Most recent entries are now first.....so, just scroll down to the last one you read and work your way back up!!
05-14-2012 - WE"RE BACK in BRUNSWICK! Will soon post the entries from April 24 until our arrival. For now....here are some reflections on the season!
Departure – November 2011
Return – May 2012
Duration – six+ months
Places Visited – Georgia, Florida, Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Spanish Virgin Islands, US Virgin Islands
Thanksgiving Day – Arrival from Palm Beach in Great Harbour, Berry Islands, the Bahamas
Christmas Day – Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, the Bahamas, luncheon at Volleyball beach
Birthday - Cindy’s 60th (01-02-2012) – Mayaguana Island, the Bahamas. Wonderful family on Rivers2Seas...made me brownies and daughter made/colored a card for me! So thoughtful!
Adventure – doing 12 ziplines from top of mountain in Dominican Republic down to a waterfall.
Amazing Sight – watching a Mama whale with her playing, breaching baby for 30 minutes in the Bay of Samana, Dominican Republic
Beach – Big Sand Cay, Turks & Caicos – beautiful sand and wonderful beachcombing
Beautiful Home(s) – all the properties managed in St. John by brother in law, Eric. And, the two homes in Plain Bay, Black Point, Great Guana, Exumas Islands.
Best Time with Friends – meeting back up with Bob/Sharon aboard the trawler “Big Run”, in Plain Bay, Great Guana, the Bahamas.
Collected – some sea glass, a few shells, small driftwood pieces, buoys/floats and nets
Craziest thing – noisy birds at Big Sand Cay that kept us awake at night
Disappointment – the Turks & Caicos and their residents
Eye opener – submarine coming at us out of St. John River, Florida
Favorite New Anchorage – Salinas on south coast of Puerto Rico
Food – Puerto Bahia, Dominican Republic – local grown cocoa gelato, traditional Dominican breakfast with Dominican grown coffee
Hardest – rough trip on second day from Turks & Caicos to Bay of Samana, Dominican Republic
Interesting Locals - Dominican fisherman using primitive row boats and huge nets. They would slap the water surface repeatedly with their arms, to scare fish into the center of the net.
Irony – our uncanny, multiple sightings of “Quest” the trawler with Dan & Judy aboard, in multiple countries/locations
Island/city – Spanish Virgin Island of Culebra and Los Palominos
Lighthouse – south west coast of Puerto Rico, Red Point
Miko’s Best Buddy – in Black Point, "Duke"
Past time – beachcombing
Pride- the US Coast Guard came within hours to DR to handle the rescue of survivors in the Dominican capsized immigrant boat tragedy
Saddest Time with Friends – sailing out of Plain Bay, waving goodbye to Bob/Sharon aboard “Big Run”
Shopping – jewelry store by the ferry dock, St. John and straw market in Black Point
Tour Guide – brother in law, Eric’s wonderful introduction to St. John – so giving of his time and knowledge
Tragic situation – boat with 70+ individuals trying to immigrate from Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico capsized in bad weather. Approximately 40 folks drowned in the Bay of Samana.
Wildlife – pet cricket came aboard at Big Sand Cay, stayed with us to Brunswick
It was a very good, fun and safe season….let there be many more.
05-14-2012 - Monday
04-27-2012 - Friday
04-24-2012 – Tuesday, day six, Lake Worth, Palm Beach, Florida. Record cold this am for Palm Beach…all time record low of 53 degrees! But, it was nice sleeping overnight, cuddled up in a comforter. After sweating each night in the subtropics in the past months, it was a nice change. By noon, it was still only 71 in our salon. About 10 am, JAS, the pump folks called to say our pump had arrived. But, they were no help in coming up with a way to get it to us. “Lisa” said she would see what she could do. We hoped she would just offer to run it to us at the Sailing Club on her lunch break, as it was her error to begin with. By 1 pm, we still hadn’t heard anything back from these folk and that was frustrating. From our contact with our weather guy, Chris Parker this a.m., we decided our departure day from Lake Worth would be on Thursday. The winds were to be light and on our nose (from the north) if we left on Wednesday. So, we decided it would be fun to dinghy north and visit Peanut Island either this afternoon or on Wednesday. There is a bunker there that was for John Kennedy during the Cuban Missile crisis; a maritime museum; boardwalk; campgrounds; beaches and snorkel pond. So, sounded like the place was worth a visit and we had never gone during our previous trips to Lake Worth. We do try to be good tourists everywhere we go!
04-23-2012 – Monday, day five, Lake Worth, Palm Beach, Florida. This am’s priority was talking to the local company that ordered and delivered us the incorrect pump for our generator. Ken got JAS to re-order a new, proper pump and they were going to have is sent via UPS to their address. Hopefully, they could find someone to bring it to us at the sailing club on Tuesday & pick up the wrong pump they had sent to us. It was unusually cool overnight and in the am (50’s at night). By 10:45 am, it was still only 73 in the salon, unusual for April here. We decided it was nice enough to make the really long dinghy ride south, to the municipal docks at West Palm. It is a several mile trip. We were motoring along just fine, enjoying the sights. Then suddenly, half way into our trip, the dinghy motor died. Nothing….oh no! Luckily, the gas supply hose had just gotten separated from the gas tank…WHEW, these times always make one’s heart stop….especially being so far away from MTB…a long paddle home! We made it to the dock fine once the reason for our stalling was diagnosed. Once tied at the dock, we always walk to an open air street mall that has Macy’s, a bunch of restaurants and shops, a pet store AND Publix. Miko loved the parks and grass we walked through on our way and especially was happy seeing people. We window shopped and visited the puppies at the pet store. They had a white Shiba Inu/Husky mix male and boy oh boy was he cute. Up to me…he would have come home with us. He looked so much like baby Miko. Anyway, we continued on, puppy-less and I picked up some produce and balsamic vinegar at Publix. That was all that we needed as the boat was still pretty well stocked. There is a nice long commercial street area in WPB’s downtown with stores and open air restaurants. So, we went there to pick a place to have lunch outside since Miko was along. We found a Cuban restaurant….yum. I had Ropa Vieja with rice and fried plantains, Ken had a Cuban sandwich with red bean soup and plantain chips….all very very good. Once done, we looked but didn’t find a mailbox and I needed to mail a postcard. I went into one of the last stores (newsstand) we would pass before being back to the waterfront. When I asked about a mailbox/post office…they told me to wait while they checked to see if their outgoing mail had been picked up. Since it hadn’t been, they very kindly added my postcard to their pile. Nice, nice folks. So, our town business was done and we had a nice, uneventful, stall free trip back to MTB.
04-22-2012 – Sunday, day four, Lake Worth, Palm Beach, Florida. Overnight we got a little rain and the wind turned west but we were relieved that we didn’t see the really bad stuff that had been forecast. Key Biscayne saw 57 knots, and north of us in Jupiter, they had high winds. Local weather reported the high where we were at 37 knots, and that was great! Weather was bettering so we actually dropped the dinghy and went to shore. We docked at the PB Sailing Club again and took a good walk up to Family Dollar where we bought two umbrellas. Of course, while I stayed outside with Miko, it started raining. Once the umbrellas were purchased…rain stopped. We walked to the dog park that is north of the Sailing Club, but there weren’t any dogs there. Although, it was a nice walk anyway. Back to the PBSC, we talked to an older gentleman doing some boat woodworking. He showed us a picture of his schooner, a replica of a 1600s ship. She was a beauty and he said he was writing a book about her and the others built like her. On our dinghy ride home, a huge ray burst out of the water, showing his full, white under belly. Ever since the death of the Australian naturalist, these happenings cause some concern…those barbs are deadly! We saw Sara, Lea, folks on their dinghy coming in and waved. Back on board about 2:30 pm, Ken watched FSU vs. Miami playing baseball…the good guys (FSU) won. It still looked a little stormy out, so we stayed aboard the rest of the day.
04-21-2012 - Saturday, day three, Lake Worth, Palm Beach, Florida. Overnight was calm, with just a few sprinkles and we slept great, all the way through the night. This morning, the wind really started building and the anchorage was ROUGH. The wind direction was from the south and we had no protection from that direction. A number of yachts arrived this am and went into marinas nearby. We decided to empty the water we had collected overnight into our main tank. The empty tubs were sitting on the back deck of MTB once we were done. Sadly, later in the morning, the wind caught them and off MTB they went. We talked about dropping the dinghy for their retrieval, but it was rough and we decided it was best just to let them go. They were floating upside down through the mooring field just north of us the last we saw them. Luckily, they were out of the channel, so not hazards to navigation. Ken’s sister, Karen, called this am and it was nice to catch up with her. Winds calmed some midday, although we checked the radar and knew storms were about to cover the entire Palm Beach area. We heard reports that said the storms would have lightening, hail, possible tornadoes, and wind to 50-60 knots in squalls. We just hoped to get lucky and not see the worst of the conditions forecast. I am terrified of tornadoes while we are anchored out on the boat and lightening doesn’t make me too excited, either. I’m not sure about Ken, but I just felt like sitting ducks all afternoon, waiting for what comes and hoping for the best. The worst weather was to be later in the day, as well as overnight with some slight improvement on Sunday. It got somewhat calmer out about 1 pm, so we tried to get Miko to go out and “do her business” before the rains came. But, by 2:30 pm, still no luck…she didn’t know it was going to rain, she just knew it was windy out front! The old, classic motor yacht that had been anchored near us pulled up their anchor and came by us so close, it gave us some concern in the high winds. They went south, to the PB Yacht Club and tied onto the end of their dock. All morning, we continued to have high winds and gusts around 30 knots. About 5 pm, Lady B, a 146’ sail boat, absolutely gorgeous, anchored behind us, pretty close actually. Man, we knew if we dragged into them, our insurance coverage maximum would be woefully inadequate! They Rybovich Boat works dinghy came and picked up the owner/captain…we figured they had to go in and clear customs, as they were flying a “Q” quarantine flag. The crew busied themselves with inflating huge fenders, so we assumed they were going into the Marina at high tide a little later. Watching the Doppler radar on line, it looked like the storm was worse above and below us and not so bad heading toward us, that was good. About 7:45 pm, Lady B went on in to Rybovich marina, and I was glad to have one less thing to worry about if the 50-60 knot winds did come.
04-20-2012 – HAPPY BIRTHDAY (CINDY’S) MOM!!! Friday, day two, Lake Worth, Palm Beach, Florida. So nice to be able to both send my mom and email AND pick up the phone to call and wish her a very happy birthday. How great was that?! We made Miko’s day and dropped the dinghy…she was ready to go to shore. Storms were coming so we wanted to get in early. We had lunch and headed to the dinghy dock at the Palm Beach Sailing Club. Ken went in and paid to use their facilities and then we chatted with Lea (7) and Sarah (5). They were home schooled kids of other cruisers and were really nice. It had started raining so we were just hanging out waiting for the weather to pass. The girls loved Miko and were enjoying playing with her. At one point, Sarah asked if she could hold Miko’s leash and walk around the covered porch we were under with her. I was careful and watched as Sarah put her hand through the loop and had a good grip. I was walking behind the two of them for extra safety and in one quick moment, Sarah just let go of the leash and off went Miko. She ran so fast and went around the side of the clubhouse. It was fenced there, so I though all was going to be ok. But, then suddenly Miko turned right and was heading straight for Flagler, a busy street. I was running so fast and when I saw Miko heading for the busy street, I let out a loud scream “NO MIKO”. She slowed ever so slightly, but luckily, she caught the scent of another dog on a bush at the edge of the street. I was able to get between the street and Miko and got a lucky grab at her leash. Shiba Inus are known “bolters” and once they run, they typically don’t stop. The look on our dog’s little face when she took off told me that was true. I was so very scared of losing her or her getting hit by a car. I was so relieved when I got hold of her leash, I could have easily sat down right there and wept with my arms around our sweet puppy. But, I knew I had to get back to the sailing club. I knew it would be important to reassure Leah and Sarah that everything was ok and they didn’t do anything wrong. By the time I got there, their mom was outside with the girls. Ken said Sarah got scared, especially when she heard my scream. But, hopefully, we made it ok for them by our smiles and reassurances. Poor girls, I felt so bad. Since the rain had stopped, we decided to head out and walk south through the surrounding neighborhood. We had a nice long walk and got back to the dinghy by 2:00 pm. At about 3:30 pm, John at the P.B. Sailing Club called to let us know our package had arrived there via UPS…yea, our pump. Ken jumped in the dinghy to go pick it up. Sadly, once back with it opened, we found they sent the wrong parts….geez. Nothing could get done/corrected as it was too late on a Friday afternoon. So, we guessed we’d be hanging out here until around Wednesday to deal with this issue. We put up the dinghy when Ken was back, due to the weather forecast. And, this evening, the storms came through…..lightening, thunder, high winds, rough seas and lots of blinding rain. We put out two really large storage bins and collected about 25 gallons of fresh water…how fun! By 8:00 pm, the storms were through and the anchorage was calm as a mill pond. So, we went ahead and poured the rainwater in our main water tank, happy to have it! Ken Sr. called us this day and it was so nice to catch up.
04-19-2012 – Thursday, day three after double overnights of travel, past Great Isaac, in the Florida Straits/Atlantic Ocean heading to Lake Worth. As dawn broke, we were approaching the marked channel into Lake Worth Inlet, at Palm Beach, Florida. This, after dodging cruise ships, container ships, etc. all night…amazing amount of traffic. And, all the lights on shore complicated things even more, confusing as to what is a small fishing boat vs. a shore light. Just as we dropped our main sail, ready to make our approach to the inlet, a cruise ship that had been going back and forth behind us all night started moving the same direction. We called on the radio to confirm they were going in and the harbor pilot told us to pull in behind them and follow them in close, as there was another large ship that would be coming in behind us. So, we did as we were told and doing great until, right in the middle of the inlet, a “motor yacht” decided to throttle down and pass us on our port side, heading directly at the numerous fishing boats heading out of the channel this morning. What a goober…wish we got the boat name, but Ken was working hard to keep us safe in the strong current and the goober’s large wake. The goober made a drastic move to the port and we think he almost had himself aground. Luckily, he finally sped up and was gone so all we had left to worry about were the fishing boats all around us. We turned to port an headed up the channel that borders the west shore of Palm Beach in Lake Worth. Just as we did, we came head on with another large motor yacht. This one had a lady Captain and she stopped to allow us to move where we wanted to. We knew it was plenty deep just out of the channel, so we move there and allowed the other boat to continue north in the channel. We motored further south, away from the inlet and Peanut Island and picked a spot near where we normally anchor. This is in front of Rybovich Boat Works and we have always found lots of room and good holding there. We knew high, high wind and storms were coming so, we didn’t want to be in among a lot of anchored boats. We put out 125’ of chain and the anchored seemed to “hook” well…we can only hope so! We were anchored by 7:55 am and so glad we decided to make the crossing when we did….it was probably our most uneventful of all. After 8:00 am, once open, we called Customs and cleared back into the US! What a treat this was, compared to some of the hoops other countries make you jump through. We took down the Bahamas marine courtesy flag. We really knew we were back to reality as we heard sirens, leaf blowers, OSHA beep beeps, planes, jet skis, etc. on shore, as soon as we were anchored. Too funny. We had wifi and it was fun to surprise everyone that we were back in the States. We talked to Ken’s daughter Jessica and his sister Kim this day and that was great. We needed a new pump for the generator and Ken was able to get that organized for delivery Friday to the Palm Beach Sailing Club. They have a dinghy dock we pay to use and are the very nicest folks there…so accommodating. The squalls that had been forecast for this afternoon went north of us…we watched them on the Doppler Radar, so that was great. Our trip from the Bahamas was 48 hours, at an average speed of 5.2 knots per hour, a total of 253 nautical miles. And, boy we were glad it was behind us.
04-18-2012 Wednesday, offshore between Nassau, Chubb Cay, and Andros Island. We did our normal 2 hours on and 2 off watch schedule. When off, we have a sleeping bag on the couch in the cockpit that we sleep in. Funny, Miko started crawling deep down into the sleeping bag with whomever was off watch. Most times, she just stayed in there until one of us crawled back in with her. She sure was a good cuddle, and warm too! By 6:30 am, our sails were flapping and we were having trouble holding our course. So, we pulled in the jib sail and on came the starboard engine at 2400 rpms. We made it through the Channel about 9:00 am which was perfect timing. We couldn’t believe the number and types of other boats going through there, to and from the Bahamas….cargo, trawlers, yachts, sport fishers, sailboats…etc. Well, we made it through the Channel with no issues but glad we were cautious anyway. We had winds of 5-10 knots and nice seas. With the morning dawning after our night watches, the mood of the crew greatly improves and some corned beef hash and chocolate coffees didn’t hurt, either. We were supposed to have 10-12 knot wind the rest of this day, but we were seeing 1-2 knots as we crossed the shallows of the Great Bahama Bank. Although, by 4:00 pm, it increased to 7-8….but of course, right on our tail. So, we continued to motor sail all day and in the evening, we had both engines running at 2500 RPMs and were going 6.1 knots. This would be night two of our trip and we looked forward to arriving at Great Isaac, a pinch point in the reef before dark. This is where we would exit the Great Bahamas Bank and enter the Florida Straits/Atlantic Ocean. This was a place that we also did not want to go through after dark. So, once again we had to really be cognizant of our speed relative to the timing of our arrival at Great Isaac. We arrived at Great Isaac at dawn as planned and made our way into the Atlantic Ocean. We were surprised at the beauty of the lighthouse on Great Isaac, and hadn’t expected the island to be quite as large/prominent as it was. We had never heard any cruisers mention that this was so picturesque. We took some great photos of the lighthouse with the sunrise glow on its surface, very nice. There was a huge cargo ship on the other side of the island and we were having a really hard time determining what they were doing. We didn’t want to meet them head on in the narrow cut by Great Isaac for sure. Finally, Ken decided to be aggressive making a fast and obvious approach to the cut. We realized once we got closer that this ship was anchored and not going anywhere. Once safely by the island and through the reef, the first thing that struck us entering the Florida Straits/Atlantic was the unbelievable boat traffic that popped up on our radar. As evening fell, the lights of ships were all around us and lighted up the radar screen as well. Ken pointed out the “glow” in front of us this night….it was the US….ah, back to reality. Looking back toward the Bahamas, nothing but stars.
04-17-2012 – Tuesday, day six’s departure from Cambridge Cay, Exumas Land & Sea Park, Bahamas. High tide was early this day, so we decided to go out the “south” route from the mooring field as it was a more direct route, though shallow in spots. With the high tide, we knew it wouldn’t be a problem. We came in to Cambridge by rounding the west, then north and east coasts of Bell Island. We planned to get an early start but when Ken went up to unzip our sail cover, he noticed squally looking clouds to the northeast of us. We decided to wait just a bit, to make sure we weren’t going to end up moving out in the middle of a storm. By 8:00 am, we felt it was fine to leave and I released the ropes on the mooring ball. Just as we were moving, the catamaran anchored in front of us appeared to be about to pull up their anchor. But, we kept on and they just pulled right in behind us and followed us out the south exit. We saw 1.5 ‘under us at one point but we draw 4.5’ and knew this spot was to be 6-7’ deep so it made sense. We had no problems on the way out and the catamaran went a different direction. Once we were safely out into the deep water of the Bahamas Bank, west of Bell Island, we were ready to put up our sails. Although, we saw a good sized trawler approaching so decided we’d let them get past us so they wouldn’t be wondering what we were doing when we turned into the wind to set the sails. About this time, we hear “Meant To Be, Meant To Be, Quest here”……too too funny. We met these folks in the Dominican Republic and were together in Puerto Rico, Spanish Virgin Islands and St. John. We thought they were still in St. Maartin and were going to stay south this year. It seemed that we would pull in somewhere and they were there or would arrive shortly after us. These nice folks may be heading to the Jacksonville or Brunswick area to leave their boat to go to a family graduation. We just couldn’t believe it was Dan/Judy, really nice folks. They were headed to Highbourne Cay, the island north of our intended destination, Norman’s Cay. We all promised to stay in touch and marveled at what a small world ours truly is. When they passed, we pulled out our jib sail and were motoring sailing with one engine at low rpms, going about 5 knots per hour. We were talking about our trip, the upcoming bad weather in Florida, then the Bahamas. We knew we could get hunkered down for a good while as the weather went through. Finally, we looked at each other and said, ah, lets just head for Florida. So, we did a left turn into the Tongue of the Ocean, the water between the Exumas and Andros Island, put up our sails and turned off the engines. We knew we needed to make it to the N.W. Channel light in daylight, so we couldn’t go too fast or our approach would be in the dark. This is a “pinch” point between some reefs and the Great Bahamas Bank and we had never done it before. And, all our charts labeled it as “very intricate channel” so that got our attention and increased our stress levels. We certainly weren’t going to do it during a moonless night. Well, at times we were running between 6-7 knots, and that would make our arrival too early. During this time, Miko was emphatic that she had to “go”. That girl is definitely a boat dog…out with Ken on her tether, high seas and winds and she jumped down on the trampoline, straight to her business with no hesitation. We were so glad, as we never want her to have to “hold it” and be uncomfortable. She came bouncing back with Ken into the cockpit, totally proud of herself…..us, too! Luckily, things settled down later in the evening and winds were only 10-12.
04-16-2012 – Monday, day five, Cambridge Cay, Exumas Land & Sea Park, Bahamas. AH, USA tax filing day, this! We hadn’t filed our extension, but knew we get a reprieve if out of the country on the due date. So, we’d just deal with this issue on our return to the States and not worry about it. There was still some rain in the area, so we decided not to leave our mooring here until Tuesday. It was still windy and stormy looking, so why go?! We went to the beach again to exercise Miko and see if we spotted anymore sea glass, about 3:00 pm. We had a nice long walk, found only a few pieces of glass. On our return to MTB, we detoured over to Harbor Reach, to pay for our last day’s mooring fee, another $20. Luckily they do accept US checks as there are no ATMS on these remote, park islands and we were getting low on cash. We still had what we left home with, not having taken any additional out of the bank, so that was really good. We don’t find much to spend money on as we cruise (if I can keep Ken away from the liquor stores and rum purchases!). We buy fresh produce, a Tshirt or two, fuel for MTB/dinghy and a few souvenir/gifts, that’s about all. After making our mooring ball payment (hate spending this money…as anchoring is free!), we went back to MTB, put up the dinghy and prepared the boat for an early am departure. This means doing the dishes, putting away the rum bottles, making any food/drinks we may want during our travel, battening down the flat screen TV, putting away tools and other things that we had gotten out during our stay. We went to bed early, as we weren’t watching TV to save our volts and have to use the generator more than necessary.
04-15-2012 – Sunday, day four, Cambridge Cay, Exumas Land & Sea Park, Bahamas. Ah, I love Sunday’s as Chris Parker does not do his 6:30 am weather reports on Sundays…so I get to sleep in on these days. Normally I jump up, find my glasses, tune in the SSB/HAM radio, find my “weather book” and a pen and record the forecast for the area we are in (or may be heading to) for the upcoming week. Although, this day, I did get up for BASRA’s (Bahamas Air & Sea Rescue Assoc) broadcast. They give the weather for Florida’s east coast, the Florida Straits (between Fl/Bahamas), the tides in Nassau, and a three day forecast for three areas (NW, Central, South) in the Bahamas. Then, cruising boats (all HAM operators) in various locations around the Bahamas who have checked in give a report of their current conditions. They also report the number of boats in their particular location/anchorage that day. So, we get good information from BASRA’s forecasts at 7:20 am everyday. After listening this morning, I got ambitious and made homemade yeast rolls for our brauts, as well as homemade cinnamon buns…..yum yum yum. Fresh out of the oven, frosted and devoured when still warm is always such a treat. At 9:00 am, Ken started the generator, as all his buddies weighed in via email responses to him that it should be ok. Ken set up a drip system to collect the leak water and dumped it out every two hours vs. letting it just run down into the bilge. And, everything seemed to work just fine. We dropped the dinghy once again as Bill & Mary said they would like us all to come in to the beach closest to us to have some social time at 5:30 pm. Great idea, as everyone had cabin fever due to staying on board our vessels all day on Saturday. I made a platter to take in of fried plantains and pepperoni rounds topped with fresh mozzarella and fresh basil (from the garden at Sand Castle, thanks Jean!). We packed up our snacks, drinks, dog and toys and headed to shore a little early. We wanted to allow Miko to get some good exercise on the beach playing fetch, before the other folks arrived. This way, we knew she would be a better behaved puppy. This worked great and as others arrived, she greeted them, then just laid down with her belly in the cool sand. We were joined by the folks from: Miss Grace (Bob/Nonnie); Harbor Reach (Bill/Mary); Caribbean Soul (Dennis/Donna); Liesel (Elisabeth/Paul) and Aloha Friday (Ted/Nancy). A catamaran came in later and those folks also came to shore, but I failed to get their information and memory is failing me! The company was excellent, the food was a really good assortment and we all had a great time. Each person brought there own little table, some folding, some wood, some pvc to use for their goodies and drinks. We were treated to: nacho cheese dip with hamburger in it, spicy roasted pecans, my platter, a crab layer dip and various other dips, chips, crackers, etc. My platter was EMPTY post haste, and that was good to see. Miko smiled at all the attention she received and really was a good dog, surprisingly so with food around.
04-14-2012 – Saturday, day three, Cambridge Cay, Exumas Land & Sea Park, Bahamas. At 3 am this morning, we awoke to heavy rain and squalls. Funny though, after closing the hatches in our berth, we went back to sleep knowing we had nice protection in this harbor. We had our rain collection buckets out and in the am, we found them all full….about 10 gallons of water that we poured back into our main water tank! Yay….we live so frugally out here, water collection, solar power…we are “off the grid” for sure. The chartered catamaran that passed us coming into Cambridge Cay left this morning and we worried for their safety….seas where high and we worried that they were inexperienced. We put the dinghy back up this day and Miko actually frowned…yes, she did, really, honest. But, we promised her the dinghy would go back down again after the bad weather. It was a day of high wind, rocky water and staying aboard, reading and just chilling. Although, I made dark chocolate fudge this night and we knew that would be a treat for a few days! Buddies Terry and Craig both responded to Ken’s email about our sick generator and said that it probably would be fine to run it if needed even with the leak. So, we’ll decide whether to run engines when volts are needed, or a leaking generator. Not much solar power made this day as the sky was overcast so certainly no TV this night. We watched ½ of an old movie on DVD on the computer…but the volume made it really difficult to hear. So, not long after dark, we called an end to the day and went to bed.
04-13-2012 – Friday – day two, Cambridge Cay, Exuma Island Chain, Bahamas. This was a calm, cool day with clouds around. When Maerin (trawler/folks we met in Black Point – 2 dogs!) and a few others left the mooring field this am, we decided to move to a new mooring ball, further in. We were near the opening to the mooring field and knew the higher winds coming would make it more rough there than further into the protection of the harbor. We were getting to be pretty good picking up mooring balls so I don’t panic at each opportunity to do so now. Since I broke my finger the second time we tried a few years prior…I’d been a little gun shy. But, now, no fear! Ken maneuvers MTB slowly up to one, centering us with the ball and I cross my fingers and dip the boat hook in the water and hope to be lucky and snag the floating rope that hangs off these balls, This was the third time in this harbor and we looked like pros. We motored up, I luckily snagged the ball first try, Ken was forward immediately to help me run our ropes through the “eye” on the mooring line… and we were tied off…all just in a matter of minutes. Ken got going on the busted generator early and sadly, he determined the new pervasive leak could not be fixed with the parts we have on board. So, for now….no generator and no water maker (sadly, it runs off the generator). This was not good news…..caput for the rest of the season. Oh well…if needed, we can fire up and engine to generate some volts. And, we had about 80 gallons of water left so…we should be good until we get home or fixed, whichever came first. We put the dinghy down and took Miko to the beach nearest to our mooring ball. Cambridge Cay is located in the Exumas Land and Sea Park and dogs are not allowed anywhere except on the beach. (an aside…in St. John, dogs are allowed on trails, but not the beach). Our hosts in this mooring field told us that we could carry her on a short path across to the Exuma Sound side beach. That was nice. This is a “no take” park…no crabbing, no fishing, no shelling NO NOTHING! Ah, but, sea glass is truly garbage….they certainly shouldn’t care if we took some of it. So, we made that our mission…..look for sea glass. We found a small handful of pieces each so that kept our interest and Miko’s chasing her orange ball kept hers. We had a nice time and met two other couples while at the beach….one even had a D O G….Miko got to play with Rachel, a very energetic one year old chocolate lab. They ran for awhile and had fun. But, Miko was already worn out by the time Rachel arrived. So, after a little while, Miko actually just laid down, no longer wanting to play which I think was a first for her. She is almost 4 now so, slowing down a little. We chatted with two couples that also had come over to walk this beach. They were: Dennis and Donna from sailboat, Caribbean Soul and Rachel’s parents, Nonnie and Bob from the trawler named Miss Grace. This was nice and we talked about organizing a happy hour that evening. But, it just didn’t get done as it was getting choppy with higher winds in the afternoon. But, we were all planning to stay a few days so we knew we could do it another day.
04-12-2012 – Thursday, day eight, departed Great Guana, heading north. We departed from Plain Bay at 8:30 am with our mainsail optimistically pulled up. But, wind was light and variable this a.m.
We still were optimistic and once we cleared the point of the bay/land, we pulled out our jib sail as well. Sadly, we had to start one (starboard) engine at 1500 rpms to keep ups moving forward. We decided that we could at least be making water, so started the generator and the watermaker. Shortly after their start up, the generator overheated and shut down. Ken checked to see if we had pulled some seaweed or other greenery into the through hull, as that often is the culprit. Nope. He then checked the impeller and found that to be the problem…no water flow, bad impeller. Ah, the season of the impeller. We’d already replaced the dinghy and two Yanmar engine impellers so far this year. We would just deal with the new impeller once anchored, but no water this day. By 10:30 am, we were still motor sailing 3.5-4 knots per hour on 4-6 knots of wind. By 1:00 pm, we dropped both sails and motored toward Bell Island. There were a number of “skinny” places on our route along Bell and into the mooring field at Cambridge Cay. At one of them, another Leopard Catamaran came running up on our stern and appeared to want to pass. So, we just pulled back on our speed and let him go ahead. This Cat was chartered, so we tried to stay out of their way, thinking that it was probably an inexperienced captain. We just took our time working our way through to Cambridge Cay and when there, took a ball nearest the beach. Not long after we were settled, the “hosts” in this park mooring field came and told us the ball was only for vessels of 65’ to 150 max feet. Well, the ball said “150 max” and we are 42’. But, moot point. We were told we had to move back out to the only ball available, at the beginning of the mooring field, not up in the well protected harbor. Oh well. We were more exposed to the high winds that expected in the coming two days. Oh well. But, it was good practice, as we moored twice this day and we are getting better at it every time! We were settled in by 2 pm and the park hosts came and collected our $20 a night. We paid this day for two nights…wanting to see what the weather was coming. We saw a big shark behind the boat this afternoon. Ken worked on the impeller replacement in the generator until 6 pm but never got it “right”, we still had a pervasive, dripping leak. So, he finally gave up, hot, tired and sore….time for a rum punch.
04-11-2012 – Wednesday, day seven, departed Black Point Settlement to move south to Plain Bay, Great Guana, Exuma Islands, the Bahamas. We went back into town once Adderley’s market opened at 9:00 am to get some eggs. I wanted to take Key Lime pies to dinner this evening but only had 5 of the 6 eggs I needed! We also went across the street to the straw market to see if we could pick up a few gifts and two Black Point tshirts before leaving the settlement. Ken got a yellow and I got a green “Black Point Homecoming” tshirt. When we arrive in this anchorage, the locals we know always tell us “welcome home”. Love this place. By 10:30 am, the anchor was up and we were headed south to Plain Bay anchorage, just 3-4 mile trip. We emptied our “poopie” tank once far enough off shore. And, once we were in the empty and calm Plain Bay, we started going in circles. This was on purpose as we’d wanted to calibrate our compass since our lightening strike. But, to do it, one has to have a lot of room and calm conditions. We turned 360 degrees twice and we were sure that anyone watching must have thought we were crazy cruisers. Jean from the Sandcastle got on the radio as we headed in to anchor with a “welcome back to the neighborhood”. We explained what we were doing with the compass calibration and she admitted she thought we had a very strange anchoring technique. I put together and baked two Key Lime pies once we were settled in the bay to take to dinner. Maja joined us a little later and after lunch we all went to shore for some beach combing. We found some buoys, a little sea glass, a sea bean and a hamburger bean. We all got some good exercise in addition to our various finds. The tide was going out and that left ours and Maja’s dinghies far up on shore. So, we helped each other pull our dinghies down, off the beach and back afloat. Nice to have help for a change, as it is usually just Ken and I doing the heaving. We got back to MTB and readied to go to dinner at the Sandcastle. We needed flash lights for the trip back, our drinks, the pies, and Miko’s water, bowl and pick up bags. Jean insisted that we bring Miko and we had no qualms as she has always been a good dog. We arrived in little bay right at 6:00 pm, thinking tide was coming in, we went as far in as possible. We carried Miko up to the house so she wouldn’t have sandy paws in the house…..later we determined this was a mistake. We weren’t in this beautiful icon of a house long, before I hear Ken yelling at Miko. She had don a tinkle on their shag rug. I was mortified. Jean/Doug said they used to have a dog and that she must have smelled “Oliver” …a Vizsla. Ken cleaned it up as best he could but I felt awful. I kept Miko on her leash, on the tile, with me at the far end of the kitchen island for the rest of happy hour. I just wanted to keep her away from the rug. Miko has never done anything like this at other friends’ houses so we just never anticipated such a thing. It really upset me. Dinner was great (Mexican) and Nancy brought some really good homemade coleslaw. Jean showed the girls her jewelry making room and it was incredible, organized and cool. The whole house has amazing views from the castle turrets. Jean made beautiful shell embellished mirrors for each of the bathrooms and they were great. The tide finally had come in enough for us to get the dinghy floating by about 9 pm…so we took our leave of these 2 wonderful couples who have built homes on Great Guana at much expense and effort. It was a great night, except for our ill behaved pet letting us down for the first time ever. We were back in time to watch American Idol for the first time since the prior season and that was fun. They were down to the top 7 already.
04-10-2012 – Tuesday, day six, Black Point Settlement, Great Guana Cay, Bahamas. This am, I unloaded and rearranged the freezer to make room to freeze three loaves of our coconut bread made by Lorraine’s Mama. I was surprised by how much good stuff was still in there waiting for us to eat. I found two more packs of chicken breasts, two beef roasts, 8 steaks, a bunch of brats/sausages and a number of packets of fish. I told Ken we could probably grill every night until we arrive home in Brunswick and that was good. Nice to know what was down in the bowels of the deep freeze! We were able to coordinate a date at Scorpio Bar with Peg/Frank from O’brien’s Landing and Jean/Doug from the Sandcastle. These are the nice couples who live in the beautiful houses in Little and Plain Bays…south of the settlement. Tuesday is Cruiser’s Happy Hour at Scorpio’s 4-6 pm. After Miko got her “Spa Day” treatments…brushing, nails cut and flea medicine we decided to go back to Sea Glass Beach…on the Exuma Sound side of the island, SE of the Settlement. We didn’t find much, a little driftwood, one round buoy, a couple little buoys and a couple pieces of sea glass. Back to MTB at 1:40 pm, just waited to go into town for happy hour. I had written a postcard to a sick friend, so we went by the Post Office and mailed it when we got to town. And, we dropped off a bag garbage in the trailer designated for us cruisers, making a donation for its handling in the slotted cash box. We met our friends at Scorpio and grabbed a table. Joining us were folks they knew, Dan and Nancy from Maja, a monohull. Before happy hour was over, the crews of both Maja and Meant To Be had been convinced not to leave Black Point going north on Wednesday but to move down to Plain Bay to have dinner at the Sandcastle Wednesday night. The Sandcastle is the most recognizable and photographed home in the Bahamas. To be invited to see it was an offer neither crew could refuse. We got back to the government dock and the dinghy as a local arrived, looking for someone to meet him at his mooring ball and bring him in to the dock. So, we had one more thing to do before we got back to MTB. But, it is nice when we can help out one of the local residents. And, we were still back to MTB (and Miko in her crate) before dark….we reflected on what a nice day it had been.
04-09-2012 – Easter Monday, day five, Black Point Settlement, Great Guana Cay, Bahamas. Wow, what a beautiful morning with a calm anchorage, blue skies, aqua water and still cool, 78 degrees. We do so love this place and waking up here with the rooster on shore crowing is great. We had a nice breakfast as usual and then, a treat, due to running the generator Sunday afternoon/night to watch TV…HOT WATER showers! But, it was time to bite the bullet and pack up the laundry to go see Ida at Rockside Laundromat. Since we were here in December, they had their waterside dock rebuilt as it was wiped out during the summer hurricane (Irene I think). So once again, one can dinghy right up to the shore in front of Rockside Laundry, walk up a few natural stone stairs and be inside. This is the best laundry in the Bahamas, and better than most in the States, too. We are so glad we went in when we did as the best thing happened….Molly and Sammy were there. Their folks, aboard Maerin (trawler) were doing laundry, too. Molly, a beautiful brown lab and Sammy, a 13 year old fluffy black dog were sights for sore eyes for Miko. She has not played with another dog for so long and she was ready. Molly was 4 years old and about Miko’s age. They were really good with one another. It was so good to see Miko so happy and smiling, yes she smiles. The laundromat’s owner, Ida, was as sweet and helpful as always. It is so funny….she always remembers Miko’s name from season to season when we make it here to visit….ah, but not ours! That’s ok…as we are glad she enjoys Miko. We did three BIG loads of T-shirts, shorts and underwear. We hadn’t done a load of wash since the first week we were in St. John, at Eric’s house. So, almost every tshirt, pair of shorts and underwear we had on the boat got washed this day! We decided not to do towels and sheets, as we were close to home and still had clean extras to use for the rest of the trip. We met the folks on Dream Catcher (Island Packet) who are fulltime cruisers and Jerry/Ruth from Sundancer (30’ power fishing boat) from Key West. Jerry and Ruth had never done any “cruising”…just got a wild hair to jump on their fishing boat and cross over to the Bahamas. They were fun and having a great time. So many folks prepare and prepare to go cruising and then there are the others who just jump in their boat and head out. We knew one guy in the Brunswick Marina a few years ago who read every book, studied everything he could, worked on his boat, etc. for over 6 months. He finally pulled away from the dock and we were worried about him. The marina told us not long after he left that he made it down the ICW as far as Titusville and called it quits. He was just too stressed and must not have had a lick of common sense. Sad really. Ken saw Anne and Bernard from SiWa in town. We met them in Mayaguana, saw them in Georgetown and they arrived here on Sunday. Ken told them we had wifi on the boat, so they moved closer to us in the anchorage to see if they could get a signal, too. We ordered bread from Lorraine’s mom while doing laundry…4 coconut (most wonderful for French toast) to go in the freezer to take home and two wheat. The bread wasn’t to be ready until 4 pm, so once done with the laundry, we went back to MTB. We had the last two slices of my most recently baked Key Lime pie for lunch…health food of course. Its always a sad event when we eat the last of one of my pies! But, we had the stuff to make several more and we knew it wouldn’t be too long and we’d have another. Although, we also used the last of the cool whip (frowny face). School was out this week in Black Point for Easter/Spring break so we heard and saw a lot of the children laughing and playing on shore. It truly is nice to be in this tight knit community. Ken went back into the settlement at 4:00 pm, arrived back to MTB with 6 fresh, warm loaves of homemade Bahamian bread.
04-08-2012 – EASTER Sunday, day four Black Point, Great Guana, Exuma Islands, Bahamas. Wind was from the N/NE, 16-20 knots, so the anchorage was nice, skies blue with white puffy clouds….and CCCOOOLLLLEEERRR. It was only 78 degrees this day by 2:00 pm…so much nicer the prior night for sleeping, too. About 9:00 am, Miko started going crazy, running around the decks, whining really . She saw the “Potcakes” on the beach. They are the pack of 5-7 wild Bahamian mongrels that roam this island. She thought she was at the dog park and we were being really mean for not letting her go play. But, they are rather wild, typically not aggressive with humans, but no one is really sure about another dog. And, they have no health care, so no inoculations for rabies, etc. Nope, sorry Miko, no playdate with those guys. When the Potcakes had finally left the beach, again about high tide, we went to shore at the bay beach. This time we walked over to the NE beaches and walked a very long way, as it was cool. We walked further north than we ever had in prior visits here so we saw some new beaches. That was good and we found some buoys, sea glass, one HUGE sea bean and a few shells. We had to get back to the dinghy before the tide got too low, keeping us from getting us back to MTB. At low tide here, the water leaves the bay and one can only see sand for about ½ mile from shore out to the deeper water/anchorage. So, if you don’t play the tide right, not getting out in time, there is only beautiful white sand between you/your dinghy and your Catamaran. We made it back in perfect time, getting back on MTB by 12:30 pm. Though it was Easter, boats came and went, north and south this day. Unfortunately, the catamaran named ”Ti Bay” was not one of the vessels who left this day. He must have decided he wanted to anchor close enough to us to be able to say “Bless You” if one of us sneezed. We were not sure why he anchored so close when he moved from the other side of the anchorage on Saturday. But, he pulled along side of MTB, only about a boat length off our port side. When he put out his anchor/chain he was falling back into an anchored monohull sailboat. He could have just moved a little further off our port side and would have been great with no worries about us being in front of him and the monohull directly behind. Well, no running round without being fully clothed while he was with us!! About 1:15 pm, we heard a guy on the VHF radio call “3N, 3N, 3N” They are a company at Staniel Cay just north of us that rent golf carts, etc. Well, 3N answers on the hailing channel and suggests they switch to another working channel. So, we followed them there as the VHF is a “party line” and everyone is nosey and listens. The guy gets on again and says “ah, 3N, the golf cart I rented from you guys seems to have gone on a walk about”. A hesitation and 3N responds “ah what do you mean”. “Well, I parked it earlier and just went to check on it and it was gone”. Hesitation and 3N responds “well, I guess that is something for the Police, or I guess I could get out and ride around to see if I see it anywhere”. The reply….”ah, I guess I’ll just have another beer and think about it later!”. The response from 3N while choking back their laughter…”yes, you do that, sounds like a good idea”. We didn’t hear anything more. Only in the islands, mon. Must have been a lot of spring break kids around this weekend, as the VHF radio seemed to have more “inebriated” chatter than is usual for around here. Since we were here in December, 2011…two houses had been built on the hill, right next to the house owned by Raymond “Bread Boy” and Ulrisa. One looked to have two units in it and was a bright green, the other a single home, painted yellow. We couldn’t believe they built these structures so quickly being roofed and dried in completely. That was quick work on an island with very few resources. Not sure if they are to rental homes or being built for local residents. The dredged materials that were being brought from the Bell Island Marina’s construction site to Black Point in December had become a “mountain” on the northwest end of the bay. It rises up about the topography of the island and was not in the least bit appealing. But, we understand the government promised the Settlement a new, state of the art medical clinic if the residents here agreed that Black Point would accept the waste from Bell Island’s project. Not an attractive scene as one sails by, though, for sure. And, the controversy surrounding a marina being built in the “protected” area of the Exumas Land and Sea Park has not subsided. Though everyone has been told that the Sheik doing the project was “grand fathered” and hence allowed to do the development as he owned the property before it was annexed into the protection of Exumas Park. Most locals still believe their Governor/Government got paid off.
