Monday, March 31, 2014

April 1, 2014.

This is always one of my favorite posts to write during the year.  Back in 2008
 I first got the idea to do a little fibbing in the spirit of April First.  I was surprised at the success of my efforts which garnered a lot of feedback including hearing that my Mother in Law had called me foul names after falling for my prank.

I followed up 2008's murderess with this effort in 2009 .  In hindsight, I consider it to be a disappointment.  Not with what I wrote but the fact that relations with Cuba were never normalized.  Truthfully, I did find my lie to be a little underwhelming.

As they say, go big or go home so I went a little more sensationalistic in  2010
The story met with mixed reviews as being a little too gory, which surprised me since 2 years before a man had been shot in the chest but tear a toe off a child and everybody gets all squeamish.

The pressure was on in 2011
and I came up with a post that all my fellow fishermen wanted to believe in.  It was a fun post that got a lot of feedback and people still make a reference to the lobster whistle every now and again.

In 2012
I decided to grab people by their empathy and squeeze it.  The feedback I got was touching.  Several people assured me that depression wasn't a weakness and offered to be there if I needed to talk.  I'm still not sure if they were pranking me back or not, but I still feel lucky to count those people among my friends.

We still have friends who believe in our posting from 2013
It's not that our friends are gullible.  It's just that the lie was easy to swallow as the trawler thing is so common when it comes to sailing cruisers.  Alright, maybe they are gullible.

But all this leaves me with what to do for 2014.  I was bemoaning the fact to Christy that I was drawing a blank.  She looked at me and said "I'll write it".  Christy edits most of the posts that I write but as best I can remember she's only written 1 post in our blogs history.  So if she wants the ball with the game on the line, I'll pass it over....

April 1, 2014.

As another great winter in the Bahamas comes to a close, we have been reminiscing about our journey as cruisers!  We have been so lucky to live this life, that many people can only dream of.  We were looking back through old pictures and reread our earlier blog posts, and OMG were we green!  When we look back, we are so proud of our accomplishments.

Yeah sure, there have been beautiful beaches, secluded anchorages, gorgeous sunsets, fabulous fishing and lobstering, really interesting quaint towns, fun restaurants and bars, stories and lives shared but the best of all these times have been the people that we have met along the way.  

Whether they have been fellow cruisers or locals, wherever we have been, the most important, fun, interesting, revealing, heartwarming and loving part of the whole adventure has been the people that we have met.  
So we would like to thank all of you who have been a part of our cruising life, those who have made the good times better and the not so good times bearable!!  We have so many awesome memories of these years and we know that we will relive them for years to come.

So with that, we have decided that the timing is right for us to move on to our next adventure, whatever that may be.

At some point after we return to Annapolis, the Veranda will be up for sale.  A new engine and new sails, its time.
We will miss all of you,
You know what they say....Timing is everything...........

P.S. Immediately after posting this we pulled the hook and headed for the states.  See you in a few days....

Sunday, March 30, 2014

March 30, 2014.

When last I wrote we had just settled in to the small anchorage in White Sound, Turtle Cay.
We were beset by a prolong series of squalls during the night. We had a few hours of spectacular lighting followed by the wind piping up and then a prolonged downpour. I sat up in the cockpit with Tucker until 0130 watching the boats around us dance furiously at their rodes as the squalls swept through.

The wind and rain left together so I went below and tucked myself in. Even with a 120 degree wind shift nobody dragged or got too close to each other. Lovely.

Today dawned gray but soon the sky cleared and the wind returned. And things got a little weird. First a local boat came in with a diver onboard and they replaced 2 moorings. The moorings were missing but when they found the anchors on the bottom they just attached a new ball to them.
This dude anchored, and THEN they put the mooring ball right under his bow.  Surprise!
It was a little disconcerting for the guys who had anchored there to all of a sudden have a mooring ball floats immediately off their bow.

So once these guys pull their hooks and leave no once else will be able to anchor there because of the moorings location. I understand why they did it, it just seemed an odd way to find out that you anchored in the middle of the mooring field.

Then these 2 tiny sailboats came into the harbor.

They probably draft less than 3 feet so they can squeeze themselves into some really protected spots. But holy mackerel, I think the larger of the two might only be 26 feet long, if that. Thats not a lot of boat for some of the conditions we face from time to time. Let alone the lack space can only allow for so many creature comforts. But even though they're small I'll bet it seems a lot more roomy than some office cubicle. I've always felt I could live a Spartan lifestyle yet these people make me feel like a spoiled little princess.
Thats the 4 adults from the 2 tiny sailboats crammed into 1 tiny rowing dink.  More power to em'

After last nights temporary clocking as the squalls came through I thought that everyones anchors must be pretty well set. Evidently I was wrong because once the sun came up and we all started to swing with the clocking breeze things changed. One boat was about 6 feet from a boat on a mooring so he pulled his hook and went into a marina. When he freed up his spot 2 other boats pulled the hook and moved just a bit to gain a little extra room between them and their neighbors.

The wind is still up near 20 knots but it is slowly clocking as advertised. We should be able to get out of White Sound tomorrow and anchor closer to town.. Thats the plan anyway. S/V Gem made it too the neighborhood coming through the Whale this morning. We'll probably spend some time with them tomorrow. As the plan stands now, its off to the states for us on Tuesday...

Saturday, March 29, 2014

March 29, 2014.

