CRYSTAL CLEAR Bahamian Waters

Our first days in the Bahamas led us to the clearest water in the world, where it is like looking at an aquarium from our deck.

After entering the Little Bahama Bank, we spend a full day motoring through light winds only to get half way through. Dropping anchor in the middle of nowhere for the night, we wake us to glass calm water and a pod of dolphins coming to say hello.

Making our way to Powell Cay that night, we spend a few days exploring this beautiful and uninhabited island, hiking through jungle like trails and even taking Georgie for walks on the beach while enjoying beautiful sunsets.

Cheers from the Bahamas!

Thank you SO MUCH to our Patrons. These amazing supporters help keep us on the boat, our camera equipment up to date, and the videos coming. Without our patrons, these videos would not be possible.

To join the Patreon ranks, please visit http://www.patreon.com/mjsailing Thank you!, Matt & Jessica

— Online shop: https://mj-sailing.myshopify.com/

Music:

00:00 – Years – Alesso ft Matthew Koma

00:22 – Bahamas 02:22 – Skinny Love – Bon Iver – Instrumental – Eldamianos

05:47 – Your Heart Beats Like Mine – Crimson Mourn

13:02 – Loose – Andrew Applepie

Camera equipment used: – Panasonic Lumix G85 – http://amzn.to/2iv2g4G

Editing software: Windows Movie Maker & Adobe Premier

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La Bella Isla Madeira

Friday October 3, 2014

Madeira

Last night we broke down and finally used the engine on and off through the night to finally get ourselves some speed and pointing capabilities. And partially to dodge the line of tankers that wanted to come just a little to close to us. I had a moment where I was handing the reigns of my shift over to Matt where two tankers were headed right at us, one on each side, but a little too close for comfort. Calling one man on VHF and getting no answers the first few times until I repeated it a few more times with a very stern ‘Please respond’ at the end, I politely asked if he could miss hitting us by subtracting a few more degrees from his current course since I already had a tanker on one side of me and the wind on my nose in another. I barley got a response and wasn’t even sure he heard me until I saw the course on his AIS falling a few degrees. I may have thanked him for his help a little too hastily since that number began to rise again, but by that time it was Matt’s problem and I was on my way to my bunk. A little course alteration on Matt’s part and throwing our deck lights on to make sure this guy knew exactly where we were, and all was good and we were in the clear within ten minutes.

When I woke up this morning, our tenth day at sea, Matt told me there would be a slight change in plans. The wind had never shifted north enough for us to be able to make the easting we needed to get to Porto Santo. But..we could get ourselves on the west side of Maderia Grande, and once there we would be sheltered by the winds and could motor smoothly into the harbor of Funchal. Whatever. If it meant I could fall asleep at anchor that night, I was in. Setting us on a course that was just far enough off the wind that we might actually be able to get there, he let me know that we needed to maintain a speed of 5 knots to get there before nightfall. If we couldn’t do it under sail power alone, the engine needed to be on and running high. Turning off our diesel hog, I was able to get in one enjoyable hour of sailing before we kept dipping into the mid 4’s and a panic ran through me that this had the potential of leaving us at sea another night and I rushed to turn it back on.

As we rose and fell through the building swell that was coming from our back quarter, I read up on Madeira and Funchal through our Imray guide, having skipped it the first time around because I never expected it to be a stop. I found a few fun little facts about the town, a nice black and white photo depicting the harbor and the homes sitting on hillside behind it, and a little blurb that Maderia’s west side, of which we would be passing by in a few hours, contained sheer cliff drops into the water, supposedly the second largest in the world. It also appeared as if this island contained volcanic peaks that almost rivaled that back in Pico, and should also be visible from the water at distances of 30-50 miles. Riding every crest I’d stare out into the distance, waiting for something to come out of the shadows, but it wasn’t until we were less than 15 miles off on this hazy day that I was able to make out an outline through the brume.