04-07-2012 – Saturday, day three Black Point, Great Guana, Exuma Islands, Bahamas. The storm front was through but the winds had not clocked from SW back to N/NE as was forecast. The morning was nice, though. And, not long after our coffee, the winds started moving, changing direction as the front passed. This was great as we had very nice protection from the Island in the new direction, N/NE. We were happy to know we could drop the dinghy and finally get Miko (and us) some shore time. We were on the bay beach by about 9:00 am, high tide. Miko remembered the beach and got up on the bow’s inflatable tube on the way in, standing on the edge, all four feet…..crying with excitement. She has had some fun times on the Bay beach with various cruiser’s dogs through the years….Sky, Freckles, Windy and Duke…a few of them. We guessed she figured they would all still be here to play with her. Sadly, no other dogs were around, but she ran with her Frisbee and her orange ball… so all was good. We walked to the Bahamas Sound side of the island to beach comb on the beach that lies south east from the bay beach. We found a really nice fishing buoy with a rope net around it, sea glass and a few shells…a good day! Miko had a blast and seemed to feel as we did….”back home”! We were back to MTB about 10:30 am, worn out, but content. A lazy day/evening aboard….watched the Masters (come on Phil!!), grilled some huge chicken breasts and then watched “To Kill a Mockingbird” on Direct TV. Neither of us had ever seen it nor remembered reading the book, so we enjoyed seeing this classic.
04-06-2012 – Friday, day two Black Point, Great Guana, Exuma Islands, Bahamas. During the night the wind built to 10-15 and clocked back around to the south. When we woke this day, we had pretty big rollers as the wind was more SW. This day’s forecast was not a cheerful one and a bad front was to come threw in the afternoon, with the worst of it arriving in the “wee hours” of this night. This am, our weather guy reported a high probability of our having a squall, with lightening and wind of 50-65 (yikes) knots. During the day, the wind stayed S to SW, the very directions we had no protection from in this anchorage. By 11:30 am, the wind was 17-20 knots and the rollers were building. A number of monohulls left, including the two anchored closest to us. That was good. I thought that we have a “bad weather God” looking out for us, moving these guys away with high winds coming. We have gotten pretty good at anchoring and just cold hope MTB would hold through the storms with no problem. But, we do worry about the experience level of folks anchored around us. I always have to remind myself, they are why we carry good insurance! The wind was to clock back to the North, North East sometime this day and we hoped for it to happen sooner, rather than later. We were anchored near the north shore of the bay/anchorage and the land would provide good wind protection once the direction went to the north. We couldn’t drop the dinghy this day as it was so rough. So, we knew we’d have to get Miko comfortable enough to “do her business” on a front trampoline before the storms arrived. At least it was sunny this day and that always makes these rough, rocky days more tolerable. We read, did some trip planning and ate, that’s about all we could do. The wifi signal we were grabbing was in and out, frustrating more than anything. This afternoon, though bouncing, we tried to watch more of the Masters on TV. It was nice to have our satellite and Direct TV working once again, now we were back far enough north. Weather was fine all afternoon and evening. Winds were still SW to W but, nothing untenable and the anchorage was not bad. We watched TV and about 10, Ken went outside with Miko…..and that’s when saw the thunderstorms north of us. The sky was lighting up pretty good. So, we closed all our hatches in the salon/galley and went to bed…years past…we would have stayed up until the front passed. We did talk about taking the hand held VHS radio to bed with us, in case someone who was dragging into us could wake us up! But, we both agreed, that this was not necessary unless it got really squirrelly through the night. About 11:50 a.m., we had a squall, winds picked up and rain was hard. So, we closed the hatches in our berth and went back to sleep. Ah, what a differenc a few years of experience makes….we slept like babies and knew our anchor would hold and our vessel would be just fine.
04-05-202 – Thursday, day four in Georgetown, departed and arrived Black Point, Great Guana, Exumas Islands, Bahamas. We were motoring out of Kidd’s Cove, over to Elizabeth Harbor with our mainsail up by 7:00 a.m. We were out of Elizabeth Harbor, in the Bahamas Sound by the time the “Cruiser’s Net” began, at 8:00 a.m. When called, we announced our departure from Georgetown, not sure they would hear us as we were north by a few miles. But, no problem and we said our goodbyes. Once out of the channel, we had both our sails out, the jib with one reef, and we were SAILING! Yay! At 8:30 am, the “fast ferry” passed and everyone on board waved wildly. The fast ferry comes from Nassau and since there are good flights from everywhere to Nassua…a lot of folks finish the trip to Georgetown via the ferry, vs. booking another flight. By 8:45 am, we had 7 knots of wind and our speed over ground (equivalent) was 4.3 knots, no engines. Our trip this day was 52 nautical miles so we needed to run 4-5 knots to get to Black Point in daylight. By noon, winds were still light, so Ken pulled the jib out the rest of the way and we were running about 5 knots per hour. We had our trolling lines out and hoped for Mahi. We had always had good luck by Adderley Cut, between Lee Stocking and Leaf Cay. Around lunch we were there…but no fish this day. We were out from the “structure” on the bottom and in deeper water than usual, to keep our sails full. Bummer. Boats passed us in both directions this day….some of the names: Finally Fun, Miss Alice, Miss Betty, Sea Salt, Interlude, Pretty Penny and Distant Drummer. There was a little wind chop and the sea swell greatly diminished during the day. By 3:00 pm, though, we had to pull in the jib and fire up the engines. At 4:00, we dropped the mainsail. The wind clocked all over the place this day….s, w, nw, n, ne. So, really it was light and variable. We had a Canadian monohull trying to “cut us off at the pass”…so we decided just to slow down, turn into the wind and drop our main sail. Figured this would give him time to get out of our way and we wouldn’t have to deal with him at Dotham Cut. So, once both sails were down, we decided to motor in closer to the shore of Great Guana. We hoped that by riding along the “shelf” structure where the deep water (thousands of feet) dropped to below 100’, we might catch a fish. This is normally where we find the buggers. And, sure enough about 4:30 pm, one line went.ZZZZEEEEEE….”fish on”. Well, we landed a barracuda and were so bummed, as we don’t eat them. Although, the Bahamian locals do! Luckily, after we covered Mr. Barracuda’s eyes with towel to calm him, trying to retrieve our hook….he went flip flop, threw our hook and slid off the back sugar scoop into the sea. That was a good thing. We pulled in both our trolling lines as it was getting late, and we needed to head into Dotham Cut. This cut is in between Bitter Guana and Great Guana Cays and allows transit from the Bahamas Sound to the Bahamas Bank. Luckily, both the tide and wind were going with us vs. being on our nose. So, as we made our way through, our speed with the current went from about 5 knots, then 7 knots…then to OMG 9.2 knots. Yes, we flew threw. Once in the Bahamas Bank, we turned south and motored into the anchorage at Black Point Settlement. We passed the trawler that passed us during the day named “Finally Fun”. He had announced his departure from Georgetown on the Net, just after we did ours. Now here in Black Point, too, he yelled over…”sure took you a long time to get here, we’ve been in for 2.5 hours”! I yelled back, “yes, but we burned a whole lot less fuel”! He hollered back “hey, its only money!”…funny, nice guy. There were about 14 boats anchored, but our favorite normal place was wide open. So, we dropped the anchor and let out a whole bunch of chain due to bad bad bad weather coming the next day. It was so nice to be in BP again and we do feel like locals as we have spent so much time here over a number of seasons. The wind was still light and variable after we anchored and everyone was pointing every which way…looked funny. A nice happy hour, a green flash, and watching some of the first round on the Masters on TV topped off yet another nice day.
04-04-2012 – Wednesday, day three, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, Bahamas. This morning we were up and listened to weather reports and the Cruiser’s Net. Sweet Caroline announced their arrival in Georgetown on Tuesday..they were with us in Mayaguana, John and Carol, nice folks. Then, it was time for ERRANDS, ERRANDS, yuck. We went to the Library first, paid the $3 membership to join so we could use the book exchange. We carried 19 books in with us and brought about that many out. Then, we ventured on, to the Liquor store. Ken picked out his RUM but their computers were down and they told him to come back in an hour. So, back to the dinghy dock and we motored to the south side of Lake Victoria, landed the dinghy and took our propane tank to the parking lot in front of Eddie’s Edgewater Restaurant. This is where Clarence with the propane truck comes to do refills. We were 40 minutes early, but that also made us number one in the line, so that was good. While we waited, Ken walked over to the Shop Rite grocery store and bought a loaf of Bahamian bread. We talked with a lot of folks from many boats while waiting. We saw Damon and his brother again, from Mother Jones during the wait. There was an armada of dinghies that arrived along the sea wall, throwing their propane tanks, up and over to land. And, by the time we got our propane, there must have been twenty other folks with tanks in line behind us. From there, we went back to the north edge of Lake Victoria and Ken took our dinghy gas tank up and got it filled. Then, he went back to the Liquor store for his rum and their computer was happily back up and running. So, we were done…propane, gas, books, bread and rum….a good morning. Heading out of Lake Victoria, back to the anchorage we laughed, as we saw that MTB had been surrounded by Catamarans of all shapes, colors and sizes! We guessed everyone had come over from the east shore anchorages for propane! Once we were back aboard MTB, we thought about moving over to an anchorage on the north end of Stocking Island. This would get us nearer to where we would leave the harbor and save about an hour travel time in the morning. But, being lazy won out and we figured we’d just pull up anchor at first light in the morning. The trip to Black Point, Great Guana Cay is about a 52 nautical mile trip, and that distance does make a long day. But, we’ll fish and sail, then fire up the engines if required to get us there before dark. Ken lubricated our little hand truck we use for laundry, propane tanks, etc. as corrosion was making it difficult to unfold it to its open position. That was a good boat job done this day, in addition to all the day’s errands. We felt good though, as we had diesel and gas fuels topped off, propane was refilled, our water tanks were both near full, we had new books and food a plenty on board. We had enough of everything for the remainder of the season. So, what else was there to do but to enjoy a few slices of the Bahamian bread we bought this am and wait for happy hour!
O4-03-2012 – Tuesday, day two, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, Bahamas. Well, this day marked month five since our departure from Brunswick, Ga and we wondered just where the time had gone. Anyway…they burn at the dump in the evenings here, so early this am, the smell was not all that pleasant as the wind was bringing it over the anchorage. But, not too bad. These out islands have to deal with both their own trash as well as that brought and left by cruisers. We really do try to minimize what garbage we create…leaving as many container boxes (ie the carton with packets of hot chocolate or instant oatmeal) at home, we crush our cans and only drop our garbage bags where authorized. We listened to the “Cruiser’s Net” and announced our arrival back to Georgetown. It cracks us up how we feel like we are in a Planned retirement community and listening to the day’s activities in the “home”. Guess for some of the cruisers who stay here all winter, it is like their winter retirement home. Anyway, this day was go to town day so we dropped the dinghy this morning and headed in. First, we went to the small beach in Kidd’s Cove, landed the dinghy and Ken ran our trash over to the dumpster provided for cruiser garbage. Then, off we went into Lake Victoria where Exuma Market provides cruisers with a dinghy dock to use to come to town. We had a very happy and excited Miko as she loves seeing people and they seem to love her. But, boy were we ever busy! We went to the Post Office to drop off some post cards. Then, we went over to my favorite little gift shop to pick up a Bahamian made gift. We walked through the straw market to see if they had anything of interest or any new tshirts. Ken went in the Hardware store and got some batteries and diesel fuel additive. We went to another gift shop where there was nothing of interest and then over to the liquor store that was closed for inventory. Next up, Ken checked out the bakery and they really didn’t have anything we couldn’t live without. Then, finally to the grocery store from HELL. The Exuma Market is the second best food store in the Bahamas (outside of Nassau). So, while Ken had a Kalik (the beer of the Bahamas) next door in the openair bar and watched Miko, I went to the Market to pick up a few things. We needed some produce and a few staples, but not much. I was excited to get to shop in a nice grocery store, the first time in months. WWWEEELLL, for some reason, it was a zoo. Folks (mostly rude cruisers) ran into my cart, some would just block the aisle until it suited them to move. And, the most sad part was that when I spoke to many of the locals residents, smiling saying good morning, very few were friendly back. Everyone was grumpy. We had not experienced this in prior visits here and it was a disappointment. Not sure if everyone was just fed up with the cruisers as it was near the end of the season, or what. And, of course, the check out line was LONG. So, by the time I got out of there with my $51 of produce, etc. I was ready to get out of Georgetown! Miko had a great time on shore, meeting everyone. Ken met a nice guy while having his beer named “Honda” who gave him a book to read. We got back to MTB and Ken re-installed our Direct TV satellite dish and got our service re-activated. So, that was good as we had about watched all the old movie DVDs we had on board. We’d been too far south for a signal in prior weeks, but we knew we had watched TV in Georgetown in the past. This was a good thing. I called “Clarence” and found out the propane truck would be across from Eddie’s Edgwater on Wednesday at 11:00 am for propane refills. We decided in late afternoon to go back in and check to see if the liquor store was back open again. We found that they would be done with inventory and re-opening Wednesday at 10 am. So, we walked over to the other grocery store as I still wanted some Nutella and hope it wouldn’t be $8+ there as it was more the “local” store. But, they didn’t have any but they did have some good sandwich meat, plantains and bell peppers so, picked them up and we headed back to MTB. We guessed our Wednesday morning would be filled with shore errands again, as well.
04-02-2012 – Monday. Departing Calabash Bay, Long Island on day four of our arrival. Listened to the weather report from Chris Parker on the SSB/Ham radio. He abruptly excused himself to “close a window”…a little strange. When he came back on, he explained that there had been a skunk outside and it was B A D! Funny. This morning’s winds were flat calm, the seas like a mill pond. We decided to head to Georgetown anyway with the thinking that it would be a good time to run the watermaker and we could do some trolling/fishing. So, by 8:50 am, we were out of the anchorage, after dealing with our chain being wrapped around a rock. But, no real issue, just a little extra maneuvering to get us loose. We had got the watermaker running and had two trolling lines out. Wind was 2-8 knots and we were motoring at 5.2 to 5.4 knots. We do so hate to motor! But, soon….it was “fish on” time. Sadly, by the time Ken got the sucker reeled in….we only had a head….dang shark. Luckily we didn’t lose a “good” fish, just a barracuda. We were trolling along a ledge with structure and rather deep…stupid Barracuda wasn’t supposed to be jumping on our hook! So, lines back out, making water, motoring noisily along (motors, generator and watermaker). Soon, the zzzziiiinnnnggg sound again, fish on! This one was giving Ken quite a fight and we so hoped to have a Mahi/Dolphin fish. We got him in and found a 10-12 pound Yellow Jack….with great big ugly looking eyes, that one! But, we got him landed, squirted him with vodka in his gills for an instant death and through the lines back out. When we hadn’t caught anything else for awhile, Ken decided to go ahead and filet the Jack, so we had him in the freezer before it was time to make our turn at the waypoint into Georgetown on Great Exuma. We shut down the watermaker after making about 50 gallons of new water…yea! As we were heading toward the anchorage areas in Elizabeth Harbor, since we arrived early and there was so little wind, we decided to go into the marina to fill up our diesel tanks. We called and they told us the fuel dock was full and they would call us when it cleared. So, we basically drifted in that direction, hoping timing would work out. We finally ran out of room between us and the marina so decided we needed to anchor and wait. So, we threw out our anchor in Kidd’s Cove in front of Georgetown and the marina (new ownership now calling it “Exuma Yacht Club”). Of course, not 5 minutes after we did the very nice guy at the marina called and said it was ok to go in. Durn. We motored over to the fuel dock, landed and tied up perfectly with no “docking” incidents, which is always a fear of mine! We took 92 gallons of diesel for $547 and departed, again without incident…a perfect in and out….no million dollar motor vessels damaged in the process! We hadn’t filled up with diesel since Ponce, P.R. on the way to St. John, so not too bad. We re-anchored in Kidd’s Cove and were happy to be in safe and sound…more fresh water, diesel fuel full and a fish in the freezer. While we were enjoying an extra early happy hour as our reward, a dinghy came by and yelled “is that a Shiba?”. Yes, yes it is. We invited the folks aboard. They were Damon and Laurie from Austin, Tx aboard a Gemini cat named Mother Jones. They are a younger couple and have figured out how to have fun before working 25-30 years to retirement. He is a composer, cool and she a political consultant. Nice folks and we enjoyed their company. SiWa was anchored nearby and they came by on their way to a friend’s boat to say hello again. They are from France, having circumnavigated and are headed to the US then flying back to France for six months. A nice day this was!
04-01-2012 – Sunday – APRIL FOOL”S DAY, day three Calabash Bay, west shore Long Island, SE Bahamas. Calabash Bay with light and variable winds and an overcast sky. Although, it was still 80 degrees in the salon by 8 am with 81% humidity. We decided after Saturday’s foray into shore, this day we would go early, before the high heat of the day. So, not long after breakfast (fresh made banana nut muffins), we headed to the beach. Wifi was really weak this am, so no luck doing any of the research we’d hope to do, nor could we do some necessary online banking. Ken got out our stargazer’s book so we would be better prepared this night to know what we were looking at in the evening’s sky. One page actually showed the entire layout of the stars as of April 1, at 10:00 pm. Not that couldn’t be any more perfect a guide for us! Miko had started chewing on her back toenails, so a reminder it was Spa Day…brushing, nails cut and monthly meds…heartworm/flea prevention. She has really calmed over that last few years and sits and allows us to do what we need to keep her nails, etc. properly groomed. It is so very hard to believe that she will be 4 years old this summer. During our time on shore this am, Miko was a possessed dog, chasing the Frisbee with abandon, throw, fetch over and over. Ken said he was worried she was going to pass out. But, if we tried to stop, she was a wild child and begging to keep playing. Once she finally had enough, we walked back toward our dinghy. We met a nice family of four, two young boys, who were vacationing at the Cape Santa Marie resort north of us on the beach. They were from Lake Placid, NY…nice chat with them. Back to MTB, weather started to change. The wind was clocking and increasing and the seas were getting rough. This bay is not the place to be with any from the southwest to west to north…and that’s just what we had. Luckily, the wind was 12-15, or it would have really been uncomfortable. Before the seas had more time to build, we decided to put the dinghy up before things got too rough to do so. Good decision…got her up and things really started to deteriorate. But, we were the only boat in the anchorage and we knew the anchor was very well buried, so no worries. And, through the evening and late night hours, the wind got back around to N/NE and we had better protection and seas were better. That was good.
03-31-2012 – Saturday – day two, Calabash Bay, west shore Long Island, SE Bahamas. We slept great in this beautiful, calm anchorage and were very appreciative. Everyone left us alone in the anchorage this morning. And, quite a number of boats went by this day, going all different directions…N toward Conception Island, SW toward Georgetown and south along the west coast of Long, probably to Thompson Bay….all popular cruiser destinations. So, we enjoyed the parade as well as the solitude of having this huge bay and beautiful beach to ourselves. We had internet and phone access again and of course, with that we also had to come back to reality somewhat. We had a message that repairs were needed to the HVAC on a rental house we own in Brunswick, GA and since they couldn’t reach us, the property manager had authorized them and the work had been done. That was a $1,302.86 reality check! Next, we found emails from two of our wonderful neighbors telling us that a section of our home’s metal roof had blown off and needed work. So, we looked up our roofer’s name and sent that information back to the good folks in the neighborhood (thanks Robbie and Thomas!). They had offered to call him and coordinate getting necessary repairs done. Oh well, not all that bad in the big scheme of things so, we decided nothing more we could do on either topic. All we could do was “Forget about it”! So, after lunch, we dropped the dinghy and took Miko to shore for promised beach playtime with her Frisbee. Our dog absolutely loves chasing her ball or Frisbee and will wear herself out doing so….fetching and bringing it to us, over and over. But, that is great, as a well exercised Shiba Inu, is a very contented and calm Shiba Inu. All day it looked as if it might rain, but we never saw any. We were hoping for a fresh water rinse for MTB, but nothing during the day. Once back to MTB after our walk on the beautiful beach at Calabash, it was time to do some boat chores. Ken scrubbed MTB’s hulls as they were fuzzy again (green growing stuff) and had a few barnacles that needed removal. I scrubbed the part of our back steps (sugar scoops) that stay in the water. They too get discolored and fuzzy. It was HOT HOT HOT here this day, warmer than anywhere we’d been this season. We normally see about 78-80 degrees in our salon during the heat of the day….been that for the past several months. But, here this day, we saw 86 on the salon thermometer….whew. Miko laid in the shade of the mainsail, on top of MTB in the breeze…smart girl . HOT showers this day as we motored on Friday…always a treat when we have such hot water. No green flash this sunset, as there were low clouds on the horizon that blocked the possibility. We sat outside after dinner and a movie to listen to music playing at the Cape Santa Marie Resort and do some stargazing. Orion was right in front of us, and the Big Dipper aft. The moon was so bright this eve, that it diminished the brightness of the stars some…but still a treat. The water was so calm, the moon so bright, we could clearly see the sea bottom under us, rocks, grasses, etc. and that was incredible. Even the shadow of the dinghy on the bottom was an interesting sight. It was just us, alone again this evening. A catamaran and a monohull came this afternoon, but they both anchored far north of us on the most northern coast of this bay. So, we enjoyed our solitude…knowing soon we would be in Georgetown with 140 other boats (frowny face!).
03-30-2012 – Friday, a.m. offshore, Bahamas. We were doing our two hours on watch and two hours off all night. And, at the start of the 2 am watch, we both agreed, we needed more speed if we were sure to make our destination of Calabash Bay on the west coast of Long Island before dark. Sadly, we had to fire up the other engine and ran both at 1800 rpms the whole rest of our trip. By 7 am, we were off the coast of Rum Cay and Long Island, in between the two. It was about 24 nautical miles west to Long Island’s east coast, or east to Rum Cay’s south coast. We were enjoying our coffee with hot chocolate stirred in when the sun came up. Our speed this morning was 5.4 knots and we had averaged 4.7 nms per hour for the two days. Wind was down to 6 knots from the SE and we were still 48 nms from Cape Santa Marie, at the top of Long Island where we would turn south to the anchorage at Calabash Bay. By 1 pm, we found ourselves 14 nms from the Cape, motoring at 5.5 knots and we knew there was no chance we’d be sailing any the rest of the trip. Miko had done great on Thursday and through the night. By this afternoon, she was getting restless, as we too, were. After rounding the Cape and getting well away from reefs that fringe the top of Long Island, we turned MTB into the wind and dropped our mainsail. We left it up through the night as it was helping us slightly with speed and holding our direction. So, overall for our two day trip, we averaged 4.9 nautical miles per hour in winds that were much less and never in the direction as several forecasts we had checked. The good news, by 5 pm, we found a beautiful sandy spot to drop our anchor; it “hung” beautifully; there were only 4 of us in Calabash Bay; we had a mild breeze of 7 knots (ah, from the NW!;) it was happy hour; we had got a WIFI signal with our extended reach antenna; AND we saw a green flash. Ok then, glad we came!
03-29-2012 – Thursday, departure from Mayaguana, SE Bahamas. Time just flies out here. It is so hard to believe that this was our sixth morning in Mayaguana. We were rested and once again ready to make some progress north. We both joked we were ready to get back to a place where we could access the internet from the boat. Ah, priorities! In Abraham’s Bay, it is a mile into the government dock and a good hike into town. We are so spoiled…loving to put up our range extender antenna and grabbing an unsecured wifi signal from the shore. We pulled the mainsail up half way to get it past the sail bag lines. It is easier to raise the rest of the way up once MTB is in larger seas and stronger winds we get the difficult part out of the way in calm conditions. It was low tide, so we carefully inched our way through the four long miles of coral reef strewn bay, back to through the opening in the reef and out to deep, safe water. Funny, we have sailed in 6’ foot waters, with 1.5’ only under our hulls and in the Puerto Rico trough, with 50,000+ feet under us and sailing is still sailing, feels about the same. One really can’t imagine the depths we have seen this season on our charts as we have traveled about. Two other vessels left about the same time this a.m. but went out another break in the reef, heading south to the Turks. We had blue skies and a warm, clear day. There was to be 12-15 knots of wind this day from 070/090 (NE/E) with an 8’ swell with an 8 second interval. Well, we had 10 knots of wind from the SE (frown) and the swell was as predicted. By 9:40 am, we had cleared the NW point of Mayaguana….called “Devil’s Point”…so we stayed well away! By then we had 8 knots of wind in an ok direction so finally the one motor we were running was off, the jib out and we were putt putting along ok. We were treated to a great Green Flash with this evening’s sunset, so that was good. Seas moderated by dark and that was good. We ran the generator for two hours this day and while we did, we fired up the water maker as well, putting 25 more gallons of fresh, RO water in the front tank, yea. By midnight, winds were mild and still SE, the wrong direction. So, we were getting further off course trying to stay in the wind and sail. So, we decided we had to roll in the jib and start an engine. We ran the starboard engine at 1800 RPMS and started getting back on course and making better progress. Sadly, we were burning fuel and running an engine when the forecasts wouldn’t ever made us think we would have to….disappointing! Oh well…..its sailing and nature…two things that aren’t really all that predictable.
03-28-2012 – Wednesday, day five, Abraham’s Bay, Mayaguana, Bahamas. Since our arrival, we “clocked” 360 degrees on our anchor/chain. We were now back to N/NE wind and early this day, the winds were 16-20 knots, making the anchorage rough and uncomfortable. Everyone stayed put this morning, no departures and though a few dinghies were down, we weren’t seeing anyone go to shore. The government dock was about a mile from the anchorage as it gets pretty shallow between it and us. So, in the higher winds, the ride into town and back is pretty choppy, hence pretty wet, too. A family (mom, dad, two little kids in life vests) went by in their dinghy to visit Tortue de Mer (Canadians), behind us about 10:30 am. The sun shining, the skies were blue and that helps make these roaring winds, “hunkered down” days nicer, easier to go through. We had sustained winds of 20-25 this whole day, diminishing toward evening. Some of the southbound (to Turks/D.R.) boats were discussing departing just before the loss of daylight this evening. We doubted any of the northbound folks would leave this day. Wind was to be down to around 12-15 in the morning, so the wind chop would be down as well. Although, there would be a large NE sea swell 8’ with a 10 second interval if the forecast was correct. Following the weather and trying to make progress toward a destination is the most frustrating part of our cruising lifestyle. One has to figure out distances to be traveled, what direction one needs to be going, will the wind be from a favorable direction, when/where there might be squalls and where to anchor for safety from the weather conditions for each specific day. To do this, one has to rely on forecasts that are incorrect as often as they are correct. So, it’s a proverbial “crap shoot”. But, we make our best decisions and hope for the best. Sometimes all things work perfectly….other times we find ourselves in less that ideal conditions. Luckily, we are fortunate enough to have a world class vessel that we can trust in the most difficult of situations. We always say…the weakest link is the resolve of the crew. And, we typically worry more about Miko than ourselves, to assure she is comfortable and not experiencing any stress. We had no worries this day though, as looking through the viewing window in our dinghy on Sunday, we verified our anchor was totally buried, perfectly hung in sand. So, with our 100+ feet of chain and our big ole anchor, we were hanging tough through the high winds. Funny, our first few outings as new cruisers, these conditions would have made us so nervous we wouldn’t sleep in our bed, kept our clothes on all night sitting in our salon on “anchor” watch. We have gained so much experience and respect for our vessel and equipment, that now we sleep like babies every night, even in these high wind conditions. That is good. Mayaguana once had a US Naval station with an 11,000 foot runway. The base is now gone, but about 5,500 feet of the runway are still usable. “ BahamasAir” now has infrequent flights to this location. Although, this was day five and we had yet to see a plane come or go and we were anchored off the bay’s north shore, along which the runway runs. This island has few people and not much to offier. There are a couple small settlements, Betsy Bay and Abraham’s Bay; a fishing lodge and the airport. Batelco (phone company) has an office that is open 7 days a week in Abraham’s Bay and seems to be the “heart” of all happenings. Anything one needs to know, the answer is obtained either at the Batelco office or by calling “Skully” on the VHF radio. We often ponder folks’ livelihood on these isolated islands. There are few paying jobs such as those employed at the school, a nurse at clinic, one restaurant, two tiny bars, a little store with nothing in it, Batelco workers, the government Administrator’s office, Customs & Immigration personnel, fishing, but not much else. So, a few folks have a routine paycheck, but not sure what everyone else depend on for their livelihood, sustenance.
03-27-2012 – Tuesday, morning four, Abraham’s Bay, Mayaguana, Bahamas. It was nice to wake up knowing we were “legal” having cleared Customs/Immigration. First thing this a.m., the trawlers that arrived on Monday afternoon departed. And sadly, SiWa left us this a.m. We tried calling them on the radio to tell them “Bonjour” but couldn’t raise them. We will either catch up in another anchorage…or send them an email to stay in touch. One of the hard parts of this cruising life is meeting nice folks and not knowing if one will ever see them again. We have done a good job at keeping in touch with those folks to whom we have felt a real connection and hoped this would be the case with the crew of SiWa. This day we decided to go back to the north shore to do some more beach combing and to give all of us some more exercise. We timed our arrival on the north shore for high tide, easier to get to and from as it is fringed by a small reef. So, by 10:30 am, we were on the beach throwing the ball, watching Miko run up and down the beach until she was totally worn out. Once she was content, we walked west first, to pick up three buoys we left on shore Sunday. We also found some green fishing nets we thought would be cool decoration on our Brunswick dock. After we took our bounty back to the dinghy, we walked some of the shore to the east. Not finding anything too interesting and knowing tide was going out, we decided to head back to MTB for yet another lazy afternoon of reading, snacking and boat drinks at happy hour. A bunch of boats arrived this afternoon and we went from only three of us to being surrounded this day. Manatee, Highland, Torque de Mer were the new boats closest to us. Miko was zonked out all afternoon, a happy and well exercised pup. This afternoon, a local guy named Scully got on the VHF and offered his services…island tour, water, fuel, rides in from the dock…whatever he can do to help the cruisers. Nice. Sounded like a cool guy. The winds were to pick up this evening to the 20s and to be a sustained 20-25 all day on Wednesday. Ken checked our wind instruments at 5:00 pm and the wind was up to 16 from the NE at that point. So, we figured most of the folks here would stay anchored tomorrow and hunkered down with us. We heard that the wind was to be 10-15 on Thursday and that would be great for us to move north. Although, the seas were still supposed to be high. We’ll have to see.
03-26-2012 – Monday, morning three, Abraham’s Bay, Mayaguana, Bahamas. Customs/Immigration’s office was to open at 9:00 am this day. But, due to “island time”, we figured we’d go in around 10ish to allow them to get in, make their coffee and be ready to see real people. We saw the folks from the blue monohull from France go in earlier. We packed up our documents, passports, etc. and headed to the government dock. It gets really shallow on the approach to the eastern shore of this bay and as a reminder, one follows scrape marks in the sea bottom to the dock, almost like following the center line of a marked highway. Some other boaters have done some real damage to their engine propellers on their way into this dock, for sure. Clearing into the Bahamas, the “rules” say that only the Captain of a vessel may go to shore/Customs. Others on the vessel are to stay aboard until the Captain has successfully cleared the vessel in. Well, it is about a mile in to the government dock and about a half mile walk to town. We decided we would all go in, Miko and I would walk the beach and wait at the dock while Captain Ken got us legal with Customs/Immigration. Miko sure didn’t it one bit, when her “Pappa” left the two of us. We walked the beach and then sat in the shade of a treat at the dock. A few local residents were out fishing and came by to pose for a family picture with their catch of the morning… a tiny barracuda and a tiny “chad” fish. Too funny. John & Carol from Sweet Caroline came in while we were waiting for Ken, they too, going in to clear through customs. The folks from the blue monohull came and sat and chatted with me/Miko awhile. Anne/Bernard from SiWa are from France and have sailed around the world. She spoke good English, he very little..but oh, what a very, very nice couple. We swapped boat cards and since we were heading the same direction, we hope to stay in touch. They will be leaving their vessel in Jacksonville this summer, going back to France for six months. After awhile, Ken re-appeared with a dozen eggs, a head of lettuce and news that MTB is once again legal to cruise for 365 days in the Bahamas. He did have some issues clearing as we didn’t have any paperwork showing our departure from Puerto Rico (done by phone) and we hadn’t checked in to the Turks, as we weren’t near a port of entry. And, when we left the Bahamas from this locale, the Customs office personnel didn’t return after New Years before we had to take advantage of a fleeting weather window to get to the Turks. So, Ken was informed he hadn’t properly paid his $25 departure fee in January. We had been told that checking out was really not necessary and have never heard of a departure fee unless flying. So, after being escorted into the local “Administrator’s” office, a call to the Customs folks at Great Inagua Island and payment of another $300 for a cruising permit, we finally processed in. This time, we were given 365 days to cruise which has been unheard of in recent years. Most cruisers get 90 or 120 days initially and then have to go into another port of entry to beg for an extension. One just never know what one will face in these situations. Each country, each office, each official may have their own agenda! We didn’t mention Miko here and they did not ask if we had a pet. We had all the proper forms in November to clear her in…but now, who knows. And, not once in the 5-6 years/times we have cleared into the Bahamas, when we declared we have a dog have any of the officials ever wanted to see the forms we so diligently obtain to keep Miko legal. Oh well, for this return visit to the Bahamas….we guess she is an illegal immigrant. At least we’ve cleared in, have eggs and lettuce…making it a very fruitful day. Back to MTB, the yellow “Q”, quarantine flag was replaced with the courtesy marine Bahamian flag. A number of new boat arrived this evening, including two large trawlers.
03-25-2012 – Sunday, morning two, Abraham’s Bay, Mayaguana, Bahamas. Well, it felt great to once again wake up at “home” in the Bahamas. And, this being Sunday, there wasn’t a 6:30 am weather report that we needed to get up for. So, we actually slept in until after seven and that was a treat. We woke to an additional boat anchored with us, a good looking bluish turquoise monohull. They were too far from us to see their name, but we thought the flag they were flying was European, possible French. We were the only Catamaran in the anchorage this whole day. We needed to clear customs and they are open M-F 9 am to 5 pm. So, until that was accomplished, legally we were not to go to shore. But, Miko really needed exercise so we decided to chance a landing on an un-inhabited portion of the bay. Just north of where we anchored is a tiny bay we visited when we were here before in January. There were no people, no roads, etc. so we felt that Miko’s need for exercise and getting to land was important. So, we dropped the dinghy and motored over to the beach. We walked a long way along the shore to the west, a direction we hadn’t gone in our prior visit here. We looked for shells, sea glass, sea beans, buoys, nets, etc. as we love finding treasures. This day, one sea bean, one hamburger bean, some purple and melon colored shells, one green buoy were our “booty”. It felt good to be off the boat and Miko loved chasing her beloved “orange ball” once again with abandon…a happy dog. When heading back, we went over to our neighbor, Sweet Caroline, to say hello. Met these nice folks, John & Carol and found that they have lived full time aboard for 4 years. Two hurricane seasons they stayed in Trinidad and two in Luperon, Dominican Republic. They arrived here 6 days prior, on Monday, and hadn’t been able to get their motor on their dinghy as it had been so rough. So, they hadn’t yet even been into town, but planned to go to Customs on Monday, as we did. So, we agreed to catch up with each other on shore on Monday. Back to MTB, we had a usual quiet afternoon/evening aboard.
03-24-2012 – Saturday, off shore toward Mayaguana, S/E Bahamas. At least the squalls had disappeared and were no longer a concern in the early a.m. hours. Although, our new issue was the high winds we experienced overnight. The wind wasn’t to diminish as we thought and we were going too fast and were worried we would get to the Bahamas in the dark. Sun rise was to be 6:52 am this day. The anchorage we were heading to, Abraham’s Bay is strewn with coral head/reefs so one needs daylight and eyeball navigation to maneuver through. We just kept going, hoping for the best, hanging on tight at the helm. The wind chop waves and sea swell were banging into us at an angle that was making our ride uncomfortable. This actually was unusual for us, as MTB typically affords us a nice smooth ride. Now, what about Miko though all the high wind and rough seas? She just curled up inside the sleeping bag with whoever was not on watch and slept, laid back boat dog that one! We had no engines running, double reefed the mainsail (makes it smaller) and rolled our jib out just slightly, to “hanky” size for assistance in holding our direction. Other than stopping, drifting, taking another course, etc. we’d done all we could. Well, it all worked as it should! We dropped our main sail at first light and turned into the bay channel. Ken noticed it was exactly 6:52 am, the exact time for this am’s sunrise…pretty good timing. The trip inside the reef from the entrance to the anchorage near town is about 4 miles. As we approached, we were surprised to see 14 boats this a.m. in this remote and usually un-busy place. As we were still heading in, 4 of those boats passed us, going out. By the time we were in and anchored, only 7 of us remained….”was it something we said?”. There was a good travel window forecast for this day and the next, so folks were taking advantage of it to move. Not us, we knew we would be in Abraham’s Bay until at least Monday, as we needed to visit and get legal with Bahamas Customs and Immigration. Then, who knows where we’ll be heading. This afternoon, we celebrated being back in the Bahamas at happy hour with Rum/cokes with lime.
03-23-2012 – Friday, morning six, Big Sand Cay, Turks & Caicos, British West Indies. This day was a traveling day and we planned a trip of about 72 nautical miles to French Cay, another u-nihabited island on the west side of the Caicos Bank. So, up at 5:45 a.m. ready to go. But, as the skies lightened, we could see a number of storms around us. We confirmed their location and direction on our radar. We listened to another weather report, watched the skies some more and decided we would good to go. At 7:15 am., we had up the mainsail and the anchor as well. The day’s forecast was for 18 knots of wind from the east, with gusts to 23, diminishing through the day, evening and being nice on Saturday. We figured our worst conditions would be early, while we were fresh and it felt good to be underway again. Our first leg took us north 22 miles to a cut into the shallow waters of the Caicos Bank, just north of Big Ambergris Cay. The second leg, across the bank, would be 27 miles, through shallow and coral reef strewn waters. Eyeball navigation is required on the Caicos Bank and one should not just rely on one’s charts. Our first leg found us “flying” with winds to 27 knots several times, nothing under 20 knots. Of course, the seas were high but at least they were hitting us on our starboard beam and the ride wasn’t too bad. We averaged 6.7 knots for our first leg of about 22 miles in approx. 3.5 hours. We made our turn onto the Bank just north of Fish Cays. Since the Bank is so shallow, the waves weren’t quite as bad and our ride improved. Because of our new direction, the jib was flapping and we had to roll it in and start one engine. So, by 11:00 am, we were going only 5 knots and running the engine at 1800 rpms. Then, the squalls came and by 1 pm, we were surrounded. We can watch squalls on the radar and we could see there was no where to run. At least we didn’t see any lightening around the area. We kept going and later in the afternoon,we exited the bank and planned a leg of about 8 miles in the Atlantic up to French Cay. We would arrive around 5 pm. The storms engulfed us and MTB got several fresh water rinses. We were going to head into French Cay, but after seeing it on the horizon…it wasn’t much more than a rock sticking out of the water and would offer little in the way of protection. We also had heard several other boats on the VHF that we thought were already there, so not much room left, either. At this point, we made the decision just to continue on and do an overnight trip to Mayaguana Island in the S.E. Bahamas. We figured conditions would just get better as we went on…remember that forecast….MODERATION in the pm?! Once we passed French Cay and were committed, we received an updated weather report on the HAM radio. Ok, now the forecaster was saying 20-25 knots of wind, high seas all night & Saturday as well, with mild squalls everywhere. Now, what happened to our expected MODERATION? Well, it was what it was and we were going for it. Luckily, after we passed West Caicos Island, we didn’t see a squall for the rest of the evening.
