Category Archives: Sailing

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.

Getting Ready for Bahamas Cruise #7

For the last year and a half, since June, 2017, we have been at Sunset Bay Marina in Stuart, Florida. Oddly, I did not post a blog about our stay in Spanish Wells and another one about our cruise back to Florida at the end of our sixth trip to the Bahamas. I thought I had, but haven’t looked at our SV Seas the Day website since returning.  

Here is a brief summary of the last month of our Bahamas Cruise in 2016/2017. We stayed  in Spanish Wells until May 22, 2017. We then sailed directly back to Lake Worth, Florida,  leaving Royal Island, near Spanish Wells, at 10:05 am and arriving at Lake Worth the next morning on May 23 at 6:30 am. We had to slow down at the end so we could enter Lake Worth in the daylight. The next day we traveled north on the ICW back to our home port of Sunset Bay Marina in Stuart.

We didn’t go to the Bahamas the following November, 2017, due to some medical news we received after returning to Florida. Mark had a physical and his PSA had risen. Over the summer of 2017 it continued to rise until he eventually had a PETscan which showed cancer in his prostate that had spread to his spine. Chemotherapy began in the Fall but after horrendous side effects, his oncologist changed the treatment to a hormone injection every three months and daily hormone pills. There were no side effects, Mark gained back the 25+ pounds he had lost during chemotherapy and he got his hair back. After a few months, he felt 100% better, changed his diet from mostly sugar to mostly organic and has been healthy ever since. A PETscan a few weeks ago in October, 2018, showed the cancer is gone from his prostate and spine. However, the hormone treatment will continue for the foreseeable future. We had decided shortly after his diagnosis that we would go to the Bahamas for the 2018/2019 season and that is what we are doing. He will have to fly back to Florida every three months for his injection and have his hormone pills mailed to him each month in the Bahamas. For this reason, we will quickly get to Georgetown, which has a good airport nearby and stay there until April. Then we will go directly to Spanish Wells for the rest of the season. Spanish Wells also has an airport in nearby North Eleuthera.

So what have we been doing for the last year and a half? First, as always, we made some changes to  Seas the Day. For example, we have never liked the one inch deep cushions in the cockpit. We have a large seating area around the table, but it was uncomfortable. Therefore we had new cushions made, now much thicker and very comfortable. In the previous post, you’ll see an older photo of our cockpit seating with two boat chairs in the corners. Since the padding was so thin we always put these chairs on top of the cushions. The new cushions are the same color and material as the old ones, so they look similar, just feel different. In the picture are two of our new Seas the Day pillows. Mark also sanded the drop leaf table he made several years ago and put a new coat of finish on it.  Also in this picture, we changed the chain for the hanging lamp, since the old one had rusted. 

At the same time, we replaced the helm seat. We had already had a new one built a few years ago since the one that came with the boat was extremely uncomfortable. However, that replacement was not exactly what we wanted so now we have a seatback that is high with a thick cushion seat.  Our sunshade panels in the cockpit were starting to wear out so we had new ones made, once again the same color and material as the old ones. We were never satisfied with the SPOT satellite location device we have used since 2008. Sadly while the tracking was good,  it disappeared after a week. Therefore we have no online record of all of the places we visited during the ten years we have cruised on Seas the Day. SPOT was the only device available when we moved aboard, but a few years ago the inReach device became available. Starting with this cruise, we will be using an inReach and the track is permanent. It also includes the ability to add a message, along with many other desirable features. Our new tracking link for inReach is here. It can be found on the menu of our website under “Location.” Each time we move, we will turn the tracking on and it will update our new location every ten minutes. At the end of that leg of the cruise, the tracking will stop and I will write a short message about the trip on the inReach page. 

When Hurricane Irma came through Florida in the fall of 2017, we had to evacuate. This is the first time we had to leave town for a hurricane. We drove 28 hours to Knoxville, Tennessee, and stayed there for one week. Under normal conditions, this trip would take us less than 12 hours, but of course the roads were clogged. However, when we arrived in Knoxville we stayed at a wonderful LaQuinta which was across the street from a Starbucks. 

The Treasure Coast of Florida includes the counties of Indian River, Martin, St. Lucie and Palm Beach. In other words, it runs from Vero Beach, south to Palm Beach with Stuart in the middle. Amazingly, while Irma went through most of Florida, the Treasure Coast was hardly touched. We returned to our marina to find there was no damage to our boat or the marina as a whole. When we knew we were evacuating, we of course removed the sails and everything that was on the deck of the boat. Since we were worried about losing power, we purchased an Engel refrigerator/freezer and planned to empty our freezer and bring the food with us. Unfortuately, the Engel did not arrive in time so we had to give away our frozen food. However, now we can use the Engel while cruising. It uses much less power than our current freezer and can also be used as a refrigerator. 

During our last Bahamas cruise, a cruiser friend (Penny from M/V Pretty Penny) sent us a photo of a display she saw at a local Florida store, Bealls. Everything had “Seas the Day” written on it. Of course, when we returned I immediately visited Bealls and bought numerous items with our “logo” on them. Now we have new cups, insulated glasses, rugs, wine glasses, plates and trays with the name of our boat on them. I don’t know why anyone else would want something with Seas the Day on it and of course they were all on sale for that reason.

After getting the results of Mark’s PETscan a few weeks ago, we began to seriously start to provision and make purchases of spare parts. Mark was very busy with the “to do” list he had been avoiding for awhile. Provisioning was very different from past years since we are now eating very little meat, lots of veggies and fruits, and whenever possible “organic” foods. Our eggs and chicken breasts are from free range chickens, our beef is from grass fed cows and our salmon is “wild.” We did end up buying quite a bit of meat with those qualifications, which of course meant everything was more expensive. We saved a lot by not buying massive amounts of candy (for Mark) and ingredients for all the cookies, Rice Krispie Treats, and homemade caramel rolls I regularly made while in the Bahamas. Instead of coffee, we bought green tea. We didn’t have to buy any cases of Coke for Mark.

As always, we have to make preparations for Sailor. A few months ago I sent away for the paperwork he needs to enter the Bahamas. He had his yearly physical, during which our vet signed the Bahamas paperwork. Provisions for Sailor are seven months of food, treats, Heartguard meds, Nexguard (flea and tick), shampoo and conditioner, and one final grooming. Speaking of Sailor, I’m sure he has missed running on Bahamian beaches, but he has enjoyed his twice daily very long walks preceded and followed by sitting on the marina porch.

Now that we are ready to go, as usual something breaks at the last minute. This year our freezer is not freezing. While we have the Engel, we bought too much and the excess frozen food was placed in our large freezer. Tomorrow Mark will order the part we need and in the meantime, another cruiser is having freezer problems too and they have friends who have an empty freezer in a house, so we were able to put our freezer contents in it. Whew! I have lost count of the number of times our freezer has failed and we have lost massive amounts of food.

Tuesday, November 12, was a good day to make the three day trip to Miami, but we won’t be able to do that. As usual at this time of year, fronts pass through Florida and delay our departure from Stuart. We should get another window to leave at the end of the week.

