Tuesday, April 5, 2011

We're back!

Tuesday, 05 April, 2011

Hello faithful followers:

Scott and I are currently on a mooring ball in Vero Beach, FL after crossing back over from the Abacos Saturday-Sunday.  We left Green Turtle Cay at 8:30 Sat. morning with our buddies, Ian and Sue on Kokopelli and arrived in Ft. Pierce at 11:30 am after our 27-hour crossing--- tired but happy to be back in the good ol' US of A.  We anchored off of Harbourtown Marina in Ft. Pierce and,  after a long afternoon nap, we had a nice dinner and then an early bedtime.  Sleep is a wonderful battery recharger!

Yesterday, Kokopelli and Painkiller motored a couple of hours up the ICW to Vero Beach and enjoyed a trip to the local Publix for some provisioning.  We had lunch at the Riverside Cafe near our marina and then went over to Kokopelli for sundowners.  Today, they're calling for high winds and thunderstorms so we're all happy to stay put here in Vero.  Tomorrow, weather permitting, we hope to head north on our trek towards St. Augustine.

Now, to recap on our last week in the Bahamas:   we thoroughly enjoyed spending some more time at the Jib Room/ Marsh Harbour Marina and then heading over to Green Turtle Cay on Tuesday. We rented a golf cart on Wednesday last week and drove all over the island since we were fairly far from the actual settlement.  It reminded us alot of Hope Town and Spanish Wells.  Nice folks with a slight English accent.....a reminder that they're descended from Brits who came over in the 1600's to settle the islands.  We were anchored out in one of the sounds there and had some fairly strong winds but the boat did fine.  Anxious to cross back over, we were happy when the forecast gave us a weather window, albeit a narrow one.  Kokopelli decided it was a "go" so off we all went on Saturday morning.

It's wonderful being back on US soil and even things once mundane -- like shopping at Publix -- take on exotic overtones since they *always* have bananas and fresh produce.  We've gotten used to shopping for produce only on days when the mail boat has delivered in the out islands.   It's funny how you take such things for granted here, huh?

So, we'll keep you posted as we head up the ICW towards home.  We hope to be in St. Augustine over the weekend as we loved it there in November and want more time to explore that wonderful city.  Hoping to be home within a week or so, especially if we can go off-shore for the hop from St. Augustine to Beaufort, SC.  Take good care and thanks again for keeping up with our blog.

Jason and Stephen, dockmaster and chief dockhand, at the marina.  This shot was on Saturday night during their "steak night".

Chef Marvin, cooking "up a storm" for the steak night.

Linda "Boo" (L) with her mom.  Linda and Tom are owners of the marina and are very friendly, warm people.

The Jib Room from outside, looking in

Our last Bahamas sunset for awhile.  This was on the crossing while we were still on the Bahamas banks.  Our friends on Kokopelli are seen here in front.

Friday, March 25, 2011

More fun and games.....

Friday, 25 March, 2011

Hey there again, faithful blog followers!

Sorry to be so slack lately with blog updates but we've been too busy having fun down here.....no, really, we have been playing dominoes until the wee hours of the night with our friends on Saber Tooth and Georgia E and just haven't gotten around to writing.   That, plus spotty internet access have presented obstacles for our updates. A thousand pardons!

Scott and I have been slowly-but-surely retracing our steps from Long Island to George Town, to Emerald Bay and then Black Point and Big Majors Spot (with Thunderball grotto) and points north.  Our migration back home has begun but we've really enjoyed revisiting some of our spots we hit going south, this time with our Toronto buddies -- Stu and Karen on Georgia E and John and Nora on Saber Tooth.

We got to Cambridge Cay with Georgia E and Saber Tooth and had a fantastic time snorkeling at "the sea aquarium"....a wonderful little mountain of coral with huge amounts of colorful fish and great fans and coral.  We had lunch on a beach there and then took our dinghies over to Johnny Depp's island.  He wasn't home but we cruised along the shore and saw his house and beaches.  What a great spot!  As Karen said that evening, we felt like kids again, having a day full of play.

