Monday, December 27, 2010

Spanish Wells

Friday 24 December – Monday 27 December

We make the decision to stay at the marina in Spanish Wells to wait out the front coming through after Christmas. The nearby anchorage (Royal Island) would be good holding BUT we would not have Internet access and we wanted to be able to do Skype calls on Christmas. As it turns out it is a very interesting island to spend Christmas on. It is a small island, only about a ¼ mile wide and 3 miles long, and not a “tourist island”, most likely because it's dry – no alcohol. It's income comes from its fishing fleet that supplies over 50% of the lobsters that are exported from the Bahamas, most ending up at Red Lobster. The fishing fleet are all off the week before Christmas until after the New Year to spend time with family. The colorful homes all have beautifully landscaped yards with a huge variety of flowers & trees. It is a pleasure just walking the streets & beaches, although on the 2 main roads running the length of the Island it is amazing how many cars & golf carts go zooming by, seems like everyone is running back and forth from one end of the Island to the other. On Friday afternoon we hear activity from the end of the Island so we follow the noise to see what is going on. Find everyone at the ball park, all the kids are participating in fun & games. Broken up by girls & boys and age groups they do different races. Such as sack hop, wheel barrow, running backwards, carrying egg on spoon held in the mouth, 3 legged race etc. etc. We stay and watch for a while and the little ones are SO cute & FUNNY !!! We learn about a Fire Works display planned for later in the evening. It is at midnight on Christmas Eve, which we think is a strange time to have a fire works display. Talk to a local and she says yes they go to the park up by the bridge (other side of Island) and party and then have fireworks at midnight. The park is actually on another smaller Island (Russel Island) at the top of Spanish Wells connected by a little 80' bridge. So we figure we will go check it out along with Sandy & Jeff on another sailboat at the marina. As we start walking down a little pick up stops to give us a ride so we pile in the back and he drops us off. The park is called Members Only as this is where the locals go to hang out and drink (BYOB). Although the island is dry, meaning they don't sell alcohol anywhere on the island, that doesn't mean they don't drink. Alcohol is sold on the nearby island of Eleuthera, and there is a local ferry that makes “about 30 trips a day” across the 1 ½ mile channel to the ferry dock on the other side that has a two story liquor store right on the dock. The Members Only have Christmas lights on the trees and have made a makeshift “party house” / shed with electricity, complete with stereo system, old refrigerator, stove, microwave, lounge chairs, tables & benches. On Sundays they bring a few TV's to watch football. We learn that the reason the fireworks are at midnight is this is more of an adult gathering and this show is just put on by a few locals and there will be another bigger display Christmas night. As it get closer to midnight more & more people have shown up and are all in a festive mood. The fireworks display is pretty impressive shooting up multiple ones at the same time. As we leave after the show the locals are partying strong, so we walk back to the boats. Christmas day is a beautifully sunny day, glad to be able to talk to & see family via Skype. During our afternoon walk we see the locals out at the ball park for day 2 of fun & games for the kids. After they open presents & go to church they all head back to the park to play. They have great participation, with good incentive since they all get CASH $$ for winning and even for just taking part in the race. It is fun to see the whole community taking part in these holiday festivities. Verify that yes indeed there will be another fireworks display tonight, this one around 7:30-8 right there on the beach behind the ball park. We get there at 7:45 forgetting we are on Island time so get to wait around over an hour for the show. We are entertained by a local band set up & playing behind home plate, and by watching the locals set up the fireworks. They do it a LOT different here, 1st I don't think there are any safety regulations they have to follow, and 2nd they do it all as a “Grand Finale”, setting off a whole lot of them together. For tonight’s show we are standing on the beach 50 yards away (upwind) from where they are being set off ! That is the closest we have ever been to a fireworks show, being able to feel and see them going off right over our heads, It was incredible! Sunday the front moves in and the winds are 25-35 knots, with just a little rain. Monday partly sunny skies but winds still howling, feels like you will be blown off the dock as you walk. We walk over to the Ocean side to see the wave action, finding one crazy guy out kite surfing. From the distance on the beach it is hard to tell how bad it is but we can see a lot of turbulence out on the water. The locals are all gathered again this time in the parking lot of the supermarket doing more fun & game activities for the kids. Can't believe the announcer still has a voice. Tuesday the winds should die down enough for us to head out, we have to wait for high tide at 2 so we will just go back to Royal Island Harbour to anchor out and head out early on Wednesday from there. Once again Merry Christmas to family & friends you were close in our hearts. It might be next year before the next blog update, so HAPPY NEW YEAR !! 2011 WOW time sure does fly.

