Thursday, December 31, 2009

Public Service Announcement

Christy has developed some pretty good lobster cleaning skills. If you picture the tail of a Spiny Lobster as if it’s a huge shrimp tail you can visualize what I’m talking about.

When you clean shrimp you have to de-vein the shrimp. What you’re actually removing is the digestive tract of the shrimp. On a lobster this section of digestive system can be more than a quarter of an inch in diameter. That’s a pretty big tube of shit so we remove it before we cook the tail.

Christy has refined a technique to make the removal simple without butchering the tail. She breaks off one of the antennas and snaps off the wimpy end. Then she takes the antenna and shoves the smaller end into the lobster’s anus. She spins the antenna as she shoves it in and the intestines catche on the prickers on the antenna. It either shoves the digestive tract out the front or it becomes wrapped around the antenna and comes out in its entirety when the antenna is withdrawn.

I’m glad I’m not a lobster.
December 30, 2009.

We’re safely anchored at Sand Dollar Beach. We’re here much earlier than we’ve ever been here. Sand Dollar is typically the least crowded of all the anchorages here in Georgetown. Last year when we were here there were about 40 boats at Sand Dollar. This year when we arrived there were just 4. Georgetown’s really not such a bad place when you’ve got the place pretty much to yourself.

On Tuesday Christy and I took the dinghy over to town. We had to make a few stops in town including the grocery store and the internet café. After heading back to the boat for some lunch we decided to take the dogs in to the beach.

This was actually a pretty big deal for them. When Christy and I sat down to think about it we realized that the dogs have not been to shore since we were in Annapolis, Maryland. So we took em’ to shore and let them run through the trails and to the top of the biggest hill in the Exumas. We milled about at the top for a while enjoying the view and then headed back down to the beach.

Christy is determined to get the dogs to enjoy the water. As soon as we got back down to the beach both dogs ran to the nearest dink and tried to clamber aboard. We had to convince them that we weren’t headed home yet and we could play on the beach for a while. They ran until they were exhausted and finally both of them did end up swimming for a bit.
December 28, 2009.

Yesterday morning we were up and in the dinghy to say our goodbyes and drop off some books to several boats in the anchorage. Sapphire and Fine Lion will be heading down the west side of Great Exuma to the Jumentos while Solitaire will be following our route through Great Exuma and Long Island in a week or so.

We got back to the boat, raised the dink and sailed off the hook at 1000 hours. We had a pleasant close reach at better than 5 knots for close to 20 miles. We finally had to drop sail to motor the last 2 miles into the anchorage at Galliot Cut. We dropped the hook in 12 feet of crystal clear water.

This morning we were up and after listening to Chris Parkers weather forecast at 0630 we headed out for Georgetown. We were on a falling tide so we were sucked out into Exuma Sound at better than 8 knots. The wind was out of the north northwest at about 8 knots so we sailed slowly towards our destination.

It was a lovely day of sailing along at 4 knots with a large northerly swell running under us from behind. It was actually quite lovely in spite of the fact that we were constantly watching the swells bashing onto the windward shore of every cay as we headed south.

The swells we were riding were huge but of no consequence to us out in deep water. I couldn’t help but wonder what type of conditions awaited us at the Conch Cay Cut which is the entrance to Elizabeth Harbor, the waters of Georgetown.

When we arrived at the entrance to the harbor we were dismayed to find that the swell was wreaking havoc across the channel. You have to head in through a gap in the reef and then turn hard to port with the breakers on one side and a submerged reef on the other for a half mile before turning onto a more comfortable course.

We arrived at the end of a rising tide. Combine that high tide with a huge swell and the waves were just blasting across the reef unencumbered. Where we should have been safe behind the reef we found ourselves with our beam to a very rolly sea. It was only 10 minutes but it was like 10 minutes getting beaten with a baseball bat rather than 10 minutes having your feet rubbed. Huge difference.

We thought that it sucked for us until we heard the news in the harbor. It seemed that yesterday morning 3 local guys headed out for some fishing and on their way back in through the reef their small boat flipped resulting in the loss of 2 lives. Then, today a dinghy flipped, although all aboard were saved. Just after we came in another sailboat had to be led through the breakers to safety.

It was such a beautiful day of light air sailing it was hard to believe just how rough the water was at the entrance to the harbor. We even had to use the newly modified (repaired) Boat Pole of Speed™. I don’t remember if I wrote that I broke the Boat Pole of Speed when I got caught with it up, in to much wind. I repaired it by duct taping our old boat hook to it, to stiffen it up. Once again it worked like a charm.

Today was a day of light air. Tomorrow actually looks better for sailing the route we traversed today but by tomorrow the swell will be really fearsome. We had debated whether to go today or wait for the day with better sailing potential. I’m not really sure why we went today but thank God we did…….We ended up with a pleasant days sail and feel fortunate to have gotten into the anchorage as easily as we did.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

December 26, 2009.

