2007/04/23

2007.04.23

It is a few days since we last wrote anything and now our voyage is coming to a close and slowly the bonds of a land based life are increasing already. Are we really ready for this, we ask ourselves........???

We last wrote from Fernandina Beach where we spent one night and had supper ashore at a place recommended by marina staff but truthfully I don';t think that Catherine and i were overly impressed. The following morning , since a comparatively short passage was planned we left at 08.00 hrs bound for Jekyll Island . An uneventful day but with a lot of traffic both north and southbound and we arrived at the marina at 12.00 hrs where we took on fuel as there are few places to replenish on the ICW in this part without leaving the channel and disappearing into the wilds of Georgia.

A quiet night but a very nice marina - they served us great hamburgers for lunch. We also met a very pleasant couple sailing their C & C 38 back to the Chesapeake from the Bahamas - George showed me how his satellite weather mapping system worked ...... now that's a new toy !! Covers the whole of the USA and shows everything that you could possibly wish to know about the weather.

It came in useful the following day.... we were scheduled to depart at dawn ( about 06.45) but after meeting up with George and his weather map decided that discretion might be the better part of valour once again as there were several squalls and thunder showers forecats for the area as a new cold front was passing through. So we waited and before long saw the thunder showers had passed so departed at 08.30 again in company with the C & C and a couple of other boats. It was very windy and we were not making a great deal of headway, in addition to which it was quite cold to the extent that i was wearing shorts but short, polar fleece and squall jacket on my top....... my warm woollen watch cap pulled well down over my ears completed the picture !!!

By one p m we had all had enough so found a delightful little anchorage in Tea Kettle Creek ( yes all the creeks have similar names - remember Cow Pen Creek on the way south) . We anchored behind a small trawler (Carina) that was part of our convoy of four boats. As predicted by the weather forecasts the wind died by the evening and we spent a very peaceful night on the hook.

We were up at dawn and underway by 07.00 hrs on the 21st in order to get the most out of a flood tide, but also because we wanted to reach our destination of Thunderbolt that afternoon. We had 60 miles to do . The weather was glorious light winds on occasion from the right direction so that we were able to sail as we wended our tortuous path through the Georgia swamps and crossed two sounds. It is fascinating to be able to see for miles across flat marshes and to see other boats' masts in the distance doing the same trip.

The trip was great - we had timed things perfectly we had a flood tide most of the way and by the time the tide had turned we were in the river system leading to Thunderbolt so that was pushing us along at eight plus knots. We arrived and docked at a very quiet and deserted marine yard at 15.15 hrs.

Eventually we found the dockmaster of the marina part of the facility who showed us around and gave us a map of the area. Since then Sunday was spent taking the sails off the boat and letting the air out of, and packing up our dinghy.

Monday has been a mad whirl of meeting the dock people, all exceptionally nice, friendly anad very professional, finding a very super marine store just down the street, making arrangements to meet with a canvas specialist for dodger/ bimini repairs and perhaps to make covers for our deck hatchesto keep the sum out of the boat. We have also rented a car so now have wheels and it is already packed with the dinghy and genoa, since both are likely to be replaced for our next trip in November.

At present the plan is for us to be hauled out of the water on Wednesday morning - before that we need to change the engine oil and filters also probably the fuel filter - we need to go to the fuel dock and top up our diesel oil since the recommendation is to leave her with a full tank and of course thoroughly clean and flush our holding tank - we do not wish to leave that in the Georgia heat anything but in pristine condition!!

So, the adventure for this year is slowly coming to a conclusion, by this time next week we should be back in Montreal and I shall have had my first day in the office. I cannot help but wonder how I shall feel....!

Enough for now and over to the Admiral for her closing comments, if any.

Good night!

2007/04/18

2007.04.18

Last blog was on the 13th…. MANATEES DAY!

From Titusville we made our way North to Daytona Beach to yet another marina … Halifax River Marina, we stayed there some 3 days to wait out bad weather…. That’s when Montreal got all that snow and New York 8 inches of rain in one day… a record !!!

