Friday, March 21, 2008

Back in the U.S.A.

I think that might be a good title for a song…Hmmm, maybe Born in the U.S.A would be Better?! Anyway, yes, we are back on the US Coast, anchored off the Shore of Cumberland Island, which is on the border of Florida and Georgia. Our arrival here was definitely bittersweet…sadness about leaving the Bahamas, but happiness about being home again and seeing our loved ones. We felt the difference immediately upon reaching the home shore. Traffic and dirty water were the first impressions. We stayed a few days in Vero Beach to relax a bit and check back in with customs. Here we hung out with Carol and Bill on Interim (the fourth boat in the flotilla). They saw us off after hosting a yummy chocolate chip pancake breakie.

We have since been enjoying the trip north and continue to see interesting and sometimes beautiful places. Amidst anchoring and passing through lovely, serene marshland, we have stopped at several great towns. We first stopped unexpectedly at New Smyrna Beach. We had intended to anchor out that night, but we were concerned about crossing a particularly shallow spot at low tide. That and the high wind convinced us that we should seek shelter at the marina. This turned out to be a good choice when we discovered that it was St. Patty’s day and the town was celebrating. We started out at Maloney’s where, you guessed it, they were Irish! We sidled up to the bar, ordered a Guinness (Cindy and me that is…Lynn had a coke) and listened to the Irish duo playing folk (or were they drinking) songs. All the elements for a good time were there, including “Hurling” on TV and the boot of Guinness passed around the bar for the patrons to drink. I found out it is bad luck to put the boot down after I placed it down on the bar. We also partook of the awesome seafood chowder, made to order by Jim, the owner, in unique steam kettles (only 8 of their kind in the US). The fun was topped off by the band playing “Alice”…with the refrain “Alice, Alice, who the f*%& is Alice?” shouted loudly by everyone in the bar. We had a blast…it was one of those spontaneous perfect occasions that you could not repeat with a year of planning.

We left the next day and headed north to St. Augustine, Florida, which is the oldest city in the nation. They obviously have a lot of history, including the fact that Martin Luther King organized one of his first peaceful demonstrations there. Although it has become rather touristy, there is still great old charm. We even saw an anti-war demonstration, so not much has changed I guess. It was discovered by Ponce de Leon, so there is a strong Spanish influence. We all really liked it and even had fun viewing the city in the cheesy red tour train. We spent a little time carefully picking out a cowboy hat for me in a cute store in the walking district. We finished the day sipping sangria on a balcony overlooking the busy main street…another gastronomic success!

We departed the next day and picked our way north to Georgia. We are waiting out the day with a plan to leave late afternoon to traverse in the ocean to Beaufort SC to stop off for a short visit with David and Gini. It appears that the stars have aligned. The wind and sea predictions are good, it’s a full moon so we will have lots of light, and the tides are favorable. We will leave around 5 PM and should get to Beaufort by around noon tomorrow. Although it means another nighttime cruise, we will happily avoid the ICW shallows in Georgia. So, next stop South Carolina!

Homeward Bound

The return trip from the Bahamas was very successful and full of fun and laughs. We stayed in Green Turtle Cay for five days, where we luckily met Chris and Deke aboard their 37-ft Catalina sailboat, aptly named Chris Deke. Not only were they a great couple to hang out with, they were also experienced and proved to be a big help in planning the crossing. Each morning we would listen to the weather forecast by Chris Parker on channel 4045 of our single sideband radio. Then we would gather to confer on the situation and reevaluate our plan, which changed regularly. Remember, patience and flexibility are the most important elements for safe cruising. While we waited we continued to explore and spotted a few more rays during our travels. Cindy gave me another blog-worthy quote when she declared “You don’t really know how strange you are until you are around normal people!”

We finally left for Allens-Pensacola Cay, which was to be the first stop on our return itinerary. It was a beautiful day and we sailed all the way there. I was so pleased that we had great conditions so that Cindy could experience sailing in the Bahamas. We arrived late afternoon with enough time to meet some of our anchorage neighbors (Mike and Linda on Yemanja) and explore the windward beach. There was a great path through the brush to the other side of the island where we discovered a “signing tree”. It was a big tree on which passers by left an amazing variety of mementos, like boat bumpers, driftwood and even rope swings. Of course Cindy and I had to take a turn on the swing and nearly toppled off the back. On the way back to the boat we caught a glimpse of several sea turtles, and I mean a glimpse as they move incredibly quickly in the water. The evening was topped off by one of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen; it appeared as though the sun actually melted into the horizon. A perfect time for blowing the traditional conch horn! Not that we really need a reason to do that.

The following morning we left for Great Sale Cay, which was to be our last stop before starting the crossing. Our plan was to leave at dusk, travel across the Little Bahama Bank throughout the night, arrive at the edge just before dawn and finally cross the gulf stream during the daylight hours. This proved to work out perfectly, except we opted to wait one extra day for better conditions based on the advice of Deke and other boaters waiting to cross. In the meantime we spent the days preparing the boat (I am pleased to say I learned a few things after the first crossing and there was a lot less crashing of stuff below decks). Cindy and I played a trivia game and laughed hysterically at very little. She was going to dismiss us as being trivia losers and consoling ourselves by remembering that the definition of trivia is “unimportant things”. However, I insisted on tallying our points and found out, to our delight, that we are actually card-carrying trivia geniuses!

