Snap Back to Reality

Monday April 13, 2015

Old Bahama Bay Marina & Resort

Well, we’re back in Indiantown and back to the reality that we need to jump right into boat work in order to get ourselves moving along to see any hope of cruising again by the new year.

On how we got back here from the Bahamas though….  All four of us were up at the crack of dawn on Sunday to give ourselves as much time and as much daylight as possible for the 55 mile journey back to West Palm Beach and our familiar anchorage in Lake Worth.  We thought we might be the first ones out of the marina besides the fisherman that get out while the skies are still dark and a little hazy, but we found ourselves patiently waiting for three other sailboats to back themselves out and clear the channel before we could take our turn.

Out on the water we immediately raised our sails and finally caught those east trade winds at an angle that suited us perfectly.  Pointing on a southwest course to counteract the Gulf Stream, we were on a comfortable broad reach and serenely sailing along at 6.5 knots.  The day was sunny and perfect, and much of my time was spent behind the wheel.  The least I could do to earn my position on board, and honestly it felt kind of nice.  I might have to remind myself of that every now and then on our own boat when we’re always so quick to throw on the autopilot as soon as we exit a harbor.

Every few hours we’d check our position on the tablet to see how far was left and if we were staying on course.  It turned out that in my few hours behind the wheel I had actually been pointing us a little further south than we needed to be and we were actually coming in closer to Fort Lauderdale than West Palm Beach.  A few more alterations and we were heading in the right direction, although I may had inadvertently cost us an extra hour on the water.  Not normally a big deal, but it can be when you’re trying to beat the sunset. I guess we must have been fighting a much stronger current on the way over than coming back and our course was much closer to our heading this time around.

Realizing that we’d now be hitting the inlet around 9 pm wasn’t the worst thing in the world as we’d exited it in the dark and it would just mean a very sharp lookout for channel markers once more.  Knowing that we’d at least be at anchor that night though was a big relief.

Getting within about a half mile of the beginning of the channel we threw on  the now repaired engine and put the sails away.  Everything was looking good until we were only a quarter mile away and the engine shut down.  Not knowing what the issue was, Matt and Bob ran down below deck to diagnose it.  Joni and I stayed up on deck and since we still had a good bit of forward momentum, I kept us pointing at the channel in case the problem was fixed right away and we could continue our way in.  Looks like our slightly southern approach was paying off.

Another 20 minutes later though I was now upon the first buoy for the channel and there was still not a peep from the engine.  The guys still weren’t sure what the issue was but were going to bleed the fuel lines in case they had air in them.  It was the only thing that made sense to them.  This project was going to take at least another 20 minutes though and I didn’t have time to continue drifting NW before coming too close to shore and other unknowns.  Cranking the wheel another 40 degrees I turned us dead north and rode the Gulf Stream until the situation below was taken care of.

Under bare poles and through the current alone, Shamroga pushed forward at an amazing 3.5 knots.  When I did hear the roar of the engine again 20-25 minutes later we had already covered over a mile just by drifting and then had to fight the current south to get back to where we originally had been, traveling at 2 knots with the engine under almost full power.  Eventually we made it back to the original buoy and were able to point ourselves west and resume a normal pace.

Thanks to our powerful Ryobi flashlight and four sets of eyes on watch we navigated the ICW once more and finally dropped anchor just after 11 pm.  Too tired to worry about anything else or things that need to be put away, we cleaned up the essentials and pleasantly passed out in our cabins.  This morning Shamroga went into a marina in the North Palm area to look into it’s engine issues a litter further before continuing to motor up the ICW, and Matt and I were put in a taxi headed for Indiantown.

All in all it was a great learning experience on all ends.  I think Bob and Joni learned heaps about their new boat as well as a few techniques, and Matt and I learned what it was like to work on another boat and decided to tuck that knowledge away for any future events in which we might be called on for our services again.  Anyone looking for shakedown cruises with a couple of instructors this fall…just let us know.  If we can get away from boat work we might take you up on it.  Or it might be a good excuse to get away from boat work too.

And now here we find ourselves again, back in reality.  Too tired to get any work in today on cleaning Serendipity to get her in sell ready condition, but honestly, we didn’t quite leave her in the best living condition either.  Our last night here with the Sailing Conductors as well as an early morning the next day meant a few dishes in the sink and items strewn around the cabin as we hurried to pack.

