Archive for March, 2007

Entry for March 29, 2007

March 29, 2007

We’ve moved the boat to Staniel Cay which is about 15 miles south of our last stop.  Guess what?  There is free Internet here which is about 10 times faster than what I paid $10 / day at just 15 miles north.  Geez.

This is a nice little Bahamian town on the edge of the ocean with two marinas, a church and 2 little grocery stores.  Their claim-to-fame is Thunderball Cave where the James Bond move was filmed (and many others).  It is a grotto near the ocean that has thousands of tropical fish just waiting for people to snorkel into the cave and feed them.  When Laura and I snorkeled there today, we didn’t bring any bread or crackers and the fish were very disappointed.  They kept coming around us looking for food.  There were many different beautiful fish and I especially liked the large blue and yellow angelfish whose colors made all the other fish look dull.

We sailed here from Warderick Wells on Wednesday and it was a beautiful sail.  We are getting very good at different wind angles on the boat when sailing and can make the boat perform pretty well in just about any sailing wind (not directly into the wind of course).  We were doing about 5 knots with just the jib so we puttered along nicely for about 3 hours to our new destination.  Rob and Sue have a little more “racer” blood and also had their main up which caused them to zoom off into the distance. 

This morning we made water for awhile with our watermaker and put a full charge on the batteries with the generator.  I only put the full charge every 4-5 days since it takes longer and burns more gasoline.  We’re down almost 1 5-gallon jug of gasoline since filling up in Marathon about 2 weeks ago.  That’s not much because we’ve been running the engine on many days to anchor or leave moorings which also charges the batteries.  After shutting everything down we went into town for lunch and browsing.  We had lunch at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club and it was excellent but only a little expensive.  I had a cheeseburger (Mmmmm) that cost about $10.  All the meals in the Bahamas that we’ve eaten out so far included the tip with the food costs.  The service has been much worse than the U.S. and my assumption is it’s because the waitress will get her money no matter what.  Not a good system in my opinion.

While we were at the yacht club before lunch, we spotted a few fellows at the fish cleaning station next to the water.  They were cleaning the catch from a few fishing boats and throwing the unused pieces in the water.  As you can see from the picture, the nurse sharks and manta-rays were having a ball with all the free food.  We were anchored about ½ mile from this place and I’m not sure I want to go swimming off the back of the boat any more…..  The fish being cleaned were not 4-sale because they were from charter fisherman.  Instead, the local fisherman had 10-12 very large lobster that they had caught that morning.  I purchased (2) lobster tails that have to be about 1 ½ – 2 pound EACH for $30.  I put them in the freezer and we will have crab-stuffed lobster for dinner in the next day or two.

We are probably going to leave here tomorrow and work our way south for the jump to Georgetown on Sunday or Monday.  We plan to visit Black Rock Cay tomorrow (with a small town) and Farmers Cay on Saturday.  From there it is about a 50 mile sail off-shore sail to Georgetown as soon as the seas calm down below 5 foot swells – we’re not in that much of a hurry. 

Wednesday I signed up for a service on my single-side-band (SSB) radio.  There is a weather report several times a day by a well-known marine meteorologist named Chris Parker.  Along with giving a general forecast of the areas, if you subscribe to his service you can call in and ask for specific conditions in your area and where you want to go – the beauty of a 2-way, long-distance radio.  The $300 / year also includes an email each day with the forecast for your general area if you miss the SSB transmission.  It’s like having your own personal weather-man and they cover the entire Caribbean where we are planning to go over the next year. 

We met some people we knew at the dock today.  We had met Jillian and Sandy in Daytona while we were at the marina there.  They invited us (Rob, Sue, Laura and I) over to their boat for cocktails and munchies this evening.  It was a very nice time and they gave us some good pointers on places to see and snorkel while we work our way south.  We dingy’d back to our boat just before dark and settled in for the evening.  We’ll probably pick out a DVD to watch from the collection of 150 we brought with us.  Nice and relaxing evening.

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Entry for March 26, 2007

March 27, 2007

Surprise! The northeast wind is still blowing 20-25 knots and we are staying attached to our mooring for at least a couple more days until it calms down.  Just north of us they had winds to 45 knots and I think we had some of them too.

