Georgetown to Spanish Wells

On April 2, 2019, we left Georgetown and sailed to Big Majors Cay. The next day we sailed further north along the shallow bank of the Exumas to Highbourne Cay. Friends Len and Isabel from SV Nocturne were there, on their way to Nassau and then back to Florida. We had a wonderful dinner with them at the marina’s Xuma Restaurant. Mark ordered a fantastic lobster tail and I had lobster salad, probably the best meals we’ve had in the Bahamas this year. The HIghbourne Cay anchorage always has a terrible swell and is uncomfortable but the beach is beautiful.  We were there for one night.

On April 4, 2019, we crossed the deep water Exuma Sound to Governor’s Harbour in Eleuthera. We have never had a calm crossing to Eleuthera from the Exumas, but this was the worst. The next day we motorsailed north along the coast, went through Current Cut and anchored just outside the entrance to Spanish Wells.  The following day we tied up at a private dock we were renting behind a home.

This was the first time we have stayed at a dock in Spanish Wells. Over the past few years, several people who own homes on the harbor side of the town have built sturdy docks behind their houses to rent at affordable prices. During our six previous visits we stayed on a mooring ball in the small mooring field in town. The private dock was only slightly more expensive, and much cheaper than the newly remodeled Yacht Haven Marina. We had unlimited well water at the dock, which we used to wash off the boat and to bathe Sailor. It was not potable but we were able to make RO (reverse osmosis) water to fill our tanks.  We also had shore power for fifty cents a kilowatt. We used minimal power and it cost an average of $5 a day, which was well worth it. We never used air conditioning, the microwave, the toaster, the breadmaker, or any appliance that used heat, thus drawing a lot of power. We didn’t use our hot water heater since our solar heater worked great with lots of sun. Most of the boat’s electricity is on a 12V system powered by a bank of batteries, including the cabin lights, the water pump, hot water heater, fans, refrigeration, etc. We are able to charge electrical devices using our 12V outlets, aka cigarette lighter outlets. With shore power, all of the 110 outlets work and our batteries stay fully charged. Without shore power we have to turn on the inverter to use the 110 volt outlets and this uses up battery power. The dock is located on a channel that leads from the Spanish Wells harbor between St. George’s Cay and Russell Island out to the ocean. Just before the water reaches the ocean there is a short bridge between St George’s and Russell Island so only small boats can exit to the ocean past the our dock.

Spanish Wells is the town on St. George’s Cay, but everyone calls the entire area Spanish Wells. (An island is a landmass completely surrounded by water formed by volcanic action or a continental plate floating on top of the Earth’s mantle. A cay, pronounced key, is a sandy low elevation landmass formed on top of coral reefs.)  It was very peaceful at the dock. We had beautiful sunsets and it was great not to have to get in the dinghy to go ashore. Most of the boats that passed by observed the no wake zone and we even had some surprise marine visitors. The sunset view in the photo below is looking down the channel towards the ocean with mangroves on one side and houses and docks on the other.

As mentioned in the previous post, Spanish Wells and Georgetown are our favorite stops for extended stays in the Bahamas. We were in Georgetown for three months this season and usually spend one month in Spanish Wells. However, this year we were there from April 5 to June 19, two and a half months! There were several reasons why we stayed this long, and not all of them were good.

When we arrive in Spanish Wells we rent a golf cart for the entire time we are there. It is necessary to get around the town, to buy groceries, to get to the beach, to go to restaurants, and of course to go to Papa’s Scoops almost every night. It ‘s possible to walk or ride a bike around the area, since Spanish Wells is only 2000 ft wide by 9,380 feet long, and that works for cruisers who are only here for a few days and who don’t need to take a dog with them. Sailor goes to the beach twice a day and once a day I go with Mark and Sailor. While they are on a shallow beach, shown in the first photo below, I go around the corner to a park with a deeper water beach and practice water aerobics. A few months before we arrived this year,  a large pavilion for people to sit in to watch the beautiful sunsets over the water was built. It also offers shelter from the sun. While Georgetown has two nice grocery stores, the Food Fair in Spanish Wells is similar to what we have in the US and much larger than the Exuma Market and Shop Rite in Georgetown. Prices are higher than in the States, but the selection and quality at the Food Fair is great. It is actually a coop owned by the local people.

This year Sailor decided he was going to “fish” instead of just chase the ball and swim at the beach. Some days he would walk back and forth in the water looking for fish for up to 1/2 hour. He never puts his mouth in the water but his nose is always sniffing so I assume he can smell the fish. After his workout, Mark and Sailor come over to where I am doing water aerobics and Sailor gets rinsed off at the park from a hose that has well water. This saves us a tremendous amount of water on the boat. Everytime Sailor returns from a beach in other parts of the Bahamas, we have to use our RO water to bathe him and wash off the salt water. In Spanish Wells at this dock, we don’t have to do that.

Sailor always remembers his goat friends when we return to Spanish Wells and he likes to visit them. They are in various empty lots around Russell Island and Spanish Wells.  One evening we were sitting next to the dive shop on Main Street in Spanish Wells eating our ice cream cones and we heard a loud “Mooooo.” Thinking it couldn’t be a cow in the city, we drove down a side street towards the water and there was a cow in a wooded empty lot. She belongs to a religious, possibly Mennonite, family that lives next to the wooded lot. I missed a good photo opportunity that night when she was on the edge of the lot because every other time we came to see her she was always farther into the foliage but in the photo you can see her black and white spots. There is no fence, but she might be tied up because she stays in the small wooded lot and doesn’t wander around the neighborhood or cross the road. Apparently there are no zoning laws in Spanish Wells or if there are, livestock is allowed. However, she seems to be the only resident cow in Spanish Wells. Incidentally, unlike all the other Bahamian islands we visit, there are no stray dogs, called potcakes, wandering the streets in Spanish Wells. There are, however, many pet dogs and cats who live with families and are well taken care of, groomed, and healthy.
My son Peter has come to visit us several times in the Bahamas. One year he met us in Miami and spent a month on the boat as we sailed to Georgetown where he then flew back to his home in California. Another time he flew to visit us in Spanish Wells and sailed back to Florida with us. This year he had less time so he flew to Spanish Wells and stayed with us for a week. It was especially nice to have Peter here with me for Mothers’ Day. To get to Spanish Wells, you have to fly into the North Eleuthera airport, then take a land taxi to the northern end of the island, then a water taxi from Eleuthera the very short distance to Spanish Wells. We always arrange this through Mr. Pinder’s taxis and the cost is a total of $30 for both taxi rides unless there are more passengers and then the cost  is split between them.  In one of the photos below, Peter is on our standup paddleboard right next to our dock. Across the channel from us are mangroves and this area is usually very calm, perfect for kayaking and paddleboarding. On the morning Peter was leaving we heard a loud splash near the boat. Going out to check on it we saw a family of three manatees under the boat, a male, a female and a baby. We gave them some well water and they kept drinking until we turned off the hose. The male positioned himself right under the stream of water from the hose. There was a leak dripping water further under the boat through the trampolines from where two hoses were connected together. The mother and baby were drinking that and every time one of them came to drink where the dad was drinking, he pushed them away. He is doing that in the second picture below.  A few weeks later I had a chance to swim with one of the manatees when he or she joined me while I was doing water aerobics.

It’s been nice to use the new My Island Wifi hotspot this year, which offers unlimited wifi with a very strong fast signal to multiple users. The monthly fee is $75 and the hotspot costs $50, which is refunded when you mail it back to a US office when you return to the States. It’s a game changer for people who need a strong signal to work from their boats and of course also for cruisers and people living in the Bahamas who want to be online without worrying about using up costly limited data. It works up to ten miles offshore and we’ve been able to use it everywhere we’ve been this year. Additionally it was useful when we had visitors on the boat.

Every night from 7-10 pm, Papa’s Scoops is open selling homemade soft serve ice cream. The two featured flavors are announced each afternoon on Facebook and on an erasable board on Main Street. Usually four to five times a week we like the flavors and go for ice cream. 

