Part Fish to Part Couch Potato

Tuesday April 29, 2014

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The last time we were in the Bahamas it seems like we could not keep ourselves out of the water with constant swimming, snorkeling, and spearing. I’m pretty sure by the time we made it to Jamaica we could have been classified as part fish. Now, after having traveled through the Central and NW parts of the Caribbean, we’ve found that the Bahamas truly does have some of the best water we’ve ever come across and we couldn’t wait to fall back into our old habits. Except, this year has been making doing that a bit difficult for us. Whether it’s because of bad weather or a busy schedule, we’ve only found ourselves in the water three times thus far. Once at Radio Beach in Bimini, once to unfortunately find out there was only sand and eel grass surrounding our boat in the Berry’s, and once just for a refreshing dip in Kidd’s Cove at Georgetown.

Wanting much more water time from this trip, we took a hint from Kim and Scott and made our next destination Lee Stocking Island, a place we were told has great snorkeling full of reefs and fish. After a tumultuous trip inside Adderley Cut where we were fighting wind against tide and bouncing around in the resulting whitecaps while trying to avoid the reefs just to the side of us, we made it into calmer waters and navigated the narrow channel that led to the mooring field where we chose to drop anchor instead. While it was still early enough in the day to get in the water and experience these activities we’d been sorely missing, the sky had become very overcast and looked like it was going to storm at any minute. The rest of the afternoon passed much of the same way and we agreed that any swimming or snorkeling would have to be put off until the next day.

This morning we woke up to the same dark skies and the same threats of rain. Since we had been greeted last night with a stunning sunset right at shark-thirty (that few hours just before and after sunrise and sunset when sharks are most prevalent), there were hopes that it would just need a few hours to roll over and we’d be enveloped by sunshine once more. Hopefully at a more shark friendly time of day. We settled into the settees and watched videos for a few hours to pass the morning and early afternoon.

Eventually caving to the urge to do something productive, which is usually pretty unheard of for me, I completed a round of sink laundry to get a couple of key items clean. It’s pretty sad when you have to start using swim suits as undergarments. Just as I had washed those and a few pairs of pajama shorts that I’ve been incessantly living in the past few days, I brought everything out to the lifelines to hang and dry when the wind really began picking up. For few minutes I was quite happy as I thought this might cut my drying time in half, until I poked my head out again five minutes later to see that the clothes pins didn’t look like they were going to hang on much longer and my beloved boy shorts were about to be lost to Lee Stocking Island forever. The winds also performed a quick shift, and those dark clouds that were supposed to pass to the south of us were now on their way over to say hi. It was pretty apparent. We were about to get hit with a big storm.

Just as we got all of the items off the lifelines and hanging from ports down below, the boat began bouncing up and down as the wind rushed in from the one direction we did not have protection from, causing whitecaps on the water. If we were not so sure of our 55 lb Rocna which we are still so in love with, I would have been worried that we were now pinned on a see shore with jagged rocks just a few hundred feet behind us, but knowing the chances of us dragging were very low, I just sat back to enjoy the show. The one I craved in Nassau but was never quite delivered without being blocks by dozens of buildings, but there was nothing shielding my view now. Through the next hour we enjoyed a thunder and lightning show, all the while with me in the cockpit as I watched the wind hang around 35 knots and gust into the 40’s. When the rain came in it was so blinding that at one point I could no longer even make out our neighboring boat, it lost to the haze that separated us.

Even though the major storm only lasted about an hour we had the same situation as the night before where skies stayed dark until just before sunset where I decided I would not let the day be completely ruined and enjoyed the sunny skies in the cockpit with a good book and my third to last beer (still in our fridge from Mexico, can you believe we didn’t buy any in the States?). I wish we could stay in this spot a bit longer to actually see what we came to see, but schedules are a pain and we need to keep moving north. Still taking all I could get from this anchorage though, I moved one of our sport-a-seats out to the bow of the boat after dinner when everything around us was pitch black except a thunderstorm off in the distance. I don’t think Matt will ever get over his uneasyness of being anywhere near them while we live on a boat, but I will always be awed by their beauty, and hey, if they’re going to come anyway I may as well have a front row seat to the show.

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Stories From Other Cruisers: “I Didn’t Push Him Over, I Swear!”

Sunday April 27, 2014

Rainbows End in the Water

 s/v Rainbows End

 

It’s my favorite time of the month again, where I get to share your funny stories of cruising days gone wrong.  Do I love it so much because of all the hilarious things that happen to people besides ourselves, or just the fact that I get out of writing something of my own for a day?   Hmmmm, I think it’s a little bit of both.

Thank you so much to Ellen of The Cynical Sailor & His Salty Sidekick for being my first volunteer to give me a story for this segment.  You could all learn from her.  (I’m trying to give you a hint that you should all send me more stories) In this month’s story, taken right from Ellen’s post, there’s a familiar explanation of partner communication gone wrong, along with some tv show drama daydreaming, which leaves one person in the water at a very unfortunate time. *All photos have been taken from the Cynical Sailor.

 

I Almost Killed Scott the other day.

The key word here is “almost” – there was bleeding and a few swear words, but Scott survived. Which is good because I’ve kind of grown fond of him. And he makes a really good egg and cheese breakfast burrito so he is a keeper. Here is how this little drama unfolded…

Take two people. Put them in a sailboat. Make sure at least one person knows how to sail because the other person probably forgot everything she learned the previous summer because her brain can’t possibly retain information on sailing for seven months. There is limited capacity up there and the sailing information has had to be replaced with the plot details about who has done what to who in season 2 of Scandal. {Please, no spoilers about the second half of season 2 or season 3.} Then add in some wind so that you can spice up a docking maneuver. The docking maneuver should have been routine and had in fact been successfully completed just two days earlier. This leads everyone to believe that it will all be just fine. The fools. 