link to pictures;

Friday, December 24, 2010

To Eleuthera

Saturday 18 December – Friday 24 December

We leave Marsh Harbour Saturday morning around 9 am under cloudy skies. Once out of the harbour we feel the winds picking up as we head over to Boat Harbour to top off with fuel before heading south. A little over an hour has passed as we approach Boat Harbour and the winds are blowing 20-25 and already starting to sprinkle. Docking at the fuel dock would be okay as the wind direction would just blow us onto the dock, getting off could be tricky. So we turn around and go back to Marsh Harbour deciding to wait until Sunday. Good decision as it rains pretty hard later in the day and Sunday turns out to be a beautiful day. As we pull into the fuel dock Sunday morning, the bow thrusters don't work, now we are really glad we didn't try on Saturday. We have a lovely sail down to Little Harbour, and are anchored around the point of the channel going into the Harbour. It is too shallow for us to go in with our boat so we go in by dinghy. Have a little walk around stopping at Pete's Pub for their famous rum drink the “Blaster”. Not a lot to see and or do here so we go back to the boat and re position ourselves at a better anchorage off Lynyard Cay for the night. Monday we have a 7 am departure and by 7:30 we are out the cut into the Atlantic Ocean. Another beautiful sunny day, seas are pretty calm as we go thru the cut then we have 1-3 foot rollers building during the day to 5-7 foot rollers as the wind builds up to 20 kts pushing us south. The winds are almost right behind us also so we are motoring with just the genoa sail. Of course with the rolling seas comes the wind that keeps changing from a little off to port to a little off to starboard, we lost count how many times Steve jibed the sail from port to starboard. We go south past the pass through the reef between Egg Island and Little Egg Island, since one of the guide books we have reports it shoaled, and go south of a wrecked freighter that grounded on the reef years ago before we turn east onto the bank. The change is dramatic, going from 1500 ft depth to 60 ft in the space of a quarter mile. By 3 pm we are anchored in the Harbour at Royal Island. All our previous concerns about construction interfering with the anchorage turned out to be unnecessary. They are still doing construction but there is plenty of room to anchor, and what a great anchorage it is. Tuesday Steve works on finding the problem with the bow thruster with no luck. He thinks it might be the circuit board which would have to ordered & shipped over. Go for a dinghy ride around the harbour after lunch then Steve works on waxing the boat. Wednesday morning Steve finishes waxing the boat then we head over to Spanish Wells where we've decided to go to a marina as there is no good anchorage and limited moorings. We are docked at the marina by 11 and guess it is the slow season as we are the only boat there with 39 empty slips around us. Go for a walk to find a place for lunch then make our way around the rest of the Island. It is a quite Island who’s main industry is fishing unlike so many other Islands in the Bahamas having their main industry of tourism. It is also a dry Island so no liquor is sold here so no beach front bars. Pretty beaches that we walk along, finding a guy teaching another how to motorized paraglide- that's hanging from a wing parachute with a motor and propeller strapped to your back – about the simplest form of flight, and according to the French instructor, the safest. The guy learning was not ready to fly yet, he reminded us of a young bird just out of the nest as he tried to inflate his wing and control it in the turbulent winds. But the teacher went up and we could not help but think of Sean & Holly & Elena & Joe the 4 people we know that would want to try this out. Find the ferry dock and get some info on the ride over to Harbour Island for Thursday. When we get back to the marina another boat as come in, a huge cat that we had seen moored next to us back in Hope Town during the Box Car Race. We did not get to talk to them long as he was on his way to the boat yard to see about repairs. He was on a mooring down in the Exumas (Farmers Bay) and the mooring line broke and their boat drifted onto the rocks! A lesson he learned the hard way and we now know is to dive to check your mooring lines to see if they are strong enough to hold your boat. He was very lucky considering as just a little damage to each hulls bow at the water line. He had a temporary repair done in the Exumas and came to Spanish Wells to have it fixed, one of the few places in the Bahamas than can haul out his 26 ft wide catamaran. In his dreams Wednesday night Steve thinks of something to check on the bow thruster and sure enough it fixes the problem. Come to find out it was a wire to a relay that he had knocked loose while cleaning out the engine compartment. Yeah an easy fix even if it took a lot of time & work to find the problem. Thursday we are heading over to Harbour Island. It is possible for us to take our boat over BUT, 1st you have to hire a pilot to help you navigate thru the waterway known as the Devils Backbone. It is a very dangerous passage with close encounters with the shoreline and coral reefs. We would not even think about it unless the sea was dead calm, which it is not, plus the fact that a pilot cost $70 each way. The ferry (which sometimes does not run due to sea conditions) allows us to visit the Island without the stress of taking our boat over, it is a fun ferry ride over and it gives us just enough time for a short visit to this BEAUTIFUL Island that we tour by golf cart. The commercials for Bahama vacations are probably made on this island. Thursday night as we are sitting in the boat (me writing this) we hear band music. We throw on shoes & coats (67° out) and follow the music. They are having a kids junkanoo parade, very festive in all their costumes and we get to pass homes along the way all decorated with Christmas lights. Friday, hard to believe it is Christmas Eve !!!!, we are in the planing stage of where & when to go next. We have time to get to our next destination (Nassau/Paradise Island) with good weather BUT then another front is supposed to come thru so we would not be able to leave to go on to the next destination (Exumas). Atlantis on Paradise Island should be a great place to visit BUT way to expensive to get caught there for a weather window. Decisions, Decisions and the weather factors that play into them. We wish everyone a MERRY CHRISTMAS, love and miss you all.

