Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Pictures, Pictures, Pictures!!

For those of you who are particularly interested, or maybe a little bored, I have finally posted all our pictures from the Bahamas 2009/2010 trip on Picasa...just follow the link on the right hand side of the page...enjoy!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Home Again

When I read this blog to Lynn he commented that it sounds like it was a tough crossing and everything went wrong, but it really was a good trip with only a few outstanding events. It's just that the calm times are not particularly good fodder for storytelling and make for boring reading. Keep in mind as you read this that most of the trip was quite easy and if I seem focused on the more challenging aspects, it is simply for the dramatic effect...so, here we go...

Yes, we arrived safely after about 53 hours crossing the Gulf Stream. Most of the trip was, quite literally, a breeze with less than 10 knots of wind and relatively calm seas. This may not be desirable conditions for die hard sailors I suppose, but we prefer calm water and it was perfect for us. Around midnight on the second night the wind picked up to about 25 knots and so did the waves. The wave height wasn't too bad (4-6 feet), but the direction was hitting us from the side, which causes some pretty drastic pitching and rolling. We angled a bit further north and hoisted the Genoa to increase our speed and to steady the boat a little. We stayed in the Gulf Stream a little too long (because we were greedily enjoying the good speed resulting from the help of the 3 knot current) which meant we had to cut across about 80 miles with the waves on the beam in order to get to the inlet. In our defense we had been hedging our bets hoping to make landfall further north at Beaufort SC, but decided that between the waves beating us up, and the fact that we would probably get there after dark, it would be more prudent to stop a little short at St Mary's inlet on the border of Florida and Georgia.

Our slow, 5-6 knot progress westward on the tailend of the journey felt like the longest 12 hours of our lives (how soon I forget the last longest 12 hours.) The trip was never dangerous, but somewhat uncomfortable, and resulted in only one fairly minor injury (other than a few bruises here and there). When the wind picked up to over 25 knots, Lynn decided we had too much sail out, so we started to reef it in. As Lynn was pulling in the line we were knocked sideways by a rather large wave, which caused him to topple over. He put out his hand to catch his fall and jammed his middle finger back against the winch. He said he thought it was broken for a moment but, thank goodness, it was not. He just had a larger, swollen and bruised finger for a few days afterward. It's a good thing he has strong hands.

This time I had done a better job of stowing our stuff. The only mishap was forgetting to tie the pantry doors shut and discovering food all over the cabin floor, luckily all dry stuff. Lynn and I have not quite mastered the shifts watching the helm and both opt to sleep in the cockpit. We tried a 2-hour shift rotation, but that just means you get a few catnaps through the night. It is OK on the first night but becomes sleep deprived hell by the second night. We have decided that longer than one overnight passages are not for us unless we have more crew.

As I said earlier, it was an uneventful crossing (just the way I like it) with some long hours to get through, although it is quite cool to be out there during the day when you can see nothing but indigo water all around you. We were also lucky to have a half moon illuminating the sky which makes a huge difference in the dark night. One brief break in the tedium was when a bird hopped on board as a hitchhiker. He was a little black and yellow guy and roamed about the cockpit in search of food or maybe to just rest a bit and say hello. He did gobble up a fly. It seemed amazing that such a tiny bird would be so far off shore. Stangely Kathi and John had a bird join them for a while too...maybe the same freeloader?

While we finally approached and entered the inlet we were both finding it very hard to keep our eyes open. I thought it would be ironic to run aground after so many hours off shore. But we managed to navigate our way in without incident, that is until we anchored. I was DONE and all I wanted was to fall into bed, but the windlass (the automated motor that lowers and raises the anchor) jammed and we were not able to use it. As we hovered around the anchorage Lynn was unable to make it work. He resorted to manual deployment. Keep in mind that we have a 90-pound anchor and all-chain rhode. He dropped it OK, but as luck would have it, the anchor did not hold. He then tried to pull it up but was being overpowered. At that point, our friend John from our buddy boat Makani lowered his dingy and came over to help...this being no small favor as he was equally exhausted. Probably due to mental fatigue, it had not occurred to us to use the winch and so, at John's suggetion, Lynn rigged a rope to the winch and they were able to get the anchor up again. They then redeployed and it stuck...thank God! We have often debated the pros and cons of a buddy boat, but this time we are definitely glad we had a buddy to help.

After that we settled down a bit, I got the boat organized and some dinner together while Lynn investigated the windlass problem. After about half an hour I went to call him to eat when I discovered he had crawled into the chain locker where the windlass is mounted and was lying there gazing at the motor with a lit flashlight in his hand. I jokingly said "Have you fallen asleep in there?" when I heard the unmistakable snores of his deep slumber...he had indeed fallen asleep in the chain locker on top of 300 feet of chain! Well, after that we finally climbed into bed around 8 PM and didn't get up until 13 hours later. We did discover in our clean up that SPOT had stopped transmitting somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic...we don't know why, maybe it was a result of all the tossing and turning. But, I know a few who were following were concerned for a while because it looked like we had been swalloed up in the Bermuda Triangle, but all is well!

We then had to make our way to Beaufort and once again waited for the wind to die down so we could jump off shore for another 24-hour passage. It's a toss up whether another overnight at sea is better or worse than the shallow, winding stretch of the ICW in Georgia. While waiting we prepared the boat and Lynn did some troubleshooting on the windlass. I am pleased to report that he found the blown fuse and, once replaced, all is functioning properly. We left on Wednesday night and arrived in Beaufort on Thursday afternoon. This time the ocean hop was PERFECT in my books (even though there was not much wind to sail.) We had a full moon to light our way and only gently rolling waves. I even watched a few movies on our portable DVD player to pass the time during my watch.

