Monday, December 30, 2013

December 30, 2013.

We've been enjoying the new underwater camera that Santa brought us. The larder was full so we spent a few days in the water stalking fish and lobster and taking their pictures rather than their lives.
Queen Triggers taste great but are just too pretty to kill
It was kinda weird but fun. I'm sure the lobster enjoyed it more.
Spiny Lobster

The Fine Lions moved into the neighborhood so when they went fishing I tagged along to take some action shots.
Steve pokes a lobster
It was fun but watching someone else kill shit was wearing on me.
Hide and seek, lobster style

Tomorrows New Years Eve and there will be a gathering on the beach and Christy wants to bring her Lobster Salad.
An Octopus chillin' under a coral head
The problem is that we've been eating lobster but not hunting them. You can't eat photos.
Moray eel
So this morning I got the green light to go out and actually kill something.

I like to methodically hunt a section of the cay at a time. We've done several sections but hadn't touched my personal favorite yet.
Its hard to be lady like while getting lobster off the spear
Steve and I were in the water by 0900 and Christy & Kim manned the dinks as we swam along checking coral heads and ledges.

We covered a lot of ground and were back at the boat by 1100 hours. Steve took 9 bugs and a Hogfish while I grabbed 8 bugs and 3 Hogs.
Obviously, after sharing my favorite spot with the Fine Lions I'm going to have to swim over tonight and kill them.  This saddens me but Hey, we all had a great day.
I've decided to kill 1 Lionfish for every lobster I take....
December 28, 2013.

The wind dropped to less than 20 outta the east so we pulled the hook early and sailed the 10 miles north to Raccoon Cay. There was 1 other boat behind the cay when we arrived and we dropped the hook about 1200 yards to their south. Within 20 minutes they pulled their hook and motored away leaving us with the west side of the cay to ourselves. Cool, buh-bye.

When we pulled in I hadn't recognized the other boat. I looked for a national flag for a clue but none was displayed.  Then I realized that there was neither a courtesy flag or a quarantine burgee hanging in the rigging.  Hmmmm.  That's when we realized it was Northern Goose. We've seen them down here several times through the years but have never met them. I actually don't know anyone down here who's them.

I can be fairly antisocial and we enjoy the privacy that our lifestyle affords us. But in comparison these folks make me look desperate for companionship. A couple of years ago we were going hunting in the dink and as we turned a corner we came across their boat. They were in the cockpit and as we skimmed past we both waved and ….nothing. They stared us down and made no acknowledgment of our passing. Ohhkay then.

I thought it was a bit weird but as the years have passed we've found that our experience seems to be fairly common. Several other boats have shared similar stories with us. I don't know anyone who claims to have met them in the flesh or even spoken to them on the VHF. We even heard stories that they've been suspected of removing markers on the trails that crisscross the various cays in the area to confuse newcomers. True or not, I dunno, its just weird. I'm sure there could be a valid reason for the standoffishness. Perhaps they're on a sailing sabbatical from a leper colony. Perhaps they're large flesh covered lobsters and they're afraid I'm going to kill and eat their children. Maybe hes got a voice like Mike Tyson and hes stays off the radio as a public service to us all. I dunno.

Of course after I post this I realize that I'm doomed to meet them somewhere. They might turn out to be lovely people that just enjoy their time alone. But just in case I'm still gonna have Christy whip up a gallon of tartar sauce.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Would someone please remove my fork from my hand....

December 25, 2013.

As always Christmas here on the Veranda was perfect. A fifth boat, Scotch Mist, showed up here during the night and we were all scheduled to get together on the beach at 1500 hours for a feast. Part of our contribution was to be Lobster Risotto. So after exchanging presents Christy and I went out to grab a couple of fresh lobster for the risotto.

The wind is not due to drop off until tomorrow so the conditions were still a bit sporting. We did succeed in grabbing three nice bugs and a Ocean Trigger that weighed in at almost nine pounds. I was after lobster but when I saw the trigger swim into a crevice in the coral I snuck to the other end and waited in the hopes he was traveling straight through. Just before I turned blue he popped out right in front of me and I sent my spear ripping through his body. On the plus side for him is now hes not going to have to wear that Christmas sweater his Grandmother knitted for him. Color me an optimist.