Low tide was first thing this morning so that meant that it was garbage burning day. I took our burnables and headed in to a nearby beach. I dug a small pit just above the low water mark and lined it with gathered sticks and topped it with our garbage. Once the pile was really burning, I walked the beach gathering all the bits and pieces of flotsam that had washed ashore and added it to the flames.

The reason I burn everything at low tide is that once the fire has completely reduced everything to ash, the tide comes in and by tomorrow there will be no evidence of me ever having been there. Except now the beach is a bit cleaner than it was before I got there.

By the time I got back to the boat Christy was standing in the cockpit with her bathing suit on, ready to head out for some hunting. Since we had an incoming tide so we headed out through the nearest cut, got in the water and just drifted in with the tide.

The water here is so clear that depth perception can be a bit of a problem. We were drifting over a section of sea fans and assorted other plant life when all of a sudden the bottom just dropped away. We were in 20 feet of water and instantly the bottom dropped away to what appeared to be 30 or 40 feet below us. Just past the lip of the drop off was a large school of big fish.

With the current pushing us along there was no time for debate so I cocked my spear and dove down. As I approached the fish they only lackadaisically started to swim away. I realized that I had a pretty good chance at getting close enough to one of these 3 foot long fish to nail one. Then the second realization kicked in…..I had been swimming downward for a while. I was only a dozen feet behind the fish when I realized that I was still 30 or 40 feet from the bottom. When I looked up I found myself 40 feet or more below the surface. Ut oh.

I gave up my quest and swam hard for the surface. It turned out that we’d crossed a blue hole and the water was a lot deeper than it appeared to be.

Right after that we were blasting along when I spotted an antenna, a lobster. I turned around and swam against the current as hard as I could just to stay above the lobster’s hiding place. Christy climbed into the dinghy as she was swept away. Once aboard she started the engine and headed back upstream of me and dropped the dinghies anchor. The dinghy settled back on its hook right over the lobster’s lair.

It was about then that I realized just how deep that section of water was. Christ, it was becoming a recurring theme for the day. Our anchor rode on the dink is 50 feet long and while it wasn’t straight up and down, there wasn’t that much angle to it. The hook was caught nicely in some rocks in about 35 feet of water. Crap. The current was pretty strong, the water was way deeper than I realized and the lobster was just sitting there under a ledge. Shit.

I made a few attempts but the current was so strong I only succeeded in scaring the lobster deeper under his ledge. Crap. Finally, after holding onto the dink to rest a bit, I used the anchor rode to pull myself along as I swam down. This left me a little up current from the ledge. When I let go of the rode I was swept towards the ledge and I looked under and was surprised to see 2 lobsters staring back at me. I quickly shot the larger of the 2 and ripped him from his hiding place. I surfaced just in time to grab the aft end of the dinghy as I was pushed along by the current.

I’d had enough. We had another 4 pounder and while the second lobster was a decent one, I was at the edge of my comfort zone. The combination of the depth, coupled with the current was just too much. Christy pulled the hook and we continued our drift. We gathered a few conch that we ended up giving away to friends. By the time we climbed back into the dinghy we estimated that we drifted close to 2 miles.

After going back to the boat for lunch we headed over to the Thunderball Grotto (from the James Bond flick) with our friend Nancy for a little more snorkeling. It’s been quite a day.
December 25, 2009.

Happy Birthday Ashlee.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been a very good boy and Santa was especially good to me. I have to be extra good because Santa has to go way out of his way to find us, as we’re never where we were last year.

We decided to spend Christmas here in Big Majors Spot with Fine Lion, Solitaire and Sapphire. A feast was planned with everyone preparing and bringing part of the meal over to Fine Lion.

On Christmas morning after exchanging gifts Christy and I hit the water and harvested a nice grouper before heading home to prepare our part of the meal. After a few hours we headed over to Fine Lion with Maple Glazed Carrots, Christy’s Bahamian Mac & Cheese and Apple Dumplings for dessert.

The evening was a lot of fun and full of funny observations. That is until everyone finished eating. Then everyone kinda quieted down and just sat there. It’s the first time I’ve ever been to a meal where EVERYONE overate to the point of immobility. Oh look, there’s raspberry cheesecake and apple dumplings for dessert, okay one more plate.

After dinner the scraps were thrown to a school of remoras that have been regular visitors here in the anchorage. They were full when they went home as well.
December 23, 2009.

From what we’ve seen on the internet there’s been a bit of horrendous weather all along the eastern seaboard of the US including several severe snowstorms in the northeast. While we haven’t had to worry about shoveling any sidewalks we also have had a bit of foul weather.

We had run to Pipe Creek to hide from some prolonged westerlies. Once the wind shifted back to the northeast we left our protected hiding spot and headed back down the 5 miles south to Big Majors Spot.

We arrived Tuesday morning before 1000. We dropped and set the hook among a dozen other boats including our friends on Sapphire, Solitaire and Fine Lion. We headed into town to hit the grocery store for some bread and fresh vegetables. We also stopped in to take care of some internet at the local pub. We left just in time to beat the rain as we raced home.