Then we headed back to Warderick Wells for another few nights there and had an amazing time snorkeling there, too.  We saw huge lobsters crawling in plain view over all the coral.....they're not afraid 'cause they know they live in a sanctuary.  All we could think was how good they'd taste!  We crawled back up BooBoo hill and our placque was still there so we're happy.

After we left Warderick on Tuesday morning, the group split up and Scott and I headed to Highborne Cay at the northern end of the Exumas.  We had the good fortune to finally meet up with our good friend, Jake Roush, who's currently serving as First Mate on the 112-ft. motor yacht "Sensation".  We've been looking for good ol' Jake the whole time we've been down here.  He's like my second son so it was a very happy reunion for us all.  He came over to our boat for supper that night and we enjoyed hearing of his many adventures.

Wednesday, we headed to Royal Island at the north end of Eleuthera with our buddies on Messenger.  In early January, we had a not-so-fun few nights with a gale blowing through, complete with lightening, thunder and anchors dragging.  Needless to say, we weren't thrilled to be back there but it's the logical overnight spot before leaving Eleuthera for points north.

Yesterday morning, Messenger, Painkiller, and a couple other boats left Royal Island after an uneventful night (YAY!) and headed north for the Abacos.  Mother Nature had plans for us and we experienced 20+ knot winds with following seas for much of the trip.  Scott did a wonderful job at the helm --very cool and collected captain -- and let me take it awhile when conditions were less dire.  We were hitting 8.3 knots under sail alone.....we were *screaming* (the boat, that is).  All of us were glad to make our anchorage in the Abacos, near Little Harbour and I, for one, turned out the lights at 8:30 last night.  We were both tuckered out!

Today, we're at Marsh Harbour, again at the wonderful Jib Room, after a short journey this morning.  It's great to be back here and we celebrated with a conch club sandwich and their signature drink, bilge burners.  We hope to travel back home with our good friends, Ian and Sue, on Kokopelli.  It's funny how we are traveling with the same good folks here again after so long away.

It will be good to get back home.  We miss our kids alot and need to think about re-entering the job market so it's time to say good-bye to the islands very soon.  But, we have so many ideas for next year's cruise already and are looking forward to planning that.  The Bahamas have been wonderful to us and we can't wait to see even more of them next year.

I'll try to be better with updates on our way back to South Carolina.  Thanks again for your faithful reading of our humble blog.  We hope it's entertained you and been as fun for you as it has for us.

This is "Tiger", the boat kitty born on s/v Three Belles.  Her owner, Carl, had gotten up off the beanbag so she just saw an opportunity too good to pass up.

Our buddy, Jake, in front of the M/V Sensation at Highborne Cay Marina.  Doesn't he look tanned and handsome??

A typical view from the boat when in the Exumas.  This is just off Highborne Cay.

Sunrise at Royal Island yesterday morning before leaving for the Abacos.  The calm before the storm....

Capt. Scott at ease while "Otto" the autopilot drives on a nice, calm day.

Capt. Scott yesterday en route to the Abacos.....fighting the wheel for all he's worth.  The picture doesn't adequately show the huge swells behind us.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Breezin' on Long Island...

Monday, 28 February, 2011

Scott and I are now anchored off lovely Long Island,  due east of George Town.  We motor-sailed over here Wednesday along with our friends on Skedaddle, Spartina, and Messenger, to name a few of the boats.  This is a wonderful anchorage, made even more special because of the existence of the Long Island Breeze resort here.  Run by Mike from Britain and Jackie from Louisiana, it is a beautiful facility with a restaurant, pool and huge deck overlooking the bay and fast, free wi-fi.  We have thoroughly enjoyed hanging out at the Breeze, meeting other cruisers, playing cards and just loving the setting and great food there.  Much to our delight, on Thursday we were treated to a talk by Monty and Sara Lewis, the founders of Explorer Charts.  They talked of their travels to the Turks and Caicos and about Long Island and all there is to do here.  We enjoyed their sharing and knowledge very much and it was great meeting them.

Thursday, Scott and trekked to one of the beautiful beaches here and he found another sea bean!  These transit the Atlantic from Africa and land on the eastern beaches here and are *very* hard to find.  So now we have 2 heart beans and one hamburger bean.  There is a wonderful weathered limestone rock formation just off the beach and it's very dramatic standing watch over the point.