Our second day at Great Sale was much more entertaining as we observed several boating dramas unfold. The first started in the morning when the wind picked up significantly around 5 AM. All three of us awoke when the sound of the wind and the feel of the water abruptly changed. We were in the cockpit checking that our anchor wasn’t dragging when I noticed that a boat that was anchored well off shore when we went to bed was now much closer. They were definitely dragging. We started hailing them on the radio but were unfortunately not able to rouse any of the occupants. Sadly, they did not wake up until they reached the shore. The other event unfolded over the SSB radio. I was listening to the morning weather report as usual when a boat called in distress. Fast Annie said they were broken down on the Little Bahama Bank and unable to reach Tow Boat US. I happened to be the only transmission they could receive, so started to relay messages for them. Between the two events, I spent most of the day on the radio calling for assistance and transmitting messages. You can imagine that my companions found this pretty amusing and teased me mercilessly. However, I was apparently in my element. I think I have found a new calling. We were all relieved when both boats finally got the help they needed prior to us starting for home. It was an eye opener though; don’t expect help to get there fast in the Bahamas!

Our crossing went like clockwork. All our planning paid off and we enjoyed a relatively calm voyage. The three of us worked a 2-hour shift rotation from helm, to rest, to sleep. While awake we chatted and even resorted to a game of 20 questions over the radio with the other boats in our flotilla (four boats total). We must have been pretty tired because it took us more than 20 questions to come up with the word “star”. We finally arrived in Fort Pierce Inlet at about 2:30 PM where we entered the ICW and continued to travel north to Vero Beach. We were safely on a mooring at about 4 PM. All in all it was a perfect passage. We later learned that the days before and after were not pleasant so were pleased with our decisions. The only sadness was that we parted ways with Chris Deke. We thoroughly enjoyed their company and very much appreciated their insights. I find that although cruising acquaintances are sometimes short, they are more intense as you are often dealing with critical situations, so it is hard when you have to say good bye too soon.. We feel that way about many of the wonderful people we met while in the Bahamas and we hope that we will be lucky enough to see some of them again…

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Back Home

Lynn, Cindy and I arrived in Fort Pierce, Florida on Friday afternoon, March 14th. We had an uneventful crossing of the gulf stream, which made us very happy. We had reports from other criusers that the days before and after were not good, so we got lucky! Anyway, there's much more to report, but we are busy wathching Pirates of the Caribbean and baking chocolate chip cookies. We just wanted everyone to know we are safe and sound. I'll post again soon!!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Cindy's Here...Yippeee!!

Our friend Cindy Williams finally arrived in Treasure Cay on March 3rd. She came full of giggles and carting a big bag of booty, including 4 bags of Oreo cookies, 2 boxes of wine, an inestimable amount of chocolate, a can of spaghettios, and only 1 bag of pretzels (a 5-pound bag that is, special ordered on the Internet). She had very little clothing as all her baggage space was taken up by food!

Cindy flew in to join us for the journey home. Some of you may think this a strange thing to do, especially considering my description of the passage here. But, then you don’t know Cindy, a girl who loves adventure. We did offer that she could join us sooner for some time in the Bahamas, but she said she was only interested in the return voyage. I think she is rethinking that decision now that she has seen the Abacos and discovered the delightful, unspoiled islands. But, the good thing is that we have been waiting for about a week to get a good window to cross back to the U.S. coast, so she has had a little taste of most of what the area has to offer.

On Cindy’s first night we had an impromptu sundowner happy hour with a bunch of cruisers who were anchored in the Treasure Cay Bay. She got to meet some of our buddies and happily joined the spirit of the occasion. We then said good bye yet again in anticipation of departing the following day…that didn’t happen. Due to the conditions, we chose to wait an extra day before attempting to pass through the Whale channel, something I was nervously anticipating after our first experience. This delay gave us a chance to stroll along the beautiful Treasure Cay Beach one last time. We did go around Whale Cay the next day and I am happy to report it was uneventful. I will use the Cruisers Net lingo for the conditions, which were a “sloppy 4” on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being impassable and 5 being perfect. Instead of 12-foot swells we saw only a little chop.

We made our way to Green Turtle Cay where we are still waiting for a good window to head home. We chose to anchor outside the Harbor on the first night and were hit by an unexpected squall that brought sustained 35 knot wind with gusts above 50 knots. It was an incredibly violent thunder storm that passed directly through us. We even donned our life jackets. I was quite nervous and actually screamed when a lightning bolt struck so close I thought we had been hit. Of course Cindy loved every minute. We checked the radar and could see the storm was about 25 miles long and 6 miles wide. Yet again our trusty anchor held through the event even though we swung over 180 degrees.

