Sunday 25th January 2009

It is now two weeks since we added to this narrative, so here goes !

Life on board the good sailing vessel “Solitaire I” continues to be very peaceful and quiet although work on and around the boat continues as ever. Recently we replaced the fresh water filter, which we thought would be a brief affair….. wrong !!! in order to get the filter out we had to remove it entirely and then found that it had been put in incorrectly so my trusty admiral read the instructions and we battled with it for two hours, finally getting it back, this time fitted correctly We had to trim one of the hoses and use slightly larger screws but once all was back together and the pressure pump switched on, it resumed working perfectly and no leaks. This was a major operation since without it we would have not had any running water.

Last Thursday we took the boat across to Marsh Harbour, the “big” town, anchored in the bay and went ashore to do some shopping. We had gone across with our friends on “Dovelena” so Hannya and Catherine did some major grocery provisioning and then I met them and we restocked our wine and spirit cellar before returning to the boat. Once stored, we raised the anchor and went across to another small island named Man of War, one of the oldest settlements in the Abacos, dating back to 1753.

It has a very narrow entrance channel and is very shallow so we entered close to high water , Hannya and David who had arrived earlier, came to greet us in their dinghy and escorted us to a mooring. We invited them on board for sun downers and guacamole and munchies and then spent a very quiet night. The next day we got into the two dinghies and explored the north end of the island, landing on a beach at the Narrows. This is so called because at that point the cay is only wide enough for one golf cart to pass down the road.. On the way, through the crystal clear and very shallow water we were able to observe numerous large star fish as well as many sea biscuits, etc. We walked up the road towards the north end of the island through some very beautiful and lovely gardens . No lack of cash here obviously!

After a pleasant walk it was back along the beach to the dinghies we went back to the settlement for lunch. I couldn’t resist the hamburger which was every bit as good as you can get in North America.

With the tide rising we decided to leave for our base at Hope Town since we were invited for lunch this weekend with Susan and Rolf who have Jacqueline and Heinz staying with them. We have just come back from that lunch and what a spread they put on…. A delicious salad nicoise made with fresh asparagus rather than the usual beans and fresh baked focaccia .

This, by the way is the latest thing…. And Catherine has been making it as well, once we got fresh flour, since the flour that we had left on board was alive with tiny little weevils and could probably have walked off the boat if allowed!!
It is a focaccia type, flat with olive oil and rosemary and is just delicious, we have to thank Susan for this recipe. We will be eating this most of the time I fancy since the bread that we can buy in the stores here tends to be rather too sweet for our taste.

After lunch we all went "glassing" (pick up sea glass) on Rolph and Susan's beach..

Jacqueline and Heinz are old hands at it and we now have a couple of new afficionados, Catherine B and Clem.

We have walked the beaches here on most days and still find it enjoyable and good exercise. We do not always walk fast but tend to wander and look for sea glass or other treasures, like my sea bean (I have not found any more I am sad to say, but shall keep looking). The acknowledged master is Hannya (Catherine call her “magpie”) who finds all kinds of interesting bits and pieces. She has found four bottles with messages in them including one dated in 2004 and tossed over the side of a sailing vessel somewhere between las Palmas in the Canary Islands and Barbados. Everything inside was in good condition including a picture of the boat and a message from each member of he crew with their e mail addresses. She has tried to contact them but I do not believe has had great success.
On one of those walks Catherine had a very daunting experience on one of the windiest days that we have experienced here. On this occasion, after a long walk on the beach she was walking back down the road with a couple of girl friends when there was a loud crash maybe six inches from her as a coconut came crashing down from a great height. Doubtless she would have been severely injured (or worse) if it had landed on her head…. It gave her a great fright. Apparantly these coconuts alongside the road are supposed to be pruned to avoid just such things happening but this one clearly was not. Catherine, since this episode walks firmly in the middle if the road… not so dangerous since the main mode of transport here and on most islands are golf carts either gas powered or electric.
We do however have a pet coconut which I have not been allowed to break open, named “le Mousse (?)” and we have “the killer coconut” which is still in its shell and which I shall have go at opening tomorrow so that we can start feasting on fresh coconut flesh, which we enjoy.

I think that this brings you all up to date with our life here in the beautiful Abacos. Before closing we would just like to wish my brother-in law, James a very happy birthday tomorrow. Many happy returns James … you are now the oldest member of the family, for at least three months!!!

G’d night all !


12th January 2009

It is now ten days since we last wrote anything so it’s about time we brought our readers up to date with what life has been like on board. In short quiet, peaceful, tranquil with a few days of intense activity.
The weather in the main has been fine, sunny and warm, although today has been decidedly damp with this afternoon being very wet…. and just when we were coming back to the boat from an art show so we got back aboard like a pair of drowned rats!

