Thursday, May 29, 2008

May 28, 2008.

We woke with no alarm and set about getting ready to head up towards Charleston. Its about a 60 nautical mile trip on the inside. We were planning to split it up into a 2 day affair so there was no need to leave to early.

We can do 60 miles in one day but the tidal flow was going to be against us for at least the first half of the trip. We got underway just after 0800 which was about 2 hours before low tide. So the first half of the day was pretty much done at low tide.

We had at least 2 feet of water under us all morning so things went well. We did a better job of picking our way through the spot where we ran aground while traveling north with Freedom last spring. As soon as we cleared this area we started to get the tidal push in our favor.

We figured we’d just ride it til it died and then drop the hook for the night. But there was to be a problem. The wind which had been fluky decided to blow 10 to 15 for us. So now as the tidal push slowed the wind picked up and kept us moving along nicely. I hate to put it to bed with things going so well so we kept at it. When the wind started to die we found that we were far enough along that the newly ebbing tide was now sucking us towards Charleston at better than 7 knots. No brainer, keep going.

A mile south of Charleston there’s a lift bridge that’s closed from 1600 hours to 1830. Because of the terrific tidal flow we were there too early and had to wait forty minutes for the bridge to open. Once through the bridge we found an extremely full anchorage with anchored boats even encroaching on the channel. We wandered about a bit and were fortunate to find a good spot right in the middle of everyone.

After dinner we had a nasty looking front come through. It was different than most though as it brought no wind at all. It took forever to creep across the city and then the anchorage.
It brought loads of lightning, some impressive thunder and more rain than we’ve seen in ages. It only lasted an hour or so and just drifted away.

Boat Name of the Day: Paros….I have no idea what it means but the dinghy was Paro site, made me laugh.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

May 26, 2008

Okay, the Gullah Festival. It turns out the Gullah Festival is a celebration of the Gullah lifestyle. Gullah can best be described as a religion, a language and a culture with some bizarre clothing thrown in.

It started with the former slaves in the low country in Georgia and South Carolina. The language is an English based Creole and borrows heavily from different African dialects. There even seems to be a heavy Bahamanian influence. There was live music for 2 full days played by a parade of talented performers. There were several young musicians on stage at various times so it seems that this heritage will continue to be embraced for at least another generation.

There was also a host of craft stands selling sweet grass baskets and African based art. Food, don’t get me started on the food. We walked up and down the midway trying to decide between barbeque, catfish or kabobs. I think Gullah might actually be French for obesity.

Also on Sunday there was a meeting of a Corvette owners group. They had probably 25 newer Corvettes in the marina parking lot. Seemed kinda pointless to me, I mean I can understand a group of car enthusiasts displaying older classic cars that they’ve worked hard to bring back to life. It doesn’t seem fair to be able to drive a new Vette off the lot and you’re automatically part of the fraternity, I guess that explained all the Spiderman tights.

As luck would have it though as we waited to cross the street in front of the marina we were treated to a parade of classic cars from a local Beaufort car club.

As usual, anchoring once again provided some entertainment. There was a Canadian boat that had a bit of a tendency to sail at anchor. Every other boat in the anchorage is lying peacefully to the tidal flow and the little bit of breeze. Not the Canuck boat though, his boat seems to have someplace to be. The boat was swinging from extreme to extreme as far as its rode would allow, we even watched in amazement as it did a complete 360 degree turn around its own anchor. Of course, they weren't on the boat, they just dropped the hook and dinghied ashore leaving their neighbors to fend for themselves. (<-good pun)

Last night we had another good bit of entertainment. This past weekend was Memorial Day weekend so theres been quite a bit of boat traffic. About a half mile away from our boat is a small area of beachiness. Every day about fifty or so small boats have been congregating in the area either rafting up or nosing their boats up onto the shore. Its kind of like party central, but mellow, except for the random asshole or two that have a little too much firewater before they head for home.

Last night the cops decided to make a statement. At the end of the afternoon 4 police boats placed themselves up and downstream from the beach. When individual boats decided to head for home most of them were stopped and boarded. They were checking for life jackets, underage drinking, drunk driving and other general stupid people tricks. We saw several citations handed out and even a few arrests. I couldn’t help wondering though; why didn’t they run this type of operation on Saturday night instead of waiting until Monday? If boater safety is really the goal here why not run the raid sooner and set the tempo for the entire weekend.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

May 23, 2008

Here’s the scoop. We were due to get a shit load of rain Friday and Friday night, followed by 2 days of 20 knot winds from the northeast. This would build up some substantial seas so it would take another day or two before they settled so we could head north from here. Unless we left today.

The day broke gray and overcast with virtually no breeze. There were scattered squalls in the forecast but no wind and FAC (Flat Ass Calm) seas. The big allure for heading offshore from here is that we could avoid the ICW in Georgia, which is terribly winding. If we went outside it would be a journey of 122 miles, while if we stayed inside it would be 180 miles. You can stare at the compass all day and you’re either going east or west, it’s a real mystery as to how you get north at all.

180 miles is a long 3 day or an easy 4 day trip. Theres also the threat of the legendary Georgia green head flies. It’s not unusual to hear buddy boats competing with each other as to their kill totals. Last year we killed hundreds of the little bastards a day.

So we headed out towards the Saint Mary’s Inlet. As we were headed south to the inlet we ran into the Heart’s Desires headed north to Cumberland Island for the first time. It’s an awesome place that I think everyone should see.

Anyway, once out the inlet we found ourselves totally alone. Nobody, nothing, no where. Not even the fishermen were heading out. I was a little freaked out thinking “what do they know that I don’t know, had the weather changed, etc?” We turned north, shut off the engine and found ourselves ghosting along at 1.7 knots. After an hour or so a small squall came through bringing rain and a bit of breeze. For the next 3 hours we averaged between 3 and 5 knots in steady rain. Looking at the bright side, the rain washed the boat off.

After that little burst of speed the wind completely died forcing us to drop the sails and start the engine. As expected we spent the next 8 hours motoring across as flat an ocean as we’ve ever seen. I was disappointed that we couldn’t sail but took comfort in the fact that if we had stayed inside we would have been killing flies, dodging shallows, dealing with bridges and other boaters and motoring anyway, for days.

I took a nap for an hour in the late afternoon while Christy kept watch. When dusk fell the wind started to build again, reaching 6 knots straight over the stern. I rolled out as much of the genoa as the wind could support and Christy went below to catch some sleep. We were moving along at three knots until 0100 when it was time to wake Christy. When she got up we sailed for another half hour so she could experience a pod of dolphins that had been swimming alongside for close to 2 hours.