This year we planned to have Seas the Day’s bottom painted. It needed it last year but we didn’t go to the Bahamas and prefer to have it done in Spanish Wells. We were hauled out the last week of April and were on the lift for five days. We stayed in a rental apartment for the duration at a cost of $125 a night. We could stay on the boat, but can’t take showers or run water since they are working on the bottom. Also, it’s a nice break to have air conditioning, a full size kitchen with a reliable oven and a large refrigerator/freezer, a shower with unlimited hot water, and a washer and dryer. While we have a washer/dryer on the boat, we never use the dryer and everything is hung out to dry on lines. It was a nice change to have soft towels after being in a dryer. Everything on the boat got washed while we were at the apartment. There was no charge for using the washer and dryer in the room. When there is a laundromat available in the Bahamas, the price is usually at least $4 a load to wash and $4 a load to dry. It rained while the boat was on the lift so they couldn’t work every day which is why it took five days. Sailor enjoyed being in the apartment as much as we did, probably mostly because of the air conditioning.
While we were pulling into the slip with a lift under us our starboard engine stopped. Once a boat is in the slip, Robert, the owner of R&B Boatyard, dives under the boat and sets up the jack stands which hold the boat out of the water. When they are in place, a wooden lift is raised and the boat ends up out of the water in the slip. It was then we discovered why the engine died. The starboard sail drive was totally encrusted from galvanic corrosion.  After the boat bottom was painted, we needed a small skiff tied to our starboard side to help us maneuver the short distance back to our dock and get us in the slip. We waited there while we figured out what to do. Below are photos of our two sail drives. The first is the port one that is pristine. The second one is the starboard sail drive which is very corroded. There is a  device called a galvanic isolator used to repel the galvanic corrosion, which Mark installed. We have always had zincs on the props but they didn’t help avoid this corrosion. 
We have two Yanmar SD50’s which were installed in 2012 when our boat was converted from a hybrid propulsion system to twin 39 hp diesel engines. Unfortunately Yanmar is now putting SD60’s in boats. We wanted to get an SD50 and after weeks of calling back and forth to various sources in the US we were told we could get one made but it would take 90 days or more. This would involve going back to the US with one engine. Yes, monohull sailboats have one engine and we do have sails, but steering in small spaces is difficult so we would need to be towed back to our marina once we left the ocean, then towed again in 90 days or more to be hauled out at a boatyard. We finally chose to get the SD60. It took a week for it to arrive in Spanish Wells at a cost of over $1300 for shipping, including 12% VAT. Luckily there is no custom duty on anything involving boat propulsion. The sail drive cost over $6000 and the installation was another $3000.

After the new sail drive arrived, we were hauled out again, with a skiff helping us maneuver back to the lift. The estimate was that it would take 2 or 3 days. Instead we were in the boatyard, hauled out and then in a slip by the lift for two weeks! We chose to stay on the boat rather than again pay $125 a night for an apartment. We had shore power, we could use our water and it wasn’t much different than being in a slip, except we had to use a tall step ladder to get on and off the boat. Not a problem for Mark and me but a big one for a 55 pound dog. Sailor was a trooper, probably because he realized this was the only way he was going to get to go to the beach. Going up the ladder, as shown in the pictures below, first Sailor would place his front feet on a ladder rung and start to climb up. Mark would hold onto his back feet and move them until Sailor got to the bottom of the boat’s sugar scoop steps where I was waiting to help him onto the boat. I also held onto his leash the entire time to gently guide him up. Going down was harder. Sailor would put his front feet on the ladder and turn his body sideways on the bottom of the sugar scoop. Mark put his arms under Sailor’s belly and carried him down.  While we were staying on the lift, Sailor usually rested on the cushions on the forward deck and watched the people and cars go by. As it is wherever we go, everyone eventually knows Sailor.

The problems started right away when the workers couldn’t get the sail drive out. After a lot of pounding it was removed and then the next problem developed. The SD60 is a different size than the SD50 so the opening had to be enlarged. After multiple times of putting it in, taking it out, and making the opening larger, the sail drive was finally installed and sealed. We were put back in the water and there was a leak. Up on the lift again and that was fixed. Back in the water the next day and while testing the engines we couldn’t turn the engine with the new sail drive off. That was eventually fixed. There were problems with the throttle so we went in a slip next to the lift because another boat was scheduled to have her bottom painted.  We sat there for five days, over a long weekend with holidays on Friday and Monday and no work on Sunday. Finally Mark fixed the problem with the throttle on Tuesday, June 17, we paid our bill, turned in our golf cart, stopped at the nearby fuel dock to fill our tanks, and motorsailed about a half hour to Royal Island where we would leave the next morning for Chub Cay.

We might have waited an extra month to leave Spanish Wells, but the weather forecast for going from Spanish Wells to Chub Cay to Bimini to Lake Worth and finally to Stuart was the best in the last month. There were numerous severe squalls and thunderstorms throughout the Bahamas and Florida for weeks in May and early June but they finally cleared up the day we were ready to leave. The forecast for the route we were taking on our return to Florida was winds 10 kts or less and seas 2-3 feet. We love Spanish Wells but this year our visit lasted too long and was way too expensive. Sailor has been to many places in the Bahamas and he remembers and likes every one, but I think like us, he is ready to leave all the beaches behind and get back to Stuart, Florida.

Blackpoint to Georgetown

On January 3, 2019, we motorsailed south from Blackpoint for 2 1/2 hours to Cave Cay and anchored near a cut to the Exuma Sound. At 0715 the next morning we weighed anchor and exited the shallow Bank to the deep water Sound through Cave Cay Cut. Sometimes we take the nearby wide Galliot Cut to Exuma Sound, but on this day the conditions at the narrower Cave Cay Cut were calm so we used it. At 0726 we were outside the cut and turned south to head to Georgetown. By noon we were anchored at Monument Beach across Elizabeth Harbour from Georgetown. We had reserved a mooring ball in Hole 2, but were unable to reach Wendle, the owner, by phone so we stayed the night anchored and went into Hole 2 at high tide the next day.

We have two favorite destinations in the Bahamas, Georgetown and Spanish Wells. This is our seventh cruise to the Bahamas and we make a number of stops on our way to these two towns, but we don’t spend as much time exploring the other areas anymore.  There are people who spend all of their time in Georgetown, mostly in the winter and spring, and don’t like the bother of waiting for weather to leave from Florida, then crossing the ocean to the Bahamas, all the while spending time and money working their way to Georgetown. Some people leave their boats on a mooring ball in one of the hurricane holes in Georgetown year round and fly back and forth from their home, usually in the US or Canada.  There are also people who own houseboats and keep them on mooring balls in Hole 1 or Hole 2. Hole 3 is only for boat storage and you can’t live there on your boat.  Friends John and Christina have a houseboat in Hole 2 named Oasis. They fly from their homes in Canada and North Carolina several times a year, including visits in the summer, and stay on their houseboat. There are quite a few other people who do the same. Below is a photo of Hole 2 in Georgetown. Some of the boats in Hole 1 and Hole 2 are empty for most of the year with owners flying in to stay on their boat in the mooring field or traveling to other destinations, returning to the mooring field  when they are ready to fly home. When we were there this year, sometimes about half the boats were empty.

This is a drone view of Honeymoon Beach in Elizabeth Harbour when there was a big party with lots of people and dinghies. Above it in the picture is Hole 2. We are on the catamaran in the middle with the blue sunshades. At the top of the photo is the Exuma Sound, deep ocean water with a miles long sugary sand beach. On the far right side of the photo is Hole 1, next to Chat N Chill and Volleyball Beach. On the left, just beyond the photo is Hole 3, where boats are stored with no liveaboards. 

This is our friends’ houseboat Oasis in Hole 2. There are four houseboats in Hole 2 and more in the Fruit Bowl, part of Hole 1. It’s called The Fruit Bowl because many of the houseboats located there have fruit names such as Mango, Cantaloupe, Pineapple, and Tangelo. Some of the houseboats have working motors and at times they leave the mooring field and anchor out in the harbor. 
This is our seventh visit to Georgetown. In 2009/2010 we anchored in the harbor.  We came with two other boats and didn’t meet many other people that year. The next two winter seasons we stayed in Florida while we worked on having our propulsion system switched from an electric hybrid to twin diesels. During the 2012/2013 season, we crossed from Miami to Bimini and then spent 17 days in January waiting for good weather to continue on to other islands. We met cruisers on about a dozen boats waiting with us at Bimini Sands and we particularly enjoyed being with Cathie and Tom on their sailboat Interlude. When they left, we boat buddied with them to Georgetown. When we got to Georgetown they went in Hole 2 and we anchored in the harbor, but the next year we joined them in Hole 2 and have been there every year we have gone to the Bahamas since. That year I had both knees replaced a few months before we left for the Bahamas and going on a mooring ball seemed very inviting where the water is always calm and it would be easy to get in and out of the dinghy. At least that was a good excuse. We got spoiled with not ever having to think about the wind direction or speed since Hole 2 is very protected on all sides. We also started playing Texas Hold’em at the St. Francis Resort every Tuesday and Thursday. We had a group of friends on boats in Hole 2 who also played poker so we had “Saturday Night Poker on Seas the Day.” That year the same group of six couples came to our boat every Saturday for three months. Each couple brought homemade snacks to eat during the break, which were always excellent. It became more of a social get-together where we also played cards. The buy-in is always $5 and we have three winners with third usually getting $5, second getting $10 or more, and the winner getting the most, depending of course on the number of players. Since that year, we have continued to have poker on Saturday nights on our boat and we always have had a fun group, sometimes up to 18 people. It’s one of the highlights of our time in Georgetown.