Today I babysat the water maker for a couple hours while we pumped about 15 gallons into our tank.  It’s not a hands-off process on this boat and I’m not really complaining.  It makes water by forcing seawater at high pressure through a permeable membrane (called Reverse Osmosis).  The membrane only lets water molecules through and stops everything else including the salt.  It has a pump that applies 800 – 950 PSI of pressure to the water in the membrane.  The problem is the regulator for the pressure is manual.  I have to turn in a screw to increase the pressure and turn it out to decrease.  After about 10 minutes it calms down to where you only have to check it every 10 – 15 minutes but it’s always on your mind.  The downside of letting it get to high is the membranes will fracture and we won’t have a watermaker anymore unless we replace them at about $3,000.  Hey.  Life is tough for me, huh?  I’ve got to check a gage and adjust a screw every 10 minutes for a couple hours (hehe).

I called Rob to see if they needed water and they did.  Rob came over with a 5 gallon jug and I think he expected me to just pump the water out of my tank into the jug.  Oh no.  He had to baby-sit the water maker for 45 minutes to fill that 5 gallon jug.

After our chores, we decided to take one of the walks on the island.  We took the dingy into the beach on the south side of our mooring field and anchored it to the beach with our dingy anchor.  The walk and views were awesome.  I’ve been complaining about the wind but it is blowing from the other side of the island so we are pretty protected where we are.  We get a lot of wind but not the waves.  The other side of the island is getting the waves and they are huge.  We ate lunch next to a small beach between the rocks as the waves were pound the other side of the rocks about 50 feet away from us.  The power was so impressive. 

The picture is looking down on the east shore of Warderick Wells Cay with the waves pounding.

We then walked up the shore over the rocks and eventually back to our dingy on the beach.  It was about a 2 hour hike over the hills and rocks.  Laura and I were both surprised how good a shape we are in since we spend most of our time on the boat – not exercising or walking all over the place like we used to do.  I guess climbing the 8 stairs down to the salon about 100 times a day are paying off.

We’re having Rob and Sue over for dinner tonight for a chicken BBQ if the grill will stay lit in this wind.  We’re going to talk about where we want to get from here and the timeframe.  I want to get to Staniels Cay where there is a great snorkel spot called Thunderball Cave.  It is the place where they filmed the underwater parts for the James Bond movie Thunderball.  You have to swim a few feet under water to enter the cave which is open and lit from above.  It’s filled with tropical fish of all kinds.  After that our next goal is Georgetown where all the boaters seem to end up.  It has a huge harbor – probably 10 times the size of Marathon – and the town and people are just lovely.  That will be our placed to stock up before leaving for the southern Bahamas and the Virgin Islands. 

Speaking of tropical fish – Laura and I went snorkeling at a reef about 200 yards behind out boat yesterday.  The relatively small area of coral (maybe 50 X 50 feet) had more fish swimming around than all the other places I’ve snorkled put together.  There were probably thousands of all kinds of tropical fish including some of the same kind we’ve kept in our fish tank.  They seemed much happier out here even though they won’t get eaten in our fish tank.

The boat is running so great now I don’t really have any projects going.  We spend most of our time reading, snorkeling and hiking.  Our hard work from the past 4 months preparing the boat is paying off big time.  We’re on a similar daily schedule of chores to the anchorage in Marathon with the addition of making water every couple days.  Our water tank is very close to full and I plan on keeping it that way.  We seem to use 6-8 gallons a day which is 1 hour of the water maker running for each day of usage.  I always run the Honda generator when running the water maker to keep the voltage constant so I figure we use about 25 – 35 cents of gasoline to make that 8 gallons – a good investment in my book.

 

Entry for March 25, 2007

March 25, 2007

Yesterday we left Highburne Cay and sailed south.  We were traveling on the inside (west) route in The Exuma islands which is 10-20 feet deep.  If we were on the east side of the island chain, we’d be in 500 – 1,000 feet of water and 10-12 foot seas.  We like it on this side.