After that it was time to drop the sail as the wind once again died and we motored off into the night. When we got up near Savannah we had to cross a practically non-stop procession of ships heading into and out of the port. There were even freighters anchored out waiting their turn, which we had to sneak past. It was like trying to cross the turnpike on a tricycle.

We had one behemoth, the Maersk Danbury, come across our bow. We could see by his course and speed that he was going to cross our bow at better than 3 miles away. Then he made a subtle course change of only 10 degrees towards us that would put him within a quarter mile of us. We would have never seen this change if it weren’t for the AIS.

We called him by name and he was forced to respond to us and after assuring us he would be maintaining his present heading we turned 40 degrees to port. That put us crossing his stern within a mile. I’m not sure if everyone has been able to read between the lines, we love the AIS.

Now we’re both in the cockpit, each in our reclining seats. We have the egg timer going off every 20 minutes in case we both should fall asleep. I’m on watch albeit in a state of suspended animation while Christy, who, unknown to me was dozing. Suddenly she bolted upright and exclaimed “Honey!” Instantly I went from my lizard-like state of relaxed awareness to Defcon 4. I jumped up, checked the radar, the GPS, engine temperature, looked all around, checked my pulse. Jesus Christ, she’d just been sleeping and awoke with a start and scared the living shit outta me. Okay, we’re awake now.

We arrived at the Port Royal sea buoy at 0530. It was still dark but things went well as this is a deep, well marked inlet. The reason we got there so early was that even though we were at the sea buoy we were still 10 miles offshore. By the time we had some daylight we were finally within sight of land.

After another 2 1/2 hours we were anchored just off the Beaufort City Marina. When dawn broke, the day had been less than inspiring as it was cold, with wind building from the north, gray and threatening. I went forward to drop the anchor wearing a sweatshirt and by the time we were done the sun had broken through and unveiled a beautiful day.

It looks as if it worked out very well for us. We’ll get the big north wind here but we’re north of the rain. Beaufort is a lovely little town and it turns out that this weekend is the Gullah Festival. I don’t know what the hell that is, but I’m sure we’ll find out over the next few days.
May 22, 2008

After dodging the promise of severe weather last night we decided to spend a day doing a few repairs and then some shelling.

Yesterday, while underway one of our Lazy Lacks chafed through and ended up lying on the deck. Our boom is so high off the deck that we use our Lazy Jack system as a neat means of gathering the sail when we drop it at the end of the day.

While I was up the mast Christy had the opportunity to snap a few pictures of one of our nuclear submarines being escorted up the river to the Kings Bay Naval Base. A surface vessel leads while another one trails behind. There's a chopper circling above and an innocent looking but fairly sinister tender along either side. Its quite the procession and everyone has to yield the river to this group.

So, first order of business was to have Christy use the windlass to haul me up the mast to replace the broken line. She hauled me up and then tied a line to the backstay so I could pull myself aft, above and along the boom. It was very Spiderman, you know, except for the gay tights. After that there were a few more small chores and it was off to the beach.

Cumberland Island is a fabulous state park. There’s a nice dinghy dock to leave the dink. As you walk the half mile east across the island the first section is very tropical with Bayonet Palms and other exotic underbrush. Then the dense growth gives way to hundreds of Live Oaks covered in Spanish Moss; its absolutely beautiful.

Finally the Live Oaks yield to a series of huge scrub covered sand dunes that border the beach. This place reminds us of the backdrop for the movie Jurassic Park, it’s really a step back in time.

When you walk out onto the beach its really quite spectacular. The beach is very wide and several miles long in either direction. It’s also hard as hell. I’ve driven on the beach in Daytona and this beach is even harder than that. After walking several miles over the course of a few hours my legs were killing me. We did find several really nice shells in spite of the competition from several other shell seekers so Christy was pretty happy.

Another bonus here is that there is free wifi from a Sea Scout camp located here on the island. So we spent a relaxing evening checking for a weather window to start heading north again.
May 21, 2008

I was up early, the dogs were walked, the dinghy stowed and we were underway by 0630. We figured that we would get as far north as we could since the wind was “supposed” to be from the west southwest at 15 to 25 knots. Best case scenario, I was hoping to do an overnighter and get to Beaufort SC. Surprisingly, for once the forecast was spot on. Yeah baby.

Veranda starts to be a little tender around 18 knots so I put in a double reef before we even hauled the anchor. So with the reefed main and the entire genoa out we were beam reaching between 6.8 and 8.5 knots all day. Since the wind was from the west there was no real fetch so the sea state was virtually calm with just a 2 foot chop. When the winds built to 25 knots we had to roll in some of the genoa to slow ourselves down as the boat was becoming a little squirrelly.

Another quick commercial for AIS. This picture is a perfect example of the value of AIS. Our boat is the black triangle in the middle while all the red ones are ships. The squares with the “C’s” in them are channel markers that mark the channel into Jacksonville. The purple line running vertically up the screen is our proposed route while the fine black line behind our boat is our actual track.

So as we approached from the south I could see on the AIS that we would have 4 contacts to deal with. The one to the right of the purple line was a 400 foot freighter doing 15 knots towards the channel to Jacksonville. The single contact to the left of the line is the pilot boat coming out to put a pilot on the freighter, he was doing 22 knots. If you look closely at the other contact you’ll see that it’s actually a double contact. It was a tugboat towing a huge dredge.

So since I knew the speed at which all of the contacts were traveling I knew that I would cross the paths of the pilot boat and the freighter before they got there. The tug and tow came out the channel and turned right behind us and headed north as we were. The comfort there came from the fact that I knew he was only doing 7 knots while we were actually pulling away at 7.5 knots. Otherwise we would have had to adjust course to get out of his way even though it wasn’t warranted. All the guess work was gone so a potentially tense spot became nothing more than a photo op.

During our day we listened intently to an unfolding drama on the VHF. There was a Navy exercise offshore and one of their helicopters was headed out to join the fleet. He came across a disabled sailboat 65 miles off the coast of Brunswick, Georgia. They had all of their sails shredded in a squall and had run out of fuel trying to make it back to land.

Their only mode of communication was their VHF radio. With our VHF we can count on receiving and transmitting for about 20 miles or so. We routinely make contact with boats 30 miles away and have even had freak contacts (known as a skip) of 50 miles with just the right propagation. Since they were so far offshore the only contact they might make was with another boat that was underway well offshore.

So for a day and a half they were drifting further out to sea to the east. Fortunately for them the Navy helicopter happened upon them. He was able to act as an intermediary and contact the Coast Guard for them. We could hear the Coast Guard and the helicopter but not the sailboat so we followed one side of the conversation as a rescue was coordinated.