Below are a few photos of our activities from the last year and a half.

In March, 2018, since we were in Florida for once, we were able to go to the Spring Fling, an annual reunion party put on by Sailor’s breeder Moss Creek Goldendoodles. We drove to Orlando and stayed for several days in a hotel. The romp was held outside of Orlando, where Sailor got to play with hundreds of his relatives.

Sailor has worn the same costume for every Halloween of his five years. Before he came home to us, I had already purchased his sailor costume in small, medium and large. He’s a good sport about wearing it. In the Crew section of this website, you’ll see a photo of Sailor the day we got him wearing his size small sailor outfit.

Sailor has a BFFF (best furry friend forever) named Zorro. His dad Chris visited us in the spring of 2018 at our marina in Stuart on their way to the Bahamas. Zorro fell off a dock at Vero Beach so he couldn’t run and play with Sailor. However, in the second picture of them they were running together on the beach in Hole 2, Georgetown, Bahamas several years ago. 

 

While I didn’t write about our visit to Spanish Wells in April and May of 2017, below are two of my favorite pictures from this island. I had hundreds to choose from and selected one of Mark and Sailor playing “fetch” on the beautiful Spanish Wells beach. The other is a picture of our favorite activity in Spanish Wells – going to get a soft ice cream cone at Papa Scoops. We always rent a golf cart for the month we are there, which makes it easy to get to Papa Scoops, which is only open in the evenings.

One advantage of staying in Stuart last season was I got to have my daughter Jennifer visit more often. It was especially nice to be with her during the Christmas season. We always went to the beach when she came on her once a month visits. Her dad had surgery during the summer and she got to stay with us for a month, not her usual three day visit.

 

I also got to go to some of Jen’s Special Olympics meets. Below she was competing in a track meet. Loving to win, she was very disappointed that she got second place.

Finally, while at a dock we have unlimited city water, so of course we do as much washing as possible before we leave. Besides washing pillows, quilts, curtains, dog bed covers, and rugs, Sailor’s toys got baths. He is used to this so he slept through the whole process. Below are a FEW of his toys. 

As I was writing this blog entry, our water pump stopped working. Mark will work on it tomorrow, and has temporarily fixed it so we can take showers tonight. Each time we get ready to leave for a winter/spring cruise, something goes wrong. Once we got to our first stop at Lake Worth/Palm Beach and while trying to lift the anchor, the electric winch fell into the anchor locker. A week later we had ordered a new one and moved to a marina from the anchorage to install it. Another time we got to Miami at Dinner Key Mooring Field and had to use our dinghy to go ashore.  The motor froze up and it couldn’t be repaired, so we had to order a new one. Such is the life of a cruiser. We were told when we first purchased Seas the Day that “Everything on your boat is broken.  You just don’t know it yet.”

 

 

Georgetown to Spanish Wells

After spending our longest time in Georgetown during six cruises in the Bahamas, we were ready to leave on April 2, 2017. We had been on a mooring ball in Hole 2 for four months and a few days, so it was time to start heading north. We like to leave one month at the end of the cruise to spend in Spanish Wells before sailing back to the States at the end of May.

The first leg of our sail north from Georgetown up the Exuma chain is on the deep water of the Exuma Sound, so  we have to watch the weather closely and usually we have to wait at least a few days for favorable weather. This year the trip on the Sound to Galliot Cut, which we crossed through to the shallow Bahama Bank, was calm. After filling the diesel tanks the day before and making one last trip to the Exuma Market, we left the Georgetown Harbor at 0730, traveling with True North. They travel a little faster than us, and stopped in Emerald Bay for fuel. We got ahead of them but we both ended up at the same time as we anchored next to Blackpoint at 1410.

We can always tell how calm the sea is by watching Sailor. He is perfectly happy sleeping at the helm if there is little movement, however as soon as we start to rock a little too much for him, Sailor goes to the salon steps leading down to a bed. He has finally become willing to stay on the bed alone, where he seems to feel safe. This makes me happy since I have spent many hours on that bed reading my Kindle while he sleeps. Notice in the picture below he doesn’t seem to get the idea that he is supposed to be on the towels. People who visit our boat often ask what we put away when we are sailing. It’s a catamaran. Unless the seas are rough, or we expect someone to wake us on the ICW or an inlet like Port Everglades (Ft. Lauderdale), we leave most things where they are, especially in the cockpit where none of the items seem to move even in rough weather. Incidentally, if any of my childhood friends from Duluth are reading this, notice the bowl of rocks between the shell arrangements. Those are the ones I picked up on our trip to Grand Marais last summer and I will always treasure them as a remembrance of the three days we spent together. 

When we entered Galliot Cut and got on the bank, where it is much calmer, Sailor suddenly thought it was going to be too rough for him so he went to his safe place. The cut can be very rough, especially if the wind and strong current are going different directions, but this time it was near slack tide and wasn’t bad. Sailor stayed on the bed until we approached the anchorage at Blackpoint. After four years of living on the boat, Sailor recognizes that when the engines slow down it often means we are stopping. If he sees land, he wants to be ready to get off the boat, which usually happens shortly after we drop the anchor.

After we anchored at Blackpoint, we went ashore, passing True North. Sailor recognized his friends Cathie and Tom also getting ready to go ashore.

Sailor looks very happy to be going ashore.

We spent one day in Blackpoint and had only one goal – to get a few loaves of Lorraine’s mother’s coconut bread. Hers is the best we have ever had, especially since she uses freshly grated coconut which of course she gets from palm trees on the island. Her bread is baked in the morning so on April 3, we went into town about noon and got two fresh-out-of-the-oven loaves. Sailor got a few beach runs that day and on April 4 we left at 0850 to head to Warderick Wells. Cathie and Tom stayed behind to do a few more things and we met up with them again in Warderick a few days later.

On the way south last November, we stopped at a number of cays to snorkel and give my son Peter a taste of the beautiful water of the Exumas. Sometimes we visit our favorite cays on our way north, especially if we were trying to beat weather to get to Georgetown quickly on our way south a few months earlier. This year we went directly from Blackpoint to Warderick Wells and spent some time there with friends. There were a few poker games on our boat since Carina, True North, and Riff Raff were there with us. Also, Mark had time to retrieve our sign from Boo Boo Hill and add some updates. The photo below is from when he went to get the sign to bring it back to the boat. It held up fine through Hurricane Matthew last fall. He added “17” and touched up the paint a bit. Our friends Jeff and Jane on Carina had put their sign next to ours earlier this year. It’s always fun to see how many boat names we recognize when we are on Boo Boo Hill. As you can see, many signs end up in a pile. You would think that in hurricane force wind all of these pieces of wood, located on a high hill, would blow away but oddly they don’t. The rules are that you can only use wood for your boat sign. Just like you can’t take anything away from the Land and Sea Park, you also can’t leave anything that is not natural. Our sign has stayed there since we first put it up in 2010 on our first trip to the Bahamas. Boo Boo Hill overlooks the north mooring field on one side and the Exuma Sound on the other.