This is a picture of our first Saturday Night Poker group back in 2013. Besides being a great group, we were amazed that every one of us was smiling and looking at the camera in this picture. Mark and I and Christina and John (back row, middle) are the only couples left of this group still going to Georgetown. We miss the other good friends and I know they miss Georgetown and cruising. Almost always several of us were at the final table at the St. Francis game and the rest of us sometimes stood nearby chanting “Hole 2, Hole 2” when one of “us” won. 
Here are several pictures from this year. We start with the men at the cockpit table and the women inside at the salon table, then we combine at the salon table when there are about eight people left for the final table. We break halfway through to enjoy our drinks and snacks. We usually don’t wear our Hole 2 t-shirts when we play but one night a few of us decided to wear them. In these pictures, the “final table” is playing and the “losers” are watching.

Even Sailor is part of the group. As the people arrive at our boat in their dinghies, Sailor greets each person with a different toy. Some people always get the same toy.
On the Hole 2 beach, we sometimes have get-togethers with food and a bonfire. This year we had a few but I forgot to take pictures so here are a some from another year.
The first thing we do after picking up our mooring ball is to take the dinghy to the nearby dinghy beach next to Hole 1 where there is a path to the unbelievably beautiful beach on the Exuma Sound. It is almost always empty or no more than a few other people are walking on the beach since most cruisers spend their time on Volleyball Beach where all the activities are held every afternoon, or the many beaches on the harbor side of Elizabeth Island where the water is shallow and better for swimming. We don’t go to the big beach every day, but we do go to other beaches in the harbor twice a day with Sailor.

A few years ago there were two certified water aerobics teachers in Georgetown who were there on their boats. Then they left.  I am not a certified water aerobics teacher but I do go to classes almost every day at LA Fitness in Stuart during the summer and fall. When the teachers left, I volunteered to lead the class. This year when I arrived in Georgetown, the teachers had not come and a few cruisers who had been there since December were leading the class. I was talked into doing it again, which I gladly did with two friends, Robin from Endangered Species and Sandy from Ananya . The classes were a lot of fun and we always had a good size group, sometimes as many as 40. Mark and Sailor came in the dinghy with me to our class and while I exercised, Sailor and Mark took a walk and played on the beach with a ball.

I love to use our kayak and standup paddleboard in the calm water of Hole 2 and Hole 3.
As many of you reading this know, Mark was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the fall of 2017 so we didn’t come to the Bahamas for the 2017/2018 cruising season. He is still undergoing treatment but we were determined to come to the Bahamas this year. He had to fly back twice for an injection he gets every three months and he also had to get pills he takes daily shipped to wherever we were each month. That is not easy to do in the Bahamas. (For other prescriptions we can get a six month supply before we leave Florida but this cancer drug is very expensive and can only be prescribed monthly.)  In February we were in Georgetown when Mark had to fly back to  Florida for five days. Sailor was not happy to see him go and he sat on the forward deck waiting for Mark to return for days, even in the rain. One day I had to go into town with friends and Sailor was going to stay on the boat with a friend from the boat next to us who offered to dog sit. I left thinking Nancy was on her way, but we got our wires crossed and she didn’t come. While in town I got a text from Tangie, another friend in Hole 2, with a picture of Sailor. He had jumped into our dinghy and was howling. I’ve never heard Sailor howl, so he must have been very upset. A friend who saw it happening called to another cruiser in Hole 2 who was coming past our boat in his dinghy. He got Sailor back on our boat, Nancy heard the commotion and came over so all was well. When I got back I said, “It takes a village.”
A few days later when Mark arrived back to our boat in a water taxi, Sailor was very relieved and happy that he was back.
I always do a lot of baking while we are in the Bahamas. Several years ago I got a recipe for “No Knead Bread” from Pam, a cruiser friend. It makes two very delicious loaves of bread. After our coconut bread from Blackpoint was eaten, I started thinking about how I could make something similar. The unique thing about that bread is it has a swirl running through it. The swirl tastes like a mixture of coconut, brown sugar and butter. I made the mixture, rolled out the dough and spread the mixture on it, then rolled it up and baked it. It turned out great. Click here for the recipe. http://svseastheday.com/no-knead-french-bread-with-coconut-filling.
After another wonderful Georgetown visit lasting three months, we dropped the mooring ball on April 2 and started north towards Spanish Wells. Sadly, each year more and more of our cruising friends who spend the winters in Georgetown are selling their boats and becoming CLODs (cruisers living on dirt). We miss them, but each year we meet new friends in Georgetown. Because there are so many cruisers who spend extended time there, the area has a feeling of “community.” Cruisers help each other when needed and there are multiple opportunities to socialize. During regatta week, there are usually up to 300 boats in the harbor and at other times there are usually around 200. It’s a very large harbor with a lot of places to anchor as well as the mooring fields, so it never feels crowded. We have no idea how many more years we will be able to sail the boat to the Bahamas, but will never regret the decision to buy a boat in 2008 and live on it for the last eleven years. Our experiences have been life changing, but probably the best part of this has been the people we have met. Georgetown is the place where most of that happens. 

 

 

Big Majors to Black Point

On Wednesday, January 3, 2019, we motorsailed about six miles from Big Majors to the Black Point anchorage. Many cruisers have decided to skip the Big Majors Spot/Staniel Cay anchorage filled with speeding boats and megayachts for the nearby quieter, friendly settlement at Black Point, located on Great Guana Cay . 

Black Point is perhaps the most cruiser friendly of all of the towns we visit. While we feel safe and welcomed everywhere we go in the Bahamas, other than Nassau, the residents of Black Point seem to go out of their way to attract cruisers to their settlement and make them feel welcome. 

The Black Point residents no doubt noticed that many tour boats stop at Big Majors/Staniel Cay to see the swimming pigs and to snorkel at Thunderball Grotto, plus cruisers stop at the large anchorage. They wondered how they could attract more people to Black Point. Sadly, the massive amount of tour boat visitors has taken its toll in Staniel Cay.  The pigs are getting aggressive and many tourists have been bitten by them. Very few cruisers get out of their dinghies and go to the Pig Beach, but most people on the tour boats go ashore there, feeding the pigs and swimming with them. Thunderball Grotto at Staniel Cay is a fun place to snorkel, but the hoards of tourists who arrive on tour boats have caused the once colorful coral to die, since they step on it, and there are far fewer colorful fish inside the grotto than there were when we first snorkeled at Thunderball nine years ago. There aren’t many affordable restaurants in Staniel Cay, but Black Point recently added a new one so now they have at least four with a short walk between each one located on the main street. The tour boats that visit Big Majors and Staniel Cay now leave that area and go six miles south to bring tourists to Black Point for lunch.

The Emerald Sunset View Restaurant and Bar was built since we visited Black Point two years ago. It is on a piece of land at the southern end of the main street called  Regatta Point. Previously this land was an observation point and during the Black Point Regatta temporary shops were set up there. We heard it has a great brunch. 

Mark and Sailor enjoyed the view of the anchorage from stone benches next to the restaurant.  Scorpios Restaurant and Bar is a favorite of cruisers for Happy Hour. They have great pub food as well. Rum Punch is a popular drink in the Bahamas. Since rum is cheaper here than rest of the ingredients, including pineapple juice and grenadine, the drinks at bars are extremely strong.
Mark peaked through a hole in a large rock in front of Scorpios. I have a feeling when the bar was built, this rock was just too big to move!
DeShamon Restaurant is known for their barbecue and pizza.

Lorraine’s Cafe is a must stop for anyone looking for a typical Bahamian meal. Many of the establishments in Black Point have free wifi. Lorraine has a separate room attached to her cafe with tables and chairs for people who want to use her wifi.

Another draw for cruisers to come to Black Point is Lorraine’s mom’s coconut bread. Next to Lorraine’s Cafe is her mom’s house. To order loaves of bread, cruisers enter her house, go back to her kitchen and tell her how many and what kinds of loaves they want. Coconut bread is available in many of the Bahamian islands we visit, but her special recipe has a delicious swirl of a freshly shredded coconut mixture running through the bread. It makes exceptionally good French Toast. I talked to her for awhile this year while waiting in her kitchen for the bread to finish baking. When I complimented her on the unique coconut bread she bakes she said, “I think I was put on this earth by God to make people happy with my coconut bread.” She has been known to make more bread in the afternoon for the cruisers if she runs out in the morning. I suppose the local residents and tourists who stay nearby also buy her bread but she made it clear to me that she makes it specifically for the cruisers who come to Black Point.