The next day we opted to move inside the safer harbour, called White Sound. We were a little tense about this as the channel is quite shallow, but it turned out to be a piece of cake as Captain Lynn calmly steered us through the markers. Cindy and I were at the bow watching starfish pass by when we sighted a huge Spotted Eagle Ray glide away from under the boat. It was beautiful with a wing span of about 4 feet…very exciting. Lynn then expertly turned the boat 360 degrees into our slip. We are spending our last few nights tucked snugly in at the Green Turtle Club Marina. This will allow us to charge up our batteries, replenish the boat supplies and rest up before the long journey home. We are also safely docked for hopefully the last Norther we will experience here.

Over the last few days we have toured the island in a golf cart, explored New Plymouth (the nearby town), wandered on the beach, splashed in the waves and found more sea treasures while snorkeling. Cindy has put me to shame as she wakes before sunrise each morning and runs 6 miles before I get out of my PJs. We have also indulged quite heavily at the Green Turtle Club because every dollar spent there is deducted from our dock fees…so we feel compelled to max out on eating and drinking.

Most importantly we have spent many hours planning the crossing, which entails listening to the morning weather forecasts, plotting the course and discussing the outlook with our buddy boats. As of today the plan is to leave here on Monday with a stop over at Manjack Cay that night. We will then head to Great Sale which will be the departure point for the crossing. We hope to leave there at dusk on Wednesday, cross the Little Bahama Bank overnight and reach the Gulf Stream at day break on Thursday. We should arrive in Fort Pierce, Florida at about 2 PM that afternoon (March 13th). The forecast is for very calm winds and less than 2-foot waves in the gulf. That will be a welcome change.

So, our unforgettable adventure is now drawing to a close. The downside of this that we will have to leave the beautiful Bahamas, go back to work, start to wear makeup and undergarments (less of a concern for Lynn), possibly see a touch of winter, and get back to reality. All of this is almost balanced by the upside of seeing our friends and family again.

Not Sure How Much More We Can Take?!

Hi, we’re still here!! And loving every minute. For the past three weeks we have been bouncing around between Marsh Harbor, Hope Town, Treasure Cay and Great Guana Cay. It’s been more of the same blissful days of sun and fun. We spent lots of time with Mike and Harriet (Dual Dreams), Kathy and Ken (Coconut), Jeff and Cindy (Salty Dog), and Bill and Mary (Ment Tu Be). We also enjoyed meeting some new folks, including Willie and Mark (Liahona), Jim and Marie (Kawliga), Harvey and Nancy (Stardust), and Chris and Deke (Chris Deke). It’s great how a little community develops as you all move around from place to place.

We first left Great Guana and headed to Marsh Harbor to wait out some high winds and get the usual chores done, not to mention going to a few happy hours. After that we went over to Hope Town for one last look around and to attend the big Hope Town Fire Department Fair. We discovered a new little joint called On Da Beach which was lots of fun. Lynn and I then went south and anchored for a few nights at Tahiti Beach. It was a secluded, peaceful spot where we snorkeled and lazed on the beach (yes, I again coaxed Lynn into spending an afternoon on the beach!). After that we moved north to Treasure Cay for a few nights and then to Great Guana Cay to anchor in Fishers Bay and await the Barefoot Man concert. We spent several days strolling about the island and walking on the beach. We finally decided that Grabbers is our favorite beach bar, with a perfect location overlooking a lovely bay sheltering sailboats and offering spectacular sunsets. Of course, they also have the potluck dinners, bocci ball, and hammocks under the palms.

OK, now for the Barefoot Man concert. This is a very big event in the Abacos that draws about 2,000 people. There were at least 60 boats anchored in Fishers Bay the night before. Think Jimmy Buffet, only its one guy with a guitar and a bongo accompanist. It’s not that he is even all that good; it’s more of a phenomenon. People love him because his lyrics are all about the Abacos and very humorous. His song titles include A Thong Gone Wrong, When They Cut you Off at Nipper’s, and It Don’t Get Better Than This. Anyway, the concert is at Nipper’s and the place is packed. Just picture Spring Break with a somewhat older crowd. We even witnessed the flashing of a few boobies. Lynn and I did a quick tour through the bar then exited stage left to the beach where we joined the more sedate group. We quickly tired of the whole thing and escaped to Grabbers where the atmosphere was somewhat calmer. It’s one of those things you should do but only need to experience once. We closed the evening with the first of several bon voyage celebrations as our departure day was nearing and we were saying “see ya next year” to some of our new found friends.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

By Justin Hohner (Lynn's Grandson)

"It was my grandfather who sat at the helm of his fifty foot sailboat, cigar in hand, as he gazed out into a clear calm sea. The music of Jimmy Buffet competed with the calls on the CB radio from plunder hopeful fishermen, searching for the day’s big catch. As the sailor lit his cigar he brought it to his face, which was covered in a soft white beard, then emitted the sweet smelling aroma into the air. The captain’s topless, big round belly reflected a bronze tan from the midday hot sun. I had never at that time seen my grandfather so relaxed, finally living out his dream."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Things We Have Learned

1. We are not very good at fishing. Sorry Ben (our sport fishin’ neighbor on E dock who kindly loaned us rod and tackle), Lynn has tried a number of times, but to no avail. We are probably not equipped with the right bait, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of fish out there. We think we need to be out on the ocean side of the islands perhaps?