link to pictures;

Friday, December 17, 2010

Time in the Abacos

Wednesday 1 December – Saturday 18 December

The month starts with a sad goodbye to our cruising companions for the last 10+ weeks Jan & George Todd. It is hard with the cruising lifestyle to find another boat to travel with for so long. Their friendship & company will be missed. The first few days of December are spent on a mooring in Man-O-War Harbour waiting for Steve's shoulder to heal and waiting for a Fed-X package. The Fed-X package is our Satellite phone SIM card replacement that got fried by trying to put in too many unlock codes. The Fed-X was a next day delivery that went out on Monday from the US and actually arrived at Man-O-War on Thursday on the 4:20 ferry, pretty good for the Bahamas. By Saturday Steve is feeling a little better & we are ready for a change of scenery, so we head over to Marsh Harbour. We go into to town to visit some familiar places, and go to a Christmas festival we heard about on the cruisers net. There was supposed to be a shuttle bus going out to the fair grounds but our timing was off so we walked the 2+ miles out noticing that they are putting up a second traffic light. It wasn't working yet, it is at busy intersection so a good idea but it will confuse directions since now people will have to distinguish between the 1st or 2nd traffic light in town when giving directions. I'm sure the directions will go something like “go to the old light and turn left”, or the “new light and go right”, all the while assuming the person asking directions knows the difference between the old and new lights. The festival was interesting, they even had the Prime Minister attend & the kids got to sing to him. The newly rebuilt Maxwell's supermarket is open and it is like being at a super back in the states, with higher prices, but a great selection. After a few days in Marsh, the winds have died down and Steve's shoulder is doing even better. So we head over to Great Guana Cay & anchor in Fishers Bay. Steve rents a tank to dive and clean the bottom of the boat & change the zincs. He squeezes into his old heavy 3/4 mil wet suit and gets the work done, but the tight fit makes moving his appendages exhausting. We manage to peel him out of the suit which is now for sale, one of those oh yeah I guess I should have seen if it fit before bring it along moments. The next day we rent bikes and do a bike tour of the Island visiting familiar places & seeing some new ones.
On Friday it is decision time on where to go next. There is a BIG front predicted to come in Sunday night and last thru Tuesday. We have time to get down to Eleuthera & Royal Island our next destination, which would be a protected anchorage for the front coming in. BUT there has been some talk about construction going on and that there might not be room to anchor. If we can't anchor there for the forecast storm there would not be any other good choices to hole up during the storm. SO since we are not in a hurry and do not want to get stuck in a bad storm with no good anchorage we decide to hang around the Abacos. We head over to Hope Town and get into the Harbour to pick up a mooring. We have a couple of beautiful days to enjoy the Island before the front hits Sunday night. Just around 11 pm Sunday the winds pick up and we check to see how we are swinging. The dinghy hanging off the davits in back actually gets caught on the mooring line of a small sailboat behind us. We manage to free the dinghy and get it down and tied off on the side of the boat. But we're so close that now the davits are getting tangled with the small boat's forestay, so we get a short line and run it from the mooring line to the boat behind us, letting it drop back and giving us the extra 5 feet needed to swing clearly. By midnight the winds increase & the rain starts. We can hear it howling all night long with Steve getting up to check to make sure all is secure. They reported gusts up to 45 knots, and Monday they did not die down much. A beautiful sunny day 65-70 degrees but with winds 20- 35 knots. Tuesday a partly cloudy day with the winds dying down more but colder 58° the low & high only reached 65°. Wednesday warming up, winds calm, Sea of Abaco still a little choppy as we head back over to Marsh Harbour. Thursday we are back to shorts & tank tops. Hanging around here for next weather window to cross down to Eleuthera. Friday is laundry day, that means packing all the dirty laundry into a couple of laundry bags, loading them into the dinghy along with our dock cart, motoring to a public dinghy dock, unloading everything, locking the dinghy up, and walking ½ mile to the laundry pulling the dock cart behind, waiting for open washers (Friday must be washing day, the laundromat is packed) while Steve goes shopping for batteries and more groceries. The laundromat is a melting pot, with mixed languages spoken in loud animated but friendly voices. There is a group of 4-5 speaking some kind of patois that's a mixture of French, Dutch and English, that is totally incomprehensible, but they're having as much fun as they can, doing monumental loads of laundry – either they take it in for other families, or they've got one monster family. Back to the boat for lunch and afternoon chores (cleaning, engine maintenance, hull waxing – this is the reality of life in paradise). Saturday we will move down to Lynyard Cay to anchor out & be ready to do the crossing on Sunday. Saying goodbye to the Abacos & off to explore a new region of the Bahamas.