We have been for several walks along the beach and have found some nice sea glass and wonder of wonders I have now found my first heart sea bean. The vines which produce these beans are called “monkey ladders” and these vines cover the trees of the Costa Rican rain forest. They produce the longest bean pod (up to six feet) of any legume with about fifteen seeds to each pod. The sea heart is also called “Fava de Colom” or “Columbus Bean” by residents of the Azores since they believe that the floating sea hearts gave Columbus the inspiration to search for land to the west.

Our friends from “L’Equipe” have now arrived for their stay on Elbow Cay, which gave us some excitement, since Jacqueline was carrying a large envelope of mail from home plus more pills for Catherine plus and most importantly the new Hard Drive for Catherine’s baby Dell. Now all we have to do is figure out how to take the old one out and replace it with the new !! I have no fear that my intrepid wife will figure it out! The 10th evening and Sunday the 11th was spent very happily reading Christmas cards and opening other mail from Montreal. Jacqueline and Heinz will be here until the end of the month. It must be a little strange for them not to have “L’Equipe” here in the harbour.

“Solitaire 1” has not been neglected since we arrived here either. On the 8th we attacked the engine zincs, replacing both although only one really needed it. We also dismantled the heat exchanger and cleared all the crud from decomposing zincs out plus any small weed that had passed through the various filters. We made sure all the tubes were clean….. amazing what uses can be found for pipe cleaners and odd lengths of thin flexible wire !! We also checked the zinc in our engine driven Sea Frost refrigerator and amazingly it is still perfectly serviceable…. that has lasted almost a year which is remarkable. We cleaned the raw water filters and then came the real test, when we started the engine and checked for leaks, but all was good and the engine cooling system and zinc protection is in order. We had a very good flow of water out the back !!

Sunday 11th was, I regret to say, not a day of rest for Catherine and I, since we decided to change the engine oil and filters. It’s a messy job but we are getting quite slick at it, if I do say so myself!!! It is also wonderful to have a partner in crime who doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty and oil under her finger nails…. The job gets done quite quickly.
One secret…. we had been running the engine for about an hour before starting so the oil was very hot and very liquid and it siphoned out very easily….. I think that this is the first time that we have had the engine oil so hot and it certainly made all the difference. We checked the Racor fuel filter and all seemed fine, then it was start the engine and check for leaks …. none found thank goodness!

Sunday 11th, however, was not all work and no play, since we had been invited to go to lunch with Steve and Karen Grant our mooring neighbours from “Sea Echo” of Halifax..
We went by dinghy down the coast a few miles ….. what a joy to have the dinghy planing at a good speed and stay completely dry and not worry about the air going out of the floor or the tubes.
We planed down the coast for about half an hour and had a wonderful sea food salad with conch, lobster and fish followed up by a slice of key lime or chocolate pie, all washed down with a couple of Kalik beers or soft drinks for the ladies.
After lunch we took off again and went down to Tahiti Beach, a sand bar that was dry, as it was low tide, moored the dinghies off and waded ashore to explore.

We found many live sea biscuits, sand dollars and even a couple of small conchs, all of which were left alone after photos taken. Catherine and Karen “rescued” a few sea stars that were beached high and dry by putting them back in the water. After a nice walk to work off some of the lunch it was back into the dinghies and a fast run back to Hope Town harbour and the boats.

Today, more work on “Solitaire1’. For several days the Admiral and occasionally I have been noticing an odd smell in the boat, which we finally traced to our bilge. We have no idea what it was but it smelled sulphorous and not very nice, so we filled the bilge with cleaner and detergent and then hot fresh water, sloshed it around and scrubbed as best we could, ’cos we can barely reach the bottom of the bilge.. Much messy black crud and stuff came up as we scrubbed until we finally pumped it dry and then rinsed it all out again. It is now dry and will hopefully remain sweet smelling. We have no idea what was the cause of the smell. By the way if you have a deep bilge and have difficulty in getting it dry, we have a special turkey baster which works very well at getting into the corners and sucking most of the liquid up. Note… this is a special one and not used for food preparation!!

In addition to working on our bilges I also spent some time filling up our water tanks again. Five trips in the dinghy to shore with the two five gallon jerry cans did the trick. It is all fairly painless since we use the crane aft to lift the full cans out of the dinghy and then pour the contents into the appropriate filler. Ashore the marina has a new and highly efficient hose and tap system, thus we do not have to lift the cans from the dinghy. It is all done on the honour system and you mark down how much you have taken when finished. Since we have been here we have taken 85 gallons in roughly two weeks at twenty five cents per gallon.

Catherine has also spent one entire afternoon in the dinghy with a bucket of fresh water with vinegar added and polished one side of our floating home, getting rid of the encrusted salt. This seems to work well, you wash a small area and then dry and polish to a nice shine. The port side is now pristine but the starboard side still needs to be done and Catherine’s arms and back suffered so much the following day after doing the port side that I understand that I am to do the starboard side.