2. We have a really good anchor. Someone said to us here (Mike I think) that there are three things you don’t talk about in a social setting…religion, politics and anchors. Everyone has a different opinion about the best set up, but we have been very happy with ours (90-pound Delta plow with 300 feet of 5/8th inch chain rode). Although this may not seem to be the most exciting thing about cruising…it is definitely one of the most critical. So, although it can be a common problem, especially given the high winds this time of year, we have yet to drag on our anchor despite swinging 360 degrees with the wind direction. Something that makes me very happy.

3. Canadians rule here. I think there are more Canadian cruisers than Americans. In a strange way I feel more at home here than at home!

4. Unique Bahamian stuff…like how to make a conch horn and the tradition of blowing it just as the sun sets, preparing and eating conch, the best places to find sea treasures and snorkel, kicking back and relaxing under the sun or stars.

5. How to find our way around the Abacos. We can now confidently read the charts, visually judge the water depth, follow the weather and determine the best sheltered anchorage, drop an anchor that will hold, get provisioned, find lovely anchorages, explore the cays, find the happy hours…

6. More and more about our boat. How to run the engine (including jump starting) and generator, water systems, heads, sailing, etc, etc, etc.

7. Radio etiquette. It’s actually very interesting to discover how much you can learn about people as they talk over the VHF. You learn about their personalities, who they are hanging out with, what problems they may be having with the boats and on and on. It’s pretty funny, a little like Payton Place. We have discovered that people will switch channels to listen to your conversations (OK, I confess I have done this myself). You learn to minimize your air time and use secret codes to transmit which channel to go to for a discussion…like, “Meet me at the dock” really means “Switch to channel 05”.

8. You don’t plan too far ahead, cause plans always change. We get up in the morning and listen to the “Cruisers Net”, which is a combination of local weather, news, sports, and general cruiser information (including the daily specials at area restaurants!) broadcast over the VHF by a combination of local residents and cruisers. They are minor celebrities. If you sit on deck in the morning you can hear their voices reverberating around the harbour as everyone checks in to find out what’s going on. From there you determine whether it’s a good idea to stick with the plan or alter your destination…flexibility is the key.

9. How lucky we are…we are incredibly fortunate to have this opportunity and wouldn’t change a moment of the journey.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

With Names Like Great Guana, Tilloo and Bight of Old Robinson, How Could We Not Have Fun?!

Hello again…Lynn and I are still here, happily nestled in our boat. So, what have we been doing lately, you wonder…pretty much the same stuff, amazing how you can never tire of white sandy beaches, crystal clear water and quaint islands. When I last left off we were in Treasure Cay…since then we have been moving about checking out new anchorages. We had two weeks of perfect traveling weather so took a tour around.

We first headed out to Great Guana Cay. And guess what…WE SAILED! It was fantastic. At last we had the right amount of wind in the right direction. With the engine finally off, both sails up, and the main reefed slightly, we hit 8.3 knots…incredible…our maximum hull speed is 8.6 knots. Who cares if stuff was flying around a little, it was exhilarating. We spent a few nights anchored along with Ment-To-Be in Fishers Bay and Bakers Bay, doing more snorkeling and beach combing on Spoil Bank Cay (aka Shell Island) and attending another potluck at Grabbers.

Then south to Man-o-War Cay, where they mainly build small boats (Albury Brothers boats) so there is lots of marine atmosphere and history. It is also an incredibly well-groomed town. Everything was so neat and clean…even the grocery store was immaculate with all the items so carefully lined up on the shelves. We wandered around town for the day. I purchased some really pretty canvas handmade on Andros Island to sew things when I get home (who wants to take a bet on whether that will ever actually happen?) Some people don’t like this Cay, maybe because they don’t sell alcohol anywhere, which seems to be somewhat of a priority around here…but, that didn’t matter to us.

Next stop was Marsh Harbour, where we hung out for a few days. This is the working town, so it is busier and not as picturesque. But it is a good place to get provisions, including, you guessed it, fresh baked bread and cinnamon rolls (something I just, both happily and unfortunately, discovered). They also have some nice shops and a few fun pubs…our latest favorite is Snappas, where we watched the Super Bowl. Here we met up with Harriett and Mike. We had met previously at the Grabbers potluck, but solidified the friendship in Marsh Harbour and have been kicking around with them off and on since then. They have a 42-foot Presence trawler called Dual Dreams. Imagine…blow boaters hanging out with smoke pots…go figure!

We then moved on to Tilloo Cay, which was a nice secluded anchorage…we were hanging out there all alone for two nights. We spent our time combing Tahiti Beach and doing a bit of snorkeling. Not the best selection of fish, but finding three big sea biscuits made it worthwhile.

