Friday, February 27, 2009

We Don't Poach. . . . . We Saute'

My marine scientist niece Kathryn has a concern about the collecting/eating of conch (she has a colleague tagging conch and studying them). So for the record - we have never taken undersized fish, shellfish or mollusks and abide by all the fisheries rules/protections/limits/seasons etc. So rest assured, though we do try to catch and eat some of our food (though haven't been so lucky lately)…we continue to be aware and concerned with the depletion of marine life.

We spent the day at Little Farmer's Cay and went ashore and walked every road on the island. We had lunch and conversation at Ocean Cabin. Terry Bain is the proprietor there and some folks told us that he was educated at Harvard. We had a great political discussion with Terry - who is optimistic and hopeful about our new President.

On tomorrow's menu: curried goat - and we did see the poor animal that gave its life to that cause - trussed up on the docks. It seemed to be the big event for the day on Little Farmer's - though we didn't stick around to watch the next phase of preparation!

We're now set to take off tomorrow for Georgetown. The wind is still blowing so we're not too optimistic that the seas will have calmed too much - but we'll stick our nose out into Exuma Sound and try our luck. We'll head out early to catch a slack tide through Little Farmer's Cut - the current is strong through these narrow cuts and with this wind we certainly don't want to hit it when the tide is roaring out and the wind is pushing waves in. So it will be an early start - plus it's a 45 mile trip and we need to get to Georgetown when there's plenty of light. If we don't make good time because of conditions, we have places to stop for the night and then head to Georgetown on Sunday.

We've got the fishing pole ready as well as our "yoyo" - so we're hoping our luck will change as we drag lures through the water. We've heard a few boats talking about the Mahi they've caught out there. In 2001 - it's where we caught a huge Wahoo. Hope our luck is as good. Fresh fish would be a treat.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Making Progress South

Thursday morning the wind was still blowing 20-25 from the NNE - but we decided it was time to leave the pigs behind and head out.

It was a great day to sail and save fossil fuel as we made our way south to Little Farmer's Cay. We're anchored on the western side of the Cay. This Cay is a three and a half mile long island with about 55 residents. The cay was first settled in the Loyalist period by two brothers. It got its name because it used to be farmed - mostly fruit trees - but the trees were all destroyed in a hurricane in 1926. It is a very classic Exuma town with friendly, helpful people. We'll head into town tomorrow

The sail today was a blast. We hit 7.2 knots under a deeply reefed head-sail. We made the 22 or so miles in three and a half hours. It was a little wet as some waves crashed over the decks as the seas were still a bit choppy - but it was a fun sail.

Yesterday (Wednesday) we spent a bit of the day in Staniel Cay and had a belated birthday lunch (thanks mom) at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. It was our first conch of the year. Conch (pronounced Konk) is a mollusk that lives in those large, beautiful, pink seashells. There are mounds of those shells all around the Bahamas. The shells are used as yard/street edging as well as they are made into conch horns - and often blown at sunset. The living conch are becoming harder and harder to find on
the bottom - as they have been over collected. You have to go deeper and deeper to find them. They are a treat - and are often served as a conch salad (raw conch marinated in a lime juice with onions, green peppers and some hot sauce); cracked conch which is deep fried conch (what we had yesterday) and sautéed conch (which requires some heavy beating of the mollusk to tenderize it). All are great treats. We hope before we leave the Bahamas to have it several more times (especially if Michael
can hunt some!)

We also bought some fresh out of the oven Bahamian bread. My attempt at bread wasn't exactly successful. It's edible - but pretty heavy. Better as toast with butter and jam! The bread we bought is tasty! Some locals tried to sell us a giant lobster (the spiny kind - not Maine style) for $20. It was HUGE! But we had just eaten out and were stuffed - so we passed.

Now we're comfortably sitting at anchor with the wind still blowing. There are seven boats out here - a Swiss boat, a French boat, French Canadians, and four US boats.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Wind is Hootin'

Still anchored at Big Major's Spot being patient while waiting for the weather to change. Yesterday and today it's been really blowing - well over 20 consistently and gusting much higher. We watched squalls around us - but we didn't get any rain (and we wouldn't mind a soaking to get the decks desalinated.) So we sit and do projects.