We had a very pleasant sail running 3-4 miles west of the islands for about 10 miles south.  Then we detoured close to an island called Shroud Cay which we’ve heard good things about from other cruisers.  It was very beautiful.  There was a large island with many small islands next to it in a row down the western shore.  Between the big island and smaller islands were several lagoons of water only a couple feet deep that was glistening in the sunlight.  Laura suggested we stop for lunch so we pulled up next to the island, rolled in the sails and dropped the anchor.  Laura packed us a picnic lunch while I got the dingy ready for our ride.  15 minutes later we were motoring through one of these little lagoons then we ran the dingy up on the beach and put out a blanket for our picnic lunch.  It was beautiful until we finished our lunch and a rain squall came through.  We quickly packed everything up and motored back to the boat.  After securing the dingy, we pulled up the anchor, rolled out the jib and sailed away without every putting the engine in gear.  I think we are learning this sailing thing pretty good!

Rob and Sue decided to bypass Shroud Cay because they were not yet used to reading the water colors for depth and were a little apprehensive about sailing through the shallower water.  There are no channel markers in The Bahamas and you navigate through the shallow waters by looking for the darker shades of blue which indicate the deeper water.  It sounds difficult but the water is so clear the shades are easy to identify.  The only problems are learning the difference between shades of blue, grey and black under the water.  Grey is usually grass on the bottom instead of the white sand which is prevalent.  Black is coral and should always be avoided with the big boat.  The coral heads may come up to only a couple feet under the surface.  Also, shadows from the clouds can make the water look deeper but you eventually figure out that the shadow is moving so it’s not deep water.  It’s a little unnerving at first but eventually you learn how it works and where you can take the boat.

The picture is from Shroud Cay and shows the more shallow water in the background that is a lighter blue.  If you look closely at the water in the foreground, you can see shapes on the bottom in the sand even though the wind was blowing the surface pretty hard.  The water was about 15 feet deep there.

We met back up with Rob and Sue at Warderick Wells Cay.  This island is the headquarters for The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park which we all wanted to visit.  We had reserved moorings for both boats and planned on spending a couple days.  The weather is not changing in the least and is still blowing 20-25 knots from the northeast with occasional squalls like it has for the past 7 days.  Traveling south from Nassau has been great sailing but we can’t go much farther without going out on the ocean side of the islands.  We’re basically here until the weather softens a little unless we decide to take on the 8 – 12 foot seas (NOT!). 

Exuma Park is 176 square miles of protected islands and ocean.  There is no fishing or taking of lobster / Conch from the park.  Warderick Wells is the largest island and has nature trails along with beautiful reefs for snorkeling.  We’re going to head up to the park office this morning to sign in, pay for our mooring ($20 / day for 3 days) and check out the literature.  You can see more details on the park at http://www.exumapark.com.

Laura and I had an “adventure” last night and we’ve been trying to decide if we should put it in the blog or not because we didn’t want to worry our families.  But, I’m going to put in the highlights which will show we came out ok and this is not all fun and games.

We were coming back from Rob and Sue’s boat around 9:30 pm and the wind was blowing hard from the northeast (as usual).  We needed to go north to our boat but the waves in the anchorage were coming from the side and getting us all wet.  I turned the dingy into the wind (east) to hit the waves straight on for a dryer ride.  After about 5 minutes I decided to try the north route again as the waves were smaller.  We started getting wet so I turned the motor back to port so the dingy would go east into the waves again.  At that exact moment, we hit a wave that knocked the outboard handle out of my hand and the motor spun hard over to port at almost full throttle.  The dingy went up on its side. Laura was on the uphill side of the boat and fell into me. We both ended up in the water.  Somehow Laura had grabbed a flotation seat cushion and I had grabbed a life jacket.  We made sure we were both ok then swam like heck to get away from the dingy which was zooming around in circles like it was possessed by a demon.  We swam about 100 feet to another boat on a mooring where the owners (Ted and Pat) were standing on the back deck with lights.  We climbed out of the water and once again made sure we were ok.  Ted and I got in his dingy and motored out to where our dingy was spinning in circles.  We got close enough for me to reach in and turn down the throttle.  Oops!  I turned the handle the wrong way and the dingy got even crazier as the motor raced at full throttle.  Now the propeller was jumping out of the water on part of every circle.  We went back to the boat and grabbed a dock line to try and tangle it in the propeller of the dingy.  Back out to our crazy dingy and we towed the 50 foot line behind us.  We got close enough and the line did get sucked in by the dingy motor but it just slowed down a little instead of stopping.  I yelled, “Now!  Let’s get in there!” and Ted drove his dingy right into the side of our dingy.  I grabbed on and took a leap-of-faith into our poor dingy.  I landed hard, reached back and shutdown the engine all in about 1 second.  All of a sudden it was quiet and peaceful after about 30 minutes of this full-throttle dingy terrorizing the mooring field. Ted towed me back to his boat where we untangled the line from our motor, found that nothing had been tossed out of the dingy (except us) and it all looked well except for about 5 inches of seawater on the floor.  We thanked Ted and Pat, started up the motor and SLOWLY powered back to Second Wind.  After stripping off all our wet clothes and rinsing off the seawater in the shower, we were quickly in bed trying to piece together what happened.  I ended up with a small cut on my foot (band aid) and some scratches on my forearm from hitting the floor of our dingy when I jumped from Ted’s dingy.  Other than that, the only problem we had was an exciting memory that we won’t soon forget.

