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s/v Always & All Ways
Loving the Bahamas
Mark
06/12/2009, Green Cay, Bahamas.

Friday, 12 June. We have been having so much fun that I have been remiss in not posting notes, so let me catch you up. We sailed back from Devil's to Chub to pick up our friends Dottie & Larry. We had a great sail jumping back and forth from 30' to off soundings (about 3000') as we went. Caught another barracuda, but nothing else. Comfortable night at Chub. Dottie & Larry arrived Sunday morning as expected, but because of various problems Dottie had to fly back to Florida Monday and return on a commercial flight (to Nassau) Wednesday. Larry, Deb and I went to lagoon at Bird/Whale at noon and found a few conch - also saw several Lion fish, really beautiful, but poisonous - then back to Frazers for the night. Tuesday we sailed from Frazer's to Nassau. No fish en route. Going under the bridge was VERY hair raising. The stated height of the bridge is 76' and our stated 'air draft' is 62.5', but I swear there was nowhere near 6' and the second barely had 3' above our antenna, but WE MADE IT! Spent the night at Nassau Yacht Haven Marina. ($2.00/foot, but had laundry and hot showers) Dottie arrived shortly after noon and we had lunch 'under the bridge' - conch salad and cracked conch, then got provisions at the market. We did not want to leave the next morning and waste hours checking out, getting fuel and finally clearing out of Nassau, so we left Wednesday, got our fuel, and then decided to head across the Banks a ways and just anchor out on the Banks thus making the next day's journey that much shorter. Thursday we finished crossing the Banks and arrived at Norman's Cay by noon. What an incredible place! Water like you cannot imagine if you have not seen it (will post pictures when we have internet). We snorkeled a crashed airplane, found lots of conch and tried to find fish to spear (but nothing worth the effort). Went ashore and saw some of the abandoned houses and storage buildings from when the island was a major drug trafficking point. Decided to set off across the Banks again before dark so that we would have a shorter distance to go tomorrow AM. Sailed off and dropped the anchor in the middle of nowhere - out of sight of land - in 16' of water. Great night. Friday we sailed to Green Cay, getting there by noon. Anchored far enough off the shore that we hoped we would not have mosquitoes. Snorkeling the reef, we found lots of fish and lobster ("summer crabs" as lobster are not in season, but crabs are). I found an absolutely huge lobster - 10# if it was 1 - but it turned out to be an egg bearing female so we had to release her. Dottie & Larry are such great companions. We just mesh and enjoy each other so much. Tomorrow will be a long day sailing to get to the Jumentos. We are having great fun.

What a glorious sail!
Mark
06/04/2009, In the Berry's.

Wednesday, 3 June. After the tide lifted us off the bottom yesterday, we motored about =BD nm. To a nice cove on the E side of Frazer's Hog Cay and anchored in 8' of water. We took the dinghy ashore to explore the little beach but found it rather disappointing with no shells and lots of litter. Another cat, Jus' Now, joined us in the cove as we were coming back from the beach so we stopped and chatted. Mike & Sue are liveaboards who are returning to the states from Curacao. Very nice people. They are planning to get to Panama, probably next year and will hopefully look us up in Bocas. We has a peaceful night and the next morning awakened to 12kts of wind from SE. We raised sail and then anchor and sailed nicely down the narrow channel on a broad reach. At the end of Frazer, we turned and tacked E along Whale Cay making about 6 kts. The sea was beautiful, 2-3' and the sky was sunny, and Always was sailing beautifully. After a few tacks, we were able to clear the E end of Whale and sail N on a close reach all the way to Devil's Cay. Sea depths went from 10' to off soundings as we tacked out, to 30- 40' for most of the way N. We caught two barracuda along the way but released them due to concerns for cigatura in the Bahamas. At Devil's, we dropped sail and then unfurled genny again to enter the cut. There are several anchorage spots in this area, but most of them were already taken (everyone must have the same guide book!) We furled the genny and tried motoring along the W coast of Saddleback Cay trying to get S to Devil's, but the water ran out. We grounded softly and got off without incident, but would have to wait for high tide to get through. We motored around the area checking depths in potential spots and finally anchored off the N tip of Saddleback in ~18' of water over clear sand. We hang a bit to the current, but are enough in the lee of the island that the water is flat, With the kellet out it will be a very comfortable spot. Dove the anchor - totally buried in the sand, can just make out the curve of the top - toasted Neptune with a Guinness and enjoyed the rest. Ribs on the grill and home fries. It has been a wonderful day.

