Monday, November 22, 2010

Ah…the Abacos! It is great to be back in the Bahamas again. We had a nice crossing, anchored on The Little Bahama Bank just north of Memory Rock and then headed up the next day to Double-Breasted Cays. There aren’t any settlements up here so it is all nature. We decided that this was a good place to spend a few days while Ed’s cold improved. Barbara…thanks for the parting gift! And, it wouldn’t be quite right if you couldn’t share so Ed re-gifted the cold to me! The cold was mainly a nagging cough and a desire to sleep quite a bit. During the two weeks it took to recuperate we read, and read, and read! ***Our new favorite author is Stieg Larsson!
Double Breasted is exactly as it sounds. It is two Cays that are intertwined with a couple narrow anchorages in between. This is the first time that we actually had to Med-Moor (put two anchors out, bow and stern). We got settled in with around 7’ under our keel. We were quite proud of our anchoring job, keeping us in a narrow cut of deep water while to either side were the shallows. That is until we woke around midnight with everyone lying to starboard. When the tide went out we ended up on the bottom, nothing to do but wait for the tide to come back in and float the boat again. Needless to say, we moved our position the next morning!
After Double Breasted we popped down to Allens-Pensacola. They used to be two separate Cays until a hurricane pushed sand between them until they joined. We went to the beach (don’t tell immigration because we haven’t checked in yet!) and a short dingy ride but mainly read and slept! It is a good thing that we don’t have any other boats anchored near us because we were quite the barking duo when we went to bed at night. Why do coughs seem to really tickle just when you want to sleep?!
After a few nights we made the quick trip down to Green Turtle Cay where they have a Customs and Immigration office so we can check in and officially ‘get off the boat’! We anchored in White Sound and other than a couple of chartered boats we don’t see many cruisers yet. The charter boat that spent one night in the anchorage had crew from Kemah, Texas on board. We again compared notes to see what we had in common! They have a boat at Waterford Marina so we sent a note along with them for our friends Susan and Bruce (did you get it?). Green Turtle is lovely with a nice historic settlement. They have even kept the gallows in place from a time when it seems that sentences were a bit stiffer!
After a couple days we decided to make our way to Hope Town. It is nearing Halloween and we hear it is a big celebration here. We also brought along treat-sized bags of Skittles for the kids so want to get to a more populated area to hand out treats! Hope Town is lovely. It is very historic with most of the homes, in the main settlement being original or constructed similarly. There is also a light house (that you can tour) and a church that plays hymns (chimes only) at noon and 6pm every day.
There are two small bars and we soon discovered that Halloween appears to be more of an adult event. Everyone really knocks themselves out to outdo each other with nice prizes for the winners. We didn’t have any costumes so we donned our ‘Boto’ sunglasses. Our first stop was Sip Sip and all of the locals really made us feel welcome. Afterwards it was on to Cap’n Jack’s before calling it a night at midnight. That is really late considering we are usually in bed by 8:30-9:00pm since it gets dark at 5:30pm!
The weather is nice so we decided to go to White Sound and anchor out for a few nights. There is a beautiful beach area just south of our anchorage (where it is to shallow to anchor). We took out our putt-putt (our 3.3 hp Mariner) engine which we are happy to have along as backup since the big one is currently kaput! Our dogs are in heaven chasing the ball on this amazing beach!
Next it is off to Marsh Harbor. We entered the harbor, took a look around and decided to leave. We were looking for a good place to spend a few days as the wind was forecast to really pick up. This was not a place to spend a great deal of time so we continued up to Treasure Cay. There is a nice protected harbor and you are right across from a spectacular beach. You can also get internet, showers and water all for only $10/day which is a bargain in the Bahamas!
Our friends aboard “Eclipse” told us to look up Natalie and Eric on “Dream Ketcher” when we got there. They live on their boat, in the anchorage, year round. Eric actually works from the boat and ON the boat when he has spare time. They are preparing the boat for their charter business that will teach you how to sail (Eric has his Captains License) and to scuba dive (Natalie is Dive Master). They plan on marketing the fact that they offer gourmet cuisine so had us over for dinner to try out a recipe. Indeed…very gourmet. Natalie is from France and Eric is from Quebec and proudly announced that they carry about 600 bottles of wine on board so the wine was also first class!
Pizza Night at the Tipsy Seagull, we met a nice couple from London. We told them that we wanted to take the ferry over to Green Turtle Cay for their Guy Fawkes celebration. They had a car and also wanted to go so we had a date. It was a typical Bahamian get-together where there is usually a fund-raiser for the school. There was food and then raffles for the cake walk. You buy a number and then walk in circles around the numbers. When the music stops a number is drawn and the winner gets ‘takes the cake’! It was a very breezy night so the burning of the effigies had to be moved to the end of the pier to prevent the settlement from burning down! ***Hairy...kinda reminded us of the annual Christmas Tree Burning party! Guy Fawkes was one of numerous conspirators’ who sometime in the 17th century attempted to blowup Parliament with black powder. The attempt was foiled and Guy Fawkes was hung, drawn and quartered (the Brit’s do not mess about, see the gallows). Ever since there is an annual remembrance/celebration lest anyone forget the attempted treason.
Next, on to Guana Cay. NOTE: Most of these jaunts are only 5-10 miles away from each other! Neat, neat, neat! We always try to decide where we would want to buy a home (not that we will but it is fun!) We both agree that Guana made the list! We got there in time to make it to Nipper’s Sunday Pig Roast. Lots of people and good food! Nippers rates high as the view is great and the girls were welcome too, they really enjoyed the pig! This is a big deal because we rarely give them people food. Nippers has a nice view of the Atlantic so we could watch the swells roll in. The last few days had unprecedented swells (12-15 foot) so the passages to the Atlantic weren’t even passable. Unfortunately a boat tried to come into Little Harbor (south end of Great Abaco Island) at 8pm in the swell. They ended up on a reef, got into their life boat and then it capsized with one of the four crew members still missing. (11-14, #1343)
Guana Cay also offered us an opportunity to hunt lobster, so we donned our wetsuits (yes, the water is getting chilly) and tried our luck at getting lobster. No such luck so looks like Mac n’ Cheese for dinner!
We are having difficulties with our dinghy outboard motor so we decided to bring it into the Mercury dealer in Marsh Harbor. OK, so we may have been a little hard on Marsh Harbor from our first assessment. It is a fine place to go if you want to provision, find parts and/or have repairs done. Yes, things continue to need repair! We replaced our bilge pump (1 year old only!) and fixed a hinge that broke on the toilet seat. We also celebrated Vicky’s birthday while in Marsh Harbor. Even in Marsh Harbor you can still see a beautiful rainbow! (11-16, #1348)
Next up, Man-of-War. This is a ‘family oriented’ island meaning that almost everyone on the island is related. Of the 300 or so permanent residents 200+ are related! There is nice protection so we had a few comfortable nights as the winds were quite strong. The island is also very historic, settled in 1778 and quaint (no alcohol is sold on the island). M-O-W is renowned for their boat building, the boatyards are still active and it is fun to watch the boats in progress. There is a hair salon in town too so Vicky got her haircut for a birthday present. Not that I don’t appreciate Ed’s haircuts!
We are back in Hope Town where we are getting fuel, doing laundry and loading up on water for our journey south. We will be heading to Eleuthra, Cat Island, Conception, Rum, Samoa and Mayaguana. Then, it is on through Turks and Caicos to the Dominican Republic. We even found a small turkey in the grocery store here so we will have our turkey, stuffing, yams and green beans PLUS pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving!
It will be hard to say goodbye to the Bahamas but it is time to move on to new adventures!