03-22-2012 – Thursday, day five – Big Sand Cay, Turks & Caicos, British West Indies. Well, that was a surprise…we woke up and found we had a neighbor. A large catamaran anchored north of us during the night sometime. We didn’t know which direction they came from, and they weren’t flying a marine courtesy flag nor a quarantine flag. They got up and left during the morning, heading for the Caicos Bank. We made hamburger homemade buns and cinnamon rolls this am, and I tell you the truth, there is no better a treat aboard MTB. We actually grilled out, a beef roast this evening so we made philly cheese steak sandwiches instead of burgers. Miko slept in this day…guessed she was bummed that we didn’t take her to shore on Wednesday. So, after lunch, we piled in the dinghy and went to shore. Tide was coming in and waves were crashing against the sand pretty violently. We took a wave over the stern as we landed, but not bad. We have a little hand pump to deal with these events. Though we pulled the dinghy up on shore as far as our strength allowed, we decided not to stay around to assure Toby stayed put. We were being overly cautious since we were all alone in this place. So, Ken ran Miko until she looked pooped, I did a little beach combing and found a nice hard plastic shallow tray type crate that will be nice when we do more beach combing. We can pile our treasures in it and each grab an end handle to carry things like buoys and driftwood back. We headed back to MTB, put up the dinghy in anticipation of leaving the next day. We loved our stop in this beautiful, pristine and remote place. In our entire 5 day stay, we have seen a total of 6 boats: 2 whale watching tour boats, 2 cruise ships offshore, 1 monohull sailboat that went by one day, and the catamaran that anchored with us overnight. This was quite a change from Puerto Rico, USVI, etc., where there were boats of every shape and size, everywhere. This night before going down to our berth for bed….we went outside to experience “THE BIRDS” one last time. This night, Ken brought out our million candle watt power light and shined it in the water. We saw a bunch of cricket type bugs on the water, as a result, there were a LOT of fish trying to get them. Then, “THE BIRDS” were out there, trying to catch the feeding fish. The ungodly noise the birds made was when one bird caught a fish, and another wanted it. When one bird came at Ken, insanely squawking, we doused the light! We still aren’t sure what kind of birds these noisy buggers were but they were white and small about the size of a robin. They were some type of sea bird, but not sea gulls. Before calling an end to our bird (and amazing stars) watching, Ken used his camera and made a movie in the darkness so we could capture the sound the hundreds of birds created. One cannot explain the volume or eeriness of the experience. So, yes, again this night…we slept with all our hatches closed and fan running to try to drown out the clamber so we could sleep.
03-21-2012 – Wednesday, day four – Big Sand Cay, Turks & Caicios, British West Indies. Yes, the forecasts were correct and we had some serious rain and winds this day. We emptied our rain collection buckets early in the morning, into our main water tank and were ready to collect more fresh water. We checked the wind speed several times this a.m. and we saw 33 knots at one point. But, our anchor was buried, there weren’t any other boats here to worry about and if we drug…there was nothing behind us but ocean. So, bad weather, but no worries this day. It rained off and on all day and swells/white caps built throughout the day. So, we knew we would probably be aboard all day but that was fine as we all had so much exercise on Tuesday. Ken gave Miko a “spa day”…brushed her a long time and cut her nails. It still sounded like weather would allow a Friday departure from Big Sand, so we did some trip planning…looking at routes, distances, etc. We decided to go from here across the Caicos Bank to a tiny island called French Cay. From there, we’d anchor on the west side of West Caicos for a night and weather permitting, we’d head to Mayaguana to clear into the Bahamas, Customs and Immigration. We left Mayaguana for the Turks & Caicos on my birthday, January 2, 2012. We read that if we cleared back into the Bahamas before we had been gone over 90 day we may not be required to pay another $300 for a cruising permit. So, that was our plan and all we could do was hope that the winds/seas cooperated. Storms persisted through the day and we checked the wind velocity with one squall in the afternoon….saw 34 knots, breezy. This day was friend Charlie White’s birthday and we wished we were together to celebrate…but at least we got an email out to him on the SSB/Ham radio. A lot of reading and snacking this day and after dinner, an old movie. Before we called it a night, we closed all the hatches in our berth and just ran the fan…an effort to drown out those crazy, noisy, squawking birds. It worked as we both slept through this night.
03-20-2012 – Tuesday, day three – Big Sand Cay, Turks & Caicos, British West Indies. Since high tide was in the a.m. this day, we decided to go to shore earlier in the day as it would be cooler and with the tide going out, there was less chance of the dinghy being swept off the shore. We went ashore about 8:30 a.m. and first walked the west shore/beach southward. We know why this place is called Big Sand, as the further south one walks, the wider and wider the beach becomes. It is one of the widest expanses of sand we probably have ever seen. Though beautiful, it was not “interesting” so once we made the tip, we back tracked to the path that cut over to the east shore. This shore was so much more fun. We found fishing buoy after fishing buoy…all shapes, colors and sizes. This season we were collecting these items to us for décor on our dock at home. We started leaving our finds in groups along the shore, as we could not carry everything at once. There was an abundance of sea glass that we also were happily gathering. The views were spectacular on this east side beach and time just flew by. After awhile, we knew we had to make our way back to Toby/MTB. Luckily, we found two plastic crates that helped us more easily get our buoy treasures back to the dinghy. We couldn’t believe all the goodies we gathered. The dinghy was crowded and looked like a flew market once we loaded up our bounty. Once back to MTB, we couldn’t believe it was 12:30 p.m. and we had been onshore for such a long time. We unloaded and washed off all our buoys, putting them away in our port side V Berth. The rest of the day, we were all pooped and lazy. We saw another cruise ship go by this day. And, about 5:30 pm we saw a boat in the horizon off our stern that looked liked the one anchored here when we were on shore Monday. They were motoring all different directions, erratically. So, Ken got out the binoculars to try to see what they were doing and immediately yelled “WHALES BREACHING”. We realized then that they were doing a whale watching tour and had found some humpbacks. Due to watching that boat, we once again were treated to the amazing sight of those magnificent creatures propelling themselves up, out of the water. They go straight into the air and crash down, making a huge splash that can been seen for long distances. We saw them do some water spouts as well. To top off this show…this night we also had a green flash at sunset. What a day we enjoyed here in the middle of nowhere, all by ourselves. Oh, yes the squawking birds, yet again all night this night! Too funny.
03-19-2012 – Monday, day two – Big Sand Cay, Turks & Caicos, British West Indies. Since Ken worked on our HAM/SSB radio antenna, we had really good propagation this a.m. so were able to finally get some up to date weather information. Sadly, it wasn’t good news, as the conditions were going to keep us hunkered down in this anchorage possibly through Thursday or Friday. But, know our anchor was sunk in this wonderful holding white sand and knew we could stay here safely as long as needed. And, this is a beautiful place…so, no problem “mon”. It was a lazy day this one with gentle isolated rains in the morning, chocolate coffees, reading and lunch. We put the dinghy down for a late afternoon walk on shore. We checked our anchor through the viewing window in the floor of our dinghy and were so glad to see it BURIED. It was totally hidden, probably as good a “hook” as we had ever seen. That was great especially knowing 30+ knot winds were forecast for Wednesday/Thursday. We hadn’t seen a single boat since our Sunday arrival but of course, as soon as we landed on shore, there came a boat toward the anchorage. We saw about 10 people onboard and they all jumped off and started snorkeling. We decided this was just a tour operator’s boat, probably out of Grand Turk and nothing to worry about. We made sure we pulled the dinghy far up on shore before we walked to the east side of the island. On the short walk across the island, we soon found that this was the world capital for large SANDS SPURS plants. The plants were everywhere, large and hurt-y! Of course, at the first sign of the spiked devils, Miko goes on strike, refuses to walk and has to be carried to safety. Brat. Once to the other side (east shore) we found a wonderful beach combing paradise….beautiful reefs, views, beaches and loads of JUNK! Yay. We loved it. We found wonderful buoys and lots of sea glass. Ken back tracked to double check on other boat and make sure no one took our dinghy. Being off MTB in the dinghy in such a remote location always makes us more cautious than if we were in a populated anchorage. If the dinghy drug off the beach out to sea, we’d be swimming back to MTB with Miko….hhhmmm, not fun. And, if someone came and stole the dinghy, we’d be in a pickle for the remainder of the cruising season. One also thinks more about having an engine issue while on shore in these remote anchorages…”who ya gonna call?”. We’ve tried rowing the dinghy when it died on us in Palm Beach once. It wasn’t a successful endeavor, not so easy and luckily we were given a tow back to MTB that time. Out here, there being no one to tow us, we would both have to grab onto a pull rope and swim us back to MTB. Of course, Miko the Princess would be sitting dry and safe in Toby! So with all these concerns, I was glad Ken wanted to walk back and do a double check. Since he/Miko went back to the west beach, I decided to cut my beach combing short and cut up over a ridge (sand spurs hill!). When I came back down to the west beach, there were Ken and Miko right where I popped out, great timing. All was good with the dinghy, the other boat was gone and we all were ready to head back. We had a nice walk and it was so good to be on shore after 5 days. Miko chased her Frisbee until she was pooped. So, now if the dinghy started and ran good, we knew it was a successful trip to shore. Not to worry…as the dinghy did great. Whew. This day we only saw two other vessels, one sailboat going toward West Caicos and a cruiseship heading in the direction of the Dominican Republic. We were once again the only vessels in the anchorage. Again this night…THE BIRDS. We still were clueless as to what they were but figured they were night hunters of so kind.
03-18-2012 – Sunday, off shore, day four. We had to do some more motoring through the previous night to get back on course and head to our destination island as the wind direction was just not cooperating. On Ken’s watch, the only isolated store that we experienced during these four days brought a little rain and 19 knots of wind. As daylight arrived, we were approaching the most southeastern islands of the Turks and Caicos, knowing we would be to our anchorage around 10:30/11:00 am. After coffee when I was on watch, Ken went down to the head to brush his teeth, test his blood sugar, etc. While he was away, I saw something that just didn’t look “right” in front of us. It looked like a buoy (something dark, straight up out of the water) with shoal water crashing now and then all around. I checked our chart plotter and nothing on the chart showed a shoal in that area. There was no wreck indicated but what in the world was out there? Finally, I got the binoculars focused in on the area. I almost fell off the helm seat at what I saw. I let out a hollar and was screaming to Ken “WHALES BREACHING”. He dropped everything, flew to the cockpit and we both saw several of these huge humpback whales propel out of the water and crash down with a spectacular tsumami like water impact around them. It was incredible. We just could not believe our good luck to be in just the right place at just the right time. These guys are huge and no, I wouldn’t want to be any closer to them. One of those guys coming up under MTB would certainly have a catastrophic result. Anyway, we decided the Turk & Caicos Chamber of Commerce really out did the Puerto Rican Chamber in the “WELCOME” department. Really a breathtaking sight to behold and we were so glad to have seen the show. We made it in between the south end of Salt Cay and the north end of Big Sand Cay about 9:30 am, turning south for the anchorage at Big Sand, dropping our main sail. We chose this place as it is uninhabited and we did not plan to clear Customs/Immigration for the Turks as it would require going to a port of entry, two days, one to clear in, one to clear out, at a cost of $100. When we approached the anchorage, one other catamaran (a Privelege) was the only boat there. Just as we were beginning our approach to where we wanted to anchor, the other catamaran pulled up anchor and were heading directly at us. Ken pulled back on the throttle and I went to the bow. One guy yells over, “hey, where you from”? I told him Brunswick, GA and asked where they were headed. He said “French Cay” and I told him we would probably go there in a day or two. He said they might see us there and told us not to anchor in the rocks up by the beach. They acted a little oddly, but proceeded on and got out of our way. We turned our attention to picking a good spot (easier now with the other vessel departed) and dropped our hook, stopping for the first time in four days! YAY! We had a wonderfully successful and uneventful (except for two days of whale sightings) trip. We noticed the other catamaran only went out of the anchorage by about 1-2 miles and stopped. They kinda freaked us out…..pirates?…customs/immigration spies? But, after about an hour…off they went toward French Cay. Maybe they had a boat job they had to do or some mechanical issue, fishing, who knows. But, anyway, we put up our quarantine flag, taking down the Puerto Rican nautical courtesy flag. We had lunch and then the priority….a long long long NAP! Happy hour this evening…..Cuba Libre’s to celebrate our successful journey of 384 nautical miles, completed in 76 hours. After dark, we heard a building racket and realized that the squawking was from birds on shore. These guys were NOISY and we weren’t sure what they were…but omg, loud and they kept it up all night. They sounded as if the flock was between us and shore, something like a scene from an Alfred Hitchcock movie. One can’t explain the noise they created and it only stopped once during the night when a rain storm blew through.
03-17-2012 – Saturday, off shore, day three. Well, Happy St. Patties day…wish we had some COLD green beer, oh well wishful thinking, for sure! In the Saturday a.m. wee hours of the morning, we only saw one other boat all night. It was a private motor vessel going in the opposite direction to us. All night, one boat, amazing. At 4:45 a.m. this morning, we finally knew we had to pull in the jib and motor sail with the main sail only. We were not getting enough help from the wind and getting more and more off course trying to keep the sails full. Bummer…as we knew for sure we would have to do a total of three overnight legs to make it to Big Sand Cay during daylight. We were experiencing some current against us so were going about 4.5 knots and winds got down to 6-7 knots. This a.m. when the sun came up…the mystery of the prior night’s flop, flop sound was resolved. Ken found fish scales on the starboard side sugar scoop (stairs down to the water line). Evidently a fish had tried to commit suicide by jumping onto MTB, but failed, slipping back into the sea. Sure hope the crazy fish wasn’t something good to eat and we missed out! This day was uneventful, showers all around nothing bothering us. We had been unsuccessful getting our weather and HAM radio emails for several days and were getting concerned. Ken decided to see if the antenna was once again our issue. He worked on it with wonderful success…emails on the HAM radio coming and going out at lightening speed, yay! That was great. We pull out a sleeping bag when we are doing overnights, as we both sleep in the cockpit during our time off watches to stay near, in case we need to help each other. It is easy to crawl in and keeps us cozy in the night winds. Well, these last few legs, Miko realized she liked it too. She crawled down in the sleeping bag and didn’t budge during shift changes. We both had to contort ourselves around the sleepy dog in our sleeping bag when relieved from our watch. Funny dog. During the day, we saw several commercial vessels pass in various directions. The whole trip, we saw only one sailboat and they went into San Juan, P.R. We really felt like our trip was the “rode less traveled”, though we were making great progress, felt good about the route, and were covering a lot of miles quickly by not stopping in the Dominican Republic. Clouds did not allow a “green flash” sunset this day.
03-16-2012 – Friday, off shore, day two. We were off shore about 75 miles from both Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic this day. And, way out here, there were birds that would fly by us, considering if our bimini might be a nice resting spot. We were only doing about 5 knots per hour and the wind and sea swells had moderated. The angle of the wind was not good for us and when we needed to be on a course of 302, we were headed at 317 and getting more and more off course. There were shower storms all around, be luckily, none came our way. When we were near Silver Bank, Ken shouted “whale”. In front of MTB, we saw about 8 water spouts from whales on our bow. What a treat this was! But, we still hadn’t seen an adult do a “breach”…jumping straight up in the air and crashing down like in one of those insurance company commercials! But, seeing these whales and their water spouts was spectacular. Wind was under 15 knots most of this day. Miko made our day about 5:45 p.m. when she indicated she needed to “do her business”. Ken took her out front on our trampolines and with him holding her tether, she finally got comfortable and took care of things. One cannot imagine what “relief” this is not only to the dog…but to MTB’s crew as well. We were so thankful that she is such a resilient boat dog and just handles herself so wonderfully. We were very proud and gave her two treats. During the night hours, Ken was alarmed on one of his watches when he heard a “flop, flop” noise in the back of the boat. He thought there was a line or sail issue, something made that noise. But, after turning on the lights and looking around the stern, he found nothing.
03-15-2012 – Thursday – day four, departed our mooring ball at Isla de Palominos this a.m. at 6:45, apprehensive. We were leaving on our most aggressive cruising leg, ever, with just two of us aboard. The trip, nearly 400 nautical miles would take us offshore, along the north coast of Puerto Rico to the Turks & Caicos, with no planned layover or stop in the Dominican Republic. We received a good multi day weather forecast for both wind and seas on Wednesday, so were pretty comfortable that we would have good conditions for our entire trip. One just worries about bad things that could happen while sailing 150 miles from any land, help or services. If we had mechanical trouble or we/Miko had a medical emergency, there would be no timely help. Although, we knew there were US Coast Guard personnel/equipment in Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Turks & Caicos, they still could be a long way/time from providing any help. Wednesday night, we heard a harrowing story from Big Run about their vessel losing their transmission, being adrift for hours with building seas crashing them side to side. They had trouble getting someone to come for them and the un-professional folks who arrived provided an exorbitantly expensive tow to Nassau. Theirs was a sobering story to hear the night before leaving on a major leg! Anyway, we knew we were to have good weather, had great faith in our vessel, hoped the crew’s spirits would stay high and we could keep Miko happy and comfortable through the multi-day transit west. Well, once we were away from land, firmly in the clutches of the Atlantic Ocean, we were feeling some relief. The conditions we were experiencing were as forecast, with an 8’ N sea swell with an 8 second interval pushing us along and winds from the E at 10-16 knots. We had the main sail fully reefed (not all the way up) and that cost us some speed. But, when we were leaving Palominos, we wanted to make sure of our conditions in the Atlantic, opting for the safest sail configuration to begin our journey. Our ride was ok and we were so thankful to once again be SAILING!! We did 2 hours at the helm and 2 hours off, to break up the discomfort and monotony of sitting, watching the instruments and for other vessels around us. Our helm seat is probably the biggest negative of our entire vessel…NOT COMFORTABLE… for either of us. But, taking an Aleve every 12 hours helps our sore muscles along the way! On the VHF radio this a.m. we heard the US Coast Guard announce that a plane was reported down and we were to look out for it, assisting any survivors. They said the name of the location so fast, we never really did know exactly where in Puerto Rico it was reported down. About 10 am, a large pod of dolphins joined us as we sailed along. They were the most playful we have ever seen, jumping high out of the water, zooming by our starboard hull and riding the swells, jumping over and over. It was a great show and diversion. We verbalized our thanks to Puerto Rico’s Chamber of Commerce for sending their goodwill ambassadors to wish us “buenos dias” and “bon voyage”. We sailed along the northern shore of Puerto Rico this entire day, heading further and further away from shore in a line toward the Turks & Caicos’ Big Sand Cay. We plotted our course to take us north of three “banks” areas. We decided to sail north of the banks areas, keeping the Navidad, Silver and Mouchoir Banks between us and the Dominican Republic Coast. We were sailing in the P.R. “trench” much of the day in waters over 23,000 feet deep, Those depths are impossible to comprehend as one sails along on top! We were treated to a “green flash” sunset this evening and that was a treat. Through the night, numerous commercial vessel and cruise ships passed us in various directions. They keep us extremely attentive as we are sailing along at about 5 knots an hour, for sure. We hoped to average around 6 knots this trip so we could make our destination in three day and only two overnight legs. By the end of this day, our overall average speed was around 5.4 and we knew the trip would be three nights if the wind velocity didn’t pick up. Oh well. Our instruments, radar, chart plotter, radio draw a lot of amps and we didn’t make enough solar power this day to sustain them through the night, so we had to fire up the generator for two hours. That is always a sad intrusion on the peaceful sssllloooossshhh we make going through the water while sailing.
03-14-2012 – Wednesday – day three, Isla de Palominos (Palomino Island, off NE coast of Puerto Rico – Same drill overnight…we here with two other boats…everyone else left at dusk. We had a nice big breakfast, happy knowing we weren’t moving this day. We listened to the weather and it still sounded ok for a Thursday departure, more moderation through the weekend. But, we planned to leave in the morning so I was busy making ahead food for the trip to make it easier while we were underway. It is never fun being in the galley trying to boil pasta with the boat’s movement. So, I pre-made beef stroganoff, half dozen chocolate chip muffins, half dozen banana nut muffins, a tuna/noodle/brocolli casserole and a bunch of sandwiches. That should hold us for a three day trip, two night trip when supplemented by goodies from the well provisioned snack cabinet. Ken transferred fuel from the holding tank up front, back to the working supply tanks; checked our navigation lights (all but the steaming light were burning properly). He even cleaned out our shower drain, yea. It was gray and rainy around us most of this day and we did get a little rain after lunch and then the heaven’s opened and it poured around 3:30 pm. But, if passed and we were able to get to shore later this day and that was good. We wanted to make sure Miko was well exercised so she’d be worn out and restful Thursday, the first of three consecutive travel days. This would be our longest, toughest leg of the entire season and the longest just the two of us alone have ever made. We anticipated a journey of more than 350 nautical miles to make it all the way through to the Turks & Caicos on Saturday. We hoped the moderate weather predicted was what we would experience. Sometimes the reports are right on, but we have been in some seriously bad weather situations that none of our sources had predicted. Luckily, we have a great, safe vessel that can handle most anything mother nature throws at us. Its just the constitution of the crew we worry about. And, we also have concerns about Miko’s comfort so that adds a little to our stress levels. Although, Miko has always been a trouper whenever things have gotten rough. She typically crawls in our bed, puts her head on one of our pillows and sleeps through it all. She really is an amazing, resilient boat dog and I know I don’t need to worry so much about her…but I do. We had a Facebook message last night from our friend Stacey telling us that their dog, Zoe, went to doggie heaven. Zoe and Miko were buddies and played really well together when we visited. We were so sorry to hear about her passing. But, we are so proud of Terry and Stacey for being Zoe’s “forever family” having rescued her when she was younger. Zoe, a Vizsla, had a wonderful life. After the rains stopped and we got Miko to the beach…back to MTB, dinghy up, dinner, early night in anticipation of our Thursday departure.
03-13- 2012 – Tuesday – day two Isla de Palominos (Palomino Island) off NE coast of Puerto Rico – We slept great overnight and we agreed we were happy we came here. This a.m. we were in a dilemma as to what to do. Ken wanted to change out the impeller on our dinghy motor and it was a job he had never done before. He found YouTube video’s that showed how to do it. But, if things went bad, then we would have no way to get to shore. So, we pondered going to a mainland marina for a night, leaving the job until later, etc. But, we decided we would stay on the mooring and do the job in our cockpit. If all went well, great. If not, we could always anchor off the mainland or go to a marina and get whatever parts or help we might need. Fajardo is a major boating area and here we would have better resources than elsewhere. So, we pretty much had decided to stay this day, when we checked the weather reports. They also indicated that we needed to hang around until Thursday. So, decision made and that is always a good thing. Ken did a great job with the dinghy motor and by lunch, the impeller was changed, the lower unit housing cleaned and lubricated and the motor was back on the dinghy running great. Once done, he was sweaty so jumped in to swim and while in the water, did a bunch of scraping on our hulls. This entails using a ‘scrubby”…like one uses at the kitchen sink on dirty pans. The hulls again getting “fuzzy” with the vegetation we collect while out here cruising. Ken said we also had collected some small white barnacles as well. After lunch…beach ho! We weren’t sure if Miko would be welcomed or not. So, we landed at the most remote end, far away from the hotel guest/tourists. We through a toy we forgot we brought for Miko….a large fabric lightweight Frisbee. Man, she loved it and ran after it time and time again. It was a little too big for her and one time she was running back to us, it tripped her and she did a perfect summersault over it. We walked toward the tourist area and met “Lucy” a little fuzzy dog on a small private boat that was pulled up on the beach. Lucy’s mama was a knock out…tiny bikini…and beautiful. I left Ken behind (good wife) and went to read the sign near the Ferry dock and other facilites (bar, etc.) Nowhere did it say “no dogs” so I hailed Ken/Miko. On the ferry dock, a group of young people saw Miko and made Ken bring her to them to pet. They were nice young couples from Alabama in Puerto Rico on vacation. We walked around the facilities and saw all sorts of games…lawn chess. Corn Holes, volleyball, etc. for those tourists wanting to be more active than sitting on the pristine beach. It was a really impressive setup and one that we know the tourists must really enjoy. We went back down the beach and helped “Lucy’s” folks push their boat back into the water. Miko still was full of energy, we played chase some more, this time with her orange ball. Poor girl was exhausted when we put her back in the dinghy. A good day.
03-12-2012 – Monday – departed Isla de Culebra, Ensendada Honda, Puerto Rico. Up this a.m. we did everything to get ready to leave. We chatted with Al and agreed the power boater next to us probably was a new boat owner and Sunday’s attempt was the first time he ever tried to anchor. I told Al I was concerned about bringing up our anchor, pulling forward toward Eventus. Al radioed a few moments later and said we may be getting lucky, to look outside. The guy was out and putting up his dinghy…that was not used the night before, nor this a.m. I yelled over at him and asked if they were leaving. He said yes and I told him that would be good since he was probably sitting on top of our anchor. He said they would be gone in a few minutes. So, the fretting I did overnight…all for naught….the cruising gods took care of us, yet again! We pulled up our main while at anchor and were anchor up and sailing outside the bay by 9:00 a.m. There were boats everywhere, going every which way. This area is really busy with boating activity. There are tour boats, charter boats, ferries to/from other islands and the P.R. mainland. Its incredible. We were sailing again this day with good winds. But, the swell was pretty large and in between Culebra and the mainland is where the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea merge. Out in the large swells, with a small craft advisory issued, we luckily spotted a couple of tiny fishing boats. They don’t show up on radar, so one really has to stay vigilant so not to run over someone! This day, we plnned a 22 knot trip to Los Icacos. But, as we neared the island, we could see the tiny anchorage was crowed and the island was very flat, offering little wind protection. Just to the south of our position was Isla de Palominos and it was a high island. So, we decided it may be a better choice for the conditions this night. We dropped our sails and motored into the mooring ball area. This was a beautiful place and after three attempts (tough to grab a little rope with 20+ knot winds trying to push you away from it!), we were properly tied up on a P.R. dept of natural resources mooring ball. We were in the lee of the island with little chop and minimal sea swell AND we actually had wifi on the boat. Totally amazing. This is a private island with a portion of it leased to El Conquistador, a Waldorf Astoria resort, casino, marina on the mainland…an 8 minute ferry ride away. El Con runs ferries all day to bring tourists to and fron the beautiful white beach here. We also saw dinghy caravan tours, jet skis, parasailors, dive boats, snorkel tours come in during the day. By late afternoon, things calmed down. We were one of two cruising boats that remained overnight. We were very happy with our decision to divert here.
03-11-2012 – Sunday, Isla de Culebra, Ensenada Honda anchorage, Puerto Rico. We went to a different dinghy dock by a park nearest to MTB and from there, began more exploring. We visited the professional baseball stadium…rather like US “farm team” baseball. Only on Culebra could one see an Iquana lounging on the third base line! We walked through more of the town and past the small hospital. We walked a good way past it and found more beaches on the west side of the island. One was named “Melones”….ironic, as our son in law/daughter are Melone! Miko got to play and run some on two beaches. And, we found some more really well tumbled sea glass. We met a nice young couple by Melones Beach, they on a golf cart. They were looking for a good beach to come to with their dog. They often come over to Culebra on the ferry from the mainland/Fajardo. We asked if we could get a short ride with them back up to the top of a steep hill as we weren’t looking forward to the trek back up. They were so nice and said that it would be no problem. While riding along, they asked a lot about about our cruising lifestyle and the wife said that it was something her husband hoped the could do one day. It was so funny, shortly after they had dropped us off, they turned around and came back with more questions about how to do what we are doing. We answered their questions and also told them not to get into the habit of acquiring “things”. We’ve learned that one should buy what is needed (vs. wanted) to enjoy their lives but remember that when it comes to retirement time….”stuff” becomes very unimportant. The less stuff, more money saved and an earlier retirement. We do feel so very lucky to have this opportunity. We checked more local stores and still NO GRITS. Bummer. We walked further out of town and saw an Ecological School, an amazing and brightly colored kids playground, amazing/quaint/colorful houses, fences, garbage cans, etc. We went by the small airport and then turned around and headed back to the park/dinghy dock. This evening, a power boater came in “Eventus” and anchored in our kitchen. There was so much room around us, but nope right next to us. When he swung, he was only a few feet from us. I went out and stood on the deck to look at the situation and he was doing the same. He finally went back out front and pulled up his anchor, yea. Nope…he moved over…but directly in front of us, falling back into us. He was further away and if he swung, we were probably ok. But, we were going to have a challenge in the a.m. when we pulled up our anchor with 75’ of rode/chain out and are aiming for him as we try to leave. He put his dinghy down too, but didn’t go to shore Weird. Oh well, we would deal with all this in the a.m. The guy was squeezed in between us and Jade, a monohull with “Al” aboard. We see them on the weather webcast most mornings. Dinghy up this night.
03-10-2012 – Saturday, Isla de Culebra, Ensenada Honda anchorage, Puerto Rico. Slept great until about 2:30 a.m. when a rooster seemed to be confused by the brightness of the full moon and started letting us know it was time to get up! But, we had a very nice night. This a.m. we had a great breakfast before we dropped the dinghy. Miko was excited. We packed up and headed to the government provided dinghy dock. For about two hours we walked around town, even found a little beach with sea glass, a place for Miko to run and chase her ball. We like this town. There are a few grocery stores on the island and we visited one, Mitka….but didn’t buy anything. We went and toured the waterfront where the ferries run to the Puerto Rico mainland as well as to St. Thomas, USVI. The best thing we found was a great bakery. Ah, fresh pastries, wheat bread and French bread…$11 worth! Too funny. I picked up a couple postcards at the “touristo” type store and got a coconut ice cream from a street vendor. So, my sweet tooth was happy. We’re liking it here in Culebra. The world famous Playa Flamenco (Flamenco Beach) is on the north shore..world renowned and gorgeous beach. Sadly, it is a National Wild Life area, so NO dogs allowed. Ken visited with the Direct TV guy on the island to see about our cruising options as we lost our US DTV in Georgetown…nothing further south. This evening was enjoyable as well as FSU beat Duke to get into the ACC Championship game vs. Carolina and we had homemade crab cakes and bakery bread for dinner.
03-09-2012 – Friday, departed St. John. Yes, we did it…finally pulled up the anchor in Rendezvous Bay about 7:30 a.m. and headed out of St. John. By 8:00 a.m., we had our jib up and were SAILING…a wonderful thing. We hadn’t been able to sail since we left the Dominican Republic, as we we’ve been going against the east trade winds, having to motor the entire way from the DR to St. John. Well, not the entire way….one hour we had our sail up out of the D.R.! So, what a treat. The forecast was for 10’ ocean swells with a 9-10 second interval in between each swell. And, if the 20 knot winds hadn’t laid down overnight, the wind driven chop would have been 4-6’ making for a very confused ride. Luckily, overnight Thursday night the winds moderated and still were around 14-15 this a.m.. So, we had a nice big swell behind us, just pushing us along as MTB rode up and then down the troughs, with very little wind chop. AND, we were SAILING! Once past St. Thomas, we could feel the effect of the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea “blending” as the meet in between Culebra and St. Thomas. Winds continued to diminish through the day, and by the time we were about 8 miles away from Culebra, we were sailing at a snails pace. We had decided that when our overall average miles be hour went under 4 knots, we’d have to motor. So, we rolled in our jib sail and fired up those nasty engines….frowny face. We entered the harbor at Isla de Culebra about 3 p.m. and motored as far in as we could go, toward town. We scoped out the anchorage and found a spot we both agreed on, dropped our anchor and were once again, home for the night. We were surprised by how crowded the anchorage was. We figured due to all the recent high winds, a lot of folks just got here and stayed and waited for the bad stuff to go away. This harbor, Ensenada Honda, in front of the town of Dewey is extremely well protected. We were able to clear customs by phone so had our Puerto Rico marine courtesy flag flying shortly after our arrival. We called Eric and told him we made it here safe and sound…and said thanks for his wonderful hospitality. We were very happy we chose to come here. AND, we had wifi (unsecured signals) on the boat! So much so, I made each of us a Cuba Libre with Puerto Rican rum, and we had a celebratory “Cheers”. The trip this day was 32 nautical miles. But, when our speed gets down to 2.5 knots, as it did later this day, our trips can take awhile. This day we did 32 nms in around 8 hours….patient sailors we. We didn’t put the dinghy down this day…just chilled and enjoyed the music on shore, admired the incredible full moon, watched little planes pop up from the landing strip to our stern and took in the other sights around us.
03-08-2012 – Thursday, Rendezvous Bay, Ditliff Point, St. John, USVI. Rains, winds again this morning, oh good. We at least had our fresh water collection system buckets out and we probably collected 5 gallons of good fresh water. “Night Wind” is a sailboat that came into the Bay on Wednesday about 10:30 am and used Izulu’s private mooring.They came again this day, both times bringing 6-8 tourists to snorkel in the area around us. The customers are sent out to snorkel and then get back on board about noon. Night Wind’s Captain/crew fed them lunch and when finished, they sailed back toward Great Cruz and Cruz Bay. Well, this day, on their arrival, a squall came through bringing a major down pour…..a hard, sheeting rain.A few of the folks fit under a very small bimini. But, the Captain did not take anyone below to the get out of the storm, into the vessel’s salon. These poor tourists were sitting outside on a slatted wood bench on the port side deck of the boat. Each was given a yellow rain slicker, though! The wind was very strong and cold, the rain was driving across the deck in sheets. It was storming like crazy and these poor paying customers got raincoats. We couldn’t help laughing. Luckily, the squall soon passed so the folks were finally in the water snorkeling. Around lunchtime, we saw them climb back aboard Night Wind.They had just begun eating their lunch, probably sandwiches, when the next squall came through! And yes, you guessed it…out came the rain coats. These folks looked miserable, trying to eat in the rain with very little cover from the boat’s very small bimini area. Shortly, the storm passed, the weather cleared and off the sailboat went, back to town.We don’t know how much each of these folks paid for this “experience”/tour….but we thought that maybe they didn’t get a good deal from this tour operator! Later in the afternoon, we decided to take Miko to shore for some exercise. We called Eric and told him were on shore. We’d decided to stick our nose out of the bay in the morning and if conditions weren’t too bad, we hoped to get to Culebra. We hoped he may be up at Izulu and we could get goodbye hugs. Though, we said our good byes and thank yous on the phone, as he had things still to do this afternoon/evening. We walked along the development’s road for a little way, met a nice local guy who was out running and then went back to the beach. We found a few shells and 6 pieces of nice sea glass. Back to MTB, we put up the dinghy, filed our Coast Guard online travel plan and readied for a Friday departure. Ken checked the oil in both engines and we ran the generator for two hours to assure we’d have enough power to use our radar/instruments once we were sailing on Friday.
03-07-2012 – Wednesday, Rendezvous Bay, Ditlitff Point, St. John, USVI.Since the forecast was for storms, rain and high wind again this day, we decided we should get Miko to shore early. So, after warm cinnamon streusel muffins for breakfast, we went ashore. We were the only ones on shore so we walked up the beautiful stone walkway to the road that winds through the development. We walked down a couple of paths on the south side of Ditliff Point and from these, we could see the bays south of us as well as the sea state. Nope, we knew we wouldn’t want to be out there, for sure! We walked along the concrete road for a way and then turned to go back when we were getting near to Izulu. Miko became defiant when we turned to go back to the beach, she sure wantedto keep going. It was as if she wanted to go back up to “the” house…Izulu! She knew it was ahead of us, as we’d walked back from the house on Sunday. No Miko, you live on a boat for a few more months, not in Izulu house! Back to the beach, she was much happier when her “orange” ball came out. We played awhile, did some shelling and even found one piece of sea glass. So, a nice visit to shore, good walk, some play time and a few things for our “collection” of shells/glass….all in all, a good morning. Back to MTB, we had lunch and read. Later in the afternoon, we gave Eric a call to tell him we were still here. He said )he actually was just about to call us. Since he had to come out here to Izulu to lock up after some workers, he said he’d pick us up and take us with him to the bar at the B&B (Tamarind Inn) that he managed for 13 years. We said we don’t like to be off MTB after dark when the winds were so strong. But, he said bring Miko and he’d have us home before dark. We showered and were on shore within thirty minutes, just as Eric arrived. (We left the anchor light on, just in case!). We took our one bag of garbage with us as we knew we would pass a dumpster on the way to town. They don’t have garbage pick up service on St. John so families must use dumpsters provided by the government. Well, we sure enjoyed the outdoor bar at the B&B, one of Eric’s hangouts and we were glad to meet a number of his long time friends.After a couple drinks, we decided to go see his rental property and visit with Kelly, a friend of his that we met the previous week. Kelly had just moved into one of his two rental homes as she lost the home she had been living in/managing for a number of years. We had a nice visit with Kelly, enjoyed seeing Eric’s property. By dusk, Eric delivered us back safe and sound to the beach and we were glad we left the anchor light on!Anchor lights are white lights required to burn all night on every vessel in an anchorage. They are very helpful when motoring around an anchorage and trying to find one’s boat at night. Sailboat anchor lights are typically at the top of the mast. Ours is and it is an LED light with a photocell. It is amazing, though, how many folks never burn a light. Can you say “bump in the night”? Not us, ours is on every night!
03-06-2012 – Tuesday, Rendezvous Bay, Ditlitff Point, St. John, USVI. This was a totally worthless (us, of course) day. It rained off and on all day. So, we didn’t do anything but read, surf the net and eat. Ocassionally, Miko would do her “heavy sigh” to indicate she was a bored teenager. Poor dog.
03-05-2012 – Monday, Rendezvous Bay, Ditlitff Point, St. John, USVI.Well, the weather was not cooperating so we knew we wouldn’t be going anywhere for another few days. We had great wifi here, good protection from the winds/seas (a little sea swell, but not untenable), we didn’t have to pay mooring fees and there was place that Miko could. We decided just to hang here until we were able to make our next jump, about thirty miles west, to Isla de Culebra, a Spanish Virgin Island, 6 miles from the main island of Puerto Rico. We decided to take Miko to shore after lunch. On the way, we used the viewing window in the floor of the dinghy to check our anchor. It was almost buried 100% in white sand, very little of it showing. So, that was good. Miko saw a man/dog on shore. The dog looked like her cousin dog, Chloe, so she started “screaming”….with excitement. Well, that did it…by the time we landed the dinghy, man and dog were long gone. Miko was sad.But, further down the beach, she met a girl Chihuahua, named Speedy. They danced around a little, rubbed noses, but friendship did not seem to “click” with the two of them. Speedy’s owner said she had taken the pup in when someone had abandoned her. They walked along with us a short way, but again…neither seemed infatuated with the other. Funny. We played a little longer, then went back to MTB.Ken wanted hamburgers on the grill this evening. We didn’t have hamburger buns, so I made yeast roll hamburger buns from a Hot Roll mix. Grilled cheeseburgers on warm, homemade yeast buns….pretty dad gum tasty for sure.
03-04-2012 – Sunday, Rendezvous Bay, Ditlitff Point, St. John, USVI. This anchorage is not a park of the National Park System and therefore does not have paid mooring balls. So, we were anchored in some nice white sand near a few buoys that looked like they may be for fishing traps. Another mooring ball was nearby, but a private, licensed one that belonged to Eric’s people who own Izulu. Eric assured us they were not around and the ball would, therefore, not be used. So, we felt were we anchored pretty well, though near the buoys and mooring. It was windy and we were rocking aboard. So, we were doing our morning “stay” vs. “go” debate, trying to decide if we should go back to a park mooring in another anchorage somewhere as the forecast was for bad weather, squalls, high winds/seas. THEN…Eric called about 9:15 a.m. and wanted to know if we would like to see the house he manages in Ditliff Point. The owners departed this a.m. and Eric needed to come by and close their house up. We didn’t have the dinghy down yet, but we knew we could scramble and get it done. Within a half hour we were on shore, pulling Toby onto the beach, when we saw Eric. Miko went crazy, happy! We’d told Eric we’d walk up to the house, but he came down to pick us up…nice. Well, the house was spectacular. It was beautifully appointed, perfectly decorated, with wonderful views. And, once again, Eric had a surprise…strawberry cheese coffee cake. We made coffee and sat outside on one of the many porches, sipped, ate, and relaxed. We helped Eric bring MASSIVE numbers of outdoor cushions and pillows inside for storage. We couldn’t believe there were so many, but the house has 4 or 5 large covered outdoor spaces, each fully furnished with lounges, sofas, tables and chairs. We walked back down the hill to development’s very nice rock walled pathway to the beach. Finally, after weeks (since the Bahamas), we were able to let Miko run the beach and chase her “orange ball” with abandon. In the National Park sections of St. John, no dogs allowed on the beaches. So, Miko was smiling so big but eventually tired of the running. When she did, we walked along the shore heading to western most tip of Ditliff Point. At one point, Miko went on strike as the rocky path was bothering her pads/paws. Ken carried our spoiled dog the rest of the way. We took some photos and headed back to Toby/MTB for another lazy afternoon. Ken gave Miko a spa day…brushed, nails trimmed and I gave her a Heartworm protection treat. Just as we finished, we saw trawler type boat pull up behind us. It finally registered that what we thought were fish trap buoys near us, was actually his private mooring. Dang. We chattd with him on the radio and he confirmed that we needed to move. So, we captured Miko and got her tethered, pulled the dinghy closer to MTB, pulled up anchor, moved and then re-anchored closer in to shore. We actually had discussed moving in further when we heard that 40 knot winds were possible in some coming squalls. Peace and Plenty’s owners came by later and said they were sorry we had to move. That was nice, as it was our fault for being too near their mooring….although, it certainly wasn’t marked as most are, with a registration number. But, no problem…we hung good, closer to shore, in nice white sand. They took their dinghy to a big house on the bay north of us, locals who leave their boat on a mooring as surprisingly, there are NO marinas on St. John. The rest of the afternoon was quiet and in the evening, we listened to the FSU/Clemson basketball game online….a “W” for the Noles.
