Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Problem solving

We are back from the Bahamas!  What a beautiful place. 

The water was clear, the people were so open and giving.  We will definitely be going back next year.

We sailed from Great Sale Cay to Fernandina, Fla. We buddy boated with Windward and Casa Mare.  It was the first time we had ever traveled with other boats.  We set up radio contact schedules on both the SSB and the VHF.

Before anchoring at Great Sale Cay we went through a gully washer of a rain storm.  We thought all was working well until we tried our cockpit VHF radio.  It scanned the stations, we could hear but not transmit.  It was a mess.  The time we really needed it, it was messing up.  Get out the tools.  Opened the mic and poured out a bunch of water.  Could be the problem.  WD-40 to the rescue.  Sprayed the mic and the radio and it started working.  I guess if you can't fix it with duck tape, wd-40 is the next option.

We stayed in the gulf stream for two days.  Casa Mare trended a bit east of us and got caught in a counter current.  They were spun around twice.  With the sails up that is a real trick to keep the boat stable.  They recovered, but decided to put in at Ponce Inlet and make some repairs.  Windward and PattyD continued northward.

We called into customs when we reached land.  Windward (Ian and Lynn) are Canadian so they needed to go to customs and check in.  This was right after the Boston Bombing, so everyone had to personally check into customs.  The day we arrived, seven other boats arrived.  The group of us decended upon the customs office.  The customs officer was a bit overwhelmed, but took our arrival in stride.

We checked the weather and decided to leave for Port Royal Sound the next am.  Windward decided to go into Charleston.  We were trying to beat a on coming cold front.  We arrived just as the waves were reaching 10 feet.  Windward got caught up in the storm.  They had an hour or so of rough weather, but arrived in port safely.

The could fronts this year are coming so often that we could not get a good weather window to sail up the ocean.  Up the canal we go.

Trying to make a bridge, we powered up the engine.  Made it through the bridge, but an hour later the engine died.  We dropped anchor in the ICW and Matt replaced the fuel filter.  Started right up.
The next day tried for another bridge, engine stopped an hour later.  Checked fuel filters.  Fuel pump did not work.  Anchored in the ICW and called Boat US for a tow.  Of course the rain clouds opened up and we got drenched. 

The mechanic just figured out the problem.  Hopefully, we will be on our way soon.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Fixing things

On a boat, you need to be self sufficient. Our latest challenge is to fix the battery charger. It does not charge the batteries. So...we have been using the engine to charge the batteries, but it uses more fuel. And one of the oil hoes sprung a leak. Fixed the hose.

Seems like we need to head north. Next stop... Eleuthera.

Monday, February 25, 2013


We just spent two nights rolling with the tides. Hawksbill Cay is rugged and isolated. No one lives there any more. The beaches on the banks side are rocky and shallow. The island holds a secret. Around to the south side is the most beautiful beach I have ever seen. Cuts of clear blue water surround small islands and you can see the sound. The beaches are wide and filled with soft white sand. There are no human footprints. The only marks are left by birds.

We snorkeled around the coral heads and spied a large turtle swimming thru the grasses. The turtle turned its head and passed us by. What a beautiful creature.

We sailed today further down the island chain. Lots of water, a little wind.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Still in the Exumas

I wrote the following a few weeks ago, but here in the Exhumas, wifi is hard to come by.  So I will will post it now.  Maybe I'll find a band width that lets me post pictures!