Have your skipper head into the dock against the wind so that it slows the boat down. Get your least experienced crew member situated with a mooring line on the bow so that she can jump down to the dock and secure the boat. In the future, remember to tell your least experienced crew member to stop thinking about the next episode of Scandalduring the docking maneuver because it might be a bit distracting. If you’re the inexperienced crew member, start to feel somewhat clever because you remember reading somewhere that you shouldn’t make a big jump onto the dock and instead just lightly hop down to it. Once you realize that the dock is too far away for your short little legs, tell the skipper that it is too far to jump. But make sure you do so in a normal tone of voice because you’ve been told you sometimes speak too loudly and your voice carries. Then wonder why the skipper asks you why you haven’t jumped yet. Panic and jump. Panic some more then pull the bow line in smartly. While you’re doing this, your skipper should put the engine in neutral and jump onto the dock with the stern line. Make sure to pull on the bow line just when he is over the water so the boat drifts off astern and he falls into the water. Such fun. Such entertainment for everyone that is watching the maneuver. 

At this point, there might be some naughty words being said. You can’t be sure about this because the water might be muffling what the skipper is saying. When the skipper yells at you to come grab the stern line, make sure you drop the bow line because keeping hold of it would be far too sensible. Then watch the bow drift away and the skipper swimming in the water. Thinking quickly and somewhat in a panic, grab the lifeline to pull the boat in so it doesn’t completely drift off. Then panic some more that you are going to crush the skipper in between the boat and the dock. Good times. 

Somehow, the skipper manages to pull himself onto the swim platform and back onto the boat. Then off the boat to grab the bow line sitting on the dock. The skipper restores order. The inexperienced crew member goes down below and wonders if it is too early for a gin and tonic. The skipper thinks this is the exact moment to do a debrief of what went wrong. Because doing a “lessons learned” exercise is really important. Except all the inexperienced crew member can think about is whether there is still some lemon for the gin and tonic and isn’t listening at all to the skipper. Fortunately, years of marriage have taught her how to do the head nodding thing which gives the illusion that she is paying attention. 

And just to put some icing on the cake, make sure your gears get jammed up and won’t go into forward just when you’re trying to get off the dock and back to your mooring. This provides more entertainment for bystanders while you try to make your gears work all the while you’re drifting backwards because only reverse will work. 

The good news is that the skipper was wearing swim trunks already, didn’t have his wallet or phone in his pockets and the water wasn’t too terribly cold. He does have some pretty cuts and nicks from the barnacles on his arms, legs, hands and feet as a lovely memento of the event.

Cynical Sailor 2

 

*If you would like to submit a story to be published in Stories From Other Cruisers, please email us at admin@mjsailing.com, or message us on Facebook at MJ Sailing, with the subject titles Stories From Other Cruisers. Please include your name, boat name, story, and a photo of your boat and/or the crew. Please do not send any lewd or profane stories as they will not be published.

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Photo Caption Day: Final 2 Days of the Georgetown Family Regatta

Saturday April 26, 2014

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There’s actually been so much that has been going on for the past few days that I don’t know if I can write about it all.  Last night our group of six headed into town again and got a little silly on Ass Bush Crack as we talked with more of the racers and watched performers up on the temporary stage.  We lived it up and made quite a late night of it.

Today was made up of  multiple trips in to make sure to get a front row seat (which ended up constantly shifting) for watching the high school marching band, and then even better, the police marching band. While playing some Pharrell, these men were able to get down and low.  We finished out the evening at Regatta Point to catch the end of the final Class-A race before going back to the boat to eat a quick dinner and make it back to town in time for the Awards Ceremony.  These past few days here in Georgetown have been absolutely amazing, and I’m so glad we rushed our butts down to get here in time to see our friends and enjoy the regatta.

 

Friday

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Drena and JR enjoying some Ass Bush Crack.

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Handmade bikini fashion show.  Is it creepy I was the only one snapping photos?

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‘All Gold Every-thing’.  I’m glad Drena explained that one to me.

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 What are you giving a thumbs down to, Emil?  Is it my bad jokes?

 

Saturday

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Straddling the boom for a better view.  I got a few strange looks.

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My highly photoshopped photo.  I love it.

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Regular afternoon storm rolling in.

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(Powered by Coca-Cola)

Think I can get a shirt for Matt that says this?

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The high school marching band was great, although the dancers did have a few moves that were fit for a rap video.

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(police marching band)

You might not know it from this photo, but these men had moves!

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 Can you tell they’re just a little into these races?

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 It was a tight squeeze at the finish line.  Races complete!

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 Perfect shot of the six of us.  Thanks Drena!

(Photo courtesy of Sailing Journey)

 

 

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Perfection to Sob Stories: All in a Day’s Cruising

Thursday April 24, 2014

Family Regatta - Georgetown

This morning was, in my opinion, the perfection of Bahamian cruising. Getting up just after 8 am, I found a shady spot in the cockpit where the breeze was blowing just a little bit, but only enough to be refreshing and bring around a whiff of the fresh air around you. Nestled next to me was a hot cup of Michigan sweet cherry coffee, and sitting on my lap was my computer, where work was speedily getting done as I took in the beautiful surroundings sprawled out in front of me. Then a gun went off, and as I sat in my perfect little cruisers throne, a slew of 18 ft Bahamian sloops began to glide past me to begin the races for this day’s regatta. I know it might be different than what other people’s, or especially cruisers dreams are made of (Get off the computer!, you’re probably telling me), but to me, it was a little slice of heaven.

Yesterday I can’t say we did much, except watch the races from our boat. Apparently when we first landed on Tuesday afternoon we had been right in the middle of the race track and ended up moving inside Kidd’s Cove a little more, which is fine by both of us because now we have a much shorter dinghy ride to town. I tried my hand at making bread again, and with a little tweaking I’m finding out that I’m getting better with each loaf. Then something that proves I have the best husband in the world happened. He bought us one week of internet services here through Bahamas Wii Max. Unlimited, 24 hours on the boat. I tried to promise him when we were leaving Florida that I wouldn’t be as crazy as I was last year about trying to find an internet signal, and as long as I could have at least two hours of internet time every seven days, I would be ok.  Having gotten one hour inside the McDonald’s in Nassau and not bringing it up again, I think I’ve held my part up pretty well.