The afternoons meal was unbelievable. Perfectly grilled Bison steaks, turkey, stuffing, coleslaw, lobster risotto,
Steve slices up the Bison
Bahamanian Mac-n-Cheese, grilled lobster bites wrapped in bacon, cranberries, corn and peas. For dessert there were homemade sticky buns and Christy turned out a perfect rendition of Letas condensed milk and cherry pie.
Everybody wants one of Susan's sticky buns

Leta would be proud of Christy's "Leta Pie"
There were nine people in attendance but we could have fed twenty.

Christy & I hope everyone of you had a wonderful Christmas as well. Onward to New Years.....

Sunday, December 22, 2013

If I had anymore I'd need a wheelbarrow....

December 22, 2013.

The other day Christy accused me of not having enough Christmas spirit. Actually, she said I had none. I said “Why, because I haven't stood in an angry line at Sears and punched somebody recently?” Evidently I had confused Christmas Spirit and Holiday Rage.

It seems that she was riding me because I failed to help decorate the boat. It's not that I didn't want to help, it's just that she LOVES doing it. To put up our decorations only takes 15 minutes so I didn't want to steal half her joy. One strand of colored lights, 2 stockings, a Santa picture and our tiny tree. Pffft, done.

She said I could have at least put some of the ornaments on the tree. There are over a hundred ornaments on our 2 foot tall tree. Last year when I helped I was informed that I was doing it wrong. Evidently you don't put all the soldiers and bad ass ornaments in the front while hiding the girly ones in the back. The ballerinas, fairies and tiny birdhouses are important too. Who knew.

So finding myself condemned as persona non xmas espiritous I decided to take action. The boat decorations were finished so I headed in to shore determined to dress up the cay. Hog Cay is huge so spreading a thin layer of Christmas cheer over the whole cay seemed unrealistic. So I decided to concentrate my efforts.

I went to a section of the shoreline that borders the anchorage that has a large limestone formation. I ended up building a five and a half foot tall limestone Christmas tree.
During the day it has the appearance of a large but simple rock cairn. But at night when the strands of solar lights kick on its just Christmas throwing up all over the place. That is one fine stack o' Christmas spirit.
Yes, it is dark as hell out here.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Turtle head

December 17, 2013.

There’s still only 4 boats down here in the Ragged Islands. We all spent the last few nights together in the anchorage at Double Breasted Cay. Everyone has grabbed a few lobster and nice sized Hogfish are becoming a daily occurrence.

Last night Christy & I were sitting in the cockpit under a full moon when there was a huge gasp of air right next to the boat. We were startled out of our reverie and climbed out onto the side deck. We've never seen a dolphin down in these parts so I wasn't sure what to expect when we peered over the side.

We were anchored in 9 feet of crystal clear water and could easily see the white sandy bottom glowing in the moonlight. It turned out to be the biggest sea turtle either one of us had ever seen. He was every bit of 6 feet in length with a head bigger than mine. He was awesome. He spent 5 minutes meandering back and forth next to the boat much to our enjoyment.

I have no idea how quickly turtles grow. I know a tortoise that size would be a hundred years old or more. Is it the same with turtles, I dunno. It was kind of nice to imagine that an old man like him had stopped by for a brief visit. We watched him swim away and climbed back into the cockpit to settle in and imagine the things hes seen and the times hes lived through as we sat and enjoyed our moonlit anchorage.

Experimental random photos.....

Fine Lion at sunset
Rare blue lobster shell fragment found while beach combing
Fine lion and Veranda riding at anchor at Double Breasted Cay
Snowstorm in the anchorage
Bugs between 1 and 4 pounds and a 4 pound Hogfish
The new creepy baby head figurehead on the dink 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Trapped with my own thoughts.....

December 14, 2013.

I was walking the beach today and I realized that Puddlejumper and Seabiscuit inadvertently ruined beach combing for me.

Everybody knows what crab or lobster pot floats look like. Balls, wedges or cones made out of styrofoam that are strategically placed to be right in the deepest part of the usable navigational channel by some closely bred ninny. In days gone bye the floats were balls of blown glass. In some parts of the Caribbean that is still the case. Nature often rips these floats free from their tethers and the glass balls start a trip of their own.

According to the admiral these glass balls are the Holy Grail of beach combing and I need to find one. Last year Bill on Puddlejumper found a few of these floats by combing the tall grass that borders the high end of the beaches. His success made him the defacto glass ball gathering expert in these parts and he shared his technique with Mike from Seabiscuit. Mike unknowingly compounded my problem by going out and finding a damn glass ball himself.

