26th December 2011     Leeward Yacht Club, Green Turtle Cay.

Well we made it by the skin of our teeth, but not quite how we had it planned when we last wrote.

Our weather guru had us psyched for a crossing last Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday and so we left Vero (aka Velcro) Beach and our friends Lynn and Walter on ‘Iolar”on Monday 19th.. 

  We had an easy trip down the I C W to North Palm Beach leaving Vero at 07.00 and getting there at 16.20 hrs.  We refueled and went to what we thought might be our last berth/evening in the U S A for awhile.

Not to be …. old man weather had changed his mind and our window of opportunity for a safe and smooth passage across the Gulf Stream was getting closer and closer to Christmas.    Our friends Bill and Carol Dichter on “Interim” joined us at North Palm Beach marina ….  now they had left New York on the 27th September arrived in Lake Worth towards  the end of October and have been waiting for a weather window ever since.  Granted their situation is slightly different in that they are towing a 17’ skiff and have a sail boat without masts, so the motion in any sort of a seaway is horrible.

 So we waited !!!!  We rented one of Mr Hertz’s cars for 24 hrs so that the ladies could finish up their provisioning …  Catherine finally got her herb garden , the place that we used to get the plants on Tybee Island had closed over the summer, so “Solitaire 1” was not looking her normal green self .  Whilst the ladies were shopping and Bill drove them about with great patience, I spent my time preparing the boat as best as possible for the upcoming voyage.

We had a fantastic Hannukah dinner on board Interim....

Our window of opportunity arrived  on the 23rd so in the afternoon of the 22nd we motored down to our normal South Lake Worth anchorage for the night..  Having had  a delicious last lunch before leaving we did not need much supper and were in bed as early as 18.30 hrs.   Awake at 03.30 on the 23rd we got the anchor up at 04.10 hrs and left Lake Worth inlet to find a comparatively benign swell which got even more benign as we left the shores of the U S A and entered deeper water.   Once it got light we hoisted the main sail and motor sailed in fine fashion, getting onto the Bahama banks at  just before 13.00 hrs.
So long Palm Beach

A further smooth crossing to the  Great Sale Cay anchorage ( it is uninhabited can be bought and developed for around USD 9 million should any of you wish to invest!).  The anchor was down at 19.45  hrs , a quick chili and into bed ….  we need to be off at 04.00 in order to make sure and catch the Customs and Immigration lady at Spanish Cay , who was staying until 16.00 hrs and after that no clearance until after the Christmas holiday.
Now we know we really are in the Bahamas....KALIKS!
Very civilized customs clearing...'tis Christmas after all.
We arrived at Spanish Cay marina  at 11.20 and when we went to see the Customs lady she kindly led us all to the bar, where we had our first Kaliks and ordered our first grouper burgers so we filled out the various forms etc over cold beers….. Now how civilized is that !?
Had a leisurely lunch and then tried to undock without shore help.  Made a hash of it as the wind pushed us around somewhat and in the ensuing excitement poor Catherine’s hand got squished by one of the lines, which was caught in the dock.  Neither of us really know how it happened, but it did,  and it is hurting her quite badly.  We do not think that anything is broken but her left hand is somewhat bruised and very painful.
The wind had picked up quite substantially when we left Spanish Cay and in fact we could have had an absolutely brilliant sail, in different circumstances but we would have travelled too fast and only have had to anchor for longer at the entrance to Black Sound on Green Turtle Cay.  As it was we dropped the anchor at 15.45 to await the rising tide remaining so until 17.45 hrs when we entered the sound and docked at the marina with minimal difficulty.   So….  We made it for Christmas !!!

There was no cooking on Christmas Eve and so after getting the boat vaguely squared away we went to the Lizard Bar, much expanded since we were last here, and had a couple of rums and grilled lobster with Bill and Carol.  A wonderful feast to celebrate our safe arrival !!

Christmas morning dawned bright and sunny and our first visitors were Dick and Debbie from “Ars Grail” and our neighbours of last year, bearing delicious home baked Christmas cookies and cake, so special. After that we made up a ham and beans and left for the cruisers pot luck Christmas lunch in Bill and Carol’s 17’ skiff which had survived  its tow across the ocean in fine form.
Super D& D bearing good cheer and cookies....
Delicious...they disappeared very quickly...

What a feast awaited us and what fine cooks cruisers are! There was Jan’s wonderful lobster chowder, which she makes every year with lobsters that has herself caught…turkey, ham, pork tenderloin and all the trimmings ( but no brussel sprouts!!)  and all sorts of cakes and biscuits and such for dessert.  After all the feasting Brendal, around whose dive shop we had gathered provided Bahama Mammas for those who wanted and good and strong they were !!