We woke to a dreary gray morning. The wind had stayed out of the south and died down to about 7 knots last night. We listened to the weather and were getting ready to head out when a guy got on the radio and said that he just got through the Whale and it was lovely ish.

I wolfed down breakfast and we had the hook up 5 minutes later. When transiting the Whale from southeast to northwest the first mile is down an old deep water channel marked by pilings sticking up from the bottom. Because we were coming from Treasure Cay we were able to skip this part of the trip as we cut into the course from the side.

We had about 9 knots of breeze from behind us with a 6 to 8 foot swell coming under the starboard quarter. The spacing of the swells was wide enough that the ride wasn't too bad. About ¾ 's of the way through we ran into a nasty little squall. It rained like a bitch and blew 20 knots for about 10 minutes before leaving us.

We were the third of 6 boats running through the Whale. One of the other guys was giving a “Whale Report” to let anyone who was considering going, that it wasn't too bad. He probably should have been a little more specific and announced which way we were heading. We were in the gap in the reef, in the midst of the squall when the first of 3 boats headed the opposite way hove into view.

We were surfing the swells into the cut as a huge Lagoon catamaran passed on his way out. We were shredding swell after swell doing 8.5 knots, wallowing as the swell went out from under us and then catching the next one. He was bashing into one after the other. It was quite impressive to see how his large boat was tossed about as each swell tried to stop him as he clawed his way out through the cut. His Whale experience was definitely not lovely ish.

After getting back inside it was a quick 5 mile jaunt up to Green Turtle Cay. The forecast for the next day is pretty nasty so we decided to drop the hook inside White Sound. The only issue with that is the fact that the long entrance channel supposedly has a controlling depth of 6 feet at low tide.

The tidal range here is 3 feet and we were 3 hours into a falling tide when we arrived at the outer marks. But our guardian angel sent us a gift. An 80 foot power yacht arrived at the entrance 2 minutes before us. He was assured by the marina staff that he should be able to get his 6 foot draft into the harbor.

He had his tender out in front of him sounding the channel as he crept along behind him. We just hopped into line and followed them both in. The anchorage is fairly crowded and the woman on the boat next to us showed us her bitch wings as we dropped the hook next to her. Like that shits gonna have any effect on me. I've had my shots, I'm impervious. After dark I'll go pull in 30 feet of my chain, in the morning she'll think she dragged. Alpha Mike is heading home.....

Friday, March 28, 2014

March 28, 2014.

We awoke to the winds as were forecast. 20 knots outta the east southeast. Cool, its nice when the shit happens as advertised. We decided to ride this favorable breeze 20 miles to the northwest.

We pulled the hook and rolled out the genny and found ourselves graced with a fabulous downwind sail right where we wanted to go. We were headed for the protected anchorage at Treasure Cay. We had talked to friends the day before that had said even though the anchorage could hold 30 boats there were only about 10 there. Perfect. Talking about anchorages is one of the few times that 10 is greater than 30.

Of course we didn't pull the hook until after we listened to Chris Parker. This led to leaving a half hour after the entire Frenadian navy. We had 7 boats ahead of us but fortunately 3 of them turned off towards Marsh Harbor.

In spite of our fabulous downwind sailing I couldn't help but wonder “What if the anchorage was full by the time we got there?” My other thought was “Should we just veer off a bit and go through the Whale?” It was right about this time when I heard 2 sailboats to our north talking about the Whale. Sail Away was asking Sail La Vie if he had an eyeball on the notorious cut. Sail La Vie responded that he had in fact poked his head out and tried to transit the cut earlier in the morning but the conditions had forced him back. Sail Away thanked him for the info and as an afterthought asked how big a vessel he was. Sail La Vie responded that he was a 65 foot sailboat.

So the 65 footer couldn't make it out the cut, Honey, I guess we're going to take our 42 footer to Treasure Cay. We got there an hour and a half before low tide and snuck in with 3 inches under the keel as we slipped into the protected bay. Three inches or three feet, as long as we're floating.

Its a nice little harbor,
there’s wifi and our friends the Kintalas are here. We anchored right off their stern and after lunch went for a long walk on a typically picturesque Bahamanian beach. The big surprise for us was that from this beach we could actually see the Whale Cay Cut, clearly. From the boat the southern approach to this cut didn't look all that bad.

From down here at the beach we had a vantage point that allowed us to see the rest of the cut. Brutal is the word that comes to mind. There were breakers from one side of the cut to the other. There was no obvious channel between the reefs. It was a solid wall of whitewater. And the worst thing about it was that it didn't seem to end. We were probably a mile inshore of the cut and there were breakers from the deep water all the way up to our feet on the beach.

During cocktails on the Veranda later that evening we got to see something new. Baby in the rigging....

Thursday, March 27, 2014

March 27, 2014.

During the night the wind veered to the east and was due to be out of 130º by nightfall so we had to move. Right after listening to Chris Parker we pulled the hook and motored straight into 15 knots of breeze for four miles to get to Hopetown.

Because of the crappy weather forecast all the moorings and every slip in Hopetown were full. We already knew that but we decided to head over that way and anchor outside the harbor.
When we arrived there were 2 other boats in the huge but shallow anchorage. After lunch we put the dink in the water and headed in to town.

We haven't been off the boat in days and needed the opportunity to blow the stink off. 
It was cloudy out and I still had to wear shades to walk past this house.
While walking around we ran into a guy who's been reading the blog for a while and after walking away Christy confessed that she couldn't believe that he had recognized me with my new lack of haircut.
Could this shit be any cuter?
This is what it would have looked like if Mayberry RFD had been in color.