Link to pictures;

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ft. Pierce TO the Bahamas

Thursday 18 November – Tuesday 30 November

After 24+ hours offshore we are in the jetties at the Ft. Pierce inlet by 8 am, low tide has just started but the water at the bridge is still at 64'. So instead of going to the city marina by town like we planned we go to Harbortown marina where we had stayed in July and are docked by 8:30. We spend the next 6 days, doing boat projects, cleaning the boat & re- provisioning, doing laundry, all the things that are so easy to do in the States but not as easy once you leave. Like getting things delivered and walking across the street to West Marine. We reconnect with our traveling companions Jan & George on Wild Thing who traveled down the ICW and spent some time in Melbourne. They leave to cross over on Tuesday but I am waiting on some mail so we do our crossing on Wednesday.
On Wednesday 11/24, 8 months after leaving Kemah we are leaving the country once again for a much longer time. We are up early doing last minute email checks and at the fuel dock by 7:30, then fight the 3 knot incoming tide and are out the jetties by 8:30. It is a beautiful day, warm, blue skies, light 10-15 knot NE winds, 1-2 foot waves, by 10 the engine is off and we are sailing across the Atlantic to the Bahamas. We are steering to a course to allow for the Gulf Stream current but by 3 we are able to track on our direct course to Great Sale Cay. The winds start tracking more to the south so by 4 we are motor sailing and by 5 we have to roll up the genoa. We enter the banks as the sun sets, and with the darkness that follows we are reminded how truly beautiful a sky full of stars is. The almost full moon comes out a few hours later giving us plenty of light to see by. We had been into the easy entrance to Great Sale twice before so doing it at night was easy and by 2 am Thursday we were anchored and ready for a good nights sleep. We have trouble with our satellite phone, so are unable to use it but send out messages over the single side band radio that we had a safe & easy crossing. Thursday we have a short 6 hour sail over to Allens-Pensacola, and are anchored by 4, and are welcomed by Jan & George on Wild Thing. We have a great Thanksgiving dinner on board Ocean Star, thankful for this great opportunity to be living this dream lifestyle, and grateful to have friends to share it with. Friday we are underway by 8 am and arrive at Green Turtle Cay by 1. It is great to be back in familiar territory knowing which island is which and what is there. We learn that they have a golf cart Christmas parade & fireworks event planned for that night. We go back in for the parade that we were told started at 6 when in reality started at 7:30 – welcome to Island time. We enjoy the time walking around seeing the town all lit up with Christmas lights and have dinner at a restaurant on the main drag the parade will take. Well not too many participants only 7 carts !!! this on an island where golf carts are the main mode of transportation. Oh well it was pretty funny as I guessed there would be 75 carts, Steve & Jan both picked #'s in the 20's BUT George hit it right on as he said 6 carts would be in the parade. The fireworks show was totally different, they went all out and it was a spectacular display. Another great evening in the Bahamas. Saturday we hear on the cruisers net (VHF radio channel 68 in the Abacos telling of local events) that Hope Town is having their annual BOX CAR DERBY. We are underway by 9 am and sailing out the Whale Cut by 10 in calm waters. By 1 we have made it into the inner harbour at high tide and have picked up a mooring. Quick lunch & clean up and we are on our way into town, hitch a ride out to the south end where the race is and join the crowd for a fun event. The box cars are designed & built by locals and they go all out for these cars (see pictures). They also serve all kinds of adult beverages, the local favorite being the Swidgel = coconut water & gin. Coconut water just has a slight taste to it but some how manages to cover the generous portion of gin they put in the drink, very refreshing on a hot sunny