So now a year later I found myself thrashing through the tall grass at the edge of the beach while Christy and our friends walk the beach finding pretty shells, beach glass and beans. Being alone in the tall grass with no glass balls in sight does give me a lot of time to think. And I started thinking about the visors that fisherdudes wear. I dunno why, its just how I'm wired I guess.

You know the visors I'm talking about. The visors cover a completely untanned forehead and have a thatch of hair sticking straight up. Flip flops, board shorts, a long sleeve T-shirt, a visor and a Corona and you have the whole fisherdude uniform. Stop in at any waterfront pub along the eastern seaboard and you're guaranteed to run into a covey of these slaves to fishing fashion. If its late enough and the fisherdude is into his cups he'll be wearing the visor backwards because the fisherdude is OFF Duty. If you're in doubt sidle up close and listen to their speech patterns. The typical fisherdude sounds like Spicoli form Fast Times at Ridgemont High had a child with a Valley Girl. Its as if they've all gone to California and spent a semester at the Fisherdude Linguistics Academy. Stupid yet inquisitive. It doesn't matter if they're 40 years old, they still sound like an adolescent struggling with tenth grade English.

I understand the visor is useful in protecting your eyes from the glare of the sun. I can also understand that the wind across the top of your head is cooler than wearing a ball cap or tilley hat. But did they really all come to that conclusion or are they just all dressing the part, wearing the uniform. Nobody wants to be the odd fisherdude out.

I've met bald fisherdudes. The sun is beating down on their unprotected pate yet the visor is still the chapeau of choice. Heck, I've seen visors for sale that already have the hair sewn in.

What this all boils down to is that I've got to much time on my hands to think while combing the upper limits of the beaches. God forbid I find a glass ball, I'll never be allowed back down near the surfline....

Sunday, December 15, 2013

December 13, 2013.

We're at Double Breasted Cay in the Ragged Islands. Internet here is sketchy so pictures will have to come later.

Christy and I were out doing a little spearfishing today and we had a first. We had a fish and a pair of bugs in the bucket and I wanted to hit one more spot before heading back to the boat. I dropped into the water while Christy stood by in the dink.

I spotted a big lobster right away and was about to go get him when I saw a good sized Hogfish lurking nearby. I quickly realized that the lobster had made a huge tactical error. He was hiding under an overhang with no back door, he had no way out of his lair but to come towards me. I decided to leave him for now and to take the Hogfish first.

The Hogfish saw me coming and tried to weave away between some sea fans. I nailed him with a solid shot and started swimming him to the surface when he spun, flipped and freed himself from my spear. Crap. I gave chase and he swam away from me trailing huge plumes of blood. He dove like a dime into a coin slot under a rock the size of an automobile. I went round and round the rock and had no way of retrieving him.

It was definitely a mortal shot and I was bummed at not being able to harvest him after killing him. I swam back to the lobster and grabbed him. I swam him up to the dink and told Christy about failing to grab the soon to be dead Hogfish. I swam the rest of the reef and found nothing else worth taking. I even checked the rock twice more trying to find the Hogfish. Nothing.

I had had enough so I hopped in the dink and we started the ¾ mile long trip back to the Veranda. We were idling along towards home and I was lamenting the fact that I felt so bad about killing this Hogfish without getting it. Christy listened to me for a few minutes before she moved some lobsters in the bucket and reached down inside. Then she yanked my Hogfish out and asked “Did it look like this one?”.

I almost fell over the side. It was my Hogfish, massive spear wound, dead in the bucket and the last time I saw him he was under a rock 15 feet down. WTH? She said that she saw a flash of orange on the surface 80 feet away and headed over to investigate. She said he was lying on his side swimming along in his death throes when she pulled up alongside. She had time to put on her gloves, reached over, grabbed him and dropped him into the bucket. So all is well here and we've got a pretty cool fish story to tell.....

Thursday, December 12, 2013

December 11, 2013.

While we've been hiding form the 20 – 25 knots outta the east for the last few days something strange happened. We ran out of food. Not really but we were completely out of lobster. Christy had frozen half of the Ocean Trigger so there was no fresh fish either.

We woke to a little less wind this morning so we loaded our spearfishing crap into the dink and headed north. It was just past low tide and we had a shallow stretch to cross to get to the deep cut between the cays. The seas were still running even though the breeze was down to 17 knots or so. One wave after another was crashing onto the shallow section as we headed towards deeper water. My copilot was a little less than thrilled as a series of close set waves crashed over the top of the dinghy as we plodded into the surf.