The “plan” was to stay in Warderick Wells a few days and then across the Exuma Sound to Eleuthera. Those few days turned into eight days. The wind picked up, which meant the sea did too, and we waited until everything calmed down. It took eight days to do that. Meanwhile, the mooring balls filled up as more and more boats looked for shelter from the wind. I continued to do a water aerobics practice each day by myself in a small sheltered cove near the Emerald Rock mooring field. Sailor got plenty of time running and chasing his ball on that beach. Dogs cannot go off the beaches on the trails, but he would love to go chase the hutia (plump brown rabbit size rodent) that are found all over Warderick Wells. 

On April 5, we heard what sounded like a helicopter warming up. We had passed a mega yacht on mooring ball 1, reserved for large boats, when we entered the mooring field and noticed there was a helicopter on the upper deck. Sure enough, the helicopter was preparing to take off. It was a very windy day, but the pilot was obviously capable and soon the helicopter flew south. A few hours later it returned, perhaps with visitors who had flown on a plane into nearby Staniel Cay,  or perhaps the people on the yacht were just taking a tour over the nearby islands. Again, the expert pilot  dropped the helicopter on the deck.

We always try to stay in the north mooring field at Warderick Wells. The setting is extremely beautiful. This photo was taken from Boo Boo Hill and we are the catamaran on the far right side of the field.

While we love being at Warderick Wells, eight days was more than enough time there we were anxious to cross over to Governor’s Harbour the first day the weather on the Sound was moderately calm. Mooring balls in the Land and Sea Park for boats over 40 feet are $30 a night and we hadn’t planned on spending $240 in Warderick Wells. We left through the inlet at at the exit from the north mooring field  at 0823 on April 12 and arrived in Governor’s Harbour at 1615. We have been here many times, but only stayed one day and started north the next day at 0635, motorsailing off the coast of Eleuthera to Spanish Wells, arriving at 1250 on April 13. We left Governor’s Harbour under a beautiful sunrise with calm water, as can be seen from the fact that nothing in the salon had to be put away.

We were now at our final destination in the Bahamas, Spanish Wells, where for the past six years we have spent our last month before returning to Florida. 

(This blog entry was written in May, 2017, but somehow I forgot to upload it until today, November 12, 2018 as I started to write a new blog entry.)

 

Georgetown, Part Six

It’s hard to believe that this is our sixth visit to Georgetown with the first one occurring in 2010. It is a popular stop for cruisers who spend time in the Exumas. A great many arrive to spend a few days and stay for weeks or even months, returning year after year. It is the ideal place to provision for going further south, so some stop, shop, and continue on their way. Occasionally  cruisers avoid Georgetown at all costs. Some have heard stories about it being “adult daycare.” Others don’t like to be around so many boats, although there are numerous anchorages in Elizabeth Harbour and some are frequently empty. You can be surrounded by other boats or anchored all by yourself. Last year I wrote an extensive post about Georgetown. It’s located here.  This year we are doing and seeing all of that and more.

We arrived in Georgetown at the end of November and quickly settled into our routine. As more cruisers arrived, the activity level picked up. Add to that the opening of the new resort at Lumina Point where we had an additional place to eat, exercise, dance, listen to cruiser jam sessions, and attend Happy Hour. When we arrived in Georgetown there were less than 20 boats here. The number peaks during Regatta Week. Below are two photos of the dinghy dock at Exuma Market. The first shows my son Peter, Mark and Sailor on the dock with five other dinghies when we first arrived in November. Mark is holding the hose hanging where cruisers line up in their dinghies to fill jerry jugs with free RO water, provided by Exuma Market. Yes, that is free. Other places in the Bahamas RO water costs 50 cents a gallon, sometimes a little more and sometimes a little less, but never this convenient and free. The second picture was taken in March when there were about 300 boats in the harbor. Notice the dinghies lined up to get water. By the time we left in April, there were less than 100 boats remaining. When the Regatta ends, some cruisers continue on their way south to the Caribbean, some head back north through the Exumas or Eleuthera and on to Abaco or other islands, and others follow different routes, eventually ending up in the States before hurricane season begins.

This is our third year in Hole 2, a hurricane hole mooring field. Not only do we enjoy the protection from high winds, but we also get to meet new friends each year because as a group we are “Hole 2.”  Michelle and Dan on Sea Monkey hosted a number of fun get-togethers, including a Valentines Day party and a jam session with Shannon and Bob (Category 1) and Gary (Tamaki) singing and playing their guitars. One afternoon Michelle offered to read our Chakras, which was very interesting. The bonfire parties on our beach in Hole 2 are legendary, but this year our main organizers, Joanne and Jack on Houseboat Panda, sold their boat and returned to Canada early. Jack was great at building bonfires and we only had one after he left – someone needs to take on that job. Most of the boats have kayaks and/or SUP’s and it’s not unusual to see several of us padding through the holes together since it’s always calm on the protected water. Below are a few get-together pictures with our Hole 2 friends and a photo taken, I believe, by Ingrid from Tamaki as they flew over Hole 2. The four mooring fields are on the west side of Stocking Island in Elizabeth Harbour. The long sandy beach on the east side of Stocking Island is on the Exuma Sound, aka the ocean. That beach is one of the most beautiful in the world and oddly, even when there are hundreds of visitors and cruisers in the area, rarely are there more than a few people walking on the beach and sometimes we are the only ones. Most cruisers spend time on the beaches on the harbor side of Stocking Island or in town. 

Below is a photo of the women of Hole 2 when we had a farewell luncheon at Lumina Point for Joanne on Panda and a welcome to Jill, the new owner. 

Saturday Night Poker on Seas the Day continued this year.  It is the highlight of our week and a good excuse to get the boat cleaned. We host 12-16 people with the men in the cockpit (seats aren’t as comfortable) and the women in the salon. (A note to the men – we hope to get the cockpit cushions replaced before we come back next year with much thicker seats.) When the number of players left in the game gets down to about 7 or 8, we combine the tables into one, usually in the salon. Most of the cruisers who come are from Hole 2. In fact three years ago when we began this, all the players were from Hole 2 the entire season. The last two years we have also invited friends from the anchorages when there aren’t enough players on the Hole 2 boats as cruisers come and go. Halfway through the game, we stop to chip up (trade in our chips for higher value ones) and eat a variety of always delicious snacks contributed by the players. New friend Holt (SV Agandau) is a gourmet snack maker and we hope he’ll be back next year, not just for his food. The name of his boat combines the symbols for silver (agand gold (au).  Sailor greets each dinghy pulling up to Seas the Day with one of his stuffed toys and kisses. He even has special ones he always brings to the same people. For example, Cathie consistently gets Mr. Squirrel. 