To finish off  Christmas 2011, a quiet night well fed and sufficiently full not to need supper, and on that note I guess we shall leave you.  Undecided how long we shall remain here but it will be well into January undoubtedly. A suivre !


Vero Beach  16th December 2011

Nearly a week has passed since I wrote the above and life has continued peaceably enough.   We left New Smyrna Beach as promised at 0730 hrs on the 11th headed for Cocoa Beach and had a very uneventful trip getting to Cocoa Beach at 14.00 hrs .  We could probably have continued on to Melbourne but chose not to as we have been to Melbourne and never been to Cocoa Beach.

Nice marina, perhaps a bit cramped on the inside where we were, but very protected,  and  very comfortable facilities right in the centre of old Cocoa Beach village.  That evening we went out for dinner to Thai Thai where we had one of the best Sushi appetizers that either of us have ever tasted .  It was named Love of the Sea and was absolutely delicious..  The 12th was not a Florida advert day, cold, raining and very windy, so we stayed put enjoying the facilities of the marina and village.  The 13th was windy again but reasonable, however we were too comfortable perhaps, read lazy,  and stayed put yet again, spending part of the day wandering around the village and the balance fixing little items on the boat.

Such a good feeling when you can fix things …!!   We had been plagued by the fresh water pump going on briefly when there was no tap running, meaning that we had a small leak somewhere.  Catherine found it, tightened up the clip and voila ..  no more leak and no more pump cycling.   The air conditioning heat pump was not working, so we tried  cleaning the intake filter…..  it was clean as can be, but in putting it back together we refilled the filter to the top, tightened everything up switched it on and lo and behold a great gob of mud came out and water ran perfectly.  We are not sure whether there was an air lock in the water system, which disappeared when we primed the filter, or whether  there was yet another mud dauber nest somewhere higher up within the system.  Must remember to plug all inlets and outlets before we leave the boat in the spring !!   

Lastly we cleaned out the raw water intake for the engine and what a surprise that was, absolutely clogged with all sorts of weed and grasses, so we cleaned all that out and what a smell…..  dead fish and ozone …. not  pleasant !

Back on the water on the 14th at 08.00 hrs leaving Cocoa Beach and heading for Vero Beach aka Velcro Beach ‘cos some people arrive here and never leave.  Had a grand day on the water motor sailing with first a full genny, which rather overpowered James, meaning hand steering, so then a reefed genny which James handled happily.  I am too used to James handling the steering chores!! We were tied up to the fuel dock at 14.45 hrs and were met by our friends on “Iolar” Walter  and Lynn, so after taking fuel and water and having a pump out we retired to buoy No. 8, alongside “Iolar”, which is where you will find us now.  Yesterday 15th was a shopping day and we now have all the fixings for Christmas , turkey, cranberry sauce etc etc, all we are missing is the brussell sprouts but we do have beans in their place.  Catherine also managed to find Christmas pudding and hard sauce, not a large pud but half a dozen small individual ones … delicious….  We are not going to starve !!

Today we managed to speak to Chris Parker our weather guru who is calling for the possibility of a Gulf Stream crossing on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday of next week, so we need to be in position to take advantage of that window.  It likely means that we shall leave here on Monday for the West Palm Beach/Lake Worth area , spend Monday there and aim to leave on Tuesday or Wednesday morning for the Abacos .  Judging from many of the comments heard around the marina there may be quite a few biats heading over during that time period, the weather does not seem to have been cooperative so far a gulf stream crossings are concerned recently. 

Who knows where we shall be for Christmas… HopeTown doubtful, Green Turtle maybe …….  stay tuned !!   

New Smyrna Beach       10th December 2011

I think that when we last left you we were dithering once again, well, believe it or not a decision was made and we departed Camachee Cove Marina at 12.30 on the 9th for Palm Coast Marina.  Not a long trip but a difficult one owing to the tides, as we had to pass Matanzas Inlet which is a notorious spot for groundings owing to shoaling.

We timed our approach so that we would get there some time after low water i.e., on a rising tide so even if the unthinkable happened we would just have to sit and wait for the tide to float us off.  As it was the U S Corps of Engineers had been there before us and had done a grand job of dredging and remarking the channel, so we passed through without excitement seeing a lowest depth of eight and a half feet.