Entry for March 23, 2007

March 25, 2007

Thursday we paid our bill at Nassau Harbor Club and motored east out of Nassau harbor.  The winds were 15-20 knots from the northeast which was very nice for our sail to The Exuma islands.  Our first stop is Highburn Cay and we anchored on the west side so the Island would stop the waves from hitting us at anchor.  The sail down here was excellent.  At one point we were doing 7 knots on a beam reach with the jib and main up.  The wind was only 9-10 knots at the time.  A beam reach is when the wind is coming at right angles to the boat.  If 12 o’clock is straight ahead, a beam reach is the wind at 3 or 9 o’clock.  It is usually a very fast point of sail and under the right conditions you can sail faster than the wind.

About 10 miles from our destination we could see storm clouds to the north and south of us.  Laura mentioned something like, “Gee. We haven’t been in a storm under sail yet.”  Guess what – 15 minutes later we were in the middle of a thunderstorm doing 6 knots with all of our sails down except for ½ the jib.  It was another nice “boat wash” in fresh water.

Between Nassau and The Exuma islands the water is shallow (10 – 25 feet) and in some places there are coral-heads that rise to just under the water surface.  Even in the high winds we had, they were easy to spot and maneuver around.  The shallow water gets choppy but there are not the ocean swells you see in deep water when the wind is blowing. 

The wind is blowing like crazy at the anchorage and we are moving around quite a bit (but not as bad as at the marina in Nassau).  Laura and I took a dingy ride this morning to the marina and around most of the island.  We found a nice beach where we are planning to snorkel later today.  Neither of us slept very well last night as the wind was howling and pushing the boat around the anchor quite a bit.  At one point I had to put my arms and legs out on the bed to keep from falling off.  That didn’t leave much room for Laura (hehe).

The water here is some of the clearest in the world.  It is 15 feet deep at the anchorage and I’m sure I could see the anchor chain all the way to the anchor (about 100 feet out) if the wind would calm down the water a little.  You can easily see the shadow of the boat and sails on the bottom.

We picked up Rob and Sue in our dingy and went snorkeling on a reef close to the anchorage.  We saw dozens of different fish and corals.  Laura checked out her new prescription goggles and they worked great.  It was the first time underwater that she could see things clearly and she was so excited.  She talked about all the different colors on the fish for several hours.  It seems hard for me to comprehend that all she could see in the past was shadows.  We’ve been to some of the great snorkeling spots in the world and she’s missed so much.  Not in the future!

We “rescued” a very small palm tree from the side of the sidewalk in Nassau and bought some potting soil and plastic planter for it.  It’s sitting on our back deck right now catching some rays and getting rinsed by a storm every couple hours.  I hope it makes it.  I had to cut off most of the roots for the rescue but it wouldn’t have had a very happy life growing up through a chain-link fence.  It’s only about 6” tall and has 3 small palm leaves on it.  We’ll keep you updated.

The picture is another beautiful sunset and the reflection off the high clouds.  This one is from Highburn Cay, Exumas, Bahamas.