Although we are no longer in the Bahamas and that is a bummer, we are home and that is wonderful. We have continued to enjoy our surroundings, including exploring the nature trails and beaches on Cumberland Island. The Live Oaks are spectacular and the wild horses are beautiful. The water is no longer turquoise but a dull brown, but that's OK...we are still on it! As Kathi commented, it is tough to be home when we have to spend the day picnicing and roaming the beach! We had a fabulous time in Beaufort with Gini and David and once again enjoyed their warm hospitality. We are now touring Charleston for a few days. We have continued to have fun with Makani eating great meals and playing killer euchre matches. But, I'll save the full descriptions of our exploits along the ICW for my next blog. Right now Lynn is cooking eggs and biscuits for breakfast and my stomach is calling me!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lookin' for the Window

Well, as it has been all winter, the weather is making it tricky to choose a good window to get back home. We have transitted the Whale (uneventfully) and are hopping around in the Northern Abacos. These islands are much less developed and so far we have really enjoyed Munjack Cay where we explored the forest pathways and some excellent snorkelling. More on that in our next blog. For now I just wanted to update you on our plans for our homeward trek. I get up each morning at 6:30 AM to listen to Chris Parker on the SSB and make a daily decision on where to go and how to stage for the passage across the Golf Stream. As of this morning, we are hoping for favorable weather around Wednesday next week and, if that appears to be long enough, we will cross all the way to Beaufort, South Carolina. If not we will hop inside somewhere south of there, like northern Florida. Of course, all that can change by tomorrow morning. We are travelling with Makani so have the comfort of a buddy boat (not to mention excellent shared meals and brutal euchre matches most evenings!).
So, after today and until our arrival in the US we will not likely have Internet access. You can still track our progress on the SPOT link on the right...if we don't appear to move for a bit it just means we found an island we like and have stopped for a little fun. Today we are headed for Powell Cay, a new place for us...we miss all our friends and family and are very much looking forward to getting home now...till then, we are stuck in a very lovely place.

Friday, April 16, 2010

My Bahamian Birthday and Other Perfect Days

What a great way to spend my birthday! It started early when I arose at 6:30 AM to listen to the weather forecast by Chris Parker on the single sideband (SSB) radio. He is considered somewhat of a weather God by the cruisers and we have started to pay attention as we determine how and when we will start to move north. Lynn and I then spent a few hours organizing the boat for the pending Gulf Stream crossing and then he took me out for lunch at the Harbour’s Edge, where we dined on coconut grouper fingers and their house specialty drink called an Over the Edge. After lunch came a romantic stroll along the beach and sea glass hunting. Then it was back to the boat to prepare for a little birthday party that night. At my party were Chuck and his friend Steve, who is here to help him crew his boat home. They brought along cheese and sausage balls, which was very sweet because it took them several hours to find a recipe, buy the ingredients and prepare the tasty nuggets. Luisa and Jay from Airborne also joined us and brought my birthday cake, a delicious chocolaty confection. The evening was perfect…lots of fun chatting, little umbrellas in our drinks and conch blowing at sunset. We wrapped the festivities up with a euchre match between Driven and Coyote and Lynn and I won all three games…maybe they let the birthday girl have her day. Before I hit the sack I logged on to call Mom and Dad so they could wish me a happy birthday. I found lots of birthday wishes from friends at home on facebook and e-mail, which was a lovely surprise. All in all it was a fabulous day!

The only mar in the perfection of my birthday was a little radio mishap. As I mentioned earlier, I was listening to Chris Parker on the SSB radio in the morning. After he finishes his weather synopsis he opens the channel to boaters who call in for advice on how to make various transits. To get his attention you say the call sign of your vessel (Coyote in our case) and he responds when he hears you. I had been trying to get his attention for about 45 minutes and feeling very frustrated and disappointed that he didn’t seem to be hearing me when I realized I was using the mike for the VHF radio and not the SSB radio. In my defense, the two radios are located side by side at the nav station. I laughed out loud when I noticed my folly…Lynn just shook his head with that I-can’t-believe-my-wife-can-be-so-ditzy look on his face. I didn’t think much more about it until later in the day when I was informed by friends that I actually had the VHF radio tuned in to the cruisers net and was interrupting their morning broadcast by announcing “COYOTE” every ten minutes! As I reread this paragraph I realize that it may be kind of like the plumber’s convention joke and only funny to cruisers, but, trust me, it was a rather embarrassing blunder that definitely didn’t go unnoticed by the thousands (OK, about 50) listeners!

Now, back to my reflection of perfect days in the Bahamas, we have had many and a few maybe a little less than perfect. Actually, how we spend our days is a common question we get from people at home. Some days are filled with boat work and others are spent pleasantly wandering the beach or some such activity, but all of them seem to pass by quickly and we are never bored. But, living on a boat is not necessarily easy and is definitely not all pina coladas under an umbrella on the beach. Normal chores, like doing the laundry, taking out the garbage or getting groceries, can occupy most of a day. Climbing in a dingy to run an errand is not nearly as easy as hopping in a car, not to mention the challenge of parking a dingy (I still have nightmares of the runaway dingy at the dock.) Little things like water cannot be taken for granted since there is obviously a limited supply from the tanks on board and it is very expensive here…about 25 cents per gallon. No more letting the water run while brushing teeth or rinsing dishes. Definitely no daily showering, and when you do take a shower it must be done military fashion with the water running only to get wet and rinse off. I have calculated that we use about 12 gallons a day…not bad. Even so, we did run out once on a Saturday and had to wait until Monday to fill up since everything is closed on Sunday in the Abacos. A minor inconvenience but open stores on Sunday are something we have all taken for granted for some time. Not to mention the banking hours, which are 10 AM to 2 PM on Tuesdays in Hope Town and NO ATMS! But, I digress; getting a short-term water supply required Lynn laboriously lugging water jugs back and forth in the dingy. After the better part of a few hours he had managed to add about 40 gallons to the tanks. My role in this task was to tie the dingy alongside the boat and help lift the very heavy jugs using the motor hoist. When we were finally done Lynn climbed aboard Coyote and I tossed the line into the dingy…oops, the dingy was not secured to the boat. It was a particularly windy day and the dingy had already floated a good 30 feet away when Lynn said…”Where is the dingy line?!”, plus a few other expletives. Luckily, a passing boat kindly retrieved our runaway craft and calm was restored.