Three years ago we started to play poker at the St. Francis on Tuesday and Thursday. When we arrived in mid November this season, there was one table of about 10 people playing, including the three of us. Once hundreds of boats had arrived a few months later, the limit was set at five tables of ten each and we needed to register by about 5:15, with registration beginning at 5:00 or we would not get a place. Play starts at 6 pm. Mark and I won money enough times that we probably broke even. Buy-in is $5 with all money going back to the top five winners at the St. Francis and top three on our boat. Mark actually made it to the final table at the poker tournament during the Georgetown Regatta where there are many more players than the normal 50. He came in fourth place and won a very nice St. Francis shirt, a bottle of wine, and money – around $50. Pam on SV Dejarlo won the tournament, which was fitting since it is the last year she and Ollie will be coming to Georgetown after many years of being involved in numerous activities and volunteering through the years for just about everything. They will be missed. Below are photos of the final table at the Regatta Week tournament and Jillian, co-owner of St. Francis giving Mark his prizes.

Free yoga classes at Lumina Point Resort were offered during November, December and part of January. They were held on a large deck also used as an outdoor restaurant, a small deck overlooking the harbor, or, when weather was rainy, in their exercise gym. The teacher is from Andros Island and was trained in the States. She is also their massage therapist and is excellent  in both positions. I attended classes every day until the middle of January when I discovered that some of the poses were hurting my shoulder. Starting about that time, the classes switched to three times a week and there was a small charge to attend. The free classes attracted 20-30 people or more. Once the nominal fee was charged, the attendance dropped sharply. Luckily at that time free classes were offered by Agnes, a cruiser teacher, on Volleyball Beach. As the new resort started to get more guests, they stopped having so many activities for cruisers. It is an eco-resort, with solar power running everything and all aspects designed to be environmentally friendly. They even hand carried all of the building materials through the property to build the cottages. The paths are carefully cut through the thick foliage. Lumina Point Resort will no doubt attract visitors who are there for a relaxing, peaceful vacation. Cruisers tend to be noisy!

About the time I stopped going to yoga classes, a few of us realized that our two aquafit teachers from last season would not be coming to Georgetown this year. I volunteered to teach the class and Joanne from SV Bristol Cream provided the music and led the arm exercises. I have taken water aerobics/aquafit classes for many years, both in Columbus, Ohio while I was working and now in Florida. I researched poses that would work in the open water, rather than in a pool, and designed a routine that has a warm-up, followed by aerobics, then exercises strengthening each part of the body, ending with a cool down. As cruisers who came to our classes left Georgetown,  I gave them each a copy of the routine to follow as they visited other islands or back home in their own pools, lakes, rivers, etc. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting many new friends who came to the classes. Having retired from classroom teaching 11 years ago, I had forgotten how much I like being a teacher.

While we still paddle in our kayaks, mostly in the smooth, calm water of the four large mooring fields, this year we added an inflatable SUP (stand-up paddle board) to our “water toys.” I have to admit the main purpose was to give Sailor something to ride on with us. He hopped on our friend Christina’s SUP last season and seemed very comfortable, so now he has his own spot on the “pup deck” at the front of our SUP. So far he has behaved perfectly, sitting the entire ride. However, I am worried that if he ever decides to stand up, we’ll both go over into the water. 

Lumina Point Resort held several open mike sessions and we discovered there are many musically talented cruisers. One of my favorite sessions was when Sarah, on MV Borrowed Horse, played “Dueling Banjos” on her banjo with another cruiser on his guitar. It was incredible. Our friends Shannon (aqua shirt below) and Bob (red hat playing his guitar) are from Nashville, and their country music was fantastic. 

Activities in Georgetown increase substantially during the Regatta. There are usually close to 300 boats in the harbor and while the highlight is the big boat races, there are many other daily events, such as the poker run, bocce ball, beach golf, small boat races, the coconut challenge, a scavenger hunt, and much more.  A variety show is held the opening night in Georgetown at Regatta Park. The participants are both cruisers and Bahamians.

Our friends Cathie and Tom were on SV Interlude when we met them in January, 2013 in Bimini and they introduced us to Hole 2 three years ago. After selling Interlude, last summer they purchased a Tolleycraft motor yacht they named True North. Of course she goes much faster than a sailboat, up to 25 kts. One night we were invited to take a sunset cruise in the harbor with other friends from Hole 2 and we got a taste of Tom’s need for speed. 

We can’t write about our Georgetown activities without including Sailor’s adventures. He does have a great life on the boat. While in the Bahamas he goes ashore twice a day to play on the beach, plus he goes most places with us since the Bahamas are very dog friendly. He hasn’t met a friend as special as Zorro, his Portuguese water dog BFF. They were inseparable two years ago on the Hole 2 beach and later on in Long Island and Spanish Wells. This year a puppy named Bentley, which incidentally is the name of Sailor’s father, was the one dog who loved to run up and down the beach with Sailor.

After each visit to the beach, Sailor has to be washed off with fresh water. Then he is wrapped in this towel so he doesn’t shake water all over the boat.

In past years, we have never checked into the Bahamas before January 1. This year we arrived in Bimini on November 14 and Georgetown on November 27. A huge celebration on the day after Christmas, Boxing Day, is Junkanoo. In the larger cities such as Bimini and Nassau, a second Junkanoo is held on New Years’ Day, beginning at midnight. The parade held in Georgetown was colorful and fun. The groups practice for a long time and in many cases make their own costumes.

Groceries are always an important consideration when visiting the Bahamas. We provision for our entire winter/spring cruise, seven months this year. However, we always have to buy fresh fruits, vegetables, and dairy products and the Exuma Market and the Shop Rite Mart in Georgetown have great selections, but fresh produce only lasts on the shelves for a day or two after the supply boat brings food. These are by far the best grocery stores we shop at in the Exumas and other than Nassau, the second best we go to during our Bahamas cruise. The best is the Food Fair in Spanish Wells. Below are photos of one shopping trip at Exuma Market and some of the food we have enjoyed on Seas the Day.

Broccoli, muchroom, and cheese quicheMarinated boneless pork loin pork chops with pineapple and maple syrup, fried rice, and asparagus

Multi chip (and multi calorie) oatmeal cookies

These are items we purchase almost every week

Caramel pecan rolls rising overnight to bake in the morning 

Rice Krispie treats – not fancy or unusual but we couldn’t make them without bringing Rice Krispies with us from the States since cereal is very expensive here

Of course there are many good restaurants in Georgetown. A tradition is Valentines Dinner at St. Francis, always with a wonderful gourmet meal. It is so popular that it isn’t even “advertised” on the morning net, but the reservations fill up quickly.

I often say that the best thing about cruising is the friends we meet. This year, we met Tucker and Robbie on SV Pixie Dust. They were in Hole 2 on a ball near Seas the Day. Little did we know that Robbie would give us a very special gift the day before they flew back to Michigan. She is a talented artist, and she certainly captured our boat, Mark, Sailor and me in the water color picture she painted of us. Each day, we picked her up on her boat to go with us to water aerobics. We looked just like this arriving at Pixie Dust. 

We left Georgetown on April 2nd to start our way north. We’ll be back next year to create more memories. The sad part about leaving is that each year some of our friends do not return to Georgetown the next cruising season when they sell their boats and become CLODS – Cruisers Living On Dirt. Our 2016/2017 cruise is not over yet though. We still have two more months to enjoy the Bahamas as we travel through the Exumas, across the Sound to Eleuthera and on to Spanish Wells.