Daytona Beach was a good place to get my restowing seriously underway so now all our dry goods are stored as previously explained and even our clothes are packed….. we have so much clothing on board it is insane…. We had some to start with from cruising on Lake Champlain then brought more as we started phase one to Baltimore and then more again when we flew down to Balto ….. I counted for myself only 26 short sleeve t-shirts, 13 long sleeve ones.. I did not know I owned that many… I probably wore the same 6 the whole time in the Bahamas!!!! David was not much better and I think he has more shoes on board than Imelda Marcos !!!! so it is a good thing we are renting a car to drive back as it is ALL going home and we will start fresh and hopefully streamlined next season!!!!



We left Daytona just as the sun was peaking over the landscape ... a beautiful crisp morning ...we bundled up with fleece and jackets but still in shorts and no socks ...after all this IS Florida!!!










The next leg of the trip, Daytona Beach to St. Augustine was uneventful… except for the fact that we were stopped and boarded by the Florida Law Enforcement.. (the cops), it was quite impressive, their boat followed us and as we slowed down one officer came on board , he asked to see the boat’s documents, asked about our safety gear, fire extinguishers, PFDs, VHF etc. but was most interested in our holding tank setup….we have a “Y” valve which was fortunately in the proper position ie to the holding tank and not overboard….






He said that it should be locked in that position… so I produced a little plastic tie and that made us all legal !!!! he was a nice chap and gave me permission to take his picture for our blog then called his partner to come and pick him up...






The weather had been great clear blue skies and a nice gentle breeze…. We arrived at St. Augustine Municipal Marina ...they did not roll out the red carpet but came pretty close with this blue mat... I think they were hoping we would buy it!!!










They are located just South of the Bridge of Lions…which was in a bad state of repair, so it was decided to redo it…. In order not to interrupt traffic, they first built a new bridge, a temporary one, then demolished the original bridge, they are now in the process of rebuilding it, as there are four small historic looking towers which belong to the original bridge which they wish to preserve and then they will tear down the temporary bridge…. WOW !!!

St Augustine is one of the oldest settlements in America, founded in 1565 by the Spanish, they have the oldest wooden schoolhouse in America… it is very quaint, charming and full of history…. We have promised ourselves to spend an extra day here next time and visit all the interesting sites.

We had a very good supper in a nice pub the “1A1” which had been recommended by a charming couple , Pat and Lloyd, who were walking the docks, looking at boats, as we all do… we then went in search of our ice cream place which was closed so off to bead early as we had another early start this morning.



This lovely cormorant was on our dock as we pulled away....doing what cormorants seem to do most of the time when they are not in the water...dry their wings!!!!

We have been underway since 0715 as we wanted to make the 0730 Bridge of Lions opening…failing to do so we would have been stuck until 0900 as it does not open during rush hour, we have been traveling in this smoke all morning ….




David finally asked one of the bridge masters what it was and we were told that there is a fire in GEORGIA !!!! Must be a very big fire ….I hope it is not where we are going!!!!!

This evening, we are planning to stop in Fernandina Beach and will most likely anchor as we did on the way down….sorry this is not more interesting …so I will stop for now as my eyes are stinging from the smoke.




We actually docked at the Fernandina Beach Harbor Marina as we needed fuel and I picked up a brochure on Manetees.... the calves are 3 to 4 feet and weigh 60 to 70 lbs at birth.... now, that's some baby to push out but on the other end the mama is likely to be 13 feet long and could weigh as much as 3000 lbs... the pamphlet also said you should not touch them....ooops ! I hope my friend will not squeal on me.... after all SHE did turn on her back to have her belly rubbed!!

2007/04/14

2007.04.13 Vero Beach FL

Friday the thirteenth!!!! Good thing we are not superstitious ….