03-03-2012 – Saturday, departed Maho Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. After enjoying leftover bakery treats from Eric/Friday for this morning’s breakfast, we finally left mooring ball #122!We planned a short trip around to the south west end of St. John, about 10 miles max. Wind was 14-15 knots, but on our nose, so we knew it would be motoring vs. sailing trip this day. There is one narrow cut we had to through, just above Caneel Bay and it was BUSY.We had the fast ferry, a couple of power boats and a catamaran loaded with tourists coming at us, in addition to a catarmaran behind us using their front “whomper” (a big colorful genoa sail).A genoa is generally used in light wind coming from behind one’s boat. Their sail was flapping wildly in the 15 knot wind and seemed like it was not properly rigged. We saw the sail flop down toward the water and appeared to almost touch now and then. So, we needed to watch them carefully, as we weren’t sure they knew what they were doing.There are a lot of boats chartered down here and we see things that make us wonder about the crew’s qualifications. Anyway, Ken did a great job maneuvering around everyone, keeping us safely out of everyone’s path. Once through the skinny place, we came by a guy rowing the tiniest boat was right in the middle of the high traffic channel. Some folks are just crazy….out where big powerful sport fishers often go plowing through at high speeds often drinking while doing so. We saw a huge corporate yacht anchored off in front of the entrance to Cruz Bay, so we decided to go behind it vs. through the more narrow inside route. Coming around the southwest end of the island, we had pretty good size breakers on our nose and the ride was lumpy. We needed to go offshore a few miles though, as needed to be legal to drop our “poopie” tank. We only had the bumpy conditions for those few miles and when turning east back toward our destination of Rendezvous Bay. Once in the bay, conditions were much improved as there was pretty good protection from the east wind. We picked a spot on the south shore of the bay, along a finger of land called Ditliff Point. Ditliff Point is being developed and is a “gated” community with a private beach and currently three homes. The real estate guidee we picked up in town was advertising Ditliff lots, “beginning at $695k”, all being waterfront parcels. Eric is the manager of one of the three homes in this development, a big beautiful place named Izulu, sitting on the hill, overlooking us in the anchorage. We had a quiet afternoon aboard and didn’t drop the dinghy, sorry Miko.
03-02-2012 – Friday, day five, Maho Bay, St. John, US Virgin Islands. We were going through our now routine dilemma of“stay” or “move” to another anchorage, when surprisingly the cell phone rang.It was Eric calling and luckily we had a signal. That was great as he invited us to go with him to one of the houses he manages that was previously owned by Kenny Chesnee. How cool is that? The new homeowners left the island this a.m. so Eric needed to go lock it up, close the hurricane shutters, etc. We arranged to meet him at the parking lot adjacent to the dinghy area on the beach in half an hour. So, the decision was made to stay another day in Maho Bay….resolved with a single phone call!We packed up, putted in, pulled the dinghy up on the beach, walked Miko and headed over to wait for Eric. It was so great each time he came to pick us up, as he always pulledup with a big smile and a wonderful “Good Morning” greeting. The house we were going to see looks toward Cinnamon Bay, just south of where MTB was on mooring #122. On our way there, Eric pulled over on top of the hill to let us get a good photo of MTB in Maho Bay. Nice. The house he manages is in Peter Bay and it was an incredible place with wonderful outdoor spaces, gazebos, infinity pool, etc. The views from the outdoor spaces were superior to many normally seen in tourist brochures. Eric had yet another surprise for us this morning. He brought sweets from a local deli/bakery: oat/date bars; oat/chocolate bars; coconut macaroon w/dark chocolate bars; and banana/coconut bread with chocolate chips. We made a pot of coffee, ate our amazing treats and sat outside, talking and basking in the beautiful setting/scenery. We took lots of photos and once again felt so very lucky that Eric was willing to share so much of his time to provide these amazing experiences. We’ll never be able to repay his kindness and generosity. Our time spent here with him will never be forgotten. This visit has been such a great reward for the hard journey to get here. No matter what the rest of this cruising season brings, our time with Eric here on St. John will be the highlight of all our cruising experiences to date. We couldn’t be more appreciative. And to top off this day’s wonderful time, Eric sent the left over goodies back to MTB with us, yum. When we got back to the beach/dinghy, we saw that the “hurt” boat, Maranatha was no longer with us. We hoped they were able to go somewhere nearby to get their needed repairs done. Seeing their damage and what can go wrong out here sailing around was very sobering This afternoon, I felt it was important that we pay our fees for our mooring and put up the dinghy. I knew if we didn’t, we might never make a move out of Maho Bay! We really did want to jump down to St. John’s south coast to a place called Dittliff Point on the east coast of Rendezvous Bay. Eric manages a home there as well that he said he knew we would enjoy the bay and seeing. Additionally, it was time for us to pick a weather window to leave St. John (frowny face) and start heading back toward the Bahamas, then home. We planned for our first stop from here to be Isla De Culebra, a Spanish Virgin Island off the east coast of Puerto Rico. And, Dittliff Point/Rendezvous Bay would be a good place to leave from to make that trip.
03-01-2012 – (MARCH, whew!) - Thursday, day four, Maho Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. Well, we thought this was moving day.We got up, the skies were gray, it rained off and on and we couldn’t make a decision. So, after we had breakfast, we re-installed our custom made turquoise Sunbrella sunscreen on the back of MTB. We hadn’t used it all season but it provides the cockpit with more shade later in the afternoons. We knew that it would be great and we’d appreciate being able to read outside longer each day. Once the sunscreen project was done, the wind was filling in and we were lazy. Finally, we decided it wasn’t moving day. We’d stay and enjoy Maho Bay one more day. We did get reception on our VHF radio this a.m. so were able to hear a NOAA weather report for the current day and two days beyond. These reports are often just “wrong” but something was better than no weather report! The conditions we had this and the prior few days were supposed to persist (winds E/ENE 15-25, rain showers and seas 5-7).We had good protection for those conditions and were glad to have gotten the report. Who knew what the weekend would bring…..but oh well.We decided we’d put the dinghy up this evening so we would be sure to move on Friday and hopefully we’d get WIFI, SSB and cell phone reception back. Our “poopie” tank was about full so we needed to get out of the Park and 3 miles offshore to legally empty out the bad stuff! We checked the chart and saw that we could head straight offshore from this anchorage to a legal area, dump and then just have a 90 degree turn to port to head to the next anchorage we planned to visit. So, we had a plan and that was good. We had a Fountain Pajout catamaran take the mooring in front of us on Wednesday. They were chartering we think and there were two couples aboard. They were very loud people and the prior night stayed outside drinking and laughing. When they finally crawled outside this morning (late a.m.!), they were again boisterous. But, it breaks the monotony of our idyllic peace and quiet and provides a different kind of entertainment! Although, it got quiet and we realized that they were leaving us about lunchtime. Most folks on chartered boats hop from one location to another every day to maximize the number of places/islands they see. We did this when we chartered for Ken’s 50th birthday years ago in the British Virgin Islands.But, we no longer feel we need to move each day….we seem to grow roots each place we go! Even with the party people gone, we still had a number of other noisy distractions. Maho Bay and this mooring field is encircled by tall, lush green mountains. A main road (W-20) runs right along the beach and very frequently one of the cars parked along the beach has an alarm blaring. Not sure why this occurs so often but thought it may be because most of the vehicles were rentals with unfamiliar drivers. The road passes the beach and climbs up the side of the hill and takes a sharp turn round a curve. During the day, cement trucks crawl up the hill and once they get to the curve at the top, they start wildly honking their horns. This was to warn vehicles coming from the other direction that they are about to come around the curve. They must take more than their share of the road up there. Well, this happens many times during the day, yet another type of entertainment in our bay. Haven’t mentioned this…but we were surprised that even though this is a U.S. territory, the folks here do not drive as we do on the U.S. mainland. They drive on the “wrong” side of the road here, but do it with U.S. vehicles. So, they drive on the left side of the road with left sided steering. Different and interesting. Oh yes and I must mention a motor yacht that also arrived on Wednesday. We saw their (secured) WIFI addresses when checking for unsecured signals to use, before we saw their boat name. One WIFI address was “HP4Aft”, another was “HP helm”….now….for the boat name…“Hooters Pride”…..yes, THAT “Hooters”. Their dinghy/tender (about a 35’ center console powerboat) alongside the yacht was named “Hooters Calendar”.Too funny. Sadly for Ken, we didn’t see any girls nor photo shoots going on over there. We had planned to put up the dinghy this but got distracted. A double masted monohull with wooden masts came in about happy hour time with their jib flapping. They were from Detroit, named Maranatha, and at first we were just admiring their older vessel. Then, Ken noticed that their jib sail was flapping because their bowsprit had cracked, was detached, crumpled and bending back toward their mainsail mast. This was not good and we saw with the binoculars they had some very serious damage. One guy went up their mast to dislodge the jib from the rigging and they dropped it onto the deck. They provided quite a lot of entertainment in the anchorage, sadly for them, as it was the time when everyone was out on their decks having cocktails. The mooring field’s host couple came by on their dinghy to see if we needed a payment envelop for our mooring fees, which we did not. But, we asked them to let the folks on the “hurt” boat know that if they needed anything, tools, parts, extra hands, we would be glad to help in whatever way needed. But, seems they were equipped to deal with the sad dilemma without help from any of us.
02-29-2012 – Wednesday, day three, LEAP YEAR DAY!! Maho Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.This a.m. the cell phone rang which was such a surprise…as we had been going from having a signal too weak to make a call, to no signal at all. Luckily, the signal held long enough to speak to Eric and we made a plan to meet, tour and have lunch.Once packed up, we jumped in the dinghy to go meet Eric. Quest was with guests on their bow this a.m. so we waved as we passed and figured we’d stop to see them on our way back to MTB. We found Eric on shore and piled in his car. He took us to the Annaberg Sugar Mill ruins. The ruins of this mill sit high on a hill and are an amazing glimpse to times 200+ years in past on the island. At the peak of their manufacturing, the Annaberg Sugar Mill produced approximately 400,000 pounds of sugar a year. The sugar cane was boiled for sugar and some cooked longer for molasses. But, the burnt stuff…well, that was used to make RUM! Yea. The construction itself was amazing with walls formed from rocks and coral…much of it being large brain corals. Some reinforcing bricks were apparent in door headers/surrounds, etc. but we learned that none of the bricks came from the island. They were brought on ships as ballast and subsequently made their way into the construction of structures on the island. Yellow bricks that we observed were brought on ships from Denmark. Red bricks we noted were brought from “other places”.The structures were an amazing feat of craftsmanship with sharp square corners, etc.The plaster used to cover the rough rock/coral walls was made from a mixture of sand, shells and molasses! Most of it was now missing, exposing the rocks/coral that would have been covered during construction and when the mill was operating. We enjoyed our walk through the ruins and Eric, as always, was a wonderful tour guide. He pointed out local plants and gave us their backgrounds. A Park employee gave us a bite of fresh coconut as we walked through the gardens. Next, we headed to Coral Bay and picked out a waterfront, outdoors seating (Miko requirement) restaurant for lunch. It was our lucky day as margaritas were two for one! Yea.Eric had an appointment later in the day, so he passed on the tequila! We had such a nice afternoon and couldn’t be more appreciative of Eric’s time and willingness to show us his beautiful island. He was such a great resource and we never would have enjoyed so many great experiences here without him. We got back to Maho Bay to find that Quest was gone. We felt so sad that yet again, we hadn’t gotten to spend time with Dan/Judy. We tried to reach them on the VHF radio, but sadly they didn’t hear us and we had no response. Maybe we’ll run into them somewhere else!Ken polished the exterior side of the front windows in MTB’s salon this afternoon. Man, it made so much difference…like we had new picture windows. Salt and lime builds up on our windows, so they get clouded over time. It happens so gradually and sometimes we don’t realize just how bad our views have gotten.But, Ken’s efforts this day made all the difference in the world and we were both so happy with the result. Good job, honey.
02-28-2012 – Tuesday, day two, Maho Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.Maho/Francis are double bays, both having nice beaches. We were in the most southern bay, Maho.We swam again this day and went on a putt putt in the dinghy along the shore of this and Francis Bay to our north. We landed the dinghy on shore in the designated area in Maho Bay. Dogs are allowed on trails in the St. John U.S. Park areas, so we carried Miko across the beach (dogs are not allowed on beaches). We located a trail to walk so she could have some exercise and shore time.We got back to MTB and Quest’s crew was still gone so we didn’t get to chat with them this day. We kept trying to find a way to communicate and get a message to Eric, but no luck.It rained off and on this day. Not much to report on this day so will give some St. John facts. Two thirds of this amazing island is managed and owned by the U.S. National Park Service. Congress established the Virgin Islands National Park in 1956. In 2001, by Presidential proclamation, 12,708 acres of additional submerged land was added, creating the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument. These water areas are protected and maintained by the U.S. just as any of our other National Monuments…. i.e. the Lincoln Memorial, etc.This will assure the seabeds and underwater reefs are well protected from damage and overuse in future years. This is a good thing as we have seen what anchors and the chains attached to them can do to coral and seaweed beds. Anchoring in coral is prohibited everywhere in both the US and British Virgin Islands. In the Bahamas, we anchor in pure white sand, so when winds cause us to change direction, the anchor chain moving along the sea floor isn’t damaging important resources as it could here. It is wonderful that this Island will be healthy for years to come. In 1917, the Danes sold their Virgin Islands to the United States. The U.S. was happy to have a military outpost in the Caribbean and over the first half of the century with social reforms and other progress the islands rapidly became popular with Tourists…and tourism is the Island’s economic stability today.
02-27-2012 – Monday, moving day, departed Caneel Bay. We broke our rule and decided to pull the dinghy this day as we were only planning to move about 3 miles north to another mooring field/beach. The cut between the islands was rough and the dinghy wasn’t riding very well, the motor bouncing up and down. Finally we were in better-protected waters and the dinghy was following along just fine. We picked up a mooring ball in Maho Bay (our 4th one ever!) and were so excited that we still had wifi on the boat. Then, Ken spotted an available mooring in the first row of the field that was really close to shore. He though that it would allow us easy access both to the beach and the protected swim/snorkeling areas. So, we left our original mooring with in minutes of our arrival and moved further toward shore. We finally were “home” on mooring #122, settled in by 10:30 a.m. This bay was protected and beautiful so we were happy with our move. EXCEPT, on the new mooring ball, tucked closer in to the hills surrounding the bay, we had no wifi, no phone signal, no ham radio…nothing.We were bummed, as we knew it meant we’d be out of touch with Eric during our visit to Maho. Although, he knew we had planned to move here and he probably also knew that the call signal would be sketchy. We snorkeled this day for the first time all season and swam in the clean aqua water surrounding MTB.We saw a few conch shells, Rays and starfish, but nothing quite as spectacular as we’d seen snorkeling in the BVI.Although, Maho Bay pristine and the surrounding scenery was beautiful, as well. The U.S. National Park Service runs a campground here with a restaurant, tents, cabins, showers and a store.Boaters were welcome to access everything but sadly, DOGS were not.Quest arrived this day and took the mooring ball right next to us. We chatted by yelling across to one another and were so glad to catch up yet again. We hoped to get them over for a visit on MTB>
02-26-2012 – Sunday, day seven, mooring ball #174, Caneel Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. We stopped by the floating “payment” station and put our fees for our mooring ball in the locked tube. On we went into town to meet Eric. We said we’d meet at 10 a.m. and Eric was waiting for us at the dinghy dock in Cruz Bay. We piled in his Toyota SUV and Eric took us to his place in Great Cruz Bay. He’d told us to bring our laundry and that we were welcome to take showers if we desired. We told him we’d love to do a load of clothes, as it would be such a treat not to have to put quarters in the machines. OMG, where Eric lives is so very beautiful and tranquil.His deck has an amazing water view and the grounds are lush and tropical. We got a tour of the house, yard and waterfront first and admired the grass that was grown from Tallahassee “plugs”. We threw our load of clothes in the washer and then Eric treated us to Mimosas and muffins. We had a great morning/afternoon of just total relaxation on his deck. Miko seemed so happy and content to splay out on a deck that wasn’t moving! Eric had an afternoon appointment so after our mimosas, beers and clean laundry, we sadly had to leave Eric’s piece of Caribbean heaven. We dinghied back to MTB and did emails, etc. in anticipation of leaving the Caneel Bay anchorage. We didn’t’ know if our next “home” would have any wifi access.
02-25-2012 – Saturday, day six on mooring ball #174, Caneel Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. Well, our mail came on Friday, we went to town, and picked it up Friday afternoon, along with two bottles of rum. We checked out the other market, too…but still no grits, frowny face. After going through our package of mail, we only had a couple things to take care of.We had one insurance premium due (02-14-2012) that hadn’t been paid by our insurance agency. They were to have paid it and drafted our account. So, we emailed and asked that it be handled and were so glad to have WIFI access. Nothing else was of any significance, yeah! This was a rocky, lazy day aboard. We spoke to bro in law, Eric and made plans to meet in town on Sunday.So, yet again, we didn’t move to another anchorage.
02-24-2012 – Friday, day five on mooring ball, Caneel Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. It rained hard during the night so we were happy that MTB got yet another fresh water rinse as her decks looked really good. We just hung on the boat all morning, waiting to hear if our mail made it here this day or not. For some reason, our UPS store at home sent our mail via USPS…so not sure what impact that may have on our delivery here. We just have to wait…. its island time, mon. We had a tracking number and knew the package with our mail from home made it to San Juan…but, who knows from there to here? The boat traffic just astounds us here. Every shape, size, type, and color of vessel imaginable has passed behind us during our time here as our mooring is on one of the main channels folks use to move to/from St. Thomas, St. John and the British Virgin Islands. If our mail miraculously arrived in Cruz Bay today, we planned to move to a new location on Saturday, possibly Maho Bay, to the north of us about 4 miles.
02-23-2012 – Thursday, day four on mooring ball, Caneel Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. This morning when we woke up, looked out the back hatch and saw not one, but two cruise ships anchored just south of us. Well, guess town will be busy today! After breakfast, we decided to explore a little and jumped into Toby. First we went to the dinghy dock at Caneel Bay Resort, as we read that cruisers moored here in the bay were welcome at their shops/restaurants. We re glad it was not private and appeared we were welcome. So, we got tied up, grabbed our “bag” with Miko’s water/bowl, etc. and took one step off the dock when “Security” told us that pets were not welcome at Caneel Bay Resort. Alrighty, then. We decided to try the next beach up, Honeymoon Bay. There is a marked dinghy channel to assure we don’t run over any tourists snorkeling. We got in ok but waves were breaking on a steep drop off by the beach and we knew if we tried to land the dinghy, we’d be swamped. Alrighty, then. Next we decided to try the next tiny beach further south and it seemed more calm. I got off the dinghy with Miko in my arms, but waves were crashing over back of the dinghy. We knew it was time to give up and abort the mission…sorry Miko. Luckily, we turned back to MTB as a rain shower was coming and the skies darkened, letting loose just as we got back on board. Ken worked made some adjustments to the dinghy motor as it wasn’t running at slow speeds as well as it should. After a nice shower and a little fresh water scrubbing on our decks, Eric called. Yea. We made a plan to meet him again this day at the Cruz Bay ferry dock. Ken went to start the engine…nothing. Dang thing. But, he kept trying and finally she started and from then on, ran great all day. Weird. Eric was on the dock waiting for us when we arrived. This day, he drove us east and south on the island, exploring the beautiful bays that fringe Coral Harbor. The Coral Bay area is considered out in “the boonies” by the locals…yep, way out there. But, this is where the locals keep their boats and cruisers/tourists don’t venture here as often as other parts of the island. We took pictures of cows, burros just wandering around…no fences on St. John and some beautiful vistas. Eric stopped at a favorite restaurant/bar of his that had a few souvenir shops. While Eric held Miko’s leash for us, we both picked out our St. John Tshirts. We only get one or two Tshirts a season from favorite places we visit. This season we will each make it home with two…..one each from St. John and Isla De Vieques, east of Puerto Rico. After coming to the end of the road, we turned around and decided to check out Lucy’s in John’s Folly Bay or Johnson Bay (can’t remember which). We chose three nicely shaded stools outside at the bar and enjoyed a great lunch and a few beers. Eric took us back to our dinghy via the north side of the island and deposited us at the Ferry dock about 4:30 pm. This day was amazing and we know the beauty of today’s scenery will forever be etched in our cruising memories. One day, we’ll be sitting around the “home” and will still be talking about the views Eric shared with us this day. So, what would be an appropriate finale to this special afternoon (?)…a sea turtle swimming alongside our dinghy on the way back to MTB. Can’t beat that for a finish!
02-22-2012 – Wednesday, day three on mooring ball, Caneel Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. Up this morning with no plans so we just enjoyed a lazy, coffee drinking morning, nice. This mooring field is right on the channel used by ferries going to/from St. Thomas, St. John and the British Virgin Islands. So, it is rough with vessel wakes. But, we really don’t mind it too much, as long as we know Miko is safe and not going to fly off the side! We didn’t hear from Eric this morning and we knew he was probably busy with his work. He told us the previous day that President’s Day week is the third busiest of the season. So, once we got organized, we packed up our garbage, some postcards to be mailed AND our foul weather jackets. After the previous day’s wet ride…we wanted to be prepared this day. We swung by “Quest” and spoke with Dan. He said they came in around 2:30 p.m. the day before. Sadly, they were going to finish breakfast and head to another anchorage. Maho Bay is one we thought we might go to next…but by then, Quest will probably be taking their kids over to St. Thomas to catch flights home. One day…we’re going to be able to sit down and enjoy more time with Dan/Judy! We headed into Cruz Bay and tied up at the ferry dock once again. I walked Miko as Ken took our bag of trash to the dumpster designated for boaters’ use. We dropped by the Post Office and sent off our postcards. From there, we headed out to find the supermarket Eric had shown us on our tour the previous day. We thought we were going in the right direction, but asked a local on the sidewalk with us, just to make sure. Yep, just up the street some! Before leaving MTB this a.m., we checked WIFI and learned that in the same building as the supermarket (Marketplace Mall) there was a Mail Center. We hadn’t had our mail forwarded to us since we were in Palm Beach in November! So, we needed to take a look at what had arrived in our box at the UPS Store since then! Most everything is on auto-pay, but once and awhile, we get a surprise! I spoke with the folks in the PostNet store and they were very accommodating. We called our UPS store in Brunswick, Ga and Melissa was her normal super, helpful self. Mail sent here overnight should arrive in a three day timeframe, per the folks here. So, we’re hopeful it will arrive Friday, as there are no deliveries here on Saturday. If our package doesn’t arrive by Friday, we would be looking at a Monday arrival at the earliest. We have to be off this mooring ball Monday morning as only 7 nights are allowed in one place. Our next stop was the Starfish Supermarket to do some grocery shopping. What a great store they have here. Eric said it sure had made difference from what they had in the past. We bought some bread and very much needed produce! Bummer, they didn’t have grits…and we were OUT. We love fish and garlic cheese grits as a meal on board, so now we’ll have to improvise. Or, maybe we’ll get lucky and St. Thomas will have them. We didn’t hear from Eric while on shore, so we went back to Toby/dinghy and headed “home” to MTB. The chop wasn’t as bad as the prior day, but before we made it all the way back to MTB, we donned our foul weather jackets. Quest was gone and Helga’s Car was pulling out as we returned, both going to Maho Bay. There was to be a building north swell this day and we didn’t have much protection from the north. But, we were hoping the small islands and reefs in front of our mooring field would help diminish the effect of the forecasted sea swell. It was only to be a north swell this day and part of Thursday before clocking more to the east, so we hoped it wouldn’t be untenable. If it did become too uncomfortable, we figured we’d pay up our fees and head to the south shore of St. John.
Eric Straubinger & Ken - St. John
02-21-2012 – Tuesday, mooring field, Caneel Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. We dropped the dinghy and motored around the corner to Cruz Bay, about a mile trip. Eric found us and it was so great to finally get our hugs. If it hadn’t been our desire to visit him, I think we would have bailed on the plan to come this far this season. A few times we considered heading back toward the Bahamas once leaving the Dominican Republic as we weren’t seeing any weather windows to make it further East. But, one opened, though we have had some tough legs, motoring most of the time….today made it all worth it. Spending time with Eric, on his “rock” was great. We threw Miko in the back of Eric’s Toyota SUV and off we went. First we went to a favorite bakery shop where Eric so kindly treated us to coffees and breakfast …yummy bagel, cream cheese with veggies…a treat for us. Then, we had such a memorable experience with Eric as our world class tour guide. He drove us all over his beautiful island. We saw beaches, panoramas, bays/anchorages, flora/fauna, beautiful homes, ruins of sugar mills, deer, iguanas crossing the road, just amazing sights. He taught us a lot about the island and its history as well. He had a couple of appointments this day (yes, he did have responsibilities other than entertaining us!), so he dropped us back at the Ferry Dock. We agreed to make plans later for Wednesday. We had such a wonderful time and enjoyed Eric’s company and knowledge very much. We walked around the area by the ferry dock a little while, before jumping back on Toby. The trip back in the dinghy was rough as the seas were choppy from the large amount of boat traffic (ferries, etc) combined with wind chop. Miko was hunkering down in the floor of the dinghy and that is rare for her as she is usually our “masthead”. But, we made it back safely, though wet. Later in the afternoon, I looked out about the mooring field and lo and behold….was that “Quest”??? Got out the binoculars and confirmed it was. We were in for the day so figured we’d get over to speak with them in the morning since we weren’t able to raise them on the VHF. This cruising “fraternity” of ours never ceases to make us smile as we come across cruising friends again and again in new places.
02-20-2012 – Monday, departed Esparanza, Isla De Vieques, Spanish Virgin Islands. Ah, the music stopped at midnight last night thank goodness so we had some good sleep. We were up early with the anchor up at 6:55 a.m. The wind was forecast to be in a direction that would allow us to sail….all the sources of weather we listened to the prior day said the same. So, we were hopeful no to have to motor all day again this day. Well, this morning the wind was not at all from the SE, rather it was from the N/NE and right on our nose. So, we sadly motored all day again this day. It was a nice trip though, as along our way, we could see Vieques, Culebrita, St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John all at the same time, on the horizon. We made the 43 nautical miles and arrived at the mooring field in Caneel Bay, St. John by about 2:30 pm. We picked up a mooring ball (third one we’ve ever done!) and were so relieved to be safely in. We cleared Customs/Immigration with one easy phone call due to the advance prep we did online the day before. Once “legal”, we called Eric. Eric has lived on St. John for as long as we can remember. His brother, Brent, is married to Ken’s sister, Kim. We were excited we made it here and were so looking forward to spending some time with Eric. We didn’t get him on the cell phone so left him two messages. We called Ken’s sister, Kim, as we were excited to let her know we made it and were in St. John. We were worn out so decided not to drop the dinghy this evening and we just stayed aboard. Our neighbor in the bay was Helga’s Car, a trawler that was in Puerto Bahia, D.R. with us…such a small world it truly is. There were boats EVERYWHERE this afternoon/evening, every shape and size. A humongous sailboat that looked like a cruise ship but with 5 masts and sails up went by at dusk, amazing and impressive. We saw every type of vessel possible this day just sitting here on our National Park Service Mooring ball. Eric called us this evening and we were so excited to make plans to meet him in town in the a.m. at the Ferry dock. So, that ended the day perfectly.
Beach we were run off of....no dogs allowed, oh well, sorry Miko.
02-19-2012 – Sunday, Esparanza, Isla De Vieques, Spanish Virgin Islands. It was a crazy night as the music booming from shore went on until at least 5:15 a.m. this morning! It is loud but rather fun. We slept pretty good, running our fan for a drone to offset the music. When I work at 2 a.m., still music, 4:14 a.m., still music. Ah, Saturday night on the islands, mon….gotta love it. It really was rather fun. But, we were sure we weren’t up for another whole night! On Friday night they stopped at about 2:00 am (Saturday). We could only hope that the locals rest on Sunday nights! This morning we made the decision that we would leave Vieques on Monday and try to make our way over to St. John. We thought about stopping in a few bays on this south of Vieques and then a short hop to St. Thomas. But, St. John is this season’s ultimate cruising destination and approximately 43 nautical mile journey. Hopefully, this would be the last twin engine motoring leg we will have to do this season. Once we head back West/North….the Trade Winds from the East should allow us to sail once again. We have not enjoyed being a power boat since arriving in the Dominican Republic. Ken checked the oil levels on our two engines since we were planning on leaving in the a.m. We went over to the next bay, Ensenanda Sun and enjoyed a walk on the beach until the Ranger threatened us with a $500 fine for having a dog on the beach…now mind you, Miko was never off her leash. But, oh well, we turned around and went back to the dinghy with THREE dogs following us…not on leashes. We got in the dinghy and Miko decided to try to go play with the local bad dogs….jumping off the dinghy. Luckily, I had her leash in my hand, but she did manage to pull me down and I got soaked. So, we went back to MTB, got som dry clothes, wiped the saltwater off Miko (not good for her when she licks it off) and re-group. We still had to go into town this day to find a WIFI signal. We needed to do an electronic notification of our planned arrivals and departures (Enoad!) to the US Coast Guard and Customs. This seems crazy since Puerto Rico is a US holding, as well as is St. John, in the USVI. One would think US citizens on US flagged and documented vessels shouldn’t have to jump through the USCG, Customs and Immigrations hoops when coming/going from these US Islands. Oh, but, one must. So, while in town, we went to Belly Buttons, a restaurant/bar on the waterfront. We had seen their signal on the boat, but it was secured and we were sunk without the password. So, we ordered lunch and asked if they had wifi…but of course….now, we have the password! We filed our information on the National Vessel Movement website, checked Facebook and sent a few emails. Great. Add two cold beers, a Reuben and an Italian cold cut sub, dogs allowed, a perfect situation for us at Belly Buttons this day. We went back to Tradewinds, a store where I saw some nice Tshirts on sale the day prior. They let Ken carry Miko in, so he could pick out one he liked. While ashore….we got wifi, lunch, cold refreshments and tshirts for each of us, a very successful day ashore. Back on MTB, we put up Toby, preparing to leave in the a.m. Just before dark, we heard folks hollering “Meant To Be…Meant To Be”, we looked out and there were Dan/Judy from Quest with son/daughter in law, Robert and Steff. They had arrived this day, anchored in Sun Bay, the beach where we were run off by the Park Ranger. We told them we were leaving for St. John on Monday, but we all hoped we’d catch up again.
02-18-2012 – Saturday, Esparanza, Isla De Vieques, Spanish Virgin Islands. Well, it was a little rolly in the anchorage, but not bad. One monohull sailboat came in next to us after dark and the only motor vessel that was here after dark, before midnight. This a.m. many of boats here left the anchorage and by 10:00 a.m. we were down to us and six monohull sailboats. The bay and island lies in front of us, with the small town of Esparanza”. To our right, starboard side was a small, tall island, offering protection from the east wind. Vieques Island is part of the Spanish Virgin Islands. It is known historically as the sight of protests lodged against the US Navy's continued use of the island as a bombing range and testing grounds. Due to those widespread protests the Navy departed from the Island in 2006 but you'd best not be picking up any strange metal devices off the beach. There are notes on the charts in places were there are “unexploded ordinances”…so not good places to drop one’s anchor. It was a beautiful, blue morning but the weather was to worsen over the next two days. So, we knew we wanted to get into town and do some exploring this am. There was a grocery store noted on the chart…and I still needed a can opener. Ours died of rust so we had been using a “Leatherman-like” tool that had a can opened blade on it. A real can opener would be a treat, though. Since this bay was open to its south to the Caribbean Sea, the water here was clear and beautiful blue. We were anchored in 20+ feet of water, and could still see the bottom. Ken jumped in for a “pirate” shower, swim and check of MTB’s bottom hulls for growth about 10:00 am. Miko was wondering why he was messing around, and hadn’t dropped Toby dinghy and taken her to shore. We pondered moving MTB toward shore some, to see if we could get an unsecured wifi signal on the boat. We are so spoiled….love having our wifi in the salon vs. having to carry our computer with us to shore. Ken said the water here was wonderful and our boat bottom couldn’t be any cleaner, as clean as he had ever seen it. Though not here, we sent our telepathic thanks to the sweet guy in Puerto Bahia, Dominican Republic who insisted on scraping/cleaning our hulls one last time just as we were trying to pull out of the marina there. Sweet guy and such a great help to us/MTB. The folks who came in next to us after dark the previous night took their dinghy into shore. I had hoped they would relocate in the anchorage and get out of our way if we wanted to pull up anchor. If we were going to move closer to shore, the back of their boat would be directly in front of us and I hate moving toward another boat while we’re pulling up our anchor. Its just one more thing to watch. Ken was back on board, had a fresh water shower by 10:30 am. So, by 11:00 a.m., the wind moved to the north, which took us away from the boat in front of us. So, in search of an internet signal…we decided to move more into the bay, toward shore. By 11:05, we were moved, anchored and still, no wifi…frowny face! Didn’t want to go in further, as the music was loud enough the previous night! So, we dropped the dinghy and headed to town. We walked along the Malecon (waterfront walkway) and visited a few shops. One nice lady in a craft/jewelry tent gave us a map to the area. As we were with her, a tornado left the land, over the dinghy dock and small boat anchorage area. It picked up all sorts of paper debris and started making its way toward MTB. It probably was 100’ in width and fast moving. Luckily, it passed just behind MTB and kept going. We have seen water spouts in our cruising times, but never this type of cyclonic wind that began on land. The lady in the tent said she had never seen this happen on Isla de Vieques’ waterfront, ever. We saw a horse and rider in downtown, lots of locals, tourists and good/bad dogs as we walked to the “Green” store. It was the local grocery/liquor store. Yes, the building was green. There we met some Americans who now live on the island. They meet on one of the three round concrete tables/benches in front of the store, each day at 11:00 a.m. They go in and buy beers, drink, and chat….reminded us of the “old farts” table at our old hometown bar, The Other Side. We bought bread, rum, batteries, TWO can openers, and a couple of ice cream bars to eat out front with the beer drinkin’ locals. Once done, we walked back to the waterfront. Here along the beach are a bunch of food carts, snorkel excursion huts, etc….anything the locals think they can sell to tourists. We took our groceries back to the dinghy and walked the waterfront a little longer. The nice lady who gave us the map had some macrame’ bracelets for sale, so I bought one to support her and the local economy. We were back to MTB early afternoon…Miko happy once again, a dinghy ride, people petting her and dogs to play with on shore….a good day in her estimation.
02-17-2012 – Friday, departed Bahia de Salinas, south coast, Puerto Rico. We were up early at 6 a.m. and due to prep done the night before (dinghy up, cereal/bowls out, coffee made, tv secured, etc.), we were ready to go once the sun was up far enough to have light to maneuver out of the crowded anchorage. Although, we were trying to encourage Miko to “do her business” prior to leaving, causing us a delay in our departure. Miko unfortunately was more interested in watching the numerous Manatees swimming all around MTB this am. So, we gave up on Miko and were pulling up the anchor by 7 am. Unfortunately, in the end of the process, the anchor stuck. I hollered at Ken and asked him to back up, hoping to free the anchor from whatever may be holding it. It worked, thank goodness and we were off. This day we planned to leave Salinas and arrive at Esparanza, Isla De Viegues, one of the “Spanish Virgin Islands. This would be a long day, 53 nautical miles of motoring against the wind and sea swell. But, we wanted to continue to make our way east as quickly as possible during the good weather window we were enjoying. As mentioned before, we will be able to sail most everywhere from St. John (our final destination) as we turn around and head toward the Bahamas/home having the Tradewinds behind us and helping us sail. As usual, we had about three sources of weather for this day. We hadn’t heard anything more than 16 knots of wind and seas 3-5 but of course, seas built and we had winds in the 20’s for a good part of the afternoon. Oh well, it is always what it is and we cope. We arrived at Esparanza round 3:30 pm and decided to try the right side of the divided (by a little island) anchorage. We got excited as there were only two boats in that area. Well, that ended quickly as it was more shallow than we expected and the bottom was grass which our anchor doesn’t like. Add to this a shallow sand/rock bar behind us, a monohull sailboat that was “hunting” (crazy swinging on their anchor chain, forward, back, etc.) and not getting hooked well after three tries, we bailed. We motored back to the other side of the divided anchorage. It hadn’t been our first choice as it was more crowded and much deeper. Although, we found an open spot, pulled in (20’ of water), dropped our anchor and immediately “hooked” in hard sand. It’s not our preference to be as far out from shore as we were, in such deep water. But, a good hold is our priority. By about 4:15 pm, we were “home”. We hoped some boats in front of us would leave the next day and we’d be able to pick a better spot. But, we had good music on shore and life was good. We were tired and didn’t even think about dropping the dinghy this afternoon. That made Miko sad, but she got treats for being such a good girl all day.
Calm anchorage, Bahia de Salinas
February 16, 2012 – Thursday, Bahia de Salinas, south coast, Puerto Rico. This was a resting day and boy that is always so nice. Get up to a beautiful, calm anchorage...then, drink coffee, eat, rest, read, play on the Internet, eat, read, play with Miko, drink, well…you get the picture! We saw Bruce/Sara on their dinghy visiting another boat this a.m. But, later in the afternoon, we realized they had left the anchorage. Not sure where they were heading, but maybe we’ll see them again, elsewhere. Ken cleaned the dinghy carburetor as the dink sat for over a month prior, and the motor seemed to spurt spurt a little on Wednesday ‘s ride about. Ken also flushed our water maker with fresh vs. salt water, as our water tanks were full and we wouldn’t be making water for a little while. Later, I pulled the dinghy around the boat with Ken in it, as he washed off some rust stains that had formed on each side of MTB. We had some special rust remover and it was the ticket…..we were pretty again. This day we did two ride-abouts….one was just a dinghy sightseeing ride. And, the second, later in the day…we docked by Le Barco, a restaurant and marina in Bahia Playita de Salinas. We walked around the surrounding community; saw more interesting and colorful houses, a convenience store, the Elementary school, baseball fields, and several restaurants. It would be nice to stay here long enough to try these local places as I bet there is some great food here. Once back to MTB, we put the dinghy back up on its davits aboard MTB, anticipating an early departure in the morning. We had about a 50 mile trip planned for Friday, hoping to make it to Esparanza, Isla de Vieques, one of the Spanish Virgin Islands. We cooked Mahi Mahi caught off Acklin Island in the Bahamas on our way here, for dinner this night. I label the fish, so when we eat them…we know where he came from! This evening, we were absolutely surrounded by Manatees. They were all around us and one really large guy came up to the bottom step of our starboard sugar scoop. They get really active, swimming all around us just at dusk. Ken actually was able to get some amazing photos of a few of our visitors. Wonderful.
February 15, 2012 – Wednesday, Ponce, south coast Puerto Rico. We knew this was a moving day, even though the wind would still be against us. We were trying to go east against the normal, seasonal trade winds blowing from the east, right on our nose. But, we knew we needed to do this motoring to get to our planned final destination of St. John. We’d be sailing the majority of our time going home with the trade winds pushing us…so these motoring days were temporary and we knew it would pay off once we got to where we were going! We decided that since the Ponce Yacht and Fishing Club had an easily accessed fuel dock, with Texaco diesel, we’d go top off our tanks before leaving Ponce “Pon-Say”, this day. When I started bringing up the anchor, I found the chain covered with the biggest CLUMPS of sea weed….really fine strands of vegetation in big balls. So, it was slow going to up anchor this a.m…..bring up some chain, lean over pull off a seaweed clump ball…pull up, pull off, pull up, pull off. Finally, we got the anchor up and were off, headed to the fuel dock. Once we were close to the dock, I hailed the marina on VHF channel 68, which is what the Internet said they monitor. The fuel dock helper answered and said he’d be to the dock in “ten minutes”. Ok, then. Now we know we aren’t going to have any help landing MTB at the fuel dock. Most marinas have at least two people ready and waiting and all we have to do is throw each one a line and they tie us off. Nope, this a.m. I am going to have to “lasso” a cleat on their dock. Luckily the easterly trade winds were pushing us right onto the dock and that was so nice. No problem, actually caught a dock cleat with my line, first try. Although, this docking distraction caused me not to get back to put our stern fender and line in position. As a result, we almost bumped our starboard hull on the dock, but Ken got there in time to save the day. Well, that was my rookie mistake this day. We filled up with diesel AND water which was a treat after the D.R. (the DR dock water not drinkable). In Ponce, good, fresh from the mountains water was .10 cents a gallon. We probably can’t make water, running the generator and RO water maker, for .10 cents a gallon. Steve from Clear Day came over to see us on the fuel dock. Nice to finally meet, seen him/messages on the weather web casts over the past weeks. Clear Day is going to Puerto Bahia next week and they wanted our input about the marina facility/area. He said his specialty was with SSB radios and we told him we were having trouble hearing on ours. So, we made plans to radio each other later that day. As we were pulling away from the fuel dock, we sadly saw Quest coming into Ponce, arriving from Gilligan’s Island. We spoke to Dan on the radio and found that they had a good visit at Gilligan’s Island. We were bummed that we were going to miss seeing each other again, by one day. But, we felt sure we’d catch up with them along the way sometime. We were heading to Bahia Patella’s this day, about a 48-mile trip east from Ponce. We got a late start though, and a squall line piped up the wind and seas. We had to alter course for a tugboat pulling a barge and that caused us to be going right into some big swells. We weren’t having any fun. So, we decided to bail out to the Bahia de Salinas. I do research of anchorages along our intended routes and usually have a bail out anchorage or two identified, just in case. We were really glad we came to Salinas. It is a quaint bay, has lots of local homes with tons of character and colorful. The anchorage had lots of local boats as well as cruisers. But, we found plenty of room and dropped our anchor all the way into the end of the bay. We had a lot of room; much to see, music to hear all around and the bay was swarming with Manatees. Yes, Manatees surrounded us all evening with their tales splashing, what a delight. We dropped the dinghy (didn’t lose it this day)…and went to the Marina de Salina’s dinghy dock. We walked around the neighborhood around the marina and a couple of times were chased by packs of local mutt dogs…mangy, dirty, no shots type dogs. Miko would get excited thinking we were at a dog park…. then they would charge at her. Ken would pick her up to keep her safe and you could tell she was relieved. Some streets weren’t dog infested so we had a nice walk around, taking pictures of colorful homes and beautiful flowers. We got back to the marina, hopped on Toby, did a ride around of the anchorage/bay. We saw another dinghy and realized it was Bruce/Sara the nice English couple from Sara Jane we met in Ponce. We had seen them in the marina while we were fueling up this day, as well, before we departed. This cruising community just moves from place to place, year after year. It is nice, the connections/friendships we make. On the way back to MTB, I saw I had made yet another rookie mistake this day. After the fuel stop, I brought in all our lines and (I thought), all our fenders. Nope, on the way back to MTB in the dinghy, we saw that I left one out and it was just hanging on after crashing in the seas, on the way here. HHHMMM, my second rookie mistake today. So, Ken two, Cindy two…no more rookie mistakes allowed. This night, a truck with wonderful, loud and fun Latin music road was riding around the surrounding neighborhood. We enjoyed the tunes, we believe it was a politico trying to drum up votes…. complete with the occasional police type siren blaring…fun.
