2008/12/28

28th December 2008

Well, here we are comfortably at anchor in North Western Harbour of Great Sale Cay,
an uninhabited island, to which we have come five times now but never been ashore!

We spent a quiet Christmas in Old Bahama Bay Marina . On Christmas Eve we cleaned the boat, Catherine doing a great job on the inside whilst I did the outside and also cleaned the salt off the hull. That always seems such a waste of time somehow ‘cos as soon as we go to sea again it just gets salty again, but it does prevent the salt from drying to a thick crust . This crust against our dark green hull looks bad , now if we had a white hull……..??

The main highlight of Christmas Eve was the local elementary school’s nativity play on the front lawn of the hotel. The nativity story was told excellently and the children were simply marvelous dressed up as they were….. it was a wonderful way to prepare for the Christmas season and the reason for it.. We also activated Skype once again and enjoyed a half hour telephone call with Jeremy and Verity which was nice.

As is our usual modus operandi when we can, we get up and make tea for me and coffee for the Admiral and then switch on our computers, I to check in with the office and Catherine to check our e mails and bank. However, disaster…… Catherine’s computer refused to boot and she then spent three hours on the ‘phone to various Dell technicians trying to get the thing to work. Alas to no avail and it was finally concluded that for some reason her hard drive was terminally finished. Another was ordered under guarantee and is to be sent to our good friends Jacqueline and Heinz who are scheduled to be back in Hope Town on the 9th January . She wil have to wait until then before her Dell computer can be resuscitated. By the way the three hour ‘phone call was all on Skype and cost nothing, now that’s impressive !!!

Once this was all finalized Christmas Day was spent relaxing by the pool and even going for a swim. It was warm and pleasant. Telephone calls from the family made us seem closer than we actually are and those ‘phone calls are appreciated. We had booked for the hotel buffet dinner in the evening and joined a group of other cruisers that we had met, mainly it seems from the Chesapeake Bay area. An English couple with a Pacifc Seacraft 40 a single hard with a Hunter 47 and of particular interest to us a couple with another Sabre, this one a 38.

The buffet was delicious with a conch chowder, salad, turkey, ham and all the trimmings and for desert a number of small tarts, cookies and of course Christmas cake, although I have to admit I prefer the one we make which is much more fruitier and has much more alcohol in it !!

A short walk after dinner and then I fear we were ready for our bed and we did not stay around to see the Junkanoo rush out.

Boxing Day was spent quietly again by the pool and in the evening at the Maanager’s cocktail party where rum punches were liberally dished out and there were some excellent nibbles. The 27th was spent preparing the boat for sea again as we had decided that the weather was favourable to leave the Marina and head on towards Hope Town, we still wish to make it by New Year’s Eve.

We left Old Bahama Bay marina at 06.45 and followed a line of boats through the narrow and rather shallow Indian Rock passage, helpfully, and planned as such, on a rising tide. No alarms and excursions and once clear it was a straight forward passage to this anchorage where we arrived and had the anchor dug in by 14.30 hrs. Catherine, once again out did herself, with a filet steak, new potatoes and beans for supper with a half bottle of red wine to wash it all down. Who said cruising couldn’t be comfortable???

It is now 19.30 and Catherine is already in bed with her book by Jeffery Archer! We have looked at a wonderful sky, it is quite amazing how many stars one can see with no light pollution. It reminds me of the many nights that I spent on watch crossing the Atlantic and it is indeed a pity that everyone cannot see such a display at least once in their lives.

We plan to leave here at first light around 06.30 hrs to make Manjack Island anchorage during the early afternoon. If it is as nice as the weather forecast says that it will be maybe we shall put the dinghy in the water and go ashore. Manjack is another island but in this case inhabited by one family, who are always pleased to see and meet cruisers.
Tomorrow is another day…..good night !
I could not resist posting this pics...just to show you how healthy we are eating...most of the time!