On Friday, we rented a van along with Sarah and Ken from Skedaddle and Sarah and Phil from Spartina.  We had a great time exploring alot of the island and went over most of the 80 miles from north to south.  We stopped at the Stella Maris resort up north and had coffee for awhile and then walked around the property then we headed south.  Lunch was at "Rowdy Boys" in Clarence Town....a beautiful facility with excellent food and great cottages for rent and an adorable, sweet Boston bull terrier who loved having his tummy scratched.

Later, we stopped off at a roadside straw goods shop and made some good purchases from the lovely lady there.  Then we went in search of the local flamingoes, slogging through mangrove mud until we all agreed it was too much trouble to continue given that we didn't even know if the flamingoes were currently in residence.  We had some good laughs though as we got mired in the mud.  Spartina Sarah had thoughtfully brought along a gallon of water for washing off the mud and some paper towels but our shoes all ended up in a trash bag since they smelled pretty yucky from the mud.  Fun times!!

Today, we're catching up on internet and will go to the local grocery (very nice and well-stocked) for some more provisions.  Tonight we're all heading for the local buffet put on by Trifina at Thompson Bay Club.  We're told it's quite the Bahamian feast so we're looking forward to it.

Glad to hear the weather at home is warming up and March will hopefully be lovely.  Take good care and we'll blog again soon.

Monty and Sara Lewis, talking about the Turks and Caicos and their Explorer Charts of the area.

The Long Island Breeze resort from the pool deck.
 View of the anchorage from the pool deck.  Amazing views!!
 Mike, the friendly owner of the resort.  He does a "cruiser's net" on the VHF every morning, complete with humorous readings at the end with his wonderful British accent.

This is a tidal pool at the Stella Maris resort where you can swim in salt water.  There's an opening at either end for the tidal surge.

The view from the balcony of the Breeze resort.

Inside the Breeze.  Co-owner Jackie is in the pink-and-white striped top.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Trivial Pursuit, bridge and rainbows in George Town

Tuesday, 22 February, 2011

Scott and I are still having a good time here in George Town after our 10 days here.  The cruisers who stay here all season organize various and sundry outings and lessons and we have partaken of but a few offerings while here.  We took a "field trip" to the island's one and only high school on Friday and were treated to the local cuisine plus a tour of the school's classrooms.  The students and teachers were lovely....very friendly and happy to show us cruisers around the grounds.  After lunch, the school's small marching (or not) band serenaded us with a few tunes.  Not bad, considering some of their instruments looked like they were quite old and beat up.  Part of the fun of the trip was seeing the island from the windows of our school bus transport.  Some beautiful coastal scenery for sure.

We've also played trivial pursuit twice at the St. Francis resort here.  It's a fun evening with lots of laughter and good spirits.  Scott and I were fortunate to come in second place last week with our partners, Dee and Ed from Sea Fox 10.  This week we weren't so lucky but it was still a good time.

We also took beginning bridge lessons from wonderful, patient Stuart on Union Jack last week and have played once with our friends from Skedaddle, Sarah and Ken.  I think bridge is one of those games you have to play for a LONG time before you get the hang of it!!

Friday night, it rained "cats and dogs" in the harbour and Scott and I, along with the other cruisers, were treated to a beautiful rainbow over Volleyball beach.  We love the beach there since it's home to the Chat 'n Chill.....an ultra-laid-back beach bar and restaurant with the always-friendly bartender Kendall.  We've had several of their cheeseburgers there and the ambience can't be beat!  Their colorful plastic adirondack chairs just beg to be sat in while you dig your feet into the sand and just......CHILL>

Today is a "reprovisioning, upping our water tanks by schlepping water in jerry jugs from the town dock and getting our extension on our immigration done" day.  Tomorrow, since the weather looks promising, we'll head out early for Long Island, due east of here.  Our friends on Skedaddle and Messenger, along with many other boats will be heading out with us so it should be a fun sailing day.

We'll see what the internet offerings are on Long Island but we hope to be able to continue updating our blog there.  In the meantime, stay safe and warm!

The band at the local high school serenaded us after lunch last Friday.