Monday, November 8, 2010

“I hate reality”, so said the beautiful Vicky Lynn (this in response to a sewing project that is not cooperating). The world is what we make of it, friend; so said Linda Hunt. It’s been three months since our arrival in Stuart, Fl and although we have set about fixin’ stuff and stuffin’ ourselves it is high time we took to the seas once again. Of course Mother Nature has a different reality in store for us. So, while we were stowed and ready to roll come Thursday, October 14, 2010 the weather window was not so reassuring. Although there was a forecast for an early morning NW wind swinging to the S in the afternoon and then back to WNW in the evening, the forecast for Wednesday the 13th and Friday the 15th (missed it by two days) are for NORTH to NORTHEAST winds.

For those uninitiated to the Gulf Stream let me digress. The Gulf Stream is for lack of a better term a current which runs from South to North, through the Straits of Florida up the East Coast of the U.S. then somewhere up around Nova Scotia it hangs a right and heads out into the Atlantic, bringing warm waters to the chilly North Atlantic (more or less, how’s that for nautical). Anyway, this current which can be anywhere’s from right off the coast of Florida to 10 to 20 nm off and right up to the Bahamian Bank moves at approximately 2-4kts (+/-), sometimes less sometimes more. So if you were to head due east out of Miami, that is 90* on a compass heading, you would not necessarily arrive due east as the Gulf Stream would push you to the north. OK?!

Now, let us introduce wind and waves. If the wind is coming from the south to west then it is more or less in sync with the Gulf Stream. If it is coming from the east then it is still more or less in sync with the Gulf Stream, however, if one is trying to head east (as we are) then it makes for a difficult passage. If, however, the wind is coming from the NORTH, then the wind is not in sync with the Stream (we’re close so I can call her “Stream”). With a current heading south to north and winds heading north to south something has got to give and it is usually a tiny little boat that has decided it’s a nice sunny day lets go to the Bahamas!