We did make it through and once into the area I wanted to hunt things looked to be doable. Its not really bad for me in the water but if the surface is rough enough the waves can make handling the dink a real challenge. Since it was just past low tide and the surface was so rough there was once again a lot of sand suspended in the water.

The reef here is actually a series of closely spaced reefs that run in a straight line. Swimming is easy as the current pushes you along. There were long stretches where peering into the nooks and crannies was impossible due to the suspended sand. Every once and a while the water would perfectly clear and lobster hunting was possible.

It took 2 hours but we ended up surfing the waves home with the Red Bucket O'Doom overflowing with 9 bugs and a nice Tiger Grouper. We've got enough fresh seafood to last for days so “Let it blow, let it blow, let it blow”.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

December 3, 2013.

Never again will I take an Ocean Trigger (Editors note: Yes he will, they're very tasty). Filleting him turned into a full time job. Nothing as heinous as working for John Norton but still, it was not easy. His skin was tough as hell. It was like filleting a combat boot. But he was very good.

So of course during the night the wind built directly out of the north and into our private wide open anchorage. It was only a paltry 12 knots but we were swung stern to shore and listening to the wavelets beating against the shore was less than relaxing. I wasn't worried about dragging but my imagination was running wild and I couldn't sleep. So at 0530 I got up and plotted a course to our next destination and got the boat ready to go.

We were underway by 0630 and headed for Hog Cay. We once again found ourselves as the only boat around and had the cay to ourselves. We hiked a bit and explored “The Structure” and noted various reminders of several of our friends passing through.

The only settlement in the Jumentos is Duncantown and is just over a mile and a half away on Ragged Island. There are only about 60 people in the very small community. Maxine who runs the local grocery store hosts an annual Valentines Day party that is not to be missed. She hosts it here on Hog Cay and the lack of shade has always been an issue.

The cruisers gathered hundreds of pieces of bamboo driftwood and built “The Structure” to provide some shade. This past year Maxine gathered some building materials and had some of the locals come over and build a more permanent structure to help house the party.
They did a fantastic job.

We're hiding from 20 – 25 knots out of the east with at least another 4 days of the same in the forecast. One day the wind dropped down to 15 – 20 knots so we rounded the southern tip of the cay to try a little spearfishing. The seas were still up and conditions were less than optimal with a lot of sand suspended in the water due to the roughness.

I didn't dare go around to the windward side of the reefs as the waves would pick me up and unceremoniously deposit me on top of the reef. Which would be bad unless you're into extreme exfoliation. I did find 2 parallel reefs. The waves were breaking on the outermost reef which allowed me to hunt the backside of the inside reef with decent visibility. I grabbed 3 bugs in a half an hour while Christy handled the dinghy in the rough conditions. Thirty minutes was all I could ask of her as the wind pushed her one way while the current sent her in another direction, all while surrounded by coral.

On the way home we did stop at a cove with the only coconut palms on the cay. We grabbed a half dozen newly fallen coconuts to add to the larder before heading back to the boat.

On an unrelated front, someone asked about Hamburger Beans.  Heres a link to a story I wrote about them a while ago.....Click Here

You'll have to scroll down to January 16th to read about the beans.... 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

December 2, 2013.

Got off the boat early to hike the eastern side of Raccoon Cay. These recent squalls filled the usually dry salt flats so crossing the cay had an added “swamp” obstacle.
Swamp Woman
We combed the ironshore and a few small beaches which yielded 26 Hamburger Beans.

After returning to the boat we decided to try someplace new. Johnson Cay. Johnson Cay is a small cay with a U-shaped anchorage that is completely exposed to the north.
The weather has to be pretty docile to consider an overnighter there. We're expecting clocking winds at less than 9 knots.We never brought Veranda in there before the re-power because if the boat didn't start once we were there we were truly screwed. There is room for a few boats but there seems to be an unspoken understanding that if there’s a vessel already anchored there, you find some place else to drop the hook. Since there’s only 3 “tourist” boats down here at the moment it wasn't going to be an issue.

It was a quick motor from Raccoon to Johnson and the hook was down in less than 45 minutes. After lunch we walked the beach and went for a swim. Christy found 3 spectacular Helmet shells while I grabbed 3 more lobsters. We were swimming one of the coral heads together when Christy spotted an Ocean Triggerfish.