February 14, 2012 – Tuesday, Ponce, south coast Puerto Rico. Happy Valentines Day to all those we love out there. Both a commercial as well as a rather run down residential area surrounded the bay here. Behind these areas/buildings, a few miles inland is the really beautiful old, preserved parts of Ponce. And behind it all, there was a beautiful mountain range. After dark, when the houses on the mountains lighted up, it was a sight to see. Also on top of one of the nearer hills, there sits a factory my former employer, Fluor Daniel, built. They sent me here to do an audit many years ago. The Plant is a huge place with two water towers. Back then, it was a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility. No sure what it is today, but it probably is a boost to the local economy. It was a calm day and we decided we’d use it as a day of rest and exploration. We dropped the dinghy this day for the first time since we were in the Turks & Caicos, over a month prior. So, that felt great. Although, we found we needed to remember the protocols. When we were about to leave to dinghy to town, Ken remembered something he needed, inside MTB. I am holding Miko, waiting in the cockpit when I look over and it seems that the dinghy is further away from MTB than normal. For an instant, it doesn’t register. But quite suddenly, I realized Ken had simply laid down Toby’s rope to go back inside. OMG. I hollered and Ken ran out, emptied his pockets and dove in, had a nice little swim in the afternoon! Too funny. At least conditions were settled and the dinghy hadn’t gone very far. So, another fresh water shower and dry clothes for Ken and we are off. We went along the shoreline to find the best place to tie up and go ashore. Its funny, in the Bahamas, we have no qualms leaving Toby just about anywhere (except Nassau of course). But, here we have to be much more diligent to protect Toby from theft. We picked a busy area with business people around and we use cables and locks to tie up. Sad. We decided on the fishing pier in front of town, as we saw a Policeman nearby. We heard music and saw tents go up on shore this a.m. So once ashore we walked that way and asked a nice local lady what was going on. “Oh I don’t know…its political, they promise everything, they’re all crooked”. Her best comment of all, though, was “it is simple you know…if you don’t work, you don’t eat”. Says it all. After walking around and finding no grocery store, no liquor store and not a single taxi… we took a few pictures and headed back to MTB. On the way by the U.S. Customs building, we saw/met Bruce and Sara from a Gemini catamaran that followed us in the previous day, named “Sara Jane”. These folks were from England and had a difficult and very expensive time clearing in with Customs. It is sad that a few stupid terrorists cause good, decent folks to jump through hoops to spend their tourist dollars and to see our beautiful country. Tragic really. They were great and walked with us over to the fishing dock. They wanted to check it out as a part of cruising is seeing what’s available to us cruisers for the next trip we may make. Knowledge out here is peace of mind…the more we know/learn, the easier our cruising experience is the next time we visit. We said our farewells and jumped back on Toby. We got back to MTB and I noticed the dinghy anchor rope still tied off on the port stern. HHHMMM…. “Ah, Ken, did we drag the anchor all the way back here?” I ask. Yep. No wonder we were running slowly! Another rookie mistake, man we were out of practice! Anyway, we put the dinghy back up on its davits, ready to move the next day. This evening…. Ken and I both saw a green flash…. good thing on Valentines Day…not red, though…Green!
February 13, 2012 – Monday – Boqueron, west coast, Puerto Rico. Well this was indecision day. We got up, made coffee and pondered, “go”, “stay”, “go”? Finally, decision made…we were going to make a short hop to “Gilligan’s Island”…no, they didn’t film there. Rather, the guy living there looked like Gilligan so the nickname for the island (and probably him), stuck. The trip was a short one about 20 miles. We also figured if we had good conditions and were making good time, we could keep going onto Ponce as well. So, we were battening down the boat (TV tied up, rum put away, etc.) when Dan on Quest radioed. He just noticed us in the anchorage and wanted to say hello. They ironically were just unplugging from the dock and their plan was to go to Gilligan’s Island as well. We both figured we needed to take advantage of the mild weather conditions. So, we told them we’d either see them there, or we’d radio to tell them we were heading on to Ponce. They were out ahead of us but we were keeping up pretty well…until our bilge light came on and wasn’t going off. This is always scary as it means there is water in the engine compartment that the pump is working hard to remove from our vessel. I slowed us down some, as Ken stuck his head into the port engine compartment. It is under the port, stern bed and a challenge to get to things. Luckily, he found the source of the leak, so he was happy as he had a 50% chance of picking the engine having an issue. I kept us on course, stressed to the max…never know if it’s a big and bad issue that is going to involve great effort, parts, expense, etc. to be taken care of. Or, if it is a simple thing, that Ken magically fixes in a jiffy. After what seemed a long time, but was only a couple minutes…Ken is up with a “good news” smile on his face…it’s only a hose clamp, rusted out and broken. Bad news, engine is hot and its not fun working in there…good news…. we have a replacement clamp and the repair is simple. Whew! So, once fixed we again fired up engine number two and were cooking. The wind was directly on our nose, but we knew it was a motoring day. We rounded Cap Room (Cape Red) and at the point was the most idyllic, beautiful rock lighthouse we have seen. It was breathtaking, so much so, that Ken and I decided we’d become its “Lighthouse keepers” when we done sailing. We were making good time, light seas and beautiful scenery so we radio’s Quest (already anchored at Gilligan’s Island) and told them we were going on. We approached the recommended anchorage area in the bay by the Ponce Yacht and Fishing Club. We were not excited about the location as it was very crowded and very deep (had to use a lot of anchor chain), the scenery NOT SO GOOD…. as the bay was fringed by a commercial port with huge, noisy industrial cranes. We came, we looked, and we left. We decided to go to the bay directly in front of the town and see if we liked it better. There was one local fishing boat on a mooring ball, one monohull, one catamaran and a huge amount of water. The scenery was better and the town had a fishing pier/dinghy dock. Ok, we decided that was the place for us. We threw the anchor out and we hooked great. We were anchored in time to see two locals riding horses bareback down the beach in front of town. Next thing we know, they are walking their horses right into the water. Both horses and their riders got salt-water baths this day. The monohull left us shortly, so just a Manta catamaran and us anchored here this night.
Tiki dinghy....ah, Caribbean style for sure!!
February 12, 2012 – Sunday, arrival at Boqueron, west coast, Puerto Rico. The night was uneventful and for a change, the actual weather/winds/seas were as forecasted: small seas, little sea swell, light wind on our nose. We had to motor all night, but because it was expected, we were not disappointed. The good seas more than made up for motoring. This trip can be quite unsettled and difficult, so we weren’t complaining. Our route took us out of the Bay of Samana, down the east coast of the Dominican Republic, across the “Mona Passage” in between DR and PR, and down the west coast of Puerto Rico to Boqueron Bay. We saw lots of commercial vessels overnight and had one that didn’t make a turn away from us until I was nervous enough to wake Ken for some extra eyes/help. Of course, soon as I work up Ken, the stinkin’ Captain veered off, moving to pass behind us. Geez. At sunrise, we were traveling by the 700’ high island named Isla Desecheo and got great photos of the island with the sunrise behind it. Our total trip took about 30 hours, we averaged 5.5 knots overall speed and had our anchor down about 2:30 p.m. We did get to sail for about an hour this day! We ran the water maker/generator to replenish our water tanks for about 5 hours Saturday and about three more this day. So, it felt good to have about 175 gallons of good, fresh water aboard. Boqueron is not a port of entry for Customs/Immigrations purposes. Although, I had researched and found that with the proper documentation and previous filings with the US government, we might be able to clear in via a phone call. So, just as soon as the anchor was down (first time in 34 days!)…I called a 1-877 toll free number I found online. Each year (7 now!), we have purchased and displayed a US Customs Decal that is supposed to be required for us. Although, many cruisers do not do this. We also were enrolled in a program through the Jacksonville authorities called “the LBO” or Local Boaters Option. To do this, we had to visit with them in person a few years ago, provide all our vital information, etc. This was a pilot program to assist the simplification of clearing back into Florida from the Bahamas. Since then, the LBO has been approved as a National program…and lo and behold…Puerto Rico is one of the first in the US to pick it up. So, with our decal and the LBO, one toll free call…..we were good and legal with both Customs & Immigration. Now, that was COOL. So, we raised our Puerto Rico nautical courtesy flag and were legal, no quarantine, no personal appearance in Mayaquez….a simple phone call…YEA. So we were loving life in Puerto Rico. We tried to radio Quest, as we saw them to our port side, tied up in the marina. But, no luck. The rest of the day, we chilled. It rained off and on, we ate, picked up some, emailed folks to let them know we made it safe and sound and were just SLUGS. We figured we’ have Monday to drop the dinghy, walk the beach and visit the village. But, this day….nothing, nadda, zip. Tired. Those overnight crossings are hard on old people!
February 11, 2012 – Saturday, day 34, departed Puerto Bahia, Bay of Samana, Dominican Republic – Mixed emotions this day for sure. We were ready to move and see somewhere new. But, it is always hard to leave a place that has been so enjoyable. We got up this a.m. and walked Miko for a long while as we were going to be doing a 30 hour trip. We’d given her a good walk on Friday night, too. She does great though, a trouper and a really laid-back boat dog. Once done with our walk, I went to settle our bill while Ken finished final prep for our departure. We were cleared by Customs, Immigration and the Navy for our departure previously, on Friday, so we did not have an issue with waiting for them this morning. The nice guy who cleaned MTB’s bottom hulls about 2 weeks prior came on the dock about 8:30 a.m. We told him we were leaving and said goodbye to him. He insisted he wanted to clean our hulls again before our departure. He said he wanted to do it for free and it would only take about one hour. We really didn’t feel this was right…but he was emphatic that he wanted to do it for us. So, we relented and he jumped in the water and started work. The office computer was causing a delay settling our account so we knew we would just have a slightly longer delay BUT our hulls would be clean. How nice was that…ah, I knew Ken overpaid him the first time! While at the office, I’d prepaid from 50 gallons of diesel so once we were finished at the fuel dock, we could just pull away and go. We were given the monthly rate discount for our dockage and our final bill, even with $300 US for fuel included, was very reasonable. That day’s dock master, along with the dock supervisor (Pedro) came to help us with our lines. The DM rode over to the fuel dock aboard MTB with us to help us at the dock, and then pump our fuel. Finally, with all our business handled, we pulled out of Puerto Bahia, sadly, about 9:30 a.m. What a wonderful visit we had in the D.R. and how well we were taken care of at Puerto Bahia. We saw wonderful sights, ate great food and met a lot of really nice folks. Our melancholy was broken quickly though when we began seeing oodles of humpback whales on our way out of the Bay of Samana. We’d hoped to be lucky, but we hit the “mother load”. We saw no fewer than 12 whales, likely many more. Some were moms with babies. We also saw a number of blowhole waterspouts and tails so it was a great farewell gift to us. The seas were reasonable this day, but the wind was right on our nose, so we knew we’d be motoring all the way this day and through the night.
February 10, 2012 – Friday, day 33, Puerto Bahia, Bay of Samana, Dominican Republic. Well, the weather report this a.m. made us decide to leave here on Saturday, a.m. Winds and seas were to be down and calm through mid Monday. It is an overnight trip and we always try to take the earliest opportunity, in case the window closes sooner than expected. We emailed the office to let them know to arrange for Customs and the Navy to come clear us out. A cruise ship came in this day and we hoped the officials wouldn’t be too busy to get to our clearance. Hopefully the ship will be gone this evening. Rates in marinas typically reduce, the longer you stay. So, because it took awhile for a weather window to open, we had qualified for the marina’s monthly rate. It is a 20% reduction on an already very inexpensive marina rate of $1 per foot per day. So, staying longer was good. It was hard to believe that we could stay in this marina, have full use of 5 star resort amenities and pay less than $40 a day, including the government’s 16% tax. It was beyond comprehension and certainly, very hard to leave. Ken and I both thought that if by this weekend, we hadn’t seen a weather window to go east to Puerto Rico, we’d stay here longer, go see more of the country by car, then just head back to the Bahamas. So, wouldn’t you know, the weather window opened! We went and purchased cinco (5) grande agua bottles this day at the resort’s store…(5) 5 gallon jugs of good water. We were again low in our tanks, can’t drink the dock water, nor make water in the marina. So, with the bottled water added, we had about 50 gallons on board. We could run our watermaker and fill our tanks (2, 100 gallons each) completely as we motored to Puerto Rico. Yep, that’s right “MOTORED” to Puerto Rico, bummer, we’re a sailboat. But, the wind was to be directly on our nose and we figured no sailing, but at least it would be nice calm, flat seas as an offset. Hopefully we’d see some whales. A boat that went out for a day trip to whale watch saw 30 humpbacks on their excursion. The males were trying to woo the females for breeding, and the mamas were birthing new babies. Amazing sights that we hoped to see more of.
February 9, 2012 – Thursday, day 32, Puerto Bahia, Bay of Samana, Dominican Republic. This again was a very lazy day. Quest with Dan/Judy aboard departed about 2:30 pm headed to Boqueron, Puerto Rico, as we planned to do in a few days. Always sad to see nice folks leave, but we hoped to catch up with them down the “road”. In anticipation of leaving in a few days, Ken checked/topped off our engine oil, ran the engines for awhile and started the generator. All aok! I gave Ken a haircut this day and made some feta/pesto spread to take with us this night. Tim & Pam Landt have been involved with Puerto Bahia since its inception and invited us to their place for tapas this evening. They have a condo in a four story building with the most amazing views from each of their two decks. We enjoyed getting to see their place, knowing them better and also had some good food/tapas to go along with the views. There was a full moon out this evening so it was really a beautiful night. Tim told us a film crew was coming here to film another Pirates of the Caribbean movie in April. They rented his sailboat for some of the scenes and were going to pay him handsomely for a month’s usage, two weeks staying at the dock. We also found out that Tim knows/uses Mo LeCompte (attorney) in St. Pete for some of the difficult deals he’s worked on over the years. He said Mo was a great attorney and he respected his work. Mo was a great friend of Ken’s at FSU and was actually Ken’s best man when he married his first wife, India. Now that is a small world. We probably overstayed our welcome…got to Tim/Pam’s at 6:00 p.m. and didn’t leave until 10:30 p.m. – way past our bedtimes! But, it was a really nice evening…good to be off the boat for awhile, as well. Miko was happy to get out of her crate when we got home, but seemed just fine…such a good girl.
View from Tim & Pam's villa. Beautiful.
February 6, 7, 8, 2012 – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday – Puerto Bahia, Bay of Samana, Dominican Republic – days 29, 30, 31. We were mostly lazy these days. Although Monday was productive, as we were able to secure a 90 extension to the days granted for our stay. Tuesday was day 30 and with no extension, we’d have to pull out of here. A boat arrived Monday a.m. so Customs/Immigration came to clear them in. And, because the marina folks here knew we needed an extension (had told us we’d have to go to town)…the brought that nice lady to us. She took copies of our passports, $1600 RD pesos ($40 or so) and later in the day, we had a receipt and were extended. Yea, one less concern. This a.m. when we instant messaged Chris Parker on his live webcast and inquired about leaving for Puerto Rico…he replied, “Sorry, its not MEANT TO BE!”…. probably no window until the weekend. Tuesday was lazy with more boats coming and going. We tried to find a car to rent, with no luck and Tim/Pam Landt invited us to their villa home for Tapas on Thursday, fun. This day there were two cruiseships in by Cayo Levantado, always strange to see the behemoth outlines in such a pristine location. Luckily they only stay during the day, then they’re off. Updates on the capsized boat of immigrants trying to reach Puerto Rico had varying numbers reported to be aboard…we read 70, 60, 42 and 30. But, the number of deaths kept rising with 28 the highest we saw, 13 rescued, the remainder still missing. We learned that the “fishing” boat that arrived during the weekend was a $10 million dollar vessel. Rumbara is owned by “Mr. Bacardi”…yes, that Bacardi and he was here. Amazing vessel and on Super Bowl Sunday they turned on exterior lights on each of their three levels. Each level was a different color: red, white and blue. Truly beautiful. Wednesday, we spent the afternoon at the beautiful infinity pool here, overlooking the bay. We were joined by a number of cruisers….Dan/Judy from Quest and Rod/Cedar/Tiegan/Osa and their guests on Jaru. There was one topless sunbather and she had no inhibitions whatsoever. Tiegan stared with his mouth open. The wait staff from the restaurant were very professional as they served her lunch! We had a nice and interesting afternoon. This night we watched FSU vs. BC streaming on the computer. Sadly, after the longest string of ACC wins ever for FSU (7), BC pulled the upset and knocked off FSU. More sad though, was that our one and only can opener broke this day, not repairable. And, no luck finding one in the little store here. Wednesday was another “spa” day for Miko, brush brush brush…that girl was blowing her coat (about twice a year
Bacardi boat - Rumbara, lit up for Super Bowl. ).
February 5, 2012 – SUPER BOWL Sunday, Puerto Bahia, Bay of Samana, Domincan Republic – day 28. Quest and Venture II returned this a.m. from their overnight trips to Los Haitises. We made plans to go to the Café Del Mar to enjoy watching the Super Bowl together this evening. We ate breakfast in the hotel’s 2nd floor restaurant, overlooking the infinity pool and marina. It is nice to spoil ourselves now and then. Reports have 11 bodies recovered and 13 folks rescued of the 72 in the boat that capsized in the bay early Saturday morning. The USCG wasn’t notified until 3 pm on Saturday, sadly. We weren’t sure if efforts were still a “search” operation or now a recovery mission. Later in the day, we saw that the helicopter & plane were still making passes up and down the bay. And, we heard a loud horn blowing somewhere out on the water but weren’t sure if it was the USCG cutter “Sapelo”. Not sure of the local Navy’s role as we’ve read they have a few boats, but no money to put fuel in them. We did a load of laundry after lunch and that always makes us feel very productive. Folks living aboard boats in the marina are given use of a washer/dryer in a villa the management of the development uses for storage, etc. Each condo/villa in the development has a laundry room and behind it a maid/caretaker’s quarters. Each of these quarters has an open-air patio, a bedroom with vaulted wood ceiling, and a full bathroom. So, Villa 5’s laundry and “caretaker’s” area is for us on boats to use the bathroom for a hot shower, bedroom with table, 2 chairs for a dressing room, and of course, we can do laundry. Condo/villa owners here all seem to have “staffs”. We have seen maids, boat cleaners, chauffeurs, cooks, etc. Monthly wages are very low for these individuals so, folks with money seem to have a good bit of “help”. It is a very different environment that what we are used to. There is a nice gentleman who is a caretaker and maintains the boat behind us, a Lagoon 440 Catamaran. Ken wants to take him home with us. This very pleasant gentleman washes the Lagoon at least once a day, polishes the stainless all the time, scrapes/cleans the bottom about once a week. When the owner goes out for a sail, the caretaker is there to help with their lines and reappears for every arrival, regardless of the time of day/night. On arrival, the boat is washed immediately. The “boss” has a weekend Condo here, lives full time in Cabrete where he has developed a number of resorts. So, this helper lives in the caretaker quarters and tends to everything. I am with Ken, want to take him home with us, too. We could replace the pool service, the yard guys, the boat bottom cleaner and he could housesit when we’re away. I can’t imagine what he would get paid in the States for all the services he provides his boss. But, here he gets a room and probably around $100 month.
Live in help's quarters: bedroom (with a bathroom) in background & open air patio. This is directly behind the Villa's laundry which is the wall seen in the foreground.
February 4, 2012 – Saturday, Puerto Bahia, Bay of Samana, Domincan Republic – day 27. Happy Birthday this day goes out to Ann Clabough in S.C.!! Since it was very windy and cooler this day, we took Miko and walked to the very top of the complex/development. It was quite a hike, but we knew the views up there had to be amazing. At the highest point, I walked into the back yard of an unoccupied home to get some photos, The largest house in the development was next door and when I looked over, I saw a guard watching me….with a shot gun. HHHMMM intimidating. But, he smiled and nodded, as I did. From his vantage point, he could see anyone entering the development by land or water…pretty impressive security. Interesting to know that as we move about, he is up there “watching”. Today we found out that if we are going to stay beyond our 30 days granted by Customs, we have to go to town with our forms and more money. Pedro (marina supervisor) took two of our four forms several days prior. But, this day, we communicated and he returned them to us, a relief. Not much else happening with us this day. Although, Bacardi’s 83.5’ fishing boat named Rumbaro, arrived this day and that was some excitement. “RUM” baro…get it?! There was probably $100k worth of fishing rods and reels in holders on their stern. Not sure if this boat is company owned or what. But, it was impressive, from Miami. We have boats here now from the US, British Virgin Islands, Cayman, Switzerland, Canada, Spain, France and Dominican Republic. Sadly, a local boat from the northeast D.R. city of Nagua, capsized in this bay with 72 immigrants heading to Puerto Rico, hoping to find a better life. The little boat capsized early in the morning in the high winds/seas in the bay. A USCG plane, helicopter and carrier went back and forth all day and at least 11 people died this day. We heard that the Dominican Navy said 13 people were rescued.
Ken/Miko on our walk to the top of the development. Bay of Samana in background.
February 3, 2012 – Friday, Puerto Bahia, Bay of Samana, Dominican Republic – day 26. Happy Birthday, to our good friend, Martha White! Well, Sunday/Monday were to be our “window” days to get to Puerto Rico. Though we had invites for things to do over the weekend and following week, we felt that if there was a window, we should take it. We had agreed to decide for sure after hearing this am’s weather forecast from Chris Parker/Caribbean Weather Center. Boy, did we get a surprise…as he said the trip was now a “no go”, due to a change in the seas. Seems there was to be a large sea swell from the north with a 10 second interval, going against a wind driven chop of 7’ from the East, added to a strong current running from the south. So, Chris advised to wait for more moderate conditions in the next week. Ok, too funny….guess it was Meant To Be for us to stay here a little longer…no problem, mon! So, we contacted the hotel/marina office asking for help getting an extension to the number of visit days we were granted (initial thirty = 02-07-2012). If we could get legal with Customs/Immigration, our extended stay would qualify us for a reduced “monthly” rate for our slip rental! Yea. We started to feel like regular residents here. The marina was really filling up and there were more cruising boats here this week than we had seen since our arrival. There were boats in from Spain, France, Canada, Switzerland, United States, Cayman Island and of course, Dominican Republic. We had a mini United Nations thing going on here in the marina! Guess we could easily solve the world’s issues! We walked over to the little store, got the ice cream unlocked…and bought two Magnum ice cream treats. OMG are they decadent…this was lunch for the day.
February 2, 2012 – Thursday, Puerto Bahia, Bay of Samana, Dominican Republic – day 25. Happy birthday to Peter in Germany, and Beth Satterfield in Greenville, S.C. We checked all the weather reports again today. We felt that Friday morning we needed to make our decision…whether we would stay here until the next available weather window, or go this weekend to Puerto Rico. If we stay, we have to give Customs enough time to extend our documents as we were originally approved for 30 days and that would be Tuesday, February 7. If we go, the office and Customs have to be notified in advance to process us out of the marina/country. This afternoon, we unloaded the freezer. It has had a smell in it and I was worried the bottom stuff was not frozen. But, all good…. just something along the way got spilt, sticky and smelly. So, we washed off everything, defrosted to box and put everything back. We fired the freezer back up and watched its temperature all day, to make sure it was freezing properly. We keep a thermometer in each of the three sections of our combo refrig/freezer. Each can be monitored on a master station and that works really well. We should be good to go until we get home, hopefully. We went to the little store here this afternoon and purchased 20 gallons of bottled water ($55 RD pesos per 5 gallons, about $1.20 US). We rolled it back to MTB in the store’s (only) shopping cart and poured it in our water holding tank. We were getting low in our tank, can’t drink the local tap water and weren’t able to make water in the marina. We’ve been capturing rainwater some, but it hadn’t been enough to keep up with our needs. Ken took the cart & 4 empty bottles back to the store. On his return to MTB, he stopped in the Hotel, successfully communicated and got us another token for the “lavado”…laundry. So, we now can do one more load before we leave the marina. Several boats headed out today for the national park, Los Haitises. One was Dan/Judy on Quest, but they plan to come back for the Super Bowl. Miko threw up the other day due to too much people food and too many dog treats…bad parents. So, she was back on a dry dog food diet. And boy, she was none too happy about that when Ken made popcorn and she didn’t get to “catch” any kernels this day. Sadly, Ken re-cracked a tooth on those kernels today and we do hope it doesn’t become an issue before we can get him some professional help. The D.R. and Puerto Rico both have good health and dental care, so if needed, we would be able to get him seen by a dentist.
February 1, 2012 – Wednesday, Puerto Bahia, Bay of Samana, Dominican Republic – day 24. This was a day of meeting people. We met Jim/Pam who have a sailboat in the marina, actually own three slips and a condo here. He was the appointed representative for the Venture Capital group who funded the development here. He stayed on site during construction and was the Venture group’s “eyes”. Nice folks from the St. Pete area and knew Sarasota well. He has recently finished his multi year “gig” here and they are about to set sail and do some cruising, first to Puerto Rico. We also met Dan and Judy on a trawler, Quest. that arrived a few days ago. They, Tim/Pam, and one other large trawler named Helga’s Car, were all going over to Los Haitises to anchor off and enjoy the park for a few days. Then, everyone was coming back to the marina to watch Sunday’s Super Bowl game. Dan/Judy are renting a car on Monday after the weekend and invited us to ride along as they go explore some more of the island. So, we now have a dilemma…get a Customs extension and stay for the game and time with Dan/Judy. Or, take the Sunday/Monday weather window and head out. The rest of the day was more of the same…relax, read, internet. FSU had the #2 football recruiting class in the nation, actually got a surprise of the number one defensive guy selecting FSU. So, Ken was happy and FSU won their basketball game against Ga Tech this night as well. Miko got some more brushing this day as she was blowing her coat, which she does once every 6 months or so. We tried to get her a play date with a Labradoodle (Lucy) on Helga’s Car…but her dad said she doesn’t get off their boat. We stood there on the dock with Miko in Ken’s arms and she was pitiful being so close to another dog, but not allowed to play. So, we have struck out with playmates for her while here…one mean Rottwieller, one anti-social French Bulldog and now, one boat bound Doodle.
January 31, 2012 – Tuesday, Puerto Bahia, Bay of Samana Dominican Republic – day 23. A large trawler arrived today, they from Miami. We were very excited as they had a brown dog that looked like a Portuguese Water dog aboard. Miko had been really missing interaction with other “four legged” creatures. We thought we heard the new dog bark from a distance (vs the boat), so quickly took Miko to shore for a walk, hoping we would find her a ‘buddy” from Miami on land. But, no luck and we were sad for Miko. But, we’ll keep an eye out and hopefully can introduce our dogs. Later in the morning, we saw the Navy guy around the new boat. So, I went to the office to inquire as to the status of our status! The folks at the front desk gave assurances that they had spoken with Pedro, whom they said had spoken with the Officials. And, they told me there was “no problem” with our dates and staying longer. Well, verbal reassurances are nice, but I sure would have liked our documents back and something in writing. But, all we could do was keep our fingers crossed and hope we didn’t end up in a Dominican jail for Customs/Immigration offenses! It rained off and on yet again this day as it has rained some EVERY day we have been in the D.R. Internet sites indicate the country is supposed to have limited rainfall each year of 30-40 inches or so. Oh well. One of our boat jobs today was to go into the “ship’s store” as our cruiser friends, Bob/Sharon on Big Run call this activity. The process entails dragging out 6 huge storage containers stored behind our walk in shower, in our starboard hull. Each is filled with food, snacks and various pantry items. Our “shopping” trips are always fun as we invariably forget about some of the things we brought along with us. This day we found some yummy good stuff…most of it was happy hour oriented junk food! Yea. The winds were high this day and the forecast was for them to continue to stay high for the rest of the week. The guys on the 44’ Lagoon Catamaran in the slip to our stern left this day. The owner lives two hours away in the town called Cabrete but has both a condo and his boat here, too. HHHMMM, more of the wealthy side of the Dominican population. He said he’d probably be back the coming weekend and we hoped he did so we could find out what he does for a living…curious. The Lagoon went out day sailing each day this long, holiday weekend. Before they left and on their return each day, their caretaker washed and dried the boat from top to bottom. If it rained, he would wash and dry it again. Even when the owners are not here, we have seen him wash and dry that boat two and three times a day. Other times, he polishes the stainless or scrapes the bottom. Captain Ken wanted to take this gentleman home with us! The workers around this marina who take care of the various “local” boats are amazing workers and seem very dedicated to their employers’ and their vessels. They are polite and friendly to us. Mid afternoon we decided to head to the hotel’s store for a treat…ICE CREAM. We saw the folks on the monohull that came in Monday and went and chatted with the nice Canadian family….Cedar, Rod, Oosa and Tiegan. Then, onto the store!...The case of ice cream must be like gold…as it was LOCKED! Nothing else in the little store is locked, not the expensive liquors, champagnes, nothing but the ice cream. We had Magnum Bars, similar to Dove Bars at home, with dark chocolate. Yum.
January 30, 2012 – Monday, Puerto Bahia, Bay of Samana, Domincan Republic – day 22. Day of Duarte (observed holiday), Father of the Republic who penned the DR constitution. Many folks in the condos, marina and hotel were still here this day. Around 7 am, a cruising boat arrived in the marina. . “Jaru” was a monohull from Alberta, Canada with a family aboard: mom/dad, girl, boy. We had just finished listening to the worsening weather forecast and had been talking about getting our Customs and Immigration approvals extended. Since the new boat was in, we knew the government officials would be here sometime this day to clear them in. So, we figured it was good timing to have our paperwork extended beyond the original thirty days that would expire on 2/7/2012. Since the date seemed to be rapidly approaching, I pulled out all our D.R. approved paperwork. Boy was that lucky and did we get a surprise. Customs approved us for a 30 days visit on our arrival. We didn’t meet the Immigration Official (they clearing in a cruise ship that a.m.). So, Immigration dealt with Hotel staff member only. Later that day, the dock supervisor kindly Pedro brought us two approved Immigration forms. We put them with our passports and the Customs documents for safekeeping. HHMMM, learned a valuable lesson and in the future, we will check our arrival documents much more closely. We “assumed” we were approved by Immigration for 30 days. But, in looking at our Immigration documents this day, we found we were only had ONE MORE day, to 01-31-2012! Uh Oh. Thank goodness the other boat came in this a.m. or we may have had a serious problem. We spoke to several folks with the hotel about our dilemma and told them we needed to see Customs/Immigration this day when they came. Blank looks, no comprende’ (I suspected). Finally, Pedro appeared at our slip and seemed to understand the situation. We told him due to bad weather for the next week or two, we would like to extend our Immigration approval (and Customs) until about 02-21-2012. He took two of our four forms with him and we saw him speaking with Officials processing in the other boat. He came back and told us the Immigration person would take our information to their boss in town for approval and we would get our forms back later this day. Pedro said “no problem”. Well, by the end of this day, no forms, no approvals, no officials were seen, nor received. We just crossed our fingers and hoped for the best. The weather on Tuesday was to be bad, winds almost to gale force for the next few days. So, we sure hoped we weren’t going to be kicked out of the country! A little disconcerting for sure. But, we hoped for the best, keeping our fingers crossed that Pedro would take good care of us. Other than this excitement, we were once again lazy slugs, as it rained hard off and all day. We did collect about 5 gallons of rainwater for our tank this day. The water in the hotel and at the dock is not to be drunk for health reasons. And, we can’t make water here because the water that runs off from the mountains is filled with silt. Our water tanks were down to about 50 gallons so, we figured we would collect everything we could whenever it rained (every day since we have been here!). We knew we could buy bottled water inexpensively (five gallons, $55 RD pesos, or about $1.20). So, we were not too concerned…it just felt good to be “green”, collecting rainwater. Walking Miko this evening, a condo/boat owner and his wife stopped to ask about our “beautiful” dog. They wanted to know all about the breed and John introduced himself to us. They live elsewhere but said they will be back this weekend and hoped to see us again, nice. This couple was obviously in the group of folks we have dubbed the “Dominican haves” …vs the have nots.
January 27, 28, 29, 2012 – Puerto Bahia, Bay of Samana, Dominican Republic – days 19, 20 & 21. Just where do the days go?! Well, more of the same it seems. Get up, listen to weather, find there is no window to move for at least a week. Then, we have our coffee and breakfast. We do a little work around the boat, read and ponder what snack to have with our boat drinks at happy hour. Ken washed and waxed MTB some, I cooked and cleaned some. And, we both caught up with emails. I updated the log and got it posted with some photos to the website. Yep, sum total of our productiveness in this paradise we’ve enjoyed now for three weeks. I am starting to get restless and ready to “go” but, not in the bad conditions we had on the leg to get here!
January 26, 2012 – Thursday, Puerto Bahia, Samana, Dominican Republic – day 18. It was a nice morning this one…..as we didn’t have anything to do. Didn’t have to jump up, walk Miko, get breakfast, pack a bag for the day, get to the hotel lobby, arrange a ride to town…etc. etc. We just got up, made coffee and chilled. The last three days have been fun and we got to do/see so much of the area. Although, we “do” being lazy very well. And, this day was no exception.
January 25, 2012 – Wednesday, Puerto Bahia, Bay of Samana, Dominican Republic – day 17. Today we had plans to try to do a tour of Los Haitises. This is a Dominican Republic National Park (Parque) and locals we have met told us one could not leave Samana without a visit. The hotel driver/truck dropped us off at the Dock at 9:00 a.m. where we met up with Collins and Mary. They had spoken with a guy the day before and felt like he could help us do a private trip to Los Haitises. “Tom” the tour guys took our $45 dollars each and arranged for a relative, Benjamin to be our guide. Once booked, I asked Benjamin what size boat we would be going on…”ah, small”…was the answer. Well, there you go. There wind velocity would result in a “small craft advisory” in the States! This boat was a local made, 20’ open craft with three plank seats. We donned our obligatory orange life vests and took off. Benjamin lived and worked for the Virginia Department of Transportation for 21 years so he spoke English. The boat owner/captain was very skilled. He maneuvered us through the swells with great skill. It was a 15-mile trip across the bay to Los Haitises and not a bad ride with the swells behind us. We knew the return trip wasn’t going to be nearly as pleasant and we had heard that winds were to build through the morning and early afternoon. Oh boy. Los Haitises is a very unique eco environment….a collection of 365 mountains, several caves, lots of bird life, and rivers wandering through stanchions of mangrove trees. We wound through canals and stopped and walked through 2 different caves. There are carvings made by Taino Indians, century’s prior in the caves and they were interesting. Sadly, Benjamin was nowhere as knowledgeable as the guys we heard from the other “big tour” companies. But, timing was our priority, as we didn’t want to leave Miko alone for such a long day. We had a great look at Los Haitises though and didn’t feel we missed much by just booking a mini boat. Well, winds did build and once we headed out into the increasing swell, we knew we’d have quite the ride home. Mary tends to get seasick, but she was a trouper. We all hung on to our wooden bench seats and tried to push ourselves off the hard plank when the boat crashed at the bottom of each swell. Ken said “no extra charge for the carnival ride” at one point and we all chuckled. One would not purposely put oneself in this position at home…but for this day…it was quite the adventure. The boat owner/captain was such a pro. He really knew how to ride the swells and minimize the impact on the vessel and passengers. He really was great and earned a tip double that of Benjamin’s as a result. So, yes, we made it back safe and sound, fillings intact. Collins & Mary once again offered us a ride back to Puerto Bahia. We said that we could get a cab but they said they were going to Cabarete, our direction. And, they also wanted to stop at the bakery (us: cake, doughnuts and bread) and grocery store (us: DR coffee, candy and RUM), as we did. So it all worked out and once again we were so very appreciative of their kindness to us.
Benjamin (tour guide), Collins, Mary and Ken with great Capt on little boat.
January 24, 2012 – Tuesday, Puerto Bahia, Bay of Samana, Dominican Republic – day 16. This day we planned to go to the local post office and on a whale watching tour. The hotel again kindly provided a driver and pickup truck to take us to town. We arrived about 8:30 a.m. and went to the office of “Whale Samana”. They have the largest boat that does tours, complete with a bathroom. We’d done our research online and knew this was the boat for us. Kim Beddall the company owner is also a well known “Marine Mammal Specialist” and advocate. Her company is dedicated to following all whale watching regulations in place for the creatures’ protection. We paid our $50 US each and secured our places on the boat that would leave at 10:00 a.m. From the office, we walked around the corner to the post office that none of the locals in town we spoke to the day before knew anything about! Luckily, our driver from the hotel knew exactly where it was. They were just opening up as we walked up the stairs to their door. Though, we had to wait a little bit as they swept the water covering the floor from the prior night’s rain (open air windows!). We successfully communicated that we needed to buy a postcard stamp. When the postal worker understood, she went and got out a jar of glue…yep, glue. She found a stamp, lathered it and my card up and slapped that stamp on. After waving it awhile to dry the glue and peeling residual glue off of her fingers, the worker then got out an inkpad and stamp and hand cancelled the postage stamp. They do keep things simple here, for sure. We walked around some, looking for a place to have a cup of coffee with no luck. So, we just hung around the dock until it was time to go load onto the boat. Americans are approached over and over, by locals trying to sell some good or service. But, they don’t panhandle even though they are so terribly poor. The government collects $3 from each person going out on a boat and one must wear a wristband to verify its payment. The fee is to help with funding efforts to protect the Dominican whales. One wonders if these fees just go into the pocket of some corrupt politician though, as we heard many stories about political scams. We boarded the 50’, double decker, open air Pura Mia at 9:45 a.m. with anticipation. It was early in the whale season, so we knew we might not even see one this day. We delayed doing the excursion to later in the month to allow more time for the whales to arrive. They say the season begins January 15 and runs through March. On our way out, 5 miles from the town dock, we docked on the island named Cayo Levantado. There is a beautiful resort and beaches on this small island that blocks the sea swells from entering the Bay of Samana. Kim introduced her staff; they handed out Dramamine and drinks, ginger candy and saltines, all items to help with seasickness. We had a nice “whale” lesson on our ride out by Kim, including seeing family trees. We were headed into a large sea swell and folks started getting sick all around us. Ken and I were fine and would have been embarrassed if we were not! We met two nice American couples aboard, one had just gotten married and were “Christian missionaries” assigned to the D.R. The other couple (Collins & Mary) was from Chicago, nice folks, she retired and he an attorney. Not very far out from Cayo Levantado, we spotted our first whales. WHAT A THRILL…. a mama with her very playful two-week-old baby. Kim said this was the first “baby” sighting of the season and she also was very excited. The baby was already very large as they have to mature fast to be strong enough to head north in March. So, they are ravenous little guys and “our” baby was larger than a full-grown dolphin already. Our mama and baby stayed around us for a long time. The baby put on such a show….up out of the water, “baby breach” over and over. Cameras were snapping wildly all around us. We were upset that we stupidly hadn’t checked our cameras batteries before leaving MTB this a.m. And, you might know, both cameras died early into the watch. We actually realized later that we were glad, as we just sat and enjoyed watching the whales vs. trying to get “the shot” the whole time. So, it worked to our benefit, though our photo album certainly suffered a blow! Regulations allow a boat to stay and watch a whale or group for a maximum of thirty minutes. Luckily, once we moved on, we saw two additional adult whales spouting, flapping their tails and then doing dives. Whales can stay under for around 40 minutes. Ours were down for 15 minutes and back up. We headed back to Cayo Levantado and by now, most folks were seasick. The crew did a great job and at the end of the trip, a tip jar was set out that said “Save the Crew”. Funny. We were asked to sign a petition to encourage Greenland to quit killing so many of the Dominican humpback whales, which we were so happy to do. Kim’s mantra is that “live whales are much more valuable assets than dead ones”. Agree agree. They are amazing beautiful creatures and our time watching was totally wonderful…one more thing off that bucket list! Back on shore we said our goodbyes to the two other American couples and started walking down the “Malecon” to track down a ride back to Puerto Bahia. Collins and Mary had a rental car and were parked behind the taxi we were discussing trip costs with. When they saw us, Mary jumped out of their car and came to offer us a ride back. We didn’t want to impose and said we’d just take the taxi but Mary said they already planned to go our direction. So, we gratefully accepted their kind offer….very much to the displeasure of the taxi driver! During our ride, we learned that Collins/Mary wanted to tour Los Haitises the next day, as we planned. And, neither of us wanted to do the long trip that didn’t get back until late afternoon. We agreed to meet the next morning at the town’s public dock at 9:00 a.m. to try to book a tour together. What a great ending to an amazing day.
Ken on Pura Mia, holding "Whale".
Hardware Store, above.