As always walking around Hopetown was a visual treat.
The local schoolhouse
Between the flowers and the buildings the colors here are overwhelming. It really is a gorgeous little community where golf carts rule the roads.
The local church
Part of the island has real roads while the “streets” in Hopetown itself are ¼ scale. Today was mailboat day and many local businesses show up at the dock to pick up whatever they have being shipped in.
Teaching kids patience one child at a time
You can see how this golf cart drawn trailer takes up the entire thoroughfare.

It really is a darling little town.
I can't even name half of the colors I've seen
We stopped in for a cocktail before heading back out to the boat.  We even considered eating there but unfortunately we had just had steamed ox tail for lunch.
Whatever happened to good ole Grouper fingers?
  When we dinghied back out to the Veranda we found that our idea of anchoring outside the harbor wasn't so original.
Evidently all the cool kids hang out here.
We're now anchored in the shadow of the lighthouse with 18 of our best friends.....

Boat Name of the Day.  A small sloop named "Going Knots"

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Enough with the wind already

March 26, 2014.

We're sitting here anchored just to the East of Marsh Harbor.
Good protection and free wifi, what more could a boy want.  Yes, I know, I have that too.
When we arrived into the area we knew a fairly serious front was due to blast through. Four very protected havens popped into mind when we considered hiding from this weather system. We considered Little Harbor, Hopetown, Marsh Harbor and Treasure Cay.

Little Harbor was a bit too far south. Hopetowns moorings are claustrophobic in their proximity to each other and just not for us. The anchorage in Marsh Harbor can get pretty crowded and with the ferocity of the forecast I don't want to be anywhere near Johnny Mc'Cantanchor when the wind pipes up and starts to clock. It was the same thing for us with the anchorage inside Treasure Cay. Great anchorage, I just don't want to be there with a crowd.
Top left box is wind speed, 35 knots but at least its still sunny and 76 degrees

So here we sit. As forecast the wind blew stiffly from the northeast before clocking to south at 10 knots or less. When the front arrived in blew 20 to 25 from the southwest. We had about 2 miles of fetch but sitting here in 8 feet of water with a hundred feet of chain out we rode it comfortably. Because of the shallow depth the sea state could only build to 18 inches or less.
The wind is slowly dropping but so is the temperature, 64 degrees....yikes!
With a dozen of these small wavelets passing under the boat at a time we could feel nothing but the breeze. As the wind clocked to the west the fetch dropped to just over half a mile while the wind increased to the low thirties. The wind has continued to clock to the north and now the fetch is a quarter of a mile while the winds hover between 20 and 30 knots.

There was just enough rain yesterday to rinse off the boat. There’s only 3 other boats here, the closest of which is over 200 yards away. Perfect.

I've already got another Boat Name of the Day. “Land Escaper” While the name itself is nothing special its the whole package that makes it so good. The Captain of this particular vessel speaks with a very thick Spanish accent.

When he says the boats name it just rolls off his tongue almost as one word. “Landscaper”. In our neck of the woods a disproportionate number of landscapers are Mexicans. So between the name and the accent.....I hope he's just got a great sense of humor and this combination is intentional on his part. Otherwise this is really pretty awkward....

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

March 24, 2104.

I don't know what it is about the Abacos that rubs me the wrong way. The locals here are a little more commercial but other than that, they're the same warm, friendly people as the locals further south. So it's gotta be the tourons.

I know the radio in general up here bugs me. Here in the Abacos channel 68 is treated as a hailing frequency much like channel 16 is. The other day a guy chose 68 as his comms channel while he was having a conversation with a buddy. A local stepped in and asked that he take his chatter to a working channel rather than a hailing channel. The guy freaked out and told him that 68 WAS a working channel and he wouldn't be switching. The other guy patiently tried to explain the local custom here and the second guy wasn't interested in hearing it. He was uttering things like “what, do you think you own the airwaves' and a bunch of other less civil things. I thought to myself “what a complete douchebag”. This guy's “enjoying” the islands by stumbling through as the ugly American. It would easier to follow the custom, you know, when in Rome. It was embarrassing.

Four times in the last 3 days somebody has had an open mic on channel 16. One after another people grab their own mic and announce “Someone has an open mic on 16, please check your radios”. Which is all fine and dandy, I understand that they're trying to help. The only problem is that if the offenders mic is keyed, his radio is transmitting and not receiving. So he's the only one within range who CAN'T hear you as you blabber on and on about “please check your radios”. His radio is accidentally being annoying. You on the other hand are showcasing your stupidity.

We're sitting here waiting for what is forecast to be a horrific front. For 2 days people have been running and hiding. Every mooring for miles is occupied, Marsh Harbor and Hopetown are packed as will all of the places that offer good protection. The marinas are filled as people sought safe haven. This morning, the day of the fronts arrival, some folks were trying to make reservations for slips or moorings. Upon finding out that there was no room in several places the radio was filled with annoyed boaters bemoaning the fact that they had nowhere to go.

There are a limited number of moorings in very protected Hopetown, which are available on a first come, first served basis. When a front's coming, if you want one, you have to go and get it. You might have to spend a few days on the mooring but at least you'll have it. Deciding on the morning of the blow that you'll swing by Hopetown and pick up the mooring is just dopey. This front has been the talk of the weather gurus for at least a week, it didn't just happen last night. Don't take it out on the guy on the radio, look in the mirror.