2008/12/22

2008.12.22 West End Grand Bahama Island FINALLY!

We have not posted for a few days as we were on the move with no wifi…we are now ensconced in Old Bahama Bay Marina, riding out a “Norther” (cold front from the North) so I will try and get you caught up with Soli’s adventures and misadventures.

Back in Vero Beach, Danny did install the new raw water pump (the thing that keeps our engine cool) and we were now all set to go the very next morning.

On Friday morning, we did cast off from our very nice neighbours Bill and Jeanette on Myosotis who are going to stay there while Bill is recovering from carpal tunnel surgery.

I also met a lovely lady, Ann, in the laundry room, which is where most cruisers meet and talk, exchanging experiences and tips. Ann, who is from Perth Australia, has been cruising with her husband for the last six years on their ketch Ketchup 2... when asked about provisions and refrigeration, she replied that on one of several occasions, they were somewhere for several months where there were no people, no stores no civilation of any sort and all they ate was the fish they caught and rice of which she had an ample supply on board...now that is the real cruising life style.. they were on their way home, down to the Gulf of Mexico, through the Panama Canal and then across the Pacific....just like that...they should be home in a few months...Ann if you read this can you email me please.

We had met another boat “Chanceux” who was planning on doing the next leg “outside”, which means on the ocean instead of “in the ditch” which is the ICW.
This would avoid all the bridges and shoals…we thought it was a good idea and decided to go out at Fort Pierce inlet and the plan was to come back in at Lake Worth inlet…
Chris Parker was predicting a good “window” to cross on the week end and the timing was right…so many cruisers stay stuck in Florida waiting for that “window” sometimes for weeks! So here we were quite a few boats planning to cross on Saturday…always safety in numbers!

So here we are sailing happily on the beautiful blue waters of the Atlantic, the sun is shinning, David is sporting his old mariner ecstatic smile when all of a sudden, Soli developed a very strong vibration…the whole boat was shaking so hard…it felt like an earthquake.
David immediately went and checked where the propeller shaft is visible inside the boat, the dripper seal, where the shaft goes outside the hull … it was not turning smoothly at all and was making an awful racket… at that point I was at the helm and saw we were close to St Lucy inlet, we then decided to go in but this inlet has a poor reputation with shoaling and we had this lame boat so D called Tow Boat US to escort us into the channel.

Capt. Woody met us as we were entering the inlet and guided us towards Manatee Pocket where we could safely anchor… I took the helm as David went forward to get ready to drop the anchor and all of a sudden I thought the shaking stopped!

We called Hinckley to see about having the boat hauled to check the prop & shaft for damage… fortunately as it would have cost at least a thousand dollars, they could not take us until Monday… groan, groan there goes our “window”.

I then tell David that I “thought” that at the last minute before we dropped the anchor, the vibration had stopped….Capt Woody was still around and he suggested sending a diver down to inspect…so that is what happened and the consensus was that we had picked up something big on the ocean that had lodged itself around the propeller shaft and maybe when I put the boat in reverse to anchor it fell off.
Capt Woody came back with a diver, Gary, we happily gave him $50. for diving and Mr. Hinckley will have to do without our money for this time PHEW!!! It was our first experience with Tow Boats US and they were extemely helpful and pleasant to deal with..

Manatee Pocket is a lovely little bay with beautiful homes…we spent a relaxing afternoon and evening, we tried to call Marcel and Gail who have a place in Stuart and had asked us to stop by but there was no reply….guess they have already gone.

The next day was quite uneventful, TG, we have had enough excitement to last us a while…we were already back on the ICW so decided to proceed down from there.

So back to opening bridges with friendly (mostly) bridge masters...

That area is lined on both sides with huge mansions….and what is amazing is that are still building new bigger ones…the credit crunch is not showing any signs here near Palm Beach!