January 23, 2012 – Monday, Puerto Bahia, Bay of Samana, Dominican Republic – day 15. Happy Birthday TARA~ Today was “go to town and walk about” day. The hotel provided a driver and pickup truck to shuttle us the 5kms to town. From the entrance to Puerto Bahia it is 5kms to town….but the wandering road throughout the complex TO the entrance adds probably an additional km or two. We were again astounded by the number of scooters on the roads, most having two and three people riding. Mom’s in skirts ride side saddle and the child is usually in the middle of the parents. Whole families, including the school children in uniforms, ride on these little 50cc vehicles up and down the mountains here. In one lane, there will be a line of scooters on the left, a vehicle (like us in a truck) in the middle splitting the space, and a line of scooters on the right side of the lane as well. Crazy. Add the oncoming traffic of crazy drivers, hundreds of scooters and all sorts of mongrel dogs crossing the road back and forth, driving is quite a challenge. Nope, we didn’t think we’d be renting a car here! The predominance of tourists here are Canadians, with a few Americans sprinkled in. Most Dominicans are quite impoverished, though proud. We never once were approached by anyone “begging”. That being said…they are very skilled at figuring a way to sell tourists good or a service to get a “tip”…money out of the tourists’ pockets into their own. At the zipline, a little girl held my hand to walk me down a path. At the beach, a child was selling palm fronds that had been made into bracelets. These are proud, hard working folks, not bums or beggars. Some Canadians we saw were rude and abrasive to the locals who approached them and that was sad to us. We were handing out dollars and pesos to the cute little ones that “helped” us. This day we visited the bank (Banco Popular) and were going to use the ATM to get some Pesos. Well, $400 RD pesos had and ATM fee of $195 RD pesos. So, we decided to try our luck inside with the teller to exchange some dollars for Pesos. We communicated just fine, but we had to show a passport to do the transaction ($100 US only, to RD pesos) and that was interesting. We walked all around town, did some research on tours, visited gift shops but didn’t buy anything. One shop gave us free Dominican Republic flag pins (rusted, but appreciated) as a guilt trip to entice us buy. Another gave us each a small carved wooden icon necklace on a string, said it was a good luck symbol. We told them we were just looking and not buying, but each entrepreneur insisted we accept their gifts. We found an amazing “Super Market” and there was a local bakery right next door. We bought a fresh loaf of bread at the bakery for only 25 pesos (38.5 RD pesos to 1 US dollar) and ate it walking down the street, yum….best bargain we’ve had since arriving. We walked by schools, churches, open air stores & markets, just enjoyed seeing the town…Santa Barbara de Samana. One park we strolled along had a concrete wall with wonderful painted murals done by local children, each containing some type of whale scene. We got nice photos of their works. Early afternoon, it was time to arrange a ride back to Puerto Bahia and rescue Miko from her crate. Luckily, we found a nice vehicle (no real cab companies here, just people with cars) and with our fractured Spanish (cuanto, Puerto Bahia?) we agreed on $20 US for the trip back. It was a nice mini van with leather upholstery and AIR CONDITIONING! The hotel tour company wanted $35 for the same trip and we figured we could do better on our own and support a local directly, as well. So, a very successful day.
January 22, 2012, Sunday, Puerto Bahia, Bay of Samana, Dominican Republic – day 14. There were more folks around the complex this day than we had ever seen. Seems many wealthy Dominicans living in the city of Santa Domingo, own condos here that they use on weekends. Many boats had been put in the water and those already in slips were cleaned, and cleaned again. We spoke with a number of boat and condo owners this day and all were from Santa Domingo. They each spoke amazing English and were very nice folks. The people we’ve met/seen here all have “staffs”…maids, chauffeurs, cooks, boat captains, boat cleaners, etc. An owner of one condo we met this day had a Porsche Cayenne in his carport. There was one Boston Whaler in a slip next to us that we priced on the internet at $500k+. It seems that there is no middle class in the D.R., at least here, there are haves and have nots.
BIG GAP IN DATES: My NEW computer's hard drive crashed. So, need to go back and get some missing entries from a back up fiile I had luckily made on an external hard drive. GEEZ!
January 11, 2012 – Wednesday, day three, Puerto Bahia, Bay of Samana, Dominican Republic. We learned from the prior day’s activities that we need to walk Miko earlier in the morning to give her shore time and exercise when it is not quite so warm. So, after a quick cup of coffee aboard, we did just that. She walked with giddie-up in her step this day…enjoying LAND. Once we felt she was happy, we took her back to the boat and she unhappily went into her crate. And, we happily walked over to breakfast in the hotel restaurant again…great service, food and Spanish lessons! The waitresses are very nice and try to teach us the Spanish word for each thing we have on our table….pimiento/pepper, sal/salt, pinas/fresh pineapple, sandia/watermelon….etc. Ken once again enjoyed the typical DR breakfast and I had a DR Continental breakfast with toast, prosciutto, salami, ham, and cheese. Once again, combined with naranja/orange juice and café su leche/coffee no crème…another wonderful experience and meal. Love love love the coffee here. There were four Americans in the restaurant with us and we spoke, but they were not very friendly, oh well. David is the bellman here at the hotel, came from Haiti, loves it here, calls the staff his family and speaks 7 languages, including Chinese. I’m sayin’…he is an impressive young man and very a-typical to the stereotypical impression we are given about Haitians. Once back to MTB, we marveled at the technology we can access. At one point, I was instant messaging with my stepsister in S.C. while Ken was on an hour long Skype with a friend in British Columbia, Canada. Amazing. The wind seems to pick up here each day about lunchtime so by 1 pm this day, it was 82 in the salon, 69% humidity…warm but not uncomfortable for the tropics.
January 10, 2012 – Tuesday, day two, Puerto Bahia, Samana. This place and the facilities are absolutely stunning. But, sadly there are not many folks in the hotel and condos so we hoped maybe it is busy at other times of the year. The restaurants were empty when we did our "walk about" last night. We found out yesterday that they will give us one free ride into the town of Samana, about 4 miles away on the day/time of our choosing. And, we can get a car, scooter, taxi or ride the bus back to the marina. There are about 4 boats here with cruisers aboard and maybe twenty other boats that are local vessels or have been left here as the owners may have traveled home or elsewhere. This morning we went into the resort’s restaurant for breakfast….a real treat for us. We ordered the traditional “Dominican” breakfast. It was an incredible delight. First, we had their wonderful Dominican coffee and it was AWESOME. Then, orange juice and a plate of fruits…mango, pineapple, watermelon and cantelope. Next, they brought us a plate of scrambled eggs, fried cheese and minced plantains/onions fried and resembling hashbrowns. Of course, this wonderful meal was served in a restaurant on the second floor of the hotel, overlooking the marina and Bay of Samana. With stunning views, the beautiful room, great food and service…we were a happy Ken and Cindy for sure. Our waitress was so great trying to teach us Spanish pronunciations for various things and chuckled a lot at our missteps. But, again, the residents here seem so happy if we just try to learn some of their language. Things here are converted to Dominican Pesos which is a little disconcerting….our meal with taxes and gratuity was about $1,200 pesos….geez scary. But, truly, only about $30 for everything. After breakfast, we went back to MTB, got Miko and did a walk about. We went a long way up the mountain that is behind the marina/resort…up, up and we are in the tropics, it was HOT. Luckily, in the afternoon, the breezes picked up and cooled the salon down to 84 degrees in the shade, which wasn’t bad. Miko always finds a shady place up on deck and enjoys the breeze. She is one smart pup. We heard from Two by Two and were relieved that the rest of their trip on down to Puerto Rico was more moderate than what we all went through together the night before. They had already cleared Customs in Mayaquez and things were much better for them. For us…just another lazy day today as we are finding our way around, doing some research on the area, tours, transportation, etc. We grilled Mahi & Mahi and enjoyed cheese grits for dinner. A nice lazy day.
January 9, 2012 – Monday, offshore, coast of Dominican Republic. We chatted with Two by Two this a.m. and Rodney said they thought about coming with us into the Bay of Samana but finally decided to continue on to Puerto Rico. Once it was daylight, we were astounded by the beauty of the dramatic shoreline…mountains, rocks, beautiful vegetation. About 8 am, we were making our approach into the Bay of Samana, a storm engulfed us and visibility went to nothing. Though it was pouring rain, I stood outside the cockpit to watch for local fishing boats after one appeared so quickly we barely had time to alter course to miss them. These little tiny boats, usually with one or two men aboard, do not show up on radar. So, with diminished visibility, one has to really be careful. Additionally, logs, limbs and coconuts were floating out of the bay at us. We had to alter course abruptly at one point to miss a significant log aimed at our hulls. Once the storm passed, visibility improved and we were breathing easier. Ah, that was, until the Carnival cruise ship showed up behind us. There is a small island with a beautiful sand beach in the middle of the Bay of Samana…and lo and behold…this cruise ship comes in to give the passengers a day on shore. But, we out ran him and again began to relax. About 5 miles from the marina, I got on the radio to let them know we were arriving. Well, we realized immediately we weren’t in Kansas anymore…they do speak Spanish here. But, we got everything sorted out and even gleaned that we were to have our ropes and fenders prepared for a starboard side tie up. So, in we go. The marina is small so the approaches to their slips are tight. When we saw where we were going, we took deep breaths. Luckily, this day there was no wind, no surge, no current inside the marina breakwater. Ken did a masterful job pivoting this vessel and backing her right into our slip, first try with no “do overs”. It was wonderful. We came to the marina/resort called Puerto Bahia, Samana. Pedro, the harbor master spoke good English and helped us through everything including instructing the dock hands helping us with lines and fenders. Then, he stayed aboard as Customs, Immigration, Agriculture and the Navy cleared us in. The folks just sat in our cockpit, did the paperwork, charged us the right fees, asked if we had any firearms, peeked in the boat briefly and that was the entire process. I have three houseplants on board that I figured would be dis-allowed and Ken was worried his stockpile of rum might be a problem. But, no problems and Pedro stayed with us the entire time. Then he waited until we were all settled in and walked Ken up to the office to get our account set up. In summary, our experience to date of the Dominican Republic has been amazing…not at all like the horror stories we have heard from other cruisers. We made sure we had smiles on our faces and attempted to converse in Spanish. Just making an attempt seemed to be appreciated. The bay is rimmed by tall green mountains that are covered with amazing vegetation and tall, royal palms. We so hoped we would be able to do some day trips and enjoy the country and its people. We were exhausted after our three days, two night trip so we napped most of the remainder of the day and took a late afternoon stroll around the complex.
January 8, 2012 – Sunday, underway, offshore, Dominican Republic. We had showers all around and 25-30 knot winds most of the night. The day brought more calm winds and seas so from 6-11 a.m we actually had to motorsail. We enjoyed the daytime and sailed through the afternoon. We were so happy to get Miko out on deck and she did her “business” which is always a relief to us to know she isn’t uncomfortable. At the point we needed to decide to keep going or turn west toward Luperon or Ocean World Marina near Puerto Plata, things were pretty good though we were tired. We made the tough decision to keep going. About dusk, Ken did a radio check and we found there was one cruiser about 4 miles from us and then as a surprise, a boat we met in Black Point, Exumas radioed us. Two By Two is a trawler and we had happy hour together at Plain Bay, Exumas on the beach with others in the anchorage. We saw him when we pulled into Georgetown, but they left before Christmas and we stayed until the day after Christmas. They spent the prior week in Luperon and hated it so were going to go straight through to Puerto Rico. We chatted with them through the night and when conditions worsened again this evening Rodney told us that Pauline was suffering for the first time from seasickness and trying to sleep it off.
January 7, 2012 – Saturday, Big Ambergris Island. We got up, had our coffee and prepared for our short, 30+ mile hope down to Big Sand Cay. About 7:30 a.m., Mike and Darlene from Trilogy came by on their dinghy. They were going to the beach for a little while so stopped over to say hello. They were aboard about 30 minutes and let us know they planned to go for fuel and to check out with Customs at South Caicos Island this a.m. Then, they hoped to go down to either Salt Cay or like us to Big Sand Cay. After they left, we pulled up the mainsail and were off for Big Sand Cay around 8:00 a.m. We spoke to Wildest Dreams on the way south and told them we’d be with them this night at Big Sand. Of course, yet again, the wind forecast let us down and before we knew it, we would either have to motor into the wind, all the way to Big Sand or alter course and keep going. We made the decision to just keep going, knowing we could go to Luperon or Ocean World Marina in the D.R. if we weren’t inclined to push the 200+ miles to the Bay of Samana. We radioed Wildest Dream to let them know we were taking a detour and they were appreciative we let them know so they wouldn’t be worried about us. Well…the seas got bigger and wind started building (vs. declining per the forecast) and before we knew it, we were having to pull in some of the jib because we were doing TOOOO fast and didn’t want to feel out of control. Miko is such a trouper when conditions deteriorate and the boat is crashing into the waves. She goes to bed and snuggles to one of our pillows and many times sleeps through the evening and whole night. This day was no exception. This day we heard on the radio that one of the boats we met in South Side Marina (Black Horn) hit coral in the Caicos Bank (we traversed prior day) and knocked out his rudder/stearing completely. We also heard on the radio that the US Coast Guard was within 50 miles of us dealing with two issues: 1) a huge illegal fishing operation (70’ main boat and 15 little ones) and 2) a Haitian fishing boat that was DIW (dead in the water) with a dead engine issue and they were about out of gasoline for their generator. It is reassuring when so far away from home that we have the USCG in the area and knowing they are willing to be of assistance. We actually heard them talking from a helicopter to verify that Black Horn was getting the assistance they needed and offered their help to that vessel. Nice. We kept going through the night.
January 6, 2012 – Friday, departed Sapodilla Bay, Providenciales with plans to cross the Caicos Bank and anchor for the evening somewhere around South Caicos Island. We had the mainsail and anchor up by 7 a.m. and even that early were the 5th boat out of the anchorage. We did 42 miles this day and ended up where the wind direction took us…anchored behind Big Ambergris Island, south of South Caicos Island. It is a private island being “developed”. There was a breakwater that led in to what we assume is going to be a new marina. On shore there were very large, commercial looking buildings and a windsock. Again, we could only assume this might be an airport but didn’t have the dinghy down so couldn’t do any exploration. We were anchored just at the end of the breakwater and there was a strong sea surge…but not unpleasant in this comfortable vessel of ours. We passed and were followed into the anchorage this day by the nice folks on Trilogy, Mike and Darlene (maybe Darla…bad memories). We were anchored a long way away from each other so couldn’t converse or socialize. We read that part of the deal in allowing the developers do their project on Big Ambergris was that all the iguanas had to be protected. Supposedly ALL of them were rounded up and moved to a nearby Island/refuge/park named Long Island just off the coast of South Caicos Island. How do they know…did one mama iguana tell the rounder uppers that they forgot her son, “Bob”? Too funny. Anyway, we had an early night with plans to move the next day down to the southern most island in the Turks & Caicos, Big Sand Cay.
January 5, 2012 – Thursday, Sapodilla Bay, Providenciales, Caicos. Well, the decision made, we went in to Customs to see if they would process our paperwork a day ahead so we could get an early start on Friday morning. We walked over with Miko and yes, they were very accommodating….taking good care of us. Once done with customs, we checked at the convenience store to see if they had a loaf of bread. Nope, no bread….hot dog buns, no bread. We had hot dog buns…we needed bread!! Oh well. Checked the liquor store just to make sure they didn’t have dirt cheap prices…Nope. This place is expensive. So, we went back and gave Miko a nice run walk on the beach. She found a local dog named Mia to play with so that made her happy. We are very cautious about who she plays with, but we talked with this dog’s owner and you could tell their vet care health was being taken care of. So, once Miko was smiling…we headed back to MTB. This evening we had a “date”. There is a local marina 4 miles from the anchorage that treats those boats anchored in Sapodilla Bay to a barbeque. The South Side Marina and Simon send vehicles to pick up attending cruisers. We were asked to bring our drinks, meat for the grill and a dish to share. They came with an SUV and a big truck with a bed on back having tall wood sides. There were about 12 of us and 8 of us jumped in the back of the pick up bed. We had a wild ride to the marina….a little rain, crazy traffic and almost were re-ended when Bob, driving, saw someone he knew and slammed on the brakes to pick him up…….WWWWHHHEEWWW, thought Ken (lasting the bed on back) was not good for this world…but the vehicle behind us finally stopped within inches of our bumper and my sweet husband. Well, the rest of the night was much easier. We had a great group from the anchorage as well as the marina residents. The marina provides ice cream and chocolate sauce. This night another cruiser brought brownies and there was also a birthday carrot cake that was shared. So, we ate our pork chops, enjoyed great slaw, pasta and potato salads, baked beans, au gratin potatoes and DESSERTS! What a nice night. The SUV was going to take the first load back to the Sapodilla Bay and since we were traveling in the a.m., we opted to take the early shuttle.
We said our thanks to Bob, Simon & Char Lyn, our hosts and were back on MTB by 8:15 p.m. and Miko was happy. We put up the dinghy and then wrote down the names of all the boats/crews we could recall from this nice evening. One meets SO many folks…and we try so hard to remember boat names, people names and pet names….it is a task actually. We were with Trilogy (Mike/Darlene from Philadelphia); Mojo with John and Westie, Annie; Wildest Dream (David & Gayle, Miami); Plan B (Webb) are who we remember. Nid O’cean with David didn’t come to the BBQ but he was anchored next to us at Sapodilla. We met David in Georgetown the prior season as we waited for the taxi bringing Brendon and Beth from the airport. Other boats here were: Cool Change, Latest Caper, Second Wind (spoke to in Calabash, Raymond), Rivers 2 Seas, Jabaru, Kismet (Hank and Carol), Blue Pelican and Zanitza (old Sam, the Russian) and Windward and Windfall and Another Road. And, this is just ONE anchorage…it is like this everywhere…people, dogs and boat names. It is a chore to keep up!
January 4, 2012 – Wednesday. Sapodilla Bay, Providenciales, Caicos. We made blueberry walnut muffins this morning and enjoyed having wifi to do research and some trip planning. We through around a lot of ideas…stay here a month, head out Thursday for the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico. We were checking weather and scratching our heads but just couldn’t decide “what next"?!! We knew we had to be out of here by Monday the 9th or pay $300 to get an extended cruising permit. A lot of boats here in the anchorage were making plans to leave tomorrow for Puerto Rico since there was to be north wind this day and tomorrow. A couple vessels left this day. It sounded like a dang armada would be heading out of here in the a.m. By Thursday morning, we expected there would only be a few of us left here, we’ll see. We got to shore after lunch this day and walked out to the main highway that goes 4 miles into the settlement of Providentiales where the resorts, casino, etc. are located. There was so much traffic whizzing by that it wasn’t a pleasant walk, so after a short while we turned around and walked back to the bay area. We climbed to the top of Sapodilla Hill behind the old, vacant Mariner Hotel. On the top, there are flat rocks carved with the names, vessels and dates of mariners who legends say were shipwrecked on the coast The earliest carving we noted and photographed was done in the 18th century (1767). This was an interesting excursion and the panoramic view from the top of hill of the bay, etc. was great. Once off the hill, we decided to walk Miko on the beach as she loves chasing her ball in sand. We met a very nice family visiting from NY City, Brian, Natalie and their two small daughters and chatted with them on the beach about sailing and the cruising life. They were staying in Grace Bay on the north side of the island, but the wind had their seas whipped up, so they came down to the bay’s nice protected beach for the day. Nice folks. Once we thought Miko was happy and worn out, we jumped back into the dinghy to enjoy happy hour, dinner and an old movie aboard. No Direct TV this far south, so we were once again really enjoying a group of movie DVDs burned for us by Cindy’s brother in law, THANKS Dennis. We found a wonderful new marina in Samana Bay, Dominican Republic that got us excited. We read great reviews about the place and decided to email them for information. Well, we now have a plan….once leaving here, we are going to Samana Bay, to the Puerto Bahia Samana Resort/Marina. The Bahia Samana is the bay where many humpback whales stay from January to March. So, we need to clear out of here, pick a weather window and off to Samana we’d go. For the trip, we’d have to sail a day, that night and the whole next day. Not too bad. It’s the double overnights that wear me out completely. But, two days, one night is not quite as bad, especially if we can sail, vs. motoring.
January 3, 2012 – Tuesday, arrival Sandbore Channel, Providenciales, Caicos Islands – After a calm night motoring all the way from Mayaguana to the Turks & Caicos we were happy to arrive at sunrise, 6:57 a.m we were putting up our “Q”, quarantine flag and entering Sandbore Channel. Rivers 2 Seas was following us in. On Monday they moved to the southeast corner of Mayaguana and then about 1 a.m. this morning, they took off from there and caught us at the channel. Interesting how we all do things differently, with the same results. We slowly worked our way through the 9.8 mile, coral head ridden and shallow (in spots) channel. We were anchored in Sapodilla Bay on the south side of Providenciales with 16 other boats here by 9:30 a.m. Though we were tired from motoring all night, by 10:30 a.m. Miko was in her crate, the dinghy was down and we were to the Customs office to “clear in”. Well, all our concern about having the proper paperwork for Miko and not having a departure stamp from the Bahamas was for naught. The only care the folks in the Customs/Immigration office was that we pay our temporary cruising (7 day) fee of $50. We asked no less than three times if we were ok for Miko to come ashore and they were just totally not concerned about her. We were informed we could stay 7 days, had to clear out for another fee of $50.. and that was that. We checked out our anchor on the way back to MTB using the dinghy “viewing window”…so cool. It was perfectly set, buried in the grass and sand bottom of this anchorage. We tried to take Miko to shore, but the white caps were already crashing at the dinghy dock so much, we couldn’t land. So, she at leas had dinghy ride that she enjoyed, but we felt bad. We got back to MTB and just chilled while to cold front arrived. We had no protection for W nor NW winds, so of course, the front we out ran this day came roaring through from those directions. One vessel in the anchorage was dragging through the anchorage and another boat had to pull up their anchor and move to get out of their way. The dragging boat’s Captain seemed totally unconcerned but the boat behind him was on the radio…his engine was not operable, so he was VERY concerned. Luckily, no additional incidents and no on crashed into anyone. Luckily, we were anchored the furthest in toward the shore so had no one in front of us. We held perfectly and didn’t budge during the high winds…upward of 28-30 knots. By the late afternoon, everyone and everything had settled down as the wind clocked more to the N/NE where we had good protection from the shore. So, this night’s sleep was sound and very appreciated after doing an overnight trip the night before, 2 hours on and 2 hours off watches.
January 2, 2012 – Monday, 60th birthday = Cindy. Oh my…when did this happen? You know…it is funny that when one is a kid, even as a young adult, the Big 6-0 seems pretty ancient. But, I sure was still feeling youthful and learning something new each and everyday. Of course physically, gravity does take its toll and things do shift a bit. But, it sure didn’t feel anything like my youthful perception of what being 6-0 would be like. Birthdays truly are just another day these years. Jess/Brian left a voice message last evening and sang Happy Birthday to me….that was nice, although they also said some mean things about being old. That was not nice….they are supposed to respect their elders….and today, guess I truly became “elder” material!! Too funny….but it was ok…just another day! I got up and was down listening to weather reports at the SSB radio while Ken jumped up to make some coffee. When I went up to the salon, there was a beach towel on the table with “Happy 6-0, CC” spelled out in sea glass collected during this trip and two birthday cards. Ken had smuggled the cards aboard somehow without me knowing. There was the very nice card that was to “The Woman I’d Marry All Over Again” and then the other said “60, that’s not old…that’s retro and retro is cool”. This is now my favorite saying…I’m not old, I’m retro! We decided to run into the settlement of Abraham’s Bay to visit Customs and check out of the Bahamas. We stopped by one of the two other boats with us, Rivers 2 Seas, a catamaran. A nice family, Brad, Lindsey, Ella and Chase were aboard and we chatted briefly and I told them it was my birthday. They were planning on leaving the anchorage for another part of the island this day. We’d talked on the radio and saw them anchored in Georgetown. We went on into town and found that things were running on Island time. Though the office was to be open, locals said the Commissioner was off the Island and may not be back until 01-04-2012, maybe. Ok then, we tried. We heard you can check into the Turks without a departure stamp, so figured that was what we would do. We made the decision to depart Mayaguana and do and overnight run to the Turks and Caicos as a cold front was coming that would have us hunkered down for a week or so. So, sadly, we’d be traveling all day and night on my birthday. We had to time our arrival in the Turks for after daylight and get anchored no later than noon, when cold front was to come through. We calculated if we left at 4:30 p.m. traveled through the night at an average speed of 3.5 knots, it would all work out. We saw Rivers 2 Seas getting ready to depart. Then about lunchtime, Lindsey and Ella came over in their dinghy with a birthday gift for me. Ella had drawn a picture that was accompanied by warm Brownies, fresh out of the oven. How thoughtful a gesture was that…they were getting ready to leave and did this nice thing. Just made my birthday so special. This night we had leftover Lobster Alfredo and brownies for dinner. Not the beef filet on the grill I had hoped for on my birthday, but oh well.
January 1, 2012 – Sunday, New Years Day. Abraham’s Bay, Mayaguana. It was nice to get up in a leisurely manner. We have been pushing south so hard that we had been jumping up early every morning, grabbing a bowl of cereal and heading out. No “Caribbean Weather” on the HAM radio on Sundays and we weren’t moving this day. So, this morning we were able to sleep in…it was actually daylight when we got out of bed. We’d slept great and what a treat it was to be lazy bums to start the New Year out right! And, because we had motored all day the day before, I had a hot shower this a.m as well. Now this is really a great start to a New Year. It just got better when Ken made blue berry pancakes and bacon from breakfast. We heard two of the boats anchored at the entrance to the bay talking on the radio this a.m. and one guys was joking that it was going to be a long into the Walmart…..of course there is no Walmart here. We spoke with “Rivers 2 Seas” this a.m. They were going to the Turks & Caicos and were thinking about leaving this evening. We told them we were going to try to check out with the Commissioner here on Monday, as we had heard he had the authority to act on behalf of Customs/Immigration on this island. They were going to check into that and said they may or may not do an overnight to the Turks this evening. The freezer hasn’t been performing as well as I would like, so I did some rearranging of items to try to help with airflow in the box. Hopefully that bit of work will be successful. While in the freezer, I took out our two last lobsters from friends at Black Point and thawed them. So, we decided we’d have our main meal as a late lunch this day. I made buffaloed lobster alfredo pasta with onion, black olives, cilantro and topped with parmesan cheese. It was yummy and yet another good thing for the start of our New Year. So far, we were liking 2012! We dropped the dinghy after our first lunch of 2012 as we had promised Miko some beach time. We went to a small beach north of us that was closer than going to the dinghy dock by the settlement. In addition to a small, sandy beach area for Miko to play catch, the shore was very interesting. There were layers of flat coral that were almost like a sidewalk along the shore. We walked the shoreline toward the settlement, looking for glass or other floats, things to pick up for decorating our dock at home. We found three small floats and a few pretty shells this day but no sea glass. We couldn’t stay too long on shore as the tide was going out. We had the viewing window open in the bottom of the dinghy so decided to follow the anchor chain out to see how our anchor looked. Ah, a beautiful sight…perfectly planted, as she should be. We knew we’d sleep great again this night. A cold front was to come through on Tuesday with 20-25 knot winds We weren’t sure if we would stay here through it or try to outrun it by leaving Monday night or early Tuesday morning, headed for the Turks & Caicos. We figured we would listen to Chris Parker’s weather report Monday a.m. and make a decision. We had good holding and no boats or other danger around us, so we knew we would be fine for sure if we stayed put. No other vessels arrived this day and three sailboats left…two early in the day and one at high tide, going out the scariest of the two exits from Abraham’s Bay.
December 31, 2011 – Saturday, New Years Eve Day, departed W. Plana Cay and headed for Mayaguana. We called for a radio check and the other boat anchored at Plana responded. She asked also if we had any weather information as they had “no way to get weather”. Wow, can’t even imagine being out here, doing this with NO source of weather information. Amazing. I gave her all the information we had gleaned from our various sources (emails and HAM radio) and she was appreciative to know a cold front was coming through on Tuesday. We put up the mainsail this morning, optimistic that the wind would be NE as forecast, which would allow us to sail the 45 nautical miles to Mayaguana’s Abraham’s Bay. At first, the wind was with us but very soon turned directly onto our nose…so we dropped the sail and reconciled to having to motor again this day. The sea swell was also going against us and at one point our speed was down to around 3.8. This would make an 8 hour trip turn into a 10+ hour trip. So, we added some RPMs to assure a safe arrival with the sun high in the sky to be able to read the water, spotting coral heads that litter the bay we would be entering to spend the weekend. We had a cargo ship pass us this day, being towed by a tug boat. Now that was a sight. On our approach to Abraham’s Bay on the south west side of Mayaguana, a sailboat passed our bow and radio’d. He had no motor so was trying to “tack” his way into shore with the wind hitting him in the wrong direction. “Zanadu’s” had been traveling for 4 days, having come also from Georgetown. The Captain was as pleasant and upbeat as could be….said he hoped he could make it through the cut in the reef to the anchorage before dark, and “have a wonderful New Year”. Folks out here with such challenges make us realize just how lucky we are to have the vessel we own. We have redundant systems for most everything. Mayaguana is the furthest east island of the Bahamas. It is as far out into the Atlantic as one gets in the Bahamas. It is 24 miles long and 6 miles across at its widest part. Abraham’s Bay is formed by the southern shoreline of the island and the reef that fringes that shore…in between is the bay/anchorage. It is littered with rocks and reefs, coral heads for the 4 MILE journey in toward the settlement. It gets shallow quickly and one anchors well off the shoreline. We were one mile from the dinghy dock at the settlement and only had about 4’ of water under us. Three monohulls (including Zanadu!) chose to anchor just inside the reef break at the entrance to the bay. We came in and joined three monohull sailboats and another catamaran we’d seen in Georgetown “Rivers 2 Seas”. They ran a white water rafting operation in the states before they started “cruising” on their catamaran with their children. Hence, their boat name. We had the anchor down in time for happy hour and the sunset, another successful day that didn’t feel quite as isolatied as the previous day/night. We apologized to Miko and didn’t put the dinghy down for the second day in a row. We toasted the New Year around 5ish and were in bed, sound asleep by 8 pm…woo hoo party animals, us.
December 30, 2011 – Friday, departed Crooked Island, headed for W. Plana Cay (a.k.a. French Cay). We had no wind this a.m. but decided we needed to take advantage of the mild, settled weather and seas, so were up and out of Landrail early. We were going to be cruising along “structure”….a shelf right off Crooked where the water goes from shallow to hugely deep…thousands of feet. It is along these shelves, the structure that friend Terry taught us is where one catches FISH. Well, it wasn’t 7:30 a.m. before we had “FISH ON”….so exciting. Ken was reeling the moderate sized fish in easily…but it all the sudden was a real battle. We figured Mr. Fish got his second wind. Well, it got easier to bring in the long line for Ken and finally our fish was to the back sugar scoop. Ah, I should say, half of our fish. Evidently when the line became hard to reel in…it was because Mr. Shark had the other end of Mr. Fish. So, we had a beautiful Wahoo head and a small portion of his body. We felt so bad for Mr. Fish and we love eating Wahoo so, we felt doubly bummed. We let the trolling line again but nothing happened until we were offshore where Crooked Island ends and Acklin Island starts….cuts like this are also where friend Terry taught us is also where one catches FISH. Sure enough, we caught a small Spanish Mackerel and a nice size Mahi off this cut. So, three fish caught….two and a half landed this day. This leg of our trip was a stretch for us as we were headed where there were no people, no Bahamas Royal Defense and no Coast Guard. Out in these remote cruising areas, we are on our own. Hit something and put a hole in the hull, no help. One of us gets injured or sick, no help. So, this day, I felt more of a sense of worry about things that could go wrong than I had ever had in this cruising life. We actually did a radio check midday…and not a soul responded. This has never happened in all our years for cruising on MTB. This day was a long trip, over 50 nautical miles again. We had planned to go to shore at Plana Cay as the shelling was supposed to be really good. But, I had started thinking about the ramifications if the dinghy had trouble once on shore. How would we return to MTB…yes we have oars but against an Atlantic sea swell in an inflatable, good luck with that. Surprisingly, there was a monohull anchored north of our chosen anchorage when we arrived and they had their dinghy down. There was a lot of rock all around so finding a place to drop the anchor and get it to hold was a challenge. At first, is seemed we were dragging, but then the anchor grabbed and we stopped. We were tired and it started raining as we anchored this day so just didn’t drop the dinghy even though help was available from the other boat. Once settled, we looked up to see beautiful, full double rainbows over us. Sights like these are one of our treats out here……rainbows, sunrises, sunsets, full moons and stars.
December 29, 2011 – Thursday, Landrail anchorage, west side Crooked Island. We had a blissful night’s sleep in a flat, calm beautiful anchorage…after the week of rocky/rolly in Georgetown, these nights are so very appreciated. We called shore this day to see if the island had any diesel fuel available. We knew to call a local handle on the radio and that it is “Early Bird” who handles the fuel here and yes, they had diesel. The pipeline for fuel down to the boat basin sprung a leak so now a tanker truck sits at the fuel station. It is a gravity fill tanker with a Raycor filter, replenished monthly…so we felt confident that we would be getting clean diesel which is sometimes not the case. We took our three 5 gallon jerry cans on the dinghy to town with Miko. We knew we’d be making two trips in and back to MTB this day to get thirty more gallons aboard. Since we motored the whole way from Calabash Bay to Clarencetown, we had burned some fuel. Well, there was fuel in town this day…..yep, all we wanted for $6.10 gallon…ouch. $90 for 15 gallons, twice. Although they were so nice…brought their SUV to the station to load our cans so we didn’t have to carry them all the way back to the boat basin/dinghy. “Miss Chrissie” was a boat owned by Andy with BASRA (Bahamas Air & Sea Rescue Association) and on our first trip here was the first boat/person we received greetings from. Well, Miss Chrissie is now very sadly sitting on shore. She washed up in a previous storm and then was sent further onto shore, in the road by this summer’s hurricane Irene. So, they had to just push her off to the side of the road and that was sad to see. We’re not sure if Andy has a replacement boat or not. We spoke with another local this day…we’d met on our previous visit. Tony is married to Willie, who runs a local restaurant. So of course, he told us to go eat there. But, we already had lunch on our first trip back to MTB with our 15 gallons of diesel. On our second trip in, once our last 15 gallons of “gold” fuel were back to the dinghy, we took Miko for a long beach walk. She got to chase her favorite “orange ball” like a crazy dog and she had fun. We found a nice dinghy size fender and a buoy ball washed up on shore and carried them both back to the dinghy/MTB. So, after a successful trip to shore, we put up the dinghy as we were hopeful we’d get to sail the next day to Plana Cay, another 50 or so nautical miles from Landrail.
December 28, 2011 – Wednesday, departed Clarencetown, Long Island. Once again, another long leg was planned this day and we were very hopeful to sail to and anchorage at Landrail Settlement on Crooked Island, southeast of where we were leaving from. We were out of Clarencetown around 7 a.m. and optimistically had our sails up shortly. We saw a number of squalls around us…visible to our eye, as well on the radar. So, we reefed the jib sail in case any of the storm cells hit us. We needed a fresh water rinse as our prior day slog through high seas left us SALTY. But, rain was all around us and we only received the tiniest of sprinkles now and then. Wind was in the proper direction this day and ran 9-15 knots, though early we were motor sailing with one engine at low rpms. Though we could see rain all around us, our sky was mostly blue and we had that AAAHHH moment about 11:45 a.m. when we turned the engine OFF! Midday we heard a boater call for help from anyone anchored at Clarencetown. He said he had hit something, had a foot of water in his cabin and his bilge pumps were not keeping up, so his vessel was filling with water. Our neighbor (Bear Away) in the anchorage responded to the radio call. He got the name and position from the man on the boat in trouble (Change of Heart). From the position given, we calculated that the boat in trouble was over 8 nautical miles north of us but only 4-5 miles from Clarencetown. There is a marina and local folks with fast fishing boats in Clarencetown and they could make the trip out to the vessel in minutes to render help. It would have taken us more than two hours to turn around and get back to him. Shortly, we heard that a local boater was on his way out to render help and rescue the boater if needed. We never did hear the final resolution of the situation but hoped that everything worked out for Change of Heart. One’s first instinct when hearing these distress calls is to turn around and go try to help. But, logically, we knew we wouldn’t be able to get there as quickly as the folks from Clarencetown. Although, it is difficult just to keep on sailing when you hear someone in such trouble…you want to make it better for them. We sailed all the rest of the way to Crooked Island and dropped our anchor in beautiful, deep, rippled sand close to the shore about 4:30 p.m. Although, there were too many clouds for a green flash this night but we did have our nephew’s CD playing, our rum punches in hand and the conch horn was blown at sunset. Since the wind was from the south/southwest, we really enjoyed sitting out on front of MTB this evening. The stars this night were unbelievable…no ambient light and boy do they pop out of the sky.
December 27, 2011 – Tuesday, departed Calabash Bay, Long Island. We had a long trip planned for this day, so jumped up out of bed early and we motoring out of the anchorage, mainsail already up by 6:40 a.m. We were so proud to get going so quickly this morning. THEN… Ken noticed the bilge light came on and was not going off…so either the flapper that goes up and down was stuck up…or we had a water in the engine compartment problem. Ken opened up the starboard engine first and found water shooting out from somewhere…looked like from the newly replaced impeller area. We’d installed a new impeller in Black Point only about two weeks prior, so worried that there was an issue with it for some reason, again. I dropped the mainsail and we turned around, and immediately anchored again. While I was listening to the weather reports I missed due to our early start (they come on at 6:30, 7:20 and 7:30 a.m.) on the HAM radio, Ken started troubleshooting in the engine compartment. We both assumed we’d be staying at Calabash Bay for rest of the day. Of course, we loved Calabash Bay…so wouldn’t be the end of the world. But, Ken yelled out “good news, just a broken hose clamp”. A clamp on one on one of the water hoses rusted out and had broken right in half. So, with a new clamp installed on the hose, we were in business again and so very relieved it wasn’t something more complicated. Even we were getting a late start…we decided to head out anyway. We knew if we didn’t make Clarencetown by dark, we could just keep going, doing an overnight trip somewhere. The north coast of Long Island is lumpy/choppy…having an uncomfortable sea swell that breaks around the reefs at the point, by Cape St. Marie. So, from our prior experience we knew the ride would be rough until we’d rounded the top of Long Island. We hoped once we were around the tip and headed south, conditions would improve and our ride would get nicer. All the forecast said our wind was to be 10-15 knots this day in a good direction to let us sail. So imagine how happy we were when, once around the point, we had 18-20 knots right on our nose. And, the seas were extra choppy because of the higher wind velocity against the strong sea swell prevalent in this area. We kept slogging along at 3.8 knots and finally had to fire up both engines running at about 2800 rpms. We hate burning so much fuel and the fumes and drone get to us after awhile. But, we made good time and got to Clarencetown on the southeast side of Long Island by around 4:30 pm, giving us the time we needed to get anchored before dark. We’d read that the Clarencetown anchorage has poor holding in grass and very little sand. We just don’t anchor well in grass, our CQR brand anchor just doesn’t like it at all. Add the fact that we’d never been to Clarencetown (except by land) nor entered this harbor before and we had some concern about getting in and finding a spot where we would hold. Further complicating the things was that there are cables running through where we needed to anchor and one must be careful not to drop anchor on or near them. Well, the cut to the harbor was a piece of cake as winds had laid down some. But, as we approached, we saw two monohulls and one local fishing boat anchored in the small space we’d identified as our preferred anchor spot. So, now we had other boats, cables AND grass to deal with. It had been a long day, over 50 nautical miles and we were tired. I was on the bow trying to spot the exposed cables when a beautiful patch of soft sand appeared. I yelled to Ken “SAND” so we dropped anchor immediately and hung great. Two hours of trepidation on the approach to this spot for nothing! This anchorage was more beautiful than we imagined it would be. The village has two Father Jerome built tall, white churches on shore and the barrier island just north of us was idyllic…palms and a sandy beach. It was a great place in settled weather, though we understand you don’t want to be there with higher winds. A long, hard day was rewarded by this pleasant location. Miko was crying though, as another boat took their dinghy and DOG to shore. We knew we were heading out early the next day so hadn’t dropped our dinghy…much to our puppy’s displeasure!
December 26, 2011 – Monday…..Boxing Day in the Bahamas. We departed Georgetown this day, with a plan to go to one of four places…depending on the wind of the day. The anchor was up by 7 a.m. and we headed south, out of Elizabeth Harbor. We were one of two boats that left early this a.m….our Christmas dinner tablemates on “Flash”, Hank/Celia also left bound for Colombia, via Jamaica. Well, the wind wasn’t kind and we found that we were going to motor all day this day. So, we decided just to make it a short hop over to the north western part of Long Island, Calabash Bay. On the way, we let out one trolling line and we happily caught/landed one small Mahi Mahi and had another one on the line, but he jumped high out of the water three times and finally threw out the hook to get away. He was big, too…so, there were frowny faces on MTB. But, the other was cleaned and in the freezer before lunch. For the season, we are two Mahi and one little Tunny in the freezer and one Mahi got away. Green flashes this season – Ken (1), Cindy (1). Once to Calabash bay, we picked our spot and threw down our anchor by about 2 p.m. This is a beautiful halfmoon bay with a resort at the northeast end and beautiful homes sparcely spaced along the waters edge. One is called the “O’Zone”….with lush tropical gardens. The other, at the southern most tip of the bay is yellow with old rock/coral walls down to the water…complete with a cannon in the yard, pointing right at our anchorage! This is my new “dream house”…love this bay, this island and its people. We had a great walk with Miko on shore and saw a few people fishing and flying a kite with their kids. Before dark, we were joined by three other boats…Braveheart, Second Wind and Virtue & Vice with Sampson on board. By the time they came in, we had our dinghy up, so didn’t get the two pups together to play in this anchorage.