At the top of my outstanding day list are four fabulous days of diving expeditions with Kathi and John. We met up with them a few weeks ago at their favorite anchorage on the south end of Guana. It was the first time we have anchored Coyote there and it was a great spot. No other boats and easy access to the ocean side. Kathi and John are avid divers and have a compressor on board. They kindly offered to let me use their equipment so I could experience diving in the Bahamas. I was feeling a little trepidation as it would be only the eighth dive of my life (including my three certification dives) and I had not donned diving gear in over seven years. But, it was a perfect opportunity to get more experience and I couldn’t pass it up. So, off we went and it was fantastic! I do have trouble clearing my ears and it took me some time to reach the bottom on the first day, even though it was only 30 feet down. Although it was exciting, my thoughts were mostly on maintaining buoyancy, breathing and how much air was left in my tanks. However, by day four I felt much more relaxed and was able to appreciate the beauty around me and even ventured into tunnels in the coral. Some lead to coves surrounded by coral, which felt like being in a cave but open to the surface. I did see lots of cool sea life, including an octopus (apparently a rare daytime sighting), squid, huge parrot fish, southern rays and tons of beautiful colored fishes. The coral was spectacular in some spots with huge elkhorn coral and pretty sea fans waving with the current. Kathi was proud of me and said I went from being barely able to get submerged to a cave diver in four days! I am so appreciative of both Kathi and John for loaning me their stuff and taking the time to help me discover that I definitely love to dive!

So, that is all for now…we are departing Hope Town for good in about half an hour and I must go help Lynn get the boat ready. Our destination for today is Guana Cay where we will join Makani again and then around the Whale tomorrow as we move north and head for home. I am looking forward to another perfect day!

Friday, March 26, 2010

I blame it on the Cracked Conch, Key Lime Pie and Rum Punch

There can definitely be too much of a good thing…I don’t know about you, but I go through periods where I think I can eat anything I want and I won’t gain a pound, and then I suddenly wake up one day to discover that I seem to have put on 10 pounds overnight and my clothes don’t fit…well, thanks to Vernon’s homemade bread and Key Lime Pie, not to mention a rum punch here and there, I have once again come to that realization. So, it is back to good eating and exercise…and, speaking of good eating and exercise, that is what we have been doing for the last few days.

The day after Lynn returned safely from his boat delivery mission, we decided to take advantage of a predicted string of good weather days (three in a row, which is long for this winter) and head south to Lynyard Cay, one of our favorite anchorages. It is relatively secluded and offers a lovely place to hang out without lots of other boats around. Chuck came along in his own boat. We had to wait till high tide to get out of Hope Town and arrived at our destination late in the day where we finally met up with Kathi and John on Makani.

I’ll start out with the eating…we dropped the hook, got organized and then had everyone over for dinner on Coyote…and what a meal! It was all conch, starting with delicious conch chowder that I made using a recipe from my latest addition of Coastal Living that just happened to be featuring conch and lobster recipes. John made fabulous conch Polynesian with a twist and I liked it better than my own…MMMMM…so yummy. The following night we gathered again and made a meal of lobster tails with basil butter sauce as appetizers (using lobster caught by Makani and another recipe from Coastal Living) followed by pork tenderloin, fried rice and a salad of hearts of palm. In between dinners we breakfasted on pancakes and had lunches picnicking on shore and at Pete’s Pub in Little Harbour (including the requisite rum blasters). As an aside from eating, in keeping with tradition we all signed a t-shirt (generously donated by Lynn) and left it on the wall of the bar so we will live on in Pete’s Pub posterity. I guess with all of this eating I shouldn’t be surprised by the expansion of my waistline!

Now for the exercise…early on our first day at Lynyard, John and Kathi guided us out the Little Harbour inlet to snorkel on a reef they discovered on the Atlantic Ocean side…it was spectacular. We were treated to incredible coral formations and lots of fish. John spotted a shark and Kathi saw two turtles. I was my usual wildlife-loser self and did not see either species, but was delighted just the same. After getting our fill of the reef, we hopped back in our dingys and headed to conch and lobster territory. By the way, hopping in a dingy is not as easy as it sounds, at least not for me due to my lack of upper body strength…which brings me back to not enough exercising, remember? Boarding a dingy from the water involves me attempting to pull myself up while frantically kicking my flippers and with Lynn pulling on my arms or any part of me that he can grab. There is definitely nothing graceful about it as I grunt and groan and try to get a leg up.

Anyway, back to hunting. We all got back in the water and spent about an hour looking for conch and lobster but were unfortunately skunked. It was then on to another conch hot spot where we did find about six (more conch chowder for us!). Later that afternoon Kathi took me back to look for lobster because it was high tide and she thought we might have more luck, which we did, in a way. First I have to tell you that lobster hunting is not so easy…actually, it’s the lobster finding that is particularly hard, at least for a novice like me. They hide under rocky crevices. Well, they think they are hiding. It is pretty funny because they back themselves in and leave there antennae hanging out rather conspicuously. So, those practiced in spotting these long black things can usually find them fairly easily. As I have mentioned before, my powers of observation are not very strong so I don’t find them so easily. A few times I thought I had a bead on one but it turned out to be just leaves. Anyway, I did finally find and spear my first lobster, but it turned out to be a juvenile and under the size limit. We left him there still alive, but maybe injured, which made me feel bad. I don’t think lobster hunting is for me…I think I’ll just stick to lobster eating.

Before heading back to Hope Town we made an expedition to the beach on the Atlantic side of the island in search of the elusive sea glass. It is becoming more and more difficult to find since lots of people are collecting it and glass bottles are not used as much. It is easier to find beach plastic now, but it is not nearly as pretty. Since Lynn and I have poor memories, we went to the wrong spot to begin with…after hiking along a path all we found was a jagged shore of volcanic rock. It looks cool but is quite hazardous to walk on as it is all sharp shards of rock jutting up…one tumble would cause serious damage. It was then that I remembered the path was actually on the south end of the island. We finally found the beach and spent a while looking for sea glass trophies. We weren’t completely skunked, but our booty was disappointing. Oh well, we’ll keep looking.