We made it to the Exumas.  The Exumas are a chain of islands in the central section of the Bahamas.  The islands are varied and beautiful.  Seventy (70%)percent of the Bahamas population lives on New Providence Island.  The major city is Nassau.  Nassau has shopping, night life and mobile phones.  The outer islands have quiet beauty, wonderful people and tranquility.  Everything is done on island time.  Or as we call it ‘cruiser time’.  Cruiser time is either daytime or nighttime.  Your body and moods get into the rhythms of the day.  You know when the tides are changing.  You feel the difference in the texture of the winds when they change from a North to South direction. 
The first island we arrived at was Highbourne Cay.  Highbourne is a privately owned island.  They have a marina and well stocked store.  I bought a bag of Doritos, $8.25 a bag.  I was glad to pay it just for the privilege of having a market.  We got fuel $5.80 per gallon of diesel.  Water is scarce in the Bahamas.  Most of the water is RO water, created by filtering sea water.  We have an RO watermaker on the boat.  We can make 14 gallons an hour.  Matt and I use approximately 5 gallons of water per day.  In contrast, and average ‘land’ toilet uses 5 gallons per flush.  Taking a shower means creating the water, pumping it to our tanks, heating the water, pumping the water to the shower nozzle.  You quickly learn not to waste water.
We listen to the weather report every day from our Single Side Band (SSB) radio.  A SSB is a ham radio using marine channels.  You can use the SSB to talk to other folks if you are on the same frequency at the same time.  Each day at 8:30 am, on frequency 8152, a net or gathering of folks on the radio occurs.  It is called the Cruiseheimers Net.  Various people hot the net and other folks on land based units relay signals from distant stations.  We get news, tech tips, and questions from other cruisers and shout outs to find boats.    We connected with Jay and Tanya on Minx through the net.  They are in the Abacos in the northern section of the Bahamas.  The last time we saw them they were crossing from West Palm Beach to West End in the Abacos before Christmas.  We switched to another channel and had a nice conversation.  The SSB radio uses a tuner and insulator attached to our rigging to forma an antenna.  Many folks feel that SSB or ham radios are old outdated technology.  We use our SSB radio every day.  Many places we sail have no cell towers.  We can go use a Pactor modem attached to our SSB to send email.  The email is limited to text only.  I sent emails this morning to the kids to let them know we were fine and our location.  If you ever want to send us a SSB email our address is wdf7125@sailmail.com.
A strong cold front was predicted while we were at Highbourne Cay.  The in Highbourne is open and unprotected from the north, south and west.  We moved a few miles north to Allen’s Cay.  Allen’s Cay is populated with iguanas.  The Iguanas are native to the Cay and are protected.  Tourists  come from Nassau and view the little guys.  The iguanas know the sound of the engines and will run up to you expecting food.  They get a bit testy when you have no food. 
New stop, Shroud Cay.  Shroud Cay is in the Exuhamas Land and Sea Park. The Park is a no take zone.  You can look but not touch or feed or gather fish or lobster.  The Park maintains mooring balls that you can pick up or you can anchor near the mooring balls.  We grabbed a mooring ball and settled in for a few days.  We took the dingy to a mangrove trail.  You can use the dingy to go through the mangroves and you come out to a secluded beach.  The beach is called Driftwood Beach.  Legend has it that in order to experience the magic of Driftwood Beach you need to leave an offering to the guards of the beach.  People have created scarecrow statues from the flotsam and jetsam that wash onto the beach.  I gathered some sea weed and added it to the hairdo of one of the scarecrows.  The sand on the beach is soft as silk.  The grains are fine.  Shells abound.  Next to the beach is a blue hole, a very deep area lined by rocks and coral.  Fish abound and come to look at you as much as you are looking at them.  The water is as clear as a cement chlorine pool.  You can see all the way to the bottom.  You felt like you were given the gift of seeing what the sea creatures experience without getting in the water.  The sun hit 1300 hours and lit up the undersea world.  You could see each crack and crevice.  The colorful fish came out and conch and lobster scurried about.  I guess my hairdo contribution was enough of an offering to allow us to see the magic.
Each island is about a 4 to 5 hour trip.  Next stop, the Park headquarters at Warderick Wells.  You have to call in the day before if you want to get a mooring ball near the park headquarters.  We were assigned ball number 16.  Our mooring ball is right next to the coral garden.  You just jump off the boat and you are snorkeling in coral.  Going to be hard not to be in the water all day long.
The Park manager has asked me to resew their circus tent gazebo cover.  The circus is a trademark of the Park and was damaged during a severe blow.  See, sometimes you even have to work in paradise.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Storms and cold fronts come through all the time. We listen to the weather information on SSB and VHF. Today and tomorrow there will be a west- south west- north west wind. Most anchorages are protected from all areas BUT west. Secure, west protected, anchorages are limited. All the boats in the Exumas are trying to get to those limited anchorages. Exuma Land and Sea Park maintains mooring balls in various locations in the park. All the west secure balls were filled days ago, but folks fail to plan and get upset when the Park has no mooring space available. Marinas are sparse and the prices go up as the westerlies come through. Having to pay $4.00 per foot of boat length is not uncommon.

We are in a very protected mooring field, south of the park headquarters. There are only 5 mooring balls and no anchoring is allowed. The cove was once a hidey hole used by Pirates. There is a pretty beach and a fresh water well. The area is also home to stratomolites, ancient bacteria mounds over 3.5 billion years old. They are found in few places in the world. It defies logic when folks pitch a fit because they can't anchor in these protected areas. The selfishness of some people is mind numbing.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Bahamas

We left Miami at  4:00am.  To get to the Ocean we had to navigate a channel marked by unlit day markers.  We, luckily, we had a track on the chartplotter to follow.  We made it out of the channel and headed toward Bimini.  When you are crossing the gulf stream, you have to head south of your destination.  As you cross the stream, the 2-4 knot stream pushes you northward.  We were half way across as the sun rose.  The water is so blue.  It was great to be out of sight of land and ripping along under sail.  We had a few folks crossing with us and it was great fun to talk to each other on the radio.