Yesterday (Monday) Michael put a steadying sail up to see if he could keep us from sailing at anchor so badly. It may be making a little difference in how fast we swing - but not how much we swing. But anything helps.

It was also cleaning day. The cockpit got a good cleaning as did the chart table.
Barbara did some laundry (this is done not with a washing machine and quarters - but with a bucket and good exercise). It was a great drying day so all the boats in the anchorage saw Michael's collection of boxers! Richard Davis remembers Barbara losing one of his t-shirts overboard in Grenada - well this time it was a pair of her underwear. But we successfully found them on the bottom and rescued them! The same fate was not to be had for Richard's shirt. (Still feel guilty about that!)

We also ran the city's desalination plant for awhile taking full advantage of the wind generator's energy making prowess. Michael discovered another water maker mystery - and why the tanks weren't filling. It has to do with the fill going into one of the vents and creating a vacuum. Anyway - that's solved.

Did some dinghy exploring and visiting other boats and used the onshore garbage eaters to discard of some table scraps (that would be the pigs). One woman in the anchorage (a Kiwi) apparently got bit yesterday by one pig - mistaking her finger as the carrot she was holding.

Last night was enchilada night…

Today (Tuesday) - is another very windy day so more projects. Everyday Michael gets out of bed at 6:30 (do you believe that???)to listen to a SSB weather report by Chris Parker who is the weather guru (or weasel depending on the forecast) for the islands. The report wasn't good this am - it looks like we'll be here for a few more days.

Barbara made some muffins this morning which was a treat. It seems all the radio talk around the anchorage is about baking bread - so Barbara decided she should as well. Plus we are out of bread. It's rising now - we'll see how it comes out. In the process of getting out all the cooking supplies from the various storage places - she found she didn't have her measuring spoons. She swears she put the really nice stainless ones on board - but they are nowhere to be found. So the baking was done
with a bit of "guesswork."

We'll report on the bread making success or failure later.

Waiting out weather for now…

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sharks. Guns. Swimming Pigs.

Bet that got your attention!

Today we finally felt like "cruisers". We got the dinghy and outboard in the water and went exploring. After being boat bound for awhile, it was great to get in the dinghy and to shore.

We started out by going to visit the pigs on the beach. Yup pigs. There are about five pigs that call the beach at Big Major's Spot home. Cruisers and locals bring in their vegetable scraps to feed them. They are pretty tame and actually will come out into the water to meet the incoming dinghies. When we were here in 2001 - they actually swam out further than they did this time. But one did indeed swim. They seemed most interested in the tomato and radish scraps - not so much in the lettuce!
So that's the story of the swimming pigs! (Pictures to follow when we get internet access).

We also headed to Staniel Cay this afternoon - which is around the bend from Big Major's Spot. It was pretty flat and the water color was a glorious mix of turquoise, aqua and blues. You could see clear to the bottom. As we tied up the dinghy to the dinghy dock at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club (SCYC), four sharks circled the boat. They were pretty good sized nurse sharks and were just cruising around the docks. We could see why - as there were huge lobster heads thrown in the water (those would
have been yummy tails.) So that's the shark story. (pictures to follow).

After a walk around the island and enjoying the bright colored bougainvillea and colorfully painted homes, we were thirsty and stopped by the SCYC for a cold drink. As we were having cold Kaliks (Bahamian beer), police and DEU agents came in. They had their guns in their belts - very old west style - no holsters or covers - just guns tucked into their belts. They came in to enjoy some cracked conch and cold drinks. And there is your "gun" saga. (No pictures to follow!)

As we sat at the bar with the locals - we heard that the actor "Sheen" (they didn't know if it was Charlie or Martin) was at SCYC last night. There was a huge yacht in the anchorage last night - so perhaps he was off of that vessel. Word amongst the locals was that he tipped well!

Because it's Sunday, most of the stores were closed. There are three small groceries on the island: the Isles General Store; the pink store and the blue store on the hill. I think describing stores by their color is very convenient. We saw roosters and lazy dogs as we walked to the Staniel Cay airport. No TSA security here. We walked right up to the runway. If travel was only that easy (neither of us misses that at all!).