Enough of that. The other day Christy and I were anchored below Snake Cay and took a little cruise in the dink. Back in the mangroves we found sunken “building on a barge”.
It's over a hundred feet long and from a distance we thought it was a collapsed covered boat storage from an abandoned marina.
We've got no idea what it once was, but it sure was powerful. Maybe they were generators and the barge was anchored somewhere and just made gobs of power.  The twin engines are still sitting in place slowly rotting away.
Each engine is more than 7 feet tall and 10 feet long. Insert your own Tim the Toolman Taylor neanderthal noises here.

Something I haven't done in quite a while is Boat Name of the Day. Today's boat name was “Unsupervised”. I dunno, it makes me laugh every time I hear the guy say it.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

March 23, 2014.

Heres a quickie. We were sitting having lunch when over the VHF we heard “Moorings charter boat leaving Marsh Harbor, Moorings charter boat leaving Marsh Harbor. (and then after a suitable pause came the kick to the groin) Captain”. The word “Captain” was dripping with pure sarcasm. It was delicious. Well done anonymous voice from the VHF, well done.

When you pick up a Moorings charter in Marsh Harbor they usually have it backed into the slip so the renter can just pull away when its time to go. There’s not enough room behind the boat to trail the dinghy so they tie it to the bow. When you pull out into the harbor you're supposed to pause, go to the bow, untie the dink and walk it aft and retie it and then tow it along behind you. Evidently they forgot. I wonder when they would have noticed....
March 22, 2014.

My birthday happened while we were anchored in Governors Harbor. I'll just say that there was chocolate AND pie involved. In keeping with the birthday traditions of my people we went out to see if we could kill something. We headed over to Levis Cay and as soon as we got into the water Christy noticed that the docks back in the harbor were on fire.
We never did find out what burned
She was a little freaked and wanted to go back to the big boat. I convinced her that since the Veranda was upwind it wasn't really worth the trip back.

The only fish I saw worth shooting was a huge Tiger Grouper. Evidently he didn't get huge by being curious. As soon as he saw me he split and was outta there. I did find 4 lobster. 3 of them were just too small and the fourth was marginal. I just couldn't see firing up the stove for 1 bug so I spared him as well. Of course as soon as I let him go I ran into a huge crab but since I didn't take the bug I let the crab go too. I did run into several juvenile fish. I saw several Nassau Grouper, a few Black Grouper and even a few Hogfish all no bigger than my hand. I did kill the only Lionfish that I saw and it was a good swim. Even though I got skunked I really enjoyed it.
Three members of the Governors Harbor Rough Riders keep us entertained with a street stunt show.

The next morning around 0900 we pulled the hook for the 40 mile sail NW to the anchorage at Royal Island. We spent part of the trip trying to remember if we've ever had a bad sail along the west side of Eleuthera. True to form, it was another spectacular day in these sheltered crystal blue waters. We sailed into the anchorage at Royal Island after timing Current Cut perfectly and found that there were already 10 boats there. It seems that they've been stacking up here awaiting the next days window for a jump to the Abacos.

So today we were up and underway at 0630. Imagine my surprise when we turned the corner as we left the anchorage and we found ourselves as the 6th boat headed towards Egg Island. A lot of them were smaller, slower boats that had to get started early to have a chance of knocking out the 56 mile trip in the daylight.

Not everybody went north with us and a few came out of Spanish Wells so we ended up with a dozen boats headed to Abaco. The sea state was a little bizarre. Flat one minute then 2 hours of HUGE swells then back to reasonable again. When we got to the cut my ass had been clinching for hours. I don't know why but I hate this stretch of water.
We've never had a problem here although we have seen huge waterspouts here. This stretch just creeps me out. In spite of our speed we were going to get there just after high tide and have the current ebbing against the incoming breeze. The water also shallows up there ABRUPTLY. You go from over a thousand feet of water to 60 feet in a couple of boat lengths just as you're lining up for the cut. We had the sails full but still started the engine to powersail our way in with as little time spent in the washing machine as possible.

The breeze started out light but after a few hours filled in nicely and we ended up averaging 7 knots for the day as we dropped the hook behind Lynyard Cay in the Abacos before 1500 hours. It went slick and easy and 20 minutes later we were anchored with the Post Anchoring Cocktail in hand.
The trawler is lying at anchor and this sailor HAS to cross his bow to get where he wants to anchor.  There was plenty of room to cross his stern, I don't know how he didn't catch his anchor rode.  He was REALLY close....

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

March 19, 2014.

So when we pulled into the anchorage at Governors Harbor it was pitch dark. We wanted to tuck ourselves into the corner to get out of the swell that followed us across the bank. The sailing was pleasant but it just wouldn't do for an anchorage. As we turned into the corner there was the anchor light of one boat already there.
We anchored nearby and went about our business. It wasn't until daylight that the front got here and we got our first glimpse of our new neighbor....

Our first conversation was pretty much like “What the f@#k is that?” I know what you're thinking “Broadblue came out with another catamaran that won't go to windward”. Nope, thats not it. Its a tool shed on a raft built from barrels.

Where the hell could it have come from? Unless there’s a pair of jetskiis strapped together inside that shed the thing had to blow here downwind. We did a slow spin around it in the dink and found it to be pretty interesting. It seems to be held together with ratchet straps. There’s more than 500 watts of solar on the roof and a wind generator.