day. On Sunday after Steve helps George unjam his main sail again we are out the harbour at high tide at 11 for a short trip over to Man-O-War Cay where we need to enter that harbour by high tide also. By 1 we are moored in the eastern harbour of Man-O-War. Steve dons his wet suit and cleans the brown water stain off the boat that we accumulated over our travels up to the Chesapeake. The boat looks so much better w/o a mustache. Jan & George have been coming here since 1985, so they have friends who have homes on the Island and Sunday night we go to dinner at Robert & Mary's house (Dragon Hill) who are down here for the holiday from Minnesota. Island tidbit - address's on the islands are house names, and once named by the original owner that remains the name of the house weather you like it or not. Sometimes the house is even referred to as the name of the person who originally built it even if you have owned it longer. Still like the idea of having a house name rather then a street name & #. Early Monday morning and for most of the day we get several rain showers. We manage to get into town for a short visit after lunch & between showers. At least we are getting the salt washed off the boat. Monday night plans are to go to Marsh Harbour to pick up Linda, a friend of Jan & George who lives here on Man-O-War, and who had loaded their boat up in Ft. Pierce with alcohol & a few other things she could not transport back to the Island by plane. We take the dinghy to her dock to get her 24' center console Boston Whaler to use for the 45 minute ride over Marsh. Steve is the first to climb up, he slips and his leg comes out from under him as he gets thrown back, he tries to grab hold & hang on to the ladder but winds up falling 6' down into the water wrenching his shoulder & chest muscles on his left side. We all have weathers on ready for the wet ride over BUT his fall has allowed the water inside his weathers so he is drenched inside & out. We use our flashlights to guide him to a staircase leading down to the water so he can climb out. Once we are all on the dock we are able to assess the situation, glad nothing is broken or cut but it is evident he is hurting. We get into the Whaler and use it to bring Steve back to Ocean Star where he decides that he just needs some dry clothes to change into and he can still make the trip. After a slight delay we are on our way trying to navigate the dark waters. It is a wet & bumpy 45 minute ride over. We get to Snappas dock where Linda is waiting, we all get onto the dock and go up to the restaurant to shed our wet outerwear and have drinks and dinner. Steve is putting on a brave face but he is hurting enough not to even try to change out of his wet clothes. After dinner we load Linda's luggage onto the boat wrap it in garbage bags to try to keep them dry and are off for another wet & wild 45 minute ride back to Man-O-War. George drops us off at Ocean Star from the Whaler before bringing Linda home. Steve gets out of his wet clothes takes a nice hot shower and some ibuprofen another stiff drink and off to bed. Tuesday Steve is still hurting, it will take several days for his mussels to heel, in the mean time he his moving slow. George has his own recent injury he is dealing with so he also has limited activity, and Linda's husband is out of the country, so the task of unloading her things she sent over on Wild Thing fall to the 3 ladies. We do a great job of hauling the 20 heavy boxes out from below on Wild Thing onto the Whaler off loaded onto the dock loaded onto a golf cart to get it up the hill to the house and unloaded there. Tuesday afternoon we relax on the boat while Jan & George are busy getting their boat ready to be left here while they go home to Dallas, Texas for a few months. Tuesday evening we dinghy back to Linda's house (Landfall) for a farewell dinner. We enjoy drinks on the beautiful deck at the outside bar, have a fabulous Lobster tail & Mahi-Mahi dinner (yes Dad I hate the Mahi-Mahi & loved it). Enjoyed another fun night with Jan & George as they get ready to leave the Abaco's for a few months. Plan & hope to meet up with them down in the Exuma's next year when they return.

picture link;