This is David's favourite one... I think he likes the statue of the mermaid on the lawn!!!
After fueling up, topping up water, emptying holding tank and disposing of garbage (is that not what everyone does before going on a voyage)…we proceeded to drop our hook in Lake Worth anchorage just south of the inlet and get Soli ready for her passage…. Jack lines, harnesses, PFDs, removed all lines and fenders, programmed our course line on the chart plotter etc…


We had an early supper as we planned to get up at 0110 in order to start at 0200.
We had noticed another Canadian boat anchored nearby, “Roupillon” so I hailed them on the VHF to see if they were planning to cross the next day…they were, but going to Lucaya which is further South…we planned on starting off together… this was my first crossing without L’Equipe or some other boat close by and after our experience with the prop shaft I was a little apprehensive.

I woke up at midnight….there was wind blowing from the North…oh no!!!! cannot cross with a Northerly… we lost our window!!! We listened to the weather station on the VHF and they were still predicting SW, BUT IT WAS BLOWING FROM THE NORTH!!!

I could not go back to sleep and David decided we would go out in the ocean and see, Claude from Roupillon said it was just a night wind so he was not worried either…
The skippers were right and we had a lovely night passage, as Claude and Andree were going South to Lucaya so we gradually lost sight of them and here we were all alone on a starless night on the big ocean blue… well actually it was quite black…with the reassuring light of our trusted (sic) chart plotter and my brave skipper at the helm.

I TOOK NO PICTURES as my camera battery died just as we left…but you have all seen pics of sunrises on our previous crossings. We made landfall at 0930 when Hawkeye first spotted a water tower on the horizon, some 13 miles away and docked at Old Bahama Bay at 1130…my friend Jamal was there to help us tie up.
We had a walk on the beach, saw a ray graciously swimming by, a little conch and a blue crab exploring the shallow water… as it was windy there were no seems as we had on our first visit here.


We also met a family of Brits having a holiday on the island… unbelievably the 18 year old daughter has friends in Tiptoe which is where David’s brother Jeremy and his family live…now if you blink when you drive through Tiptoe, you’ve missed it!
We had our first grouper sandwich…it was not on the menu but they were happy to make it for us when we asked.

Today we are charging the batteries on all our toys…phones, hand held VHF, camera, palm pilot, computers…how did the real old time sailors do without all the modcons.
We are still planning on cleaning the boat… maybe that is why I am being so long winded… sorry about that...procrastination!! But it is so cozy to be cocooning in our bunk drinking coffee and chatting with you when the North wind is howling outside.
By the way, we bought a new Guide to the Abacos as ours had got wet and the pages were stuck together and fwe ound 2 pictures, one in an advert for Old Bahama Bay Marina and the other of Hope Town harbour where both L'Equipe and Soli can clearly be seen...

We had hoped to spend Christmas with all our friends in Hope Town …it was not to be…so in case this is our last posting before the holidays may we send you all loving wishes for very joyful Christmas and Hannukah celebrations…enjoy your families… wish we could be with you.

2008/12/17

20081216 Vero Beach Florida

Just a quick note ….we do not have a wifi signal on board so we are going ashore to do a little posting and emailing....but most importantly post some pics of dolphins for Kaitie, Jack, Pat & Sandra! ...They hammed it up and send you all waves and splashes!

There were also these pretty birds that followed us for a long time "begging " for food and a lovely little sea eagle marking the spot at "49"
I have just been corrected by my friend Liz in South Africa, who assures me that she is intimately acquainted with this particular mark 49 and it is an osprey not an sea eagle...I am quite sure she is right...Thanks Liz!

We are in Vero Beach (aka Velcro Beach by the aficionados…as one never seems to be able to leave!) and we were supposed to leave today but while checking the coolant level yesterday David discovered a slow water leak.. we tried to tape the hose with rubber tape, put on new jubilee clips (hose clamps for you non Brits) but to no avail…so we had to call what Alec called “THE MAN”…

Danny arrived today and changed the hose which was quite tattered but suspected as we did that the leak came from something else …i.e. the water pump…so we changed the gasket, the impeller and still we had the leak… long story short (too late) a new water pump has been ordered and will arrive tomorrow from North Carolina…so we will eventually leave Velcro Beach, true to its reputation, hopefully on time to make it to Lake Worth for this weekend as there is supposed to be a “window” to cross the Gulf Stream…if not then we will go on the next one… c’est la vie!