We bought three loaves of coconut bread and two loaves of cinnamon raisin bread, froze four and enjoyed them for a few weeks. Of course we made coconut bread French Toast several times.  (I realize the two pictures below are sideways. I kept editing them to rotate but they seem to want to stay this direction.)

 

Perhaps the most popular place to go in Black Point for cruisers is Rockside Laundromat, run by a busy businesswoman named Ida Patton. It is on a par with a good laundromat one might find in the US. The laundry is always clean and the washers and dryers are in excellent condition. When we were there this time, one dryer stopped working and immediately a workman came to repair it. Even though we have a washer/dryer on the boat, we always bring several loads to Ida’s. Ida also has a small store attached to the laundromat, she gives haircuts, and there are coin operated eight minute hot showers available upstairs. She even has a VHF radio in her store turned on so cruisers can hear calls. Since we were here two years ago she has added several new docks where cruisers can tie up their dinghies while they do their laundry. This allows cruisers to bring their laundry right up to the shore and they only have to climb a few steps to Rockside Laundromat rather than walk several blocks from the free government dock carrying their bags of laundry.

This is one of several new docks by Ida’s laundromat. It can be used for the larger tour boats that come for lunch in town.

This is Ida’s new dinghy dock for her customers.

Ida has a well constructed covered porch where customers can sit outside in the shade while they wait for their laundry to finish.

I suspect almost every cruiser who stops in Black Point does some laundry here. It’s also a good place to meet and  talk to other cruisers. All laundries in the Bahamas are much more expensive than in the US. Most charge $4 a load for the washers and $4 a load for the dryers. While US and Bahamian money are both accepted everywhere, the coins are different so they always have you buy tokens for washers and dryers. 

Ida has a small store connected to her laundry. There is only one grocery store in Black Point and it is rather small so this is not a stop cruisers make to provision. If they stay here for a long period of time they sometimes make a quick trip back to Staniel Cay where there are three very small grocery stores. Ida always has fresh pastries for sale and cold drinks in her cooler as well as shelves stocked with a few marine supplies, souvenirs,  and other items cruisers might need.

Mark and Sailor waited outside the laundry since dogs aren’t allowed inside.

Mark needs a haircut but after losing it all a year ago during his chemotherapy treatments he’s thrilled about his new curly long hair so he refuses to cut it. He promises not to have a man bun or ponytail. 

This is Rockside Laundromat from the street side. The laundry and store are on the lower level and there are showers on the second floor.The area is always neat and clean, as is the rest of Black Point.

Ida also rents beach cottages and golf carts. A sports game shop is located next to her laundromat.  She is a true entrepreneur and is a very busy lady with all of her businesses.
The first thing you notice when coming ashore at Black Point are the very friendly local residents, in particular the children. We think they must be told to greet all visitors, because that is exactly what they do.
The first time we came here, in 2010,  I volunteered to help in a classroom at the Black Point All Age School.  I visited one primary class and read a book to the students. The children were extremely well behaved and respectful, standing to greet me when I entered the room and listening politely to me. The next time we visited Black Point I asked about volunteering again but so many other cruisers had been volunteering in the school they were a bit overwhelmed so I didn’t have another chance to visit the classrooms. Many cruisers bring school supplies to Black Point and drop them off at the school when they pass through. There are schools on most of the other islands, but there is something about the people of Black Point that makes cruisers want to return the kindness. The first picture below was taken on a Sunday and it appears either a teacher or the principal was there working.

We attended a church service in Black Point along with several other cruisers a few years ago. At the end of the service the pastor thanked the cruisers for coming to Black Point, saying how much everyone appreciated them visiting, and asked all of us to stand. The congregation and pastor applauded.
Farther down the main street there is a sign in a yard that reads “Garden of Eden.” Willie Rolle gives tours of his driftwood garden. He travels to various nearby islands to find interesting looking driftwood and rocks, places them in his yard and explains what he “sees” in them, including animals, sea creatures, a ballerina and George Washington. It takes a bit of imagination but they truly do resemble what he describes. He also has a fruit and vegetable garden.  He doesn’t charge for his tour, but of course everyone probably gives him a tip, as we did.
Adderley’s Grocery Store is small but has fresh produce, canned goods, and other basic necessities that can be purchased if you arrive on the day the mailboat comes to Black Point . A few days later most of the fresh food is gone. Sometimes no one is in the store so you have to call a phone number and the owner usually quickly appears. I love the sign about credit cards located at the checkout counter. The day we were there, I tried to purchase a few items several times and no one answered the phone or arrived at the store. The door was open but no one was inside. I later found out that Ida was watching the store for Lawrence Adderley whose wife was very sick and he had flown to Nassau to be with her. Ida was also watching her laundromat and had to attend to something at one of her vacation rentals. which is why I never did get to purchase anything at Adderleys that day.

Next to Adderleys Friendly Store is a house with a Justice of the Peace office which is also run by Lawrence Adderley.
Many of the islands in the Bahamas charge for taking cruisers’ garbage then burning it in their dumps. In Georgetown it costs $2 for a small bag and $3 for a large bag. A few years ago in Staniel Cay it cost $6 to leave a bag of garbage and we heard it is now $10 a bag, although it is possible to walk down a road to the city dump and leave your garbage bags there for free. Someone told us that in Compass Cay, which is a private island with a marina near Staniel Cay, garbage costs $20 to dispose of, which is probably priced that high to discourage anyone from bringing their garbage there. In Spanish Wells you can put your garbage in large cans located on any street for free, even in front of someone’s house. In Black Point there is a large garbage container next to the government dock. Cruisers are asked to leave a donation after leaving their garbage bags..

After leaving a dinghy at the government dock and turning north on the main street, it is a 15 minute walk to a sandy beach on the Exuma Sound. We usually turn south and walk towards the town of Black Point.

Near the government dock is a spigot where you can get free reverse osmosis (RO) water. It’s not as convenient as the one in Georgetown which is located on the dinghy dock at the Exuma Market where you can fill your water jugs while they are in your dinghy, but if you are willing to bring your jugs a short walk from the Black Point government dock you can have some fresh potable water to bring back to your boat.

Sailor enjoyed watching a few sharks near our dinghy. A local fisherman was cleaning fish on the government dock, which always attracts sharks.
A well known boat builder who has won many races in the local regattas sailing his boat Smashie lives in Black Point.  A few years ago Mark was invited into his house and saw shelves full of trophies from the racing regattas he won. His house is on the main street and we have always enjoyed looking at the current boat he was building. Sadly, we heard he died this year.

There are a number of government offices in the Black Point settlement. I don’t think you would want to spend a day in the city jail which is next to the police office. The first picture below is the Black Point jail. We have heard that on the small “family islands,” if someone commits a serious crime they are sent to jail in Nassau and are not allowed to return to their island. This is perhaps one of the contributing factors to the high crime rate in Nassau. Behind the jail you can see a tall cell phone tower. Wherever there is a cell phone tower in the Bahamas, a Batelco (Bahamas Telephone Company) office will be located next to it, which is the yellow building in the background. Since Black Point is a very small settlement, the office is only open a few days a week.
All government offices in the Bahamas are color coded. These are several others we passed on the main street.
One reason we stop at Staniel Cay is to go to their fuel dock to top off our tanks. Black Point is building a fuel dock and hopefully it will be available when we return to Black Point next year. Just another way the residents of Black Point are working to help the cruisers. 

Along the main street we passed a house that is partially built. This is common on many of the islands. Someone starts building a house, runs out of money, stops, and continues building when they get more money. 

The anchorage at Black Point is huge, which usually makes it easy to leave a nice distance between each boat. Big Majors also has a large anchorage, but it is often filled with mega yachts, large powerboats and people zipping through the anchorage on Seadoos or even water skiing behind a fast boat. Black Point is much calmer and thus preferred by owners of sailboats and smaller powerboats. We only stayed at Black Point one night and left early the next morning to sail south and anchor near an inlet to the Exuma Sound.

 

Bimini to Big Majors Spot aka Pig Beach

On December 23, 2018, we left Bimini Sands Marina at 0530, in the dark. There was a full moon but we still needed a spotlight to get out of the narrow marina channel and then into the channel that is the exit to the Atlantic Ocean from North and South Bimini. Turning south, we were on deep ocean water for one hour before we got onto the shallow Bank. We arrived at Chub Cay at 1729, after 12 hours of motorsailing and in daylight. The last hour of the day we were in the Northwest Channel, which is deep ocean water. The seas were fairly flat most of the day.