We did meet a few new cruisers in the work yard though.  Funnily enough, the two new boats next to us happen to contain blog followers!  Dan, Simone, and Bobby are a group of three young Aussies that just finished up time working in Canada and decided that before they head back to Oz they needed a little adventure.  Originally planning to take a van on a road trip across the US they ditched that plan in favor of buying an inexpensive Irwin 32 to travel the Bahamas with for a few months instead.  The other boat is a Moody that was purchased by Scott and Ellen of The Cynical Sailor and his Salty Sidekick.  Ellen and I had actually been online chatting on and off for the past two years so the odds of them ending up two boats down from us was pretty crazy!

So that’s where we’re at now.  My parents are coming to visit in two weeks and we hope to have a lot of Serendipity’s last major projects ticked off by then.  Things like painting the bottom and sanding and varnishing the sole.  I know there’s also a million minor things that one of these days I really need to write down so I can begin slowly ticking them off instead of laying around in the heat mumbling “I don’t even know what I can work on today”.  Progress needs to start NOW.  Ok, maybe tomorrow.

Old Bahama Bay Resort & Marina, West End

Old Bahama Bay Resort & Marina

Old Bahama Bay Resort & Marina, Grand Bahama Island

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West End’s Junior Regatta

Saturday April 11, 2015

West End Junior Regatta

Looks like we’re stuck in the Bahamas one more day than anticipated because we can’t get the welded part back until this afternoon.  Oh darn, whatever will we do with our time here in paradise?

Ha, like that would ever be an issue here.  But even if we somehow couldn’t fill our day with lounging by the pool or snorkeling & paddle boarding at the beach or even lazily swinging in the hammocks strung between palm trees, there happened to be a local event going on this afternoon. A few local organizations were hosting a regatta for the regional children.  After having been to the Family Regatta in George Town Exumas last year, we knew we needed to go.

Getting into the resort’s office early in the day, we took out 4 bikes and set them aside for the ride into town later that afternoon. Our morning of course was spent basking in the glow of our beautiful surroundings and sipping coffee while munching on a blend of potatoes cooked to perfection in a cast iron skillet (after French Toast yesterday…yum!). Have I mentioned we’ve been very well fed on this job?  I really need to take some of these recipes back with me.  And clean off the two years of rust from my own cast iron skillet.

When it was time for the regatta to begin and we had built our appetites back up, the four of us cycled up the same road we had taken in to town yesterday only this time instead of two sets of tandem bikes we were each striding our own up the road.  Pulling up to the blocked off section of road we all wove through the barriers and parked our bikes behind a set of bleachers, parched and ready for a cool Bahamian beer. First there was the matter of food though and we stepped up to the folding tables that were just being set up for the day to see what was on the menu.

Between different options of BBQ; chicken; and fish, I had been looking at the barracuda with some interest until Matt shook his head no, it may not be safe for me to eat. Humph. Even though the BBQ and chicken were looking like delicious alternatives there was no way I could get myself all the way to the Bahamas and not enjoy one fish meal so I opted for the fried snapper that came with rice and coleslaw.  Bob and Joni had the same idea as me and as our meals were being prepared, Bob scuttled off to the liquor store up the street to grab us a few cold Kalik’s to enjoy with our meals.

The food was so good, and the friendly women working the stand even gave us each two fish because ‘dey’re a liddle on da small side’.  I’m sorry St. Martin, I know you’re supposed to be the ‘Friendly Island’ but the Bahamas should really swipe that title from you.

Just as the four of us were scooping the last bites of food into our mouths and draining the final drops of our beer, we realized that the regatta was already in motion.  There had been no horns or warnings and apparently we’d missed the first two legs thinking that all the kids were only out practicing.  Guess this is a little different than both adult regattas and the Wednesday night races I used to participate in.  Once we knew to pay attention to the action though we caught the last few minutes of the races before they finished.  Enjoying one more beer, we were all becoming tuckered out from the heat pretty quickly and made the decision to head back to the marina for more pool lounging before returning again in a few hours to see the high school marching band.

lunch at the regatta

Bahamian fried fish

Bob enjoying a Kalik

Jr Regatta, West End Grand Bahama Island

Joni walking the beach

pile of conch shells

Matt bicycling in West End

As we got ourselves back to the regatta in the late afternoon we could already hear the music from the band starting up.  Originally worried that we had missed the whole thing, it turned out they were just warming up and we were still in time for the show.  In fact, we still had a good 30 minutes to spare.

Grabbing an ice cold Coke and putting a few orders in for conch fritters, we took our spots on the bench and watched the children play in the water until the band actually began it’s march.  This was a little shorter than the police marching band we were treated to in George Town but it was still fun to watch the kids parade down the asphalt with their instruments.