After the Coast Guards endless list of questions things went from hopeless to overwhelming for these people. The Coast Guard dispatched a helicopter to lift them off their boat. A cutter was also sent from Charleston and the Navy had a destroyer in the area that could be on scene in an hour and a half. Once the rescuers were on scene they were able to use standard VHF so we were unable to hear anymore of the conversation, so we don’t know the outcome. We don’t know if the people were lifted off and the boat left to drift or if there was some type of tow arranged.

Around 1400 hours we were about to pass the St. Marys Inlet when we noticed a very ugly sky to the west of us. We tuned into NOAA weather which was predicting squalls with micro bursts in the 40 to 60 knot range along with the possibility of golf ball sized hail, loads of “deadly” lightning and tornadoes. They had issued a severe storm warning till 2200 hours that night, when we did the math it looked like we could encounter hours of bad weather while underway. So we made a quick left and headed into the channel which would lead us into the ICW where we could take cover in a secure anchorage off Cumberland Island. Christy was actually glad to stop here, Cumberland Island is a huge tropical state park complete with wild horses and miles of pristine beaches for shelling, so this is definitely not a bad place to be. We got in as quickly as we could and battened everything down as the blackness approached.

We were lucky and watched as the worst of the squall lines swept past us about 4 miles to the north. The worst winds we saw were 25 knots, and only for a couple of minutes. Five minutes after the lightning faded from view the evening turned out to be beautiful and calm. Ahhhhhhhhhhh.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

May 20, 2008

We woke to a beautiful morning in Saint Augustine. We had a few errands to run and on our way back from the errands we stopped in at the Anastasia Bookstore. What a find that place was. Loads of great used books, we spent 2 hours creeping the aisles looking for whatever struck our fancy. The only disappointment was in the medical section where most of the books were older and still subscribed to the theory of using leeches to ease the troubles associated with menopause; a new book may be the way to go there. We did walk out of there with an armload of great books all for only $20.

After spending the morning there we decided to walk into town for lunch. On the way through town, guess what we found, that’s right another bookstore. After another hour we were once again on our way to eat and then it was back to the boat for the remainder of the day.

The next day we did our laundry and then hit the bookstores once again, just to be sure. After another lunch on the town we were once again back to the boat for the evening.

The Bridge of Lions was this ancient drawbridge that spanned the river in Saint Augustine. It was in sad condition so in their infinite wisdom some geniuses decided that instead of replacing the bridge they would rebuild it. I’m not sure why as the old bridge was a reasonably uninspiring span. So what they’ve done is put up a huge temporary span right next to old bridge. This temporary span is a fully functioning very nice new drawbridge. They figure its going to take until sometime in 2010 to have the old bridge rebuilt at which point they’ll tear down the temporary span. I wonder who’s paying for this crap.

The new bridge is big and modern and right behind it as you approach is the “classic” bridge being rebuilt. The new opening span has a channel that is probably a hundred feet wide, then sitting right behind it are the abutments of the old bridge with an advertised width of 79 feet. This came to our attention on our last night in Saint Augustine. A southbound tugboat was pushing a pair of barges that had been lashed together side by side. Picture a pair of big rusty hockey rinks. He called ahead to the bridge operator to inquire as to the width of the old bridge. The bridge operator told him it that the opening was 79 feet wide. The tugboat guy said “great, we’ll only need 76 feet”.

I said to myself “I gotta see this shit”. The guys only gonna have a foot and a half on either side of the barges, the current is ripping out against him and its dark.

We’re anchored right next to the bridge to the east of the channel so we’ve got front row seats. After about 10 minutes the tug came along pushing his dual barges. We watched as he slipped easily between the legs of the temporary bridge, got about ten feet into the old bridge and came to a grinding halt.
He was stuck, the tide was going out, so he started cranking out maximum power as he tried to wiggle and pull the barges back out of the opening. After a few minutes the tug succeeded in withdrawing the barges from the gap. Now he was going backwards, with the tide pushing him, in the dark and he had to spin the whole shebang around and go back the way he came.

Luckily for us the tidal flow pushed his bow towards us so he was forced to back up across the river into the anchorage where we tried to anchor when we first arrived. The tug combined with the 2 barges made up a giant hunk of floating steel. The guy was masterful as he pivoted his vessel practically right on top of the small boats anchored all around him. You could feel the tremendous power of the tugboat in the pit of your stomach as he used every bit of the horsepower available to him. He rocked the hell out of everybody on that side of the river but deftly averted what could have easily been a disaster.

As he headed off into the darkness he called the bridge operator and calmly said “I thought you said I had 79 feet?” The bridge operator said “that’s what it says up here”. That was it, I’d have been freaking out but the tug guy just said “I’ll be back in a bit”.

After 20 minutes he and his crew had reconfigured the barges and now they were lashed end to end with the tug pushing from the back of the stack. This time with plenty of room they slipped through the gap and disappeared into the night.

Sometimes it’s just better than television. After that we retired for the night because we have an early day tomorrow.

Monday, May 19, 2008

May 18, 2008.

We got up early and headed over to the fuel dock before they were open. We just wanted to pump out our holding tank and top off the water tank. So with those things accomplished we were headed south for the Fort Pierce Inlet.

Now, going south to go north may seem a little odd but I did some figurin’. Because of the shoals that extend out from Cape Canaveral, one lock to transit and a bridge with a 3 hour dinner time closing we decided to go further to get there quicker. So instead of motoring 55 miles up the ICW (which would suck on the weekend) to the Inlet at Cape Canaveral and then going out; we decided to backtrack 13 miles and go out the Fort Pierce Inlet. This would save us the time spent at the lock; we wouldn’t have to wait until after 1800 hours to have the bridge open and we wouldn’t have to do the ICW in Florida on a weekend.

We headed south and were out the inlet with the sails up and the engine off by 0930. The wind was supposed to be from the west at 5 to 10 knots. We found ourselves with 12 knots from the west and we were moving along at a little better than 6 knots, fantastic…..for 2 hours. Then the wind dropped to 3 knots and we were ghosting along at 1.7 knots.

It took us over 2 hours to cover the next 4 miles. Shit. There was no way I was willing to motor across 160 miles of open ocean. Just not doing it, no way. Fortunately that was the worst part of the day. The winds remained light for the rest of the day as we moved along at between 3 and 4 knots. When we hit 4 and a half knots it felt as if we were flying.

We had several squalls blow through and each one brought us a different wind. The biggest winds we saw were only 15 knots but they were from every direction. We even had to tack once without changing our course as the winds clocked abruptly around.