Queen Triggers are very good eating but just too pretty to kill. Ocean Triggers are much larger and usually curious to a point. They hang around for a bit but until today they stay just out of spear range. He was swimming a semicircular route and because I'm better at geometry than he was I took a course that would bisect his path.
The spear tip ripped through his spine and he was instantly qualified for a special parking space. A 12 pound fish usually puts up a hellacious fight but my lucky shot had broken his spine and crippled him. Nice.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

November 30, 2013.

We've been waiting for a week long series of viscous squalls to run their course through the area. On Friday we had had enough and made the 7 mile trip down to Black Point. We did the laundry, walked the beach, bought some peppers and onions and even scored a loaf of Lorraine’s mothers coconut bread.

The forecast called for light base winds with squalls thrown into the mix so at 0930 on Saturday we headed out for the Jumentos.
Fine Lion was waiting for parts to be flown in so we bade them farewell and headed out a few hours after Barry & Susan on Nighthawk XX.

Its a 120 mile trip and diesel is precious down there as you can't really get any. So we spent the day sailing, alternating between 2 and 7 knots as the breeze varied widely. Sometimes a squall would overtake us with 30 knots of breeze while the next one would be only rain.

Nighthawk XX opted to stop at Flamingo Cay so at 0200 we slipped past them in the dark. We did have to motor for 3 of the 23 hours to time our crossing of the Nurse Cay Cut with the incoming tide. There’s an 18 mile stretch there that is very similar to crossing the Gulfstream. You definitely don't want big wind opposing the tide. Unless getting your ass kicked is something you enjoy.

We sailed into the anchorage at Raccoon Cay and dropped the hook shortly after 0800. A passing rain shower rinsed off the boat and welcomed us back with a series of spectacular rainbows.

Its good to be back in the area we enjoy so much after a 1420 nautical mile journey. We got over the jitters of making the trip in an untried boat. Nobody yelled at me at an ICW bridge. We weren't run down from behind by a blind “sailor” motoring behind his limp genoa. Serenity 5 didn't try to barrel though us as he did his “Ray Charles drives a boat impression”. Alpha Mike had no issues. There was no white trash spectacle on the docks in Nassau. Customs and Immigration were spectacular. And in an hour this afternoon 6 lobster jumped into the Big Red Bucket O'Doom.

Veranda truly has “Done reach”.

Friday, November 29, 2013

November 28. 2013.

While we were sitting at Big Majors Spot we listened to the VHF as a drama unfolded. It was late in the afternoon as listened to a conversation about a boat that had run aground 17 miles to our northwest.

We could hear both sides as BASRA ( Bahamas Air Sea Rescue ) spoke with a US Coast Guard helicopter. The boat was reported to be a “Haitian sailing freighter”, about a forty footer. It was blowing 30 knots and at first it seemed to be a simple grounding. It soon became obvious that the boat was destined to end up as another of many shipwrecks that dot these beautiful waters.

The only local Bahamanian boat was way to small to handle the rescue as the “sailing Freighter” had over a hundred people aboard. Thats right, over a hundred people on a forty footer.  The Coast Guard chopper plucked close to a dozen people off the boat before darkness set in and delivered them to Staniel Cay. They also dropped food, fresh water and multiple liferafts down to the stricken vessel.

By the time dawn broke the freighter had capsized. People were clinging to the hull, floating away in rafts and swimming in the water. A 108 foot Bahamian cutter arrived at the scene and continued the rescue process. The US Coast Guard had both a helicopter and a fixed wing aircraft on station guiding the Bahamians rescue boats where they were needed.

More than a hundred people were rescued in very trying conditions while more than 30 didn't survive the ordeal. To listen as the US Coast Guard and the local authorities worked together was more than interesting. I Googled up an article about the wreck. You can see some pictures and read the official account here.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

November 23, 2013.

We're sitting here at Big Majors Spot waiting out 2 fairly serious cold fronts. One will bring gale force winds to the Abacos but we're far enough south that we shouldn't see anything more than 30 knots.

There’s 3 beaches along the west side of Big Majors. The southernmost is Pig Beach. The big attraction is the wild pigs that roam the beach looking for handouts. They're pretty good swimmers and will come right out to the dinghy as you approach.
Picture of the pigs shamelessly stolen from my friend Steve on Fine Lion

The northernmost beach is Honeymoon Beach. Its a stones throw from Fowl Cay.
You know a place is exclusive when they have their own rainbow....
The resort on Fowl Cay is a very pricey vacation resort with its own private beach and all the water toys you could want. Its not unusual to see couples in small Whalers head over to Honeymoon Beach for some privacy. I figure they crawled out of their cubicles long enough to get married and head to Fowl Cay on their honeymoon. They're usually snowflake white and , I dunno, awkward.

