Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Bahamas 2018 and Home

Alas, the windlass motor fix did not last more than a few times. It stuck on one time and never worked after that. Yes, we're done trying to fix it. Darrell is getting in shape by hoisting the anchor!

We left George Town after a nice visit with Celtic Rover (a boat couple we have been friends with since our Caribbean cruising days in 2012-14). We were on a mission to get back to Farmers Cay by their 5F festival and we made it. About 100 cruising vessels descended on this island paradise. The regatta was well worth getting back for - lots of pictures and video on my Facebook page. 

Darrell made a visit to a couple of lobster spots before we left and was rewarded with at least two nice meals!  It was hard to leave such a lovely island and her warm welcoming people. 

Since we promised folks in Key Largo that we would come back and work by March 1, it was time to begin the journey towards the keys. We stopped at Black Point just a few miles north of Farmers for a couple of days. After that, we decided to sail on by Exuma Land and Sea Park because there is no cellular service there. Next stop Norman Cay!  

We knew that a couple of folks on S/V Ragnarok were at Norman Cay. We had met CJ and Erik in Key Largo in our anchorage at Tarpon Basin. They are on their first trip to the Bahamas and we wanted to hear about their trip so far. Darrell took them fishing one morning (turned into Day) and got to enlighten them on how to catch and clean lobster, lion fish, and conch. It was a bountiful catch!!  Erik caught one of the biggest lobsters we've ever been around. 

We're a little jealous that they are starting off on a journey similar to our Caribbean cruise!  We enjoyed our time with them and will live vicariously through their travels. But alas, we still have a deadline of March 1 to be back in Key Largo and supplies on board are starting to dwindle. 

Next stop Nassau. We had a lovely beam reach for just over 1/2 day sail to make the harbor. The bonus is that we stay at a marina so there is no anchoring!! Yay!  So, it is the 11 th of February and we are in a pickle -- do we use the good weather window that we have for making tracks back to FL or do we make plans and buy stuff to get us through another couple of weeks. The good news is that through this last portion of the travels, Darrell's mom was hospitalized and released. She is fine now but there has been a constant worry that one or both of us might need to make a trip back to Amarillo. Hence worries over always having cell coverage.....

On the return trip, we stopped again at Morgan's Bluff. These people are good competition for my favorite place in the Bahamas!  We had a great 7 hour sail in "robust" seas. 

We had a local giving us a sales pitch for coming back for their regatta in July. It is VERY tempting!!  Prices are reasonable here and the people are lovely!!  

So.....with an excellent wind and weather prediction for westbound travel we left. Starting out, we had lighter winds than expected. We turned onto the banks with the wind to our stern and began making good way towards Florida. We reached the edge of the Great Bahama Banks about 10PM. Within 24 hours, we were at the entrance of Angelfish Creek. We anchored by Pumpkin Cay near Ocean Reef for a couple hours of sleep before continuing the last 17 miles to Tarpon Basin. Ahhhh, home at last!

Monday, January 29, 2018

Southern Bahamas 2018

I never thought there would come a day that I would be glad for Darrell's stubbornness!  Yes, he can be bull headed!!  I guess that we are together today, after more than 20 years because he wouldn't give up. 

Well folks, he didn't give up on our windlass motor. We were told about 7+ years ago that it probably couldn't be rebuilt any more. We have experienced intermittent problems with it but could usually get the thing working. It recently quit in the remote islands of the Bahamas where replacement or rebuilding it was highly unlikely. He decided that it couldn't get more broke than it already was (thanks Captain Al for giving us courage and wisdom in this realm) so he tore it apart. After several attempts to find a replacement here in George Town, Exuma, he decided to try and repair it. My cockpit became a workroom and my lovely varnished teak table became a workbench. The guts of something similar to a starter motor were strewn about and Darrell finally used line off an old scuba dive reel to slip half hitches along the lengths of bare copper wires inside the motor. We painted the rusty outside and added material for an end cap where it was rusted through. The motor now has a permanent umbrella and the exterior parts will have a sunbrella (type of waterproof fabric) cover to try and keep everything dry!