The AIS worked beautifully as we worked our way north. The day was hot and hazy. Visibility was deceptive. At first glance I was sure that visibility was unlimited but the AIS was telling me that there was a Disney cruise ship several hundred feet long 8 miles off our port bow. Since his course and speed were displayed on our chartplotter we knew that he would be crossing our bow at a safe distance. It was a little disconcerting that we couldn’t see him even though we knew he was there. We know all about 7 miles and the curve of the earth but he’s got to be pretty freakin’ tall so we should be able to see him. Finally when he was about 5 miles out and directly in front of us we saw him come looming out of the haze. The boat was entirely white against a white backdrop. He wasn’t just some speck on the horizon either. He was like 9 stories tall and big as hell moving along at 17 knots as he crossed our bow.

It wasn’t a close call or anything but it was a good lesson for us. Because the AIS told us he was there we weren’t shocked when he appeared out of nowhere on what we thought was a crystal clear day. Up until that moment we didn’t know how far we weren’t seeing. It looked like a clear day with unlimited visibility. With no frame of reference it was really was very deceiving.

We don’t really ever use the radar during daylight unless the weather is nasty because it uses so much power. We always have the radar on at night and all the power we expend at night is replenished during the following day by the solar panels. We may have to reexamine our policy on that.

Intermittently during the evening we had to start the engine as we became becalmed here and there. Finally after dark the wind started to build and we found ourselves close hauled in 15 knots of wind. We were moving along nicely and didn’t have to restart the engine until 1100 hours on Sunday morning when the wind died yet again.

Because of the lower than predicted wind speeds our arrival in Saint Augustine wasn’t until 1600 hours. All in all our trip ended up taking 33 hours to cover 180 miles with us running the engine for close to 9 of those 33 hours. It was maddening as our boat speed varied from 1.7 knots to finally 8 knots for the last 2 hours of our trip.

Of course the fun didn’t end with our safe arrival in port. When we got to the anchorage we found it to be moderately crowded. Unfortunately, when there are not many boats around people tend to take advantage of the situation. This guys got 150 feet out, that guys got 2 anchors out, this ones only got 75 feet out. It sucks if everyone’s not on the same page.

We dropped and set the hook and I lowered the dink and took the dogs to shore. When I got back I had a boat too close on either side of us. It was our fault as we had anchored between them not realizing that they both had a ridiculous amount of chain out. So we raised the anchor and picked a new spot.

After we drop and set the hook the guy on the boat behind us yelled to us that when the tide changed he almost reached the boat in front of us. Turned out he had 200 feet of rode out because he likes to “sleep” at night. So that meant that when the tide turned, he’d definitely hit us. Shit. On the bright side though that meant it would be easy for me to climb aboard his boat and shove about 120 feet of his chain right in his ass. While this point appealed to the sleep deprived part of me, what it boiled down too is that we had to haul the anchor yet again. Shit.

This time we hauled the anchor and crossed the channel to the other side of the river. Nobody ever anchors over there and I’m not sure why as it turns out to be plenty deep and we’re all alone on this side of the river. While tempted to lay out 200 cubits of chain to claim this entire part of the planet as ours we settled on 80 feet and slept just fine.

Friday, May 16, 2008

May 13, 2008.

Well, there’s big news. Ours friends on Packet Inn left this morning and later in the day Solitaire arrived in port bringing Nancy and Jim back into our lives. While that was nice, it’s not really the BIG news.

The big news is that the refrigeration guy was here this morning and it seems that our system was just low on refrigerant. The last time it was filled was 8 years ago so it may just be a slow leak (thinking positively). If it proves to be a quicker leak it may signal the purchase of a new refrigeration system in our immediate future. So after the technician was done I loaded him and all his stuff into the dink and took him over to the Hearts Desire as they were also having a problem with their fridge.

So with the refrigeration problems in the rearview mirror we’ve made a couple of trips into town hitting more stores than I remembered being here. We hit the local dive shop and we were able to pick up a pair of spear points. Now we’ll be ready to once again assume the role of hunter/gatherers when we get back to the Bahamas. After we bought shoes, shorts and a few reference books we felt ready to once again head back to the boat.

We've been here for about a week since I wrote the above. We’ve been to dinner with friends a few times. Enjoyed a few happy hours and received several things that we ordered in the mail including our new AIS receiver.

AIS (Automatic Identification System) is a technological miracle in a box. Its just a pair of tiny boxes that you wire to your VHF radio and your chartplotter. The AIS utilizes your VHF radio antenna to receive packets of information that large commercial ships are required to constantly transmit. This information includes the name of the vessel, his exact position, whether he's at anchor or underway, his speed, course and destination. The information comes in a burst transmission that takes a nano-second with no interruption in your VHF reception. It appears in text form on your chart plotters screen.

So the AIS “sees” a vessel by using your VHF antenna and displays him as a target on your chartplotter. So now if we see a large ship at night we can call him by name if the need arises. No more exchanges such as “large scary dumpster at approximate position blah, blah, blah please don’t run us over”.

When we crossed from the Bahamas, once again it was pitch dark with no moon. We were tracking up to 8 vessels on our radar trying to determine who was going where and how fast. With the new AIS at least 4 of those vessels would have been sending us their speed and heading info along with their name in the event we might have needed to contact them. AIS should take a lot of the stress out of traveling at night. It can also detect a ship behind an island, behind headlands or around the corner in an inlet, places where radar just can’t help.

Another big advantage is that since it uses VHF as its receiving medium we can see ships long before they’re visible on radar. Our radar is great but it can only see about 16 miles, the AIS can easily see twice that distance.

Its funny how you keep running into friends as you leap frog from place to place. In the last week we’ve said good bye to the crews from Packet Inn, Solitaire, Sapphire and Hearts Desire as they’ve individually left and started heading north. We’ll be underway tomorrow and had the chance to say so long to Scandia who just arrived in Vero this evening.

So we’ll hit the fuel dock in the morning to pump out our holding tank and top off the water tank. Our insurance policy forces us to be north of Savannah, Georgia before the June first beginning of hurricane season. So it’s out the Fort Pierce Inlet and pretty much north for 165 miles to Saint Augustine. If we stay inside and make the trip up the ICW it will take 4 days to get there. If we go outside on Saturday morning we should be there by noon or so on Sunday. Another plus is that by going outside we can still move north without dealing with the weekend ICW buffoons. After that we only have to make 2 jumps of 80 and 90 miles to reach South Carolina. So we should make the deadline and still have the ability to sit out bad weather. We’ll see how it works out………

Cruisers Dictionary entry:

Touron- It’s a combination of the words “tourist” and “moron”. Kind of self explanatory, very descriptive and yet not too vulgar. A delightful word.