It was a fun day meeting some other boaters, exploring in the dinghy, cruising by Thunderball Cave, walking around town and having a cold Kalik.

Last night (Saturday) it was pizza night aboard Astarte. Thanks Rene for the idea of making pizzas on flour tortillas. They tasted great.

Don't know if we're heading out tomorrow or not - looks like another front coming in…we'll see in the morning.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

7.7 Knots Under Sail - WooHoo!!!

Friday night at Hawksbill Cay wasn't the most comfortable with a big roll coming in and rocking us most of the night. But the entertainment was pretty good! After dinner, a megayacht came into the anchorage after dark - and anchored behind us. It had more lights than a Las Vegas casino! A blue neon name "Allegrio" glared from the upper deck and underwater green lights lit up the water surrounding it. White lights lit the entire interior salons and decks. No dinner invite was forthcoming. As we left bright and early this morning - three "dinghies" were being prepared for the owners/guests by the crew. (I thought they were security and manning machine guns - but I think I've been reading too many Clive Cussler books!)

After clearing through the rocks - we killed the engine and started to sail. We hit a new personal best for the trip so far with a 7.7 under a reefed main and full headsail. It was a terrific all day sail and as the winds picked up we had to reef the headsail and still made well over 6.5. In fact, at one point, Astarte almost caught a catamaran under sail. She was flying - grateful to be sailing again.

We made record time to Big Major Spot where we are now anchored with about 30 other boats. It's a large anchorage so even 30 boats don't seem too bad. More boats are pouring in. It was a great day to sail up or down the island chain.

Big Majors Spot (kinda redundant eh?) is near Staniel Cay and the famous Thunderball Cave. Made famous by the 007 movie "Thunderball" and the mermaid movie "Splash." We're thinking we should watch Thunderball tonight - as we have it on board. If it warms up - we may snorkel it tomorrow - but right now it's chilly and windy.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Turning Wine Into Water

Still anchored off Hawksbill Cay. Day Two. Thursdays sunset did indeed provide another green flash (that's #3) - Michael keeps trying to grab one with the camera - but no success yet.

Last nights' hunt into the bilge wine cabinet however didn't provide the same glory. When we opened the bilge - the socks covering the wine bottles were all wet. Fear of a broken bottle (and lost wine) because of the serious bouncing we did the other day - was one thought. The other was even more frightening (I know hard to believe anything more frightening than a lost wine bottle!!) was water inside the boat. With boats, it's always a good policy to keep the water outside. We emptied the bilges
that were wet, Michael sopped up the water (and there was quite a bit) and we found a Coppola Zinfandel to sip with our steak dinner. And knew we had a "tomorrow" project when the light was better.

So today came - and the wet socked wine that sat in the cockpit overnight was relieved of the wet socks and dried. Socks washed and hung on the life lines. We also discovered the forward head (bathroom - now turned into hanging locker) had damp clothes - so perhaps that's where the dreaded water entered. That was emptied and hung outside.

Michael went on the hunt for loose fittings, broken hoses, open thru hulls etc. He found a few problems (cruising - "fixing your boat in exotic locations"). First the thru hull to the forward toilet was open and all the crashing through waves we did may have filled it and splashed over. Second, the solar vent in the head may have let some of the waves that crashed over the deck, in (thus the damp clothes) and finally, an intake for the water maker hose was leaking at the Y-valve. So Michael replaced
the hose from the thru hull to the Y-valve. So between all those things - now fixed - we hope we found the bilge water problem.

Tonight all the wine is in clean dry socks and restacked in the bilge cellar. The "attic" (V-berth) is restacked with stuff, the forward head thru hull is closed and the clothes now dried, are re-hung in the locker. It was a day's project. A front is passing through, so we've watched the winds shift(from west to due north, forecast to be NE by morning) and had a small spitting shower (not enough to wash the decks of the crusty salt). There's a bit of a roll in the anchorage now.

Our stowaway - a gecko lizard (named "lizad") showed his face today. We were sure he was lost overboard in the crashing waves - but he is a survivor. He lives by the mast in the mass of lines, fuel jugs and fenders. We were glad to see him.