The marina at Chub Cay is a favorite for large Sportfisher boats since it is a very short distance to deep water fishing. It is a beautiful marina but very expensive so we have never stayed there. The Chub Cay anchorage is close to the marina channel and usually we are waked numerous times in the evening and early morning as fishermen speed by to enter or leave the marina. This time it was very quiet with not a single Sportfisher or any boats in the marina channel the entire time we were there. Perhaps they were all home for the holidays.

The next morning at first light, 0635, we brought up the anchor and were on our way to Nassau. The entire day we were in deep ocean water but seas were only 1-2 feet becoming 3-4 later in the day so it was a rather comfortable sail. Calling on our VHF radio, we asked and were given permission to enter the harbor at 1130 and were at a fuel dock by 1204. After topping off both 80 gallon diesel fuel tanks, we went around the corner into a slip at Nassau Harbour Club. This was the last time we will stay at a marina until we return to Sunset Bay in Stuart in May. Holding is terrible in the Nassau harbor anchorages, there is a lot of current, and it is a dangerous city so we always stay at a marina. We like this particular marina because we can walk across the street to a strip mall with a Starbucks, a Fresh Market Grocery, a BTC office (Bahamas Telephone Company), Radio Shack and more. There are also marine supply stores a close walking distance down that street.  I gave up my addiction to Starbucks last summer but we decided to celebrate getting this far with Frappuccinos. We also picked up some fresh vegetables at the very very expensive grocery store. Most items cost double to triple what we would pay at a grocery store in Florida.
We have stayed at Nassau Harbour Club many times.  We have always paid about $1.50 a foot at this marina. Seas the Day is 42 feet long. They charge $8 for unlimited city water (not potable) and power is metered but reasonable. We like being able to wash the boat with a hose and lots of fresh water, especially since everything is usually encrusted with salt by this point. We decided to have our Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve since we had shore power and could heat up our frozen leftovers from Thanksgiving in the microwave. We were also able to use  the convection oven, rather than our very unreliable propane oven, for cooking some side dishes.

We were in Nassau for one night and wanted to leave early in the morning for the motorsail across the Bank to the Exumas. A very strong storm was predicted on December 26 and we needed to be in a sheltered anchorage. The marina office was supposed to open at 0730 on Christmas Day and we were there to check out at that time but after waiting about 15 minutes with the door still locked, we taped an envelope on the office door with our meter reading and said they could use the credit card they copied the day before when we checked in. We preferred to pay with cash but didn’t want to wait any longer. I checked the credit card online the next day and was shocked to see a charge of $124.26.  We had paid $100 for an entire week at Bimini Sands (an unusual “special”) and rarely pay more than $1.50 a ft anywhere.  I received the receipt below by email. The VAT mentioned is the new 12% tax on just about everything. It went up from nothing to 6% several years ago and last year jumped to 12%. We paid $2.25 a ft for the marina slip plus VAT. Guess we aren’t staying there anymore.
Our intention when leaving Nassau was to cross to the northern Exumas and then sail as far south as we could get in daylight. However, after we left the harbor the wind started gusting over 25 kts and the waves built. We had to reef in the main and were still making 9 kts motorsailing. Usually we average around 7 kts. It was one of the  most uncomfortable sails we’ve ever had and it wasn’t even on the ocean. Before we leave an anchorage or marina I always put away any items that could fall and lock all the closet doors and kitchen cabinets and drawers, but this time things were flying around that had never moved in ten years. Of course Sailor was not happy with rocking and rolling so I was in bed with him while Mark was at the helm all day. We arrived at Norman’s Cay in the Exumas at 1305 and if the weather had been good we would have had over four more hours to continue farther south, but we had no interest in continuing and entered the anchorage close to the beach.  When the front came through the next day we had 40 kt wind with strong squalls and torrential rain. Unfortunately we quickly discovered there was a swell coming around a corner of the cay so we rocked from side to side most of the time we were there. We were at Norman’s Cay for five uncomfortable days.

On December 30, 2018, at 0745 we left Norman’s Cay and motorsailed to Big Majors Spot at Staniel Cay, known for the Pig Beach. We didn’t make our usual stops in the Exuma Land and Sea Park since it had taken us longer than expected to get this far but we will visit the Park in the Spring when we go to Eleuthera and Spanish Wells. Many cruisers no longer stop at Big Majors and Staniel Cay for a variety of reasons. First, each year more and more large yachts are in the anchorage with their toys: Seadoos, tenders with large fast motors,  water skis, water slides off their decks, and we even saw a motorized surfboard this year. Also there are many tour boats and float planes that bring tourists all day long from Nassau to see the swimming pigs. There are several resorts in the area and those visitors often come through the anchorage with fast small boats, which seem to be driven by people with no idea of the problems they cause the anchored boats when they race between us and come within a few feet of boats. We used to snorkel in Thunderball Grotto and loved it but now numerous tour boats are there at slack tides and the coral is almost dead rather than the showing their vibrant colors of a few years ago plus there are few fish in the Grotto. Just a few years ago we were surrounded by colorful fish while snorkeling inside the grotto.  In addition, if you want to get rid of a bag of garbage, two years ago when we were last here it cost $6.00. We didn’t even check this year. On most islands in the Exumas we pay a dollar or two to put la bag of garbage in bins. In Spanish Wells garbage can be put in cans on the streets for free. On all of the islands garbage is burned at dumps. There is rarely any chance to recycle although sometimes schools collect recyclables to raise money.

The three very small grocery stores located in houses in Staniel Cay are poorly stocked and very expensive. They get fresh supplies once a week which stay on the shelves about one day or less. Local residents place bulk orders from stores in Nassau and have them delivered to the public government dock when the supply boat arrives so they don’t depend on the local stores. On the positive side, there is a nice restaurant at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. The fuel dock has diesel and gas. One huge draw is there is a heavily used airport at Staniel Cay with both commercial and private planes landing frequently. It’s a good place for guests to fly in and out and for cruisers to have parts or other supplies shipped in.  

We stopped at Big Majors for the beaches for Sailor. Blackpoint is five miles south and it has many advantages over Staniel Cay but not very good beaches near the anchorage for dogs. When we arrived at Big Majors, Sailor was anxious to get to the beach but he has learned to be patient because there is a lot to do after we anchor before we can leave the boat.
Here a few photos of Sailor enjoying on of the beaches at Big Majors. There are three on the anchorage side – Pig Beach, Pirate Beach and a third beach that we use.  Even though there are many boats here, we were alone on this beach for over an hour. We are anchored on the west side of Big Majors, and there are more beaches around the corner on the south side.

On January 2, we will motorsail five miles south to Blackpoint. We’ll stay there a day or two, then go further south to Cave Cay where we will hopefully leave the Bank through Galliot Cut and sail south on the Exuma Sound to Georgetown on Saturday. We expect to have lots of company on the Sound since many boats have been waiting for good weather to continue moving south either to Georgetown or further on to the Caribbean. 

 

Waiting in Bimini

We left Dinner Key Marina on Sunday, December 16 at 0649 and arrived in Bimini at 1430. We had 3 to 6 foot swells on the port aft beam and it was an uncomfortable motorsail although we’ve had much worse Gulf Stream crossings. The first thing we had to do when we got to Bimini was check in with Bahamas Customs and Immigration. We filled out some paperwork and Mark took that, along with all of our other paperwork concerning us, the boat, and Sailor, in a taxi for a short ride to the airport. It costs $300 for our cruising permit. This allows us to stay in the Bahamas for eight months and the boat can be in Bahamian waters for 12 months.  However, Customs and Immigration officials never give cruisers more than six months, with the ability for us to extend it to eight months. Usually they only give cruisers three of four months. Only one time in seven visits to the Bahamas have we gotten six months and we have always checked in at Bimini.  In order to extend our cruising permit, we must be near a town with an Immigration official within a few days before it expires. We know we will be in Georgetown in three months so that is what we asked for this time. The last time we were in the Bahamas we asked for six months and were given four months. When it was about to expire we were in Spanish Wells where there isn’t an immigration office. We had to take a water taxi to Eleuthera and a land taxi to an immigration office to get the extension. Hopefully when we extend it in Georgetown the official will give us another three months. This does not always happen and we might need to extend it again in Spanish Wells. After Mark returned from the airport, he took down our yellow “quarantine” flag and raised the Bahamas courtesy flag.