Monday, May 12, 2008

May 8, 2008.

We’ve been here in Vero Beach for a few days now. In Lake Worth we were able to get the dogs into a different groomer on Tuesday instead of having to wait for Wednesday.

We dropped the dogs off at 0900 and walked back down to pick them up at 1400 hours. The difference in the dogs appearance was amazing. Before there appointment they were both hairy enough to be mistaken for Rastafarian's.

Now once again they look like respectable Schnauzers instead of Ringo and Einstein.

As soon as we picked up the dogs we beat it back to the boat where we stowed the dinghy and yanked the anchor. We were headed north to the anchorage at Peck Lake. Its only about 19 miles but we have to negotiate about 6 lift bridges. The first 4 are all on a schedule and we were able to travel fast enough to hit every bridge right at their scheduled opening times.
The last 2 were “open on request” so it all worked out well and we dropped the hook in Peck Lake with plenty of time to walk the beach and do some shelling before sunset.

We heard from our friends Mary and Gary on Packet Inn. They had headed back to the states when we turned east for Eleuthera. So by this time we expected that they’d be back home in the Carolinas. We were pleased to find out they were still in Vero Beach.

So the next morning we left Peck Lake at 0700 and motored the forty miles to Vero Beach. It was a quick day as we caught a favorable tidal push for much of the day. When we arrived we hit the fuel dock for 34 gallons of diesel and over a hundred gallons of water. Then it was out to a mooring ball for a reunion with our friends from the Packet Inn.

Since we’ve been here we’ve ridden the free bus and done some shopping. Tomorrow we have a refrigeration guy coming to the boat as our freezer is not getting cold enough. I think it’s just that the Freon needs to be recharged but we’ll find out tomorrow.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

May 4, 2008.

The first thing we did after arriving in the north anchorage at Lake Worth was take the dogs ashore. The second thing we did was hit the sack for 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep. It was blissful.

Since then we’ve made the appointment for the dogs grooming which isn’t until Wednesday. It’ll semi suck to be here until Wednesday, this isn’t my favorite place but things could be worse.

We went to the grocery store for a few small things and found ourselves overwhelmed by everything available to us. There was so much to choose from, so many colors to see, it really was strange to just see so much at once.

Today we hit the local CVS, a West Marine and made plans for an eye exam for Christy. Her prescription seems to have changed so as long as we’ll be sitting here anyway she might as well get new glasses.

Oh, and most importantly, all of the Publix grocery stores have these giant scales near the entrance to all of their stores. Every time I go food shopping I always hop on the scale and when we went to the store the other day I found that I had lost 13 pounds while we’ve been in the Bahamas. So I immediately went in and bought ice cream, I’d be fine with 12 pounds.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

May 3, 2008.

We spent more than a week in the beautiful anchorage near Devil Cay. The shelling and spear fishing have been spectacular. The weather forecast had been pointing to a weather window that would enable us to cross back to the states starting on Thursday.

So we decided to hit the water one more time to gather a few fish. We ended up drifting the cut 4 times successfully spearing a fish on each drift. We ended up with 2 nice grouper and 2 good sized triggerfish.

Before we get underway for the states we have 2 chores to take care of. The last time we did an overnight passage in the ocean we found that our bow light wasn’t working. This left me to repair it while underway in the dark. I was not eager to have a repeat performance so I had to check all our navigation lights before we departed. As luck would have it the bow light was again full of corrosion. So after a quick cleaning with some sandpaper the full compliment of ships lighting was once again working.

The next project was a little bigger. The bottom paint that we’ve always used with great success has failed us miserably this year. At least once a month I have to don my snorkel and jump in with scraper and scrub brush in hand to clean the entire bottom one breath at a time.

I was about a quarter of the way done when Tom from Hearts Desire came over and offered me the use of his Hookah system. The Hookah system is a small 12 volt compressor that continuously provides breathing air to a scuba regulator. It comes with 50 feet of hose, so you just plug it in, submerge and take care of the entire job. The Hookah enabled me to do a really good job and I was sure that Veranda would be as fast as she was the day she was launched with fresh bottom paint. There’s definitely a Hookah system in our future.

The weather report had remained pretty consistent for 3 days and Thursday was still a go. During the planning of this passage I figured if we sailed at 5 knots we would need about 17 hours to make it to the eastern edge of the gulf stream. Since we’d like to cross the stream during daylight hours that meant we should be underway by 1100 hours on Thursday. When all was said and done, leaving at 1100 we should arrive at the edge of the stream at around 0500 on Friday then ride the stream to Lake Worth by noon.

The 2 biggest reasons we’ve decided to return to Lake Worth are the accessibility of US Customs and a decent dog groomer. The deal with customs is that if you arrive on a weekday there’s an office within walking distance. But God forbid you arrive on the weekend, in that case you have to go to the airport to clear back into the country. We’ve heard from more than a few people who had to make the airport journey and the cab fare has been consistently around 75 dollars. So a Friday arrival is important to us.

We were a bit anxious to get started so we were up and underway by 1045. The wind had been cranking from the northeast for 2 days but was supposed to diminish a bit and come more from the east as the day went on. The bad thing about that northeast wind was that it had built up a pretty big swell.

This meant that as we traverse the cut we were pretty much gonna be beating into it. The channel to the cut had our beam to the seas as they crashed over the reef which gave us a horrible side to side roll in spite of our reefed mainsail being up. Finally we got to turn towards the cut and found ourselves pounding through one breaker after another. We were only able to make about 3 knots for 15 minutes as we drove through the angry sea.

Finally we could turn a bit to the north which gave us a little better ride. After a half hour we had cleared the reef and were able to turn north-northwest. After rolling out most of the genoa we killed the engine and found ourselves doing 7 1/2 knots. The ride was fairly rough with Veranda climbing over 8 foot seas with the occasional wave breaking across the foredeck.

After about 8 miles we turned another 30 degrees to port. Now the northeast swell was hitting us dead on the beam. It would have been really miserable if there hadn’t been enough wind to keep the sails full and the boat driving through the water. After yet another 8 miles we were able to turn more to the west and this resulted in the wind and seas both coming at us from our starboard quarter. This made the ride a lot more doable as we alternated between surfing the waves and then having some break all around the boat as we sailed out of the foam.

We would end up maintaining this heading for over 60 miles. Because the winds were 16 to 23 knots we were making great time. In fact, too great. If this kept up we’d arrive at the Gulf Stream by 0200.