Great Harbour Cay to Cambridge Cay

On November 18, 2016, we left Great Harbour Cay Marina at 1500 and motored to nearby Bullock’s Harbour, about 1.5 miles north of the cut into Great Harbour Cay. Even people who have been in and out of the marina many times do not do it in the dark in a large boat. There are several tight cuts and turns to navigate through.  Since it was our first visit to this marina, we were definitely not leaving in the dark from the marina slip the following morning and that was necessary in order to get to Nassau in the light.

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Since we saw “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight,” we left the next morning for Nassau. Actually, we checked the weather forecast first and had a fairly pleasant motorsail, averaging 8 kts. Part of the route was over deep water, called The Tongue of the Ocean, and we did have large swells, but they were on the port aft beam, about 12 seconds apart, so they were manageable. We left Bullocks Harbour at 0520, in the dark, and arrived in Nassau at 1435, pulling into a slip at Nassau Harbour Club with several hours of daylight left. Very few boats were there, since the majority of cruisers hadn’t crossed to the Bahamas yet. We walked across the street to the strip mall, stopping at Starbucks and also picking up some fresh fruits and vegetables at the Fresh Market. It’s not the chain from the States, but is an equally nice grocery store and the last well stocked store we would see until the Exuma Market in Georgetown. In the Bahamas, we rarely look at prices, and buy what we need since there really isn’t an option. Except for a few dairy products, almost everything is much more expensive than in the States and of course we don’t always find the brands we prefer. Since we have stocked dry goods for seven months, we usually only have to buy fresh vegetables and fruit and eventually cheese, eggs, yoghurt and other dairy products. I freeze several months worth of yoghurt and eat it frozen for breakfast every day, so I don’t have to buy any for quite awhile.

The next morning we left the marina at 0755 and motorsailed across the shallow bank, arriving  in Shroud Cay, part of the Exuma Land and Sea Park, at 1340. Until we exited the Park after Cambridge Cay, we would have no Internet or phone service since there are no cell phone towers in the Park. For most of the rest of the way to Georgetown we would be on the “bank” which is shallow water. Therefore unless the winds were extremely high or from the west, which isn’t protected since we travel on the bank with islands to the east of us, or if there were squalls, we could move from cay to cay without encountering uncomfortably rough conditions. We chose this stop over the more protected Norman’s Cay, a few miles to the north, because we wanted to take the kayaks into the mangroves. Unfortunately there were swells on the beam in the Shroud Cay anchorage/mooring field so it was an uncomfortable stay and Norman’s Cay would have been a better choice for our first stop in the Exuma chain.  We didn’t paddle in the mangroves long because the tide was going out and it gets shallow even for a kayak, so we could end up walking back and dragging our kayaks behind us. However, this is a favorite place to snorkel in the midst of nature and silence so it was worth the rocking and rolling night. 

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The next morning at 0725, we sailed south to the headquarters of the Land and Sea Park, Warderick Wells, and took a ball for two nights. When we arrived at 1000, we were the only boat on the balls in the North Mooring Field, except for a lonely sailboat that belongs to the park. Over the two days we were there, a few more boats came in but it was not full the way it is later in the season. Of course we had to go up to Boo Boo Hill where cruisers leave handmade driftwood boards with their boat names on them and there is a beautiful view of the Exuma Sound and surrounding Park foliage and water. Even though Hurricane Matthew passed over the Exumas a month earlier, there were still plenty of signs on the hill, including our Seas the Day one that we first put on Boo Boo Hill in 2010 and have added to in subsequent visits in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. Mark originally carved into the driftwood and painted the letters, but the past few years had just used Magic Marker and it had washed off. He brought the sign back to the boat and painted the dates. We’ll probably stop at Warderick Wells again this season, so will add “2017” on that occasion. (Usually we stop here on our way south in January or February, so we had already been here in 2016.) We also went snorkeling in the north mooring field and around Emerald Rock. Peter used his GoPro camera to shoot a video and got some nice shots, although the coral is not as bright as it was when we first came here in 2010. After two days we were ready to move on.

Seas the Day, alone in the mooring field

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Peter stopped to look at the skeleton of a 53 ft sperm whale, who died after swallowing a plastic bag.

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Dogs must be kept on a leash in the park and only on the beaches, not the numerous trails. We take Sailor to a beach by Emerald Rock  so he can swim and fetch his ball.

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The Park Headquarters are in the building on the hill, with access by dinghy from a dock or a beach near the sperm whale skeleton.

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Peter walked up the path to Boo Boo Hill.

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Views below are from the top of Boo Boo Hill.

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Video of snorkeling in Warderick Wells in the north mooring field and near Emerald Rock, by Pete Beagle:

We had one more stop in the Land and Sea Park, Cambridge Cay. We left Warderick Wells at 0915 and tied up to a ball in Cambridge Cay at 1130 on 11/23/16. Again, we were the only boat in the mooring field. We only stayed one night, but it was an exciting, and a bit frightening, afternoon. Since it was still very windy, we took the dinghy to The Aquarium, a sheltered area with a coral wall and lots of tropical fish. We all went in the water and then started back to the boat. One of us had to stay in the boat with Sailor or he would have joined us.

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As we passed near the cut to the Exuma Sound by Cambridge Cay, where the waves were high and choppy, our dinghy engine suddenly quit. Mark is proficient at fixing motors, but he could not get it started. We were bouncing around and water was splashing into the dinghy while he attempted to restart the engine but we soon realized we had to get ashore quickly to get out of the waves in the cut. In the Land and Sea Park, except for Warderick Wells where the park rangers stay, almost all of the cays and islands are uninhabited. While we always bring a handheld VHF radio with us in the dinghy, unfortunately this was one of a handful of times over eight years that we forgot it so we were unable to call for help. However, we were fortunate to be near Bell Island, owned by Aga Khan, the leader of the world’s Ismaili Muslim community. His purchase of Bell Island was quite controversial, since it is in the Land and Sea Park, the one area of the Bahamas left that is kept in its natural state as a “no take by land or sea” zone. The Aga has dredged a marina for his megayacht and built a mansion and other buildings on the island.

Because this was the Aga Khan’s island, it was probably the only one where we could hope to find someone who could help us. Mark and Peter rowed through the waves to a small sandy beach on Bell Island, surrounded by mangroves and sharp rocks. We had protection from the large waves on the east side of the hill pictured below. We knew there was civilization on the west side of Bell Island, so Mark took off walking through the mangroves and sharp rocks. Luckily we had all brought hiking shoes. Peter, Sailor and I stayed on the beach and waited. Even Sailor knew something was wrong because he was on a beach but just stayed near us, rather than run back and forth like he usually does.