Entry for March 22, 2007

March 22, 2007

We are leaving the marina in Nassau this morning for a sail southeast to the Exuma Islands.  We’re hoping to be anchored in the lee of an island by this evening with a much smoother ride than we’ve had here for the past 4 days.  If we had been in an anchorage this rolly, we would have moved on Sunday.

The winds are still predicted to be 20-30 knots so it may be a quick ride.  We’ll try and update the blog again as soon as we can.  Hopefully there will be internet hot-spots on the cruise south.

Fair winds and calm seas ….

Entry for March 21, 2007

March 22, 2007

Wednesday morning and we are still in Nassau at the marina. The winds have been blowing 20 – 30 mph and just sitting on the boat at the dock feels like we are sailing through choppy water. It doesn’t help that there are no speed limits in Nassau harbor so some pretty big boats go zooming by the marina and throw a pretty good size wake into the tied-up boats.

There has been a front stalled just south of us since Sunday night which is creating these winds. Normally you would think that winds and sailing go together but you can have too much of a good thing. We even have extra lines holding the boat to the dock because I’m concerned that the wind pushing the boat around might be too much for our normal dock lines.

We’ve been sightseeing and shopping (of course) along with a few parties on the dock. I researched buying scuba gear from a shop down the street and still might do it. Having the scuba gear on-board would help with any underwater repairs on the boat (if needed) and Rob has his gear on-board so we could do some scuba together in the future. The downside of the equation is the cost. I really didn’t think about it while we were in Marathon and the gear would have been a few hundred dollars cheaper there. I’m still thinking about it but probably won’t spend the money right now. I did buy a wetsuit for snorkeling. It helps a lot to keep you warm while diving for lobster or spearfishing.

One of the other boaters we met is the captain on a 65’ Viking sport-fishing boat parked across the dock from us called Go Deep. She was purchased used a couple years ago for $2.2 million. We had a tour of the boat the other night after a party on Remedy where it seemed like everyone in the marina was there. Go Deep does charter work when the owner isn’t using her. She charters for $2,000 / day plus fuel and expenses. She has (2) 2,000 horsepower diesels that can push the huge boat to 38 knots while burning a total of 180 gallons per hour of fuel. Woody (the captain) says at that price they don’t “fish”, they “catch”. He knows local experts all over this part of the world and can find a marlin or other trophy fish in pretty short time when someone charters the boat and wants a specific catch. His favorite line is, “Where ya gonna be next week?” and I think I’m going to use it. Of course, my answer is the one he likes, “We have no idea!”

After the tour of Go Deep on Tuesday night, Woody took Laura and I to the casino on Paradise Island. We went in his dingy – a 22 foot walk-around-cockpit fishing boat with a 225 HP outboard. We zoomed the 1 mile to the casino at about 40 mph and docked right in front of the entrance (he knows people). I did my normal thing of playing craps for an hour or so and won enough money to pay for our stay in Nassau (which isn’t cheap). Life is good!

The weather report shows these high winds might calm down tomorrow night so we are planning on leaving here probably Friday for a slow trip down the Exuma lslands to Georgetown.

Hi all, thought I’d put in my 2 cents worth. We have been enjoying our time on foreign land, sightseeing and trying the “native specialties”. One of the big seafood here are Conch, you know the big shells you can hear the ocean in? The Conch salad is a huge specialty here, and is actually very, very tasty (tomato, cucumber, onion, green pepper, celery, hot peppers if desired) all cut up very small, along with the conch and topped with fresh squeezed lime and orange. Most of the restaurants serve this up, but the best place to go and try it is in the small vendor shacks along the bridges. They cut all the stuff up in front of you, including the conch right from the shell. There’s also veggie and fruit vendors set up along there. We’ve noticed that many things are very expensive here. I believe almost everything is shipped into here, they don’t grow any of their own veggies or anything and although many of the same brands are available here as at home, the prices are twice as much or more. A half gallon of orange juice cost 5.50!! and cereal is 6.00 a box. A small can of planter mixed nuts were 9.95 (believe me. I didn’t buy those) Triscuit crackers were 4.69 for a small box, those I did get, but we are rationing them out, haha.. It’s a very good thing we stocked up and the cupboards and freezers are full.

Again we are anxious to move a bit farther south, these high winds for this long of time frame are unusual according to the dockmaster for this area and this time of year. But we’re smart enough to stay put until the winds are calmed down some.