A few days of mess and lots of head scratching and we have a temporary fix in place to get us home where we can order a new motor for it. For those who don't know what an important piece of equipment a windlass is, consider the following. A 44 pound anchor on the bottom of the sea bed (buried in sand) attached to 5/16" chain - usually say about 75 to 100ft of scope out. Every time we change locations, this comes back on board and goes back out. Yes, we are both capable of lifting and pulling all this in but it takes its toll on our worn out old bodies. So yay!!  The windlass is working once again!!!

The fact that we have a windlass is especially nice since we are expecting a big wind event here. In fact, the hardest non hurricane blow I think we've ever endured on the boat - sustained winds in the 30 knot range and gusts into the 40's (multiply mph by 1.13 or 1.151 depending on the source).  Weather has been less than cooperative for the second half of our trip. Between wind and several days of rain, it has been hard to get much done outside on the boat. No, I'm not whining because we could have been at home in the keys where it has been an unusually cold winter. Argh!  A hot, hot summer - a hurricane - then a cold and windy winter!  Mother Nature, give it a rest please!!

Alas, our fun time in the Bahamas is quickly coming to a close. We promised our employers that we would be back in place to drive the dive and snorkel boats by the beginning of March. Attempts to verify that Darrell still has a job have been fruitless. We will return to the keys as promised but the wanderlust bug has bitten us again. Who knows how long we will be able to keep the travel fever in check.....

Thursday, January 4, 2018

From Farmers Cay, Exumas and South

We sailed to Farmers Cay on December 12.  We have been there before and LOVED it. We sure weren't disappointed this time either. The people there are so warm and friendly. We were invited and attended an awards presentation at the school. Of course we also enjoyed the bounties of the sea!  Darrell caught 3 large lobsters, one large lion fish and a small Snapper. We stayed 3-4 days but when a good weather window opened for moving south, we took it. 

We had a glorious sail to George Town on December 16. About 7.5 miles from entering the harbor, Darrell caught a wahoo. Nice!! We have a few items to take care of before our holiday guest arrives - Captain Jim Fagan. There are not near as many boats in the harbor as we are used to seeing!

It's amazing!!  You sit in an anchorage and think you are all alone but then you get to thinking about cruisers that you have met and you feel like you know everybody. We are in George Town and I can count 3 boats that we know, 2 boats that we are expecting and one or two more that we hope to meet up with. Darrell played volleyball and Texas Hold 'em poker here. We even thought we heard a boat we knew from Grenada hailed on the radio today - thinking about you today, Pierre-Yves and Mireille from Umido!!

We have had such a wonderful time meeting people from all over!!  And seeing some we haven't seen in a long time!

George Town is always busy with something to do. Water aerobics, shopping, regattas, and many others!  Darrell got to play Texas Hold'em a few times in George Town and was the tournament winner one night!!!  While here, we added to our crew list!  Captain Jim Fagan flew in on Christmas Eve. We always look forward to seeing him!!  

Christmas Day we had a potluck lunch with several other boats. We had a total of twelve at our table. All the tables at Chat n Chill beach were full and the total count was somewhere close to 150 people.  Good times and great food!!

The following Saturday, we had the right wind direction to sail to Long Island. It was a beautiful day with about 10 knots of wind. On arrival in Thompson Bay, we had four friends dinghy over to welcome us to the harbor and enjoy a few cold beers over stories to catch up!  Of course it's always great to meet up with fellow cruisers we have met through the years!!  We got to show Jim a few sites on the island, thanks to Alibi II (Bill & Bess)!  

On New Years Day, our guest, Jim Fagan left. We had a wonderful time during his visit and we're all always sad for him to go. We will meet up again in Key Largo in a couple of months. Next trip to the Bahamas, we hope to get Wayne and Sherry on board for a visit!