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Periodically, Peter walked to the top of a hill and said he could see buildings and a few workers on the other side of the island but didn’t see Mark. By now it was late afternoon and we hoped we wouldn’t be sleeping on the beach. We could see our boat in the mooring field, but it was far too rough to attempt rowing there. We had almost given up hope when Mark came around the end of the island in a large open boat with two powerful motors and a Bahamian at the wheel. He was a maintenance worker on the island and kindly towed us back to Seas the Day. We gladly gave him $50 and thanked him profusely for saving us. I doubt that he expected any money, but he certainly earned it! If not for the kindness of this Bahamian, we would have been sleeping on the beach. We were incredibly lucky that the motor died where it did. I believe a guardian angel was watching over us that day.
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After this harrowing experience we decided to leave the park the next morning and move on to more populated Big Majors Cay and Staniel Cay. This meant we couldn’t snorkel in one of our favorite spots at the Rocky Dundas Grotto or visit the Bubble Bath on Compass Cay, but the water was too rough and high tide for the Bubble Bath, when waves crash over the rocks from the Exuma Sound into a small pond on the other side creating numerous bubbles, would be in the late afternoon the next day. Most importantly, we had no way to get to either of these without the dinghy.

We hoped that Mark could find out what was wrong with the dinghy motor, which is only one year old, when we arrived in the anchorage at Big Majors Cay the next day. If not, we wouldn’t be going ashore again until we arrived in Georgetown where we could ride on a water taxi to town and possibly bring the motor to a repair shop. When cruising, a dinghy is our “car” and our only way to go ashore. We do have two kayaks and an iSUP, so we could possibly use them to get off the boat, but with the high winds we had on the entire trip so far, and choppy water conditions, it wouldn’t be the preferable mode of transportation. We are fortunate that Sailor will “go” on the boat, using the trampolines on the forward deck. However, we were looking forward to snorkeling in Thunderball Grotto at Staniel Cay, showing Peter the swimming pigs, and eating lunch at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club.

We Get By With a Little Help From Our Friends

Ask any person on a boat what their favorite part of cruising is, and it will probably be the people they meet. We are still in contact with friends we met in 2008 on our first year living aboard Seas the Day. Each year we cruise, we make new friends and connect with old ones.  Sometimes we don’t see them for years, and sometimes we’ll never pass near them again, but they are friends for life. 

If you need help at your home port or at a marina or anchorage you are visiting in the States, you have lots of options on shore. Same thing if you want to socialize. You have friends onshore and friends at your home marina or anchorage, but probably don’t say more than a quick hi to cruisers passing through. There is also a tendency to get to know the same “type” of boater as you are, be it sailor, powerboater, or megayacht owner. This is certainly not true in all cases, but it does seem to happen fairly often, especially when you are away from your home port. 

That all changes when you cruise offshore and from our experience, especially in the Bahamas. Once at Cambridge Cay we had sundowners on the beach and the owner of a large yacht joined us. Of course, the sailors scarfed up the gourmet snacks from the yacht owner a little faster than the salsa over cream cheese with Tostitos we brought and the similar snacks from the rest of the people. Another time we stopped at a a restaurant in Eleuthera and the only other people there joined us at our table. We had a nice conversation during which they told us about some repairs they were working on. When asked, they said they were on a motor yacht and at the end of the meal we found out they were staying in an upscale marina at nearby Harbour Island on a 100+ ft yacht. They live in Palm Beach right on Lake Worth where we often anchor and they invited us to stop in to see them (in what we saw later was a large mansion) the next time we were there. Regardless of  the size of boat or type of propulsion people on the seas are living on, when cruisers meet the camaraderie is instant.

There is no better example of “getting by with a little help from our friends” than what happens in Georgetown, Bahamas. Every morning on the Cruisers’ Net, there is a section called “Boaters’ General” when people can “buy, sell, trade or give away something or ask for help.” Earlier this week, we had a reason to ask for that help. To prepare for our departure, on Monday we let go of the mooring ball that we had been attached to for almost three months, and motored across Elizabeth Harbour to the Exuma Yacht Club Marina to fill up our tanks. The entrance to our mooring field is shallow at low tide, so after getting our fuel, we crossed the harbour again to anchor until we could get back into the mooring field. We have an electric windlass with a remote handheld to raise and lower the anchor. Mark was at the helm and I was in front ready to drop the anchor. I touched the “down” key and nothing happened. No problem. This has occurred before and we just need to reset the circuit breaker for the windlass. Didn’t work this time! That was a big problem since we were leaving in a few days and needed to anchor. We went back to the middle of the harbour and floated around for a few hours while Mark checked everything he could think of to fix it. Mark had installed a new windlass two years ago, and knows the mechanics and electronics of our boat well. He worried that the problem could be somewhere in the wiring or in the circuit breaker. Worse yet, he thought he might have to tear the windlass apart. When the tide was up, we went back to our mooring ball (thank goodness we had this option) and he continued to troubleshoot. As they say, cruising is making repairs to your boat in exotic places. We posted our problem on the Lagoon Owners Facebook page and got several suggestions. 

The next morning on the Georgetown Cruisers’ Net (on VHF radio station 72 every morning at 0800) Mark explained our problem and asked for help. We got several responses, but the most promising was from a friend on another Lagoon 420 named The Norm. Bruce and Rhonda had the same problem recently and the cause was the wiring in the remote device. They had put in a switch to fix it and then ordered a new remote from the States which their son brought to them in Georgetown. They kindly loaned us the repaired one to try and when we plugged it in, presto! Down went the anchor!! So Mark headed to town to buy a switch, however when he opened the remote he saw the loose wire and decided to try soldering it back on. This worked!  We also ordered a new remote which we’ll have forwarded to us at one of our next stops and will also order a new circuit breaker for the windlass, since several people said theirs had cracked. 

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On a daily basis, the cruisers in Georgetown help each other. Whether it is rescuing a dinghy that came loose from another boat and floated by them, coming to the aid of other cruisers with electrical or mechanical problems, answering questions, helping with an injury, etc. cruisers answer the call for assistance. They are some of the most giving people we have ever met, especially considering that help is often offered to total strangers. A few days ago a cruiser on a boat in our mooring field went to make tea, and the can holding the tea bags had a long snake wrapped around it! (They believe it climbed aboard when they spent a few days at the marina a week ago.) They called someone they knew in the harbour who had worked with snakes. He came, captured the fellow, and released it on land. Last night while we were at anchor, someone came on the radio calling the St. Francis resort. They had found a black lab swimming in the harbour and thought it had fallen off a boat named Second Chance. They had called them on the radio with no answer so they called the resort to see if the dog’s owners were there playing poker. They weren’t but eventually were tracked down. In the meantime the dog was safe on someone else’s boat. Georgetown is not unique in this way. Gather any group of cruisers together from 2 to 300+ and if you need something, ask for help and you will get it. 

Another positive feature of us being with cruising friends, especially in the Bahamas, is they get us involved in activities where we make more friends. The perfect example of this happened last year when we boat buddied with friends Cathie and Tom (SV Interlude) and they taught us to play Texas Hold’em poker. Twice a week at the St. Francis Resort for the last two seasons, we have played in the “International Texas Hold’em Tournament” with a $5 buy-in. For $10 a time, we have had great fun and, even better, made new friends. We go there to eat dinner and play cards, but it’s also a social event. Cathie and Tom also encouraged us to take a ball in Hole 2 last year. Not only did we enjoy the calm weather in the protected hole, but we made another set of good friends who are on the other boats in the mooring field. We have enjoyed many get-togethers and bonfires on the Hole 2 beach, had  sundowners or meals or just visits on each other’s boats, talked on the beach when other dogs were there to play with Sailor, and of course had friends over every Saturday night for poker on Seas the Day. The photo below was last year’s group, all of them from Hole 2, and this year, since half of these cruisers didn’t return, we invited others and made more friends.