Terrible rain storms have been passing through on and off since yesterday, so there wasn’t much occasion to get off the boat anyway.  I was prodded by Drena to make a trip over to Anthyllide in the late afternoon to watch the class-A regatta, but assuming I was going to spend the next three days in a frenzy of regatta and cruiser related activities, I declined stating that I needed one full night of internet time and then I’d be game for anything after that.  I really should have gone over since today has just been spent on the boat, watching the clouds pass over and playing a game to see how long we could keep the hatches open between rounds of rain to let fresh air in the boat.

Just before lunch today we did stop by Anthyllide to say hi and see what we had missed the previous day.  Scott and Kim mentioned that for this evening’s class-A races they’d be tagging along in their dinghy to get photos, watching from the beginning line as the sloops raised anchor and sail, and at the time we agreed to tag along behind them.  But come five o’clock, the rain clouds were looming and I was in a foul mood.  Not just because I thought it might rain, but because I had spent the morning looking at Scott and Kim’s gorgeous photos of the races so far, and completely bummed out that I would no longer be able to take photos like that.  And not just because my photo skills aren’t as up to par as Scott’s.  Seriously, you should see his straight out of the camera shots.  No, as soon as we left Bimini I went to turn on my ‘good’ camera, my Sony NEX-5N, only to find out it wouldn’t turn on.  I thought the battery was dead and spent the next few hours charging it.  That night it still wouldn’t turn on, or the next day, or the next day.  Finally when I went to inspect it further I found out that it is not an issue with the battery, but with the body.  It gives an error message of ‘Camera is overheating, needs to cool’, gives a few strange clicking noises, and then goes black.  I don’t know how I did it, but it appears as if my 14 month old camera is toast.  All I’m left with now is my Sony Cyber Shot.  It took about five days for it to sink in, but tonight I finally broke down that I’m going to have to shoot Europe in JPEG with minimal settings.  Even Photoshop won’t be able to fix everything that made my NEX-5 so great.

Anyway, enough with my sob story about my camera.  I will still leave you with what mediocre photos I have been able to take of the past two days of races with my Cyber Shot. (Or at least I think they are, compared to my other photos)

 

Shots from Wednesday’s Races

Georgetown Family Regatta

Georgetown Family Regatta

class C regatta

sunset over Georgetown Regatta

Georgetown Regatta

 

My Perfect Morning

Kidd's Cove - Georgetown

regatta passing through Kidd's Cove

Shots from Thursday’s Races

Georgetown Family Regatta

boat's racing through Kidd's Cove

 Sunset at Kidd’s Cove

sunset over Gorgetown

Georgie on deck

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Friends & the Family Regatta

Tuesday April 22, 2014

Kidd's Cove, Georgetown, Bahamas

It’s time to put your hands up in the air like you just don’t care, even if Lorde is kind of over being told to do it, because we have made it to Georgetown! On Easter Sunday (looks like we did definitely miss out on celebrating that on Long Island), we fueled up in Nassau and made the run over to the Exumas. Starting out fairly early, we had our butts handed to us by about nine other sailors that passed us along the way. Who knows if they were motor-sailing or were just plain better sailors, but on our downwind course, we were the last to arrive. Which meant the spot we were hoping to tuck into in Allen’s Cay was full and we were forced to drop in front of the beaches at Highbourne. Not a big deal unless the winds were coming out of the west. Which they were. And probably why every boat before us hightailed it into Allen’s where there’s protection from the west. Oh, that and to see those cute but ferocious looking iguanas that roam the island. So we were left to spend the night pinned against a lee shore, bouncing and bobbing between all the mega yachts that surrounded us, dead still themselves, and had kind of a horrible night at anchor. We joked for a little bit that we should have dropped anchor directly behind one of them, letting the mamouth structure block us from the wind.

With winds shifting to the NW the next morning, we took our cue in the early afternoon with slack tide and made a run out of the cut there and to the Exuma Sound. The goal was to travel overnight and make to Georgetown at first light, getting in just in time for the start of the Family Island Regatta. The sail was very comfortable, especially after the night we’d just had while not even moving, and for the first time probably ever, I was happy to be on passage rather than at anchor. Trying out some new cords that Matt had bought for our chart plotter back in Florida, we turned it into our own little movie theater for a couple of hours, connecting it to our hard drive and watching episodes of Entourage while clocking our heads around every 10 minutes to make sure there was no other boat traffic. Coolest.Thing.Ever.

Even though we originally thought we’d have to slow ourselves down for the 85 mile journey so we wouldn’t be arriving in the dark, our speed slowed down sometime during the midnight hours and decided to stay there. Instead of an 8 am arrival to the Conch Cut, it didn’t happen until 11. One hour and paying meticulous attention to the entry waypoints later, we scouted all the anchorages with our binoculars and found our friends Kim and Scott on s/v Anthyllide in Kidd’s Cove and put our anchor down just a few hundred feet from them. These people are the whole reason we’re down here in Georgetown, and the reason we’re saving the rest of the Exumas until our way back up. Kim and Scott were literally the first young cruisers we met on our journey, way back in Cape May, NJ, just five weeks into our trip. They were the ones who introduced us to Brian and Stephanie on s/v Rode Trip, and together, our three boats made a little armada on and off down the Eastern Seaboard, picking up just one more batch of young cruisers on our way (shout out to Ryan and Tasha of s/v Hideaway!).