On to Lynyard Cay, perhaps my favorite anchorage yet…although it’s impossible to choose. It was so peaceful there, with only a couple of boats anchored well off in the distance. Lynn and I agreed that our first night there was the best yet in the Bahamas. We spent the afternoon exploring and lazing about on shore…which turned out to be a nude beach! Then we settled in for the evening and had a lovely dinner under a blanket of stars. It was idyllic, exactly what I pictured before we ever got here. The next day was great too, because we met more new friends…Kathy and Ken on a 42-foot Marine Trader called Coconut (we must be attracted to trawler types). They have the cutest little 4-pound miniature fox terrier named Big Eddie. They also make lovely sea glass jewelry and I have been “shopping” on their boat several times. They are veteran Abaco cruisers and have shown us a few things, like how to find sea glass and cook Conch. Yes, friends, Lynn ate his first conch and loved it…having at least three helpings. Of course it was caught by Ken that day and cooked perfectly…easily the best I have had yet. We also tried out our new Airline SNUBA system. This is an air line that allows you to dive with breathing air supplied by compressor from the surface. It worked fine, but so far we’ve only used it to clean the bottom of the boat.

We then reluctantly made our way back to Marsh Harbour for shelter from the biggest Norther yet (apparently the highest gust was about 49 knots). We stayed there about three days and caught up on chores, like laundry and work work. I actually had to do my performance review…ask me how much I cared about that! We were pleased to meet up with Bill and Mary again after going our own ways for a while. One of the highlights was learning how to make a conch horn…kind of a grown up arts and crafts activity. We had a fun happy hour at Snappas one night with a big gang of cruisers. A bunch of them were meeting to discuss their pending venture south to the Exumas…it sounded exciting. They had already tried to make the passage two times but had been thwarted by the weather. We heard the next day that eight boats had successfully left for their southern destination. Lynn and I have decided to wait until next time for that adventure.

We are now back in Fishers Bay at Great Guana, where we spent a lovely Valentine’s Day and anxiously await the Bocci Ball tournament and the Daytona 500 at Grabbers tomorrow. We again had a fabulous sail here from Marsh Harbour…20 knot wind, which is perfect in my books…just enough to get good speed, but not enough to make me start feeling nervous. It is a bit overcast and windy today so we are catching up on inside boat chores, like replacing the head…it can’t all be fun and games I guess. Lynn is also passing the time with his new addiction to his electronic Black Jack game…right now he is up $13,500…but regularly curses the machine and says the game is fixed.
So, in the last three weeks we have been to the southern point of the Abacos and are now as far north as possible before having to cross The Whale. On the way we have seen exciting wildlife, found unique beach treasures, explored lovely anchorages, had perfect sails, made new friends, and fallen more in love.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Treasure Cay

Lynn and I have discovered that, when in the Bahamas in winter, your travels are very much governed by the wind conditions. Northers blow through every 3-4 days and with them bring first a little short-lived rain, followed by high winds from which you need to seek out sheltered anchorages. After leaving Hope Town almost two weeks ago we headed to Treasure Cay where we planned to stay for a few nights. We’re still here! This is because it is a very nice place to be, but we have also been comfortably anchored for two such blows. We did leave very briefly for a night at Great Guana Cay, but returned the next day just ahead of yet another Norther. Today we are sitting through the last of it and are looking forward to the coming week and predicted calm conditions. Don’t get me wrong, on the whole we have had great weather and I estimate only about 5 days where we were compelled to stay on the boat and not venture out. Not much to complain about considering the nasty, cold winter being experienced in the north!

The best thing about Treasure Cay is the spectacular beach, which was voted one of the 10 best beaches in the world by National Geographic. It is a huge semi-circle with 3.5 miles of incredibly white, powdery sand. As usual, there is hardly anyone on the beach and you can walk for miles all alone. One day Lynn and I trekked the entire length and back. Our ultimate goal was to see a plaque on the point commemorating the arrival of the first Loyalist settlers in the Bahamas. We never found the darn thing, but our feet sure did ache! On the way back we saw one couple after being on the beach all afternoon. As we passed they commented that the beach was getting crowded!

We rented bicycles and rode around looking at houses and checked out the local ceramic place. We even spent a day relaxing and reading on the beach. Anyone who knows Lynn will understand that this was a very big sacrifice for him since he doesn’t sit around very well. We took the dingy out to a little secluded island and explored the rocks and beach, which didn’t take long as it was quite tiny. Of course we found the local bakery owned by Florence and her husband Captain Forty. So we continue to indulge in home baked pie and bread. Florence even made Lynn a special order apple pie that met his high standards! We returned the next day to sample her blueberry pie (OK, we bought the while thing), which was equally delicious.

On the windy days we passed the time playing games, reading, watching movies (or sleeping through them!), and working occasionally. We have learned that I rule in Scrabble and Lynn rules in Gin Rummy (not to mention that I am not a very good loser). Naturally, neither of us likes playing the game we don’t win…at least I don’t. Today Lynn was getting a little bored and resorted to rebuilding a head and making dinner.

The harbour is very serene and is a home to dolphins and sea turtles. Every so often we spot a turtle poking its little head up for a breather. I tried feeding them leftover chicken stew, but only managed to attract the gulls! It is also home to three 1983 50-foot Gulfstar Sailmasters, including ours. This is pretty amazing when you consider that there are only 16 total. We went over to take a look at one and found the owners there. As it goes with this community, they immediately invited us on board; it was fun to take a look at our sister ship. We really enjoyed meeting Midge and Allan, who came to visit our boat the following day and then took us out to lunch and to see their beautiful island home. It was probably just about anyone’s dream home, it certainly was mine.