Over the next few hours I watched it become larger and clearer. Finally it came into view and I stood in awe at the massiveness of it. I had not been expecting anything so colossal. For a few minutes as I stood on the cockpit seats with my head over the dodger and letting the strong breeze blow through my hair I had a pod of dolphins pass by, jumping through the considerable waves that followed behind me. They were gone almost as soon as they had come, but I had other more important things on my mind. Land. We were finally within site. We were going to make it there if it killed me.

And that my friends, is when you speak too soon. Although the swell was mostly behind us, by this point it had grown to the predicted 12 feet that our weather report (my dad) had forecast. Up until that point winds were in the mid 20’s and although it wasn’t a calm ride, it was mostly comfortable. Then we came across something I’ve had little to no experience with. Just as we were rounding the western part of the island and I assumed this solid block of land would begin blocking us from the gusts, we hit a wind zone. A little thing I had read up on a bit for in the Canaries, but didn’t know I would come across here. In these wind zones, the wind will funnel itself around a portion of land and increase itself anywhere from 10-20 knots, almost instantly. I had just found myself in one of these areas and now my 25 knot winds were holding in the upper 30’s and sometimes gusting into the mid 40’s. I kept thinking they would go down in just a few minutes and hesitated to wake Matt to help put a reef in the main, the only sail we were running with at the time.

Just as I was contemplating ‘Do I , or do I not?’, one of the large waves from behind us caught us at a strange angle and began rounding us into the wind. Sometimes this will happen by 10° or so and the autopilot will work to fix itself in a matter of seconds, but this was closer to a 90° change, and we showed no signs of turning back the correct direction. Lunging toward the autopilot I quickly threw it on standby and yanked the wheel hard to starboard, slowly putting us back on course, but not before the next wave started to come and tried it’s best to keep us pointed into the wind. As we reached the crest I finally got some semblance of steering back and set us once more to where we were supposed to be. My heart was pounding, but we seemed to be ok. For the moment.

Just as my pulse was returning to a normal rate, it happened again. Once more I flew to the rear of the cockpit as fast as humanly possible, but with my harness and tether on I was only able to go so far. Staring at the stern as my hand once more cranked the wheel to port, I was not able to fight the force that was rounding us up. For one whole set we sat almost at a standstill with our beam into the waves and I was sure the next one to come would be the one to roll us over. Fighting the panic in my chest I moved myself behind the wheel to the best of my ability with my harness still clasped into a pad-eye by the companionway, letting the tether rub across the top of the wheel as I put all of my strength into keeping it hard over. What felt like an eternity later, although I’m sure it was mere seconds, the bow started following my directions and we were out of harms way. This time it didn’t even take me two seconds to yell down to Matt who was still comfortably sleeping in his bunk, that he needed to get his ass up so we could put a reef in.

Changing our course to almost directly downwind so the waves would not keep catching us on our side, we reefed the main and things instantly felt 1,000 x better. And knowing that we were no longer knocking on death’s door (I know I’m being much more dramatic about this than it actually was), we could finally enjoy the views in front of us. The dramatic cliff drops were just as good as the guide said they would be, and the only thing we could do was stand there with our mouths open as we watched them go by.  From there on things just kept getting better.  Just as suddenly as we had entered the wind zone we were now out of it and in the lee of the island.  Winds became just a slight breeze on our cheeks as we could now feel the sun beat down on them as well.

Taking full advantage of the now gorgeous day, I put some music on to blast through the cockpit speakers and opened a beer while I continued to watch our views get better.  It was like the universe was watching out for me and saying ‘Sorry about that earlier snafu, let me make it up to you with some of the most spectacular views I have to offer you.’  And oh yes, they were.  As that weren’t enough, just a few miles further along the coast we were treated with a remarkable dolphin show.  These things were really trying to show off for us.  There wasn’t just your usual swimming next to the boat while sticking their head above the water every now and then to get a better look at us.  For literally hours we watched as groups of these magnificent creatures did jumps, twists, and tail stands.