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Several of our Hole 2 friends have been on adventures with us, and I know we wouldn’t have done them without their invitations. A few weeks ago we went to Mariah Cay, a long dinghy ride from where our boat is, with friends Jean and Art (MV Interlude) and their visiting friends. What a fantastic day we had eating our picnic lunches, swimming in the crystal clear turquoise water, floating with the current on a natural “Lazy River ride,” walking on the beautiful deserted beach, and of course talking. 

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DSCF2425DSCF2369Another day, Christina and John (HB Oasis – that’s HouseBoat) invited us to go with them on their Carolina Skiff, about 18 ft long, for a day of snorkeling. We hadn’t been snorkeling in Elizabeth Harbour so we were thrilled to have the  chance to visit the coral gardens they knew well. Even Sailor got into the act, as he was unwilling to stay in the skiff alone and joined us in the water. After some excellent snorkeling, we explored a nearby cave. Next we motored to Santanas, a very popular restaurant south of us in Great Exuma. As we anchored the skiff, a dog we assume belongs to the owners of Santana’s swam out to greet Sailor. We had two delicious lobster tails for $14 and some conch with sides. A perfect Bahamian lunch. Next door we visited Mom’s Bakery and bought rum cake and coconut bread. Mom used to bring her baked goods to downtown Georgetown, parking near the Exuma Market, and sold her cakes and bread out of her car, but she is getting older and doesn’t make the trip now. She still gave us the hugs she is famous for, however. Santana’s was too far away for us to go in our 12 ft inflatable dinghy, so we really appreciated going with Christina and John. The underwater photos below are from Christina’s camera. 

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We left Georgetown as soon after sunrise as it was safe to go on Friday, April 8, after anchoring out the last night at the Monument anchorage in Elizabeth Harbour. The first part of the day we motorsailed on the Exuma Sound, part of the Atlantic Ocean, in water over 300 feet deep a mile offshore. We waited several days until the seas were calm, and we had a very smooth sail. Then we entered the Bahamas Bank through Galliot Cut and sailed in shallow water, about 14 feet deep, to Staniel Cay where we will wait for guests to arrive from Florida by plane in less than a week. The photos below begin with the sunrise over the Monument anchorage as we left Georgetown and end with the sunset at Big Majors anchorage near Staniel Cay.

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Sailor knew it was going to be a calm day at sea when he settled under the helm seat instead of running inside to the bed to hide from the big waves. He didn’t move from this spot for 8 1/2 hours until we arrived in Staniel Cay.

imageHere we are leaving the Exuma Sound at Galliot Cut and entering shallow water.Sometimes this cut is very rough, and today it slowed us down 3 kts since the tide was going out, but it was a smooth ride. 

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imageThis is the sunset from our boat in Big Majors anchorage. 

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Cruising is a Waiting Game

Leaving Miami at daybreak on Friday, January 1, we had moderately rough seas for most of the cruise to Bimini. The forecast was for light wind, but unfortunately we were going right into it. We decided to stay on the mooring ball at Dinner Key Thursday night since it was New Year’s Eve. Normally we stage at No Name Harbor at the eastern end of Key Biscayne, which is right at the entrance to the ocean, the night before we leave for Bimini. We knew that there would be many boats out on the Bay celebrating and watching the midnight fireworks, and anchored in or near No Name would not be comfortable as it is next to a channel. Leaving from Dinner Key added an hour to our trip but at least we got some sleep. We left at 0650 and arrived in Bimini at 1500. The distance from Miami to Bimini is about 50 miles. Since we were motorsailing into the wind, we didn’t get much help from the sails.

Below is is a photo taken with Miami behind us and a screen shot of what our SPOT track looked like for the first hour, leaving Dinner Key and entering the Atlantic Ocean. (The SPOT track is always available on our website located in the “Location” menu.)

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While it was a bit rougher than we like, headed into the waves and “hobby horsing,” to show how comfortable it is in a catamaran, I took a picture of a glass of water that was on the galley counter while the boat was rocking. Notice the water isn’t moving and the glass is not falling over nor is anything else on the counter moving. Outside in the cockpit, our plants are not sliding off into the ocean. This is one of many reasons why we like living and cruising on a catamaran.

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As we approached Bimini, we were happy to see the Bimini Sands Marina and the narrow opening to the harbor. It is not much wider than our 25 ft beam. Once we are in the marina the water is always flat and backing into the wide slips is easy. This is the only marina we have ever stayed at where all slips are wide enough for two monohulls or one catamaran with no post in the middle. There is no extra charge for a catamaran.

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We knew we would be in Bimini at least a week because we only had one more day left of the current “weather window” and that would get us to an anchorage in the Berries. There is a very nice marina called Great Harbour Marina in the Berries, but we would be arriving in the dark and have never been there so we decided to wait out the current weather system in Bimini. We have stayed at Bimini Sands many times, and it is always amazing to us that so many boats go to the North Bimini marinas instead of staying here.  There are only a handful of boats with us at Bimini Sands while the marinas in North Bimini are much busier. Several of the popular marinas there are $1 a ft while at least one is $1.50 a ft. We are paying $1.50 a ft and it is so quiet and calm here compared to North Bimini where the streets are very busy and the docks, which aren’t floating like we have at Bimini Sands, are hit by the wakes of powerboats rushing back and forth in the channel next to the marinas all day long. We are completely surrounded by condos and the water is always flat. For us, it is well worth the extra $20 a day.

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We have been waiting since we were here last May to return to the Bimini Sands Beach Club for their seafood pizza covered with big pieces of lobster, shrimp, and conch as well as veggies. We bought an extra pizza to take back for leftovers. The free shuttle took us to the the Beach Club at the southern end of South Bimini and picked us up after our delicious meal with boat buddies Sandy and Tom (Renaissance II). The colors of the bus match those in the Bahamas flag.

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seafoodpizza Just like the weather in Miami was unusually stormy while we waited there, we haven’t had much sun in Bimini this week. It makes walking around the town difficult when rain clouds are overhead and the wind is blowing hard, but on Monday we took the water taxi the short distance from South Bimini to North Bimini. Our one goal was to go to Batelco, (Bahamas Telephone Company), to get a new phone and a SIM card for it. After several years of exclusively using our iPad with a Batelco SIM card while in the Bahamas to get online and a small cheap phone to make calls, we decided to get an unlocked smartphone with a hotspot feature so we could also use our US phones and computer online. Our current US smartphones are locked so we can’t put a Batelco SIM card in them. We were lucky to find a Samsung smartphone for a little over $100. It kills me to use an Android, after owning  Apple products since the first one came out back in the early 80’s, but I have to admit this Samsung is a nice phone and has all the features we need while here.