Our plan was to stay at Bimini Sands one night and leave the next morning for Great Harbour Cay in the Berries. We got up at 0400 and Mark took Sailor for a quick walk. He went to the beach and saw rough seas in the inlet and further out in the ocean.  We sail on the ocean for several miles before we reach the shallow Bahamas Bank. We decided to stay in Bimini and went back to bed. A very strong cold front was forecast to come through the Bahamas Thursday night and Friday so we needed to be in a safe place by then.  We could have gotten to the extremely protected marina in Great Harbour Cay the following day when the seas were calmer and many cruisers did go there to wait out the storm. We stayed in Bimini because the marina we are at, Bimini Sands Resort and Marina, is running a special of $1 a foot ($42 for us) a day or $100 a week for a slip. If you have a 100 foot yacht, it’s still $100 a week. Great Harbour Cay has a weekly price of $10 a foot, or $420 for us before a discount with our Active Captain account.  Since we had already spent much more money than planned on a marina in Ft. Lauderdale for two weeks and the mooring field in Miami for a month, plus the unexpected cost of replacing the jib furler, we decided to save about $300 and stay in Bimini. Oddly, even with the extremely good prices at Bimini Sands, only a few boats are here. Perhaps that is because Bimini Sands is not advertising their special prices. We didn’t know about it until we checked in. After the pictures below were taken several other boats did come in. We noticed the marinas in North Bimini were not full either, so most cruisers must have moved as far into the Bahamas as they could get before the predicted cold front arrives.
On Monday we took the water taxi a very short distance from South Bimini to North Bimini and walked to the Batelco (Bahamas Telephone Company) office on Kings Highway. After getting a new SIM card for our Bahamas smartphone, and some scratch off cards to add data and phone time to it as needed, we went back to South Bimini. For $29.95 we have 15 GB of data, unlimited phone calls within the Bahamas, and 1000 minutes to call the States or Canada for 15 days. The data rolls over if we don’t use it all.  Every year we have come to the Bahamas Batelco seems to have better deals. There are several other options in the Bahamas for unlimited data with different companies which we will probably investigate when we get to Georgetown.
On Thursday, a prefrontal trough came through the Bahamas with high wind and torrential rain. We are tied up in a wide slip with numerous lines going from the boat’s cleats to both sides of the slip, so we hardly moved even when the wind picked up overnight with gusts over 40 kts. During the night the cold front arrived and all day Friday we had 30 to 35 kt sustained winds but the squalls had stopped. By Saturday morning the wind was down below 10 kts, and the high seas were slowly calming down. The photos below show waves crashing into the Bimini Sands Inlet on Friday.

At this time of year in the Bahamas, there are never more than three or four days of safe traveling weather in a row. The forecast for the next three days is good for getting from Bimini to the Exumas so we will leave at about 0500 Sunday morning and sail to Chub Cay.  Both Chub Cay and Great Harbour Cay are in the Berries and we could go to either one on Sunday. However, Chub Cay is closer to Nassau and will make our second travel day quicker. We will arrive in Chub Cay around 6 pm and anchor near the shore. Since days are short, we will be leaving Bimini in the dark and anchoring at Chub in the dark, but the anchorage there is a wide open area and there are usually few boats in the anchorage area. We will leave the next morning, arrive in Nassau in the early afternoon, get fuel and motor through the harbor to Nassau Harbour Club where we have a reservation for Monday night, which is Christmas Eve.  Our Christmas present will be to arrive in the northern Exumas on Christmas Day. There will be several sections during the next two days where we will be on deep ocean water. Most of the sail from Bimini to Chub is on the Bahama Bank but the first part and the last part are on the ocean. From Chub Cay to Nassau we will be in deep water on the “Tongue of the Ocean” as soon as we leave the channel out of the anchorage at Chub Cay. The sail from Nassau to the Exumas is on the shallow Yellow Bank. 

We are planning to reach the Exumas on Tuesday because on Wednesday another system with high winds enters the Bahamas. As weather allows, we will continue south on the Bank along the Exuma chain of islands and cays. Eventually we will exit the Bank  through a cut between islands out to the deep Exuma Sound and sail to Georgetown where we plan to stay until the end of March.

Finally Ready to Leave Miami

We have been in Miami for three weeks, since November 29. We knew we would have to wait at least two weeks to get the part for our jib furler. That came and we had it installed on Wednesday, December 12. Our rigger, Kyle, had estimated six hours to remove the forestay, install the new furler, and put it back on the boat. Like everything on a boat, this did not go quite according to plan. Below are two photos of the parts of the furler that we had installed.
First, since we are on a mooring ball at Dinner Key Marina and Mooring Field, we had to go to a dock in the marina for the installation. This marina was partially destroyed during Hurricane Irma in 2017 and there have been few, if any, repairs made so some of the slips and docks are still in pieces. We went to a sea wall in the marina and were told we would pay $23 for every three hours we stayed there.  There was no power available so our riggers had to use our Honda generator to power their tools. 

We moved to the sea wall at 8 am and the riggers arrived at 8:30 am. They  began by taking down the forestay, which included the furler that no longer worked, with a swivel at the top and a drum at the bottom. Mark had already removed the jib sail which saved some time. Before they took down the forestay, which supports the mast, they had to add several lines from the mast to the deck.  In order to do this, Kyle, the rigger, needed to climb the mast, attach the lines, and then release the forestay.

Once the mast was secure, Kyle lowered the forestay while his helper guided it to the dock.

Once the forestay was on the ground, they discovered a big problem. A cable that runs through the forestay was twisted and needed to be replaced. They hopped in their truck, drove back to Ft. Lauderdale where their office is located, had a cable cut to the exact length needed, down to a fraction of an inch, and returned with it. By then it was early afternoon. The addition of the cable replacement added time to the repair and by 6 pm they were still working. We contacted the marina office which closes at 7 pm and told them that we were not going to get off the sea wall and needed to spend the night. Normally this is not allowed. Apparently at that point we became transients, i.e. we were staying overnight and needed to pay $3 a foot. With taxes it came to $132.00. By 8 pm the riggers had raised the new forestay, attached our jib sail, tested the furler, and were finished. We don’t have a picture of them putting the forestay back up since it gets dark here in December by 6 pm.
While this repair delayed our ability to cross over to the Bahamas, and the cost was about the same amount we budget for our entire six months in the Bahamas, it was well worth it and thankfully we discovered the problem while still in Florida so it could be repaired.

We didn’t have to wait too long for the next weather window. Sunday, December 16, looks fairly good for crossing to Bimini. The wind is WNW.  We usually avoid any wind direction with “north” in it because when the Gulf Stream, which runs north, meets wind blowing from the north, the seas in the Stream are higher.  However, the forecast is for 2-4 or 3-5 ft seas and 8-15 kt wind. We suspect it will be rougher than we like, but the relatively mild conditions will continue for several days, hopefully allowing us to continue on to Great Harbour Cay in the Berries, Nassau, and possibly even over to the northern Exumas. However, it is very rare for us to be able to continue on to our next destinations so quickly, and we fully expect we’ll need to stay in one of those stops more than a day. 

Finally, our seventh cruise to the Bahamas can begin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ft Lauderdale to Miami

After a week in Ft. Lauderdale we were ready to leave. On Thursday morning, November 29, 2018, at 0647 we dropped the lines at the New River Docks. Since the railroad bridge goes down frequently and the two bascule bridges on the river we have to ask to be raised are closed between 0730 and 0900 on weekdays, we needed to plan carefully to get out to the ocean. We waited for the 0730 opening of the 17th Ave Causeway bridge and then were out on the ocean. 

Mark finally got the watermaker working so on the way to Miami we filled some gallon water jugs for drinking. We left Ft. Lauderdale with our three water tanks (120 gallons) full, so no need to make water for them yet.
It was a beautiful day with wind under 5 kts and following seas with a small swell. Proof that it was comfortable was that Sailor stayed under the helm seat through the Port Everglades Inlet and all the way to Miami. He has quickly remembered what goes on when we are sailing. He recognizes the difference between the ocean (which he usually doesn’t like), the ICW and the New River and when we leave the ocean through an inlet he quickly realizes that it is “safe” to go outside. However, this time he was fine staying outside through the Pt Everglades Inlet where amazingly we were the only boat in it and then again at Government Cut into Miami where once again we were the only boat. That was extremely unusual. The picture below is Sailor on the ocean just after we left Ft. Lauderdale. We stayed about a mile offshore the whole way following the coast south.
After entering Government Cut we motored to Crandon Park Marina in Biscayne Bay where we got fuel. We then continued across the Bay to the Dinner Key Mooring Field and picked up Ball 84 at 1347.