A beautiful rainbow over Volleyball beach Friday night

Wonderful, friendly Kendall, the bartender at the Chat 'n Chill.  Note the hanging t-shirts all over the place

The beach entrance to the Chat 'n Chill

Scott, relaxing on the beach in front of the volleyball courts.

 Another great sign....this one is maintained by the cruisers.
 Those oh-so-inviting pastel beach chairs along the shore.  Hard to resist!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Superbowl, festivals and barracuda

Wednesday, 16 February, 2011

Well....here we are in beautiful Georgetown, Exumas and it's taken this long to gain access to internet such that we can update our blog.  Sorry for the delay but that's how it is here in Paradise :)

Scott and I watched the Superbowl in Black Point settlement, along with about 48 other cruisers from all over.  We all packed into Lorraine's cafe (see pix) and had a sample of her wonderful Bahamian cooking and music provided by a local guitarist and 2 lovely singers.  Lorraine served us ribs, chicken, potato salad, peas and rice (a Bahamian staple), macaroni and cheese (another staple of their diet) and then yummy cheesecake for dessert.  Believe it or not, our weather that evening was HOT....I couldn't even stand to put on my Steelers jersey because it was way too warm.....imagine that!  So, even though the Steelers didn't win the game, we had a wonderful evening with friendly cruisers and Lorraine's wonderful hospitality.

The Thursday before Superbowl, we'd sailed down from Black Point to Farmer's Cay for their 5F's festival....First Friday in February Festival at Farmer's Cay.  Basically, there's local food and Class C races with the Bahamian sloops competing.  These are medium-sized racing sloops with HUGE mainsails and long boards called "pries" which allow crewmembers to crawl out on the boards and act as ballast.  The pix here are of one of the sloops being loaded back onto the mailboat at the end of the first day.  We sailed back up to Black Point after the festival on Friday, since we had the reservations at Lorraine's for her Superbowl party.

After we left Black Point yet again on the 8th, we motored down to a remote anchorage where I was dying for a swim in the wonderful blue waters.  But, alas, a very large barracuda decided to take up residence under our boat and our dinghy, back and forth, all the live long day.  No swimming for me! On the 9th, we slogged through a rolly sea down to Emerald Bay, near Georgetown.  It was one of the rougher days we've had and we were both glad to get to the marina at Emerald Bay and tie up in a slip next to Georgia E, our friends from Canada.  Emerald Bay is a wonderful, modern resort now owned by Sandals and we thoroughly enjoyed their *free* showers, *free* laundry facilities and wonderful clubhouse.  This was the first time since being in the Bahamas that we've felt we were in a resort-type location.  Pure Heaven!!

Friday morning, we'd finished doing our laundry and were ready to head on down to Georgetown so we motored down behind our friends, Steve and June on Windrose.  They'd been having engine problems so they were happy to have a buddy boat along.  It was such a gorgeous, calm day that I was able to sit up on the bow of the boat for much of the trip and even saw a WHALE not far away from us!  It was coming up and broaching repeatedly.  We moved a distance away from it in case it was telling us we were too close.....what a thrill to finally see a whale!

About 1:30, we reached Georgetown after an uneventful trip and we anchored near our friends, Tony and Tess on Endurance.  The anchorage here is HUGE,  wide and gorgeous blue.  There are over 200 boats already here all along Stocking Island and we're told there will be lots more before the regatta in a month.  We have been to town a couple of times to explore, reprovision somewhat and get our propane tank filled.  Yesterday, we took a bridge lesson on the beach from Stuart on Union Jack.  He's a very pleasant, patient Englishman and we enjoyed learning the basics on bidding, etc. for the game.  Our friends Ken and Sara from Skedaddle were our partners and it was a great afternoon. 

All in all, we're enjoying the anchorage here and all the activities offered on the beach near the Chat n Chill bar/restaurant and at St. Francis resort.  We'll be here at least until late February since we have to go back to Customs and get our last 3 months' permission for cruising.  Until that time, we'll keep meeting nice cruisers here and enjoy  limin' on the beach.

Take good care, stay warm and we'll update this with even more pix when we can.
Until then.....cheerio!~

Here is Lorraine's Cafe where we were for the Superbowl party
 A good picture of sweet Lorraine, a wonderful lady and superb cook
 A typical sunset in Black Point settlement.