Yesterday we launched our new dinghy with the spi halyard attached to a sling D made…it worked very well and we hopefully will have more enjoyment out of our new car than we did out of the Zodiac from hell.

I actually did drive it yesterday with my husband, super patient coach, yelling at me “goose it…goose it” when I did not know which gear I was in and which way to move the tiller…a wall on my bow and another dinghy coming up my stern.. I called out that I was in training and they laughed and stopped!!!! Hopeless, did you say, well maybe but I still remember the last time I goosed it, I went crashing into L’Equipe and almost fell off to the tender mercy of the propeller blades…

The only thing I really do not enjoy here are the “noseeums”…it is amazing how little bugs that are so small you cannot even see them and fit through mosquito screens, can make such big itchy welts on my body…..you may remember the picture of Jacqueline’s legs I posted 2 years ago, it looked like she had chicken pox! I do not mind giving them a little blood but why do the ungrateful little buggers have to leave this itchy poison behind as a thank you!!!!

2008/12/12

12th December 2008

We have been moving along very slowly for the past four days since we last posted anything on the blog. The weather has been cold and for the last two days extremely windy, which has not made for pleasant traveling.

The 9th was a short travel day from Jekyll Island past the Trident nuclear submarine base on the St Mary’s River to Fernandina Beach and our first stop in Florida. Having left at 10.00 hrs we were tied up by 14.30 hrs so were able to spend some time exploring Old Fernandina. A wonderful ice cream and fudge parlour beckoned so we indulged and then walked for what seemed like miles looking for wedding magazines for our friend who is already in Hope Town. Her daughter is getting married in May thus she wants some ideas. Amazingly enough we could not find a store that sold magazines .

The following day was a longer trip….. we cast off at twenty to eight in the morning, a bright and crisp day, heading for St Augustine. An uneventful day but with quite a lot of current in various places. Just before leaving I had asked the dock master what the situation was with a bascule bridge which is being demolished and a high bridge being built to replace it. We knew that there were only certain opening hours. A helpful tug skipper answered the VHF call and told us that the bridge would only be open before 07.00 hrs – from noon to 13.00 hrs and after 17.00 hrs. Our timing, even if I say so myself, was perfect we arrived at Noon and barely had to slow down! However the current coming through the opening was in excess of three knots against us and we were happy that we had such a good and powerful engine !

We had chosen to stay, once again, at Camachee Creek Marina, where we had stayed on our previous north bound trip. It’s a very nice marina, very clean and lots of room, although quite a distance from the town of St Augustine. We tried to take fuel but the pump was on strike so nothing doing there. The next day dawned very windy and we decided to remain where we were, as we knew that a strong frontal system was going to come through Florida. It was warmer however.

Boy did it ever. About 10.00 hrs the boat started to lean to starboard and the wind started to howl with some very, very big gusts. The highest wind we saw was just on 42 knots and we were glad that we had paid attention to the weather charts and forecasts. It blew at a steady 25 knots for most of the morning and then started to rain…. and rain some more. Some time after lunch the rain stopped and although the wind was still gusty the sky cleared and the sun shone but the temperature had decreased significantly. We chatted with other cruisers as to what their plans were and it seemed no one could make up their minds as to whether to go the next day or not.