I know that awhile back Bill mentioned that I had ordered a prescription mask on line, the way they had made them was putting a prescription insert into the mask, instead of just replacing the mask lenses. It seemed to work ok, but caused some problems with not allowing the mask to fit my face correctly, so when we went to the dive shop here, I noticed they made prescription masks in a few minutes. They had all the lenses made to fit a particular mask and they would just pop in the lenses you need. I ended up bringing my mask in for them to look at and the lenses they had made up fit perfect into the mask I already had, so I was able to get my prescription put right into the mask and now it fits much more comfortably and I’m anxious to get into the water and check things out. Pretty cool, eh?

Time to hit the sack, tomorrow may be a day we can ship outa here.

More later.

Entry for March 19, 2007

March 19, 2007

Here is a picture Rob and Sue took of us as we were sailing to Nassau.  The new sails look pretty good, huh?

Entry for March 19, 2007

March 19, 2007

It is now Monday morning and we’ve spent our first night in a real marina since early January (I don’t count the boatyard where we were hauled out.  That wasn’t dockside living with people clamoring all over the boat).  We are in Nassau, Bahamas tied up to a dock in Nassau Harbor Club and Marina. 

Laura’s blog from Friday talked about the light show to our north and about 2 hours later we woke up to a pounding rainstorm.  It was like we were taking the boat though a high-pressure boat-wash.  It only rained for about 30 minutes but we had about 2 inches of rain in the buckets on deck.  Wow!

On Saturday morning we were up early for the long run across the Bahamas banks to Chub Cay.  On the trip to Nassau, this is the longest run between good anchorages – about 80 miles.  The run is across the Bahamas Banks which are 10-20 feet deep of crystal clear water.  You can watch starfish and other critters on the bottom floating by as the boat powers east.

We were underway around 7 am and pulled up our anchors in a very strong wind.  We were hoping this was the tail end of the front that had gone through with the storm last night and it would calm down as we motor-sailed through the day.  It was!  We had a very nice trip to Chub Cay and were anchored in the lee of the island around 6 pm.  We kept enough engine power going to keep the boat at around 7 knots.  The wind was mostly from behind us which will move the boat nicely but not very fast and we didn’t want to anchor in the open water of The Banks unless we had to.

On Sunday we left Chub for Nassau which was about a 35 mile cruise southeast.  The next few months will be mostly southeast to the Caribbean.  The winds were from the NNE at 10-15 knots which were excellent for our sailing.  We had the 3 main sails up – jib, main and mizzen – and the boat ran along very comfortably at 6-7 knots.  It was sunny but a little cool (70?) and the best day we’ve had on the whole trip for sailing.  The rebuilt sails and new rigging really showed their worth.  We quickly left Rob and Sue (and all the other sailboats) far behind as as we sailed toward the rising sun.  Laura read most of the day and I kept watching the open ocean which fascinates me.  The boat handled itself on autopilot and the gentle winds just pushed us along very comfortably.  At one point I called Rob on the radio and suggested we bypass Nassau and just keep going because the sailing was so excellent.  They were enjoying it too but everyone wanted to stop and sight-see for the next couple days.

As we were entering Nassau harbor there was a lot of BIG boat traffic.  A very big cruise ship was leaving and another container ship was going in.  We waited off-shore for about 15 minutes for the traffic to clear then motored into Nassau harbor around 2 pm.  We had called on the radio and made reservations at this marina for 2 nights.  Rob and Sue ran aground slightly on the way into their slip and had to get pulled in by about 10 people on the dock.  We were motoring out in the harbor watching the show and I wish we had thought about taking a picture.  They eventually were in the slip and we motored into a different sip where the water was deeper.

We were tied up to the dock about 10 minutes later and one of the dockhands gave us customs paperwork to fill out.  Clearing in with customs and immigration was the easiest I’ve ever seen it.  We filled out all the paperwork and the customs agent showed up 20 minutes later to go over everything and take our $300 for a 1 year cruising permit.  15 minutes later the immigration agent came by and took their paperwork we had filled out, stamped our passports and we were officially checked-in.  We took down our quarantine flag that we had put up when we first came into the Bahamas and put up our small Bahamas courtesy flag.  When you travel into a foreign country by personal boat, you must immediately put up a yellow quarantine flag and nobody can go ashore until the captain has checked in with Customs and Immigration.