I am now being accused of writing a novel so will stop rambling on! Life on “Solitaire1” continues to be pretty good. We are thinking of going off for a couple of days soon, however there is another front coming through tomorrow so it will not be for a couple of days. That will be the start of another novel, or perhaps the official blog editor will put fingers to the keyboard next.

G’d night and I hope that I haven’t bored you all too much.


9th January 2009

Before we begin with a continuation of our travels let us start by wishing everyone reading this a very, very happy, healthy, peaceful and dare one say it (given these economic times) a prosperous New Year. We hope that all your dreams and aspirations come true in 2009.

We left the Great Sale Cay anchorage at 06.00 hrs on 29 December, since we had a longish day planned to the Manjack Cay anchorage. An uneventful day through peaceful and quiet waters, with little wind and what wind there was, was on the nose. One landmark passed is Centre of the World Rock, which has always amused us!
Manjack anchorage was crowded with about fifteen other boats when we arrived – clearly we are now getting to the more populated part of the Abacos, but we found a spot with no trouble and had the anchor down and well dug in by 15.30 hrs. The other cruisers who had left West End at the same time as us slowly came in after us and therefore by the time night was falling there was quite a lot of boats about. We were again treated to a beautiful sunset and night sky and a very calm anchorage.

Once again it was early to bed as we needed to get underway in good time in order to try to make very close to the high tide in order to get into Hope Town harbour. We were under way by 06.30 hrs and started off in a calm but with building clouds and rain threatening off our stern. We missed the majority of the rain but did get to view some very colourful rainbows across our stern

This part of the passage included the notorious Whale Cay passage. This is a narrow passage between rocks and shallows and where the bottom goes from the usual Bahama Bank depth of sixteen to eighteen feet to fifty to sixty feet in a very short distance. It is also open to the best of the Atlantic rollers so you can imagine that if the weather is bad it can be a very nasty place indeed – known as the Rage, with white water across the whole passage. On the day we passed however it was a very gentle motion indeed and the Whale passage was at its most friendly. We called this information into the Cruisers Net, which is a daily forty five minute chat show of interest to any cruisers in the area on VHF channel 68. You can in fact hear it by logging on to - www.barometerbob.com – and following the prompts on the left side of the page, should you so wish.

After the rain had passed the wind came up from the north and thus we had a good sail under genoa alone through the islands until we were off the Hope Town harbour entrance. We made a slow and stately entrance into the harbour taking care to stay on the leading marks, remember this is where yours truly put us aground not once but twice last year, and were greeted by Rudy who showed us to our mooring. Then it was getting the boat tidied away and the dinghy (our new pride and joy) launched, engine mounted and tested and we are happily ensconced !!!

Our new cruising mates from “Gone Away” were moored next door and we had a drink with them to celebrate our safe arrival. Then it was off to town…. nothing has changed since we were last here, open an account with Vernon’s grocery store, buy some fresh milk and we were pretty much set. The crew of “Gone Away” kindly invited us out to supper on the 30th evening and we spent a very pleasant time in a very crowded Cap’t Jacks, a couple of beers and a grilled Wahoo burger and then back to “Solitaire 1’ to gorge on one of Vernon’s home made key lime pies…… just delicious and there was enough left over for breakfast the next morning !!

We went for our first walk on the beach and stopped by Dovolena for a spot of tea on the way back to Soli…

We spent New Year’s Eve day quietly and then invited Harvey and Mary Helen from “Gone Away” for a barbequed turkey breast, sprouts and sweet potato supper accompanied with the requisite wine which they kindly supplied. The evening passed very quickly and before we knew it, it was midnight and the New Year. Hope Town, once again outdid itself with the firework display at midnight and then it was time to light our guests back to their boat and for us to clear up and go to bed. 2009 has started!!

Today has been once again a quiet day. Our starboard fresh water tank emptied and so I did three trips into the marina with our two five gallon jerry cans for water… six cans or thirty gallon to each tank is roughly right. In doing so I was reveling in our new dinghy (car) …. It is a joy to drive and keeps me nice and dry with lots of room and spare freeboard with full water cans. This afternoon a longish walk on the beach with our friends from Bournemouth, David and Hannya, but it started to get chilly as the sun went down so back to the boat for a quiet evening a deux aboard.

It has been very windy, but sunny, today and another joy has been to see our Kiss wind generator and solar panels doing a marvelous job of keeping our batteries charged even with the fridge working. Fingers crossed we seem to have that sorted. The fridge appears to be cycling on and off as required and keeping things frozen and chilled as necessary, whilst the Kiss generator and the solar panels are doing a wonderful job of keeping the batteries fully charged. It is amazing to think that we have been here for three days and have not had to use either the small Honda generator, that we bought last year, or start the main engine to keep our power requirements under control. Long may it last !!

That brings everyone up to date with life aboard the good yacht “Solitaire 1” so I shall close and leave it up to our blog editor to post this screed and perhaps put a few pictures to go with it.

Bon soir.