All in all it is the most exercise I have had since arriving here. Later that day, in a little floatilla of our three boats, we made the two-hour journey back to Hope Town, our home away from home. I have found that I enjoy the adventure of moving about to discover nice anchorages but I also find comfort in being in a familiar place that I love. Most of all I like experiencing new things and having fun with great people, both of which I got plenty of on our latest little expedition.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Hershfeld Clan Comes to Visit and Dingy Driving for Dummies!

After Jami and Steve left we returned to our routine, which has ended up being an early start of coffee and listening to the cruisers net, spending the day doing something like working on the boat or roaming the beach, then usually having Chuck, our friend from Havre de Grace who is single-handing on Driven, over for dominoes, dinner and Battlestar Galactica (to which we have all become addicted.) A few evenings we have had friends over for cocktails or been invited to visit other boats. We have mostly hung around Hope Town for 2 reasons…we like it here and the weather hasn’t been very good for anchoring elsewhere.

We did make a hop over to Marsh Harbor for a few nights to get re-provisioned in anticipation of the arrival of Lynn’s son’s family, Jeff and Kim and their daughters Kaylee and Caroline. While there, we met up with several of our cruising buddies, including Mark and Willie on Liahona, and Jerry and Laurie on Free Spirit. We also finally reconnected with Kathi and John on Makani; we traveled here as buddy boats but have seen little of them since arriving in the Bahamas. We had a few euchre grudge matches and enjoyed an excellent homemade pizza dinner, Makani’s specialty! Although Kathi may kill me, I have to tell you about her unexpected swim. After playing cards until quite late one night (past midnight, which is definitely a record), Kathi and John left to head out to their boat that was anchored out in the harbour. We were docked at a marina and Coyote was tied to one pier and their dingy was tied to the next pier over. It was very dark and Kathi was apparently gauging the length of the pier she was on by the length of the pier we were on, which was unfortunately longer. Consequently, she walked right off the end and plunged six feet down into the water. She quickly scrambled back into the dingy; unhurt except for the shock…it was a chilly, windy night! Being an avid diver and snorkeler, Kathi had declared earlier in the evening that she would go crazy if she didn’t get wet soon…well, that happened much sooner than expected!

So, after a few quiet weeks, Jeff and his clan arrived and we had a great time! Lynn had worried for 2 months about the weather and it turned out just fine. Once again we rented a skiff and were able to easily travel to all the best spots. I was the daytime activities coordinator and I must say that I planned the week perfectly, taking the weather and guest desires into consideration. The first day we made the obligatory stop at Nippers on Great Guana Cay then on the Treasure Cay to hang out at the beautiful beach. The following day included a trip to Sandy Cay for some snorkeling and then on to Little Harbour for lunch at Pete’s Pub. We then had two excellent days touring Hope Town and Elbow Cay and enjoying more beaching. One morning we recruited Chuck to help us take the gang out conch hunting. We used our foolproof technique of pulling Kaylee, Caroline and me behind the two dingys and quickly found 12 legal-size conchs. When Kaylee and Caroline finally came up for air they both declared it was the best thing they had done yet! It was then back to the boat to clean the conch for dinner. Chuck and I grossed out the group by eating the pistil and all helped to peel and pound the meat. After three days of touring, Jeff decided his favorite town was Hope Town, his favorite marina was the Treasure Cay Marina and his favorite drinking establishment was Pete’s pub (where all but Lynn and Caroline may have had one too many of the house rum punches!). Caroline was the evening activities coordinator and expertly determined the after dinner entertainment, such as games (Apples to Apples and trivia) and movies (Captain Ron…what else!) We even danced for a while on the boat one night…feed the chickens, girls!! We continued to eat yummy meals of lunches out (treated again by our guests) and dinners of conch, crab and lobster on the boat…the lobsters were the biggest I have ever eaten. Jeff felt confident he could polish off two tails, but conceded defeat after just one! Oh well, the remains became Lobster Newburg for Lynn, Chuck and me. Sadly their visit ended much too soon and we are again feeling lonely on the boat.

We have now fallen back into our routine, except for Lynn and Chuck’s big adventure. Chuck is a Captain and was asked by a local friend of his to deliver a boat for his boss from Florida to Scotland Cay here in the Abacos. He invited Lynn to go along. This involved being picked up in the boat-owner’s private plane and flown back to Miami. There they picked up the 36-foot Hinkley picnic boat…for those of you who are not involved in the boating scene, a Hinkley is a very expensive make and this one, designed for day trips on the water (like picnics), is worth several hundred thousand dollars. They departed the next morning at 3 AM to bring the boat back across the Gulf Stream and arrived home around 6 PM. It was an unusual experience and definitely a glimpse at how the other half lives!

I stayed behind to watch over the boats and quite enjoyed spending two quiet days on my own with just a few mini adventures, which brings me to dingy driving for dummies. Although I have been practicing this year so I would not be dependent on Lynn to get off the boat, I still have to master the finer art of dingy driving. I have been known to take no less than three tries to pull up to the back of the boat on a windy day. I have always had trouble starting the motor, so not surprisingly my first attempt after they had left was unsuccessful. I sat there in the dingy fruitlessly trying to pull the starter cord until my arm felt like rubber and only sputtering coming from the motor. I tried the choke out…I tried the choke in…until after fifteen minutes I no longer had any idea where it should be and whether I had flooded the engine or not. Feeling very frustrated, and cursing just a little, I was determined not to resort to asking any male for help, not yet anyway. Finally, I tried once again with the choke out and realized that I had not actually been pulling it ALL THE WAY OUT…once I did the motor immediately purred into action. So, after all these months of telling Lynn that we have a crappy motor and having him tell me I just wasn’t pulling the cord hard enough, I discovered my problem. I happily headed over to town where I spent the afternoon combing the beach for sea glass and made a few good finds, including one chunky piece of black glass that is apparently most likely the remains of a whiskey bottle from the 1800’s.

On my way back to the boat, I had a second dingy challenge as I tried to negotiate my way off the dingy dock through a maze of other dingys. I became flustered as I tried to avoid their stern anchors lest they become wrapped around my prop. This caused me to inadvertently gun the engine in reverse, then forward, then reverse again. After playing bumper dingy I was propelled back into the pilings across from the dock. At this point I decided the prudent thing was to shut off the motor until I calmed myself down and manually navigate myself away from hazards. Of course, all of this was under the watchful eye of my friends from JilliQ and a large group of strangers on the shore. Well, as Jill (from JilliQ) says, “sometimes you watch the show and sometimes you are the show!” Happily, Lynn and Chuck arrived home safe and sound the second night and I was definitely glad to have them back.