December 25, 2011 – Sunday, HO HO HO, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island. Of course, the only one with gifts (brought from Georgia and wrapped, of course) on board this Christmas day was Miko. We watched her open her treats and new squeakie toy, then made a great Christmas breakfast. We had spicy Bradley’s sausage from Tallahassee (thank you Karen!), cheese grits and scrambled eggs….yummy. Jessica/family called this morning and it was great catching up with them on Christmas Day. Sounded like granddaughter Audrey had been a good girl this year, as she got bunches of great stuff. The rest of the morning was all about cooking the food we’d committed to take to the beach cruisers’ luncheon. This morning, I made two key lime pies, homemade cocoa frosting for the cupcakes baked the day before and a broccoli and wild rice casserole. I committed to taking a centerpiece and the salt & pepper for the table. Each vessel’s crew was also to bring their own silverware, drinks, glasses, plates, napkins, etc. So, it was quite a production to pack up the food (keeping hot casserole away from the Key Lime Pies, etc) as well as all the other stuff. Luckily we had an empty plastic storage bin that worked great, everything fit in and it fit just fine in the bow of the dinghy. Our assigned table represented 6 vessels…The Loafer (trawler), Flash (cat), Local Knowledge (monohull), Baroda (monohull), Asian Lady (trawler) and Meant To Be (cat). We were a very eclectic crowd from many places: Tennessse, Nova Scotia, Georgia, the Chesapeake, etc. and we really enjoyed the mix. We had turkey. ham, yams, mashed potatoes/gravy, corn, green bean and broccoli casseroles, homemade bread, relish tray, stuffing, cranberry sauce, rice stuffing and so much more. Then, the desserts…oh my…brownies, cupcakes, key lime pies, lemon squares and coconut cake. It still amazies me how well we all whip up the best food in our tiny little galleys…it was a feast and so much fun. We started eating at noon and “grazed” and socialized until about 3:30 pm. We’d left Miko home, so felt we needed to go back and spend some time with our little girl so we were back to MTB about 4 pm, gathered Miko and took her to the beach nearest our anchorage. She ran and smiled, and that was good. We planned to move from Georgetown on Monday, so we put up the dinghy this night. Miko always is sad when she sees her “little boat” being put back up on the davits.
December 24, 2011 – Saturday, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, Volleyball Beach. This morning started out with a Miko playdate at the beach “under the monument” on Stocking Island. They announced this play time on the cruiser’s net this a.m. So, about 8:15 a.m., we got Miko out of bed, put her harness on…and threw her in the dinghy. She played with Salty from Rocinante’ and Farley from Mattina. They ran and played well together for about an hour. Back to MTB, I threw made some cupcakes and threw them in the oven so they’d be able to cool so I could frost them for the Christmas luncheon later this day. In the afternoon, we dinghied south to “Sand Dollar Beach” so we could take the path from there over to the Atlantic side beaches. Folks we had met on Veranda, Sapphire and Fine Lion were sitting, chatting in the cool water at the edge of the beach when we landed…after saying hey, we headed to the other side. It was a nice hike through a path that wanders through dense, tropical vegetation. Once on the other side of Stocking Island, we were once again awed by the beauty of the beaches there. We have enjoyed them with Corstiaan, Terry/Stacey and Brendon/Beth and always so enjoy our walks along. We walked a long way, found three pieces of sea glass, one hamburger bean, a number of nice small pieces of driftwood, and a few select shells. We walked north all the way to the St. Francis Resort before turning for our walk back. Poor Miko was pooped on arrival back to MTB….having played in the morning and been walked so far in the afternoon. We opened our spiked Egg Nog bought in town on Thursday and toasted Christmas Eve with Jimmy Buffett’s Christmas Music CD playing. Dinner this night was a treat of marinated Mahi…caught just days before on our sail down to Georgetown. There was a cruisers’ Christmas service on the beach at 7 pm and we thought about going. But, luckily we decided we don’t like being out riding around this anchorage in the dark…too many crazy folks running around in boats. We’d hoped to hear the music portions of the service from the boat. But, squalls came through just before and just after the service….and we weren’t able to hear anything from the beach. But, we had a very nice Christmas Eve aboard MTB, indeed.
December 23, 2011 – Friday – Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, Volleyball Beach. This day the harbor seemed a little more settled than it had been, so we decided we’d get diesel fuel in our 5 gallon jury jugs. We had thought we’d go to Thompson Bay on Long Island and top off our tanks there at Long Island Petroleum. But, this a.m. we heard on the BASRA (Bahamas Air and Sea Rescue) reports that their dock was destroyed during hurricane Irene and not rebuilt. So, Ken transferred fuel to our aft port & starboard fuel tanks and then emptied the three 5 gallon jugs we carry as extra fuel into the forward tank. Then, into town with Miko and our jugs for trip one of the refueling mission. Diesel was $5.66 a gallon in Georgetown…we’d paid $3 something in West Palm Beach before leaving the States. Its all good in the Bahamas….but it is also all EXPENSIVE here in the Bahamas…as everything is imported. For trip two of our refueling mission, we left Miko onboard and just did a quick run into a little beach nearest the fuel station. We then just had to walk our jugs into the shore and back. So MTB’s tanks were topped off and we still had about 10 gallons in jury jugs. This was good…..approximately thirty gallons cost $84 and $86…spent $170 this day….oh, forgot Ken also picked up two more bottles of Rum this day….another $23 for Bacardi Anejo. Once back to MTB, we were in for the rest of the day.
December 22, 2011 – Thursday – Georgetown, Great Exuma Island – Volleyball Beach. Well, it was not forecasted, but the wind was down so much this morning we decided on the spur of the moment to make the 2 mile dinghy ride across Elizabeth Harbor to the settlement of Georgetown. We had a lot to do so decided Miko would stay aboard and it would be good for her to have some crate time just to remind her that she is truly a “DOG”. So, we gathered up the garbage; grabbed our shopping bags and egg caddie; put the 1 gallon gas can on the dinghy and took off. This did not make Miko happy, though she was a good girl and went into her crate when asked. The settlement has a garbage dumpster near a small sandy beach for cruisers. Cruisers hold a week long regatta at the end of February each year, sell tshirts/hats and charge admission for a few events. The money raised by the committee is used for betterment projects and is also donated to charities in the settlement. One of the things is the equipment used at Volleyball Beach. So, cruisers help the community and the community reciprocates by helping with things such as the garbage dumpster. We are asked only to take our garbage to the dumpster provided vs. dumping it in the cans along the settlement streets, and that is great. We added a can crusher on board MTB this season, trying to make our “footprint” as small as possible. We also eliminated as much packaging as was feasible from our food/pantry items before we left Georgia. For example…packets of instant oatmeal were in a box…out went the box…same with hot chocolate, popcorn and breakfast bars. We realize that the fleet of cruisers out here has a huge impact (positive and negative) on these islands so we really try to be conscientious about our refuse, etc. After dropping our garbage, we entered Victoria Lake and went to the gas station’s floating dock. Ken walked our two dinghy fuel cans up and bought 4 gallons of gas to top us off, $22. Then, over to the dinghy dock provided by the local food store “Exuma Market”. These nice folks even provided free Reverse Osmosis water for cruisers who do not have watermakers aboard. One can simply dinghy up and fill up their water jugs which is a true luxury in the islands, quite a commitment by Exuma Market. When we see folks filling their water jugs, it sure makes us appreciative of our watermaker. Once on shore, we visited all the local businesses within walking distance….gift shops, liquor stores, hardware store, straw market, etc. We did some price comparisons and then went back to the businesses where we wanted to make our purchases. We bought some gifts; stocked up on liquor $89 for 9 bottles of various types of rum; got a whisk and pie server at the hardware store $5.50; and spent $52 for various groceries for both Christmas dinner and in anticipation of pulling out of GT in the near future. So, in total this was an expensive trip to shore, ouch $309 spent so we better stay out of the settlement from here on!. Everyone on shore was in the holiday spirit and Christmas music was playing everywhere. We enjoyed seeing Bahamian decorations like wreaths with handmade palm straw angles, etc. and there were some beautiful flowers blooming here this time of year. Once back to MTB and our “neighborhood” of many other boats, Miko gave us a wonderful welcome.
December 21, 2011 – Wednesday – Georgetown, Great Exuma Island -Volleyball Beach. YEP, you guessed it…still WINDY and rocky/rolly in the anchorage. But, the sky was blue, the air and water warm…no problems ‘mon. This day, I worked my way through the 400+ emails received with our WIFI ticket minutes the previous evening. And offline, I drafted 12 new messages to be sent once logged on again. We were glad we could draft emails offline using Outlook and not have to use any of our paid for WIFI ticket time to do so. Once ready to do so, we’ll log on and update the website, check Facebook and send/receive our emails. A number of vessels pulled up their anchors this morning to motor the two or so miles across the harbor to town. It was propane refill day and a number of folks needed tanks replenished. We cruisers cook in ovens or on grills that use propane, so it is an essential commodity in this lifestyle. In the islands, there only a few places available for getting refills. The boat anchored next to us, Sapphire, was one of the vessels that went to town. It is always fun to see if the folks who leave come back to their previous anchor spot or go elsewhere. A little catamaran that went over to town was back by lunch and went into the exact same spot they left. Folks taking guests back to town to catch flights also do this up anchor and move across the harbor. It is called the Georgetown shuffle and it is something that gives us a little bit of daily entertainment. It was announced on the Cruisers’ Net this day that there were about 90 boats in the harbor now. This was up from the 70 that were here before the last group of us arrived the previous Sunday, the day the last weather window closed. We heard folks on the radio still in Florida and further north in the Bahamas…all frustrated that they couldn’t move due to the wind/seas being uncooperative. Many of these folks had plans to be here for Christmas, some having guests flying into this airport. A lot of those we heard were really bummed as they were finally realizing that they weren’t getting here to Georgetown for Christmas. Most cruisers who have tried to coordinate visits with friends or family members joke that guests coming in for a visit can either pick their place, or the date to come in, but not BOTH. It is difficult to be in the right place at the right time and still be safe. We’ve heard situations where folks pushed the envelope and ended up in trouble, due to trying to meet a deadline. We went to a small beach near our anchorage that Miko loves to run. And, then were going to take the path to the Atlantic side of this island…beautiful beaches we have visited on previous trips. Along this path, there still was a basin and jug of fresh water with a sign “for the birds”. Sadly, almost to the other side, the path was under water, mucky icky looking water…probably a result of structure changes resulting from Hurricane Irene. So, sadly it was a no go for the wonderful beaches we have enjoyed with family and friends during past visits. So, back to the dinghy and we just decided to hang out at Volleyball beach for the rest of the afternoon. The cruisers have developed 3 sand courts there and at 2 p.m. each day there are some serious matches. Those who don’t play do crafts like basket weaving; play guitars; sunbath; and enjoy cold libations. We just walk Miko around and this day we found Naula, the other Shiba Inu from “Yahtze”, on shore. Even better, her owners were FSU Seminole fans and their vessel is the same as ours, just larger…a 46’ Leopard. A very nice family with their teenage girls aboard. We had a nice afternoon socializing and luckily met some of the folks we’ll enjoy Christmas dinner with at our assigned table. At the basket weaving table, a nice lady gave me a bracelet she made that day. It is like a floating “Sun City” center here in Georgetown…a retirement settlement with activities.
December 20, 2011 – Tuesday – Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, Volleyball Beach. Yet another day…and the wind she was a blowin’! No one was coming nor going anywhere.. probably until the day after Christmas, per the weather forecasts. So, we were glad we were signed up for the Christmas luncheon, though it was a week away. We knew we’d have fun meeting new folks, especially after talking with each other on our radios to coordinate our table’s menu. This day, I was assigned to making two key lime pies and a hash brown casserole. I thought I might also make some cupcakes, and a mozzarella/tomato/basil salad or maybe a broccoli casserole, as well. Our table would have turkey and ham for meat and it seemed we were assigned to a yummy table with good cooks. So.. yay….we would have a proper celebration to look forward to this holiday vs. Thanksgiving. We crossed over from Florida to the Bahamas on Thanksgiving eve/day, so that holiday felt like just another day. Although, the day did make us thankful for yet another safe crossing to the beautiful aqua waters of Great Harbour Cay. We tried again this a.m. to snag an unsecured wifi signal, but no luck. We heard on the radio that “Sampson” the Border Terrier on Virtue & Vice needed a Vet. We hailed V&V and Mickey said Sampson’s eye didn’t look good. This worried us some as he and Miko played together a lot at Little Bay. We hoped the little guy would be ok and selfishly worried that it was something contagious. We have to watch out for the safety of our animals here in the islands. There is a type of tree here that has poison bark and another with poison fruit; additionally there are rabid animals; homeless dogs (pot cakes) that haven’t been inoculated; deadly brown ticks; rotten stuff washed up on the beaches; chicken bones thrown around in the settlements and drinking salt water will make a dog sick. So, we work hard to be vigilant and keep a close eye on Miko whenever we are on shore. Several vessels anchored south of us went by before lunch going further north up the harbor for better protection. We could probably find a place that was somewhat less “roll-y” but we weren’t so uncomfortable that we were ready to move. We were in a great spot as far as convenience to everything and figured we’d stay put as long as things didn’t become “untenable’. After lunch, we ventured into the St. Francis Resort dinghy dock to get WIFI tickets at the bar. We bought 10 tickets at $2 each…one being good for 75 minutes of time on their WIFI. So, we will be able to send/receive emails as well as update the website with about a month’s worth of log entries. Once done there, we beached the dinghy at the Chat N’ Chill Bar next to Volleyball Beach. At 2 pm each day, the cruisers go in and play volleyball on the three courts for the purpose. Some folks are there just for fun/fellowship…some others are VERY serious players. Miko met a few dogs and was happy about that. We also met two young ladies from another Leopard Cat nearby and they have a 7 year old brown Shiba Inu aboard their vessel. We hope to introduce the two Shiba’s at some point. Ken visited the bar…a Rum Punch for him, Pina Colada for me…$16 plus tip…..guess we’ll drink beers or on board from here on. We enjoyed meeting a lot of cruisers this day…caught up with some old friends and made some new….always fun. We hoped to run into some of our Christmas luncheon tablemates…but no luck this day. Back to MTB for sundowners.
December 19, 2011 – Monday – Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, Volleyball Beach. Well, the wind continues to blow strong and from a direction further south than forecast. So, our selected anchorage is rocky/rolly….a thing we are becoming very accustomed to this season of high wind and rain showers. Everyone was talking about never having seen so much rain in the Bahamas at this time of year. Though, the locals love it as they depend on rainwater to fill the cistern tanks used for their water. Another benefit of the rain is that after each of our legs, MTB and Toby the dinghy had gotten really nice freshwater rinses. We were drug back into the “Georgetown” social scene so quickly that it was scary. The “Cruiser’s Net” is on at 8:00 a.m. each morning and we introduced ourselves as new arrivals. As a result, before lunch, we were welcomed and signed up for the Christmas potluck luncheon being organized by table. Each group of 6 boats/12 folks will organize their own menus for the luncheon…sitting together at their “assigned” table. They say this worked better last year, vs. previous years when there was a long buffet line. We were anchored just south of a couple vessels that were with us in Little Bay…Sapphire, Fine Lion and Savage Son. We had all been together in St. Augustine as well. It is a small world, this moving cruising parade of ours. Weather dictates when moves can be made, so we often see the same folks from anchorage to anchorage. This was a relaxing lazy day aboard, not much happening. I finally unrolled the clear vinyl starboard windscreen in the cockpit. It hadn’t yet been used this season and it needed a nice wash. With both screens in our cockpit down and clean, I was able to decorate for Christmas! I hung a large red Christmas stocking on the inside of each of the windscreens, so rain could not get to them, but they could be seen by others. We joke that these whopping big felt stockings are for Miko…the spoiled princess aboard. Of course, the only one who has a Christmas gift onboard, brought from home, was Miko. We didn’t have WIFI here, the first anchorage since leaving home. So, we will have to get to the local hotel and buy access on Tuesday…not open on Mondays. Access is sold by “bytes” here this year vs. the old way, by days, weeks, months. Interesting…guess it makes folks quicker to get off and not clog up the bandwidth. Ken cleaned up the dinghy and we dropped Toby after lunch. Though the swells/waves were more than we like to fight to get to shore…for Miko’s sake, we decided to go in to the little beach we like just to the south of where were anchored. We found a corner with very small breakers so got off and threw the dinghy anchor easily. We were so glad we went to shore, as Miko ran and chased her ball the entire length of the beach and was a very happy girl. After about an hour, she was tuckered out and we headed back to MTB. The ride out was great as the swells were behind us, pushing us “home”. The afternoon was reading, eating and sundowners, a normal cruiser’s afternoon. Miko is becoming an awful beggar due to our confined quarters, we’ll have to work on that. On arrival here, we found we’d lost our local channels from Direct TV, being this far south. So since there wasn’t much on TV, we watched the newest Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Bob and Sharon/Big Run gave this new release to us when they were in Brunswick and we’d saved it for just this situation…no TV and in the Bahamas. Thanks guys….we sure do miss you both.
December 18, 2011 – Sunday – departed from anchoring off the west shore of Little Farmers Cay, heading for Georgetown on Great Exuma Island. We had the mainsail and the anchor up by 7:00 a.m. We decided to use the “Galliot Cut” to transit from the “Exuma Bank” to the “Exuma Sound”. Cuts can be SCARY if they are in a rage situation (wind, tide, swells all working against each other) so knowing we were going out to small seas, with a slack tide and only 7 knots of wind was great. We motor sailed through with no problem and soon as we turned south, we pulled out the jib and had our “AAAHHH” moment….turning off the engines. We passed the resort on Cave Cay and ASAP, Ken had the trolling lines/pink lures in the water and we knew fishing conditions would be perfect on our route south. The trip was about 45 nautical miles this day…so a good chance to get something in the freezer. Well, before noon, we had a tuna and a Mahi Mahi caught, landed, cleaned and in the freezer. Most of the boats traveling in front and behind us were all on the radio reporting their catches, as well. Everyone was happy….one boat said he had 4 good sized Mahi Mahi and decided he had to quit fishing, as we had. We could have caught more for sure, but sadly we only had a little room in the freezer, as it was so early in the season. It was like a parade of boats headed south this day…everyone had been waiting for this window to get south, and everyone took advantage of it. The weather guys were saying that everyone should get to Georgetown by this afternoon, when winds/squalls would increase. We took our time, averaged 5.0 knots this day, so every monohull sailboat that began behind us, passed us this day. That’s ok, as we had our sail reefed (made smaller to go slower), as we knew we’d be fishing and there could be high winds later in the afternoon. We often joke that we are built for comfort not for speed…this applies to the vessel and the crew! Still, we were anchored by “Volleyball Beach” in Georgetown and drinking rum punched by 4:00 p.m. this day. It did rain after we arrived, so it was a nice freshwater rinse for MTB. A very good day. There were 70 boats reported to be in Georgetown this week. Though, just this day, I think at least 15-20 of us arrived. We knew we would listen to the cruiser’s net in the morning, as they would ask new arrivals to check in. We were nostalgic about being back in this place. Some of our best times with folks aboard MTB have been here in Georgetown….Corstiaan, Terry/Stacey and Brendon/Beth…all here with us. Many great memories. But, this season, this was only a layover as we planned to continue our trek south.
December 17, 2011 – Saturday – today was departure day from (Plain) Little Bay, Great Guana Cay, sadly. So, we got up early, put up the dinghy, battened down everything and were ready to pull up the anchor at 7:00 a.m. Captain Ken started the engines and we checked our water discharge flow, like we always do. Nope, no good on the port side…dang it…we figured we probably needed another impeller replacement. We could go on south with one engine, but not our preference as we like redundancy with every system when we are out in big waters. And, we knew we had resources here (airports, boats, stores, and mechanically inclined friends). So, Ken shut down the engines and got out his tools and spare parts. Things are never easy on a boat. Just to get into the port side engine, we must take everything off the bed, mattress included, that had collected over a period of six weeks….a lot of stuff. We had just changed the impeller in the starboard side in Norman’s Cay, less than two weeks prior. So, we should have known the port side was going to need it as well. At least Ken had gained all that knowledge and knew exactly what needed to be done from doing the starboard side. But, as is also normal on a boat….one step forward and two steps back…..three of the four screws on the face plate/cover that had to be removed were broken or stripped. Ken radioed Bob on Big Run and asked if he would bring his collection of nuts/bolts over, a small drill if he had one as well as an “easy out”. Within 10 minutes, this great friend was onboard MTB ready to help. Between the two guys, the bolts were removed, the impeller replaced and the faceplate was back on. They started up the engine and we once again had great water flow! Yay. By 11:30 a.m., Bob said bon voyage to us one more time. We put MTB back together…mattress back on the bed, etc., had lunch and were anchor/sail up by 1:00 p.m. We saw wind from 1 knot to 25 knots this day from every direction…it was a weird one probably due to squalls in the area causing the craziness. We were lazy sailors and only pulled out our jib vs. raising the mainsail. We had a slow, but easy run south. We had planned to anchor in front of Cave Cay…but due to our late start we knew it might be crowded. So, we just pulled up close to shore on the west side of Little Farmers Cay for the night. It is one of our favorite places so it was difficult not to go to shore to see the local folks. We had a long trip of about 9.3 miles. This was the first “moving” day there had been in about two weeks…the winds and seas having been too high for most vessels to venture out. So, everyone was going south and it did feel good to be moving…though hard knowing we wouldn’t be seeing Bob and Sharon for quite awhile. Sunday was the last day to move before the next wave of high winds and squalls so we had to get boogying.
December 16, 2011 – Friday - (Plain) Little Bay, Great Guana Cay, Exuma Island chain, Bahamas. Early was saw Shane & Mickey from Virtue & Vice on shore with their “Border Terrier” named Sampson. So, we jumped on the dinghy and ran Miko in to play. She so loves running with other dogs and they had a wonderful time…ran and chased balls for about 1 ½ hours. Sampson was only 7 months, so had an abundance of energy. We hadn’t had breakfast so we all headed back to our vessels. Ron from Chiquita came by to say he was round up folks from 7 anchored boats to go ashore for an afternoon of beach time and fellowship. We told him we would be gave our fuzzy hulls a scrubbing and then come in. We wanted to get the green growth off while we were in such clean water vs. in Georgetown where there were already 80 boats, most of which have open their “poopie” tanks open. After we had done a pretty good job on our hull “de-fuzzing”, we had lunch and then packed up to go to shore for the remainder of the afternoon. Bill/Mara had once again taken their four-person float in again, and that was nice. Sampson was there and ran Miko ragged again. Miko finally seemed to get a little impatient with him, but they still played great and both were exhausted by the day’s end. It rained several times while we were on shore, but no one seemed to care about getting wet, although I was COLD. Just after sunset, everyone headed back out to their vessels. After getting into some dry clothes, Bob/Sharon dinghied over to MTB to tell us bon voyage. It was hard to think about leaving these nice folks. We pulled out the MTB hats and MTB T-shirts so they would have them to commemorate our nice times together this fall, both here and in Brunswick earlier.
December 15, 2011 – Thursday - (Plain) Little Bay, Great Guana Cay, Exuma Island chain, Bahamas. Folks in the anchorage were getting a little cabin fever so four boat crews decided to walk to town this day. We had a really nice walk with Big Run (Bob/Sharon), Puddle Jumper (Bill/Mara), Chiquita (Ron) and Miko. We stopped by and said hello to Peg/Frank at O’Brien’s Landing on our way to the dirt road. In the settlement, we all had things to do…get emails/internet, shopping, post office, etc. We went to Althea Adderley’s store with Big Run. Just bought a loaf of sliced wheat bread for grilled cheese sandwiches. When we were all done with our errands, we met back up at Scorpio’s Bar and had some wonderful ice cold Kalik Lights….boy, did they hit the spot. Folks from several boats anchored in Black Point came in as well so we had a nice group. It was great to catch up with Schivago, the bar’s owner. I think we all could have cheerfully sat there and imbibed all afternoon. But, we were responsible adults and headed out for the 2.2-mile walk back to our anchorage. It was a nice time with nice people, good way to spend an afternoon.
December 14, 2011 – Wednesday (Plain) Little Bay, Great Guana Cay, Exuma Island chain, Bahamas. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO BRIAN MELONE, our FSIL!!!! Well, winds built even more over night and were sustained over 25 knots with big, big seas. The mail boat didn’t leave Nassau so wouldn’t be coming to Black Point this day. We had a plan to walk to town with Big Run this day. But, there was no reason to do the 2.2 miles one way trip, without the “Captain C” coming in. The skies were blue, the sun shining…so it was a nicer morning this day than it was on Tuesday. My head still hurt and I had a headache from the prior night’s “bonk” on the head. But, what can you do…just tough it out. We planned to do a photo shoot for our Christmas greetings to folks at home this day. We would help Big Run with their “Corona” moment and they’d help us with our photo idea. We figured overhead sun would be the best and planned to go into shore later to see if we could get some good photos for both our websites and Facebook. On Tuesday, I pulled out the few small Christmas decorations we had aboard. We had a couple stockings from friends Arddy/Leo in Jacksonville and a small tree decorated with seashells…a gift from Mary Farnsworth! Some of the tree’s shells needed either re-gluing or replacement, so got that done this day. We also had Christmas towels aboard from Ken’s sister, Karen, each with a Santa pink flamingo holding Christmas lights in their beak. And yet another surprise …two boxes of aqua round Christmas tree ornaments. Since they were glass, we needed to figure out a good place to use them. So, it was starting to look a lot like Christmas, all around the boat. Bob came by about 11:30 a.m. after he radioed that he had something to talk to us about, but not on the airwaves. We had concern about another cruiser and were trying to think how to best help them. We spent the afternoon on the beach with Bob and Sharon, but we didn’t get to do our photo shoots, as it was a little cloudy. Back to MTB for dinner, ran generator and water maker too.
December 13, 2011 – Tuesday, (Plain) Little Bay, Great Guana Cay, Exuma Island chain, Bahamas. Wind was high and supposed to be building through the day as well as on Wednesday. Showers came through off and on during the whole day. Ron/Chiquita, with Bill from Puddle Jumper aboard, sailed out of the anchorage this morning to pick up some parts from a friend on a boat anchored north of us Big Major Spot. They had great wind, returned quickly and anchored right back in the spot they left. Mid morning, we met Bob/Sharon from Big Run on the beach in front of O’Brien’s Landing for a stroll on the dirt road, north to the island’s dump. We see so many cruisers who leave huge footprints on these islands…dropping their trash on the sides of streets in the settlements, on the beaches, etc. We do always try to do the right thing, minimize our garbage and get rid of it in appropriate, designated places. It was a nice walk with friends and Miko. We did some beach combing on two beaches on the other side of the island before returning to our beautiful, protected anchorage. The same five boats have been here for a number of days. Two by Two left during the weekend and then Gallant Fox arrived. This is unusual, as usually boats come and go here daily. But, because of the wind/sea conditions, no one was moving this week. No one moves, no one gets hurt…a cruiser’s motto in weather like this. While on the beach, we picked up some more buoys, sea glass, a container for a plant bulb I found and a couple of sea beans. The buoys were being collected to decorate our dock at home, on our return. Once back to the dinghies, we let Miko play some. But, as we stood there, the wind was blowing so strong, we joked that the sand would exfoliate our skin…it stung. Bob/Sharon invited us to happy hour on Big Run this evening. But, we got back to MTB, I planted my “bulb” and then we both were reading interesting books. Happy hour just snuck up on us. We radioed our regrets for being lazy slackers and begged a “rain check” on getting together on Big Run. Around this same time, we heard on the radio (party line!), that a catamaran was aground on the reef, just north of us at Staniel Cay. We heard two large yachts with crews, equipment and 35’ dinghies (whew!) offering their help and hoped the best for whoever it was. The powerboats would most likely be able to pull him out of danger once the tide came up. Making a grounding mistake is always a concern when going in anywhere. We luckily have several sources of information for wherever we go. We have various sets of paper charts as well as different manufacturer’s computer/digital charts. We typically feel very well informed before going into new places but are still extremely cautious, always watching the depth finder and for coral heads. We just wished the best for the grounded Cat and hoped he got off without any damage to his vessel. Later this evening, when I went to get something from my clothes cabinet, I had a little accident. A t-shirt fell out onto the floor, so I bent down to get it. When I rose up, I knocked myself silly on the bottom of the cabinet door that swung over me due to the rocking motion of the boat. I saw stars, lost my footing and almost passed out from the truly hard blow. Ken said my head to door collision shook the boat. He immediately had me sitting on the bed with an ice pack on the indentation (yes, a crevice) in my scull. It bled for a short time, but not gushing like some more serious head injuries can. By bedtime, I still had a crease in my head and a headache but the ice kept any type of “goose egg” from forming. We read the Boy Scout handbook’s first aid section and it wasn’t much help. Although, we didn’t think I was in any danger other than a possible slight concussion. Luckily, we knew there was a retired E.R. nurse on one boat in our anchorage. And, there was a boat just north of us with a retired physician on board. The village of Black Point also has a medical clinic with a nurse. So, if I were to have any ill effects from my “bonk” on the head, there would be plenty of knowledge and help around us. In this lifestyle, having an accident and not being able to help handle MTB is a real concern. So, we truly do try to be careful in all we do, though this night, I got smacked for being careless.
December 12, 2011 – Monday (Plain) Little Bay, Great Guana Cay, Exuma Island chain, Bahamas. We woke to showers and saw a triple rainbow for the first time ever for both of us…really beautiful. Sadly, it didn’t photograph well and we weren’t able to capture the phenomenon. During the morning, things got more blue and sunny. Though, the forecasters agreed the winds were supposed to stay high from the N/NE/ENE for two weeks. We are a sailing vessel, so of course, we like wind and it was in a great direction for us. Unfortunately, it was a high “sustained” wind, the kind that keeps the seas churned up. That also makes the “cuts” from our side of the Exumas (the Exuma Bank) to the other side of the Exumas (the Exuma Sound) really scary and ROUGH. So, we weren’t sure when we would get to move down to Georgetown, our next stop. We could do one more small leg on the Exuma Bank side down toward the Cave Cay cut where we planned to exit. But, we really enjoy this anchorage so didn’t plan to move, just to move. And of course, we had Big Run - Bob & Sharon here for great company. But, I was getting “itchy” as we need to be moving south if we had any hope of seeing other country(ies). Although, we always say that the best safety feature we have on MTB, is not having a schedule. If the conditions are not “right”…we just don’t move. We heard folks on the radio, bemoaning the wind and not being able move south. A number of the hunkered down vessels needed to get to Georgetown to pick up company flying if for the holidays, or at a minimum who wanted to be there for Christmas. Funny, anymore for us in this cruising life, the holidays are just the same as any other day. This sounds sad, but it is nice not to have the hustle, bustle and stress that all the holiday activities on land used to create. About all we do is pull out a couple little decorations, and hang Miko’s stocking! Though, there is a trade off, as we very much miss being with our families. Miko got her flea treatment this day, so she is good for yet another month. And, of course, it was on the white board…we needed to “take Miko to the beach”, so we did.
December 11, 2011 – Sunday (Plain) Little Bay, Great Guana Cay, Exuma Island chain, Bahamas. It was a windy day, overcast, showers coming through periodically. We watched some Sunday morning TV and caught up some with the world, election, etc. Nothing earth shattering was going on…same ole stuff. Two by Two pulled up anchor this day and went down to Cave Cay, leaving just the four of us anchored here. We brushed Miko this day, cut her nails and put Sulfodene on the places she keeps compulsively licking…she has a hint of “OCD” syndrome! But, she looked great and we knew the good brushing would make her feel better. Bob/Sharon went to the beach late in the morning, but we were lazy aboard and already had our noses in the books we were reading. So, to Miko’s displeasure, we just stayed put. Later in the afternoon, they joined us aboard and we did drinks and shared dinner. It was another nice evening with these nice folks. While aboard, Sharon added a few line items to the boat tasks on our white board…one was “take Miko to the beach”.
December 10, 2011 – Saturday, Little Bay, Great Guana Cay, Exuma Island chain, Bahamas. I was up this a.m. around 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. and saw an amazing full moon over the “Castle” house on shore. So, out I went to take photos in the dusk. Might as well be productive when not able to sleep for some reason. (Ken thought it might be because we went to bed at 8 pm!). Weather/winds were NE/E, the bad swell of the previous day was gone and it was a nice morning. Bob radioed from Big Run and wanted Ken to help him with a boat job around 9:30 or 10:00 a.m. So, Miko and I stayed aboard and made cupcakes for the evening’s dessert. This night there was to be a full moon, so we all planned to enjoy it aboard MTB…drinks, a collaborative dinner, dessert, great company and moonlight. We wanted to take Miko to shore this day for some ball chasing, exercise. I started doing some serious studying about routes and clearing Customs/Immigration into the Turks & Caicos this day. Many people think the T&Cs are islands of the Bahamas, but not so. The island chain, south of the Bahamas and northeast of Dominica (Haiti/Dominican Republic) is separate from the Bahamas and one must work with another government on arrival. “Clearing in” is always a little more complicated with a pet aboard. Once we leave here, our plan was to boogie quickly south with minimal stays along the way, as weather would permit. We have great knowledge of the Bahamas now, so felt we should spread our wings and take a cruising leap of faith to other locales. Today we learned that from December to April, the entire N. American population of humpback whales migrates through the waters of the Turks. To see humpback whales while sailing aboard MTB would be such a huge treat…a “bucket list” experience. So, we hoped that maybe we’d get lucky if we do head further south to the Turks. During the day, Puddle Jumper organized a beach party for the folks in the homes and anchorage. So, we modified our plans and went to shore in the afternoon. Puddle Jumper had a four person Sea Doo raft anchored at the beach edge and we all just hung around it with our cocktails. It had a built in Ipod, so we enjoyed everyone’s company, the water AND great tunes. We took our meats, dishes to share (we made fried apples) and ended the evening on the deck of “O’Brien’s Landing” with everyone. Bill from Puddle Jumper did a great job with the grilling; Peg and Jean made and shared homemade conch salad. Miko was welcomed at Peg/Frank’s beautiful home as well; so nice that she didn’t have to stay crated aboard MTB. We had such a nice day/evening…a total of 12 folks. We were appreciative of the company, lots of funny stories and good eats.
December 9, 2011 – Friday, Little Bay, Great Guana Cay, Exuma island chain, Bahamas. We woke at 4 a.m. to a torrential downpour and strong gust of wind. We jumped up to close hatches and retrieve items from the cockpit so they didn’t want to get soaked. Of course, Miko did not budge. Back to bed, and again at 6 a.m. we had another shower. The rainstorms kept coming throughout the morning and we were treated to several rainbows. In between the showers we had blue skies and sunshine so it was not a bad morning and MTB was getting such a nice freshwater rinse. We only heard one boat in the anchorage had plans to move this day. Savage Son was just going to go a very short way south, down to White Point. We had 2 trawlers (Big Run, Two By Two), 2 catamarans (us and Puddle Jumper), 1 trimaran (Chiquita) and 3 monohulls (Fine Lion, Sapphire & Savage Son) in the a.m. and didn’t expect much change this day. After two pots of French Press made coffee, banana nut muffins and kitchen cleanup, we commenced to read and “log”. Seemed it was going to be a lazy day. Ken finished a thick book he’d been reading for awhile. We heard others on the boats around us chatting on the VHF with most saying they were being lazy, some saying they were bored. The radio is the “party line” for all cruisers. We call another boat on the hailing channel 16. Now remember, everyone for miles monitor the hailing channel. So, when the party you hail answers, you are required to pick another channel for conversation. So, if we hear someone say “switch to 18”, EVERYONE switches to 18 and listens in. It really is funny and one has to be very careful about whatever one says on the radio. Through the morning and afternoon, the wind had turned further south. So, an uncomfortable swell was rocking MTB this day. Several of the other vessels finally gave up and went back around to Black Point Settlement for better protection. We knew the wind was to be NE/E for days…and this was just a temporary situation, so we stayed put. Neither Big Run nor us got off the boat this afternoon or evening. Another lazy day aboard.
December 8, 2011 – Thursday, Little Bay, Great Guana Cay, Exuma island chain, Bahamas. Blue skies and coconut bread French toast for breakfast, a great morning. Ron, from Chiquita (yellow trimaran) went by this morning and we chatted a minute as he was on his way to his friends’ catamaran. He was wearing a yellow Chiquita banana t-shirt that he said was a gag gift from his retirement party, cute. Talked to Bob and Sharon and they came over this morning to help us get Ken up the mast to replace a burnt out “steaming” light. This light is up the mast about midway and when under sail, it illuminates the sails and makes us very visible at night. When we were crossing over from Florida, Ken looked up and saw it go “blip”, off. This wasn’t a huge worry as we have deck lights we can turn on if any vessels were getting nearer to us. But, to be completely “legal” for maritime purposes, we wanted to get it replaced. We might need to do another nighttime leg, maybe from the Turks & Caicos to the Dominican Republic. I can get Ken up the mast alone, but don’t like to without someone else onboard. If I had a heart attack at an untimely moment, he could drop like a sack of flour to the deck, never good. So, it is always nice to have another person and set of eyes/hands and we appreciated Bob and Sharon’s help. Miko loves her Uncle Bob and Aunt Sharon and goes crazy when she sees their dinghy coming over. Once done, we decided it was a beachcombing morning so once everyone got ready, we took our dinghies into the south beach shore. There are two homes in this bay, both owned by US citizens and the “ladies” of the two homes came by on their golf cart. We had a nice introduction and enjoyed chatting with them. One home resembles a castle and the other is a group of three 20x20 units, each about three stories tall. Peg and Frank got back to their home from the US the previous week and the Castle’s owner just arrived on the 7th. Her husband will be flying in soon from California, alone as his wife doesn’t like to fly with him so she was staying with Peg/Frank. Once the house is opened up, she said she hoped she could get us over to see it. We’d love to, as it is an amazing looking place. We continued on our walk and found the folks from both Chiquita (trimaran) and Puddle Jumper (catamaran) at the first, closest beach. They had already done some serious beachcombing so, after a short visit, we ventured onto the next two beaches. We all found some treasures (buoys, sea glass, shells, etc.) and got some great exercise. Once back to our dinghies, we went swimming!! Yes, December 8th….SWIMMING to cool off after getting HOT on our walk (sorry to all our friends/families up north). Miko was happy, worn out and that is always good. We had drinks on Big Run this night and so enjoyed their company and being aboard with them. Sharon made a great Salmon dip to go with homemade bread she also made onboard. Ken wanted to do some grilling this evening, as it had been too windy to keep our grill lit for so many previous days. So, we did some Mahi Mahi caught on MTB, with dill and Greek dressing marinade and a side of homemade French fries…all very delicious.
December 7 (continued), 2011 – Wednesday, departed Black Point, south to Little Bay, Great Guana Cay. The government run mail boat arrived this day around 1 pm. When the “Captain C” came in, we crated Miko (she not happy) and took Toby the dinghy to shore. We sat down right in front of Althea Adderley’s store – Adderley’s Market. We wanted to have the first opportunity to buy whatever “green things” had newly arrived so knew we had to be first in line. About 1:30 pm, Althea arrived back from the government dock/mail boat, her golf cart loaded. A pickup truck full of boxes arrived at the same time. We stayed clear to allow them to bring everything in and then Althea helped us get the produce we needed for Big Run and us. We took all three heads of Romaine she had, one head of iceberg, her only two bags of celery, some broccoli and tomatoes for our two boats, and eggs for MTB. Once packed up, we headed back to the dock/dinghy. Raymond Andrews was there in his truck, picking up a Boston Whaler that was returning from Nassau after having repairs. We told Raymond we planned to leave Black Point Settlement this day. He told us we could not, as this settlement was our “home”. After our sad goodbyes and promises that we would all stay in touch, we headed back to Miko/MTB. By 2:30 p.m., we had the dinghy back on its davits, things battened down and our anchor up. Oh yes…forgot to give an update on what happened with our anchoring windless motor system on our arrival here. The morning after we arrived, Ken did yet another masterful diagnosis job and traced our issue to a broken wire. It was a simple fix and we were back like new…with a properly functioning anchoring system once again. What a relief that was for us! We headed out of the anchorage and went offshore far enough to properly empty our personal refuse (a.k.a. “poopie”) tanks. Then, turned back south and then east, into our favorite little anchorage, Little Bay…total about a 4-mile trip. We love this picturesque place and this time we had the extra plus of finally being back in the same anchorage with Bob and Sharon Bond on Big Run. We anchored and dropped our dinghy immediately as we’d promised Miko some beach time this day. Bob & Sharon came over to say hello. We gave them the produce we were able to get for them. We were so happy to finally be in the same place as these friends. We made a plan to meet back aboard MTB for happy hour and took Miko to shore. She remembered this beach (one she played with other cruising dogs here previously) and started whining, crying loudly as we headed to shore. She was a crazy dog…but it was sad when she didn’t see any of her old playmates anywhere. But, we played fetch with her most favorite “orange ball” until she was worn out and happy to get back in the dinghy. Bob and Sharon came over from Big Run a little later. And, once aboard with drinks made, Bob made a very nice toast about how we had a chance meeting in this anchorage about a year ago and we all drank to and celebrated our friendship. We had such a great evening with these friends and feel so lucky when the relationships we form in this cruising lifestyle continue on and develop into what we know will be lifetime friendships. A great day completely!
December 2-7, 2011 – Black Point Settlement, Great Guana Cay, Exuma Islands chain, Bahamas. During our days in Black Point, we had some really high, sustained winds, rough seas in the anchorage. Although, we were able to get in at times, beachcomb, do laundry and buy some coconut Bahamian bread. We caught up with local friends and also with Bob/Sharon from Big Run who walked across the island from their anchorage. We needed WIFI to do our Christmas shopping so stayed here until that was completed. We are collecting three things this season….interesting buoys/floats (for our dock in Brunswick), small pieces of driftwood as well as sea glass for craft projects. We had some success with each of these while here. One particular buoy was metal and cool….fun. So, we ate, read, walked and enjoyed our time in this, our favorite Settlement. We stayed around here for about three months the previous season, so became locals ourselves. Most of these days, we has sustained winds from the N/NE at 20-25 and were happy to be in a wide open and protected place. From the 2nd to the 6th, there were only two of us in the anchorage….us and Karma with Clint and Reina aboard, with Miko’s newest friend, their dog Duke…a Brussels Griffon. We enjoyed getting to know them, having cocktails one night on MTB, the other night on Karma. On the 6th, six more cruising boats arrived and joined us. We joked that “there goes the neighborhood”…and we’d have to move. The mail boat was coming from Nassau on the morning of the 7th so we decided to stay anchored in the settlement. We wanted to go in to see if we could buy some produce for us and Big Run. About 8:00 a.m. we heard the mail boat was in Staniel Cay, just north of us…so we waited. It sprinkled some in the a.m. of the 7th, and we had an incredible full rainbow over the anchorage.