Happy New Year to everyone!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Bahamas 2017

We left Tarpon Basin on November 17, 2017 and we were escorted out Dusenberry Creek by our friend, Mitch. Thanks for the send off!!  We rested that night near Pumpkin Key off Ocean Reef Club. At high tide the following day, we transited Angelfish Creek to the Atlantic side. We took a mooring out at Turtle Rocks. It was a little rolly so we decided to depart early. Winds were light so we had to use the motor in addition to our sails. We were near Bimini at about 3 AM after a good crossing. This is not a place that we felt comfortable entering in the dark - especially since Irma could have changed things since we were there two years ago. So we continued on.

We rounded the reefs and shoals to the north of Bimini and entered the Great Bahama Banks. Typical waters like the keys - relatively shallow. After daylight broke, Darrell decided we needed to start fishing. We trolled some lures and had a double hit with two great big Mutton Snappers. Sweet!!  Especially since the vet told Darrell that Roxy would benefit from a diet high in omega 3!! She is on cloud nine with all that seafood!

The first night at anchor was spent outside Chub Cay Marina and we were going to try and clear customs there the next morning. They want to charge cruisers $100 to dock the dinghy to do this. So we pulled anchor and sailed to Morgan's Bluff, Andros - not very far away. The people here were lovely and we stayed a few days. Darrell and I got to play some dominoes with the locals. We decided to explore more of Andros Island this trip so we sailed south to Fresh Creek and anchored inside a barrier reef about 1/4 mile from shore. We awoke to find the cockpit full of tiny mosquitoes!!  Ann sprayed bug spray out the net and later that morning, we had to clean up all the carcasses. It looked like pepper all over the cockpit!!

The decision was made for us by the mosquitoes to get out of there and left for New Providence Island (home of Nassau). We anchored in West Bay for a night then rounded the corner to Nassau the next day. We needed to do laundry, grocery shop, and get some diesel fuel. That accomplished, we left for the Berries. We spent 4-5 days there but many of the islands are private and we couldn't walk Roxy on the beaches. Also, we needed protection from certain wind directions that was hard to find. So we left and sailed back to Nassau for a quick trip to BTC (phone company) and grocery store. Of course, we really didn't want to go to Nassau and tried in vain to get east to Eleuthera but the wind and seas wouldn't cooperate. 

We left Nassau for the Exumas. We stopped at Highborne Cay for a night then continued south to Exuma Land and Sea Park for the next several night stops. Ultimately headed for a place to find protection from an approaching cold front. Winds can clock from the south to the west to the north in a front and many anchorages don't have protection from all directions. We stopped at Staniel Cay for the next several days to get that protection, plus cell coverage to be in touch with friends and family. And NO, we're not going to see the swimming, begging pigs!  They have tried to attack Roxy in the past so we don't find them amusing. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

2017 and Beyond

November 2017

We DID actually return to Key Largo on schedule.  Darrell went back to work as a captain at Pennekamp State Park and Ann continued to work on the boat.  She sanded and applied multiple coats of varnish to the teak and took Roxy for long walks every day.  Once the summer heat began to set in, all boat projects came to a screeching halt!

Early in the year, Ann had two impromptu trips back to Amarillo for surgeries on her 89 year-old dad.  He made it through the surgeries with flying colors and she returned to FL without much delay.

In July, she began getting tired of being cooped up on the boat so she went to talk to Michael (owner of Island Ventures) about some part time work.  She went back to work as a dive boat captain within one day of receiving her first social security check - lol!!  The best part of going back to work THERE is getting to see divers who have been coming there for several years!!  So she FAILED retirement!

In September, we had the misfortune of having Hurricane Irma pay south FL a visit.  After evaluating the possible options, we decided we wanted to tie Alibi up in the mangrove creek and go stay with our fantastic friends, Wayne & Sherry.  Their house was so well insulated that we barely heard the wind and the only damage they incurred was to the wood fence.  Alibi was safe and sound when we launched the dinghy to go check on her.  Some tied up near us were not as lucky - they were broken in to by looters!!  We spent the next several weeks helping out our friends in the Keys with clean up.  At two months post storm, there is still repair and clean up being done on the island.