Today is a very rainy day, which is good for the locals as they are filling their cisterns with much-needed water. It is also good for us to catch up on relaxation, blogging and other inside activities. I did venture out for some yoga this morning…I have noticed that the past months of acting like I am on permanent vacation is catching up with my waist line…so it is time to stop eating and start exercising…hmmm, wonder what I will make for dinner tonight!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Most Wonderful Visit and More Excellent Adventures

We continued to have a great time with Jami and Steve and packed lots into their one-week visit. The second half of their trip was spent in Hope Town with daily jaunts to the town or beach. We rented a golf cart and toured the island with stops at the Abaco Inn for lunch and then Tahiti Beach. I think Jami had fun driving on the wrong side of the road and doing a whole 14 MPH! We had a few excellent beach days and spent one beautiful day at the Hope Town Harbour Lodge where we opened a tab in the morning and acted like we were at an all-inclusive resort (Jami and Steve treated…again!). In typical Bahamas hospitality, they let the public use their amenities, like beach chairs and the pool, whether guests there or not. It is a new discovery for us this year and we have been thoroughly enjoying it (on the few good beach days we’ve had)…including bartender Gary’s Goombay Smashes!

I could go on about the many fun memories from their week, but I think Jami summed it up best in her thank-you e-mail…

“So, when you think of our trip and time spent together remember these things:

steak night, 8 knots of sailing and hanging on, the lost snubber, conch fritters, nippers rum punch, smoking cigars (w/ my dad ), fresh lobster tail twice (yum), Florence's sticky buns, balls and balls and balls of cookie dough, movie nights, port wine, great home cooking, golf cart drag racing, the sketching artist, the mad cross word puzzler, ahhh the smell of pipe tobacco (I can still smell it), watching the stars at night through my porthole, spicy Bloody Mary’s, Vernon’s bread and key lime pie, bargaining for the bread heals, and more balls of cookie dough, turtles! and dolphins! and more turtles! oh the stinky overflow (couldn't leave that out), front and back street walks, the Hope Town Lodge, cold dips in the pool, Gary the bartender and his kick butt Goombay Smash!!, Steve’s zodiac 360, and especially......for the first time in almost 41 years I was able to "treat" my dad on vacation...what a great feeling!! (Thank you for teaching me to be stubborn...hehe!) and most importantly....spending time with you!”

I couldn’t say it better…but, I should explain one thing….Steve’s Zodiac 360. Our friend, Chuck, had just arrived from Florida (after having to wait for the ice to thaw on the upper Chesapeake to get his boat out!) and he called us to help him pick up his mooring in Hope Town Harbour. Lynn and Steve headed out in the dingy to answer the call. Steve was driving and after apparently becoming airborne a few times he dropped Lynn off at Chuck’s boat. As he attempted to pull away from the boat, he was sucked into the vortex at the bow, which caused him to do a complete 360 and pop out the other side. Unfortunately, none of us actually witnessed the spectacle, but it must have looked pretty funny. I think Steve was just glad to survive!

Their last day sadly arrived and Steve and Jami headed home via the ferry to Marsh Harbour, after just a couple of tears. Lynn and I followed in the dingy taking pictures and then hopped aboard Driven (Chuck’s boat) for a quick overnight trip to Green Turtle Cay. Since then we have been mostly seeking shelter in Hope Town as no less than three cold fronts whipping through the harbour and bringing 35+ knot winds. But, we have had a few days of respite between fronts with lovely weather that allowed us to do some snorkeling.

One such calm morning we headed to Tahiti Beach with a group of six other cruisers to look for lobster and conch. As usual, Lynn and I searched for about an hour but did not sight a thing. Just as I was about to head for the dingy, a lobster swam by. This took me by surprise for two reasons…(1) he was huge, and (2) he was swimming…fast. I thought lobsters just crawled along the bottom, but they do in fact swim, upside down with their legs and antennae hanging down and flapping their tails for propulsion. Astonished, I watched him to see where he went foolishly thinking that maybe I could catch him for dinner. As I did so, I felt something grabbing my bottom, which obviously startled me even more. When I quickly turned around (or as quickly as possible in a wet suit with flippers on my feet), I saw a second, smaller lobster swim away from the vicinity of my backside. I don’t think it was actually attacking me intentionally, I had most likely just managed to swim into it as it was making a getaway. But, I have decided that while lots of people can claim to have speared a lobster, how many can say a lobster has bitten their bum?

One night we went out with Luisa and Jay for happy hour. They took us to Wine Down Sip Sip, which, unbeknownst to us, is the Friday night place to be. As soon as we walked in the door we were invited to join the Sip Sip Sots. For the low price of $4.00 we are now official card-carrying members. I will paraphrase their greeting newsletter, which states that the intent of the four founders was to start a group that has as its purpose nothing but chatting with friends over a flagon (or wine glass or tumbler). It is a group without rules, directories, by-laws, meetings, committees, or fundraisers. Their only goal is to gather like-minded souls for the camaraderie. I think we will fit right in.

Two days ago I had what I consider to be a perfect day in the Bahamas. To start with, the weather was a balmy lo 70’s with lovely clear blue skies and just a slight breeze. I first went to yoga on the beach and then to the local coffee house for a tea with my friends Jill and Phyllis. I then headed to the Chopping Block where I had the best hour-long pedicure of my life. With my new brightly painted toenails I called Lynn on the VHF who picked me up in the dingy. We then met up with Chuck and went out to Johnny’s Cay to snorkel for conch. We spent a few hours and found 11 legal size fellers (they must have a large, fully-developed flare on the shell). We discovered the best method was to hang from a rope behind Chuck’s dingy as he trolled through the shallow water. We just had to reach down and grab the conch as they passed underneath. We also found about 30 very pretty sea biscuit shells. We headed back when we were starting to get too chilly and approaching shark feeding hour. Back at Coyote where we had an afternoon cocktail, blew the conch horn at sunset and then proceeded to clean the conch.