December 1, 2011 – departed Norman’s Cay, south to Great Guana Cay, Black Point Settlement – Miko was very restless this day, as she was ready to see some people and play on a beach. She truly is a great boat dog though. We put up the sails quickly, as we were just anchored offshore, vs. having gone into the Norman’s Cay cut area. Once up, we hoped for our “aaahhh” moment…the time when we turn off the engines and MTB starts sailing and we hear that wonderful swoosh of the hulls through water and nothing else. The engine was working properly, no more overheating…thank you Ken and new impeller. Our overall speed average this day was 5.6 knots…so very nice, with moderate seas. We dropped our sails and motored about ½ mile into the anchorage at our favorite settlement, Black Point. Amazingly, there was only one other vessel anchored in a bay that commonly has 30+ boats visiting. We are were enjoying being “early” this season and having so many fewer cruisers around. We picked our spot, and just as we were about to drop the anchor, the “windless” that mechanically drops our anchor and chain….would not work in the “down” mode. Well, that was a surprise…..I was yelling to Ken….”HHHEEELLLPPP…the windless won’t go down”. He came upfront to see what was happening…nothing good. Some trepidation on my part…but Ken knew it would be fine. We knew we’d have to free fall the anchor/chain. So, Ken helped me prepare to do just that, then went back to the helm and got MTB where we wanted to anchor. I manually released the anchor and chain and we hooked just fine. Once we were sure the anchor was set, what a relief. But, then I felt terrible as I thought I had done something that had jammed the controller, whatever. It would be a real bummer to start the season without our super duper wonderful windless to anchor. We decided just to rest and not worry about things for the evening. About 5 minutes after we sorted out the anchor, Bob/Sharon radio’d from Big Run. They were one bay south of us, where we met them the previous season. We couldn’t wait to catch up with them. Some local residents we have become friend with, Raymond & Ulrisa came by and brought their dog, Bailey to visit Miko this evening. It was a nice “welcome home” to Black Point. Miko loved having people and a puppy on board
November 30, 2011 – Salt Cay, just north of Nassau to Norman’s Cay. After a really nice sleep, we prepared to head south again. The wind was 15-20 from the N/NE, a good direction for us. It was cloudy early, 74 degrees but skies cleared. We motored out to get south of the Nassau main channel and put up our sails. It was a nice sunny day, chatted with a few folks along the way. And, at 2:30 pm, 50 nms later, we pulled into the east side of Norman’s Cay, Exuma Islands chain. SAILED the whole way, and that made us very happy. As we started our engines to motor into the anchorage, Ken noticed the port engine temperature was rising, never good. But, all was ok for the short motor in to anchor. Once the anchor was set, we let the engines cool some and then started diagnosis of what the issue maybe. The easiest would be some vegetation in the water thru hull that we could just clear. NOPE, bummer. So, it was probably an impeller issue. Luckily we have 3 or 4 spares on hand. Ken dove head first (literally) into the engine compartment under our bed. Sure enough, the impeller was disintegrated to a point of not functioning properly. Out came the old, in went the new…an hour later, the engine had great water flow and was operating correctly. We love it when it is something we can fix and we have the proper part. Captain Ken is a master at diagnosing our issues and getting them fixed. We really don’t know how the mechanically NOT inclined survive out here in the cruising life. The anchorage was rough as we were getting a north swell but, not untenable. In the wee hours of the night, we woke up as it was getting noisy, but both went right back to sleep. Sure nicer now that we have grown in our confidence in our equipment and anchoring ability.
November 29, 2011 – Well, how about this….we finally disengaged our anchor from this beautiful bay and sadly, at 6:30 a.m., departed from Great Harbour in the Berry Islands. Sea conditions were good, but NO WIND, geez….why can’t we have both, good seas and a gentle wind? There was a really nice sunrise to escort us out of this pretty area. And, by 7:00 a.m. we had raised our mainsail, as the wind was to turn and pick up through this day. Of course, that didn’t happen and we had to motor sail the entire 50+ nms to the Nassau area. But, at least it was and easy and calm trip and Miko just curled up on her bed and relaxed, her normal cruising mode. In between the Berry Islands and Nassau, there is a major shipping/cargo channel so we normally see more ships, cruiseliners, etc. on this leg of our trip south. But, this day only a couple of tankers passed us going north on a parallel course with us. We had squalls around us all day. We could see them ahead on the radar and visually, but, luckily they either got by us or dissipated before being any issue for us. We sailed by Atlantis on Paradise Island and anchored south of Salt Cay with good protection from the north winds of the day. Our anchor was down by 3:30 pm and we were glad to have this leg behind us. Most of our travels in the Bahamas from here south are relatively easy, no major shipping channels, etc. So, we were felt some relief to have them behind us. The evening was nice, calm with burgers on the grill and another day, -0- spent, yay.
November 28, 2011, Monday, Great Harbour Cay, Berry Islands, Bahamas. The cold front coming through was reported to be moderating. This weather watching is the only negative to our cruising lifestyle. We just don’t know why it can’t be perfect for us all the time! It was 76 degrees this morning at 8:00 a.m. very nice and the sky was blue, water its amazing aqua. We promised Miko shore time this day. So, after lunch, we headed south toward “Sand dollar” beach. We landed further south on the beach this day, as there was less wave action there and we hoped we wouldn’t get swamped on arrival. It was a smooth swoosh up onto the sand and no one got wet! After pulling the dinghy up on the beach and making sure she was secure, we walked the beach, from south to north, back to the Beach Club. We cut through the Beach Club (nice open air bar/restaurant), over to the “highway” (paved road) and walked to the other side of the island to see the Marina once again. New management had done some “sprucing” up of this nice, protected facility. We met “Rufus”, a nice local resident and he was fun to talk with…such friendly folks. We dropped in and spoke with the Marina office folks about where they put “Cats” whenever the come in (for future reference). Liquor store didn’t have much variety and was more pricey than other islands…so nothing bought there this day. Nice walk back to the dinghy and once back to MTB, we put “Toby” up in anticipation of leaving for the Nassau area on Tuesday. $300 spent for clearing in through Customs/Immigration, -0- spent on anything else on this island this trip. Our apologies to the local economy.
From here down is our first entries. Although, we are now posting most recent entries first.
November 3, 2011 – Thursday, departed Brunswick, Georgia. Welcome to the first update of this, our 2011-12 cruising season, the sixth. We were ready to leave on a target date of November 1. But, high winds coming from the wrong direction would have made a harrowing departure from our dock. So, as always, we defer to safety vs. schedule. We knew the conditions would be great this a.m. so we were on the boat by 6:30 a.m. Miko seemed excited to be back on board once she saw all her “stuff..” toys, food bowls, crate. We readied our lines and when there was enough light, about 6:45 a.m., we easily pulled away from our wonderful dock. Gentle wind was blowing us off the dock and since the tide was going out, we were pushed back, away from our nearby neighbor’s boat. With the tide going out, we knew we had to boogie to get to the deeper water of the ICW. The Back River can be impassable by us in places at low tide. As we passed the homes of our neighbors, one person yelled out in the dark “have a safe trip Ken”…neat. We made it through the Back River, relieved to arrive at the ICW and headed toward the St. Simons ICW causeway bridge. Due to our mast height (approx 64’, plus the instruments on top) we don’t go under the bridge at high tide. Luckily another catamaran was in front of us. We called on the VHF radio and asked him to let us know what the “board” at the bridge was reading. Most ICW bridges have numbered boards that show how many feet there are from the water line to the clearance point on the bridge. As the tide rises, the number of feet under the bridge decreases and vice versa. Cathleen Ann radioed back and told us the board was reading 66/67’. They seemed surprised we were concerned until we told them our mast height. The 66/67’ was a comfortable reading for us so Ken motored us right on through. When going under these bridges, you look up and are sure the mast is going to hit the bridge. Though, you know rationally you are ok and just have to have faith in those ole boards. Going under Florida’s Sunshine Skyway was the same…even though it has is about 100’ clearance. The optical illusion is scary. Funny though, once we were under the SSI bridge this day, Cathleen Ann’s Captain radioed and asked if had hit the bridge as it looked to him we had. I told him I though we may have “tickled” our antenna, but Ken didn’t think we had. We had a nice chat with Cathleen Ann and hoped we cross path along the way. Having to deal with tides/bridges on the ICW is why we prefer to sail “outside”. Once we were well out of the inlet channel, in the Atlantic, we pulled out our Jib and hoped for a slow steady sail to Cumberland Island, Ga. It was to be 9-15 knots of wind from the NE or E this day, so we were optimistic we could sail vs. motor. After two hours of slow progress, we begrudgingly started the engines. We had several pods of dolphins pass us, dodged a number of shrimp boats and enjoyed the antics of sea birds. We finally approached the entrance of the St. Mary’s, GA inlet only to be staring down the front of a nuclear submarine heading to sea. We knew to pull out and head back north away from the channel. We were doing so when the coast guard came zooming up and told us to stay at least 500 yards away from the “vessel we are escorting”. The subs’ departures are very hush hush…no announcements on the radio to stay out of the inlet, nothing. Helicopters hover low overhead, gun boats surround the submarine then, the sub is gone. A pleasure boat with a substructure went aground this a.m. just south of the inlet entrance. So, once we were back our way through the inlet channel, we had to watch for their debris so not to foul our engines are puncture a hull. We saw kitchen cabinet drawers, closet doors, etc. floating by and there were a few other things we had to dodge. The folks that had been aboard were rescued and safe but the vessel was destroyed. More than likely the loss was due to either inexperience, inattention or just plain stupidity on the Captain’s part. We aren’t considered experienced old salts by any means though in our 6th season aboard, we always stress safety and common sense in all our navigation. We pulled into the south west side anchorage at the Cumberland Island National Seashore Park and had our anchor set by about 4:15 p.m. While putting down the anchor, we had yet another “first”. A knotted ball of chain came flying up from the chain locker but I saw it before any damage was done. Had it come up further and hit the underside of the deck, it would have made a mess of the fiberglass. I couldn’t get the knot undone alone, so laying flat on my belly on deck, I was hollering for Ken. He wasn’t reacting so I just bellowed “HEEELLLLPPP”….must have been quite the scene for others in the anchorage to see. Anyway, problem fixed by working together, anchored and cocktails in the sunset by 5:00 p.m. An amazing dinner was reward for our hard work preparing for this cruising season. We had a bag of stone crab claws caught from our dock, collected, cooked and frozen over the previous few months. Homemade french fries, stone crab claws and drawn butter….oh my goodness what a treat for dinner. In Florida, one can only take one claw from each stone crab. There is no similar regulation in GA, although, we follow the Florida practice as it makes sense to us as stone crabs re-grow their missing claw. We love stone crab and this night’s dinner was just an added bonus to the new house with a dock we bought in 2010. ACC game this evening and FSU trounced Boston College. All in all, a great end to a great day.
November 4, 2011 – Friday, Cumberland Island National Seashore – hunkered down this day, as a cold front was coming through. We knew this on our departure, but it was ok since we knew there were boat jobs we could complete here. The prior night was a little crazy. At 11:30 p.m. Miko “rang the bells” we have hanging on the cockpit door….she needed to go out. Good dog remembered what to do, great. Back to sleep. Next, Ken’s sugar level went low and he had to get something to eat around 2 a.m. Around 4 a.m. it started raining, we woke up to remember we needed to pick up rugs, and a few things in the cockpit to keep them dry. Back to bed. Lastly, around 5 a.m., Ken went low again, up for more food/juice. Wow, that was an unsettled night. Luckily, we knew we could sleep in the next morning.
November 5 to November 8, 2011 – Cumberland Island, Ga. We continued our lazy lives aboard, eating, reading and doing various boat jobs as we waited for a proper “window” to sail further south. We were in contact with folks on Chandelle that we met in the Bahamas the previous season and figured we ‘d see them ashore. They arrived in Cumberland a day after us. Everyone who cruises, has a “boat” card. These are regular business card sized and give information about the vessel and folks aboard. Most have pictures of their vessel. So, when you get to an anchorage, you look around at names and types of boats. If something looks/sounds familiar, you check your boat cards collection. I write on each card we receive how, when, where we met the folks so in subsequent seasons, we can reminisce. We briefly met Chandelle’s crew on land in the hardware store in the village of New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay in the Abacos. Without their boat card, that would never have been remembered! It is such a small world and we very often cross paths with folks, again and again. We worked on the netting along our lifelines that is there to keep Miko from going overboard by accident. And got to some other boat jobs like a new gasket around a hatch in our berth that had been leaking….is always a good feeling to get to these various projects. We had one day ashore at Cumberland. But, we missed catching up with the crew of Chandelle, Larry/Bev on our time ashore. On the way back to MTB, the dinghy motor ran terribly, stalling several times. So, Ken knew that he would have to work on it the next day as ethanol had gummed up the carburetor yet again this summer. So, “Toby” the dinghy was out of commission when Chandelle’s Bev called and invited us to happy hour aboard their boat. We had to sadly decline their kind invite as their dinghy was not in the water, either. So, we didn’t get together before they pulled up anchor the next morning and headed for a change of scenery at Fernandina Beach, Fl. We kept checking the weather reports and decided that Wednesday would be the day we would jump out to sea again, headed further south.
November 9, 2011, departed Cumberland Island, GA with the anchor up at 7:00 a.m. The departure through the outlet was fine though there reports of fog that had given us some concern. But, we got out easily, no face-offs with nuclear subs, etc. and we were hopeful that we’d get to sail this day, as winds were forecast for 10-15 knots. That would be good wind for MTB. We pulled out our jib once we had turned south but no go as the winds were only 6-8 knots…dang forecasters!! We fired up the engines after a short while and motor sailed all day. Though we’d hoped to sail all day, the wind is what it is! We were anchored in front of the fort in St. Augustine by about 4:00 p.m. after a nice sunshine filled day. Though, the St. Augustine inlet was crazy. There were large crashing breakers and it was in a wild rage for some reason. Guess the sea swell that resulted from Sean was having an impact. Coming in, a guy in front of us in a monohull abruptly aborted his inlet/channel approach. He turned wildly around, a 180 degree maneuver and was heading directly at us, out of control. We had our engines powered up and were both on watch so immediately saw what was happening. Ken took us port (left for you landlubbers!) and we easily got away from him and were out of his way quickly. MTB is such an amazing vessel. We motored back out to the sea buoy to see what the crazy guy was going to do. Once we got properly lined back up on the channel approach, we made sure crazy guy was no longer a danger to us. Making matters more difficult was that the sun was directly in our eyes. But, we made our way in just fine, surfing down the back side of each swell. We had the current, wind and swells with us so we flew in going about 8.6 knots. We thought crazy guy might follow us in, as our route would show him the safe way through the churning breakers. But, the last we saw of him, he was out near the sea buoy, going around in circles. We watched for him after we anchored, thinking he may be waiting for slack tide. But, he never came in through the inlet/channel. We do appreciate how lucky we are to have such a solid vessel and equipment. And, with a good bit of prior history with this inlet and by following the temporary buoys the USCG always places for direction, we came in fine. We have heard on the Jacksonville news through the summer that a few boats have gone down in this inlet. One was a guy who had just bought a brand new boat and on his first trip out he capsized and sunk it, so sad. We sure feel a whole lot more experienced in this, our 6th cruising season. We had a whole lot less stress coming through the mess in the inlet with experience and knowledge! Thursday afternoon we had such a treat….a family of bald eagles was fishing/feeding on the shore just adjacent to our anchor spot. We watched them with delight for several hours and got a few good pictures. Three eagles in total were seen, mom, dad and youngster we think and they were an amazing sight.
November 10, 11 – St. Augustine, anchored off old fort. We ventured to town on the 10th, Thursday. Always nice to be able to drop off our garbage at the marina (St. Augustine Municipal Marina). They have a dinghy dock for us cruisers to come into town….and for $10, you can dock, get fuel, drop garbage, and take a long hot shower in their bath house. This day, we just needed to tie up and drop our garbage. But oh boy, did Miko enjoy seeing the many people and dogs we passed on our town walkabout. She smiled her whole time on shore and was petted and talked to by so many people. She also was spoiled with her favorite homemade peanut butter dog treats from “Faux Paws”. She loves the people who work there. She does tricks and they give her treats, it is like Halloween every time we visit. Miko got treats so Ken and I had to visit Kilwin’s Ice Cream for ours. We both chose Cappuccino Chocolate Chunk and though they are expensive, the ice cream is always a YUMMY delight, never disappointing. As usual, the final stop ashore was our favorite French Bistro where they make wonderful French baguettes. Two of the wonderful breads made it back to dinghy Toby and MTB. But, only one survived to see the next day! Thursday night, a cold front came through with high winds and cold temperatures. The weather kept us on the boat all evening and all day Friday. So, again we could only eat, read a lot and chill. Niece Erin and her husband Trent arrived here for the Friday, 11/11/11, wedding of friends. So, if we didn’t pull up anchor and leave on Saturday the 12th, we hoped conditions would allow us to get to shore to see them. Friday brought news about a former co-worker and good friend in SC. A mutual friend called to tell us that one of our SC friends was facing some serious health issues. This transient life style is difficult at times like this. One’s first inclination is to want to visit with one’s sick friend and spend some time with them. But, all that is possible is sending a note or calling them and that sometimes is difficult to reconcile. But, like anything in our lives, there are trade offs and we can’t have everything the way we would like it. Though, when we are back on land, we do try hard to visit with as many folks as possible. But, even that is a challenge when trying to balance family and friends, spread over a number of states. Thank goodness for emails and Facebook!! USF played and beat Syracuse this evening.
November 12, 2011 - St. Augustine, Fl. We had a thought that we would be leaving this day, but I had a scare with my left eye. Friday night it started having light flashes and a lot of floaters in it. Of course, got on the internet and read bunches of scary stuff…retina detachments, etc. So, early this a.m., we started making calls to ophthalmologist offices. We finally found one that had a Dr. on call for emergencies, left a message and he called us back. The emergency doctor told us of an eye Doctor in town who took Saturday appointments. So, we called, told them my symptoms and were told to come in immediately. Of course, after being on the internet, we were worried. So, we showered quickly, dropped Toby the dinghy and tried to get Miko in her crate, which is never an issue with her. BUT, she refused to get in (this never happens!) as she saw the dinghy down and knew it was going to shore. The Dr. said it was fine to bring her, so finally, off we went. We went into the waterfront marina and paid to tie up the dinghy, caught a cab and were at the Doctor’s office in an hour. He did bunches of tests and assured me I didn’t have a detachment, that my issues was some invetrious gel that broke off and got things all out of whack. He was very reassuring, and we were so relieved. Miko behaved beautifully and was adored by the whole office staff, as well! There was a Tuesday Morning and Kmart nearby…so we took the opportunity to grab a couple needed items…carb cleaner, grilling tongs (forgot them!) and a garlic press (forgot it too!). It was a beautiful day, so we decided to walk the 3-4 miles back to the waterfront. We knew the route took us right by one of our favorite little hole in the wall eateries ”Flavors”. And, we knew they have outdoor dining so Miko wouldn’t be an issue. While walking, Ken’s niece Erin, from Atlanta, called us. She and her husband were in town for a wedding. So, after lunch we were able to meet up with them in the old downtown section and spent some time catching up. Cindy had a celebratory beer….having the good “eye” news this day! Went back to boat to watch the 3:30 pm FSU vs. Miami game… strange officiating…but a “W”. USF beat Syracuse on Friday night so both Florida based “good guy” teams won this week!
November 13, 2011 - departed St. Augustine. Anchor was up at 6:45 a.m. and we were hopeful that we’d get to sail south as long as the winds would allow. NOPE…even though the wind forecast was for east winds 10-15 knots, we had SE, right on our nose at 3-6 knots all day. So, we motored as far south as Ponce Inlet, south of Daytona. We’d had enough drone and diesel smell. And, we love the anchorage in Rockhouse Creek, near a lighthouse. Looked like we’d be waiting awhile for a good sailing window We sure would like to duck out and just keep going east for a fast trip into the Bahamas as we so hope to make it further south this season…Turks and Caicos would be our first stop after visiting the southern most Bahamian islands. There was a trawler (DeJeVu) and a monohull (Alexia) with us overnight in the anchorage.
November 14, 2011 – Rockhouse Creek anchorage, Ponce Inlet, Fl. – Happy Birthday to my much loved big brother, Bruce, this day!! We had an amazing overnight sleep with calm, flat water and no wind. MTB barely budged. We love those nights. And, waking up to the same conditions with a blue sky was great. Though, the weather reports weren’t so encouraging. We really didn’t want to motor anymore going south, we wanted to SAIL!. But, the forecast to do so wasn’t so good for that for about a week. Well, we figured we just stay put, do some boat jobs and enjoy the scenery for awhile. A big silver blimp went overhead this morning. Then, about 12:30 p.m., the local the Department of Natural Resources guys pulled alongside and asked to come aboard. There were three of them, all with very big guns. Lead guy asked if he put red dye in one of our toilets where would it go. We told him “into our closed holding tank”…right answer. He checked our hardware to assure our tanks were secured (Florida law!) against accidental opening/discharge. We always remove the handle on the port side tank system and even have a sign saying “Do not touch this without consultation with the Captain”. So, port side = passed. Our starboard side tank lever has a lock that we can put a padlock through. The tank lever was properly in the closed position. Though, we hadn’t put the lock back in after we emptied our tanks while off shore the previous day. The Officer was fine with this and could tell we were sincere that we don’t pollute when at anchor. Many folks do leave their tanks open at all times, which is just not proper for us. He was satisfied with his inspection and the three officers departed. We have been boarded here in previous years, so we know they work hard to protect the Florida waters from pollution and that is all good. It is surprising though, that with all the budget cuts this state is having, they have three officers out monitoring us cruisers. Anyway, with two officers on board (one still on their boat), Miko was sure they came just to visit her. She did get a good deal of attention from one of the officers! A couple boat jobs were completed. I sewed up one of Miko’s favorite toys and did some repair work on our big US flag. There is a standard that dictates the size of flag one must fly. The appropriate size is proportionate to the length of one’s vessel. We fly a beautiful 3’x5’ with embroidered stars. It occasionally gets caught on our lifelines, etc. so small tears get started. So, we use sail tape and stitches to keep it from being destroyed before its time. For the rest of the day we just chilled, read some and snacked. A total of 6 more boats joined us for the evening starting as early as 2:30 p.m. We had one trawler, another cat and four monohulls with us this night. Astar, a Canadian monohull was last to arrive and since space was in short supply, he chose to anchor in our kitchen, really close. We figured it would be ok as the anchorage was very settled with little wind. We were hopeful not to go bump in the night. Their proximity did allow us to enjoy watching their LARGE orange/white kitty roaming their decks throughout the evening. Pork chops on our little grill and Dancing With the Stars finished out our nice day. Miko did get us up to go outside to rescue her bone around midnight. And later, we heard rain and got up to close hatches and pick up rugs in the cockpit. Hope Bruce had a wonderful birthday!!
November 15, 2011 – Tuesday, S. Daytona, Ponce Inlet, Rockhouse Creek anchorage, just south of Daytona. The six other boats with us overnight were up and gone early beginning at approximately 6:30 am, first light. By 7:30 a.m. we once again were enjoying our peaceful anchorage alone as we waited for proper wind/seas to SAIL south….not this day, no wind. It sprinkled off and on during the morning so we fixed a large breakfast of eggs, bacon and grits and it hit the spot. Rick/Linda on Sojourner motored by this a.m. They planned to go to New Smyrna this day and may spend Thanksgiving in Titusville. More boat jobs got done this day! Ken removed the corrosion from the front red/green navigation light and replaced its metal guard we’d taken off (sailing at night in big seas by Ft. Lauderdale when bulb went out!) several years prior. I made a homemade key lime pie and looked forward to a slice after dinner. Ken worked on replacing some portlight (little windows) screens with new ones that we ordered due to their better design/functionality. Ken put a new burner in our grill and we decided this would be a good thing to do at the start of each season. It made a wonderful difference, a like new grill. A few boats joined us again this evening. And, at dusk, a monohull (Heart of Texas) came in, toured the anchorage, tried a few places, providing a great deal of entertainment, didn’t seem to quite understand the anchoring process…….then pulled out and headed south down the ICW. Since it was almost dark, we felt they should have just pulled in front of us and they would have been fine. As it was, we worried for the their safety, trying to find somewhere else to go so late in the day.
November 16, 2011 – Wednesday, S. Daytona, Ponce Inlet, Rockhouse Creek anchorage. Yes, still here waiting for a SAILING window south, determined not to motor the rest of the trip south! We dropped the dinghy this day and went to an island that appears each day at low tide, east of the anchorage. It is a great dog walk, as it is surrounded by water…Miko can run with abandon. Though, a lady with four dogs beat us there in her pontoon boat. The golden retriever was very friendly, swimming out to our dinghy before we could land….causing Miko to go absolutely WILD. Once we were on shore, let Miko loose to run and she and the retriever did great. When she decided to go say hello to the lady and three border collies, things got dicey. The border collies were extremely protective of their mom, growling and showing their BIG teeth to Miko. This resulted in Miko’s mom physically scooping her up and heading the other direction. The owner was really nice, apologetic and said she never knew Border Collies were so protective. She wished she’d done a better job socializing them. So, sadly for Miko, we went the opposite direction, to walk another part of the island. Miko loves running with other dogs, so she was bummed for a short while. But, when her favorite “orange ball” came out for fetch, she was happy again. After a nice walk, we left the island and explored the south shore nearest MTB. There was a nice incline that we walked up and got some good photos of our vessel and surroundings. Back to MTB for the rest of the afternoon. I worked on organizing recipes. My file & book had gotten to be a mess over the years. So, I culled some recipes I would never make and others that were duplicate. I made mental notes of the recipes I should make, and reminisced while reading many of the handwritten ones from family and friends. Some recipes were given to my by folks who are no longer with us…so, had a flurry of both good and sad memories through the process. Ken found a new “voice-it”, a small pocket recorder he refers to as his “brain”. When we pulled the ski boat out in Brunswick, preparing to leave…his went into the water. So, he found himself another a spare on board. Miko got her FLEA treatment this day. We had our normal entertainment of anchorage arrivals beginning around 3:30 p.m. It was interesting when folks began arriving here each day. We were joined this day by 4 trawlers (Freedom, Escape, Norma Jean), one large Voyage catamaran (Rocking B) and 1 monohull (Patty Ann). Everyone did a great job picking spots and spacing properly away from each other.
November 17, 2011 – Thursday, S. Daytona, Ponce Inlet, Rockhouse Creek Anchorage. Yes, we do plan to leave this place, really. This was another lazy day aboard. The forecasted cold front came through but was mild and didn’t even bring any rain with it. We just had a gray day, with the winds picking up significantly behind the front, clocking from W, N to NE. Just two vessels joined us this night…one was Canadian, aqua colored and resembled a Lobster fishing trawler (cute/Julie C), the other a traditional trawler. They did great with spacing a good distance away from us, and each other. This was good with the winds picking up and we had out 100’ of chain.
November 18, 2011 – Friday, S. Daytona, Ponce Inlet, Rockhouse Creek Anchorage. I know, I know….we do still plan to leave this place, really. Our two neighbors were up and out of the anchorage by first light, around 6:30 a.m. Yes, we know this because we are always up around 6:30 a.m. to catch the Caribbean Weather Center reports. Even with the cold front coming through, the temperature in the salon this a.m. was in the low 70s which is amazing in mid November! We had blue skies with big white puffy clouds this day. Winds in the a.m. were 20-25 knots, and gusting higher. But, it was to moderate this day and we hoped to depart the next a.m. So, Ken check the oil in each engine and the generator, made sure bilges were dry as we contemplated finally sailing (we hoped) south. We were getting conflicting weather reports, but decided we’d stick our nose out and see how it was.
November 19, 20, 2011, Saturday/Sunday. Yes, we finally departed Ponce Inlet, bound for an overnight trip to the Lake Worth Inlet, Palm Beach. We had the anchor up by 6:50 a.m. and didn’t have any trouble through the “skinny” parts of the channel heading out. Though, it was extremely rough along the inlets rock jetty as we exited and Ken had to work hard to keep MTB from drifting toward danger. The sea swell was large and right on our nose. But, once safely out to sea, we pulled out the jib sail with no success. So, we decided to motor out to the three miles offshore to try again, with both the jib and the main. We happily had the “AAAHH” moment, the time when one turns off the engines and are sailing. The peaceful sound of hulls going through the surf is great. We had good luck and blue skies but 20 knots of wind and swells hitting us on the starboard side. It was in the high 70’s, warm for November so that was good. Sadly, the winds and seas kept building and the going got rough. To make it worse, our required red/green navigation light kept going off through the night. So, Ken would take his tether, make his way to the bow and bang on the light. The bulb was good, just a problem with connectivity. Seems as soon as he was safely back, it would go out again, or sometimes on his way out, it would turn back on. Very frustrating. The conditions were really bad, not as forecast…and nothing ever moderated as it was supposed to. Our microwave pulled out of its anchors, twice and crashed to the counter. Neither of us had an appetite and we were stressed, tired, sore and weary. I saw our highest (10.1) speed during one of my watches during the night and 30.6 knots of wind at one point. We do two hour on, two hour off shifts, to try to keep the monotony to a minimum. Those two hour catnaps when not on watch are great. Off the shore from St. Lucie inlet, squalls were all around MTB. Luckily, we could see them on the radar and our sails were “reefed” for safety. Somehow, we were in the right places at the right times, avoiding each wave of storms that passed by. Once the sun came up and we knew we were getting close to the inlet, attitudes improved. We dropped our sails at 11:30 a.m., about one mile from the inlet and were both feeling better. Though, we were concerned that the conditions would make the entrance to the inlet “exciting”. But, considering the conditions, it was benign and a relief. We were anchored south of Peanut Island in front of Rybovich Boat Works by about 12:30 p.m. Miko got treats for being an amazing trouper through a very rough evening. She just put herself to bed. About 2:30 p.m. the rain came, hard and driving rain that gave MTB a wonderful fresh water rinse. That was a perfect end to a rough passage. We watched the NASCAR championship race in Homestead and slept great this night.
November 21, 2011, Monday – anchored in Lake Worth between Palm Beach and W. Palm Beach. This day’s priority was to find an ophthamologist to give me a second opinion on my weirdly acting eye. I continued to have flashes and floaters and just wanted to be completely sure that it was ok to be leaving the country for six months. We went online and identified the closest Dr. to our anchorage. I called and they were great, giving me a “fit in” appointment for 2:30 p.m. this day. We dropped the dinghy, went to shore. We met a nice guy named Cal at the dock. He lives aboard his Cat on a mooring ball here with his wife and puppy. He offered his car and any assistance we may need. Really super person. We took Miko to the dog park where she played with Lucky, a tea cup Shitzu. We joined the Palm Beach Sailing club to use their facilities and arranged for our mail to be sent there from our Brunswick UPS store overnight. Back to MTB for lunch and got ready to go see the Dr. There was a park with a dock only one block from their offices, so it was really convenient. We have been to this park before and knew the park had trash receptacles. So, we took our trash along with us…the one garbage bag we filled on this trip to date. I got a great check up and an all clear to sail report. They confirmed that vitreous gel got loose but was not causing any other issues and will get gradually better. So, that was great. Ken and Miko had waited outside for me so it was nice to go outside with my good news. We dinghied back to MTB for a nice afternoon. Cal came by and chatted for awhile, which was nice. He was checking on a boat on a mooring near us. He has several that he rents…interesting way to make some money…sink a mooring, collect rent.
November 22, 2011, Tuesday, Lake Worth. We put the dinghy up this a.m. and prepared to go south, through the Flagler Memorial bascule (draw) bridge at its 11:15 a.m. opening. We timed our arrival at the bridge perfectly, allowed two big motor vessels to come through first. On thanking the bridge tender for his help, he replied “love you mascot aboard”…Miko had been laying in the sun at the edge of the cockpit. Palm Harbor Marina is just beyond the bridge and we hailed them to find that the fuel dock was wide open and they would have folks waiting for us. It was low slack tide and little to no wind. So, Ken was able to easily pull MTB up to the fuel dock and two nice young men had us quickly tied up. We topped our diesel tanks off with 46 gallons knowing the fuel price in the Bahamas would be much higher. Once again, Ken pulled us easily off the dock and we were just in time for the return trip through Flagler Memorial Bridge during its 11:45 a.m. opening. Their bridge tender was one of the best and most polite/friendly we have ever heard in Florida. For some reason, many of them are just not nice folks, typically grumpy with attitudes. So we were appreciative for a nice guy. We anchored back in about our same spot and put the dinghy back down. Once again we went to the dog park but had a bad thing happen. Miko had her nose through the fence of the “little” dog section and was trying to smell a big dog. He proceeded to lift his leg and pee pee on her little nose. Well, she is fastidious and this was too much for her to handle. She went crazy, digging a hole in the dirt and rubbing her nose back and forth in the hole/dirt. She wanted that stuff off her nose, right then. She finally settled down after digging two more holes and doing the same thing…needless to say, she was DIRTY. So, we figured it was time to go. We walked to a store, bought produce and bread before heading back to the Palm Beach Sailing Club. They had received our mail so once that was picked up, our time on shore was done. I made a key lime pie this day and we had planned to do dinner with Cal/wife on their boat. But, later in the afternoon, Cal called and had to cancel due to a work issue with his wife. This was just fine, as we had decided to leave in the a.m. and wanted to relax and have an early evening. We did have some correspondence that needed to be mailed, so Ken took it over to Cal, as they said they would take care of it for us. Ken visited awhile, had a rum punch and was back to MTB just after sundown. We had an early bedtime, as we were pretty certain that we’d do our crossing on an overnight to the Bahamas the next day.
November 23 and 24th, 2011 – Wednesday and Thursday – departed Lake Worth and set a course that would allow our decision later in the night to head to either Chubb Cay or Great Harbour Cay, both in the Berry Island chain. As we were pulling out of the anchorage, Cal called us on the radio to wish us a good trip. Winds and seas were as predicted and we had an easy time out of the inlet. Our reefed sails were up shortly after we were out of the inlet channel. We knew wind would be light so knew we’d have to motor sail some. We actually sailed for awhile and had an easy, easy crossing of the gulfstream. At sunset, Ken and I both saw the most brilliant green flashes, ever. So, for the 2011-2012 cruising season, we are Ken (1) and Cindy (1) relative to green flash spottings, FUN. After dark, never fails that is was after dark…our steaming light (white that illuminates our sails) went out, dead. We knew we had other lights if needed so weren’t too concerned. After port engine had been running awhile, Ken realized that he hadn’t seen the bilge pump light come on for awhile, and that was unusual. He checked and sure enough, the bilge was full of water, luckily not up in the engine yet. The flapper on the bilge pump release was ‘gunked’ up so was not moving up to open properly to let water drain out of our bilge. This was a lucky find and easily handled, even underway. We had a spare on board, so knew we could replace it later. But, for this night, Ken lubricated the old one, and all was good. To celebrate Thanksgiving, at midnight Ken warmed up some chicken and dumplings for us. Yum did that hit the spot. All this night we were surrounded by tankers and cruise ships as we were in one of the major shipping channels in the area. We did make the decision to head on in to Great Harbour Cay vs. Chubb as we were concerned that being a holiday, the Chubb Cay Marina may be crowded and we had never been there. On one of my watches, a boat showed up on the radar on a line heading directly at us. And, each time I corrected a few degrees, to try to get off their course, it did not seem to work. Seemed like I had a bullet drawn on our bow. So, after hollering loudly four times, Ken jolted awake. We never really did figure out what the other vessel was doing, even tried calling them on the radio with no luck. We saw a large, bright flashing light coming from aboard the vessel and we just had no idea what it was. In a hopeful effort, Ken turned us into the wind, our forward momentum stopped and the encroaching motor vessel flew past our bow, too close for our comfort. We were never sure what was happening with the guy…whether he was asleep and just on autopilot, or what. But, we discussed what had happened in detail and how we could have better handled the situation. First, I should have woken Ken up earlier, for extra eyes. Second, we should have realized that his green light was not on the front of his vessel, rather it was mid ship. That being said/seen, we realized we needed better knowledge of the light layouts of various vessels to know what we were looking at. We may have had a better understanding of his course, based on the color and type of lights we could see. Third, we should have had him on our tracking device (Marpa) to better understand his course, speed, etc. So, no problem as Ken took us properly out of harms way…but we make sure we take these opportunities to learn how to be better sailors. So, next thing, in the middle of the nigh, about 3:30 am, the squalls came. We were surrounded by storms in every direction and got a number of fresh water rinses throughout the night. Geez, this sure wasn’t in the forecast, dad gum it! As we approached Great Stirrup Cay about 7 a.m., a cruiseship Captain (very heavy foreign accent) radioed us and asked us to alter our course north/port as they were about to turn into their anchorage at Great Stirrup. This island is one of those “private” islands the cruiselines advertise. We told him we would gladly alter our course and wished him a happy Thanksgiving. Not sure where he was from, to even know if they celebrate Thanksgiving there, but oh well. In the horizon, the sun was rising in the middle of a rainstorm, with another cruiseship adjacent. This created the appearance of an orange colored tunnel in the middle of the gray rain downpour, with the cruiseship having just come through that tunnel. It was a cool optical illusion. I missed the picture opportunity, as the camera batteries were dead. So, you’ll just have to imagine and trust me that it was really a cool visual. We took down our sails at the entrance to the bay at Great Harbour Cay about 9:00 a.m. There was one other motor vessel in the anchorage on our arrival. There were rollers coming in…but we were just glad to anchor/stop. I had another aaaahhhh moment on opening the hatch preparing to drop our anchor….beautiful, clear aqua blue water again where you can see your anchor chain laying on the sea floor. We had key lime pie for breakfast and a chicken/brocolli/stuffing casserole for our Thanksgiving meal. Topping off our day was a call from daughter Jessica and internet access from the boat that allowed us to get and send our Thanksgiving wishes to family/friends.
November 25, 2011, Friday – anchored in the east bay at Great Harbour Cay, Berry Island chain, Bahamas. Well, wind is from a bad direction and we were rocking up and down like crazy. But, we knew Ken had to go get us cleared in with Customs/Immigration this day. Only the Captain is to go ashore, but we knew with the waves crashing on shore, he would have great difficulty landing the dinghy and securing it alone. So, we agreed that we both would go to shore, but I would not leave the dinghy while he went in to clear us with the authorities. Miko had to go as well, as she hadn’t been on land in a couple days. We had a harrowing time, just dropping the dinghy and getting in it and to shore. But, we stayed relatively dry and pulled the dinghy up out of the crashing waves. So, Miko and I wait. We spoke with Kurt and Kurt, Jr. who live in a house up the beach…very nice folks from Miami. And, after what seemed like forever, Ken reappeared on the beach with thumbs up…cleared in ok!! One is supposed to go into the marina here, and Customs normally come to you. They told Ken that his coming in on the dinghy “was not proper”. But, he told them we were in squalls and didn’t think we could get into the marina. They agreed that we had to do what was safe for our vessel, based on the weather conditions. So, we are legal in the Bahamas for 120 days…more if we ask for an extension down the road. After a short walk, we launched the dinghy and were doing fine until the motor died for some reason. Waves were crashing over the bow of Toby and Miko got soaked, so she wanted off the little boat, ah, not such a good idea. Ken did great, got us going again and we got back aboard MTB just fine. So, by 3:30 pm we had our “Q” (quarantine) flag down, and our Bahamas courtesy flag flying proudly. Later in the evening, we decided that the conditions/winds were getting worse and we should put the dinghy back up. This was another harrowing experience as seas/rollers were crashing in between our hulls and bouncing the dinghy all around. One has to attach two steel cables to our lifting apparatus, while sitting IN the dinghy. You get the picture…get in dinghy, attach cables while bouncing up and down, get back out of dinghy…. But, we got it done and were glad as we knew we’d worry less as conditions continued to worsen. Winds 20-25 sustained all day from north, us with no protection from that direction, oh well…at least it was beautiful there.
November 26, 2011, Saturday. Great Harbour. A boring day aboard…winds 25-28 gusting higher all day. Big waves crashing against us all day but it was warm with a blue sky so, we just watched football, read, ate and played with the best boat dog in the world, MIKO!! We finally were able to set up my new computer…Ken being a trouper helping. The back light on the screen went out, so to see anything on my old computer, one had to hold a flashlight in one hand and try to find the curser, not fun. We got it done though. I worked on repairs to our US flag again. We’ll see if these efforts work better than my last attempt using sail tape. This time I patched the frayed areas with material, rolled up the patched bad areas and stitched all around the entire end of the flag with UV protected thread. We watched FSU beat Florida…yea. A treat this night, crab cakes made with blue crab caught at our own dock in Brunswick…yummy.
November 27, 2011, Sunday, Great Harbour Cay, Berry Islands, Bahamas. Ken installed a new bilge float switch and cleaned the old one for our spares locker. He did some tweeking to the dinghy motor this day, adjustments to the throttle linkage and air fuel mixture screw. He was satisfied that the motor would run better this day as a result. He also added some Corrosion X to the bulb in our helm bilge light as it wasn’t making a proper connection. It was not coming on and off as it should. We dropped the dinghy this afternoon as the seas were more mild resulting from the wind coming from a better direction, E/SE. E/SE gave us more protection as there was land in that direction. Miko was ready for a well deserved a trip to shore so in we went. Ken and I got swamped as we landed the dinghy, but Miko jumped off to shore on her long tether at the most opportune time…good smart dog. Once we drug the dink up on shore, we walked all the way to the end of the beach south of us. It was warm, but not hot with sunny blue skies. All of us had a great time ashore, Miko especially. Once back to the dinghy, we all got swamped yet again, heading back to MTB. Sadly, Miko even got soaked this time and she was not happy. She does not like getting “dirty” in any manner. We wiped her down with some waterless dog bath cleaner when we got back aboard, and she was once again smiling. She is such a happy dog if she gets a little bit of exercise each day. So, another nice day here as we waited for a weather window to sail south to the Nassau area. Our weather service said Tuesday will be our “go” day…we’ll see.