The wind and rain have settled in and look to be staying for several days.
We spent all of today reading in the cockpit while the wind blew between 20 and 35 knots for the entire day. We’re snuggled up against the shoreline and things are very comfortable although it looks as if these will be the conditions for a few more days. But, as my Mother used to say “at least its not god damned snow”.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

December 19, 2009.

Happy Birthday Big Al.

The worst of the front has passed and we’re relieved to see it go. Even though we had ample time to adequately prepare there’s still a feeling of apprehension as you await bad weathers arrival.

Prior to our arrival here in Pipe Creek I had three different spots in my minds eye that I deemed appropriate to drop the hook. There was nobody in any of my imagined spots so we were able to claim our first choice. As other boats showed up and my second and third choices were claimed by others it caused me to wonder if I had made the right choice. I know it’s silly, its just that sometimes to much time can be just as bad as not enough time. It ended up that any of the 3 choices would have been okay. The wind blew, some rain fell and down inside the boat we didn't even feel the storm.

The wind did blow between 20 and 30 knots for better than a day. The bulk of the squalls skirted us off to the north. We were treated to a wonderful lightning show off in the distance. The worst gusts we saw were 37 knots. So, all in all things worked out pretty well.

We ended up not leaving the boat for 2 days during the height of the blow. Christy used the opportunity to decorate our Christmas tree and read a few books. I alternated my time between reading, eating and eating some more.

I NEED to get back in the water and swim off some of these bad weather calories…..

Saturday, December 19, 2009

December 17, 2009.

They say that cruising is just making boat repairs in exotic locations. If that’s the case then yes, we are in fact cruising.

A couple of nights ago the wind generator started acting a little hinkey. The electrical output was intermittent even though the blades were spinning. We have this big blow coming and the last thing I want is for the wind generator to start acting like an angry girlfriend, you know, stop putting out altogether.

I wasn’t sure if it was the unit itself or the regulator that controls the whole shebang that might be the problem. On Wednesday evening I disconnected the wind genny from the controller and wired it straight to the batteries. Nothing, no output.

So this morning after listening to the weather forecast I climbed up on the radar arch and removed the wind generator which is a lot easier said than done. I laid it on the mother-in-law seat and started disassembly. I found nothing wrong except some excessive carbon buildup between the brushes and the slip rings. With the aid of the Dremel I soon had everything spotless once again. After reconnecting the wires and remounting the unit I was very happy to once again see some amps pouring into the batteries. Bring on that excessive wind……

After that it was time to deploy a second anchor. We’re carrying 4 big anchors and we’ve got a pretty big blow coming so it would be kind of silly not to get another one wet. It went well and now we’ve got 2 down, both with kellets adding to their ability to grip the planet.

After lunch we headed out to find some lobster. We were able to grab a pair of 4 pounders. We had to be back early as there was a meet and greet at the Pipe Creek Yacht Club. We spent the evening having appetizers, cocktails and trading stories with the other crews before we get trapped on the boat for a few days. There are about a dozen boats here with room for more than a dozen more. It’s nice that the anchorage is not crowded and everyone here is happy to have the room to drop an excessive amount of chain and still be able to swing comfortably.
December 16, 2009.

We woke to listen to the weather forecast and it seemed that if the forecast changed at all, it had gotten a bit worse. It looks as if the western component of the wind will be cranking and long lasting. The front will bring us 20-35 knots with gusts and squalls to 50 knots.

We’re glad we’re here and decided to make the most of a beautiful day and spent it in the water. We headed out early and stopped by a few of the boats in the anchorage to say hello. Then we were off to do some spear fishing. I prefer to dive the cuts on a rising tide but we were on a falling tide. The water was ripping through the cuts and I was hurtling along with such velocity that hunting was very difficult. We were able to take a 4 lb Schoolmaster before we decided to wait for the incoming tide. So after going home for an extended lunch we headed back out in the afternoon.

Since the tide was just starting to come in we headed out the cut to drift dive it as we bobbed back in with the current. Christy was in the water behind me with the dinghy in tow when I heard her yell at me. She was pointing out a 5 lb lobster that I had just swum directly over without seeing. Crap, I must be going blind. He was quickly victim to my spear and our afternoon was rolling.

After that it was a beautiful 4 lb Mutton Snapper followed quickly by a 4 lb Grouper. We hopped back into the dinghy and headed out to make another drift. As soon as I hit the water I spotted a huge Grouper. I stalked him and as I drew near he spotted me and attempted to bolt. My spear was already on its way and hit him square in the side of the head. He did a couple of spins on the spear and when I tried to lift him…..he was gone.

I was at the end of my range when I fired and the spear penetrated him but not deep enough to release the barbs. With nothing to keep him on the spear he was now wounded and fleeing. Crap. Of course, he had to swim up current. I was pumping my legs as hard as I could just to stay in sight of him. He was swimming a bit lopsided with his mouth wide open so I knew I had whacked him pretty solid. He was probably mortally wounded, I had to get him.