This morning therefore we did not exert ourselves unduly but after listening to the weather on the VHF and reading NOAA’s web site decided to go. The wind was 15/20 knots but from the north west and thus mostly on the starboard quarter or astern. Not so bad. We missed the 09.30 hrs bridge opening at the Bridge of Lions since our ensign decided it didn’t wish to continue the voyage with us and jumped overboard. A rapid man overboard drill ensued and I am pleased to say that we rescued the ensign and the pole within a very short time and at the first try. Bravo to the mate who caught it well and truly by the material. (our ensign is our Canadian flag, in case anyone thought we had lost crew overboard!….ed). The result of all this excitement was that we had to hang around until the 10.00 hrs opening. All went well and the voyage proceeded smoothly. The Matanzas Inlet which is notorious for shifting sand bars and odd currents proved testing but we passed safely through at reduced speed. We needed to be particularly careful since we were very close to low water… the worst we saw was a six foot spot on the depth sounder which would translate into about eight feet . Our depth sounder is set for about two feet less than the actual depth shown(we hope ed).. it’s a safety margin!!

The skipper however was getting very cold and it was not particularly pleasant cruising so we decided to stop early at this nice marina named Palm Cove and we are still about 30 odd miles from Daytona. We took fuel here and then berthed and went for a walk around this rather smart but very quiet development. It has a shopping square on the lines of a European village square. There’s nobody about and several of the stores have obviously bitten the dust.

Tomorrow, it will be a long day as we are going to try and push through to Titusville. With some luck and minimal delays we should be able to do it, we’ll let you know how we get on in the next installment!

Bye for now.

2008/12/08

2008.12.08 “marshing” along the Georgia golden reeds.

We left Kilkenny Creek Marina at 0700 this morning after a good night sleep.

As David said last night, it was quite unbelievable that after having spent two weeks in Thunderbolt Marine and just about ALL the work that was supposed to have been done over the course of the summer was actually done on Friday…there we were, finally all ready to cast off and all the instruments started screaming and flashing error 17…it was as if Soli did not want to leave…now usually I am the one who does not want to leave, I hope she is not catching one of my idiosyncrasies.
I took a picture of our first cruising sun rise, our first pelican, still no dolphins, Pat, sorry, I am keeping an eye out for them.

We are going through a particularly tricky part of the ICW today…winding through the Georgia marshes can be pretty shallow business so I am staying out of the Skipper’s way as he is concentrating very hard on the chartplotter, the buoys and transits in order to keep Soli off the bottom. Fortunately we are doing this on a rising tide now, which helps a lot of course…I was looking at our log book from last year and saw that we ended up anchoring three times as the fog was too dense to travel.

We are now comfortably ensconced in Jekyll Island Marina…this is our fifth visit here I recon…I called the guys on the VHF as we were entering the channel…."how do you suggest we tie up, given the direction of the current/tide at this moment …we were thinking starboard to….” “ yes ma’am..starboard to is fine and your fenders at water level”.
That is one component to a safe and easy docking….being prepared and not having to scramble madly at the last minute …of course the more important component is the skipper’s ability to bring her in. Our docking was perfect and after a nice long hot shower we had supper and I’ve been blogging….All is well.

2008/12/07

7th December 2008

Hooray – we’re off!!!!

At last we have left Thunderbolt Marine and are now on our way south, spending this first night on the road in Killkenny Creek Marina. We decided to stop here rather than anchor because of the cold weather and here we have power and that means our heat pump is working full blast!!!







Where to begin….. On Friday 5th all sorts of riggers and the electrician descended finally on the boat and fitted our new solar panels above the bimini… We have high hopes that they will look after much of our power needs. The riggers were finished very close to knocking off time at 16.00 hrs but we were saved by the electrician – Calvin – who stayed on overtime to finish hooking up everything – a most professional and very nice individual, originally from St Thomas. Calvin also helped David get out heat pump going and I am now WARM, Thank you!

Since it was late on Friday evening when all the work was finished we decided to leave on Sunday morning rather than, as originally intended on the Saturday. Saturday was spent loading the dinghy onto the foredeck and lashing it down, tidying and cleaning the boat up again, so that she was shipshape and generally getting everything ready for a Sunday departure.