No green flash tonight, but another glorious sunset. We are truly lucky to be out here.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hawk is Anchored at Hawksbill Cay

How appropriate! After a four and a half hour early morning motorsail from Highborne Cay, we've entered the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. The Park is a protected area consisting of many small cays, 15 major ones and covering 176 square miles. There are no commercial developments within the Park and the only residences are on privately owned islands. The Park was founded in 1959 and is overseen by The Bahamian National Trust. The goal of the Park is to protect the natural beauty and resources
of the Bahamas. This was critical as lobsters, conch and fish were disappearing from the islands and corals were getting destroyed by bleaching and dynamite. The Park has rangers patrolling the area and provides many areas with mooring bouys. You cannot take fish, turtle, crawfish (aka lobster), conch, or live marine life of any kind from the park…so the great hunter must wait.

This cay has beautiful white sandy beaches against the turquoise blue water. We chose to anchor between some rocks on a good holding sandy bottom overlooking several beautiful beaches, palm trees and some rocky ledges. We feel like we are in paradise having the anchorage all to ourselves (at 5 pm).

The wind is clocking around and is now coming more west-southwest. Not much protection here for those winds - but we're hoping for a relatively calm night. It's a little roll-ey - but after two nights in a row of this - we're sort of getting used to it.

We are planning a great steak dinner and using up our brussel sprouts before they go bad! Perhaps a nice bottle of red from the bilge wine cellar! We await a lovely sunset - looks like another green flash opportunity - we've had THREE so far!


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Patience Is a Virtue

And it's something we haven't quite accepted yet!! After a roll-ey night of sleep at Rose Island because of a wind shift we decided instead of another day and night rolling in that anchorage - we'd head south. The weather report didn't indicate it would be a great day to do that - but we thought "if we're gonna be miserable here - why not see what it's like out there!"

So we decided to head to Shroud Cay - it was only 38 or so miles. We did have to cross the dreaded "Yellow Bank" - (it's a shallower bank with lots of coral heads you must avoid. So you should do YB in good seas and with the sun high so you can spot the corals.) After we got out - we questioned our intelligence. The wind was blowing around 15-20knots(our anemometer is not to be trusted). It was lumpy - confused seas about four feet, very close together and choppy. Astarte doesn't like taking
them head on - it stops her dead in her tracks. We tried putting up our mainsail - but the course had the wind right on the nose and all it did was flog. We were bashing into the seas and lucky if we were making a steady 3 knots. Barbara sat on the bow (in full rain gear) watching for coral heads on the Yellow Bank - and got a soaking every fifth wave or so. (picture of the aftermath to follow at next internet opportunity). We didn't hit any coral - but she also was sending Michael around "clouds"
that put a shadow on the bank and look like coral heads. We were making little progress.

Time was ticking away- so we changed plans and headed for Highborne Cay (or Highburn depending on which chart you're using). It was about 15 miles closer and we thought we could make it before dark. We also decided to put up a reefed mainsail and tack (sail off the wind) so we wouldn't take the waves head-on. This probably didn't save us much time as it took us back and forth from our course line - but it smoothed the ride and increased the boat speed.

At 4 pm we anchored off Highborne (which is a private island with a small marina and some cottages). We're anchored off a pretty beach and it will be another very roll-ey night because of the chop. But we are at least farther south.

It was a wet, lumpy, uncomfortable day - but we made it and are anchored safely. Listening to other boats that arrived - we're grateful that nothing on board broke and we didn't "toss our cookies." Other boats who did the same crossing didn't seem as lucky.

So it'll be an early night - and we'll listen to weather again tomorrow and decide where to go. Patience is part of cruising - weather controls our life … we still need to learn that lesson.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Rose is a Rose is a Rose…

(forgive this post - we didn't save what we put on yesterday and it may be repetitive.)

We left Rose Island yesterday morning and went into Nassau to clear into immigration and customs - and pay our $300 clearing costs. We got a slip at the Nassau Harbor Club (it was a cozy fit) arriving before 11 a.m. We waited for the officials to come to our boat so we could be legal before getting off the vessel. Soon an immigration woman came to the boat. She was a beautiful Bahamian woman dressed in a pencil straight skirt and heels. Michael was more than happy to help her aboard. She proceeded
to tell us that she gets both seasick and can't swim (wrong job for the young woman perhaps??) Then we waited for another four hours for customs to arrive to check us in and collect the dough.