As night fell we turned on our nav lights and guess what? That’s right the bow light was out. Shit, shit, shit. I went forward and took it apart and everything looked as it should. I got some sandpaper and recleaned everything, to no avail. Shit. Next I got out my multi meter and started checking connections. I found that the wire that is supposed to power the fixture had broken where it came out of the bowrail. Shit. While I was pulling the light bulb out of the fixture we were hit by a larger than average wave and I must have tensed up because I broke the bulb between my thumb and forefinger. I wouldn’t have even noticed except for all the blood. Shit.

I make my way back to the safety of the cockpit while Christy got me a Band-Aid. I couldn’t replace that wire in those conditions so we were pretty much resigned to being unlit for the remainder of the night.

We had a few things going for us. First, we keep a good watch and actively avoid any shipping we come across. Second, our radar is a stud. Third, we also have the well lit Hearts Desire only 200 yards behind us so anything that tries to avoid them will be unknowingly avoiding us as well.

Then in a moment of divine inspiration I realized that we have an extra bow light for the dinghy on board. It’s battery powered, but it’ll do in a pinch. Christy dug it out and put in fresh batteries, I took it forward and use some electrical tape to tape it to the flat surface of one of our spare anchors. Once it was in place I turned it on and viola, we’re visible. I did have to change the batteries twice during the night, but I was happy to do it.

A quick safety disclaimer: Whenever we make any type of passage we run jacklines down both sides of the boat from bow to stern. I can clip my safety harness to the jackline before I leave the cockpit and scamper my way to the bow in relative safety. Yes, I can still scamper, it’s another one of my Scaredshitlessman special powers.

Once we reached the Gulf Stream the winds started to abate. The seas were much smaller but now a bit confused and without the wind to keep the sails full we were rolling and the sails were flopping. We were able to adjust this and trim that, just to stay sane, and the wind picked up a bit so we were able to continue sailing. Finally, with about 10 miles to go we had to roll in the genoa and start the engine and motorsail into the inlet.

The conditions in the inlet were ridiculous. Huge breaking waves and a small breeze at our backs with the tide running hard out to meet us. Normally we would have been pretty freaked out but we were just damned happy to approach an inlet that had channel markers. The rough water was finally over and we were soon anchored just inside on the south side of the inlet.

Our trip covered 153 miles in just under 24 hours. We only had to run the engine for a total of 2 hours of that entire time. Even though it was rougher than we would have liked, it was still a great sail.

Now all we had to do is clear in at Customs and Immigration before the end of the day and we were all set. Before we left the country we applied for and received a decal for the boat from the Department of Homeland Security. We were supposed to call a phone number and read them our decal number, this should have enabled us to clear customs over the phone and would allow us to report to immigration within 24 hours. At least that was our understanding.

I called the number that was on the paperwork that came to us with our decal. The woman said that even after the call we still had to report to customs. I then asked “then what does the decal actually do?”. She replied that the decal just gets the ball rolling. Okay, Buh-bye. I understand that the ball is now rolling but since she never asked me my name or for my decal number, where the hell is it rolling too? So we hopped in the dink and headed into the marina where they charged us 10 bucks for the privilege of tying up to walk over to customs.

At the building that houses Customs and Immigration we received a cordial welcome and breezed through security and the metal detector. I did have a Washington, DC flashback but got through security unscathed.

I approached the glass partition and informed the customs officer that we would like to check back into the country. He asked for my number and as I gave him my decal number he started to have a mini stroke. He went from being indifferent to being a mondo asshole in a flash. He angrily told us we were supposed to call in and get a clearance number before we got off the boat. I told him that we did call and the woman really wasn’t much help. He barked at us “What number did you call?” I told him the one that accompanied our sticker. His reply was that we were supposed to call the 800 number to get a clearance number. Who does he think I am, Kreskin? How was I supposed to know there was an 800 number?

By this time we’d been up for over 30 hours so Christy might have been a tad cranky. With gusto she jumped right into what, up until now, had just been a misunderstanding. She gets to the heart of the matter right away. “If the 800 number is so important why don’t they send that number along with the decal in the first place?” She’s right, and that makes sense, but remember that we’re dealing with the government here. Now the guy was really bitching at us about how if we were in a foreign country we’d be in jail already, how he could have our boat impounded, etc. He did not like Christy one bit and asked her if she expected him to give us permission to break the law….? Whatever…. She muttered something under her breath and I gave her the “eye”. After I managed to pry her off the plexi-glass divider he slid a paper out for me to fill out. It was a pretty mundane form that really doesn’t ask anything. I gave it back to him along with our passports and after ten minutes we were officially back in the United States. Geeez, that guy definitely forgot to take his happy pills that day. We just wished that they would have the same enthusiasm for their jobs when dealing (or not dealing) with the millions of illegal aliens that pour into this country every day, we are freaking US citizens, trying to do the right thing. Question, we did not have to check out of the country, why do we have to check back in? To top it all off when I checked our passports they weren't even stamped. WTH?

As we were leaving I asked him where the Immigration office was and he said that he does all that as well, so we were completely done. It’s a good thing too, because we needed to get back to the boat before the Haitians we smuggled in get into our multiple kilos of cocaine and start playing around with the dirty bomb we’ve been building. He never asked……

As soon as we were back to the boat we once again weighed anchor and motored the 4 miles to a more protected anchorage where we’ll stay until the dogs are more presentable.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

April 26, 2008.

We were faced with the decision of whether we should go north to the Abacos or head west to the Berry Island group. Our original plan called for a trip through the Abacos on our way home to the states. We talked to several experienced cruisers and the split was about fifty-fifty to do the Abacos or to skip them.

We were still on the fence until we talked to our friend Gary who was “very” partial to skipping the Abacos all together. He just felt after having been down the Exuma chain to the Ragged Islands we would be disappointed in the crowds we might run into. He even called it “East Florida”.

Conversely, the Berries are pretty desolate in spite of their location. There’s not much deep water, very few facilities and the number of inviting anchorages is limited, so most people avoid them. We’ve decided that we would really enjoy a few more days of isolation before we get back to the states, so we’re heading to the Berries.

We had a run of 50 miles to get from Royal Island to Devils Cay in the Berries. The wind was supposed to be 9 to 12 knots from the north-north east. The direction was correct but the winds strength was a little higher at about 16 knots. So we ended up with a fabulous sail while dodging several squalls in route. Previously, the wind had been strong from the northwest for several days and the seas were fairly large. We were also crossing the Northwest Provincial Channel which is thousands of feet deep and has a north bound current like the Gulf Stream. So we had big seas, a northbound current which was opposed by the wind, so it was a little rough. It was nothing we or the boat couldn’t handle but we were exhausted from holding on all day.