Many of the readers of this blog know that I talk to my 36 year old daughter Jennifer, who is autistic and lives in Florida, each night at 9:30. On past cruises, I used a Batelco phone which cost about 80 cents a minute when I called her each night for 3-5 minute conversations. This season we are using Facebook Messenger when we talk, which is free and uses very little data. The Samsung smartphone has an APP for Messsenger so I am still talking to her on a phone and it seems to be working beautifully, plus I am saving a lot of money. 

The Bahamas started providing cell phone service with towers on or near every inhabited island a few years ago with SIM cards that can be easily topped off online or by using purchased cards. When we first came here in December, 2009, we had a wifi extender and used free or prepaid wifi. It was very expensive for the prepaid ones and the unlocked free wifi spots were few and not necesarily safe or broadcasting strong signals. Each year Batelco has improved their plans for cruisers and tourists who are not here all year. This year we can get 5 GB’s for $55. Last year it cost $30 for 2 GB’s and that option is still available. The year before it was $30 for 1 GB. Year round residents can get 15 GB’s for $75 after putting $300 down and there are other cell phone plans for people who are here all year.

We were in Bimini last May and during that visit my son Peter was with us so we took him to all of our favorite places. This time we have been spending most of the time relaxing and as always there are things to fix on the boat. As I write this, Mark is repairing our deck wash system. Sailor was happy to get to his first Bahamas beach of this cruise, just a few steps from the marina. The photo above of the entrance to Bimini Sands shows the beaches to the north and south. They are almost always empty or with one or two other people on them. The beaches on North Bimini are more used since the bulk of the residents of Bimini are located there, as are most of the tourists and cruisers.

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Tonight we will pay our marina bill, minus 10% for being here a week, and go to sleep early. We will leave before sunrise Friday morning at around 0530 and round North Bimini, headed to Chub Cay (pronounced Key) in the Berry Islands. It’s a long day, but we’ll  be on the shallow Bahamas Bank most of the time, so the water should be relatively calm. We will arrive at the anchorage after sunset and it is an easy one to enter in the dark. We have reservations to stay at the Nassau Harbour Club on Saturday and will hopefully leave there for the Exumas on Sunday. We were smart to stay in Bimini this past week. Last night there were reports of squalls in the Exumas with gusts to 106 kts in Cambridge Cay and sustained 70-80 kt wind with gusts up to 105 kts in the Georgetown Harbor with five foot seas at the Chat ‘n Chill Restaurant on Volleyball Beach! This is extremely unusual and we heard that many anchored boats dragged and some landed on the beaches in Georgetown. When we are there we stay on a mooring ball in a very protected hole. That weather has moved out of the Bahamas and we will hope for “fair winds” for the next few days.

Cruising Season Eight Begins

After a few delays for weather we finally left Sunset Bay Marina on Tuesday, December 8, 2015. We had a great group helping us get off the dock and as much as we want to get to the Bahamas we will miss our friends in Stuart.

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We were worried about getting under the 65 ft. Roosevelt Bridge as we exited Sunset Bay because due to all the rain, tides are extremely high. Our mast is 63 ft plus the instruments at the top and we did get under without touching. The next day we weren’t so fortunate. 

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We had a pleasant motor on the ICW to North Palm Beach and stayed at the North Palm Beach Marina. As usual lately, it rained part of the day. Still this was the best weather in awhile and there was a train of boats traveling down the ICW. We were in a group of eight each time we waited for a bridge opening but after we arrived in North Palm Beach we watched many more boats passing by to get into marinas or anchorages in the area and no doubt continue south the next day or perhaps head east to the Abaco Islands.

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The next morning, an hour after high tide, we approached the Riviera Beach Bridge and saw the board showed 62 1/2 ft clearance. We decided to wait as we watched the board. An hour and a half later the clearance was just a little over 63 ft and we decided to go……very slowly. As we started under the bridge our antenna started to drag on the bridge bottom. It has never done that before, but we continued and made it under with the antenna dragging the whole way. No pictures here as we were both watching the mast very closely.

We exited the Lake Worth Inlet to the ocean and turned south to Ft. Lauderdale. Even though there weren’t even white caps, the seas were rough and confused (coming from all directions). Sailor is a fair weather sailor and always lets me know he wants to get into the bed by going down the steps to the companionway and staring at me until I come.
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We were very happy to arrive in Ft. Lauderdale and motor up the New River to tie up at the New River City Marina along the Riverwalk. We walked across the bridge and had dinner at Briney’s Irish Pub and got a good night’s sleep.IMG_2659

Thursday we left under the 17th Street Causeway bridge opening and again turned south to Miami. This was a pleasant, calm motorsail and we arrived on ball 157 at Dinner Key Mooring Field after filling up with fuel at Crandon Park Marina for the trip to the Bahamas.
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As mentioned in the previous post, cruising plans are written in sand. The next good weather window to go to Bimini is next week and that’s when we hoped to cross. That was the plan. However, Mark had to work on the dinghy motor because when he moved it to the new dinghy before we left Stuart it tipped and oil got in it. Despite his best efforts to repair it, the motor is dead and we have to buy a new one. Mark was able to find exactly what we wanted in the Miami area, but it has to be ordered and won’t get here until next Wednesday or Thursday. The good news is we found out before we left, although we could have purchased a good outboard motor in Nassau. Also, this is a nice place to stay. One year we spent most of the winter on a mooring ball at Dinner Key when we were waiting for the boat to be converted to twin diesels from an electric hybrid system. There is a Fresh Market a few blocks away, lots of great restaurants, the best dog park we’ve ever seen nearby, and the marina has been updated with a new three story building and all new facilities inside. Also, there is a water taxi shuttle that comes to pick us up and drop us off from 0800 to 1700 so we don’t need our dinghy while we are here unless we want to be off the boat after 5 pm. This is good for us because until next Thursday we can’t use our dinghy. We could row in but being on Biscayne Bay, the waters are rarely calm and there is almost always a brisk wind. 

The shopping and eating area of The Grove has many choices. We headed straight for this one. Once we are in the Bahamas, Nassau is our last chance to go to a Starbucks.

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Below is a photo of Blanche Dog Park in Coconut Grove, a six block walk for us. The astroturf and recycled tire walkways make this the perfect dog park because even though it rained the morning this picture was taken, no dogs got muddy!

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Chris Parker, the marine weatherman whose forecasts we subscribe to, says next Tuesday and possibly Wednesday are good days to cross to the Bahamas and there might be one more opportunity before Christmas on December 24. I suspect we’ll be celebrating Christmas in Miami. Nothing new here. No matter how early we start, we have never made it to the Bahamas before New Years’ Eve. Weather and boat repairs always hamper our plans. One year we were almost to Bimini and our previous hybrid propulsion  system failed. We had to be towed back to Ft. Lauderdale and we made a successful run to Bimini a few weeks later. We’ve talked to a number of other cruisers who are here at Dinner Key waiting to go someplace. Almost every person has either said they aren’t quite sure where they are going or not quite sure when.  We know there are many people who would like to have this “problem” and we realize how blessed we are.