Once we had gotten stuck in St. Augustine though, Kim and Scott were holding a faster course than we were able to catch up with and we hadn’t seen them since. When we found out they’d be in the Bahamas at the same time as us, and in a location we could reasonably get ourselves to in the time allotted, there was no way we were going to turn down that opportunity. After cleaning up the ‘Dip and understandably passing out for a few hours, as we always do when settling in after an overnight passage, we watched their boat and at the first signs of life aboard, went on deck waving our arms and shouting out to them. It turns out they had actually spotted us and were leaving to come over and say hi. Welcoming them aboard with huge hugs, there were so many stories to dive into between our 16 months apart. We’d just been cruising babies the last time we’d all seen each other, not having experienced anything other than the ICW and a little bit of Atlantic passaging. This time we had stories up the wazoo, a lot of them involving places Kim and Scott had already been to. Who do you think informed Brian and Stephanie about the Rio Dulce who then informed us? Funny how things work out.

entering Elizabeth Harbor

sailboats in Elizabeth Harbor

Cracking open a box of our finest Chillable Sweet Red Wine, we sat in the cockpit and swapped stories until we realized it was way after dinner time and none of us barely had a bit to eat all day. That was ok though, because after dinner were the beginning of the festivities in town to celebrate the regatta. Each night beginning around 7 or 8, locals and cruisers will raid the streets of Georgetown where there are strings of booths set up offering Kaliks, conch salad, and conch fritters. How were we to turn that down? Best of all, it was also going to be a chance to meet up with new friends Drena and JR of s/v Journey. Drena and I knew of each other through the blogging community and would occasionally send messages back and forth to each other and Like different things on each other’s Facebook pages.

It ended up being a much more quiet night in town according to Kim and Scott who and been in the previous night.  We still had a great time though, drinking 3 for $5 cans of Ass Bush Crack and eating 6 for $1 conch bread fritters.  Drena and JR showed up just a little bit after we got there, and it was really fun meeting not only more young cruisers, but someone who’s been following our adventure.  Then Kim introduced us to her friend, Emil, a Bahamian from Long Island that is racing on a class-A boat, Rupert’s Legend.  What’s really funny though is when Emil first walked up he looked like any gringo cruiser that was probably from Texas or something, and then he opened his mouth and began talking in a Bahamian accent.  It was something that left you scratching your head for just a second, but then you have to keep up because you realize you’re terrible with accents and just missed half of the conversation.

It was a great welcome into Georgetown and we’re so happy to be in the company of friends again.  With races and festivities every day until the weekend, I have a feeling we’re going to be pretty pooped come Monday.  Fine with me though, I’m ready to hang out with friends and go have some fun.

ordering fritters

Jessica, Drena, & Kim

 

P.S.  Make sure to Like us on Facebook for up to date status reports and photos!  It’s always the first thing to get updated when we have internet.

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Storms over Nassau

Saturday April 19, 2014

rainbow over Atlantis

As antsy as I was this morning to finally get a move on so we could finally get to the Exumas where anything but a south wind would bring us closer to George Town and our friends, the wind whistling through the rigging before I even slid out of bed had me doubting if it would actually happen. Knowing that we would have had to time our departure with high tide or at least something close to it, we planned on leaving in the late morning and had allowed ourselves to finally sleep in for once instead of being awoken by an alarm clock at sunrise. Stepping outside though, not only were the winds as strong as they had sounded from in the salon, a constant 25 knots, but they were coming from the direction of 150 degrees. Even if we detoured north to Allen’s Cay, it would have put us on a course of 135 degrees and too far into the wind.

The chance to sit around and do nothing all day beside a few minor cleaning projects was actually welcoming, and spreading those projects out through the day so we could enjoy more important aspects such as a good book and gourmet coffee, we were both happy with the decision to stay put, even though it was putting us a day further behind in eventually meeting up with our friends. Once the sky darkened in the mid afternoon and thunder threatened on the horizon, we were especially glad we stayed. Or at least, I was. After dodging so many storms on the way to get here, I wanted to sit back and watch one come in from the safety of a harbor, watching the lightning contrast with the dark skies while not having to travel though it. Matt on the other hand, wanted to be anywhere but here for this storm. He reasoned that we could have easily dropped anchor and ridden it out in the banks, but here we had to be mindful of ourselves dragging, or worse, everyone else dragging into us. We had already spent most of the morning watching a boat crewing six young guys fiddling with their anchor after they had become much closer to us than they were when we first woke up.

Splitting my day between reading a book in the cockpit and watching a movie down below, I excitedly shut of my movie and moved myself back outside once things looked like they might actually get interesting. I had been hearing thunder for awhile and was ready for my lightning show to start. That is, as long as it didn’t pass over us. Dark looming clouds came over us as they worked their way northeast. Based on their rippling effect it looked as if we’d be in for a very good storm. Sitting patiently outside in the gentle rain that began to patter, I sat quietly waiting for my show to begin. And waited, and waited, and waited. This storm, for all it’s menacing looks, so far wasn’t packing the ferocity that I’d expected. Winds picked up to 25 knots, the rains hardened, and I watched as unfortunate power boaters were taken by surprise and hightailed it back to shelter through the rain. My doom and gloom though, eluded me.

Too hopeful to call it a day just yet, I stood on the steps to the companionway while the boards were put in place to keep out the rain that was pelting us from the west as the currents pointed our bow east. Eventually I did get some of my lightning, but with only one or two clear and jagged bolts. The rest came upon us in a blinding rain so thick that I could not even make out the cruise ships or the outline of Atlantis. Defeated, I took shelter below, drawing my computer close for a distraction while Matt slept away the rain with an afternoon nap. I want to be disappointed that I didn’t get the show I was hoping for, but I guess I should be thankful, as a mariner, that nothing more did come of it since I know I wouldn’t want to be stuck in anything like that myself if I was (traveling) on the water.

It was kind of fun to watch the mega yachts line up in the harbor to seek safety after their day of cruising had been ruined by the weather. Visibility so bad that they must have had every kind of radar and infared gadget going. Oh well, I guess that’s why their captain’s get paid the big bucks.