All the solar is oriented towards the port side of the “boat”. Since the sun is in the southern sky it seemed to me that the thing was built to head west. What I took to be the anchor light was actually the stern portion of a masthead tricolor thats been left on.

Without an anchor light we surmised that it had to be purpose built for one trip. Taking this thing to the states from here might work out but odds are that you'd probably die. Not to mention the even though it looks solid, its a little worn. Fortunately there’s a name still visible and this things so odd there’s gotta be a blog about it.

I googled it up and found something even better than a blog. An English newspaper story regarding the Atlantic crossing of the Antiki. Are you kidding me....the Atlantic freaking ocean? So now that its voyage is over I wonder if its been listed for sale.  It is a proven blue water sailor, I wonder if Rogue Wave Yacht Sails has the listing?

Enjoy the story here....Antiki

Its not so much a story as a series of photos with brief explanations.  Pretty cool, very nutty.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Spontaneous Departure

March 18, 2014.

A belated Happy Saint Patricks Day to everyone.

So we were sitting in Pipe Creek hiding from a pair of small fronts. After the first front came through the place emptied out and we had it to ourselves.
Pipe Creek.  Where you get to anchor right on the runway

That's Over Yonder Cut in the backround
Since we'd have to come back and hide again in 2 days we decided to stay. It was nice and it gave us a chance to visit with Tokkie & Gail. We even took the dink all the way down to Staniel Cay for lunch.

The breeze leading up to the second front was pretty strong from the south. Then it was supposed to veer to the southwest and go lighter. The course from Over Yonder Cay Cut to the Powell Point waypoint is about 10º. At 1730 on Monday afternoon I decided why sit and wait here for 2 more days when we can use this SW breeze and head north.

So at 1800 hours we pulled the hook and set off, or at least we tried to. The anchor chain was securely wrapped around a rock. So with the boat all ready to roll I had to don my snorkeling gear and jump in to free the chain. Christy paid out some chain and I freed it from the rock. Now we could get going.

Over Yonder Cut is narrow and the current rips through it. So you always want the tide, wind and direction of travel to all be the same. Since it was go now or stay for another few days we had no choice but to fight our way out against the tide. As we headed to the cut we were turning RPM's for 6.7 knots. The bow was pushed violently from side to side as we eeked our way out through the rip at 3.1 knots SOG. Whew!

We had to motor the 30 miles across Exuma Sound as there were 4 foot rollers coming under our beam with barely enough wind to keep the sails from flogging. The evening passed quickly and as soon as we reached the protection of Powell Point the rollers stopped so the engine was shut down. We sailed slowly across the banks reaching Governors Harbor at 0530.
Pipe Creek really is beautiful especially if you can get it to yourself.

We dropped the hook in the dark figuring on moving in closer to shore for better protection when the sun came up. Christy took a short nap while I squared the boat away and connected to the internet. When she got up we cranked up the engine and pulled the hook to move in tighter. Except the hook wouldn't come up. Crap. Again?
Its easy to tell which way the winds blowing with these wind generators dotting the shoreline

There's a 2 inch power line that runs across the bottom of the anchorage from one side to the other. It sits right on the bottom and people hook it all the time. We've never caught it before and I can't believe that it happened the very next morning after getting the hook caught on the bottom in Pipe Creek. So once again it was into the snorkeling crap and over the side.

I freed ourselves and once back onboard we moved in closer for better protection. We'll sit here for a few days, grab some vegetables and top up the fuel tank for the trip back to the states. I might even go check out the bakery....

Sunday, March 16, 2014

March 15, 2014.

The other night Christy and I were sitting in the cockpit just before sunset. We've got about 20 knots of breeze with a knot or better of current running through the anchorage. I heard this scraping sound just as Christy leapt to her feet and said “Tucker just fell off the boat”. Crap.

I jumped up and ran aft and climbed down onto the swim platform just as Tucker swept by. We both had momentary brain fade as we yelled for him to swim towards the boat rather than away from it. We forgot he's stone deaf and he looked like Mark Spitz as he swam down current. Shit.

I tossed my reading glasses onto the boat and as I dove in after him. As I was entering the water I was aware that my toss had been short and my glasses were now in the water too. Damn It. I'm a good swimmer and the judges would have given me great scores on the dive except for one thing. My “layin' around” shorts are a bit loose and were immediately wrapped around my ankles as I gracefully sliced into the water. This is almost getting funny.

I grabbed Aquadog and found that I couldn't swim against the current with him struggling in one arm and my shorts trying to tie my legs together. So I turned him around and got him started towards the boat while I stayed behind him. Independently we were both able to make the short swim back to the boat.

He got a quick fresh water rinse and Christy treated him to the blow dryer. So this little snippet of our lives had a happy ending.
Michael Phelps gets the spa treatment

Last night Tucker, a bottle of rum and I were having a conversation after Christy went to bed. I wanted to just how the hell after 8 years onboard, he falls off the boat. He looks at me and tells me that its my fault. Excuse me? My fault? How in the hell do you figure that?

He says that since we applied a new coat of oil to the woodwork, including the caprail we should have warned him it might be slippery should he decide to put his front feet up on it. I was like “ Oh no, you were right here on the boat when we did it, you had to see it”. He said he was napping and hadn't seen the work being done. He insisted that at the very least we should have hung a sign. Really, a sign?