Much to my relief he dove under a rocky ledge to hide and to try and recover. When I finally caught up to him I starred down in satisfaction. The hole he had chosen to hide in wasn’t big enough for his fat ass; his entire tail was sticking out of the hole. I quickly drove my spear through the base of his tail and left him pinned to the bottom. I waited 5 minutes for him to weaken and then I went back down and wrenched him from his tiny hiding place.

Evidently 5 minutes didn’t mean shit to this guy. As soon as he was pulled free of the hole he went wild, spinning and bucking at the end of my spear. The spear was completely through his tail with the barbs open. He wasn’t getting off…..unless he fought so hard that half his tail ripped open leaving a gaping wound. So, when that did in fact happen, I watched as Cujo the Devil Fish swam away. Fuck me, is he kidding?

I once again chased him down and watched as he dove under a large flat rock in 12 feet of water. Bastard. I could see blood in the water so I was sure he was gonna die. I couldn’t leave him. I had to wait several minutes for the sand to stop swirling beneath the rock so I could peer under.

The opening was small and I was pretty surprised that he even fit through it. But as I looked inside, there he was under the center of this rock in a good sized domed space. I’d already hit him in the head, then he took one to the ass, this time I was not taking any chances. I reached under the rock and blew the spear right through the center of his body. That’s when he got pissed…..

I left the spear right through his body and surfaced to wait him out. Christy pulled the dinghy up current and dropped the anchor and drifted back until she was right over his hiding place. As I hung from the side of the dinghy we both watched as my spear violently shook below us. While I was watching him to my further amazement a lobster appeared in the doorway to his lair not 15 feet away and taunted me. My spear was stuck through Cujo the Devil Fish so there was nothing I could do at the moment.

During the next 20 minutes I dove to the bottom 2 dozen times in an effort to rip him from his sanctuary. Finally I took a line from the dinghy, tied it in a slipknot and headed down. Christy thought that I was out of my mind but there was no way I was leaving without that fish. We wished that we had a camera, but you’ll just have to trust me here. I reached in and slipped the line around his tail and cinched it tight. Finally with the aid of the rope I was able to pull the exhausted 10 lb Grouper from his last hidey hole.

Once the now vanquished Grouper was in the bucket I took my spear and headed for the lobster. As soon as I boated the lobster and climbed aboard I said “Honey, take me home”. I was exhausted and as I sat on the dinghy’s tube I removed my fins. I took the first one off and dropped it into the dink and as I turned to remove the other there was a lightning quick flash of grey as a mondo active 6 foot shark blasted right under the dink. He did a quick couple of darting circles as he looked for whatever was bleeding in the area. I’d spent way too much time trying to harvest an agitated, bleeding fish and I was so focused that I completely forgot about sharks. Oops.

Anyway, we were well fed tonite and stocking the freezer!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

December 15, 2009.

Things, they are a changin’. Yesterday we sailed from Black Point to Big Majors Spot as it would afford us a good jumping off point to get into Pipe Creek. We’ve never had wifi in Big Majors Spot before and I was pretty psyched when we picked up a usable although slightly dodgy signal when we arrived. So I was able to take care of some interneting before the weather imposed exile in Pipe Creek. The approach to Pipe creek is across a couple of sand bars that are only covered by about five and a half feet of water at low tide. Since we draw five and a half feet things can get a little sticky for us.

Just because the chart shows 5 ½ feet doesn’t actually mean that there is that much water. The sandy bottom here is ever changing. So we will only attempt to enter pipe Creek on a rising tide. That way if we run aground, we’ll float off shortly (hopefully) as the tide fills in. If you run aground on a falling tide you can find yourself lying on your side in a matter of hours. It’s not boring though, as you’ll be spending your time doing projects like covering the toilet with duct tape so once the toilet is horizontal it won’t be dumping itself back into the boat. There is so much to consider if you end up on your side like, will the engines oil stay in the engine, will the water tanks vent be submerged thereby allowing the egress of seawater into your drinking supply, then there’s the same chance with the fuel tanks, will my wife murder me before this is all over, why is everybody else pointing and laughing etc. etc.?

So we raised the anchor at 1330 hours for the 7 mile trip to Pipe Creek. Low tide was at 1340 so I figured we’d arrive 1 hour into a rising tide. The trip was a slow sail in the afternoon’s light breeze. When we arrived we dropped all sail and motored through the meandering route that would take us into the protected waters of the anchorage.

It all went well and we are now anchored in a good sandy bottom with a few other boats. There are surprisingly few places with protection from the west in the Bahamas. During a frontal passage in the Bahamas the wind will clock completely around and at one point expose you to the westerly winds. The front that is due to arrive later this week seems to be more than the usual front. Most fronts blast through quickly while this one seems like its going to be a big deal for 48 hours or more with anywhere from 25 to 40 knots in the forecast. We’re in a good spot and happy with our situation at the moment. The anchorage should start to fill up tomorrow and the next day.

Before we left Big Majors Spot we did hop in the dink and go over to Pig Beach (wasn’t that a Beach Boys song?).