There were still two more races for the evening which we enjoyed with more fritters, but by the time it came around to wait for the awards ceremony we agreed that we’d all had a pretty long day and would rather enjoy a nice leftover dinner at the boat instead of frequenting the food stands here again and waiting for the ear deafening music to begin thumping out of the speakers.  Tomorrow is going to be another long day after all.

Time for us to head back to the US, our vacation job is coming to an end and we still have those two boats back in Indiantown needing our attention.  Well, it’s been great while it lasted Bahamas, I hope we’re back in this exact spot around the new year on the new boat, celebrating with friends.

West End Bahamas marching band

High School marching band in West End

Jr. Regatta 1

Junior Regatta

Matt casting shadows

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Video: Snorkeling in West End

Friday April 10, 2015

Old Bahama Bay
Holy crap.  This place is spectacular.  I’m serious, if you ever find yourself in West End make sure you come to Old Bahama Bay Marina.  The grounds are gorgeous and the amenities are more than any cruiser could hope for.  Normally we’re just happy for a shower, a wifi connection, and maybe a laundry facility if we’re lucky. This place has hall that and so much more.  A pool surrounded by palm trees; land games like basketball, corn hole, and shuffleboard; free bicycles for touring town; and so many water sports.

Completely free with your stay you get the use of kayaks, paddle boards, and even a hobie cat! (Although the rudder was broken when we were there)  Three of us did take advantage of the paddle boards our first day there as well as used the bicycles to run into town to find a welder for the broken alternator bracket, but today was all about satisfying Bob’s craving for snorkeling.  As soon as he found out their boat would be headed to the Bahamas he went out and purchased all the gear and it was the one thing on his checklist during our stay.

Talking to the friendly staff we found out the best area for snorkeling on the grounds was currently off limit due to rip currents but if we walked down the beach a bit there was a small jetty of rocks that we should still be able to find some fish in.  True to their word, we did find all kinds of little fish in this area and I was even able to follow a sting ray for just a moment.  And to think that Matt and I were worried that we wouldn’t be able to pull our gear out for a whole 9-12 months when we left the Virgin Islands….

I also had the luck of trying out a GoPro for the first time during this little snorkeling adventure.  It wasn’t until we were back at the boat that I was able to look back at the footage and I’ll admit that I may not have always been shooting where I thought I was (for the most part I was wearing it on my head), but it was still fun and I was even able to put together a little video from the footage! I may have been a little slapdash putting it together since I wanted to get it up right away, but I hope you enjoy it.  🙂

Other than that, we’ve all been enjoying our time here immensely! The days are beautiful, the company is great, and Joni is an amazing cook that keeps us well fed morning, noon, and night.  This ‘job’ could not have come at a better time and I know we’ll be incredibly sad when it’s time for us to head home. Shamroga stern Shamroga side church West End Bahamas

mosaic window in church

Old Bahama Bay Marina

Old Bahama Bay Marina and Resort

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Bahamas Baby!

Thursday April 9, 2015

Old Bahama Bay Marina

The rigging is finished, the sails are on, the boat is fully stocked, and the weather is as much in our favor as we’re going to get it in the next week.  We are ready for the Bahamas.

Joining back up with Joni and Bob, Matt and I drove ourselves out to Sunset Marina where Shamroga was sitting on a mooring ball and all ready for the five of us to leave.  The fifth member of this party being Georgie, whom as soon as she was placed on board, took up her favorite hiding spot of that little open area under the gunnel where winch handles and sail ties are normally stored.  I can only wait to see her get into the ones in Daze Off where there is no easy way to be able to retrieve her.

Setting off down the ICW we made our way toward Lake Worth while taking turns behind the wheel and letting Joni get comfortable on the VHF to call in bridge openings.  Lunch was prepared for us on the calm waters of the Intra Costal and Matt and I had some of the tastiest grilled cheese sandwiches we’d ever sampled.  Having the meals included on this trip was turning into a total bonus.  Not that I had cracked one open while underway, but I did notice that Joni had stocked the boat up with a supply of Leinenkugel’s summer variety pack after I had mentioned last week that I had been dying to get my hands on a Berry Weiss at some point.  Not that either of us were expecting this to be a tough job, but it was looking like it was turning into a very nice all inclusive vacation for us.