When we got to the cut at Devils Cay it proved to be a little scary. We had the tide ebbing against us with a substantial breeze driving us towards the shore. The charts and GPS showed the same thing but looking at it from offshore it was very disorienting. There are several small cays in 2 parallel rows, in some places you can see the gaps, then in other places 2 islands will overlap and appear as one and you can’t see the gap that you feel ought to be there. We hate that.

There are a number of reefs running outside along the shore so you either do it right the first time or you’ll wish like hell you had. When the chart said we were in the right place we committed ourselves to entering and it was quite a while before it became apparent that in fact, we had chosen the right gap to enter. Once inside you have to make a ninety degree turn to starboard and after 200 yards another hard turn, but this time to port. We hunted around a bit and finally dropped our anchor in 12 feet of water.

That was a couple of days ago. We’ve been comfortably anchored here and can’t believe our good fortune. The Berries rock. Once again we have beaches to ourselves, hell we have islands to ourselves. That fifty-fifty decision definitely went our way.

Christy has been doing a lot of shelling during our trip to the Bahamas. The quality, number and size of the shells here rival anything we’ve previously seen.

Yesterday we took the dinghy down to the lee of the next cay to do a little spear fishing. We anchored the dink at about the midpoint of the cay. We swam south and after a while we spotted and speared a decent sized grouper. It was about a quarter mile swim back to the dink with our fish, once there we plopped the fish into a bucket and swam north leaving the dinghy where it was.

Christy was lagging behind as she was doing a little underwater shelling while I hunted ahead of her. I turned a corner and saw a huge Barracuda passing in front of me about 40 feet away. Barracuda are very sinister looking but seem to be opportunists, often taking fish struggling on an anglers hook. We see them all the time while we’re in the water. They usually don’t seem to pay us any mind and we pay attention as they swim past and watch them until they fade from view.

This one was different though. I saw him first but as soon as he saw me he did a quick 90 degree turn and charged straight at me at warp speed. I barely had time to shit myself. He stopped 8 feet away and repeatedly opened and closed his jaws, exposing a mouthful of razor sharp teeth. I raised my spear out of the water and smacked it down on the surface in order to scare him away. He turned and bolted 20 feet away, turned on a dime and sped right back gnashing his teeth. We did this little dance several times as I backpedaled the way I came. In the meantime Christy had caught up with me and we both withdrew from this obviously agitated Barracuda.

Once away from the Barracuda we started hunting again. Christy spotted what turned out to a huge grouper. When we got closer it became apparent that there were 2 large grouper hovering over a small cave in the bottom. They immediately turned rabbit and dove into their hole. It became obvious that we still had a good chance at taking one of them though. They kept coming just to the entrance of the cave to peek out to see if we were still there. It seemed as if a face shot would surely present itself.

Christy didn’t want me to shoot one of them and then have to swim several hundred yards trailing blood to the dinghy while that agitated Barracuda was still in the neighborhood. She said that she’d swim back to the dinghy while I waited and once she brought the dink close by I could take the shot. Excellent plan.

So now I was floating just out of the vision of the 2 grouper hiding in their cave. While I was waiting I saw that there was also a pair of very poisonous lion fish in the hole as well. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a movement in the haze. It was too big to be the Barracuda so I had a moment of relief until I realized that it was a bigass shark. He was probably drawn in by the blood of the grouper I took a half hour ago. He was acting mondo active as he darted here and there hunting for whatever was bleeding. He came way too close to me a few times, as he circled around me.

Then the stars just all lined up for me. I slapped the water with my spear driving the shark away just as Christy pulled up in the dinghy and the smaller of the 2 grouper stuck his face out of his hole. I quickly shot him in the face, pinning him to the sea floor just inside his cave. I left him pinned to the bottom while I nimbly jumped from the water to the safety of the dinghy.

Christy then told me that she had to swim all the way back to the dinghy while looking behind her as the Barracuda escorted her all the way. I saw her Barracuda and raised her a bigass shark. While she kept watch for the shark I jumped in, ripped the grouper from his hole, horsed him into the dink at the end of my spear and jumped back into the dinghy. The other day we were like ninjas and today I was like a superhero, Scaredshitlessman, able to leap into tall dinghies in a single bound.

Soon the shark was back and he brought a slightly smaller buddy, so then there were 2 sharks circling the dinghy looking for dinner. Christy said that the bigger of the sharks “doesn’t look that big” so she decided to put on her mask and hang upside down from the dinghy to get a better peek.

Fine with me, I already saw him. She ducked her head under, came right back up and said “holy crap, that’s like a Great White”. While it wasn’t a Great White, it was a pretty intimidating shark. We spent several minutes with her hanging upside down; watching as the sharks actively swam around us.

As a result of yesterday’s excellent fishing we decided to spend today shelling and it’s safer. First we headed south to the ocean side of Devils’ Cay which yielded a ton of beautiful shells. Christy was heard giggling out loud several times. After a quick lunch back at the boat we headed north to Hoffman Cay to hit the ocean side beach there as well. It’s hard to believe that these 2 beaches are only 2 miles apart. This beach was essentially picked clean, yet there wasn’t a footprint to be found. We walked for a couple of hours and only found a few collectable shells. Christy was a little disappointed but all in all, it’s still been a banner day.

On our way home we were pretty hot from having spent all day walking the beaches and since we had our snorkeling gear in the dink we decided to jump in. We saw a little of this and a little of that but nothing spectacular so after we were refreshed we climbed back into the dink and headed home.

Since our boat is anchored close to the cut we decided to drift dive the cut. Christy decided that she didn’t really want to get back in but she offered to follow me in the dinghy as I drifted through the cut. Once in the water I realized that the tide had changed and was now flowing out rather than in, towards the boat. Swimming as hard as I could, I couldn’t make anything but nominal headway. I had Christy drop me a line and had her tow me in towards the big boat. Being towed 30 feet behind the dinghy like that is an awesome experience, especially in deep, clear water. The water was twenty feet deep and visibility was excellent, probably 80 feet.

I was just thinking to myself that I was beginning to feel like a 200 pound fishing lure when I spied a big grouper gliding along the bottom. I released the line and dove down only a half second too late as the grouper dove into his hole. While I was ascending to the surface I saw another large grouper and more importantly I saw what had to be his cave. So instead of diving at him, I went for the entrance to his cave. We arrived at the same time and I was just able to spear him as he dove for the safety of his lair. This time while on the way up I was looking around and realized that there were several more large grouper hanging all about. Grouper City. Once at the surface, Christy was right there with the dink, so it was back to the boat with some fresh fish for dinner.