So, picture this…you see a house you like so you walk up to the door and knock on it. When the owner comes out you ask them what kind of house it is and when they bought it. They happily tell you all about it and then invite you in for a look around. This is exactly what happens with boaters, so you are constantly meeting like-minded people. It’s what makes cruising so much fun…which is something cruisers like to have! While over at Guana Cay, we happened upon a big potluck dinner sponsored by the local pub for the people anchored in the harbour. We joined in and met even more people. We have collected a bunch of boat cards (like business cards for boaters) and have struck up new friendships, some of which will be brief encounters, and who knows, some may endure. But, best of all, Lynn and I have become better friends with each other. All the stress and worry of getting the boat ready has melted away and we are finally experiencing the joy of realizing the dream together…it’s a wonderful thing.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Picture Perfect

We have posted a bunch of new pictures to the Picasa web album for anyone interested...just click on the link on the right hand side of the page---->

Jami and Justin

It doesn’t seem like we only had four days with Jami (Lynn’s daughter) and Justin (Lynn’s grandson); we packed a lot into a short time. We really enjoyed having them here to share in the stories and have their own mini adventure. We rented a 22-foot skiff so we could travel quickly around the islands, which turned out to be really fun.

We picked them up in Marsh Harbour on Thursday afternoon and started with lunch at Curly Tails, where Justin first discovered he likes Bahamian beer. We then bounced our way back to Hope Town for an inaugural tour of the streets. When passing Captain Jacks we noticed it was trivia night, so we stepped in for a try. We figured we had a promising team, with a wide range of age, gender and nationality. In fact, we were quite proud of our 11.5 points out of a possible 20…that is until we learned that another team had 18 points; we then quietly left the bar. Did you know that the stripe on a Canadian Mounty’s dress uniform is yellow? We topped the evening off with spaghetti dinner (you may have noticed this is a staple on the boat) and an attempt at watching National Treasure 2. We discovered that the copy we purchased for $5 from the shady guy on the street was indeed bootlegged and probably filmed in the cinema. Lynn was so incensed he wouldn’t watch it, but it didn’t matter since the rest of us fell asleep anyway.

The next day we headed south to Little Harbour, the home of Pete’s Pub and Art Gallery. On the way we stopped for a swim in the crystal clear water just south of Lubber’s Quarters. While Lynn and Justin flexed their muscles, Jami and I hovered in the boat. Lynn also invented a Bahamian-style snorkeling technique that required simply wearing a mask and hanging off the back of the boat; also known as the lazy man's snorkeling!

Pete’s Pub is a fun shack bar on the beach where people leave T-shirts pinned all over the walls. Randolph Johnston, apparently considered one the great sculptors of the 20th century, brought his family to live in the area in the 1950’s when there was nothing there. Now his son, Pete, runs the art gallery that houses his work. You could purchase a sculpture for a mere $25,000 to $65,000 if so inclined! But, it is a neat place and the T-shirts were only $22. The harbour is also a sea turtle sanctuary and we spotted a number from the boat. We tried to snorkel to get a better look, but they are quick little fellas and successfully eluded us.

When we got back to Elbow Cay, we headed to White Harbour where Lynn’s niece, Dana, was staying with friends; it seems amazing that she was in Hope Town at the same time we were there! The funny thing is that the hostess, Miss Betty, turned out to be the same elderly lady on oxygen that we saw in the church on Christmas Eve. She is actually 94 and still travels on her own to the Bahamas each year. I felt a little guilty about my quip on the earlier blog. All in all it was a fun evening having dinner in her lovely cottage with friends and family. We then headed back to our boat to make our way to Hope Town Harbour. It was at that point we discovered that the lights on the boat weren’t working and there was no moon in the sky. One of the guests, a local, led the way out of the harbour and we moved very slowly homeward with me on a sharp lookout on the bow. Another exciting passage!

The third day was also a blast when we headed north to Great Guana Cay. On the way we stopped at Fowl Cay, a national park and great snorkeling spot. Luckily the conditions were calm because you have to go through a cut to the ocean side; a passage that is often prohibitive if it is too windy. We grabbed a mooring and jumped in. I had ventured over to the nearby coral head and was happily watching the huge variety of colorful reef fish when I turned around to see a school of about 20 barracuda that had crept up behind me …Gasp!! They will apparently not bother people, but they sure do look intimidating. Lynn said they appeared to be on a military training mission as they stealthily moved through the water. Once safely back on the boat we headed to Nippers on Great Guana, another colorful beachside bar, where we had lunch and wandered on the beach. Then home for a night of bar hopping with Justin in Hope Town. This involved wandering to the two possible options that were all but empty. It wasn’t exciting, but I think Justin liked that fact that he was legal drinking age and could just sidle up to the bar and order a beer.