I pointed out that he couldn't read so what good would a sign have done. He pointed out that he also couldn't talk yet here we were. Okay, score a point for the furry thumbless one. I asked him to be more careful and went to bed....

Saturday, March 15, 2014

March 14, 2014.

After my last post about the “greenhorn newbies” one of my friends dropped me a line. She and her husband are first year cruisers so she was reminding me to be kind to newbies. I know she was just busting me but then I thought “what if people thought I meant all newbies”. What I really meant are the ones who really don't seem to be trying. So for your perusal, a couple of quick examples.....

The other day while listening to Chris Parkers weather forecast a fellow called in from Thomson Bay, Long Island. CP gave him a very detailed forecast and before he signed off with the guy he asked “what conditions are you experiencing right now?” The guy kinda stuttered and said “ I just got back to the boat I'll have to get back to you”. So the guy was just outside and he couldn't just say “10 to 12 knots out of the southwest”. He had to start his equipment up so the machines could tell him there was a light breeze from a certain compass point.

At some point you have to start to notice these things without a gizmo. What does 15 knots do to the waters surface, what does 15 knots sound like? Test yourself, say what the wind speed is before you look at the screen. Every time you drop the hook you should know where north is so you KNOW what direction you have protection from. Then you'll KNOW where the breeze is coming from without a second thought. Before they cast off the dock lines most people read a lot trying to prepare for the journey before them. But the real learning starts after you're out and about and not everyone seems to grasp that. Its not a “sit down and study” thing, its observation.

Yesterday morning a woman got on the VHF and asked what time high tide was. After a moment another woman gave her the answer. My first thought was “Hmm, one woman who knows whats going on and one woman....well, lets just hope she looks good in a bathing suit” and then I forgot all about it.

Then this morning at 0730 the same woman got on the radio and once again asked “what time is high tide today?” I was about to get on the radio and explain to her an easy way to guesstimate the tide since she knew yesterdays tides when another guy beat me to the mic.

He correctly told her that the tide had just changed and was starting to ebb. Then she asked when the next high tide was. He answered “Umm, that'll be about 4 this afternoon.” I'm staring at the radio. Oh God, seriously? It takes about 6 hours for the tide to go out and then about another 6 for it to come back in. So its gonna be a bit more than 12 hours between highs. Four this afternoon? Good God man, do the math.

Then I got to thinking. I wonder if they were actors reading from a script. Like they were pulling everyone's leg. Trying to make everyone within 25 miles think they were listening to 2 dopes discussing the tide. Bravo you master thespians, you had me all the way. You really pulled it off, you were both so believable in your stupidity, that, well, I'm just embarrassed to be so completely fooled. A Greenhorn Newbie version of Masterpiece Theater. Bravisimo.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

March 12, 2014.

Laundry was the first thing we did when we arrived at Black Point. While it was agitating we walked over to Lorraine's mothers house for a loaf of coconut bread. With the loaf of bread secured we pretty much just sat at the laundromat while the clothes cycled. It might sound boring but it was anything but.

The place was packed with cruisers doing laundry and getting haircuts. One woman was even getting her hair colored. We listened as several people expressed concern about where to hide from the upcoming cold front.

I can remember having similar conversations with other boaters years ago. There was always that more experienced couple nearby that didn't volunteer any input unless asked. It turns out that we're now that grizzled couple. The forecast is calling for a slow clocking with wind bumping the low twenties. There’s also possible squalls in the forecast which might pack 40 knots of breeze.

There was discussion of possible hidey holes. Everyone was throwing out possibilities. The marinas at Compass Cay and and Staniel Cay were both already full. The moorings at Little Farmers Cay and the Exumas Land and Sea Park were full as well. The anchorage at Black Point was sure to be untenable and there were close to 40 boats still sitting here. Between the Majors was talked about as were the various anchorages in Pipe Creek.

The spot between the Majors is an issue for me.
Between the Majors will do in a pinch but as the wind clocks at some point its gonna suck.
There’s plenty of room and you can get in there all nice and safe until the winds gets up above 20 knots. When the wind gets above 20 knots from the west the Staniel Cay Yacht Club kicks everybody off their dock. So now in the middle of a blow you have several boats being forced to go out and find a spot to anchor. I like to have my neighborhood a little more settled before the blow starts. Nobody wants a bunch of new guys trying to anchor nearby when its blowing stink.

The rap against Pipe Creek is that the charts make it look a little bit intimidating.
Pipe Creek has 360 degree protection but can be current ravaged
Some boats might have to play the tide to get in so for that reason a lot of people won't even try. One couple was expounding on the virtues of Pipe Creek as they had been there before. Boats had been leaving the anchorage here when we arrived and continued to do so while we did our wash. I knew Pipe Creek would be a prime spot and it was high on our list of choices as well.

We left the group chatting while we took our newly clean laundry home. The first thing Christy said to me once we were out of earshot was “Christ, they're all either greenhorn newbies or Frenandians”. It was 1500 hours and we debated getting underway but it was just too late to do so safely. Our first choice was a small strip of deep water just south of Compass Cay.
A convoluted entrance, "fair" holding...I think we'll wait for a nicer day to try it.
We have friends that we haven't seen since Charleston staying at the Compass Cay Marina and that anchorage would leave us with a short dinghy ride in to see them.