We stayed at Vero Beach as planned …. Pretty uneventful… I went for a short walk and saw some beautiful Spanish moss hanging from live oak trees, this is a very typical southern US type of vegetation and brings Scarlet O’Hara to mind, sorry I did not have my camera with me….I was only going to check out wifi availability and got carried away….I am always sorry when I don’t have my camera with me and am usually told “you don’t need to take IT…”

We had a nice little supper in the cockpit and went to bed early in preparation for a long trek the next day….. David as usual is a mean driving machine whether at the wheel of a car or the helm of a boat, he can go on for 8,10, and 12 hours and stays concentrated and focused… never complains and does not seem to get tired…. I need to helm when he needs to go below and with all the tea I feed him it’s amazing he does not need relief from the helm more often !!!!

I spend the day doing everything from cleaning…. Yesterday I did quite a nice job outside, to cooking and tidying up…I also keep the logbook Tony gave us as well as talk to bridge masters etc, not much need of my help with navigation except today when we went through a few very shallow spots…..alway the risk of going aground!

I am now starting to get Soli ready for decommissioning, although the food stores have gone down drastically, there still remains things to stow for the summer months that we will be away…. BAY LEAVES are the magic ingredient…. All the dry goods are put into Ziplock bags with bay leaves and then into a large plastic bin we were given in West End ….apparently little beasties do not like them!!!!!

Talking about the less appetizing fauna in these parts….I found a water cockroach on the deck this morning as I was taking the fenders in…I rapidly stepped on it and got a juicy green stain on the deck…..David said that they love dark places so I got thoroughly paranoid and removed the covers from all the fenders waiting for a whole army to come out but the whole thing was for naught,,,, there was only the one …but at least now I know for certain!!!










Still on the local fauna… this morning, in Titusville Harbour, we were treated to the visit of a whole family of manatees … we had seen signs forbidding the feeding of manatees and GIVING THEM WATER!!! I still do not understand this …they seem to love fresh water, so this morning as I was filling up the tanks I let the hose spill in the harbour for a while and then I heard this funny noise at the bow… I could not believe my eyes, there were FIVE of the most gentle, slow moving, huge creatures around Soli… out came the camera but they were so close and so large I could not get a shot of a whole manatee….





They are so sweet and gentle they were kissing Soli, kissing each other and looking at us ….I actually was able to caress one on her back…very thick skin, sort of like an elephant’s with algae growing on it…I can’t believe she felt my touch through that thick skin, but next thing I knew she rolled over on her back and exposed a lovely soft light colored belly for me to scratch…..








There was a baby, about five or six feet long, and it kept close to its mother ,,,,,they appear to kiss …they are probably eating the algae off each other’s backs.. they certainly did a good job on Soli’s water line.



We are now in Daytona Beach at Halifax Harbour Marina and will probably wait out some bad weather predicted for this weekend in comfort and safety.

Good night!

2007/04/12

2007.04.11 Palm Beach FL

The “crossing” was brilliant after watching a magnificent sunrise over our Abacos....7 and a half hours of motorsailing with a nice South Easterly wind, the seas were very tame, with the swells going South and the waves going North but all very smooth…. We were doing between 7.5 and Knots SOG (speed over the ground). It is amazing how good planning can make something potentially uncomfortable to down right dangerous a very pleasant experience…. We had received the go ahead from Chris Parker and he was right on again …

Then it was back to “civilization” with the high rise towers of Palm Beach appearing on the horizon…more like culture shock for us after more than three months bumming around the Abacos !!!

We anchored in the same place as on the way out in North Palm Beach right across from Rybovitch… checked in with US custom & immigration by cell phone , after holding on the line for half an hour….”your call is important to us ..remain on the line to maintain your priority..” we were only afraid the battery on the cell would die before our turn came, but it all worked out and we received a clearance number and instructions to present ourselves at their office within 24 hours!

The next morning after a pretty negative experience at Riviera Beach Municipal Marina where we were supposed to go (we did not even dock!!!) we made our way further North to Old Port Cove Marina who greeted us very nicely and with Soli and L’Equipe safely tied to the dock we hopped into a cab and made our way to the immigration office… since we had given them all the info on the phone the day before, the clearance number brought us up on the computer, they stamped our passports and we were off to our first “American “ lunch…no more grouper burgers for me!!!!!