Our last day was spent wandering about Hope Town and walking on the beach with Bill and Mary. Jami picked up information on rental properties; she liked it so much she plans to bring the rest of her family for vacation. We even toured a beach front cottage with the owner whose son is the creator of the TV show “Scrubs”, which Justin, a big fan, thought was pretty cool. Finally we did the obligatory trip to the top of the lighthouse. This time it was Jeffrey lighting the torch and we were smart enough to forego volunteering to turn the crank. Other little highlights include total indulgence in Vernon’s Key Lime pie (I couldn’t keep Jami away from it; I think she ate it for breakfast, lunch and dinner!), Justin and Lynn smoking cigars and chatting on the deck, and a couple of rip roarin’ games of Scrabble. “Yo” is a word after all…sorry Justin.

Dawn of their return day arrived much too soon. We saw them off on the ferry from which Jami waved out the window until the last possible moment. We then sadly walked around town feeling very lonely. We were both so pleased they Jami said, “fun times never to be forgotten”.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Hello Again

Have I lost all my readers? I’m very sorry to be so remiss in blogging, but I seem to be very busy here in paradise! It’s amazing how the days just slip by even though we often don’t do much of anything. Let’s see, how have we been spending our time since New Years? I’m not sure I remember…it’s a blur of wandering about Hope Town, walking on the beach, and slurping mango daiquiris (Lynn’s favorite cocktail)…hmmm, maybe that’s why it’s a blur!?

First we weathered the big Norther that blew about 30 knots and caused unseasonably cool temps for about 3 days. But, it was OK because I finally did some actual work. Of course I didn’t let on to my boss that the inclement weather was the primary reason I got anything done (oops, I wonder if he’s reading this?!). We had the gang over for a big spaghetti dinner and an evening of Captain Ron, the classic sailing flick, because we were all getting a little cabin fever.

One of the highlights during this part of the trip was going to Captain Jacks to play BINGO, their Monday night draw. Of course, they call it JACKS, which you have to yell out if you win. And, guess what, I did! It was a big night so the pot was $222. Unfortunately I had to split it with some bratty kid, but it was still enough to buy all the drinks for the table, pay for our JACKS fun and walk away with $35…not too shabby!

Another event that will stand out in our memories was spotting a 6-foot Nurse Shark in the shallow water just outside the Hope Town Harbour (yes, I am Canadian). We were actually heading out to snorkel on the reef when I asked Lynn, “What’s that brown thing over there?” We moseyed over in our dingy and sure enough it was a shark! We watched him from the safety of our craft until he swam off. Needless to say we altered our snorkeling plans.

We discovered that it is a very small world, especially in the Bahamas, and have met some really great people. First we met Jessica and Drew on our snorkeling trip. Not only did Jessica and I have tons in common, they recently bought the same sailboat as our first Coyote and have it in charter where we did. We are definitely looking forward to connecting with them again. Then we stopped by Heinz and Jaqueline’s boat to say hello because they were from Montreal, my home town. It turned out that they owned a business just about a mile from my childhood home. They were lovely people and invited us over for cocktails. Then we bumped into Hugh at Nippers, who we knew from our Marina in Baltimore. He had been hopping around the islands and there he was in the same bar. Actually, that’s not all that surprising because it was the Sunday Pig Roast, an event that draws people from all over. We had gone there with Sheila and Buddy from Alabama, a very fun couple. Of course I liked Sheila immediately, not only because she has the same name as my sister, but she has that great southern drawl. When she says Beth, it comes out Bay-eth…I love it! But, that’s the best thing about cruising, all the wonderful people you meet.

We had a few other mini adventures exploring the local area in our dingy, including a splashy jaunt over to Marsh Harbor for some supply shopping and lunch at Curly Tails. We also zoomed down to Sea Spray at the far end of Elbow Key, again for lunch and a change of scenery. Dale and I tried to jump start Maggie, the fire engine, but were thankfully not successful. On our way back we stopped at Tahiti Beach, which is just a pretty as it sounds. I got hooked on Conch Burgers (pronounced Conk…right Jami?) at Munchies…a little roadside stand that has the best to offer for only $5! We have also put on a few pounds from indulging in Vernon’s bread and Key Lime Pie.

So, by now you have probably figured out that we have been doing a little too much eating and drinking and not enough exercising. Although I am still wearing my bikinis, I feel that I am not as svelte as when I started out on this trip. Sorry Jonathon, my personal trainer, who helped me get in shape in a mere three months when I suddenly realized that I would have to don a bathing suit. Our deal was that I would not gain any weight while away. I guess I need to break out the exercise gear I brought along with such good intentions…hahahahahaha! No wait, I think I hear a Bahama Mama calling my name...