We came to Miami without our jib sail on and will be getting the parts for the furling mechanism in about two weeks. In the meantime we will enjoy walking around Coconut Grove which has a small downtown area with restaurants, stores, and coffee shops. Sailor is thrilled that we can walk to the best dog park we’ve ever seen, Blanche Park. There is no dirt, just AstroTurf, paved walkways, lots of benches to sit on in the shade, balls for the dogs and best of all the dog owners watch their dogs and the dogs are well behaved. Sailor goes there every morning and then goes ashore again for a shorter walk in the afternoon. It gets dark early in December so he doesn’t get a nighttime walk since we have quite a long dinghy ride in the dark to the dinghy dock at the marina. Below are some pictures of Sailor enjoying the area.

Sailor always has fun at  Blanche Park. There is a dog park and a separate fenced playground for children.
Sailor is standing by a fountain in the shopping/restaurant area of Coconut Grove in the photo below. The area that had a two story outdoor mall with a theater, restaurants like Cheesecake Factory, stores and a large Starbucks with a lot of outdoor seating is gone. A highrise building is going in its place. We will miss that area of Coconut Grove this time of year since it was always decorated beautifully for Christmas and had a nice place to sit outside.

Sailor is posing in this photo next to another sailor.
This is one of the many peacocks that can be seen around the Coconut Grove area. 

We can walk to two nice, although pricey, grocery stores, Milans (an IGA) and Fresh Market. Since all we need to buy is fresh produce, either one works for us. 

One advantage of being on a mooring ball is that you get to use the marina facilities. When we go to the marina office building we can use their free wifi, a nice laundry room, and great showers and bathrooms. While we can easily shower and wash clothes on the boat, we would have to also make water or bring it in five gallon jugs from the marina. We’ve decided we’ll take showers in the morning at the marina and wash our clothes there to save on water and power on the boat. 

Another way to save water is to give Sailor a bath using the free water at the marina dock. We have to use the Honda generator plugged directly into his blow dryer when we get back to the boat. If we don’t blow him dry he gets very matted. Also, to keep the boat clean, since his feet get very dirty walking on the city streets, we use a “paw plunger” to wash his feet after he gets out of the dinghy.


We love seeing dolphins but when we see manatees they are usually under water and not very visible. Also they aren’t as interesting to watch as dolphins since they usually just float around. Dinner Key Marina has a manatee named Puffy who has lived here for several years. In this photo Puffy is cleaning the dinghy dock so we were able to get a close up view.
After our jib furler arrives and is installed we will leave for Bimini or possibly Great Harbour Cay in the Berries at the next good weather window. We hope to be able to do this before Christmas and will then head straight to the Exumas and Georgetown. However, the most dangerous thing on a boat is a schedule so in reality we’ll get there when we get there. 

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Boat Repairs in Ft. Lauderdale

“Plans made on a boat are written in sand at high tide.” We know that, but still thought we’d be able to leave Ft. Lauderdale on Sunday, November 24, after spending four days at a dock on the New River and completing all the repairs on our list except a jib that wasn’t furling well while sailing on the ocean coming to Ft. Lauderdale.  On Saturday, while trying to fix it, the jib furler froze up completely and we realized we’d have to contact a rigger for help.

Monday morning we called Ft Lauderdale based Nance and Underwood, riggers we have worked with before. Unfortunately they couldn’t  get to us for a month, possibly in two weeks if they have a cancellation. We texted Scott, the hybrid guru who helped all of the Lagoon 420 owners when they were electric sailboats. He texted back immediately from France and gave us the name of a local man whom he highly recommended.

Kyle came to check our furler this morning. The good news is that he can help us. The bad news is we need a new one. Parts will be ordered and should be here in two weeks. We will go to Miami tomorrow morning and wait at Dinner Key on a mooring ball until Kyle can bring the new furler to us and install it. Mark has been able to fix 99% of the repairs on our boat, but this is one time we had to rely on an expert. In the last week and a half Mark has repaired or replaced a VHF radio, our watermaker, a bilge pump, the inverter, and  our chart plotter. While we heard the saying, “Everything on your boat is broken…..you just don’t know it yet,” soon after we moved aboard Seas the Day, I hope that is not true right now. We definitely need a break from this.

 

 

Lake Worth to Ft. Lauderdale

We left Lake Worth at 0645 on Tuesday, November 21, 2018, and arrived at Slip 4 on the New River Docks in Ft. Lauderdale at 1340. We arrived at 1240 at the 17th St. Causeway Bridge just around the corner from the inlet and went under the bridge at the next opening at 1300. It took us forty minutes to get to the New River Docks and tie up at along the sea wall just before the 7th Ave. bridge. We had to request two bridge openings on the New River and luckily got under the railroad single bascule bridge five minutes before it closed for a train. We went a total of 51.86 miles in six hours and 56 minutes, staying about a mile offshore with small swells on the port aft side of the boat.  It was comfortable enough that after exiting the Lake Worth Inlet and motorsailing for awhile, Sailor was convinced it was “safe” for him to go outside and sleep under the helm seat.

We have gone up and down the New River many times, every season except last year, since 2008. The river is not very wide and there are numerous megayachts,  sailboats, powerboats, fishing boats, tour boats, water taxis, pontoon boats, seadoos, kayaks, floating tiki bars, gondolas and small pleasure boats on the river. We have never had a problem, but this time on our way to our slip Mark moved over for a tour boat to pass us going the other direction and we went aground! The New River is dredged to the sea walls on either side, but unfortunately we found an area where the depth was less than five feet deep. Mark quickly backed out and we probably had no damage, but it was a shock after an uneventful trip here.

We are staying in a slip on the New River until Sunday, partly due to weather on the ocean for our sail to Miami, partly because we have a few boat repairs, partly so we could cook a Thanksgiving meal using various appliances, and mainly to rest and enjoy our last unlimited power and water at a dock until we return to Sunset Bay in May. 

We are located right across the river from the Broward Performing Arts Center. Several years ago we were here in December and saw “The Nutcracker.” Right now, “The King and I” is showing and the next production is “Legally Blonde.” The buildings are beautifully lit up at night and will probably be adding more decorations for the Christmas holiday. To the left of the Performing Arts Center in the photo below is the Huizenga Pavillion. Wayne Huizenga Sr was a well known businessman, entrepreneur and the founder of Blockbuster Video, Waste Management , AutoNation and owner of a number of sports teams. The family is well known throughout Florida for their philanthropy. His daughter and son-in-law are owners of our home marina, Sunset Bay. The pavillion is used for events and dining before attending the theater productions. The photo was taken from our boat.
Before we left Stuart, we purchased all the “fixings” for a Thanksgiving meal. Mark cooked the 14 pound turkey in our Magma Grill. In addition he made all the side dishes: mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, steamed asparagus w/hollandaise sauce, homemade cranberry/orange relish, stuffing and gravy. We have lots of leftovers in our refrigerator and freezer.

My job was to clean up after the meal. Naturally we don’t have a dishwasher, but even after meals this huge, I don’t miss it. However, it would be nice to have an empty cabinet to hide dirty dishes in until they can be washed. You can see the Broward Performing Arts Center lit up across the river through our galley window.
We are in a slip next to a small park and the paved Riverwalk runs past us. We are also in the widest part of the river at a turning basin, where boats have room to turn around. There is a lot of boat traffic, but the whole river in this area is a no wake zone so most boats go by very slowly and rarely make our boat rock.  Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be a noise ordinance and some small craft have speakers spewing loud music at all hours of day and night. The bridge tender near us must have gotten fed up last night because we heard him yell over his loudspeaker to a passing boat to turn the music down or he was calling the police. The music abruptly stopped. Below are a few photos of the area around us. There are lots of high rise condo and apartment buildings on this part of the river. Farther to the east, toward the ocean, the river edges are bordered with huge mansions. The little park area below is a few steps from our boat. It makes walking Sailor very easy, although I suspect he prefers riding in a dinghy to the beaches.

Thanksgiving Day was rather quiet on the river, but the day after everyone who has a small boat must have been out, along with a few large yachts that have been farther up the river at the Lauderdale Marine Center having work done. The megayachts are so huge they are required to have tow boats guiding them.  We even saw a tiki bar pass by in the late morning, a little early for drinks, but I’m sure they tell their customers, “It’s 5:00 somewhere.” In this  picture you can clearly see the brown railroad bridge down and one of the the pink bascule bridges further on that opens on request.

Early Friday morning we woke up to the sound of bow thrusters. Many powerboats, all yachts and some large sailboats have these devices so they can maneuver sideways into slips or away from a hazard. Yesterday morning our boat was the hazard. A yacht was held up for almost a half hour waiting for the nearby railroad bridge to go up. Every 5 to 10 seconds, the captain used the bow thrusters to keep away from our boat as the current was strong. The bow thrusters can be heard through the water and I woke up to them at 6:55 am. I came into the salon, looked out the window and saw this.
Just after I took this photo through the salon window, in my nightgown, three men on the yacht’s bridge waved at me. Hopefully they thought that was a dress I was wearing. We don’t worry about any of the large yachts hitting us, since they have very experienced crew. The entire half hour they were next to us, two crew members were standing on her starboard side watching that she didn’t get too close to us. Several more crew members were on the bridge and the captain was using the thrusters as needed.

