A very happy, healthy, peaceful and prosperous New Year to all our readers.

We shall be thinking of you all, wherever you may be, as we celebrate the birth of 2007 here in Loggerhead Marina with our friends on L’Equipe. Last year we did not celebrate the actual birth of the New Year, but did see the first sunrise of 2006, floating in a hot air balloon above the beautiful African park at Kapama, where we were staying. 2007 will see us in similar warm weather but floating on our faithful “Solitaire 1”.

Preparations are continuing non stop as we prepare for our departure from North America to the Bahamian Islands. More food is being loaded and stowed, only Catherine knows where, whilst, today, I have been preparing the dinghy with lights with the great help of Heinz Weber.

Help had to be enlisted to load our provisions on board...I don't know that we have left any food or beer for the locals!!

Yesterday we spent a very pleasant day, once more looking for and finding additional spare parts for all the various bits of machinery that must be tended, followed by a delicious lunch on Singer Island at the entrance to Palm Beach Inlet. This is the inlet from which we intend to leave to cross the Straits of Florida and the Gulf Stream, so it was nice to be able to scout out the area in daylight, through which we shall pass once we have a proper weather window. The plan at present is to leave this marina on the 3rd January for an anchorage (possibly, but unlikely, a mooring buoy) adjacent to Singer Island so that we can leave immediately the time is right. You may be sure that from tomorrow onwards we shall be following the weather forecasts with great attention!

For those of you who are not aware, the Gulf Stream flows at an average speed of around 2.5/3.0 knots from South to North through the Straits of Florida and in a wind with any North in it can cause a large and somewhat confused sea. If this is the case then we stay where we are, since we would like this crossing to be a pleasant experience and not a battle!!! Therefore we need a wind from the south which flows with the current and we need it to have been blowing for a day or so in order for any choppy water to have calmed down. Once we have that all should be plain sailing!!! The distance we have to make is about 51 nautical miles at an average speed of say 6 knots, maybe somewhat less, so we are looking at around ten hours of sailing. For this reason the accepted practice (and the one that we intend to follow) is to leave the anchorage at about 01.00 hrs which should give us an eta at our destination of around Noon to 13.00 hrs. This gives us good light to enter what for all of us is completely unknown territory and allows us to hopefully clear the authorities within working hours rather than having to pay overtime.

Our destination is West End on the north western tip of Grand Bahama Island – we will put a waypoint in our GPS off the entrance to the harbour which will give us the course to steer and also the amount of leeway/drift with the current that we are making. We understand that at the moment the most westerly edge of the Gulf Stream is about four miles off the Florida coast so one is soon into it. All this electronic aid is no reason for us (particularly Catherine I suspect) not to use our normal nautical knowledge, and you can be sure that there will be a position on the chart every hour without fail. So it’s should be all fairly plain sailing…….! Something can always go wrong however, which is why we try to be so prepared.

To add to all this is the fact that we will be crossing one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, commercial freighters, bulk carriers, tankers and tug and tows all going between the U S East Coast and U S Gulf ports. A good lookout must be kept and the radar will be very useful, since these ships are unlikely to alter course for us, we must alter for them.

Once we have arrived in West End, we can either anchor or berth at a marina (depending upon whether they have room). Upon entering we will be flying our Q (quarantine flag), a plain yellow flag, which is a signal to the Bahamian authorities that we are a foreign vessel entering their country and that we wish to clear customs and immigration. If we are lucky and get to a dock then we may be visited by the officials, but if we must anchor, then we will probably launch the dinghy from it’s resting place for ocean passages, lashed to the foredeck, and go ashore in the dinghy with all our papers to perform the formalities at the customs house. The cruising permit for our boat is $300 US in cash and is good for a year, once cleared in, we lower the Q flag and hoist the Bahamian courtesy flag, and we are set to go cruise the Abacos!!!

There will likely be a day or so of rest and exploration of the West End area before we depart for that uninhabited tropical isle of which we have all been dreaming!!!

So that’s the plan, stay tuned for what actually happens ‘cos it’s quite likely that something will change!! My apologies to anyone who finds this too simplistic, but I wished to try to explain to those who are unaware of what is involved.

Now – over to the Admiral !

The Admiral is exhausted, after a day of provisioning, and entering each item and its location on Exel… that is after I had found locations…. Then more cleaning of the boat while the water is plentiful and FREE!!! Happy new year everyone.

On a lighter note ..a picture of an egret on Las Olas in West Palm Beach... she looked a lot smarter than most other locals!

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