Conch cleaning is a labor-intensive effort. It requires first punching a hole in the pointy end of the conch and then sticking a knife in to cut the muscle that attaches the animal to the shell. You then grab the claw foot and pull it out. Then you have to use a knife to peel away to outer stuff that is not edible. In the process you find the “pistil” (I think that’s what it is called), which is a semi-hard, sort of rubbery, worm-like thing that you are supposed to eat…which I did after building up the nerve. It is apparently an aphrodesiac…but they say that about lots of things you would not otherwise be inclined to consume. Then, you take the remaining edible portion, which looks like a deboned chicken breast and hammer it to smithereens with a meat tenderizer until it looks like lace. Only then is it actually fit to cook and eat. We have had enough for three dinners for the three of us…including Polynesian conch, cracked conch and conch boats (which we are having tonight). I realized after the first meal that it was actually the first time I have ever cooked anything I caught myself! It was pretty exciting.

Other than that we have spent our time roaming the beach, playing games, watching the Canada/US gold medal hockey game (YEAH CANADA) and just having a lovely time. I have polished off a bunch of books and Lynn has filled three crossword puzzle books. Off I go now to beat Lynn and Chuck in dominoes. Next we await a visit form Lynn’s son Jeff and his family…we can’t wait!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Three, Three, Three Blogs in One!

Yes, folks, we are finally in the Bahamas. Sorry, but we actually got here over three weeks ago. I was disinclined to write the last blog because there was so little to report…this time I have been disinclined because there has been so much going on! I am going to try to get you up to date but there is a lot to catch up on…so, I split this into three sections…read as much or as little as you like. Pictures to follow as soon as I find the time and the Internet bandwidth for that.


After I last left off we were indeed successful in crossing just as we had planned. We left for West Palm Beach Florida on Monday morning (18 January) and arrived there mid afternoon. We found a place to drop our anchor and got a little fitful sleep before our very early departure. Luckily we were able to get underway quickly because West Palm did not strike me as somewhere you would want to stay for very long.

Anyway, we awoke at 3:30 AM and pulled anchor at 3:45 AM. We headed out the inlet along with Makani and Chris Deke, two boats traveling with us. We crossed the Gulf Stream for home along with Chris Deke on the last trip and they just happened to be going over at the same time as us this year. At first it seemed reasonably calm, but it quickly became pretty rough when we got into more open seas. The worst part was that the waves, probably a good 4 to 6 feet, were hitting us on the beam (the side), which is what causes rocking back and forth and (for some) a queasy tummy. We contemplated turning around, but decided to stick it out when we changed to a more southerly heading to settle things down. That worked and I am so glad we persevered because by about noon the seas calmed down significantly and the remainder of the trip was very comfortable. MUCH better than the last time we crossed here. We maintained radio contact with our traveling companions and others who radioed us once we were underway and they realized there was someone ahead who could report on the conditions. It is definitely comforting to know there is someone out there as you cross over the depths of the Gulf Stream, which I think will always feel strange to know there are thousands of feet underneath the boat.

The absolute best part of crossing is when you finally reach the Little Bahama Bank and get your first glimpse of the clear turquoise water…it really is spectacular and definitely something that needs to be experienced to truly appreciate how beautiful it is. Once we arrived the water was unbelievably calm…absolutely flat. As the sun set there was a lovely pink cast to the sky and water, which caused a reflection on the water that looked like mercury flowing as we glided through…stunning. We reached our destination of Great Sale Cay at 7:00 PM and dropped the anchor. We hit the sack not long after and slept like logs in the perfectly calm night.

The next morning we set off for Manjack. We had not stopped there before and discovered it is a great, very secluded place. There were several other boats there and a single dwelling on the island. We did a little beach combing and exploring and then settled down for another lovely Bahamian evening. We will definitely make another stop there on our return trip. The next day brought a brief stop at Green Turtle Cay to check in and then around the Whale. This time both the gulf stream crossing and the whale crossing were uneventful…I guess we are getting good at this!

Actually, I probably shouldn’t say it was entirely uneventful. Just before we left Green Turtle, I suggested that Lynn check the engine coolant as we had a clogged filter the day before. When Lynn tightened the bolt on the top of the filter…it broke! AAAHHHH…this resulted in water rushing in through the open through hull. I looked into the engine compartment to see my boat start to sink before my eyes. OK, I exaggerate, because the trusty bilge pump did kick on and my really trusty Captain remained calm, cool and collected as always. While trying to keep his finger in the proverbial dyke, he quickly closed the through hull. He then proceeded to fix the broken bolt by sawing off the end and drilling a new hole. Lynn never ceases to amaze me as he manages to fix just about everything that goes wrong on Coyote. It’s like traveling with MacGyver! I made up my mind to never complain when I do the navigating, planning and cooking (my primary tasks) because he does the more important job of making sure our boat stays afloat. So, after this heart stopping incident (another exaggeration), we were underway for a very easy Whale Cay crossing and arrival at our ultimate destination at Treasure Cay. Here we met up with our friends Rick and Linda on Sojourner who treated us to happy hour on their boat in honor of our arrival. It is so great how you can just pick up where you leave off two years ago.

So, now that we are here we have easily settled in to the lifestyle. This entails long walks on the beach, searching for sea glass, sitting in the Tipsy Turtle or some other establishment to use the Internet and Skype home, joining the other cruisers for the cruisers pot luck at Grabbers, relaxing on the boat, swimming (just a bit cause the water is really cold), and just generally having a lovely time. Best of all, we have reconnected with lots of our friends from last time and we have already made some new ones.


And speaking of reconnecting, an amazing thing happened at Treasure Cay. With the help of Facebook, I bumped into Joan Williams, one of my best buddies in high school, who I hadn’t seen in 30 years! Unbelievable! I mean, what are the chances that she would be there on vacation at the same time as we happened to be anchored there. But she was, with her husband, Steve, and their friends, Mark and Christine. We ended up hanging out with them for about a week and had a wonderful time…lots of laughs and some mini adventures.