 We had a gorgeous sail down to Farmer's Cay from Black Point
 Our friend, Tess, from s/v Endurance with a young Farmer's Cay boy who loved her sunglasses with their fancy lanyard
 One of the Bahamian racing sloops at Farmer's Cay.  This one is named "More Fire"  Note how the man is perched atop the boat as it's lowered onto the mailboat
 Tony, Tess and their daughter, Allison, me and Scott atop a peak on Stocking Island.  We hiked there Monday, Valentine's Day with them and then over to the beach on the ocean side.  Note all the boats in the background.

Here is another view of the anchorage from atop the hill.  There are hundreds of other boats further up the coast from here.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Thunderball Cave and other adventures in Paradise

A view of fish in the grotto.  The striped ones are sergeant majors.
 The famous view underwater in the grotto -- featured in the James Bond movie

Looking towards the entrance of the grotto.  Note sunlight overhead.

A view of the reef outside the cave.  Sorry about my finger on right side!

Scott serenading Tess on her birthday.

Tess cuts the cake as Tony looks on.
Sunday, 30 January, 2011

We're still anchored here off Big Majors Spot and have had a wonderful time in this area.  We snorkeled at Thunderball Cave on Thursday, Friday and Saturday mornings with various sailing friends.  This is the famous site featured in the 1964 James Bond movie "Thunderball" and it is a magical spot to snorkel in.  You go at slack low tide and snorkel in under protruding rocks to enter an amazing grotto with sunlight streaming in from holes in the ground above.  The fish there are used to being fed by snorkelers so they are teeming around you and the variety is impressive.  We saw tons of sergeant majors (small striped fish), a huge Nassau grouper, colorful parrot fish and many others.  Thanks to our friends, we discovered that the reef outside the opposite side of the grotto is very healthy and we saw beautiful sea fans, sponges and various corals there along with even more varieties of fish.  I tried to get some photos with my new underwater camera Drew gave me for Christmas so enjoy the pix.  Photos don't do it justice, unfortunately.

Along with the wonderful snorkeling at Thunderball, we've enjoyed meeting many sailors from all over.  One night, Tess organized an impromtu happy hour get-together on a small beach nearby and we had folks there from England, Switzerland, Italy, Canada and the U.S.  It's so wonderful how cruisers are all so friendly and helpful to each other.....it's easy to make new friends here!

Speaking of friends, our good friend Tess had a birthday on Thursday so we enjoyed having her and Tony over for drinks at sundown that evening.  Tony had tipped us off the day before about her birthday and told us that they were in Cabo San Lucas last January 27th and a mariachi band serenaded her then.  Sooooo.....I suggested that Scott could play "Happy Birthday"on the bagpipes.  Tony loved the idea so, sure enough, once we'd had a couple of drinks and chatted, here came Scott with his bagpipes.  She was totally surprised and delighted with his rendition of Happy Birthday to You, Scotland the Brave and a finale of Amazing Grace.  Apparently, many of the other cruisers anchored nearby were also pleased with the concert since we heard lots of whistling and cheering.  We then had some chocolate cake and Tess suggested we all go over to a nearby catamaran and share the cake with the folks partying there.  What a great idea!!  Dream Catcher was having a rockin' good time with owners Gary and Jayne joined by Varina and Silvio from Blues Breakers.  They were delighted with the arrival of chocolate cake since they had all just been discussing their craving for dessert when Tess's voice came floating across the anchorage "Does anybody want chocolate cake??"  They all thought they were hearing things until we dinghied over with the cake.  What a fun evening!!