 

P.S. motor yacht Milk Money…this is the third time you’ve showed up in the same harbor as us.  If you’re going to keep following us, the least you could do is invite us aboard for drinks one evening.

storm clouds over cruise ships

storm clouds over Nassau

storm clouds over Atlantis

wave runner in the rain

storm clouds over Nassau

rainbow over Atlantis

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Come Snail Away

Thursday April 17, 2014

Matt walking Gorgie

Tuesday evening found us in a little anchorage between Frazier’s Hog Cay and Bird Cay in the Berry’s. It took us until 6 pm to drop anchor there, having spent 11 hours at sail to make around 38 miles. This slogging and beating into the wind is starting to drive me crazy. The day that we get down to Georgetown or Long Island will be a day of joy, because at that point we’ll be turning around to head back to Miami, and should have the wind at our back, or at least on our sides, the rest of the way back. No more getting stuck for days at a time while waiting for the wind to shift off you nose. Why go back to Miami you might ask? I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it yet or not.

Miami is going to be our new jumping off point to cross the Atlantic. It was originally going to be St. Martin, but our extended stays in Isla Mujeres and Ft. Lauderdale left us without the time to get ourselves all the way down there by mid-May to prepare ourselves for a June departure. Unless we wanted to skip everything along the way. Then it was going to be from either Georgetown Exumas or Calabash Bay in Long Island, but while taking Georgie to the vet in Ft. Lauderdale for her rabies titer test, something that’s required to get her pet passport which will allow her into Europe, we were kicked in the butts with a nice little surprise. After her titer test came back, four to six weeks later, she needed to be checked out by the USDA before finally having her paperwork stamped that she was rabies free, healthy, and free to enter any EU nation. Well, by the time her results actually came back and she would be allowed to see the USDA, we’d already be long gone for the Bahamas. So now, we go back.

It’s not to bad actually. We’re having to hurry a little bit more than we anticipated, but we both think it will be good to do last minute preparations and provisioning in the states. Everything we need to get will be much easier to get in the states than in the Bahamas. I’m sure it’s not going to be until the week before we leave that we think to ourselves ‘Oh crap, we need to get x, y and z, and they can only be ordered online. Time for Amazon prime!!!’. Since that’s kind of how it worked even when we were just leaving for the Bahamas. You’d think that we’re prepping ourselves for two months at sea, or headed to a developing country, none of those being the case, but it’s now our minds work. ‘I want/need this. I can get it here. I should do that’.

So those are our near future plans. But for the moment, we’ve still been trying to slowly make our way to our friends in the Exumas. Yesterday was spent in the anchorage, waiting out SE winds that of course shifted north by 11 am. What would have been perfect sailing conditions for us to get to Nassau. So we made the most of the day and took Georgie on another shore leave. Just a little bit different than the Florida Keys, she was much more content to stick right by our side for the first 20 minutes until her interest got the better of her and she began running away. Right into a thicket where I had to hunt her down and pull her out…in my bare feet. Which, when I put her down for two seconds so I could pull thorns out of my heel, she ran right back into them. We made sure to keep a tight grasp on her leash after that.

Georgie in Berry Islands

Georgie on beach

Georgie inspecting coral

Today we made, ugh, another slog from the Berry’s to Nassau. Only 10 hours for that 35 mile haul. After a few hours of motoring the wind actually shifted enough that we were able to turn off the engine and motor sail alone. Just as I was thinking that things were finally going our way and had gone below for a late morning nap, Matt woke me up 45 minutes later to let me know a storm was coming and we had to pull in the geneoa. Which took away all of our speed and our pointing capabilities. All of a sudden we were back to pointing straight down to Andros. An hour later it passed and we were able to get the headsail back out again, but for the rest of the afternoon we watched storms off to our left and right and prayed they wouldn’t come any closer to us. Three of them off our starboard side seemed to collide with each other just behind us and form one mega cloud of nastiness that I am so thankful we were not caught anywhere near.

We pulled into the bustling harbor around 5:30 and at that point, it could have rained all night if it wanted to. I just wanted to get our anchor down before it happened. Once more we were surrounded by cruise ships and the glittering lights of Atlantis in the distance. Visiting the first island that we’d already been to last year, we’ve now come full circle. Now if only we can get out of here ASAP and check out some of the islands we flew past last year. The sunken piano on Musha Cay, Boo Boo Hill on Warderick Wells, Duffy’s at Norman’s Cay. I’ve already got my list going.

storms going to Nassau

storms on way to Nassau

Atlantis at night

 

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Anchorages: the Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

Wednesday April 16, 2014

 

Now that we’ve just spent the night in what is probably the world’s worst anchorage, or at least the worst one we’ve come across to date, I feel a little compelled to write a little segment on some of the anchorages we’ve passed through in this trip. Oh, and because my friend at The Cynical Sailor & His Salty Sidekick asked me to write a piece on it for one of my favorite groups, The Monkey’s Fist. (Hi Ellen!!)

In this list I’ll go over some of the more memorable anchorages we’ve been through. Whether it’s because they’re take your breath away beautiful, ‘I can’t believe this is considered an anchorage because I may as well be on passage’ rocky, or has everything you need in one convenient little place, here’s just a bit of the wide ranges of anchorages we’ve experienced between the US East coast to the Western Caribbean.

 

The Most Beautiful

I still can not think of a place that is more picturesque as far as anchorages go than Double Breasted Cay in the Ragged Islands of the Bahamas. It is beauty and seclusion all wrapped up in one. I could take photos there that would instantly make the cover of destination travel magazines without any kind of editing done to them. The water is clear, the bottom is sandy, and the beaches are pristine. On shore there are walking trails and a fire pit area set up for the few cruisers that do pass through. These beaches are also littered with untouched conch shells, the kind that are impossible to find because normally all you come across are the beat up shells after the meat has been torn out.  It was actually necessary for me to have an intervention for a friend here before she loaded down her boat with about 15 shells to bring back to family and friends.  Yes, this place is about as close as you can get to Bahamian perfection.  Just watch out for the sharks though, the black tip ones we came across did not seem too friendly and kept us out of the water after our first day there.