There are several large pigs that inhabit the island and they run right into the water and swim out to your dinghy in the hope that there
might be a handout in it for them. If you get to close they will try to claw their way up into the dink with you.

A couple of weeks ago we bought some Bahamanian postage stamps so we could mail some correspondence. I was sitting here the other day and as I looked down at the remaining stamps I realized that they depicted George Washington crossing the Delaware. Can anybody explain that one to me.

Oh and one last thing. When we got here to Pipe Creek I found that the new stray wifi signal that I was picking up in Big Majors Spot must be emanating from somewhere nearby. So even though we’re trapped by the weather, we’ve got internet and it’s still beautiful out.
December 15, 2009.

Off to hide from some really ugly weather that's headed our way. We'll tuck into Pipe Creek and probably be there through the weekend. Adios....

Monday, December 14, 2009

December 13, 2009.

Yesterday we raised the mainsail and sailed off the hook at 0730. The wind was blowing 15 knots out of the east. In less than 2 hours we were starting the engine, dropping sail and heading into the anchorage at Black point.

Our friends on Solitaire, Sapphire and Fine Lion were all there. Christy went into town to do laundry while I took care of a few boat chores. Later in the evening we joined everyone at Lorraine’s for dinner. The food was really good but more than a little expensive.

This morning after taking care of some internet we decided to hit the water. The west side of Eleuthera is fished pretty hard by the locals. So after only being able to take a single Hogfish while there we were eager to try our luck here. We hit Dotham Cut just as the tide started to fill. Christy took me out to the sound end of the cut and I dropped into the water and allowed the tidal flow to propel my body through the cut. Christy stayed in the dinghy and let the tide push her in as well.

Shortly after entering the water we were rewarded with a 9 pound Red Grouper. I saw a depression in the bottom that looked like a promising spot for lobster. I cocked my spear and swept down over the recess and came face to face with this large fish. A quick shot and he was mine. A 4 or 5 pound fish can be a handful when you poke it with a spear. I always shoot at their head figuring that if they bolt they’ll probably move more into the line of fire. This guy never flinched and the spear scored a perfect hit right in his pint sized brain. He was instantly dead, no fight, no struggle, no blood, boom nothing.

After drifting the entire cut I climbed back into the dink and we headed back out to do it again. This time Christy joined me in the water. She attached the dinghy to her waist with a long lanyard so she and it can travel through the cut together. We were able to take another 4 pound Grouper and our first lobster of the year.
December 11, 2009.

True to their word, diesel fuel did arrive later that afternoon. So the next morning after a bit of swimming I headed over and jugged 15 gallons of fuel to top off our tanks.

The wind has been predominately from the south for the last 10 days or so. The exception was the day we bopped down to Governors Harbor from Royal Island. On Friday the forecast is supposed to be again for another day of easterlies so we’re going to take advantage and head south.

We’re only 20 miles from Rock Sound but if we use the day of easterlies to get there its pretty much a wasted day. I decided that we would sail the entire way to Black Point in the Exumas, a distance of about 70 miles.

The catch is that the wind is supposed to be from the east at only 4 to 6 knots and building to 10 to 12 in the late afternoon. So we can’t make the trip in daylight hours but we cannot risk arriving at the Dotham Cut after dark. So we’re gonna have to be leaving early, real early.

So we raised the mainsail and hauled anchor at 0200 and quietly slipped out of the anchorage. As soon as we were clear of the breakwater the genoa was unrolled and the engine was off. Even though the wind was light and we were only making about 2 ½ knots we couldn’t take the chance of running the engine. This area of the Banks of Eleuthera is strewn with lobster pot floats. Wrap one of those around your prop shaft and it can ruin your day.

Christy went back to bed and I set my old friend the egg timer incase I should fall asleep. The wind did slowly build and by dawn we were making 5 knots SOG. The Boat Pole of Speed™ did add over half a knot to our speed during the early morning’s light air.

Once we reached Powell Point and left the banks for deeper water I encountered a bit of a problem. The wind was south of east and we weren’t able to run our required course of 180 degrees. The best we could steer was 192 and with a leg of over 40 miles we would end up miles west of the Dotham Cut waypoint. Crap. Since we were pinching so close to the wind our speed was also down into the 4 ½ knot range which would get us there after dark. Crap. We could adjust course for the Pipe Creek Cut that we’ve used before but we would have to negotiate the shallow water and find a place to drop the hook with the setting sun right in our face.

Our best option was to turn 30 degrees to starboard and run to the cut at Warderick Wells. Once we turned our speed was back up over 6 knots and after 4 hours we started the engine to ensure we had no problems in the cut. We arrived on an incoming tide so we shot through the cut at close to 9 knots. Once on the banks we again turned south and decided to stop at Big Majors Spot for the night.

The last time we were here there were 60 boats here hiding from an expected blow. This night was very pleasant and there were only 3 other boats in sight.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

December 8, 2009.

We did a little of the whole “hunter / gathering” thing today.

After breakfast we were in the dink and on the way into town. We headed straight to the bakery where we were able to score some jelly doughnuts, cinnamon swirls and a pair of the rare but highly prized coconut logs.

