing, etc. Mostly, however, we just read and wrote some blog entries for posting whenever we get to internet. Oh yes, I messed around in the galley a bit—made a no-knead loaf of bread and a pizza. Here are pictures of John reading and hiding from the wind in the cockpit; me writing up some blogs at the nav. desk.

Mostly it was gloomy weather out with occasional rainy squalls and wind, wind, wind without end!

Every now and then the sun would come out, but the wind continued. Here’s a picture of a sunny moment off the bow of Caribbean Soul.

The rocky shore you see in the picture gave us lots of protection until Wednesday night when we had to pull up the anchor and move a bit farther out from the shore—the winds moved more southerly and Capt. John worried that they would push us into the rocks. Yes, the same rocks that had been giving us protection for days.

Other boats were hunkered down at Shroud Cay too. At one point we counted 12 or so boats here.

On Thursday, March 8th I watched a seaplane land right beside a big yacht that had been waiting out the weather just south of us. Then I saw two dinghy loads of people from the big yacht ferried out to the seaplane. Wow! I guess if you have lots of money and your are tired of being trapped on a boat for 4 or 5 days, you just radio a seaplane to come pick you up. Impressive! If you look closely, you can see the yacht and the seaplane in this picture.
We continued to listen to all the weather information we could find on single sideband radio and our SkyMate satellite system. It seemed that a small window of reasonable travel weather was coming up on Friday and Saturday, March 9 and 10. We studied out charts and decided to do a day-long run on the less-wavy banks side of the islands on Friday hoping to give the big waves on the deep seas of the Exuma Sound time to calm down a bit before we tried sailing to George Town on Saturday.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

On to Nassau

Although we had yet to find some usable internet connection, we decided to push on toward George Town, Exumas. We motored out to begin the 7-hour ocean passage to Nassau. The trip was uneventful and we arrived in Nassau Harbor at 3:30 PM on Thursday, March 1. Here’s what the harbor looks like. It is dominated by the huge Atlantis Hotel and Casino buildings and the big cruise ships.

We anchored and checked to see if we could pick up some wireless internet from the shore, but no luck. The weather seemed right to actually sail over to islands just north of the chain of Exuma Islands. So, we left the dinghy lashed to the foredeck, cooked some canned food onboard and went to bed early. At 7AM we weighed anchor and put up our sails to sail out of the Nassau Harbor and north east to Fleeming Cut and Finley Cay. Here’s a picture of the little Nassau lighthouse as we left the harbor. And here is John setting out his fishing line.

We had a terrific day of sailing—almost 10 hours of perfect sailing. Finley Cay seemed to be the best place to anchor for the night, so we furled the sails and motored around a bit looking for a shallow spot with no wave surge. You cannot sail up to Finley Cay because it’s surrounded by sandy banks that become dry at low tide. The best we could tell from our anchorage, Finley Cay was just a big rock (sorry about that Fin). We ate supper onboard again and went to bed in the calm seas with no other boats around. Later that night things changed and our calm anchorage turned into a rockin’ and rollin’ anchorage. We stayed put—well, there was no place else to go—and we were ready to head south first thing in the morning.

Once again we had to motor as we went directly into the wind. The weather reports were sounding grim with a front coming and high winds with squalls predicted for the next week. Norman’s Cay looked like a good place to hide from the weather. Also, we had been there before and knew that there was internet available at the Beach Club Restaurant (formerly McDuffs). We also knew this restaurant to make mighty good cheese burgers and conch burgers. Hopefully, none of this had changed since our last visit to Norman’s Cay three years ago. Yes, indeed, our hopes were high.

Chub Cay

On Tuesday, Feb 28 we left Great Harbor Cay for what we hoped would be telephones in Chub Cay. Also, if we decided to continue our trip on south to George Town, Exumas to pick up our forwarded mail before we head back to Beaufort, Chub Cay would be on the way south. Of course, we couldn’t just zip over to Chub. We sailed for 6 ½ hours across the banks to the Northwest Shoals and anchored on the banks again out of sight of land. It was not dangerous but very rolly all night as we were getting a surge from the deep ocean nearby.

The next day, Wednesday, Feb 29, we motored for 3 ½ hours to Chub Cay. Although we were heading directly into the wind, there wasn’t much wind and the seas were very calm. Here’s a picture of Captain John during this trip to Chub—he’s looking pretty calm too! When not snoozing on the dinghy, John was fishing again with the hand line. This time, however, we were not so lucky—John caught two good sized fish, but they were barracudas! We tossed them back.

After we anchored at Chub Cay, we put the dinghy back in the water and motored into Chub Cay Club Marina. It was a big, fancy place with lots of expensive floating docks, but mostly empty slips—just a few sport fishing boats. We found a nice dinghy dock and wandered over to the restaurant & bar which wasn’t open yet—it was around 3PM. Right in front of the restaurant was a public phone that had instructions for using a credit card—yea. But wait—the phone seemed to be rimmed in crusty salt or something and we could not get a dial tone. We’re in the Bahama’s mon—you try not to let these things bother you, but we did need a telephone! A building near the restaurant said “registration” so we went in to ask the lady at the front desk about the telephone. She told us what we already knew—the public phone didn’t work—so we asked her to help us. She was glad to lend us the office phone and said that she’d charge us $1 a minute for a call to the US. How wonderful is that! We would have paid anything at that point. I dialed Mom and had a very nice conversation about how she was and what she needed to have us do. She wasn’t interested in having us change our travel plans, but did admit that it would be nice to have us back home earlier. She also said that she was pretty much pain free, but getting around wasn’t easy and that Nancy was helping her a great deal—in fact, Nancy was out getting her prescriptions filled and groceries bought.

From there we wandered around Chub Cay Club, which seemed to be another very expensive ghost town. As you can see from the pictures, the houses and the beach are beautiful—but empty.

The construction on this restaurant just halted and is now suffering much neglect—we call it “arrested development.” We ate dinner and watched Carolina beat Maryland at the little shack-like restaurant nearby. The bartender said he didn’t know why construction on the big beach-front restaurant had stopped, but that the swimming pools were open and usable. Here are pictures of “arrested development” and the infinity pool out front.

This last pictures show you Caribbean Soul anchored out in the cove. What a beautiful place!

Tomorrow we will take CS into the fuel dock to top off the diesel and fresh water tanks. Then we’re off to Nassau and eventually George Town, Exumas.