One of the more notable misadventures was an inland trip to see a Blue Hole. Since Joan and gang were staying in a dirt dwelling, they had the unusual (for cruisers) luxury of having a vehicle. So, off we went in search of a Blue Hole. This is an unusual formation that occurred during the ice age when openings formed in the coral heads that reach down to the ocean floor. They are several hundred feet deep and connect to the ocean at the bottom, some with tunnels extending out laterally. They are filled with sea water from the bottom and rain water from the top. On the surface they are round holes with a very dark blue color to the water, hence the name. There are numerous Blue Holes in the Bahamas, but they can be very hard to find, I think partly because the Bahamians like to maintain their exact location a bit of a secret. Anyway, we went in search of a Blue Hole one afternoon equipped with cryptic directions from one of the dive shops. First we turned on the road part way between Treasure Cay and the airport. Of course it has no name because few do in the Abacos. We then bumped along the rutted dirt road looking for the faded arrow where we were supposed to turn again. After several teeth-jarring miles we were starting to despair, having seen no more roads and only numerous derelict cars, which are scattered all over the place by the way, some actually left in the middle of the road. We finally spotted three people walking in the middle of what seemed like nowhere. We stopped to inquire about the location of the Blue Hole and they all pointed ahead in unison. One girl mentioned that we should look for the green car and turn there. Off we went again keeping a keen eye for the green car…when we saw the first one it was a false alarm because there was still no road in sight. Yes, there were two abandoned green cars. Just as we were starting to think we needed to abort the mission (well, I was thinking of that, the guys were definitely determined), we finally spotted the said green car and there was indeed a road off to the left. There was also a faded arrow painted many years ago onto the telephone pole, but we would never have noticed it since there was really just a ghost of an arrow remaining. We soon came upon the blue hole shortly after turning.

How cool…definitely worth the drive. It was literally a perfectly round hole in the ground about 80-100 feet in diameter. The water was crystal clear and the sides perfectly vertical and covered with stalagtites and stalagmites. Steve and Mark are extreme divers and couldn’t get their gear on fast enough. Equipped with their tanks, knives and a single light they bravely dove into the deep blue with only the guidance of a rope left there for those daring (or crazy) enough to explore the depths. It is actually quite dangerous as divers can easily get disoriented and not know which way to swim. Christine and I opted to take a dip, which was not so adventurous but cool nonetheless. The boys eventually surfaced and declared it to be one of their stranger diving experiences. According to their description, it was completely dark and cold until they reached a thermo cline at about 60 feet, where the temperature increased to 90 degrees Celcius! They then passed through a cloudy, orange-colored zone that smelled of sulfur and finally reached the salt water at 90 feet. At this point they opted to stop the dive because it was too dark and they felt it unsafe to continue with only one light. There is absolutely NO WAY I would have attempted this dive…but they were pretty psyched. Lynn and I have since watched a an incredibly interesting Nova special on TV about the Bahamian Blue Holes. Of most interest to us was the fact that the sulfur-smelling zone they passed through is actually hydrogen sulfide, which is very hazardous as it permeates the skin and can cause brain damage if exposed too long. I hope the boys didn’t linger there…I wonder if they have been acting strangely lately?

The remainder of the week was filled with fun, including a sleep over on Coyote. It was such a wonderfully serendipitous (a word I love but rarely get to use) meeting. After they left we felt lonely, but look forward to seeing them all again some day.


When we left Treasure Cay we headed over to Hope Town, one of our favorite spots. There we spent much of our time walking the beach, going to morning yoga and eating conch burgers (well, one of us did all three of these activities, I’ll let you guess who). On the beach we met Luisa and Jay on Airborne. While having drinks with them at Captain Jacks later I happened to mention that I wanted to start a sketching journal. It happens that Luisa is a wonderful artist who loves to sketch her travels. She kindly offered to teach me what she knows, which turned out to be a lot since she is a very accomplished artist. We went to their boat for coffee the next morning and Luisa showed me her sketch books and paintings. She gave me lots of valuable pointers and I have been enjoying capturing our adventures ever since. I am not much of an artist, but I don’t really think that matters.

We also anxiously awaited the arrival of Lynn’s daughter, Jami, and her husband, Steve. They were due to arrive on 11 February but were delayed several days because of the extreme snow in Baltimore (where they have had 83 inches this year and fifty from two blizzards within two weeks). They made it on Saturday and although it is chilly here they seem very happy to be in their bathing suits and flip flops. We are only in our third day but have already had a ton of fun, including a fabulous sail from Marsh Harbour to Guana Cay in 25 knot wind and hitting 8 knots. It’s hard to do on our boat, but we came very close to burying the rail! Unfortunately we lost our anchor snubber overboard…the first of a few mishaps but I won’t get into all of that. At Guana we attended the traditional Sunday afternoon pig roast at Nippers where we hung out with a bunch of our cruising friends and imbibed in the famous Nipper rum punch. The next day we went to Treasure Cay and walked the beach in what turned out to be fabulous beach weather.

Jami and Steve are excellent boat guests as they are very easy to please. I have never seen two people travel so light with only a small backpack each. We have enjoyed some excellent meals on shore and on the boat. I made lobster one night that was delicious, if I do say so myself. They have even eaten my homemade bread, which I thought might be better used as a mooring ball! We have taken to calling it mooring bread. We definitely agree that the bread and cinnamon roles from Florence’s bakery at Treasure Cay are much tastier than my baking concoctions…I better stick to lobster.

There will be lots more to tell about their visit, but I will save that for next blog as it hasn’t happened yet…tomorrow, Hope Town!

Sunday, January 17, 2010


…the nick name given to Vero Beach by the cruisers because you can so easily get stuck here. And that is exactly what we have been since December 28th! Actually, we arrived here on December 14th, which is only one day sooner than we arrived here last trip, even though we departed almost a full month earlier. This year has simply been challenging for boat travels. We left the boat here over Christmas while we both went to visit our respective families (Lynn to Maryland and me to Ontario). After having a very nice time celebrating the holidays we returned hoping to leave soon after for our ultimate destination…that was three weeks ago and we are still waiting!