Then just as the sun was beginning it’s descent and radiating perfect orange beams onto the cliffs in front of us, we neared the harbor of Funchal.  Calling in and getting in touch with the harbor master I found that just as our guide book promised, it was possible to anchor in this harbor.  Finally.  Not having dropped the hook since Bermuda I think all of us, the cat included, were looking forward to a little swinging room on the boat.  Entering the inner harbor and finding the catamarans the harbor master had mentioned to us as the best place for us to be, we dropped the anchor just as the sky was growing dark.

Letting out all the necessary chain in this fairly deep port, we glanced around and realized how close we were to not only the chartered dolphin watching catamarans next to us, but the large cement breaker behind us.  After 5 minutes of staring around we made the executive decision to get the anchor up and just go in the marina instead.  Calling the harbor master once more to let him know that instead of anchoring, we’d now be coming in, and where was the reception area and what side should we have our fenders on.  The only response I received was an infuriating “I’ll point you in the right direction when you get in here, but I can’t tell you what side you’ll be on, so just put fenders on both sides”.  Well, not only do we not have enough fenders to go all the way around our boat, but it was literally now getting black out, so how the hell are we going to follow your directions if I can’t even see you?

Arguing with the man on VHF for more information, which he wouldn’t give, then arguing with Matt about the lack of information, and arguing on the VHF once more, we just decided to throw two fenders on each side and get ourselves in with any last little bit of daylight we had left.  Once the anchor was weighed I quickly handed the wheel to Matt and ran up to the bow to watch for our harbor traffic controller.  Fortunately I did spot him just as we rounded the corner into the marina and he yelled out “Follow me!” as he hopped on a little bike and began to race it around the inner breakwater.  Matt was not a happy camper behind the wheel as I tried my best to shout not only directions back to him from the bow, but when to watch out for the mooring lines attached to the bows of all the boats docked here.

If we had to join the ranks of those before us in this marina that backed their boats into sample size spaces in the dark, I think we would have happily turned the boat around and heaved to a few miles off shore until the sun came up.  I think the harbor master realized this and took pity on us, guiding us to a large open space of dock where he instructed us to side tie.  The lines were still a mess since he ‘couldn’t tell us what side we’d be on’, and I did a slapdash job of getting them run through the chalks on our starboard side before handing them over.  Our landing into this spot was not very graceful.  Withing a few minutes though, we were securely tied up and the engine was off.  The longest (perceived) passages of our lives was officially over

cliffs of Madeira

cliffs of west Maderia

dolphins in front of Madeira

dolphin jumping at bow

cliffs of Madeira

Funchal, Madeira

M

Close Encounters of the Dolphin Kind

Monday December 9, 2013

dolphin at St. George's Cay

What can I say?  The weather has not been cooperating with us since we’ve been here in Belize. Actually, it hasn’t been on our side much ever since we went to anchor back in Rio Dulce. The only decent days we seem to have are the ones that we’re traveling.  Hmmm…

Although we probably could have taken the dinghy to shore here in St. George’s Cay and stroll the streets to see the Cottage Colony, a set of colonial white cottages bordered with gingerbread trim, we couldn’t muster up the energy to get the dinghy from the deck into the water, plus it’s been overcast and raining on and off, and we’re much more comfortable huddled in the boat with a good book and hot cup of coffee. I had been enjoying my coffee the past few weeks by making larger amounts in my Thermos brand french press, but then yesterday something disastrous happened. I had climbed down the steps of our ladder to give it a good rinsing in the salt water. Filling up the container, I washed all the remaining grounds out, and then went to rinse the filter/plunger part. I’ve found that giving this a good swish though the water is the easiest way to clean out all remaining grounds that stick to the filter. It was dipped in the water, rapidly moved back and forth, and before I knew what was happening I saw the little mesh filter and it’s metal plate become unattached and begin floating down through the depths of the water.