We did stop in at both grocery stores but only picked up some cabbage and the islands version of Wonder Bread. I had the diesel jugs in the dink so while Christy shopped I made an effort to jug some fuel.

I plopped my jugs down and the attendant put in about 4 gallons when the pump ran dry. Crap. It’s not uncommon for the service stations here to run out of fuel and today turned out to be the day. The attendant was sure they would be getting more fuel later in the afternoon so I guess I’ll try again tomorrow.

After getting back to the boat we headed out to do some more snorkeling. We saw some decent Hogfish and watched in despair as they dove into the deep caves that line the fishing grounds here. So we ended up making a long, very enjoyable swim with nothing to show for it.

On the surface it looks as if it should be a disappointing day. No fish, a smattering of diesel but we got doughnuts baby, so today averages out as spectacular.

Monday, December 7, 2009

December 7, 2009.

It’s actually been pretty hot here with humidity near 85%. We had planned to walk town and hit the grocery store, the bakery and maybe jug a little diesel to top off the tanks. But at 10:00 it was already 85 degrees with that oppressive humidity so we changed the days itinerary to swimming. Yeah.

We loaded up the snorkeling stuff and headed out for a nearby large rock wall. There are no real coral heads here but a limestone rock wall runs along the shore for over a mile. There are numerous chunks of stone the size of railway cars submerged just under the surface and the wall has been undercut into a series of caves by the pounding of the sea.

The baitfish were so plentiful that at times you couldn’t see more than a few feet. I discovered a few things today. First, I rediscovered the fact that everything looks bigger underwater. The way I remembered this was by shooting a Hogfish. Unfortunately, once he was impaled by my spear I realized that he was only big enough to make a sandwich. A small sandwich desperately in need of a side order. Damn.

The second thing I learned was that my conscience is still intact. The only lobster I saw today were 2 undersized babies. One was so small he would have been nice in an aquarium while the other was close, but just to small. So I left em’ to grow……

The third thing I learned is that I need to get back into the swing. The water seemed deeper, the fish faster and me a bit slower. Crap.

We saw more than 50 undersized grouper and a few really nice ones but we were unable to corner them. The caves in the wall are cut into the rock in such a manner that there’s no way you’re getting a shot once the fish has dodged inside. On the bright side was that I only encountered 2 lionfish so I dispatched both of them. I did get to swim with a school of forty barracuda that shadowed me for 10 minutes. Christy even drove the dink right into their midst and they just moved along with me in spite of the dinghies presence.

We were back at the boat by 1400 hours and after lunch the weather changed dramatically. Big ugly thunderheads rolled in and rain was obviously falling in several areas around us. The rain never did find us and the best part was that we got to enjoy a great double rainbow.
December 6, 2009.

The front came through last night and the wind finally changed directions for us. It’s been blowing from the south for days so now with a bit of a northerly we set off for Current Cut. We left Royal Island at 0700 for the 8 mile trip down to the Cut.

We timed the cut perfectly and had a 3 ½ knot push as we rocketed through the narrow gap in the north end of Eleuthera. Once through to the other side we were hit by a quick rain squall. It poured long enough for us to get everything closed up and then the sun popped back out.

As we sailed south the wind slowly died and we had to finish the last 2 hours of the trip under power. We believe we had a first today. Neither one of us ever remembers seeing a dolphin here in the Bahamas. We saw a pair of huge dolphin today, that were easily 8 or 9 feet long. They were very skittish and only stayed in the bow wake long enough for me to grab the camera. Maybe the locals eat them? I dunno. I’m really surprised that they’re not more common down here. Two slices of coconut bread and a fillet of Flipper would probably make a damn fine sammich.

We have the anchorage to ourselves tonight but we know there are several boats only a day or so behind us.
A couple of the boats have never been here before so it’ll be fun to act as tour guides and watch as they experience Eleuthera for the first time. I just have to make sure that we get to the bakery before they get here. It’s a big country but there are only so many chances to grab some jelly doughnuts.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

December 4, 2009.

The weather gods smiled upon us. On Thursday the winds were supposed to moderate to 15 knots outta the south and to dwindle even further as the afternoon wore on.

We discussed our options with the Solitaires and came up with a reasonable plan. If the wind and seas were indeed down when morning came we would sail off to Eleuthera in the east. If it was still uncomfortable in the morning we would leave at noon and motor the 10 miles straight into the afternoons dying wind and head into either Devils/ Hoffman or Adler Cays.

Imagine our surprise when morning came and Solitaire said they were having an issue with their batteries and decided to motor straight into the wind for the 50 mile trip to Nassau. Planning on a sailboat is pretty hard to do and when trying to formulate a plan for 2 or more…..lets just say herding cats would be easier.

There was no way we were going to motor into the wind and seas all the way to Nassau. Not to mention the fact that Nassau pretty much sucks. We know they weren’t going because they wanted to, but it came as such a shock we just couldn’t bring ourselves to head south with them. The wind was from the south at 15 so we bade adieu to Solitaire and sailed east for Royal Island, Eleuthera.