Arrival at Palm Coast Marina was on schedule, owing to no delay awaiting for more water at Matanzas and we were berthed and enjoying a hard earned libation 17.30 hrs..

N.B.  We must be getting south ‘cos for the first night we did not have the heater on all night… now that’s cause for celebration!!

A peaceful night and an 08.20 start saw us back into the I C W ….. a stiff 20 knot wind
pushed us down the Halifax River and past Daytona Beach into another “iffy”  spot on the I C W namely Ponce de Leon inlet.   We passed through at close to low water with a least depth seen of nine and a half feet so little problem and are now docked at the New Smyrna Beach Marina.

The weather at present is not the greatest….. humid, overcast with rain threatening and this evening the wind and weather is forecast to last until at least Thursday….  i.e N E to E wind at 15/20 knots 20/50% chance of rain every day etc etc….  so we will plough on and if we have to be stuck somewhere we shall try to be stuck in Vero Beach.

So……..amazingly…….  no more dithering….  tomorrow we go to Cocoa Beach Marina, somewhere we have never been before.  Another new adventure !!!

If we make it, we’ll tell you about it !


St Augustine  Fl.  6th December 2011

When we last left you, we were dithering as to whether to continue down the I C W and brave the low water level of the Little Mud River, or go outside down the coast like real sailors.   

Let’s stop dithering and see how tomorrow looks, so we had an excellent supper at the local restaurant in Kilkenny Creek, named Marker 107, which is the marker of the ICW where you turn into the creek , great fish  and excellent prices.  Chatted with the Owner’s father and discussed the merits of wild shrimp vs farmed shrimp and agreed that there was no comparison etc etc.

Sunday morning dawned cool, but bright and sunny…. nary a cloud in sight.  The entrance to St Catherine’s Sound looked doable so the decision was made…  we are off to the wild blue sea.   Departed the dock at 08.00, and back into the I C W, a few miles further on instead of turning west to go up St Catherine’s Sound we turned east and headed for the wide blue yonder.  Except it wasn’t very blue, rather a muddy brown at this juncture!  

“Soli” started to pitch and bounce around as she started to feel the ocean but the wind was OK and we pulled out the genoa and started to motor sail.  As we left the coast and started to head almost due south down the coast the wind went astern and started to pick up, going from a benign 10/15 knots to 15/20 to 20/25 ….  well you get the picture and we bounced and rolled around but made brilliant speed.  As the wind increased so, of course, did the seas , but a comparatively benign swell    We were averaging 8.00/9.00 knots and in fact saw the fastest speed ever on our knot meter, surfing down a wave at 12.10 knots !!  Exciting stuff and the boat handled everything brilliantly.

 Turning into the Brunswick Ship Channel  reared  a new situation, for the wind was now  onto the beam and the sea and swell likewise was directly on our beam so the motion was not particularly comfortable and damp from water over the deck, but after thirty minutes or so we were into the shadow of the land and all was calm again.  We berthed at Golden Isles Marina and had a well earned shower and a restful evening.
 Enough pics of shrimp boats....but they always remind me of the movie "The perfect storm" when fishermen go out and brave the elements...without them we would not enjoy those delicious Geogia shrimps and they are so graceful like dancers holding their skirt....OMG I am loosing it!.

Next day was a short one departing at Noon in order to catch the rising tide through Jekyll Creek and then on to Fernandina Beach our first port of call in Florida.  Supper on board, and then a walk up the street for ice cream and fudge. All in all an uneventful day  and a quiet night..

Departed Fernandina at about 08.00.hrs for St Augustine again down the I C W.  No excitements during the course of the day “Solitaire 1” behaving beautifully.  We berthed  in Comachee Cove Marina around 16.30 hrs, took fuel and then prepared to meet Cindy our canvas lady.  She will do alterations to our memory foam  mattress and then tomorrow will make a few repairs and  adjustments to our new canvas,.  Unfortunately our refrigerator man is not available whilst we are here, it seems that one of the sensors for our digital thermostat is out of whack.  Through the good offices of the owner/manufacturer of our fridge system we now have a new probe and sometime tomorrow Catherine and I are going to, very gingerly , take our electronic thermostat to pieces and endeavour to replace the probe, leading the wire around and back into the digital screen.