In the meantime Catherine went up the road to make a few final purchases, which included five pounds of the most delicious fresh shrimp, the first pound of which we consumed on Saturday evening as a farewell to Thunderbolt. They were, as all who have enjoyed Catherine’s cooking , will know , were absolutely delicious. She did admit to me afterwards that the fisherman who sold the shrimp to her had given her instructions as to how to cook them to the best! We were also treated to a Xmas parade of boats all decked out in lights....the generators must have been going full blast!

Sunday dawned bright and clear,. We had a leisurely start to the day since we knew from past experience that this first day’s run would not be long, about four and a half hours. We also did not wish to arrive at a particularly difficult and narrow passage at anything less than close to high tide, so we thought to leave at around 10.00 hrs.

All went well, until the instruments were switched on and “James” , our automatic pilot, decided to go on strike. Since all the instruments are connected together through a computer all our other instruments were not working and all showing “Error 17” with a loud buzzing. Much muttering…!!! James has rested all summer so why strike now???

Back into our large cockpit locker, take out all the stuff that had been so carefully stowed and start tracing wires. Several telephone calls to our guru, back in Montreal, who had set all these instruments up, unload the aft cabin with many stores, and dismantle panels to get at more wiring. Nothing doing…. David Hudson, in Montreal, issuing instructions as to where to look and what wires to tweak or check with our ammeter, which neither of us really knew how to use, but we found nothing. Finally “James” was disconnected and low and behold we had the other instruments reading correctly, but without the pilot it would be a long voyage and we really did not know where there might be a competent service centre. Besides, although I hate to admit it, “James” does steer very well, almost better and straighter than I!!

A rapid conference as to what we should do, during which time Catherine went and fiddled with wires that we had already fiddled with and spoke lovingly to them and to the recalcitrant striker. She plugged them all back and low and behold, he smiled and started working again as if nothing had happened.

It was, by now 12.30 hrs and our window was getting rapidly smaller, but we decided to make a run for it, figuring that we could make this stop before dark, just, if the gods were smiling upon us. They were! With the current we were making 7.5 knots, the one bridge which had to open to let us through and which might have delayed us promptly opened with a cheery “Come on up Cap’n and I’ll open for you”, when we called the bridge master on the VHF and we were through and continuing on our way. We arrived at Hells Gate (the narrow shallow passage) about half an hour after high water so no problem there and so on uneventfully to this marina, with “James” happily driving us along.

The weather bright sun but cold, with both of us in long johns heavy sweaters and jackets, the wind from the north and thus at our backs which made life pretty bearable, but it was still chilly, hence the reason to stop here rather than anchor out. We have both decided that we are getting too old not to have our creature comforts and one of those is heat when we need it and can get it!!

An early start tomorrow since we have quite a way to go to the old private reserve of the Rockerfellers and sundry other wealthy gentlemen of a by gone era, namely Jekyl Island.

After that it’s on to Fernandina Beach and Florida. Don’t know whether we are going to make Hope Town in time for Christmas, but after all we are cruising and we do not have a schedule to make on this voyage, unlike last year.

We do not have any wifi here, in fact we only have a very weak cell ‘phone signal, so this will have to wait to be posted from Jekyl Island tomorrow along with some of the pictures that the resident photographer, come chef, come electrical engineer come everything has taken. She is texting with grand daughter Kaitkyn at the moment…complaing that her thumbs are not as nimble as Kait’s.

By the way… a note to Fil, please tell Dom that I thoroughly enjoyed his first novel, a good tale with wonderful descriptions of little Italy. Catherine is immersed in the book now and is also thoroughly enjoying it. Congratulations to Dom on his first novel and for any other readers of this blog, the book is at Chapters, City of Sinners, by D.C. Iannuzzi, and is a worthwhile read, so try it, you will certainly enjoy it!

All for now…. Tata.