Just to keep things interesting there are also waves. Generally pushed by the wind, hence coming from more or less the same direction, not so with the Stream (close, remember). The forecast for the next several days has the Stream ( :} ) at roughly 2kts, the winds N-NE and the set of the waves ENE. Essentially this means that for the cork in the water (Vicky, Ed, Mija & Chula aboard Boto) which wishes to move east, the stream will push us to the north at 2kts, while the winds will beat us to the south at 5-15kts and the waves will pummel us to the west at whatever speed they pummel at when they are tiny waves (4-5ft at 5 sec.). Hey, I forgot, did anyone wish to join us?

Well, it’s truly not that big a deal but it can be. The weather window for Thursday the 14th was a very narrow one and while we could make it over to the Abacos without issue why piss off Mother Nature and Poseidon by dissin’ their warnings. Sidebar, while TV normally rots the human brain, every now and again something useful comes from it, i.e. the commercials for ????? It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature (I’m sure that if the sensors’ would have allowed it the Ad would have read, “Don’t’ PISS off Mother Nature, she takes no Prisoners, or something to that effect). Wow, so much for a brief homely. While we wait for weather and torture the dogs let us tell you about Stuart, Fl.

Located several miles up the St. Lucie River from the inlet of the same name a picture of the town should accompany the word “quaint” in Websters. All along the coastal boundaries of the U.S. there exist towns which retain that “feel”, the warmth and hospitality that we all remember from days gone by, or at the very least from the ending of “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Anyway, after passing two fixed bridges, one railroad drawbridge and finally a highway drawbridge one arrives (at least via water, some may wish to take the land route) in the town of Stuart. For us, we landed at the Sunset Bay Marina along the east side of the river. For those travelling through this area via the water looking for a place to rest up, there is no finer. Ask for Sam, but don’t mention me, mention Chula. They have a special relationship, as Chula repeatedly punches Sam in the groin and he simply smiles (weird, huh). I digress.

We arrived in Stuart the beginning of August, in time for the heat and for the afternoon thunderstorms (which accompany the afternoon happy hours). The decision to take a slip versus a mooring was a no-brainer as the slip allowed for AC! Slips are priced on a per foot basis so prices vary but they are reasonable. The moorings go for about $10/day. We are told that come November the moorings fill up with the migration south, so if you wish to take a mooring make a reservation, you will not be disappointed.
Boaters breakfast- Sunset Bay Marina.
Upon our arrival we were greeted by our friends John & Peggy of S/V LVD. They live in Stuart year round and regularly sail the Bahamas. That first evening was great. HOT showers on shore, lots of HOT water! We then had dinner at Sailors Return, which is on the grounds of the marina. The food is wonderful and the staff is great, we have since dined there on several occasions. Oh, did I mention our arrival included unlimited HOT SHOWERS! Just wanted to check.

That's John and Peggy to the right (the tall good looking one and the mug with the beard) We managed to join them for a Dominican feast on Labor Day at her sister-in-laws house. Good home cooked meals. YUM.

Well that was over three months ago, since then we have as mentioned earlier made numerous repairs and fixis’ (that’s southern sailor talk).
We’ve takin’ in the Treasure Coast Pirate Festival as well as the Stuart “Dancing in the Streets”

concerts. The location just can’t be beat. For anyone heading in this direction here is a list of businesses within walking, biking or short car ride of Stuart (Sunset Bay Marina provides a free, yup, shuttle Wed and Sat for many of these):
Publix (grocery), Winn-Dixie (ditto), West Marine (duh), Copelands Chandlery, ACE Hardware, Home Depot, Lowes, Mack Sails, MarineMax, Whiticar Boatworks (there are a number of boat yards in the area, duh) WalMart, Harbor Freight (I have never before been there, but am now a worshiper), the list goes on and on. In short if you are heading south and need a rest or north or east or west (although the east part would be difficult in a boat and the west part kinda dictates that you are already here, anyway) Stuart is a great place to stop over and spend some time.

In short Stuart offers much of what the itinerant sailor needs and or wants. For those taking a road trip the same applies. So swing on through and say hi. You're bound to make some new friends and perhaps catch up with some old ones.

That's us on board "Eclipse" with the Huffords, they are on their way around the world, we should cathc up with them down south somewhere.

Peggy and John on the left, look closely at his beer holder (aka, Cheap Date).

We are currently, 11/8/10 anchored off Treasure Cay, Abaco. Hurricane Tomas has disappated and moved out into the Atlantic. The winter cold fronts are moving in giving us chilly nights (65) and blustery days. Stay tuned.