Then there’s the center beach. Bills Beach. No not me, some other guy. We were on this beach years ago and we helped some other cruisers pick up all the flotsom and pile it up and burn it. We burned the crap below the high water mark so that when the tide came in it removed any evidence that there was ever a fire there. It was pristine when we left. Every year when we come back through I've noticed a disturbing trend. Junk.

There are several places in the islands that once cruisers arrive they just kinda sit there. There’s so much time to kill if you're not traveling that they need an outlet for their energy and building things is a good way to burn that energy off.

Pipe Creek is a perfect example. There are several boats that make Pipe Creek the destination. Over the years they've collected the detritus of society that floats up on the windward beaches and fashioned the Pipe Creek Yacht Club.
Its a clever little building built from crap that was already there. Its a good place to have a happy hour and strikes me as being “clean”. It adds to the landscape.

Down in Georgetown there’s another example of this type of structure. As with the Pipe Creek Yacht Club it seems to make the place more picturesque.
Its a nice place to congregate and get out of the unrelenting sun.

Down on Hog Cay in the Jumentos there’s a place known as the structure. Its made completely of things found on the beaches. Its the only shade on the beach and a great gathering place no matter what time of day.

Bills Beach on Big Majors Spot is the exception. It looks like a hobo encampment. People have been bringing “improvements” from home and adding them to the beach. “Hey, I've got these deck chairs that are too shitty to have on my boat so I'll bring em” down and leave them on a formerly pristine beach so everybody can use them”.

“Thats great, I've got a barbecue grill that is such a rusted piece of shit I gotta get rid of it so I'll bring it to Bills Beach and abandon it there”.
“Hey look at all the amenities we have on our beach”. They bring crap they wouldn't have at home and leave it on a beach like they're doing something positive. The place looks like a run down trailer park.

One of the basic tenets of the Seven Seas Cruising Association is to leave a clean wake. These people are starting their own landfill....

Friday, November 22, 2013

November 20, 2013.

We arrived in Nassau right at dusk. When asking permission to enter Nassau Harbor they ask “What was your last port of call?”. If it was anywhere besides the Bahamas you have to go into a marina so Customs & Immigration can come and check you in. The issue was that we had arrived so late in the day that the marina was closed and it was getting dark. Unfamiliar concrete fixed docks and a solid current running through the marina made attempting to get in by ourselves an unattractive proposition. So we dropped the hook in the harbor and waited for morning.

After a well deserved night of sleep the Fine Lion's and we both hit the fuel dock at the Nassau Harbor Club around 0830. After fueling we were both tied up in our respective slips by 0930. The dockhand who handled our lines gave us our Customs & Immigration paperwork and told us that the woman from Immigration was already at the marina checking in another boat.

We filled out our paperwork quickly and Steve & I headed up to the marina sunporch to deal with the officials. And it couldn't have gone more splendidly. The woman from Immigration teased and joked with us and then gave us all 180 days. Eureka! The woman from Customs was quick, efficient, very pleasant and we were soon in the country with no drama. Wow, fueled up, tied up and through Customs & Immigration with 180 days in my pocket all before 1000. Things are going exceedingly well.

The next thing on our dance card is dealing with Batelco. Last year getting the phone and aircard for internet up and running involved a lengthy hike, a cab ride and some dumb luck. We had budgeted 4 hours for this years “adventure”. We heard that a new but very small Batelco office had opened at the strip mall right across the street from the marina. It was a glimmer of hope so we headed over.

Steve explained to Cameron what we were trying to do. There were aircards, SIM cards, cell phones and laptops involved but in 15 minutes viola, all Fine Lions shit was working like it should be. Steve actually sainted Cameron on the spot. I walked up to the counter and said “anybody can get lucky once, lets hold off the sainthood until the miracle is repeated” as I pushed our pile of technology at Cameron. 15 minutes later we were all good too. All hail Saint Cameron de Batelco.

Damn, its still not 1100 hours and we're running out of chores to do. We decided to walk across the parking lot to the new Fresh Market. We are stocked to the gills but another head of lettuce never hurt anyone. The building has always housed a decent grocery store but the Fresh Market is new. We walked in and were shocked. Christy hopes heaven resembles this place. It was like the best grocery store you've ever been in and a Whole Foods combined into one. An amazing selection of foods and more organic crap than we seen since leaving Annapolis. Of course it was also expensive as hell too.