The wind was forecast to be out of the south in the morning and Compass Cay is 14 miles to the north. We've never anchored there before and if we arrived and found it full or not what we expected we would have to backtrack to Pipe Creek. We're one of those that needs some extra water to get into Pipe Creek so the tide was an issue. High tide was at 0700. So if we found the anchorage full at Compass Cay then by the time we backtracked we'd arrive at Pipe Creek just before low tide falling. Unless of course we got up and underway at 0500.

So thats what we did. The wrap around swell started in the anchorage at 0400 so that made it a lot easier to get up and about. We silently pulled the hook and ghosted away into the pitch dark early morning leaving the 30 boats riding at anchor behind us. As soon as we cleared the anchorage we found the worst sea state I think we've ever seen on the banks. 15 to 20 knots over our shoulder with the boat rolling from side to side in a ridiculous swell.

I realized that if we got to Compass Cay and found the anchorage lacking we would have to turn around and bash into this shit back to Pipe Creek. So we revised the plan and turned in towards Pipe Creek as soon as we could. We were the only boat underway so we had time to do a little exploring. 

We were so worried about getting in that I never considered being able to turn it around to get out...yikes!
There’s a huge religious retreat on Little Pipe Cay. The chart shows an inviting strip of lovely sand right along their manicured beach. The entrance to that area is VERY intimidating so I figured we could have it all to ourselves. So just after first light we turned towards the gap at Little Pipe Cay. There’s a stone pylon marking the port side of the entrance while a wall of ironshore denotes the opposite boundary. The gap is probably 60 feet wide with swirling, choppy very tumultuous waters. By the time we could see what we were getting into we were committed. It looked scary on the chart, you shoulda seen it in person.

It was a bit tense with several semi submerged sections of ironshore lining the starboard side of the channel. Once inside it was as serene as we had been hoping for but we wouldn't be staying. There were 3 docks jutting out from the shore into “my” anchorage. There were 2 places we could conceivably drop the hook but smack in the middle of one was a floating dock set offshore for swimmers to sun themselves on. Strategically placed in the second spot was a 3 piling mooring dolphin. Crap. I guess we'll have to go elsewhere.

Its about this time we picked up a 2 knot current pushing us down the dead end strip of deep water. And, oh look, its not wide enough to just spin the boat around. Backing and filling 180 degrees with 2 knots of current behind us aided by 15 knots of breeze put a cramp in my sphincter. The new engine really paid for itself this morning.

We ended up dropping the hook behind the Mice as we have in the past. There’s at least 30 boats already here but there's only 2 of us here behind the Mice.
Deep water intersected by ribbons of shallow sand and hard bars make the dinghy ride challenging.
Its only a 2 and a half mile ride in the dink to visit with Tokkie and Gail. Hell, we've gone further to kill lobster. Hmmm, If we bring a spear we could probably do that too on the way....

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

March 11, 2014.

We left the settlement at Black Point headed for the Ragged Islands arriving on December first just over 14 weeks ago. Today we closed that loop when we dropped the hook right in front of Ida's Laundry back in Black Point.

We sat through a front and decided to skedaddle before the next one came through. We used the opportunity of favorable but light breeze to make the run up the backside of Exuma.

We left Hog Cay at 0730 and didn't crack 4 knots for the first 15 miles. The trip was to be 125 miles so we knew we had to be patient. The wind was a little north so we were close reaching into the light breeze. I decided to try a new route home this season. Actually I decided to try it 25 miles into the trip.

Our friend Klaus uses a different route than I do. Its about 5 miles shorter but looks quite a bit scarier. I had his numbers and his route would give me a better point of sail by 8 degrees, so screw scary, lets do it. I veered off onto his route and with the better angle immediately picked up some speed. As we passed Flamingo Cay we could see a gaggle of 8 boats crammed behind the cay waiting to head south. Probably Georgetowners earning their “wilderness” merit badges.

Now with the knot meter consistently banging 5 knots we were smooth and flat. During the night the wind went away and we ghosted along at 2 knots for close to 6 hours. It did make for lovely sleeping though.  But once the sun came up the wind returned. The wind was up between 10 and 15 knots and we finished the trip at just over 6 knots. A very comfortable 6 knots.

I can't believe the culture shock that descended upon us while we were still 15 miles out. The radio chatter was unbelievable. After spending such a long time with a limited number of boats the sheer number of boats and their chatter was overwhelming. Its good to be back but it was better to be gone....
When we left we were the only boat here, now...not so much

Sunday, March 9, 2014

March 9, 2014.

While I'm on the subject of catamarans. The longstanding dig about cats is their lack of upwind sailing performance. Give them a broad reach or a run and they'll east up the miles like nobodies business. They get most of their power from a huge mainsail and their rig is usually complimented by a fractional headsail. The cat below is what you might expect to see when looking at a cruising cat. Comfortable at anchor and fast with a favorable breeze.
Traditional cruising cat

Broadblue has come up with an “innovation” on their 39 footer. On most cats the mast is located at the front of the salon (see above). The longer boom allows for a huge mainsail to help drive the thing upwind. If you look at the picture you'll see that this Broadblues mast is all the way aft of the salon. This makes the mainsail tiny while allowing for a full sized headsail rather than a fractional rig.
The boom is kicked off to port so it looks worse than it is although it is really small.

This kinda condemns the boat to being a downwind boat. So it seems that the design team took a weakness and made it worse. It doesn't go to wind that well so lets just remove any chance that it had.....I don't get it.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

March 7, 2014.