So we're now legally in the country and free to roam. So off to the market for some fresh bread and fruit (things are very expensive in the Bahamas - tomatoes were 4.99 a pound). Then two loads of laundry in the tidy Harbor Club Laundromat and some e-mail and "skyping" because we had high speed internet for the day ($6.99). We did Skype computer to computer with Derek (Michael's brother; the Hurst family (Barbara's sister, bother in law and nephews and Tom Hladik, a colleague of Mike's). Then
we called the parents from computer to phone. It is a much more economical way to do things and it worked great. Because it was my birthday - I got some of the famous "sobocinski" singing!!

A boat next to ours at the dock, "Wild Rover" was from Portland, Oregon and they were members of a former Yacht Club we belonged to - the Sauvie Island Yacht Club (in fact, Michael is one of SIYC's past commodores). We brought out the anniversary SIYC mug we still carry on board. That was so funny - and when we started chatting, the circle got even tighter - they knew people we knew; lived on Hayden Island where Michael lived, etc. So it was fun swapping stories and remembering what a small
world the cruising community really is.

This morning - we fueled up by toting nine 5-gallon jugs of diesel from the fuel dock to the boat. It seems there are these HUGE boats that are semi-permanently docked at the fuel docks. So we got some morning exercise and re-filled the tanks and jugs on deck.

Then it was off … with the wind hooting from the north - to Rose Island. Again. We'll decide tomorrow if we'll make the run for Highbourne or Shroud depending on whether this front passes. If we were able to get fuel yesterday we could have had a very fast sail down there - though everything would have had to be reefed.

So for tonight - back at Rose Island - but now, without a yellow flag flying…and free to get off the boat.

Monday, February 16, 2009

oops, we missed a post!

Here is a post from Friday the 13th. It didn't get into the blog somehow. Probably, because Michael wrote most of it (or it was Friday the 13th!). It is now, Feb. 16 tied up in a marina in Nassau patiently(not for long, over 3 hours) waiting to clear customs. Immigration was very prompt. We have lots to do in town and want to get started, but can't until we finish with the proper bureaucracy. Laundry, groceries and cook's night out for her birthday are in store if we can just do the paper work. But it's the islands - "no problem mon" so we sit and wait through a few rain showers.

We have posted some pictures, not many, on the photo page. We can only do that when we have internet access, so please be patient. We'll also try to take more - we're still getting in the swing of things. Running a boat is like running a small city - we have to deal with water department strikes, electrical department strikes, sewage department strikes, and now I.T. department strikes. Running this small city takes alot of patience and good negotiation skills. But all in all the "city" is running well.

Here's the Friday post:

No Longer “an island in the stream”

Strictly speaking of course. We passed South Riding Rock on the western edge of The Great Bahama Bank at 0650 this morning. We successfully, although slowly, crossed the gulf stream over night. The crossing was good. Once we got east of the reefs off the Florida Keys we started seeing big shipping right away. For the next 8 hours we did a lot of watching and dodging. (For the sailors out there, the AIS system was good but not great. It didn’t always get the time to the closest point of approach correct and the icons on the chart plotter didn’t match up to the radar targets. Interesting bug we will look into.) For non sailors AIS is a transponder system similar to airplanes, but required for large commercial shipping. It broadcasts the name of the vessel, its speed, heading, size and destination. We have a receiver on board that displays the information on the chart plotter.

We left a bit too early and had to slow down to make a daylight (sunrise) approach to S. Riding Rocks. We have an aversion to making landfall in the dark. No matter where! We were hitting speeds over the bottom of 7.5 knots with the current in the stream. By 0200 (2am) there was no wind and we were motoring with the main up for stability, at 1500 rpm (2200 is normal cruising speed) and our speed over the bottom was around 5.5knots. Once on the bank we increased speed to 6.4 knots.

The approach to the western edge of the bank presented us with a nice greeting party. About 8-10 small dolphins, much smaller than the ones we are used to seeing in Tampa Bay, met Astarte and played in our bow and stern wakes for 15 to 20 minutes. We always read that as a good omen.