After that we washed the boat and counted the minutes until tomorrows departure.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

November 19, 2013.

We finished last minute chores and provisioning for our trip offshore while in Vero Beach. We also attended a cruisers get together and had dinner with groups of friends while there. But as always, the weather rules.
The obligatory Vero mast climb.

On Sunday we headed down the ICW to North Lake Worth to stage for a possible crossing. The wind was to be light before completely disappearing for 2 days. We were expecting a long motor boat trip through flat seas. We motorsailed down the coast until we were abreast of Miami before turning east. This gave us a nice angle for crossing the stream to North Riding Rock. We never dropped below 5.5 knots and it might have been a boring crossing if not for the extracurricular goings on.

It was dark and we were just about at the middle of the Gulfstream when Fine Lion hailed us on the radio. They were about a half mile behind us and off to our starboard side. Steve was wondering if we knew what the flashing lights on the horizon were. He said they were in front, to his south side and behind him. At first we didn't see them and then he realized that the lights weren't actually out on the horizon but much closer to his boat than he thought.

When we looked back at his boat we could see dozens of green and red flashing lights all around his boat. He hit them with the spotlight and said that they were wrapped with reflective tape as well. I figured that it had to be drugs. Bales of weed dropped over the side of a mothership and floating north in the Gulfstream waiting to be picked up later. We talked about it for a little bit but we had a more pressing issue just off the bow.

I had a radar contact 4.5 miles off the bow. The issue was that there was nothing to be seen, no lights what-so-ever. It wasn't a drifting piece of debris as it just sat there in front of us in spite of the northward flow of the Gulfstream. We got to within a mile and a half of it before it slowly started making its way south to avoid us.

With the binoculars Christy was finally able to spot a large, blacked out boat steering a semi circle around us. I figure it had to be either the DEA watching to see who would be making the pickup or it was the bad guys waiting for us to finish stumbling through so they could make their pick up in private. Either way, I'm glad neither one of us felt the need to investigate the flashing floaters.
Dawn breaks over FAC (Flat Ass Calm) seas

Fine Lion anchored off Paradise Island

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

November 13, 2013.

On Monday we woke up with a short 30 mile day planned. The goal was Vero Beach where we always have such a great time seeing people and putting the final touches on the boat before crossing. We once again pulled the hook at first light and motored down the ICW.

It was a perfect morning until Granga, granga, grang....A HUGE vibration. I quickly chopped the throttle and slipped the transmission into neutral. The vibration was instantly gone. I ran the engine up to cruising RPM's and it was silky smooth. Good, its not the new engine.

We were in a section of the ICW that is cut through a very wide but shallow section of the Indian River. We pulled out the genoa and ghosted along at 2.3 knots. Once I was sure we were able to have steerage and stay in the narrow channel I went below to check out the rest of the drive train while Christy sailed along.

The shaft coupling was still intact and everything looked as it should. I reached in and grabbed the prop shaft and tried to turn the shaft by hand. Nope, couldn't do it. Thank God. That meant that there was a very good chance that we got a line wrapped around the prop. We tried a low RPM reverse to see if we could clear the obstruction by unwinding it. It was a long shot, but no luck.

We had to sail very slowly for about a mile until there was deep water adjacent to the channel where we could pull off and drop the hook. Once there we rounded up, furled the genny and dropped the hook in 8 feet of water.

I quickly donned my snorkeling gear and slipped over the transom. I found myself hyperventilating a bit before ducking under the surface. I was hoping for an old forgotten crab pot line wrapped around the prop. Visibility was only about 3 feet and I couldn't see anything until the silhouette of our shaft, skeg and prop materialized in the murk. It turned out to be a six foot long palm frond spine wedged between the shaft and skeg and wrapped into the folding prop. I cleared it quickly and checked that the prop still cycled easily and climbed back onto the boat. In 8 years I believe thats the first time I've ever had to clear something from the prop.

We had the engine running and the hook up 2 minutes after I climbed out of the water. We arrived before noon yesterday and today we sit on a mooring while a hoolie blows outside. And as far as “last one in the waters a rotten egg” goes, I've got that one covered. Its the rest of you I'm worried about......

November 11, 2013.