Double Breasted Cay

 

The Most Convenient

Maybe it’s just because we spent so damn long there, but in our two months while waiting for a good weather window, we became quite fond of Isla Mujeres, Mexico.  Another big tourist hub just four miles from Cancun, you can find all the things one might expect from a cruise ship port, but you don’t have to wander far to find local fare either.  Just over 4 miles in length, this island packs in it’s nice marinas, variety of groceries stores, sooo many options on eating out, and one of the best beaches for lounging and relaxing.  The anchorage itself is notoriously bad for holding, it’s the one and only place we’ve ever dragged so far, but there’s also a lagoon to tuck in to if you know the weather is getting bad. Sure, we’ve had our fair share of anchoring excitement here where we’ve watched many a boats drag besides ourselves, or just the tour catamarans full of drunk tourist pass by while blaring Top 40 hits from their speakers, but it all just adds to the Mexican ambiance.

While waiting weeks for a weather window to come up, we actually got to the point where we didn’t mind if one didn’t come at all, we were starting to fall in love with the place.  It also didn’t hurt though that for the last month we were there, we had the wifi password to one of the marinas and picked up the signal perfectly while sitting at anchor.  Have I mentioned how much I love having wifi?

Isla Mujeres

 

The Worst Swells

Hmmm, a few places come to mind when I think of this one, including Great Inagua, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. Which is a shame because all three places were so great to visit. We’ve never met more friendly locals than we had at Great Inagua in the Bahamas, and Grand Cayman came with great snorkeling, modern conveniences, and even a Burger King. It’s possibly our fault for not taking protection in any of the actual marinas or harbors in Grand Cayman or Cozumel, but we’ve found that any time you anchor, even on the leeward side of an island, if there is no harbor protecting you, you’re going to get your butt kicked by swells. Sometimes they’re pretty light and sometimes you can bridle yourself to face into the waves, but after three weeks of constantly rocking back and forth in Grand Cayman, I was ready to burn the boat down.

Grand Cayman

 

Pleasantly Unexpected Surprise

Cay Caulker in Belize wasn’t what we were expecting at all, but possibly because we didn’t know what to expect. Who knows if it was because we arrived there after spending 7 days straight on the boat, but we instantly fell in love with the place. I can see why it’s such a big destination for jet set tourist. The locals are incredibly friendly and the guys that set up their hair braiding stands on the side of the road, or their little shell jewelry shops, do not hassle the tourist if you’re not interested.

Sitting just off the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, this spot has great options for snorkeling, along with a few decent beaches tucked in between cute restaurants, bars and shops.  Yes, it is a little ‘resort-y’ or ‘touristy’, but after being thrown in the middle of authentic Guatemala for five months, we kind of needed that. Plus the fact that they speak English, after hitting back to back to back Spanish speaking countries, honestly was a nice break when trying to get things done.  They weren’t as touristy as to have a McDonald’s though, and as disappointed as we were, I guess we can forgive them of that.

Cay Caulker 1

 

Holds a special place in our hearts

I’m going to count this one in anchorages just because we did spend our last two weeks anchored there, but the Rio Dulce in Guatemala. Forever on in our lives, this place will always be considered one of our homes.  There’s so many things we love about this area.  The lushness, mountain backdrops, friendly locals, and a very cheap cost of living.  Having stayed in a marina for over four months, we did end up anchoring out just in front of it when we were waiting for our last weather window to leave, but it became harder by the day to go.  There’s great sailing just a few miles up the river on Lago Izabal and it’s only a five minute dinghy ride into town where you can buy a Raptor Energy Drink at the local Dispensa for under $1!  Or a Dorado Ice beer for about the same price, which if drunk at 9 am before eating breakfast will send you salsa-ing down the grocery aisle.  Plus those mountains, omg, those mountains!! I’m honestly surprised we did not put roots down in this place.

It would also be a great place for cruisers who are into the whole group activity thing, spread out between the marinas there’s always watercolor lessons, yoga, trivia games, movie nights, ect.  We never made it to those since it’s not really our thing, but, they’re there.  

Rio Dulce

 

Set it and forget it

Normally we’d never leave the boat for more than morning to night while we’re at anchor for fear of dragging while we’re not there due to tides, winds, storms, or anything else that could pop up while we’re gone. It has limited our inland travel quite a bit because any time we’d want to leave the boat it has to get put in a marina, then you’re paying for your extra traveling on top of that, and the cost can add up pretty quickly. There is one spot we came across though, that we felt very comfortable leaving the boat for two days and knowing nothing would happen to it. Lake Sylvia in Fort Lauderdale Florida. With this place being so small and protected, there’s not much that could go wrong here. It’s definitely the calmest anchorage we’d ever been in, and the only time you could even tell you were on a boat was when the weekend traffic came in,  full of small power boats dragging tubers between all the boats.  Which is almost entertainment in itself, standing by on your radio to call a mayday because you’re 90% that one of the tubers is either going to wipe out directly into an anchored boat, or worse, the other tuber headed right at them.

Lake Sylvia

 

Worst Current

Taylor Creek, Beaufort, North Carolina. I know we were still relatively new to the cruising game when we got here, but ask me to go back there now and my memory is so full of horrible images of trying to get the anchor down in that area that you will see me take an overnight passage on the Atlantic just to avoid it if I can. The current there was bad. About 4-5 knots if you weren’t at slack tide. Couple that with being completely overcrowded and I still think it’s my number 1 or number 2 (ok, so Georgetown was really busy when we got there) worst anchoring experience as far as getting the hook down. As soon as I put the boat in neutral we were already sideways and quickly heading for anything behind us, including a wooden channel marker. It took three attempts to get it down and feel comfortable with ourselves. The place itself though is great once you do get your anchor down and tell off the catamaran that has anchored right on top of you two hours after you arrive. A charming town to one side of you and an island with wild horses to the other. What’s not to like?