We'd both read about how helpful cruisers are to each other but we found out firsthand this week.  Wednesday night after the beach gathering, we got back on our boat and started the engine to heat water for showers.  After a minute or so, we heard a terrible noise and Scott figured out it was coming from the engine compartment.  We quickly shut off the engine but, unfortunately, the damage had already been done.  We had cooked our starter.  Somehow, the key had gotten stuck in the "start" position on the engine and it only took minutes to kill the starter.  When we got on the radio the next morning and called another boater for help diagnosing the problem, other boaters heard our plight and one, from La Buena Vida, offered his spare starter to us.  It happened to be the wrong size for us but we were so amazed at his generosity and can't wait to see him again in George Town to thank him.  Murray from Windswept 4 came to our aid and spent roughly an hour diagnosing our problem ( definitely a cooked starter ) and he gave us great information re: how to get a replacement flown in.  Lucky for us, Staniel Cay has an airport and the Watermakers Air company here has 2 daily flights from Florida.  Scott has been telling me how cruising is really all about "fixing your boat in exotic places" and now I understand.

Tess and Tony from Endurance were very gracious and lent us a cell phone, enabling Scott to track down a replacement starter in Florida.  We went over to Staniel Cay Yacht Club (they manage Watermakers Air issues) and Scott got the part ordered and the paperwork arranged for the air delivery of the part.  Stu and Tony from Georgia E were also very kind to lend us their cell phone for other calls related to the part.  All of our sailing friends were wonderful support as we waited for the new starter to arrive and we are very grateful to everyone.

Happily, after we snorkeled yesterday morning, we headed over to the yacht club and there was our package!!  We dinghied back to the boat and Tony Marts from Endurance came over and helped Scott put on the new starter.  Then Tess and I did the "drum roll" like in Chevy Chase's Christmas Vacation movie and I turned the key.  Hallelujah!!!  The engine came alive and life was good again. 

Today, we are going to refill our water tanks at the yacht club with their wonderful reverse osmosis water and Tony and Tess will join us at the bar for some dominoes and perhaps cribbage.  They're avid cribbage players and are teaching us the game.  We plan on heading over to Black Point settlement some time tomorrow where they have a real laundry so we can get some clothes washed.

Life is good and we are blessed.  Stay warm and healthy!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Steelers & pigs in Staniel Cay

Friday, 28 January, 2011

We are now anchored off Big Majors Spot just around the corner from Staniel Cay.  Sunday night was spent at the docks at Staniel Cay Yacht Club (see photos below) so we could get our "NFL fix" watching the conference championships.  The bar is great there and was pretty packed with folks watching football and enjoying their amazing, free happy hour buffet.  We were, of course, outfitted in our Steelers jerzies and had our terrible towels.  And we were *very* happy with the outcome of the game!!  HERE WE GO, STEELERS!!!!  Now we just have to figure out where to watch the Super Bowl.

Monday,  we motored over to our present position just off Big Majors -- the home of the "swimming pigs".  They're huge pigs who live on the island and love the sound of dinghy motors 'cause that means they're about to be fed!  They'll swim out to your dinghy for the food you bring them (we brought apples and old bread) and we were forewarned that they can be pretty aggressive if you don't feed them fast enough.  They have huge, long snouts that stay above the water while they're swimming and they have dark spots on their backs.  See the photos below.

Yesterday and today we snorkeled in Thunderball Cave, the site of filming for the 1964 James Bond movie "Thunderball".   You snorkel in under these overhangs of rock and then you come into this amazing grotto with holes in the top for sunlight.  The fish there are teeming around and we saw alot of new varieties.  We were there with our friends, Tony & Tess from Endurance and several other dinghies of friends.  Today, we went over again at slack low tide and saw the wonderful coral reefs on the other side of the grotto.  Beautiful coral heads and more interesting fish.  We plan to go back tomorrow with Hank & Ellen from La Belle Helene' since it's a great thing to do more than once.

The weather is pretty warm the past few days, in the high 70's or low 80's with a fair amount of wind today.  I actually broke down and hand-washed some of our clothes today since there's no laundry here at Staniel Cay, we're getting kinda desperate for clean clothes *and* there's such great wind today for drying clothes on the lifelines.

The famous pigs enjoying food thrown onto their beach by another boat.

Here they come, swimming out to our boat for even more food.

Sunday night at Staniel Cay Yacht Club's bar.  We're psyched!!

Carl, the bartender (left) and one of the dockhands on the right, unloading more Kalik beer for the night.

Another view inside the bar.  Very neat ambience there and nice folks.

We'll post more pictures when we update the blog again....probably tomorrow.  Until then, stay warm and healthy!