But, I am getting ahead of myself. I need to pick up where I last left off, which was some time ago. I guess I have not been in the mood to blog much, feeling a little frustrated by our lack of progress. We did have a nice trip down the ICW from St. Augustine to here. We first stayed 2 nights in St. Augustine, a great town that was particularly beautiful with all the Christmas lights. We mostly wandered around the old part of town stopping to do a little Christmas shopping. We had lunch one day in the Bubble Room which is covered in 40’s memorabilia…it was fun just looking at all the old pictures of famous people.

Next stop was New Smyrna, one of our favorite places on the ICW. Remember our pics of St. Patties Day last time…that was there. We went back to Maloney’s pub for the incredible oyster stew I had been dreaming about having for weeks. It was as good as I remembered and we even bought a second helping to go. The bartender (whose name happened to be Beth) was kind enough to tell me the recipe so now I can make it almost as well on the boat. It was again a perfect night to be in New Smyrna because they were having a vintage car show with a long stretch of the main drag blocked off…it felt like we had stepped back in time…which is kind of what New Smyrna is like all the time. The next morning, Cindy from Salty Dog, our friend we met on our last cruise, treated us to an excellent breakfast. We were joined by her sister Mindy and Mindy’s husband Carl. We had so much fun chatting and laughing and remarked how easily we picked up where we had left off two years ago. Unfortunately Cindy and Jeff are not going to the Bahamas this year as they are enduring the inevitable boat repair year.

The next night we anchored out and then we finally arrived in Vero Beach. The skies had been grey and the weather windy and bleak for much of the journey, but we did have a lovely day when we arrived here. Life in Vero is really quite nice, so it is not so bad being stuck here. The marina is very sheltered and staying on a mooring is relatively inexpensive. The city offers free bus service so it is very easy to get around for provisioning from West Marine, Publix and Wall Mart. Something that is often quite challenging due to lack of transportation. It makes me laugh though because the cruisers stick out like a sore thumb on the bus as we are usually in pairs, carrying huge armloads of bags and often wearing bright yellow foul weather gear (due to the crappy weather we have been experiencing). We are also only about a mile from a very nice beach and shopping/dining area. If the weather were better we would be spending more time at the beach…but then, if the weather were better we would be in the Bahamas by now! We have also killed some time going to the movies and have spent an afternoon in the bar watching the Ravens win. I have done a few more sewing projects, like a sack to hold my wine…we remove the bladder from the box and place it in the sack with the spigot sticking through a hole in the bottom and then hang it from the galley ceiling…I wish it was my idea because it is ingenious! I have one for red and one for white. I may go into business making them as they are also very convenient for the home.

While at Vero we have been experiencing the crazy deep freeze along with the rest of the east coast. Apparently Florida has not seen temps this low in the last several decades. We woke up to ice in the dingy the other day! I know, I know, I can't complain as it is not anywhere near as cold as most of you reading this have endured. But, it was unexpected and it sure is bone numbing when we have to crawl out of our warm bed in the mroning to start the generator and get the heat going. You can iagine how often we both said "it's your turn" when faced with that. But, sadly, it is the poor fish and sea turtles who have been really suffering and indeed dying in large numbers. Finally, the temperature has started getting gradually warmer over the last several days.

The best part of cruising in my opinion is the wonderful people you meet, and Vero has been no exception. First we met Sandy and Meryl on the Amber Marie, with whom we hit it off immediately. Sandy thinks that we must have met in a previous life…hmmm, who knows. They are a brave pair who have travelled all the way from New Brunswick on a 25-foot Oday sailboat. The first night they arrived at our boat for a visit they brought along Meryl’s guitar. After chatting a while I asked him if he was going to play for us, not knowing what to expect and wondering if we were going to have a sing along. Well, he started to strum and sing beautiful songs that he wrote himself. Lynn and I looked at each other in amazement. We begged for more and he kindly treated us to an evening of his lovely music that is a mix of country ballads and bluesy tunes. I am in awe of someone like Meryl who says he usually composes the music and lyrics to a song in about 20 minutes and doesn’t really know how the inspiration comes to him. We happily enjoyed several more evenings with them. Sandy is a ton of fun and I suggested they could tour with Sandy as the comedic talent and Meryl the musical act! We definitely miss them now.

We have had the pleasure of hanging out with other new friends, like Kathy and John on Makani and Cindy and Steve on Slip Away. It was with this crowd that we spent a very fun New Year’s Eve. Kathy discovered that it was a blue moon that night (the second full moon of the month in case anyone didn’t know there actually is a thing called a blue moon), so she suggested that we spend the day doing things you only do in…you guessed it…a blue moon. We finally had wonderful balmy weather so we all walked to the beach for a picnic. Kathy, who definitely knows how to enjoy every moment, went for a swim and a little body surfing. The rest of us were too wimpy as it was pretty chilly for that, but I am sure we all secretly wished we had her gumption…I know I did. Anyway, after that some of us (right Cindy!) found the ice cream store. That evening we joined together on Slip Away for noshes and to ring in the New Year. We talked about the best and worst things that happened in 2010 and took silly pictures with 2010 glasses on our faces. It was great fun.

Since then Cindy and Steve have headed south to the Keys and we are still here waiting to cross to the Bahamas along with Kathy and John. We have spent numerous evenings with them playing euchre, which has been really fun. We have also continued riding the bus to town and enjoyed happy hours on other boats with other new friends (like Jill and Dave on JilliQ, Gail and Bruce on Orient Express, and Marge and David on Winfield Lash). We have had a few very teensy windows to cross the gulf stream but have opted to wait for better conditions, which we think are finally here starting tomorrow. So, we are off this afternoon with a plan to head across the gulf stream sometime in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. We should arrive on the Little Bahama Bank Tuesday afternoon and anchor out overnight. The next day we will go on to Green Turtle Cay where we check in at customs. Then who knows…

This has been a long blog but I needed to do some catching up. Although the trip has not turned out as we expected so far, and has been at least a month longer actually getting there, I do think things happen as they are meant to be…we would not have had the pleasure of meeting such wonderful new friends had we not been here…I’ll post again soon when we are finally over there!!