Land HO!  We saw Bimini in the distance and went into Bimini Sands Marina.  Matt gathered our documents and rented a cab with our crossing buddies to check in with customs and immigration at the airport.  All checked in and time to explore.  The marina had an infinity pool.  We went for a swim and went to the boat to crash.  We shared a bottle of Champagne with Gwen and Walter on their Island Packet 40.

Decided to leave the next morning for West Bay on New Providence Island. Nassau is located in the north east of New Providence Island.  Nassau harbor is crowded and busy.  West Bay is located near Clifton National Park.  The anchorage is quiet and surrounded by a community of gated homes.

On the way to West Bay we stopped and anchored on the Great Bahama Bank.  The bank is wide and shallow without any ambient light.  The stars were out in force.  We watched shooting stars and satellites.  The water is so clear that you can see to the bottom.  You could see black shapes moving through the water.  Not sure what they were, but it was so kewl to see them.

In the gated community surrounding the West Bay anchorages a feud is brewing.  A home on the point is owned by a Canadian fashion designer.  He has created a 150k sq ft home that looks like a Mayan Ruin.  He lights the home at night with multicolored hues and plays music from sundown to midnight.  One night was show tunes, one night was Anya, one night was Classical.  His neighbors are not amused, but we enjoyed the show.  Look up Lyford Cay fashion designer for the whole scoop.

We have  been pinned down by weather and can't move till Wednesday Jan 17.  The snorkeling is great and the beach is covered by sea glass.  Will update more adventures.  Next time, pictures.

Friday, December 28, 2012


Finally made it to Miami.  Left Ft. Lauderdale because the marina was booked for the boat parade.  We had a fun and quiet sail.  Caught a Gulf Stream counter current and were sailing along at 9 knots.  You are limited on ingress at Government Cut if any cruise ships or large tankers are coming out of Miami.  We skipped Government Cut and went to Key Biscayne.  No large ships and an easier place to anchor.  We anchored in Key Biscayne Bight, just outside hurricane harbor.  Got ground tackle down and had dinner.  Looked up and there was a boat parade starting and we had a front row seat.  Large mega yachts and small motor boats and some sailboats went by.  Music and scantily clad dancers were a big part of the parade.  A fun time was had by all.

We are waiting and waiting for a weather window so we can cross the Gulf Stream and go to the Bahamas.  The Gulf Stream is a river of water in the ocean that was described by Benjamin Franklin.  The Gulf Stream flows south to north off of the east coast of North America.  The Gulf Stream can be easy to cross with south or southwest winds.  If winds are from the east, you have the wind on the bow of your boat as you head east.  North winds produce so called 'square waves'.  As the Gulf Stream is heading north and the winds are heading south the winds pick up the water and cause large waves.  It is best to avoid all but the calmest of north winds.  The trend the last week or so has been for low pressure systems to move off the east coast.  Lots of blustery winds, and very short weather windows.  As of today, it looks like Wednesday of next week is a good possible crossing day.  We will keep checking!

One of the forecast lows was coming in with lots of wind.  The anchorage was unprotected.  We called Crandon Park Marina.  They are a city run marina that has mooring balls.  We got a mooring ball and settled in for the blow.  The mangrove areas of Crandon Park are rookeries for many birds.  It was neat to watch pelicans feed their young.   We have seen cormorants, storks and terns.  A no wake zone is strictly enforced to protect the birds and other wildlife.  Aquatic friends are also abundant.  Dolphins, manatee and a croc or two.

On the way into Crandon a fisherman in a small open boat flagged us down.  He said his motor stopped and he had been out on the water for three hours without seeing another boat.  He was in shallow water and with a 6 foot draft I was inching my way toward his boat.  Matt grabbed his anchor rode and pulled the anchor up and attached it to our winch. I backed out and turned around before guy had a chance to say anything.  He looked like he was starting to panic.  We got him to the dock safely.  A few more coins in the Karma bank for our good deed of the day.  

We have discovered the wonderful bus system in Miami.  For $2.00 you can travel all over the city.  We went grocery shopping one day, out to dinner another and now we are at the library.  Library's are such a great resource for a community.  We can use the free wifi.  Check out books and movies and just hang out and read books.

Christmas was a quiet celebration with folks we met at the marina.  Glasses of wine were shared and toasts were made.

Hopefully, we get a weather window.  If not we will just wait and enjoy the beauty of Key Biscayne.