Friday, May 2, 2008

April 23, 2008.

Since the last time I’ve written we’ve successfully negotiated Current Cut. We were able to sail from the anchorage and hit the Cut just as the current started to ebb for us. There was a boat about 10 minutes ahead of us and they called back to say that the tidal flow had changed and they were getting a boost of about a knot as they ran through the cut. When we got there our boost was just over a knot and a half and the boat 6 minutes behind us had a 2 knot push. So it was pretty obvious that once the current turns it really starts to build quickly.

After the cut we had a nice sail to the town of Spanish Wells located on Saint Georges Cay. The people on Saint Georges Cay can trace their ancestors back to the Puritans of England. Saint Georges Cay was settled right after the Puritans settled in Plymouth Massachusetts. Since their roots are based in the Puritan religion, the island is dry and has no blacks.

I guess the Puritans were non-drinkers and as a result, to this day there are no bars, package goods or alcohol served in any eatery on the island. So naturally we ate at home. They do however run a water taxi straight across to a package goods store 5 minutes away on North Eleuthera, so there’s hope for these people.

The Puritans did not believe in slavery so as a result no slaves were ever kept on the island. So when the slaves were finally freed there were none here to be freed. Only a very few blacks live here on the island, while there are black workers here, they ride the ferry over from North Eleuthera and then take it home again at the end of the day.

The people here are a little left of “normal”. They speak a language all their own, it kind of reminds me of an angry South African. It’s kind of like Tangier Island in the Chesapeake. You really have to pay attention or you won’t have any idea of what’s being said. One of the first conversations with one of the locals was very revealing. He brought up the fact that there were no blacks but wanted us to realize that they weren’t racists; it was just that they didn’t have any blacks. Okay, if you say so.

He also mentioned that they weren’t inbred in spite of the disproportionate number of dwarfs in the islands population. Most of the population is divvied up between 9 surnames. I hadn’t yet seen a dwarf but then again up until this conversation I wasn’t really looking. Now I’m looking at all the garden gnomes twice. He wanted us to be sure to realize that when a DNA examination of some of the original settler’s remains was conducted it proved that the “dwarf gene” had come to the island with them and not as a result of the years of isolation.

The homes here are better kept than anywhere we’ve been to in the Bahamas. Every house is a vivid combination of colors and all of them have functional storm shutters. The fishing fleet here supplies half of all the fish and lobster consumed in the Bahamas. The boats are clean, modern and kept in good repair. It seems that they go fishing for a month or more at a time, then take a month off before heading out again. The price of lobster this past season was about 15 dollars a pound. Some of these guys are bringing in 15,000 pounds of lobster at the end of their month. So I guess they have the money to keep their boats and town looking so good.

While we were there we were invited to the home of a couple of Americans who keep a home in Spanish Wells. They come down here on their boat, anchor it and then spend the winter in their home here before heading back to the states for the summer. It’s become their custom to invite any cruisers that stop in to spend an evening here with them. It was an interesting night and a lot of fun as 8 of us invaded their home for the evening.

After spending 2 nights in Spanish Wells we decided to move about 3 miles to a small cluster of uninhabited cays called Meeks Patch. Once there we jumped in the dink and went ashore just in time to meet the caretaker for the newly purchased cays.

Talk about a total asshole. We no sooner got out of the dinghy then he and his assistant pulled up in their boat to hang “No Trespassing” signs all over the island. He was nasty right from the get go. All he could say was “you gotta get off the island’ again and again. By the tone of his voice I thought there was a problem, like the island was radioactive or something until I realized that his people skills had been inbred out of him.

So I asked him if I could take the dogs over to the next tiny cay 100 yards away. He practically shrieked “no, no I’m on my way there next to hang more signs”. Evidently a bigshot lawyer in Spanish Wells bought these little islands and this guy is in charge of keeping people away. So once the dogs finished their business we took them back out to the boat. We spent the rest of the day snorkeling around the cays.

The next day we were up and underway for Royal Island Harbor. Its only 5 miles from Meeks Patch so we were there by 0900. The water in the harbor is crystal clear so we decided to do some snorkeling. We saw dozens of undersized Grouper, loads of Lionfish, a small lobster and our first Bahamanian octopus among other sea life. Not your typical harbor.

Royal Island was once owned by a very rich family. There were several buildings including a windmill, the guy even had a train even though the island is less than 2 miles long. The estate was abandoned in the 1930’s and the ruins are still standing and waiting to be explored. The catch is that this island is also private and in the process of being turned into an exclusive resort. There are surveyors and heavy equipment working all over the island and signs posted about private property blah, blah, blah.

So we can’t go ashore here either unless of course we wait until the construction crews leave for the day. Then we just have to dodge a few security guards and we’ll do a little undercover island tour. Isn’t this where “forgive those who trespass against us” comes in?

Another couple obviously has the same idea and we wait while they go ashore before us. We follow shortly after them figuring that while security is wrestling with them we can sneak past, walk around, take a few pictures, poop the dogs and slip away. The remains of the main home are at the top of a long flight of stairs overlooking the harbor and beyond.

We landed our dinghy at the abandoned concrete dock and crept ashore. Christy took the camera and cautiously climbed the stairs while I pooped the dogs before walking up a small overgrown cement lane that ran from the top of the hill down to the waters edge. Not a minute after rendezvousing in the ruins we heard a vehicle pull up and then voices just on the other side of a building.

So like good ninjas we vanished into thin air. Even the dogs were quiet as we slipped away. We headed off to explore a different area since we now knew where security was. After about 15 minutes we retraced our steps and were standing in the homes outside patio/bar when the other couple came around a corner.

They said that a couple of security guys stopped them and didn’t care that they were there. They just asked that you don’t touch anything and that you’re careful so you don’t bust your ass on their property. While the covert tour was cool the unlimited access tour was to be better.

The stone walls on most of the building were 2 feet thick. The stonework still looks decent while most of the wood parts of the structures were dilapidated. The main house seemed to be just bedrooms with a large bathroom. The bathtub was carved from a solid block of stone and there was a fireplace in the room. The outside walkways and all the indoor floors are covered in tile throughout the complex. There was a building that was just a huge kitchen and cliff side veranda with a view to die for.

Since we were pretty much allowed to be on the island we decided to walk most of it. We walked out in the open right down the roads and never ran into the security guys anywhere. But it’s still good to keep your ninja skills sharp.