After a quiet afternoon, the skies opened up and we were treated to squalls, thunder and lightning and the radio kept blaring on about tornado warnings in the Palm Beach area… that did not augur well for our trip today but it shortly calmed down and we went to supper at the “Club” which was quite smart … the food delicious and the prices very fair… we might consider staying here next time instead of Lantana… and the Publix was within walking distance …. Need I say more!!!!!

We woke up this morning to a beautiful sunny day, although still quite humid…. I don’t think I like Florida at this time of year… humidity and bugs…. This bring us up to date ….we are now plowing our way back up the ICW… admiring the beautiful villas and wondering AGAIN… where do all these people get the money for the real estate and the toys parked in front and back of the mansions!
I have just made a reservation at Vero Beach (aka Velcro Beach by some people who find it hard to leave!!!)..




Oh !!! and we were just treated to a pair of dolphins swimming alongside Soli… they jumped out of the water





and gave us a refreshing splash to greet us back to Florida along with the magnificent Pelicans which we never saw in the Abacos… I guess Florida is not so bad after all!!!!

2007/04/11

2007.04.11

Well we are now back on the ICW (Intracoastal Water Ways, in case you forgot) and truly on our way North.

We have just said goodbye and lost sight of L’Equipe as they stopped to anchor in Hoby Sound to wait for high tide in order to go up the channel to Stuart, I believe Marcel St. Onge (whom we met in Marsh Harbour) is going to escort them to the Hinkley Yard….sorry we did not get to see you again Marcel but we are trucking North!!!!!
It is actually the first time since November of last year that Soli and L’Equipe have been out of sight of each other except for a quick trip back to Marsh Harbour for repairs on Soli's furler ….






Now, last time we talked was D’s birthday in Westend.. we had a nice potluck supper aboard L’Equipe...



smoked salmon. grilled chicken, caesar salad. rillettes. cheese and birthday cake...

J baked these very creative looking, artisanal and delicious baguettes for the occasion







2007/04/08

207.04.08

We are back in West End for a couple of days now and today is D’s birthday…. J baked him some fresh cranberry scones for breakfast which H has just delivered with a personal present from him …. A spare bolt in case we drop another one in the bilge next time we change the impeller… very precious!!!

We were supposed to leave today but the sea state is still very rough in the Gulf Stream as a result of the high winds we have had for the past few days, so when D spoke to Chris Parker yesterday on the SSB, he recommended we do the crossing tomorrow…. We will go and fuel up and check out this evening in order to be ready to leave bright and early tomorrow morning.

We have been working hard getting the boats ready and starting to go through our stuff stowing and deciding what is going home and what is staying…of course we brought far too many clothes… since we always wore the same half dozen t-shirts, couple of shorts and skirts and definitely no socks!!! So a lot of it is going home to stay!!!

H decided our impeller should be changed or at least checked before the crossing, preventive maintenance, it was supposed to be an easy and quick procedure, which turned into a half day affair… one or the engine mount bolt was too long so the impeller was not accessible ….the whole impeller casing, fan belt etc had to be taken apart to get to it…. H finally sawed off about an inch off the bottom of the bolt so that we can do this in 15 minutes next time…. He actually even put the impeller in the wrong way the first time just to demonstrate how quickly the job can be done when he had to do it again!!!!

L’Equipe is only going as far as Stuart, Florida to the Hinkley yard where they will have some repairs done, we will be going on further North, for another 5 or 6 days to Thunderbolt Marina, which is 8 miles South of Savannah, Georgia, in order to comply with our insurance policy’s requirements…. Since they have taken a beating with all the hurricanes of the past few years it is virtually impossible to have your boat insured in Florida during the hurricane season (May 15 to November 15) if you are not a Florida residents, so L’Equipe will probably have to go North as well after her repairs are done.

I was determined not to leave the Bahamas without the guys having conch shells to blow... the local tradition is to blow a conch shell specially cut at sunset in all four cardinal points... so I commissioned a chap to produce 2 such conch shells when we were in Marsh Harbour and I gave them to D & H... interestingly enough the only only one of us able to get a decent sound out of it is J... she is a natural...