We always watch out for The Jungle Queen, a large tour boat that goes up and down the river constantly. Since we are in the turning basin, it is wide enough for boats to pass her here. Sometimes she comes so close to us we are tempted to say, “Pardon me, would you have any grey poupon?” (Google “Grey Poupon Commercial” to watch on YouTube if you are too young to remember this.) The photo shows a trawler easily able to pass the Jungle Queen. At some parts of the New River, this would be difficult. We always wait to hear where the Jungle Queen is located before we start up the New River. Seas the Day is 25 ft wide so coming around one of the many bends on the river to see the Queen might be hazardous. 

Grey Poupon?
Of course, Sailor was delighted to arrive on the New River. He seemed to remember everything from previous visits. Below are a few pictures of Sailor investigating the area.

Sailor was very patiently waiting for Mark to finish a boat chore so they could go for their walk.
Once they were on their walk, they crossed the bridge and walked on the other side of the river where they found many interesting sights. Below is a sculpture of a sailboat riding a wave with pictures of various local scenes covering the boat.
Of course, Sailor insisted on getting his picture taken on a huge chair that he had seen small children climbing on for their photo.
Since Seas the Day was across the river, some of the photos included Sailor’s home.

This area of Ft. Lauderdale is very colorful.

Walking a few blocks to Publix for a few items yesterday, we had to stop and wait for a train at a crossing. The recently added Brightline passenger trains are what is causing havoc in Ft. Lauderdale, not just the numerous prolonged closings over the river, but also stopping street traffic all over the city.

After a long walk, Sailor always insists on resting on a bench. Back home in Stuart, the chosen bench is either in downtown Stuart or in front of Sailor’s Return Restaurant located next to Sunset Bay Marina. Sailor has many friends in the area of Stuart near our marina, so he is always greeted and pet by many people. I think he misses the adulation he experiences in Stuart since he was mostly ignored by the people here. Sadly, every year we stop in Ft. Lauderdale there seems to be more homeless people. They are either sleeping on benches or walking around with large garbage bags holding all of their belongings heaved over their shoulders. 
The string around Mark’s neck is there to hold onto his hat in case the wind blows it away while we are sailing. I wonder what people who see him think it is. It looks kind of like one of those necklaces that light up in the dark. The string does seem to work since he hasn’t lost his hat yet, so perhaps he should get a patent for it.  Incidentally, the numerous bruises on Mark’s arms are due to blood thinning drugs, but seem to have gotten worse due to the hormone treatment he has been taking for his prostate cancer. 

We are staying in Ft. Lauderdale until Sunday and then will sail to Miami. We missed the latest weather window to sail from Miami to Bimini on Saturday and Sunday. The next chance as of now is at the beginning of December. We’ll spend the waiting time on a mooring ball at Dinner Key in Coconut Grove, part of the Miami area. 

Our tracking device, a Garmin inReach Explorer, will enter a new track every ten minutes while we are moving. The link to see it is  https://us0-share.inreach.garmin.com/seastheday

Finally, one nice thing about being on shore power is that we were able to decorate our boat for Christmas and actually turn the tree lights on! We purchased our three foot Christmas tree with attached lights ten years ago for our first Christmas on the boat. The pothos plant in the decorated pot is very special to us. Pothos grow wild in fields in Spanish Wells. Several years ago we took a small cutting to remind us of one of our favorite stops in the Bahamas, our last one each trip. 

Stuart to Lake Worth

We left Sunset Bay Marina in Stuart at 0947 on November 20, 2018, and dropped the anchor in Lake Worth at 1544, a total of 5 hours and 57 minutes to go 37 miles. We went under 12 bridges, beginning with the Old Roosevelt Bridge next to our marina, and ending with the Riviera Bridge. Three are 65 ft fixed bridges, which we can sneak under with our 63 ft mast and an anemometer (tells wind speed) on top of it. The rest either open on demand or twice an hour, on the hour and half hour or at :15 and :45 after the hour. We rarely have to wait for openings but today we reached the Indiantown Bridge just after it had gone down so had to wait a half hour. We are now anchored in Lake Worth very near the inlet to the ocean. We haven’t been on the ICW since May, 2017, but Sailor seemed to remember just what to do.

The plan had been to leave yesterday, but as they say, “Plans on a boat are written in the sand at high tide.” We were all ready to leave at slack tide, 0730, when we discovered our chart plotter was dead. This instrument has our maps and routes on it. That was just after we turned on our VHF radio and called a station for a radio check. There was no answer and the radio was not working. We stayed at Sunset Bay and Mark spent the day fixing them. We had a spare chart plotter so he replaced the dead one and he was able to fix the radio. We suspected that perhaps we had a power surge or maybe were struck by lightning, although both devices had worked a week earlier when we moved to a different slip in the marina and there hadn’t been any storms. Today everything seemed to be working as we disconnected from the power at our slip and motored to the fuel dock. Away from shore power, the boat gets its electric power on the 12 volt DC system unless we turn on the inverter and then we have 120 volt AC.  Everything on the boat works on the 12 volt system except anything that has to be plugged into the electric outlets plus heat and air conditioning. We do have 12 volt outlets and we use them to charge batteries, phones, tablets, etc. Today we discovered the inverter is not working. Mark thinks he can fix it but if not we’ll have to buy a new one before we leave for the Bahamas.

We always avoid going on the ICW on weekends, and especially holiday weekends. Apparently this is a holiday week, with Thanksgiving on Thursday, because today the boat traffic was as heavy as we have ever seen it. This meant we got waked multiple times, since many power boaters love to go fast on the ICW and don’t care who rocks wildly from their large wake after they pass. To be fair, a few power boaters do give us a slow pass, and we always try to thank them on the radio. There were two or three today. We also had problems at a few bridges. The photo below shows a typical example. This Sportfisher was going north waiting on one side of the bridge and we were going south waiting on the other side. We called them on the radio and told them we’d need to stay on our port (left) side of the bridge since this is a single bascule bridge and our 63 ft mast would hit it if we stayed on our starboard (right) side of the bridge. They didn’t answer our two calls, so we had to slow down when they went on the side we needed. Then they sped up and waked us just as we got close to the bridge which caused us to rock back and forth. Another time two powerboats were waiting on the other side of the bridge.  They didn’t answer our calls on the radio so we informed the bridge tender that we would wait for them to go under before we started. Usually boats waiting for bridge openings on opposite sides call each other to decide who is going first, although the “rule” is that the boat going against the current goes first. Most boaters don’t know which way the current is going or don’t care. The two powerboats probably heard us talking to the bridge tender and they went first. The two pictures below show a single bascule bridge with only one span going up. This is the one where the Sportfisher almost caused us to hit our mast on the bridge. The second one is a much easier bascule bridge to go through since both sides go up straight in the air.
Sailor hasn’t been sailing for a year and a half but he remembered exactly how to be a boat dog. He is always tethered to the helm seat with his life jacket on. He usually sleeps there unless it gets rough. Today, he had enough of the waking so he made me get in a bed with him. After we dropped the anchor, we took Sailor in the dinghy the short distance to Peanut Island. President John Kennedy spent time in Palm Beach and had a bomb shelter on Peanut Island. There is also a Coast Guard station on the island. Google it…..very interesting history. In the photos below you can see how close our boat is anchored to Peanut Island. The walkways are lovely and there are some nice sandy beaches.
While we were going back to our boat in the dinghy we had to wait while a cruise ship that makes short trips to the Bahamas out of Lake Worth was leaving. Sailor seemed to be thinking that he might like a bigger boat to travel on to the Bahamas.
However he has to be satisfied with our sailboat.
Tomorrow we will get up early and go out on the ocean to Ft. Lauderdale. The seas are predicted to be 2-4 feet and the wind is going to be following us from the north. We will stay about a mile offshore. The Gulf Stream is a few miles offshore here and with the north wind blowing against the Gulf Stream which is flowing north, the seas will be higher in it. We have reservations at the New River City Marina in Ft. Lauderdale for four nights. Hopefully we won’t need to stay that long, but the wind and seas are picking up on Thursday so we might have to wait a few days to sail to Miami. It will be the last marina we stay at, other than one in Bimini where it is difficult to anchor, until we return to Sunset Bay Marina next May.