Last one to pull the hook has to sweep up the anchorage before they leave so we were up and underway before anyone today.
Honey, I swear it'll be up soon....
Technically before dawn.
Semi rare white Pelicans
We had excellent depths all day, the bridges all cooperated and we dropped the hook 71 miles later in Eau Gallie.
Either tide is REALLY high or somebodies run over Red # 20

Along the way we passed numerous sailboats in their death throes. A half dozen anchor lines, sails and canvas missing or in taters pretty much signals the death of a dream to me. Its sad to see but more common as you get to warmer climes.
Along the Boulevard of Broken Dreams

As we were passing Titusville we overheard conversation between boats 6 miles behind us. Because Wednesdays weather was looking so grim they were opting to stop in Titusville, sit out Tuesday and ride out Wednesday and Thursdays weather on a mooring there.

Christy and I both looked at each other when we heard the “plan”. With big winds from the north, Titusville would not be an option. Titusville is at the southern end of a 4 mile wide spot in the Indian River. About a mile north of the mooring field a train track bisects the river.
No wind break for several miles and about a mile of fetch to the train tracks doesn't sound like a good time to me. It'll be interesting to see how that plays out. I'm betting “craptastic”.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

November 10, 2013.

After spending 7 nights in Factory Creek we decided that we should try the $10 steak night at the Filling Station. We walked in and imagine our surprise when we found Kathy & Mike from Sapphire seated at a table. They've decided to spend the winter in Charleston this year and I thought we wouldn't get to see them this year. I never considered the fact that they have a CAR and they can travel at speeds in excess of 60 knots per HOUR. It was great to see them and it sucked saying goodnight.

The next morning we were up and underway for Florida. Along with the Fine Lions we decided to skip Georgia and dive down the coast of Florida to Fort Pierce. The following seas were still uncomfortable after the last few days of huge wind from the north. The wind was close enough behind us that it was usable but not the greatest point of sail. We sailed for about 13 hours before the wind veered enough that we couldn't keep the sail full. We were in danger of exploding the headsail so we had to start the engine and motor.

When dawn broke we were south of Jacksonville, FL. We weren't able to feed Tucker yesterday or today because it was just too rough to get him on deck to do his business. I also had an issue. Being a Flexitarian I don't really eat a whole lot of meat. Ever since we walked out of the Filling Station I had been in bowelular distress. I hadn't had a big juicy, dripping piece of steak in so long I think my body was doing its best to reject it. Thats right, the shits at sea. I'd rather have faced a Kracken in a hoolie at night with a plastic spoon.
Tucker and I are both old so we had to change plans. We hailed Fine Lion, told them we were diverting, wished them luck and turned for Saint Augustine.

The ocean didn't want to let us go. Five miles after altering course we hit something big enough to make the entire boat to shudder. We were in 70 feet of water so it might have been a log, a large sea turtle, a basking Shark, Right Whale or God knows what. We never saw anything before during or afterwards. Ten miles out of the inlet the Jacksonville Coast Guard had a Notice to Mariners. It was to inform everyone that a sailboat was breaking up in the Saint Augustine inlet and there might be a debris field. Great, just great.

When we could see the inlet the remains of a sailboat was the least of my worries. The tug Sega was towing a dredge barge out the inlet. The inlet basically runs east and west with a dogleg in it. The wind was from the north with 5 footers rolling across the inlet. The tug and barge were crabbing their way out the inlet at 1.8 knots while we were getting swept in at 9 knots. The tug was all the way to the red side of the channel. The towing cables to the barge were taking up most of the inlet and then the barge which is the size of a football field was coming sideways down the green side. Ugh. We were already committed so I arranged a port to port pass with the tug but it was a little nerve racking to cross his bow within a hundred yards at the dogleg. Once across his bow we turned tight against the red side and slid past the whole lumbering clusterf@#k. We never did see any sailboat debris.

Once the ocean was done being mean to us the ICW decided to be our friend. We wanted to push on to get south of Mosquito Lagoon before this weeks big blow comes through. So we'd have to cover some ICW miles today. We went through the 1100 opening of the Bridge of Lions. I decided to gamble a bit. Daytona was 50 miles away and we had 6 ½ hours before sunset. For the first 20 miles there’s plenty of places to anchor, for the next 30 miles there’s pretty much nothing. So it was Daytona or bust.

We rode the flood tide at over 8 knots for 2 hours just watching the miles click off. We never fell below 7 knots for the rest of the day. The three lift bridges we encountered were all on request due to it being Sunday. We dropped the hook in Daytona at mile marker 831 just off the ICW at sunset.

The ocean was mean to us, the ICW was our friend and between the 2 of them we knocked off 300 miles off the ICW.