I will try and send this once Barbara gets up from her well deserved nap. It was a long night.

Unfortunately, not all is perfect. You know what they say: ”The definition of cruising is fixing your boat in exotic locations”. If the seas stay calm, Michael will be spending the day working on the water maker. We have a reverse osmosis water maker that turns salt water into fresh. We had it on our last boat Mariah and it worked great. We kept it and installed in on Astarte. After the installation Michael ran it for a short time and it worked. When he started it up yesterday in the beautiful blue waters of the stream, it was not working. He bounced around in the v-berth for an hour or so cussing and swearing but couldn’t seem to solve the problem of not enough sea water coming into the system. After 12 hours of thinking about it he has a plan and if the seas stay calm will try and trouble shoot.

The Great Bahama Bank is quite remarkable. It averages around 20 feet deep and the water really is “gin clear”. You can sit on the bow of Astarte and watch the bottom go by for hours on end. It is mesmerizing – you have to force yourself to look up to check for boat traffic. The shallowness is a bit disconcerting at first, but the consistency of depth wears you down. The good news is the clarity, the bad, is the lack of much on the bottom. Some sea grass, lots of sea slugs, the occasional star fish and if you watch for them you will see large square pieces of metal roofing. They are put out by the lobster fishermen. The lobster, not Maine lobster, but Florida crawfish or spiny lobster, love the cover provided by the roofing or plywood. We don’t put a line out on the banks, because we catch too many barracuda that often take our lures and are not that good to eat. We had no luck in the stream, even though the line was out for all the daylight hours. Michael even tried putting the line out as we approached the banks, but no joy.

Still motoring, still weather, lets hope it all lasts. We have arrived in our first foreign port.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Bahamas

Still sitting off Rose Island - watching boats come and go. There is a magnificent eagle ray that calls the cove where we're anchored home. He is swimming around and leaps clear out of the water quite often making a big splash. Very cool to see.

Michael did get the water maker working again as we crossed the Bahama Bank - so we are able to make fresh water. It was a marine mystery that he solved. It seems when the boat is moving fast, not enough water comes in through the through-hull (a hole in the boat that can be opened or closed) to feed the pumps. When we slowed down and drifted - it worked fine. This will have to be solved because the best time to make water is when underway!

Now a little lesson on the Bahamas for Ms. Gifford's class in Tennessee. The Bahamas are a group of islands and cays (pronounced keys) - in fact there are about 700 islands in the chain spread over almost 700 miles of ocean and surrounded by 900 square miles of coral reefs. The surrounding ocean is very deep - plunging to 10,000 feet within sight of land. That's the Atlantic and Florida Gulf Stream side. The water within the Bahamas shores averages 10-30 feet over much of the area. The land
however is quite low - only 206 feet at its highest point.

The difference between islands and cays is simple - size. Cays are small, low-lying islands, mostly sand on a limestone- coral base. The word comes from the Spanish "cayo."

In 1492, Christopher Columbus made his first landfall in the New World in the Bahamas. The indigenous island people were the Arawaks who spoke Taino and the peaceful Lucayans. The Spanish explorers unfortunately wiped out these natives. After the explorers came the buccaneers or pirates who used the islands to attack merchant ships and then hide their bounty. Then the English came as plantation owners. Plus many Loyalists came from the newly formed United States after the War of Independence
ended. The Bahamas became an independent nation in 1973 after 300 years of British rule.

Tourism is the big industry…and by all the boats here and the cruise ships we watched coming in - we believe that's true!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

From Off Rose Island, Happy Valentines Day!

Isn't it appropriate to have picked "Rose Island" for Valentines? We wish all our family and friends a special day.

We are just off Nassau - but chose to anchor off this long narrow island prior to clearing customs because of a big front predicted for Monday and heavy northerlies. This is one of the few protected anchorages from the North. It's a pretty little bay but quite small. It took some careful maneuvering to get here - the depths were between 6-10 feet most of the way. Barbara did a bow watch and needs more practice "reading the water." How soon we forget!

If we cleared in at a marina today - and came here tomorrow - we feared it would be full. When we arrived late this afternoon (around 4 pm) it was already pretty full and we tucked in between two boats…so we're pretty cozy with our neighbors. One more boat just came in.