Our next dock neibourgh left this morning and gave us 3 large plastic bins he did not have room for on his boat... they will come in very handy on Soli this summer to store our gear and food stuff...it is a very interesting concept putting the boat on the hard in the summer instead of the winter as we have done for so many years. Instead of worrying about things freezing we now have to think of heat damage ….. will my peanut butter melt?

Last night we shared another bouillabaisse (I used the last of the Mahi-Mahi and shrimps) and home made (should I say boat made) bread and chocolate and walnut fudge with Babancout Rum for pud… I soon will start baking D’s birthday cake… can’t believe what a baker I have become on this trip…. All J’s influence…. D was saying he is hoping I will keep it up once we are home but I told him I think not… Premiere Moisson does it all very well !!!!
GTG, D needs me to take down the genny…. We need to fix the furler which is still acting up…we certainly do not want it to get jammed halfway through our passage!!!!

Can’t believe we are off tomorrow, it’s been 3 months almost to the day that we arrived in the Bahamas … I think I am more or less mentally ready to leave especially knowing that God willing we are going to do it all over next fall… it will be so wonderful to see our kids, big and small and our friends…. We have missed you all!!!!

2007/04/06

2007.04.05

Why oh why is everybody going the other way… do they know something we don’t?
Since we have started our homeward trek in earnest, for the last 2 days all we see is traffic going towards the delicious Abacos and we are leaving…
We heard it was snowing in Montreal yesterday….must be it!

Not sure where D left off on last post, I think we were still on Black Sound, Green Turtle Cay.




We found this marvelous beach that we had not discovered last time, Gilliam Bay, it is at the Southern end of the Cay and we have the kids from “Mysterious Ways” to thank for pointing it out to us… it was a bit of a walk to get there but well worth the effort….











This is what a live Sand Dollar looks like ... needless to say it was put back in the water as was the live Sea Star...there were enough white ones for us to collect.




























We were rewarded with a very nice little collection of Sand Dollars …16, I think and a few small shells.
Allan.. they are not going in cotton but bubble wrap!!!
Beach combing was wonderful and I kept thinking of the kids and how much they would enjoy finding all the treasures the sea brings to the beaches….




On the dinghy back to Soli, we saw fine examples of mangroves. They are dense and hardy shrubs with the most amazing exposed root system that grows out of salt water.










So we left The Other Shore Club on Black Sound on Tuesday morning after replenishing Soli’s fluids at the dock…. Kevin was there still and we paid him for mooring, showers and fluids taken as last time and were on our way in good time to make it out at high tide.





It was a hop and no skip to Manjack Cay where we dropped our hook in another beautiful anchorage, after lunch we dinghied over to shore and explored … It is supposed to be an almost deserted island whith one house ... we actually saw 3...






H was looking for lobsters but apparently lobster season closed last Saturday, so he never go a chance to use the magic weapon he had been perfecting …..we were on the Sea of Abaco side of the Cay and the tide was too low for us to cross over to the Ocean side where I believe the more beautiful beaches are…. Next time!!!!







He did find this beautiful live conch... it is illigal for non native Bahamians to catch them.... so this one went back into the sea as well ....






More Sea Star rescue... this large one was left high and dry ....










Manjack's coast line gives a very good idea of what these islands are made of... coral!!!! the soil layer is only a very few inches which is why they have a very difficult time growing anything... it is amazing to see such hardy natural vegetation actually thriving there.






We were supposed to go to Powell Cay next, where sea biscuits can be found on the beach and J and I were planning on finding a few but yesterday morning the skippers had a meeting on board Soli (after the laptop play date) and given the weather coming up, they decided we should give Powell Cay a miss for this time and just go straight to Great Sale Cay ( our first stop after West End on the way down….) fortunately we had actually bought a couple of Sea Biscuits …. But finding our own will have to wait until next time!



We had a nice little fish pie for dinner...that was the last of the wahoo supply caught by D&H.