I've noticed a disturbing new trend. It's not really new but it has taken off lately. Catamarans. There has always been a few couples out and about on their cruising catamarans. Usually they've been cats around 40 feet or less. These smaller cats have to worry about weight distribution so overloading the boat is a legitimate concern. They're usually a little bit underpowered so sailing opportunities are cherished. What they lack in power they make up for with a shallow draft and livability while anchored.

This week we had 4 catamarans show up in the anchorage. A 50 footer followed by a 48 and a pair of 42's. Can you imagine how much crap you could bring along if you had two 50 foot hulls. The salon space alone is more square footage than our entire boat.

Thirty years ago only the truly committed diehard went cruising. No creature comforts, it was survival and the trip was a true adventure. Then along came GPS and the chartplotter and any idiot could do it. Even people like me.

The wind generator enabled people to make their own power without running an engine. More power meant creature comforts like Edison’s new fangled incandescent lighting and maybe a tiny fridge. Technology advanced and soon there were affordable solar panels and small generators available to the masses. With even more power came the onset of more toys. Stereos, televisions, mood lighting, huge refrigerators, microwaves, freezers, water makers, electric winches and much more. More toys = more room and now I'm looking at a 50 foot cat.

You can only fit so much stuff on a boat but people keep right on cramming shit aboard. We, like most cruising boats that have had to raise their waterlines as their boat becomes more loaded down. I've even seen 2 boats that had to install macerators on their galley sink drain to keep the water from sitting in the bottom of the sink now that its below the waterline.

This week when these big cats arrived it really drove it home how many creature comforts they bring with them. Three of the boats had been traveling together and when they arrived they all planned to have a gathering on one of the cats. Then the next night one of the other boats felt they had to return the hospitality. Finally on the third night the last guy got to play host.

Three days here and they never got off their boats. They launched their dinghies and only went from boat to boat. They never hit the beach, never walked the trails, never came up to socialize at the firepit, nothing, they just stayed in their boats all day.

Whats the point of traveling this far if you're not going to do a little exploring. Isn't getting some sand between your toes something you signed up for? Isn't meeting new people part of the experience. We've had different buddy boats over the years and even though we spent the bulk of our time with these couples nobody ever shied away from meeting new peeps. Traveling by sailboat is an adventure, but it's the people you meet along the way that make it all that much sweeter.

P.S. This post was over and done with but the 3 cats left this morning for Cuba and there was some hijinks so I thought that I'd lump it in here.

We were all hiding between Hog Cay and Ragged Island to allow a cold front to clock its way through. At dawn the wind was from the north northwest at 15 to 20 so 2 of the cats pulled their hooks and headed out. The route into this hiding spot is a little convoluted and they had come in that way while following others. This morning when they left they headed straight west between the wrong 2 rocks.
You have to sneak in from the north.  You definitely wanna go West

They never got on the radio but I watched as they took over an hour to grope their way a mile to deep water. They dodged this way and that while trying not to run aground on the hard bar that is clearly marked on the charts. It was ridiculous as they played touchy feely with the bottom in what is a charted area with a safe route laid out for them.

I couldn't figure out why they had decided to head straight for the shallows that we've been hiding behind when it was time to leave. Then the third cat, Gone With The Wind pulled his hook and like the previous two and headed straight west! He ran straight aground and after backing off he called the only other Aussie boat around. Maybe he hates US and Canadian flagged vessels, I dunno. It turned out that all 3 of the cats were using Raymarine gear with Navionics charting. Shane on Gem advised him to use the Explorer Charts and even read him off the list of waypoints that he would need to get safely out to sea.

Just so we're all clear here. Navionics sucks in the Bahamas. The Explorer Charts are the Bible. You can use your Navionics but you really ought to cross reference it to the Explorer Charts before going anywhere. If there’s a conflict, BELIEVE the Explorer Charts.

But the thing that really confused me about the whole situation was.....If they thought there was deep water to the west, why in Gods name would they spend 2 nights hiding here with the rest of us as the wind blew from the west. We were here hiding behind the shallows. You'd think that might have been a clue. Maybe if they had come ashore the topic might have come up and some bottom paint could have been saved.

I guess I could stretch it a bit and say that the moral of the story is that if you don't socialize with us you will run aground...

Monday, March 3, 2014

March 2, 2014.

Last week when we were leaving the Hog Cay anchorage our friends Klaus & Karen were undertaking a yearly ritual. Every season Klaus will pull the Lucky Touch up onto the beach to clean the water line and a good bit of the bottom.

It freaks me out a bit because Lucky Touch is a 43 foot monohull. Shes got a centerboard and a draft of 4 foot 3 inches. He waits until an hour and a half before low tide on a calm day and just drives her up onto the beach.
Due to the centerboard the keel is wide enough that the boat just sits there as the water recedes. The water only drops close to a foot and he works his way around the boat cleaning as he goes. After 3 hours the water comes back and the Lucky Touch once again rejoins her floating brethren out in the anchorage.

While we were in Johnson Cay the Lost Marbles decided to do the same thing. Gate (Gathern) dropped a stern hook as he drove his catamaran up onto the beach. Once firmly beached he dropped his bow anchor and walked it up the beach.
Then we helped him clean both bottoms and their waterlines. The job only took about 2 hours and after 4 hours he was once again floating. Easy peasy.