It was a long splendid day of sailing. Maybe, a perfect day. We were reaching along with Rover driving while Christy and I took turns sunning ourselves on the aft deck. It was glorious. We trailed several different lures during the day in an effort to catch a Mahi-Mahi which roam these deep waters. We did have 2 strikes during the day which only resulted in our lures getting beat up a bit. We did hear a boat named Osprey land a 38 pound Mahi just a few miles ahead of us. So maybe the day could have been better, but not much.

We pulled into the anchorage at Royal Island just as darkness fell. We anchored among a half dozen other boats that were already lying at anchor in the very protected harbor.
December 2, 2009.

This is by far the earliest we’ve ever been able to cross to the Bahamas. Last year it wasn’t until February 13th and the year before it was January 11th. The weather during the Bahamanian cruising season mellows as the season progresses. So I was always able to justify our late crossing by saying that we’d just be missing the worst of the weather.

This year we got an early start and arrived just in time for some, that’s right, crappy weather. We had a very calm and windless night for the crossing and yesterday we were up and out at daybreak. Our destination was Goat Cay in the Berry Island group. We had stopped there for a single night on our way south last year and it seemed that it would offer the protection that we would need from a frontal system due to arrive later this evening.

We were making great time so the crews of Solitaire and Veranda decided to press on a bit. The front was supposed to bring winds in the 20 to 30 knot range with squalls approaching 40 all from the south. We would have liked to get to the cut at Devils / Hoffman where we spent 10 (glorious) days a couple of years ago, but it was just to far for us to arrive in daylight. We opted instead for a large cove on the eastern side of Great Harbor Cay. The place offered great protection from the south although promised to be a bit rolly.

We entered the cove behind Hawksnest Cay followed closely by Solitaire. There were already 2 boats lying at anchor. We snuck past them and positioned ourselves upwind of them for when the wind started to crank. We set the hook at full RPM’s and settled in for the night in 9 feet of water with a hundred feet of chain out.

We dropped the dink and went over to Solitaire for dinner and discussed options. As of that moment we didn’t really have any. We were 10 miles from Devils/ Hoffman and there were 3 boats already in there. The forecast hadn’t gotten any worse, it was just that the wind was going to be out of the south for longer than first predicted. If it abated a bit we might make the 10 mile jump down to Devils or maybe even Adler Cay but we’d have to see.

Monday, November 30, 2009

November 30, 2009.

Let me jump back to Thanksgiving for a minute. We had a lovely meal in the Far Niente’s shoreside home along with the Alibi II’s and Solitaire. During the course of dinner conversation it became known that Bill from Alibi II is actually Vanna Whites big brother. Since I had the picture I figured I had to tell the story. I can see the resemblance.

Back to the present. We were sitting in the anchorage at Lake Worth waiting to start an overnight crossing. The inlet is pretty small considering the size of some of the boat traffic transiting the inlet. This large fella came in with a deck just covered in boats being transported from one
place to another.

At 1600 hours we pulled anchor and set out for Lucaya on Grand Bahamas Island. The crossing was into a very slight headwind and was an all night motorboat trip complete with a full moon for most of the trip. We arrived just before dawn and were pleasantly surprised to find the inlet bordered by well lit navigational buoys. Solitaire was timing their arrival to coincide with the marinas opening at 0800. So we slipped through the channel and anchored in a wide spot inside the safety of the harbor. We had close to 2 hours to catch up on our sleep but I was unable to rest as I was pretty excited about being here once again.

Once Solitaire arrived we hoisted anchor and pulled into the marina. That’s pretty much where the love affair with Lucaya came to an end. We both took slips as required to check in with Customs and Immigration. When Nancy was making our reservations she found that the sailboat section (read that as cheaper) had closed. We were told that we would be given that sections rate. That was of course until we actually showed up in person. Then it was “No, no der be no such ting as special pricing”. The 20 percent difference in price was annoying but the whole lying thing…..well that’s just really gets my goat. While the woman was lying to my face she made a motion with her hand and knocked her full cup of coffee all over her keyboard, calculator and desktop. I was in full smirk when I said “Oh boy, that’s a shame” and left. Karma meet lying marina worker, lying marina worker meet karma.

Next it was off to Customs and Immigration. The Customs officer was not in yet so Immigration was first. When you fill out the half dozen associated forms one of them asks how long you would like to stay in the country. The maximum is 6 months so we always ask for 180 days. It’s very random as to who gets what. Solitaire and we were only granted 90 days. It’s not that big a deal as you can stop in at any customs office and get an extension for another 90 days. So the question becomes…..”If you’re gonna give me the 180 days anyway, why can’t I walk outta here with all of em’ today?” It’s a huge pain in the ass as we have to be in a place where we can get our extension just as our permits run out. But it is what it is.

As part of the process the Immigration officer called the Customs division and let them know that there were people here to check in. After 2 hours and repeated assurances that she was on the way the facts came to light. The Immigration officer never made the call. Once the Customs woman was actually notified she was there in ten minutes and blew through our paperwork quickly.