After settling in, we had the couple next door over for snacks and cocktails along with Rob and Sue.  The couple from Remedy had traveled from Marathon the day before us and anchored near us at Chub Cay.  Tony and Nancy are from Vermont and only cruising here for a couple weeks before heading back to Florida.  Laura made her now famous sunset punches, Nancy brought salsa and chips and Rob and Sue brought nuts and dried apricots.  We had a great time talking about our adventures from the past 4 days.  It seems like weeks since we left Marathon but it had been only 5 days.

Our trip across the gulfstream was exciting to say the least.  I’ve been reading a lot about sailing at night and we have all the instruments we could want to know where we are and the other boats around us.  But, it was pretty scary for me and I tried to not let Laura know how apprehensive I was.  It was a little like playing a live video game.  I was tracking our progress through the reef in Florida on the computer which displayed the charts and a little red dot where our boat was.  I have it interfaced to our GPS so it knows exactly where we are.   Only it wasn’t a video game because the boat was moving around a lot.  We headed south to get past Molasses Reef from our anchorage then turned east to The Bahamas which were 65 miles away.  As soon as I turned the boat east, a wave picked us up like a leaf then dropped us into a hole on the other side of it.  The bow of our boat is about 7 feet over the water and it was plowing under the next wave for about 2-3 seconds.  Water washed over the deck as the boat climbed up the wave.  I may be a little over dramatic here because the waves were only about 4-5 feet high at this point.  But they have a lot of energy and toss this 20 ton boat around pretty easily.  What I was pleased with was the boat wasn’t making any sudden or “smashing” moves.  It rode the waves nicely like it had been made for it – sliding up and down without banging into the waves like some of my previous boats did. 

The only real problem at this point was we could only see what was directly around us in the cockpit of the boat.  It was very dark outside and the only thing we could see was an occasional wave breaking as it passed by the side of the boat.  There were lots of stars out and I spent a great deal of the night watching them.  I also kept a eye on our radar.  Rob and Sue’s radar wasn’t working so they were relying on me to navigate through this busy shipping lane.  It was busy.  At one point I think there were 8 ships within 6 miles of us on the radar.  There were not any problems with them until about 3 am when I was tracking a ship heading northeast toward us.  At this point we had about ½ the jib rolled out to steady the boat and help us motor-sail along.  It would have been very difficult for us to change course to get away from this boat.  I tried slowing down but it didn’t help enough to make me feel safe.  I eventually called the ship on the radio.  I said something like, “Northeast bound ship in the gulfstream at approximately this is the sailing vessel Second Wind 3.5 miles off your port bow.”  About 10 seconds later they answered me in a heavy foreign accent.  They said something like, “This is .  We see you.”.  I then said we were on a collision course and it was difficult for us to avoid them.  I asked if they could change course slightly to port.  It was so cool watching the lights of this big ship 3 miles away change course immediately to port and out of our danger zone.  Large ships have two big lights on the boat – one above their bow and one above their stern.  The stern light is much higher so you can easily tell what direction the ship is moving at night when you use these in conjunction with the standard green and red navigation lights.  What I saw was the lower light move from our left to right and aim behind us.  I thanked the operator and said we were now out of danger.  They answered but I couldn’t understand what they said.

When in the dark at sea and being tossed around I was imagining these big waves all round us.  When the sun finally came up it wasn’t so bad even though it had calmed down a little during the night.  My imagination was much worse then the reality.  Why do we do that?  Makes life more exciting??

We’ll stay here a couple days for reprovisioning and sightseeing.  The weather is very windy for the rest of this week so we will probably have a lively sail to the next anchorage about 30 miles away.  The next couple weeks will be short sails to anchorages with nice beaches and good snorkeling.  This is what we’ve been working so hard for.  YEA!