Had I been smart, I would have jumped in, clothes and all, to retrieve it while it was still in sight. Instead I let it sink lower and lower, and while Matt watched my face crumple, he started digging out our snorkel gear so we could dive for it. Quickly changing into our suits we slipped into the water and dove to the bottom. Normally you’d think something so shiny and alien in that environment would immediately stand out, but we had two things working against us. One is that we still haven’t gotten into clear waters yet. Even at 7 ft depths, we’ve never been able to see the bottom while sitting on deck. The other, is that the bottom of the anchorage here is nothing but fields of eel grass. It was thick and long, and there were plenty of places that my little filter could tuck away. After fifteen minutes we called off the search, my filter deemed to be lost at sea forever. It was a sad, sad day on Serendipity. At least I’ll always have my Clever Dripper.

storms over Drowned Cays

St. George's Cay, Belize

 All the cute houses lining St. George’s Cay

storms at St. George's Cay

Since St. George’s Cay now held such bitter memories for us (ok, that’s not really the reason, we just needed to keep moving), today was another travel day, trekking only 12 more miles north to Cay Caulker. This time though, I talked Matt into letting us little inner paths and channels instead of going back out to the Caribbean Sea. We trust the St. George Cut, but nothing we’ve read about any of the the Cay Caulker Cuts sounds too assuring. The first order of business was getting around from the east side of the island to the west. Flipping on the engine to avoid all the 3 foot shoals surrounding the island we began to motor toward the magenta line which would lead us between St. George and the Drowned Cays.

During our two night stay here in St. George’s Cay, we’d spotted a few dolphins crossing the anchorage, always getting excited and making sure Georgie also caught the show by hoisting her up Lion King presentation style, watching her eyes grow wide as she watched their fins cutting through the water. When we spotted them again this morning, we assumed they’d take the same path, crossing in front of our bow to get out to sea, and never looking back. Instead, much to our delight, they decided to follow us along on our journey, swimming up to the bow and riding in our wake. If you’ve been following for awhile, you’ll know that every single time we’ve seen dolphins so far I haven’t been able to capture them on camera because they either leave as soon as I go to grab it, or, like on our ride to Honduras, conditions were a little too bumpy for me to trust myself on deck with a camera. I was not about to allow this opportunity to slip through my fingers though, and positioning Matt in front of the wheel, I scrambled down the steps to grab my NEX-5 before they could leave us.

Standing at the bow I tried to get those perfect dolphin in the water shots, but when I realized my timing for pressing the shutter and their surfacing the water wasn’t always going to line up the way I wanted, I just kept the shutter button down, taking as many shots as I could and hoping a handful would turn out. When I had my fill, I went back to man the wheel and keep us on course while Matt went up on bow to have his fun with them. What we found out from him being up there is they seem to respond to praise, with high pitched “Yay!!”s bringing them to the surface. Maybe they thought we were tying to communicate with them? The more noise we made though, the more they seemed to jump up and attract even more to join the show.

Almost as good as the show from the dolphins themselves was Georgie’s reaction to them. We thought she’d be intrigued since she’s always sticking her head over the side of the boat as soon as anything makes noise in the water. A few minutes into Matt’s cheerleading session at the bow, he decided that Georgie also needed a front row seat and scooped her up to watch the real action up there. For a few minutes she stared on with curiosity, and then she tried her damndest to escape from his grip, taking shelter behind the safety of the dodger. Every so often she’d hear a splash on the side of the boat and tentatively stick her head around to see what causing the ruckus. She thought she was playing it so smart, using the fabric of the dodger as a shield for the front of the boat, until a few of the dolphins caught on to her and started coming to the stern of the boat and splashing around, completely catching her off guard and leaving her with no place to hide. Dolphin intelligence: 1. Cat intelligence: Well give her a half a point for trying.

dolphin at St. George's Cay

dolphins at St. George's Cay

dolphins at St. George's Cay, Belize

dolphins at St. George's Cay, Belize