Our other option was to be stuck in a marina for three days until this front passes - but we didn't want to spend the cruising kitty (at $90 plus a day that wipes out the cruising dollars fast). So we'll officially clear in on Tuesday and spend that one night at the marina. We've been on the boat now for 8 straight days and we'll be ready to walk around, do some laundry and pick up a few groceries.

We anchored last night off the Northwest Channel Light on the Bahama Bank (which is both standing and working!!!) and left there at 6 am. We made the 50 mile trip in pretty good time motoring (though we had the main up) through the "Tongue of the Ocean" to get here. It is very deep - off the depth sounder - and we dragged lures all day. I fantasized about a candlelight wahoo or mahi dinner with my sweetie - but alas - it's burritos! We tried four different lures throughout the day, Skunked!

It's been a long day - so we'll call it an early night and have all day tomorrow to relax before the storm hits on Monday. Hopefully it'll pass quickly and on Tuesday we can be on the move again. This is a nice little place to be "stuck."

Happy Valentine's Day…

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bouncing in Boot Key

We are still at anchor outside of Boot Key Harbor - "keeping our eye on the three towers" as Jimbo would say. It is a bit choppy out here so we are rocking and rolling. It looks like the weather is still good for a tomorrow afternoon departure to cross the stream. We'll fuel up in the a.m. and then head out about 1 p.m. The stream is about 20 miles out and we'll ride the current north as we cross.

Last night we enjoyed a bottle of champagne (toasting our friends Pat and Gene who gifted it!) and had a lovely dinner - bringing out the fine china (that means the ceramic rather than plastic plates!) The fridge and freezer are still working great.

We've started reading in earnest - each finishing one book. The goal is to read the biggest and heaviest books - that we'll then trade for "smaller" books… yup, anything to lighten and limit the load.

We also tackled some more cleaning and organizing aboard. After figuring out how to empty the new tiny vacuum - we used its entire battery up for about a third of the boat. It's charged up for more cleaning today. The V-berth got emptied of one very heavy basket as we found homes for more food and spare parts. There's still a lot of stuff up there though.

A lot of boats left this morning from the harbor - most heading to the Bay Islands off Honduras - that sounded pretty good as well. But we'll be heading east…hopefully.

Monday, February 9, 2009

218 miles…46 hours…anchored in Marathon

Leg one is done and we are sitting at anchor off Boot Key Harbor in Marathon in the Florida Keys. We will cross to the Bahamas when weather permits (looking like a possible Thursday opportunity). There are lots of other boats out here as well - but everyone is staying below because of some steady winds and choppy seas. For us its nap time - catching up on some sleep after those three hour watches over two nights.

It was a good trip down the west coast of Florida and we sailed most of the way - saving fossil fuel and boat units. The engine went on only when we dropped to .6 knots and had an infestation of little bugs that seemed to find the boat in the middle of nowhere. A few hours of motoring cleared the little critters - then the wind came up and the engine went back off. Plus it's better to hit one of the hundreds of crab traps under sail rather than wrapping a propeller. The seas got pretty lumpy
on night two - but bearable.

We are glad to be down here - and ready to jump across the stream to our first foreign port of call - The Bahamas.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Green Flash! Great Start!

What a way to begin. We experienced a fabulous green flash on our first night out at sea. Perfectly clear, right down to the horizon and there it was. It accompanied a magnificent sunset. (For those that aren't familiar with a green flash, it sometimes occurs at sunset, right at the horizon just as the sun sets. What is left of the sun, turns a brilliant green. Some say it is a sea myth, but there is an article in Ocean Navigator that explains it all in very scientific terms. I will save you
all from that!) We are taking it as a sign of a great voyage, the talismans we received from Jim & Catherine and Bud & Joan are already working hard.

We sailed all night. Barbara did all the hard work. Michael was off watch, and she had to set the main and deal with a big wind shift(not forecast of course). She hit 7.2k as her personal best, and we averaged around 6k till sunrise when things settled. Overnight was cold and breezy, but the seas were calm and the moon almost full. It stayed out till just before sunrise, which makes the time seem to go a bit faster and makes you feel just a tad safer. Now,1030 local, we are cruising along at
just under 6k with clear skies and still a bit chilly for FL.