Entry for March 16, 2007

March 19, 2007

We made it!!!! We’re anchored at Cat Cay, Bahamas, after 12 and a half hours of a roller coaster ride – nine of them in the dark like we were blindfolded. The waves crashed over the bow like we have never seen them, getting us sprayed occasionally even in the cockpit. We arrived at Rodriguez Key (key Largo) at 6 pm on the 15th, anchored and Bill slept for about 1 ½ hours. At 10:30 pm we hauled up anchor and were on our way.. the night was very dark, lots and lots of stars, but also quite a bit of lightening in the south, which I think caused some higher seas than predicted. We rolled and crashed, but the ride improved a bit as we put out some sail and balanced ourselves. We were on our way an we weren’t going back, although I believe Sue was ready to have our hides, their ride is much rougher (smaller boat) and they were both taking turns “feeding the fish.” Bill did need his ½ of Dramamine and I was able to stick it out, even catching a few zzzzzzz’s around 4 am.. We watched the little crescent moon come up around 6 am, and around 7:30 we watched our ocean sunrise. We are now sitting in the cockpit watching the 7:30 pm sunset. We arrived at Cat Cay and anchored on the east side of the island around 11 am. We both napped on and off, and grabbed a little lunch around 2. We jumped into the cool waters around 5 pm then showered up. I need to start dinner and we’ll hopefully get a restful night, as we’d like to get to Chub Cay tomorrow, which is 80 miles from here. That means an early start and a long day.. so long for now!

Dinner was delightful and we’ve just come back into the cockpit to watch natures fire works.. there’s lightning and thunder north of us, and its just so awesome. The hand of God’s mighty power! It’s just amazing that the stars are shining brightly above us, but in the distance is this wonderful light show. It doesn’t look like we’ll be in the middle of any of these storms, but it would be nice to get the rain to wash all the salt off of the boat.

Well, time to clean up dinner and get ready to turn in early.. tomorrow is another full day!

Entry for March 15, 2007

March 15, 2007

We made it to Key Largo and are currently anchored next to an island called Rodriguez Key.  And, we have free Internet here.  It’s interesting that in The Bahamas, all the islands are Cays while Florida calls them Keys.  But, they are both pronounced, “Key”. 

We were up early today to pack everything away for our voyage east to Key Largo.  As I was pulling up the first anchor, it was very hard on the motorized windlass.  It turned out the anchor was around a huge pole almost the size of a telephone pole.  I pulled the whole thing up to the surface and said to Laura, “What the heck do we do now?”  I lowered the anchor 3 or 4 times and it finally let go of the log.  It was huge!

The wind was blowing hard from the South East as we left the harbor and it was a wild ride for awhile as we motored directly into the waves for about an hour.  Then we put up our mainsail and turned east – the ride was much better.

We saw many dolphins and Laura spotted a huge seaturtle.  About 2 hours into our trip we were able to turn off the engine and sailed along nicely at 6 ½ knots with the main and jib.  We sailed the rest of the day until we pulled into the anchorage here around 6:30 pm.  We did roll in the mainsail because the boat was heeling so bad.  The ride was much better and we only slowed down from 6 ½ to 6 knots.  We’re gonna remember that one!

We are planning on departing in a couple hours around 10 pm for The Bahamas.  It is about 70 miles from here (69.9 to be exact) and should take us about 11 hours if there is enough wind to sail.  That will put us next to the first island called South Riding Rocks around 9 am.  We’ll then sail across the Bahamas Banks for 70 miles to Chub Cay or Whale Cay.  The Banks are very shallow (10 – 20 feet deep), clear waters that run from the west end of the Bahamas to Northwest Light.  Then it is about 15 miles to Chub Cay and the first decent anchorage.  From Chub Cay, it is about a 35 mile ride southeast to Nassau.  We hope to be in Nassau on Saturday as there is a cold front coming in around that time with high winds.  As you can see, our weather window is short – tonight through Saturday afternoon – and we want to take full advantage of it.

We’ll probably stay at a marina in Nassau if they have room for us.  It will be nice to sightsee and know the boat is safe.  After the weather calms down again, we will head southeast to the Exuma Islands (another part of The Bahamas) and work our way slowly down the island chain to Georgetown while swimming and snorkeling in the clear, warm waters.

The sailing today was exciting and we learned there are a few things we had stored that need more work.  Many items went zooming across our floor downstairs as we heeled over in the heavy winds.  We’ll do better packing for tonight’s cruise!