Taylor Creek 2

Click on the monkey’s fist to read others bloggers on this topic.

The Monkey's Fist

 

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Ooooo Barracuda!

Tuesday April 15, 2014

catching baracuda

This morning finally signaled our departure from Bimini.  With east winds keeping us put for just about a full week now, I can’t say that we were disappointed to be sitting here while we were waiting.  This is a really great island and I’m sad we passed right by it last year.  But now it’s time to get a move on, and quickly too.  We have lots of friends already in the Bahamas a lot further south than we are, and we’d really like to be able to catch up with them.  It seems as if a lot of people are congregating in Georgetown Exumas right now, but we’d like to try to make to to Long Island once more for Easter if the winds will carry us down there fast enough.  It’s a long way to go in about five days, but should the winds be on our side, we should be able to put in a lot of miles each day.

The winds when we left were supposed to start of SE but then clock all the way south in the early afternoon, which we needed because with a goal of getting to the Berry Islands via the NW Channel, we needed to go in a southeast direction and did not want to motor into the winds all day.  We knew we wouldn’t be able to make the full 70 miles to Frazier’s Hog Cay, but hopes were that we could get within about 5-10 miles of the channel and anchor in the banks for the night.  The whole area that we’re passing through doesn’t have depths over 25 feet, and if the weather is settled, there’s no issue just dropping anchor right in the middle of it.  You probably don’t want to be right next to the channel and have your anchor light be mistaken for a buoy, or sit right on the path of the magenta line in case anyone is traveling through the night, but winds didn’t look like they were going to get over 15 knots and we weren’t worried about having a bumpy night.

Kim and Jereme on Laho left with us this morning to buddy up for the day and night, and as we exited north Bimini there were a parade of sails all going the same direction, every other boat waiting for the same window that we had.  The sail north out of the lee of Bimini was great, but just as predicted, rounding the North Rock and pointing ourselves at the Northwest channel, winds were almost on the nose.  The headsail had to come in and the engine went on.  Not quite how we wanted the day to go, but we’re just looking to put on miles at this point.  It feels like we spend all of our time now waiting around instead of actually going anywhere.

Laho sailing

Georgie resting under dodger The morning was absolutely beautiful, and it was another one of those days that we had to sit back and thinkabout how lucky we are for being able to live this lifestyle.  Our friends back home had just gotten to the office, snow might even still be on the ground (FYI, I could not have survived this past winter if I was back home), and here we were, sunshine and warm tropic waters in front of us.  A quick cup of coffee made from my AeroPress, and I was in absolute heaven.

Just as I was about to pop my head out of the companionway and tell Matt we might as well trail a line while we were moving to since this seemed like the perfect area to catch fish, I found out that he’d already rigged it up while I was below.  We each pulled out our e-readers and settled in for a long day of catching fish, since that’s usually what happens.  Never before have we had a bite on one of our lines while we’ve been trolling.

Imagine our surprise when not even an hour later we felt a tug on the line.  Assuming it was probably seaweed, since that seems to be the only thing our hooks normally grab on to, we pulled in the line to find out there was actually a fish on there!  Not quite sure what it was when we first reeled it in, I went to fetch our Cruisers Guide to Fishing where we quickly identified that it was a barracuda.  Handing Matt a set of gloves and needle nose pliers, he worked the hook out of the fish’s mouth and tossed it back in the water.  It wasn’t until we’d already let it go that I asked “Hey, aren’t those actually edible?”  Apparently they are, but Matt was worried about the possibility of ciguatera.  And with some friends having recently been affected by it and reading about their horror stories, we did not want to take any kind of chance with it.  The line was set once again, and we patiently waited for a large snapper to clamp on.

We did get two more catches during the day, but they were both barracuda.  WTH?  Did we suddenly become experts at catching them?  The second one that came along was huge and, as soon as Matt set about getting the hook out of it’s mouth, this thing began squirting blood like it was a prop on a movie set.  Within moments the whole back area of the cockpit looked like it belonged in a horror movie.  I wish I could have gotten a photo of what it looked like, but I’m not sure all of you would have wanted to see the blood.  I personally love that kind of stuff.  Everyone else?  I’ve heard not so much.

catching small baracuda

Laho sailing

big baracuda

 

Since most of the other boats that had left in the morning with us didn’t mind burning their fuel at a faster rate as they pushed on at 6-7 knots, our boats fell behind since we didn’t want to put too much pressure on the engine and have anything else go wrong.  Having talked about it earlier in the day, the plan was to make it as far as we could by 7 pm and drop anchor, starting again at day break.  We didn’t even come close to making the miles that we thought, still sitting back 20 miles from the Northwest Channel by the time 7 pm rolled around.  Not only that, but those winds that were supposed to clock around to the south decided to stay on our nose all day and then gust up in the evening.  What was supposed to be a calm night under clear skies and stars turned into the worst anchorage we’ve ever been in.

With nothing to block them from us, the waves built up to a nice chop and were tossing our boats back and forth, back and forth.  It was tolerable while making dinner and even while watching a movie, I’d put on a scopolamine patch to prepare for any kind of seasickness, but trying to sleep was almost impossible.  We both took sides of the salon, neither of us wanting to take the bucking bronco ride that was the v-berth.  Even then I feel like I should have had a lee cloth up on my side to keep me from falling out of bed.  Some of the waves weren’t too bad, it was kind of like being on a not too bad passage, but every couple of minutes one rogue wave would come and toss us on our side.  They always seemed to hit the port side where I was sleeping, so it only rolled Matt further into the nook of his bed while I was left bracing myself so I wouldn’t slide out.  Poor Kim and Jereme are probably completely deterred from sailing now, expecting every anchorage to be like this.