We used the electric pilot, Nigel, last night. Just couldn't get the mechanical Hydrovane to perform correctly. I am sure it is operator error and the boat isn't quite balanced yet. We are using the Hydrovane(so far un-named, we need the name of a notorious drunken brit) this morning and it seems to be working better.

There is one big benefit of the cold wx: lots of layers of clothes to protect us from bruises as we get our sea legs.

Looking forward to an early morning arrival in Marathon on Monday and then wait for the best wx window to cross the stream to the Bahamas.

Love saving fossil fuels and boat units($.) Sailing is good. It is also a lot safer with all the stone crab traps around.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

We didn't start our trip today!!

For those of you that follow nautical lore, it is bad luck to start a voyage on Friday. We are staging in preparation for a start tomorrow Saturday, February 7, 2009. We are safely(but still coldly) anchored in the Manatee river and will head south tomorrow. Barbara is tidying up the cabin,(really just making room to sit down). It is pretty packed below on Astarte. We will slowly but surely get rid of stuff and pair down our stuff. "Too much stuff" (take a listen to that john prine song!)

Weather is supposed to be good through the weekend and into next week. Warmer temps, but relatively calm winds. May have to burn some fossil fuel to get to Marathon. So far so good.

You can start to check out the "where are we" section of our website ( and see where we are! As we continue the cruise it should be updated regularly when the SSB radio is activated. The page does take a bit to load - so for you impatient folks, get a cup a coffee while it's loading.

The cruise officially starts tomorrow - February 7, 2009. 02/07/09. That has a nice ring to it. We are so ready to get this adventure started. Thanks for all your well wishes, support and help through these months - whether it was just listening to us whine, sending us messages of encouragement or lending us an attic or car or taking us to dinner. We sincerely thank you.

Friday, February 6, 2009

We're off!!

We made it away from the dock at Paradise Way. Ya. . . . .Hoo. . . !!!!

Not planning on going far, just to the manatee river tonight(We will do a position update later today). We will then stage for a couple of nights out to Marathon tomorrow. More to follow as we get more organized. Weather is cold, but supposed to warm up soon. Sailing this afternoon to save fossil fuel and $$.

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Can't Sail Without Water

There's been plenty of wind the last few days - that's usually good for sailboats. What's not good is when that wind comes from the North - it empties water from Tampa Bay (and overpowers the incoming tides). That means we didn't have enough water to actually leave today. The flats across from our house were visible all day long. The birds love the flats for feeding. The boat, though remains at dock. Getting off the boat this morning - I had to climb up the ramp to the dock - it was the lowest we've ever seen the water. In 2000 when we tried to leave - the same conditions prevailed. Maybe it's our karma.

The delays continue...Mother Nature is now making the calls. It's also cold, cold, cold - at least for Florida. It was down to almost freezing last night (for all you Midwesterners and northerners - I know that gets no sympathy). This weekend it should also warm up some which means maybe we can leave more cold weather clothes behind. We could use the room on board.

The house is just about ready. We'll shut the water heater off (as soon as we get that last hot shower) and unplug the refrigerator. We cleaned much of the day since we weren't going anywhere. No renters in sight - so that's frustrating.

The truck is sold. Cable is shut off. The TV is in storage. The house is empty. The trash can is filled. And we are sooooooo ready to go. The boat used to be a 4 1/2 foot draft - now it's probably 5 1/2 feet - she's sitting mighty low in the water with a full fuel tank, full water tank, spare fuel in jugs, a boatload of food, spare parts, and gear and lots of books. The goal is to read 'em and trade them for smaller books!!! Also, we should lose some weight which will help. The fuel and water tanks will also lighten as time passes (though obviously will get refilled).

So the waiting game continues. Hang in there with us - we promise we'll get away soon and you won't have to hear about packing and provisioning much more.

Special thanks to all our friends who've helped as we've lost transportation - Ted and Vicki for letting us borrow their truck to make the truck transfer; Richard and Rene for letting us borrow their car to do the things we forgot to do the day before; and Gene and Pat for the invite to dinner (and taking our leftover stuff - including bay leaves!!)