This might be one of the last food pic I will be posting as we are not in cruising mode any longer and my bread making days will be on hold.... back to Kraft dinner or Chunky soup....yuk!!!!




So we plotted a route, some 50 NM which we did yesterday… pretty straight forward, except that D just stood at the helm (although James was driving!!!) for some 8 hours !!! I guess old habits die hard!!!

We anchored in the bight at Great Sale Cay along with quite a few other boats… it seems to be a favourite jumping point in or out… most boats were of the “in” variety and some still had their yellow quarantine pennant which means their had not cleared customs into the Bahamas yet.

It was quite a rock & roll night for Soli the wind was quite strong from the South and coming straight into the bay (the only wind direction this bay has no protection from!!!) .
I got up a couple of times… checked on the dinghy that was bouncing up and down so high on the waves I though it was trying to jump on board Soli… almost made it too!!!
I also checked on our position on the chart plotter to make sure we were not dragging, but that was fine…just gave me an opportunity to read a little more or “The Queen’s Fool”, a sort of sequel to “The Other Boleyn Girl” which we have all enjoyed so much and this one is just as good….have to see what else we can buy written by Phillippa Gregory when we get home…. Highly recommend those two books even if you are not British history fans…

We got up early today 0615 to listen to Chris Parker… could not receive him at all for the first part of his broadcast…. But he finally came in clear and D was able to ask him about today’s passage and he gave us the go ahead as well as a potential window to do “the crossing” back to Florida on Sunday… this is all going far too fast for me but D is now on a “delivery” and wants to make the best of good weather, which I can understand…sort of…I think!!!

It was a good thing I had created all the waypoints and programmed the route into the chartplotter last night because right after talking to Chris, the skippers decided to get a move on and it was a mad scramble to get dinghy on board….finally… it had tried to do it all by itself all night to save us the bother!!! So we are now truly into passage mode now!!!

This brings us to now on this 66 NM passage to West End … we should be there around 1800 something, we cannot take the Indian Pass shortcut this time as we will be there at low tide and since we are almost at full moon the tide swings are the biggest (something else I learned !!!!) So it will be a 10 hour passage… James is driving again but D is actually below…. AWAY FROM THE HELM!!!! Omigosh!!!!! But we are safe as I am up on deck…. Typing away and definitely not looking where we are going!!!!!








Oh island in the sun.... one to dream on!!!

2007/04/02

2007.04.01

It is April fool’s day and nobody has played any tricks on anyone.

We are still on our mooring in Black Sound and will be here all tomorrow, the weather has been absolutely gorgeous today, hot and sunny with a gentle 10 knot wind from the south east. After a leisurely start to the day and a trip ashore for showers we took the dinghy into White Sound, just around the corner from where we are presently moored to the Green Turtle Club for an excellent lunch of grouper and chips ( Abaco fish and chips) followed by ice cream, then back to the boat for a brief moment and then a walk through the town of New Plymouth for a walk on the beach.

We probably walked about three miles and Catherine was very pleased with herself ‘cos she found two beautiful sand dollars and some very pretty shells. We had to return to the boat since we were invited for drinks on “L’Equipe” with a very nice family from New Brunswick that we had first met up with in Minim Creek ( of ill fame for “Solitaire 1” if you recall our adventure there) in South Carolina .

The Nicholsons (http://www.sailmysteriousways.blogspot.com/) are a delightful family with two children of eight and ten on a year’s sabbatical.. We had a very pleasant time with them, various card games ( Fish ) and nice chat. One thing we have learned on this voyage is what a small world it is – we meet people continuously from different walks of life, spend time with them and then part only to meet up with them somewhere quite different along the way. It was the children actually that told us about the beach to which we walked this afternoon.

Tomorrow we plan to visit the beach again at low tide in order to see what we can find and then maybe on Tuesday we will bid adieu to New Plymouth and go and visit another island on our hop northwards. The present plan is to arrive in West End over the Easter weekend and prepare for our crossing once again of the Gulf Stream and back to civilization (so called).

More later when we can get a wifi connection.
Binow.