Things We Love About the Bahamas, not in any particular order:

  • Not working (not much anyway)
  • Beautiful, powdery sand
  • Spectacular, deserted beaches
  • Vernon’s bread and Key Lime pie
  • The wide variety of rum punches and Kalik beer
  • Conch burgers at Munchies
  • Crystal-clear water
  • Endless places to explore
  • My husband realizing his dream
  • Relaxing on the boat
  • Finding seashell treasures
  • Winning JACKS
  • Meeting wonderful fellow cruisers
  • The incredibly friendly Bahamians
  • Being in a place with no real crime
  • Getting up early and going to bed early
  • The quaint pastel-colored cottages
  • Hopetown and its tiny picturesque streets
  • Exciting wildlife sightings
  • The Bahamian accent
  • Potcakes…their name for mutts
  • Unique little beach-side bars (The Harbor’s Edge, Captain Jacks, Pete’s Pub, Nippers, Grabbers)
  • Walking on the beach
  • Learning how to navigate and understand the weather (guess I should have done that before I came?!)
  • Our trusty boat
  • Awesome starry skies
  • Being on a spectacular adventure

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Christmas on Coyote - Part 2

We have had a wonderfully unique Christmas holiday season on Coyote. We arrived in Hope Town, Abaco on Christmas Eve morning. This is one of the most popular anchorages in the Bahamas, which is not at all surprising because it is such a lovely place. It is located on Elbow Cay and is overlooked by a red-and-white-striped lighthouse. The town has a very distinctive character with quaint streets (I think only two, named Front Street and Back Street) lined with pastel-colored cottages that are beautifully maintained. They do not allow vehicles to drive on the streets, only the odd golf cart, so the whole place has a very relaxed, serene quality. There are many paths leading to the beaches that are very natural with only a few cottages visible behind the dunes.

We started our celebrations on Christmas Eve by climbing the 101 steps to the top of the lighthouse. From there we had a spectacular view of the harbor (sorry, harbour for the Canadians) and the Sea of Abaco. The Hope Town lighthouse is one of only three manually-operated kerosene-fueled lighthouses remaining in the world. Because we were at the top just before dusk we witnessed the actual lighting by Franklin, the Lighthouse Keeper who arrived promptly, Heineken in hand. First he removes the protective screens followed by lighting the burner to slowly warm the lamp. He then has to crank the weight 600 times to start the lantern turning. The light can be seen for 20 miles. We all took turns cranking till we reached 600…I’m sure Franklin loves the tourists!! The cranking must be repeated every two hours to keep the lenses turning. According to witnesses, the lighthouse has been observed to be at a standstill several early mornings…I suppose by then Franklin may have had a few too many Heinekens!

We then quickly changed and headed to the church for evening mass, which was presided over by Vernon, the local grocer who fills in when the Minister is busy on another island. The setting was perfect, with the moonlit ocean visible through the windows. The mass consisted mostly of singing Christmas carols (not one verse was missed) and finally the lighting of candles. We were a little worried about the elderly woman on oxygen sitting in the pew ahead of us, but her daughter wisely turned off her tank just before the lighting. We emerged from the church with a warm feeling and topped off the night by strolling along the streets gazing at the houses glowing with Christmas lights.

We awoke to a lovely Christmas day. We exchanged a few presents and decorated the boat for our afternoon party. The funny thing about a boat party in the Bahamas is that your guests arrive by dingy. It was a fun afternoon of festivities, including finally popping the celebratory bottle of champagne, great food, and a white elephant gift exchange. One of the highlights was calling home to our families…it was so great to hear the voices of those we were missing.

Boxing Day is celebrated here (that’s the day after Christmas for you Americans) so it was quiet. Actually, I don’t remember what we did; one day kinda blends into the next. We did finally go to the beach on the 27th and were just in time to see a wedding. It was so pretty with the wedding party adorned in the colors of sand and sea glass. Of course it was Vernon presiding again. We had just seen him baking bread and key lime pie in his store. Then, an hour after the wedding he was back in his store in his yellow T-shirt selling his goods. We bought both the bread and the pie and they were equally delicious. Lynn asked him if there was any job he didn’t do, to which he replied, “I don’t deliver babies!”

The rest of our time was spent relaxing, doing some chores and wandering about town. We also spent a day snorkeling where we saw lots of colorful reef fish. Gini, a most observant naturalist, sighted a spotted eagle ray. I, a very unobservant wildlife loser, did not. I did however see a 5-foot barracuda, which was pretty cool. Actually, we met the wedding party on the trip, who turned out to be from Pennsylvania. We had a very enjoyable time and look forward to seeing them again when we return home.

Gini and David departed for home on December 30th. We were sad to see them go. Lynn says he always feels like he is fulfilling his boyhood dream when he sails with his brother. Although we would have managed the trip here without them, it would have been much harder and not nearly as much fun.
We capped the holiday season off with a New Years celebration, Bahamas-style. First we had the challenge of staying up 3 hours past our bedtime, which we did by gathering the gang on Coyote and urging each other to keep our eyes open between yawns. Finally we took the dingys to town just in time for the fireworks, a display to rival any we have seen before. Afterwards was the Junkanoo, a kind of parade consisting of about 10 people dressed in costumes and banging rhythmically on drums. They meander slowly through the streets surrounded by a big crowd of rather drunken partiers. You end up following along like the Pied Piper. It was a fun night!

All in all it was a fantastic week that we will never forget. Right now we are hunkered down in the boat because a cold front has blown in (probably from Canada) and it has become very windy and cold (60s). I know, I know, stop complaining! We are now looking forward to the arrival next week of two of Lynn’s daughters, Traci and Jami, and Lynn’s Grandson, Justin. I’m sure their visit will provide me with lots of bloggable quotes!