Borrowed the Marina courtesy car (a Lexus no less) for the evening and met good friends from last year Walter and Lynn of “Iolar” for supper at Caps, a seafood restaurant.  A long and very pleasant evening catching up from last year… they are now on their way to the Keys and then back to the Bahamas, they think..
 He apparently has been a resident of Comachee Cove for many years, he seems to favour the top of the mast of this little sailboat....we are all very grateful he does not choose ours as he drops bit of fish all over the deck!
Otherwise a quiet day today with cleaning and washing salt off our floating home…we hope to leave here on Thursday or Friday  (depending on weather) for Daytona or somewhere thereabouts.  One problem is that the high tides are not at the right time of day for allowing  us to go through a couple of sections where there is severe shoaling from the ocean…. so maybe we shall go outside again and go down to Cape Canaveral, but that’s a twenty odd hour run, do we really wish to do that……???? 

More dithering…….. !!!!   Ah well, that’s cruising, nowt’s definite !  

Stay tuned.


2nd December 2011      Kilkenny Creek, Georgia.

Yes…. Indeed at long last we are off on our 2011/2012 winter cruise and the sixth to the Abacos. 

We left Thunderbolt Marine at  10.30 hrs this morning for a leisurely jaunt in beautiful sunshine to this old marina, where we arrived at 14.30 hrs.  All systems seem to be working well, so we are dithering tonight as to whether to head for the open ocean out of  St. Catherine’s Sound or whether to stay inside and brave the vagaries and treacherous waters of the Little Mud River (aptly named) .  My preference is to head for the ocean and either stop in St Simon’s Island to see Melissa or head on a further twenty miles to Fernandina Beach, the first stop in Florida.  We shall see how the weather is tomorrow I guess.

So how did we get here and what have we been doing since we arrived in Thunderbolt.  Well, we drove our new car down the 401 across the 1000 Islands Bridge and then down Highway 81, stopping in Carlyle Pennsylvania, for one night.  One ten hour day and one twelve hour day and we were in Savannah, 1,400 miles in round figures.

The boat had survived the summer heat and rain well, she smelled fresh inside and was all polished up and ready to go pretty much, except the deck and cabin top were  decidedly grubby.  Both Monday and Tuesday were spent getting her ready to launch with little excitement, until we found that one of the blades of our fancy propeller was jammed tight and was refusing to move.  The yard machine shop came to the rescue and freed it to where it was working properly and our launch was not delayed.

The launch on Wednesday was effortless and without a hitch, and “Miss Becky” started at the first push of the starter, with a small puff of blue smoke and then settling down to her usual steady rumble.   Soon after we were alongside what has become our regular berth, astern of “Blue Moon” .  Now to switch the new refrigeration system on………  air and water cooled … the best !!!  The only problem was that it didn’t work !!

Fortunately the yard had George, thirty years in the air conditioning and refrigeration business, he quickly had the problem pinpointed and solved and since then we would say that the fridge/freezer has worked to spec.  Long may it last!!  As many of our more faithful readers will recall the fridge has been an ongoing battle for four years which we have not won until, hopefully this year, we shall report on the success or otherwise at the end of this cruise.  Whilst aboard George also got our air conditioning and heat pump working …. finding the outlet absolutely plugged with a mud daubers nest.  N B  next year remember to plug all inlets and outlets with something to prevent these pesky little critters from getting into our overboard discharges.
Whilst George was doing his thing we also had Mike replacing our galley tap.  We had bought the exact same tap and I did have thoughts of changing it myself, after all how hard can it be?   Well thank goodness I did not attempt it, for Mike had a real battle to get everything fitted properly  and not leaking.   He had also cleared our shower sump and head sink overboard discharge, which had been giving us problems last cruise.  The cause….  yet again, mud daubers which had gone way up into the drain system. 

Another thing that had decided to give up the ghost over the summer was the fresh water pressure pump, which I changed out.  For the first time, I had help from the chap that stores our sails over the summer in re rigging “Solitaire 1”. I really must be getting older but they do seem to get heavier every year !!

It does seem that we had a string of failures and problems this year in getting the boat ready but that’s how “Boat” became an acronym for “bring out another thousand” isn’t it?

With the fridge working and freezing as it should Madam took off and provisioned, so now we are not going to starve for the next four or five months.

The harbour at Thunderbolt Marine was quite busy ,  so just before we left we thought that we would take a couple of snaps of our neighbours … impressive are they not ?  You can have one with nine of your nearest and dearest for anything from $250,000 to $500,000 per week plus expenses!!!!  We can introduce you if you want !

So, here we are, Catherine said to me this evening “at last it really feels as if we are cruising again “ and she is right.  It’s a marvelous feeling and besides it is getting cool at night here in the Georgia marshes.. we need to get south into some warmer weather.

G’d night from Kilkenny Creek.