Laho anchored in banks

Having only collected about four hours of sleep by the time the sun came up, although we did purposefully wake ourselves up at 3 am to catch the lunar eclipse, the anchors were raised for more miles to be covered.  Deciding that they didn’t want to spend a second day sailing right into the wind, Laho vetoed going to Fraziers Hog Cay and opted for Great Harbor Cay to the north instead.  I don’t blame them.  If we didn’t have a schedule to keep, we probably would have followed them there.

Laho anchored at sunrise

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Casino Royale

Saturday April 12, 2014

Resort World Bimini Casino

While we were enjoying some sundowners and double checking charts over on Laho last night, Kim and Jereme said they wanted to spend the day today exploring town and then maybe hit the casino in the evening and asked if we were up for joining them.  It didn’t even take me two seconds to agree because I knew I’d be able to turn this into a Fancy Cocktail Hour, a reason to pull out a dress, style my hair, and even put on eyeliner.  Chances like that don’t come up in our life too often any more.  Also, a chance to hang out with Kim and Jereme is always a good time since we’ve enjoyed ourselves on each other’s boat’s the past two nights in a row.

Starting my beauty routine early in the afternoon, I put rollers in my hair and ironed out my best dress, barely saving time to eat diner which I was actually taking bites of while putting on makeup.  Swinging by to get our friends, we pulled up to the docks just a few hundred feet from us at Resort World Bimini and tried our best to act like we belonged there once we stepped into the compound.  Is it a rule you have to be staying here to actually visit the grounds?  We weren’t sure, but gauging the dollar amount that Jerme wanted to split between poker and roulette, we didn’t think they’d turn us away.

Kim & Jessica

marina at Resort World Bimini

laho casino photo

(Photo courtesy of Lahowind)

slots at casino

As soon as we entered the casino we made our way to the roulette table where I watched with wonder as Jereme split chips out between the range of numbers.  You mean there’s more to it than just picking red or black?  This is why I stick with the slot machines, although honestly, I’m not even usually sure what I’m trying to match up there.  I just wait for the bells and whistles to go off and let me know I’ve done something right.

One of the benefits of going to a casino to gamble is that they usually give you free drinks in return.  We were going to be damned if we dropped all of our money here and didn’t get anything out of it, so one of the first things we did was try to hail a cocktail waitress to start serving cold Kaliks.  At the moment only Jereme would have been able to get one since he was the only one gambling, but they did not feel like making their way to us on their own.  I literally had to hunt one down, tap her on the shoulder, and tell her that my friend was gambling at the roulette table and would like something to drink.  It was another ten minutes after that when she eventually made her way over to take his order.  Finally getting his first drink dropped off just as the last of his chips were being placed on the table I turned to Jereme and cracked, “How does that hundred dollar beer taste?”.  So far, it was his only prize of the evening.

Jereme & Kim in casino

The other game that Jereme was planning on dropping some money on for the evening was three card poker, although no one would be working the table for at least an hour.  Situating ourselves at the penny slots right next to the roulette table we’d just come from, each of us slid a $20 in our machine and starting pressing buttons, winning fifteen to fifty cents here and there.  Hailing down a cocktail waitress again, Kim had the bright idea of handing her a large tip the first time to make sure she kept coming back.  And boy did she.  I was only half way through my first Kalik when my second one was handed to me. We happily sat here and enjoyed our beers until the poker table opened up and we all sat down at the table to see how long Jerme’s money could hold out.

laho poker photo

 Can you tell we went a little drink crazy?  The margaritas were getting too sugary, and I even ended up switching to straight shots of tequila. (To sip, not to shoot)

(Photo courtesy of Lahowind)

Jereme playing poker

The money did last a good long time and it was already getting quite late when we decided to pack in in and head back to the boats.  Stepping on to the shuttle though, we (I) asked to be dropped off at one of the resorts restaurants where a wedding was being held.  Our first shuttle driver told us we should check it out, and after our entertaining night at the casino, crashing a wedding seemed like the next logical step.

Getting dropped off it looked as if most of the guests had already left and it was just a few members of the wedding party left.  There was a photo shoot of the bride and groom going on in front of the pool, so of course I grabbed my camera out and began shooting as well, acting like I was doing them a monumental service by popping up at their wedding and photographing their special moments.  (Remember, tequila.)  Being quite brazen at that point, literally dragging Kim behind me, I walked up to a member of the party that was taking photos and claimed that we were world travelers and would love to have our photo taken with the bride and groom.  I was quickly brushed off.  Probably understandably.

4.12.14 (8)

 In my mind at the time I was doing a better job than the wedding photographer…..not quite.

4.12.14 (9)

 Finally a little defeated that they wanted nothing to do with us, we left the wedding party to walk back to the dinghy, where we found a playground along the way.  Who could resist climbing the monkey bars and tumbling down the slide?  Definitely not us!  For anywhere between five and forty-five minutes (time was kind of getting away from me at that point), we reverted back to our six year old selves where we had a ball running and playing and stumbling on the astroturf as we fell out of slides and off the monkey bars.

Matt on playground

 With quite a fantastic night under our belts we arrived back at the dinghy, ready to take this party to Laho since we weren’t ready to call it quits.  I don’t quite know how it happened since it happened so quickly, but all I know is that I was so happy to have my camera out at the moment, because one second I’m looking at three people sitting in the dinghy, and the next thing I know is there’s only two in there because Jereme had somehow gone in the water.  It took a second to fish him out, but we did spend the rest of the ride back pondering how he ended up in the water in the first place.  Even he couldn’t tell you how he got there.  One moment he was there, the next he was gone.  We got back to Laho and decided it might be best to disband the party since Jereme’s phone was now a casualty of the night and we didn’t know who or what might be next.

Jereme in water

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