The plan now is to cross to the Bahamas once again and spend the next several months in the beautiful waters there.  We are trying to stay in FL long enough to be joined by S/V Celtic Rover but they haven't made it this far south yet.  We hope to get to spend some time with them in the Bahamas.  We met in the Turks & Caicos Islands just before crossing to the Dominican Republic in 2012.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Bahamas 2016 Part 2

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Bahamas 2016

     We finally pulled up both anchors and left the anchorage near the government center on January 7!!  On the 8th, we left Pumpkin Key EARLY to cross to the Bahamas. We made it to Bimini Sands Marina by 4:45 PM and didn't want to anchor out because the wind velocity and direction would have meant little or no sleep.  We continued traveling with the right wind and weather for six days - stopping for a good night of rest each day.  Arrived in George Town after those 6 days. Rested for a couple of days, Darrell played some volleyball and when the wind was right, proceeded to Salt Pond Long Island. 

     Arrived here on 1-17-16 following a nice sail from GT. We had been in contact with Alibi II - met them last year in Marathon. They are helping organize relief efforts here following Hurricane Joaquin. We did some work for a local fisherman and his family. Next week, we hope to do some work at the rectory in Clarence Town (south of here).  

     The people here are just so friendly and pleasant. No complaining, just pull up their sleeves and get to work following the storm. Always ready with a smile and a greeting. 

     The other night, we weathered a "blow" that was nothing like what they had last fall but eye opening just the same. We knew it was coming for days and we were prepared for it but it still made one think about how insignificant we are in this great big ocean and world. Roxy didn't care for the storm at all!!  The worst of it only lasted for ten minutes but it seemed an eternity. Fifty knots of wind is pretty terrific!!

     Anyway, almost half of our vacation time is gone. :(  Roxy is loving her beaches - you should see her smile :D  hopefully the weather is going to start settling down so we can enjoy some more beach time before we have to begin thinking about finding the right weather window to make tracks back to the Keys. 

And now for a couple of good stories. Firstly, one on us.....
     We were so excited to see places that hold fond memories from prior trips here. When we reached Norman Cay in time to make McDuff's before dark, we hustled in and parked the dinghy to go have a meal and drink. Should have taken a bit more time in getting that secured. No, no, nothing stolen!  Just returned after sundown to a dinghy that had taken on a little water to bail out before we could return to Alibi. Now, it is not JUST Ann that has swamped the dink with onshore waves!!

     Second story is on our friends (who know no strangers) here in Long Island. We went up south (yeah I know) to help a local preacher recently. On the return trip (remember how friendly I said the people are), we waved hello to a stopped vehicle heading the other direction and slowed to a crawl. The vehicle came after us racing toward us in reverse and our chauffeur, Bess, got out to talk to them. Now, no longer strangers, but new found friends with a farm and the potential for freshly grown produce!!  

     And then, as if I don't have enough material to write about, Darrell gives me more!! To prepare the boat for our next adventure, we needed to replenish fuel. Our boat uses diesel...... And that's what he thought he was putting in the jerry jugs. Ten to twelve gallons of gasoline added to our more than half full tank!!  So, what should have been an hour or two turned into all day ordeal and several $$. We located a cruiser here with a 12V pump and he located an empty barrel (and person willing to take the tainted fuel off our hands) to pump out our fuel tank. When we had all the fuel out we could get out and jerry cans of diesel to come back out, the dinghy motor decided to act up. Some locals from the island helped Darrell get that sorted out. We're back in business for the next adventure . . . . the Ragged Islands or Jumentos. On our bucket list ever since we started coming to the Bahamas!!!

     If we get the right weather in a few weeks, we won't be able to post after we leave there until we are home. You'll just have to watch for the next blog update or SPOT messages to see our route back to south Florida......