After spending 3 hours to accumulate a few rubber stamps we went home to the boat for lunch. After lunch we walked the downtown shopping district with the Solitaires. Then Christy washed the salt and filth from the decks while I jerry jugged some diesel to top off our tanks.

We’ll be leaving for the Berry islands in the morning and once there we’ll be hiding from a front that supposed to move through the area on Wednesday and Thursday. So its no internet for us for at least a week I would guess.

There’s something a bit wrong with 85 degrees, loud Christmas music and a huge decorated tree. Don't misconstrue that as complaining, I'll deal with it.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

November 29, 2009.

To paraphrase our friend Mike on Sapphire….”We’re sinking”. Fortunately, like Mike's sinking it turned out to be a semi minor event. We were up and underway from Vero Beach. We were headed to the Fort Pierce inlet where we had absorbed a vicious ass kicking last year on our way north. We planned to sail south along the coast and turn east towards the Bahamas when we started to feel the effects of the Gulf Stream.

As soon as we left Vero Beach the recently installed bilge alarm started screaming. We had overfilled the water tank at the fuel dock in Vero so I figured it was the excess water being pumped from the bilge. After the pump had come on several times it was time to go below and check things out.

Both stuffing boxes and the engine room were all dry. I thought maybe it was a problem with the alarm so I pumped the big manual pump and sure enough there were a few gallons of water in the bilge. Crap. So I headed to the bow to start a systematic check of every thru hull in the boat.

As soon as I got to the forward head the problem was obvious. One of the new fresh water couplings that I had installed a week ago under the sink was leaking. Christy was doing dishes and had the fresh water pump on, the elbow failed and we were filling our bilge with our drinking water. Underneath the sink there was water spraying everywhere, it looked like a scene from a German submarine movie. Crap. I shut the pump off and that stopped the water for the time being.

Far Niente was having a problem with his autopilot so we stopped in Fort Pierce for 2 hours so Jay could run to West Marine for parts. While he was busy with that, I removed and reinstalled the coupling only to have it fail almost immediately. Crap.

Jay was done, the last of the ebb tide was running so we had to up anchor and go out the inlet. The inlet was much nicer to us than it had been last year and we were soon southbound in the ocean.

Almost immediately Far Niente called us on the VHF and said that their autopilot was again acting up and they would have to stop in Lake Worth rather than cross to the Bahamas. I had the water system to deal with so we opted for Lake Worth as well. Solitaire also changed plans and headed in as well. We all arrived just after dark and carefully threaded our way into the anchorage to drop our hooks for the night.

Since we couldn’t wash either the dishes or ourselves I had to jump right on the coupling repair. Once the coupling was properly installed the root cause of the problem became clear to me. The regulator on our fresh water pump had failed. It was allowing the system to over pressurize until the weakest link in the system failed. Now that the system was once again in good health the pressure built so much that it actually overpowered the pressure relief valve on the hot water tank. Crap.

The pressure regulator is not adjustable so that meant the entire pump must be replaced. It was too late, I was to tired, so it would have to wait. So, first thing in the morning we had to dig through the entire V berth to find the spare water pump. It was only 6 feet away, I knew exactly where it was but it still took a half an hour to lay my hands on it. The install was pretty much remove/ replace and all went well.

After that I spent a bit of time on Far Niente basically confirming Jay’s fears. Technically speaking, we think Jay’s course computer has “shit the bed”. Since its Sunday things get a little more complicated as Jay has to wait until tomorrow to get a call into Raymarine. Is there a new unit in town, can they ship one immediately, is there some other kind of troubleshooting that they might recommend? Far Niente could be here for a couple of days so it looks as if Solitaire and Veranda are going to head out tonight before this weather window closes.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

November 25, 2009.

We’re in Vero Beach and taking care of our final provisioning. We borrowed Solitaires car and spent $860 on food.
We had two shopping carts straining under maximum load. Several people took the time to question us as to why we were buying so much food. It’s pretty tough to try and food shop for a 6 month period. That was only the basic foods. We made separate trips later in the week for meats, bread and fresh vegetables.

After getting the meat home Christy broke the packages down into smaller, more user friendly portions that I resealed with a vacuum sealer. After that, all of it went into the freezer.

We also recommissioned the watermaker. We use a TDS meter to check the water for “solids” content. Anything less than 500 ppm is considered safe to drink. When we were in Washington, DC we checked the water coming from the taps there and found it to be at around 480 ppm. Here on the boat our water is consistently under 300 ppm. That’s some fine quality H²O.

While Christy was out shopping with Nancy I took the opportunity to attend a local car show with the Far Niente’s.

There were quite a few cars and most of them were in wonderful shape.

I also spent a bit of time up the mast of all 3 boats tied to our mooring. It seemed we all had niggling problems that needed some attention so we took care of them all one after the other. It was kind of like a crappy game show where everybody gets a chance to haul my fat ass up their mast.