Since the day had a bit of a late start, I believe we pulled into the bay in Stuart around 2 pm, we were just sneaking into Lake Worth as the sun was about to go down on us.  The guys took care of a few last minute preparations such as getting the dinghy and outboard on deck, while Joni cooked a delicious meal in the galley.  Without much to do myself, and not with the physical ability to do any heavy lifting with the guys, I cracked open one of my Leinenkugels and watched as the sun set over Shamroga, preparing myself for an early night.  With a 2:30 am alarm coming, we were going to need all the rest we could beforehand.

After dinner the four of us went about tucking everything away to make sure that nothing could bounce around or fall down, and checked the weather and tides one more time before tucking in for the night.  I’d forgotten how exhausting a day of simply motoring a boat could be, and was more than ready for bed by the time 9 pm rolled around.

Lake Worth, Florida

Georgie on Shamroga

Matt & Bob raising the outboard

sunset on Lake Worth

It turns out that having a spacious v-berth where you have the room to move about without rolling over on your partner in the process does help one to fall into a quick and deep sleep.  By the time the alarm went off I felt like I had accumulated enough REM to face the next few hours of getting out the inlet before being sent back to bed.  With Joni and I behind the wheel and Matt and Bob raising the anchor, we left Lake Worth  and followed the green and red markers of the ICW toward the Palm Beach Inlet.

With the chart plotter on board giving some issues we were using Navionics between two tablets and one really good flashlight to keep ourselves on course.  It took about an hour to get from the anchorage to the mouth of the inlet, but we were finally on our way!  Engine still on and sails down because we were pointing directly into the wind, Joni and I went below for the first sleep shift while the guys navigated out into the Gulf Stream.  Since the east winds were also pushing waves directly at us that were building up on the shallow banks surrounding the channel it was also quite a bumpy ride for the first hour.  Even though we’d stowed everything away as best we could a few items still found their way out and I even had a book or two crash down on me while sleeping. I felt bad for not getting up right away to put them back, but with it being such an issue with my rib to get from a flat position to a sitting one, I just pushed them to the side to be dealt with later.

When it was time to wake up and go on watch we found that we weren’t making as good of progress as we’d been hoping, only moving at about 3.5 knots.  With the last bits of the Florida shoreline still in sight it didn’t look like we’d be making it to West End by the early afternoon.  More calculations determined that we may not even get there before sunset.  But we did the best we could and just kept plugging along through the rest of the morning and into the afternoon.

Then in the early afternoon, a mini disaster struck.  There were issues with the engine and it had to be shut off asap.  As Matt and Bob went down to inspect the issues they could tell the alternator bracket had broke and something else was causing oil to spew out left and right.  This didn’t look like it was going to be a quick and easy fix.  When it was resolved that we couldn’t use the engine to get ourselves any further, possibly just for getting in  a channel but that’s it, we hoisted the sails to see if the Bahamas were still an option.

Angling ourselves on a SW heading we were able to go close hauled enough to set a course toward West End.  We still weren’t going fast by any means, about four knots once you took out the current working against us, but it was unanimous that we’d still rather make it there slowly than not at all.  It also meant either a night time arrival or slowing ourselves down to arrive at daybreak.  Checking over every single chart we had, Matt and I found an area that looked like it would be safe to anchor for a few hours, just outside the entrance to the Old Bahama Bay Marina where we’d made our reservation.

With some pretty smooth sailing for the rest of the journey and seas dying down to 1-2 ft it was quite an enjoyable ride and we all enjoyed lounging in the large cockpit until it was time for shifts again.  We ended up pulling into the anchorage around 5 am and got ourselves set with no issues.  Stating that we’d be up again in two hours to motor into the marina, that plan went out the window as we all allowed ourselves to catch up on a bit more sleep and enjoy a coffee and breakfast with the beautiful beach in front of us.  But alas, it was eventually time to get ourselves inside the marina and checked in to the country.

As Shamroga was directed in through the channel and into a slip, we found ourselves in hands down the most gorgeous marina I have ever seen.  It was idyllic.  It was picturesque.  It was everything you expect the Bahamas to be from movies and postcards and ads.  Every building was well kept for and painted a bright color, there were white sand beaches with hammocks hanging from palm trees; and the famous clear Bahamian water.  It may have been a lot of work to finally get here, but man was it worth it. A few hours later once all of us and the boat were legally inside, we raised the flag and popped the champagne.  Welcome to the Bahamas baby!!

Shamroga outside of West End

Bob opening champagne

Matt & Jessica, checked into Bahamas

Joni & Bob, checking into Bahamas

Bahamian flag & champagne

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