06/11/2009 | Kim
I have internet!!! Sounds like you are having a good time- don't do too much- the lazy days sound like the best ones! Hope mom is feeling well- post some pictures or email some Sharys party went well- I'll email pictures Love you!
Waiting for the tide.
Mark
06/02/2009, In the Berry's.

Tuesday, 2 June. Yesterday turned out to be a phenomenal day. The morning clouds gave way to a beautiful clear blue sky with puffy cumulus clouds building in the PM. The water was indescribable shades of green, blue, and tan. (Tan means you have 12" or less of water over the sand.) Deb & I took the dinghy over to one of the shallower sandy spots and just laid in the water. Then we picked up dozens of sand dollars and sea biscuits as well as a few neat shells (not that we don't already have enough shells!). There was a small sandy beach with lots of conch shells and a few juvenile conch, but nothing big enough to eat. We would either walk dink along on his leash or anchor him and circle around that area. We spent the whole morning this way. After lunch and a beer it was time for siesta in the hammock, then more swimming. At 6:00 we had SDG&T (that's Sundowner Gin & Tonic for the uninitiated) with conch salad from a couple of conch we picked up in Dollar Harbor. Then for dinner we had conch fritters and homemade fries with salad. It couldn't have been a better day. Today we decided to move down the coast of Frazer's just a short ways to a different anchorage. We got everything ready but noticed the depth meter was reading 15-18'. Now I know we are in nearer five feet, but the depth meter sometimes does that when the bottom is stirred up and it gets lots of reflections - usually just before you run aground. Hopefully it will behave once we are under way. I turned on the engines and went forward to pick up the bridle and kellet, but the chain was really tight. It didn't seem like that much wind, but this spot can have quite a current as well so I went back to use the engines to motor forward and take the strain off the chain. NO GO. The boat would not budge. I quick trip over the side confirmed that both keels were firmly planted in the sand (and stirring up the bottom hence the depth meter issue). Tide on the banks lags tide at Nassau (the only reported tide) by up to a couple hours so it was not clear if we were at low tide rising or low tide falling. It turns out it was low tide falling and we now can scrub the stern lips of their growth while standing comfortably on the bottom. Since we had time to kill, I took dink and went over to an area where it looked like a pair of native men were pulling conch yesterday. I covered most of the area, finding nothing and was just about ready to give up when I came upon this area that was just littered with conch! Most were juveniles, but I found a couple with well developed skirts that were legal and worth the effort to clean. While still waiting for the tide, I cleaned the conch and Deb did laundry. By the time we finish lunch we should be floating again and still have plenty of time to relocate. In fact, the visibility will be better then with the sun behind us as we approach our new anchorage. It certainly makes life easier when you don't have a schedule that depends on leaving at a certain time!

Crossing the Great Bahama Bank
Mark
06/01/2009, In the Berry's.

Sunday, 31 May. Yes, I'm compulsive, but the day before crossing the Banks, we sailed over the shallowest section (before the Cat Cay waypoint on the Explorer Chartbook) and then back to the anchorage on the E side of Cat checking depths so that I wouldn't have to worry in the dark. All was fine and we anchored as soon as depths fell to 6'. At 4:30 AM (still very dark!) we arose and readied to leave. By 5:00 we were underway. It sure was nice having Radar as well as AIS to warn us of any on coming traffic or storms. The sky was overcast with thunder echoing around in the distance. Fortunately, we didn't get any storms until after daylight. By then we could see them coming and prepare. The wind was crazy - 2 to 26 kts. from every point of the compass as the storms approached and passed. Raise sail, reef, shake out reef, double reef, drop sails, raise them again. We got our exercise. Motors on, motors off. We needed to maintain at least 5 kts. to reach Chub before dark, so anytime our SOG fell below that for more than a few minutes we started at least one engine. Most of the time we could sail and often at well over 5 kts. - you just have to be brave enough to ride the storm winds as each one passes and smart enough to reef before things get too exciting. Anyway, we arrived at Chub Cay ahead of schedule and had anchor down and secured (as yet another thunderstorm hit) by 7:00 PM, still reasonable light. It was a long day, but everything went well and now we can do day hops. Monday, 1 June. Still lots of thunderstorms this AM. Due to light and visibility issues, we anchored sort of in the open where we knew we couldn't possibly hit anything but it was not a real protected anchorage. Since we will be coming back to Chub to pick up Dottie & Larry, we decided to move on today and find a secluded anchorage along Frazer Hog Cay, about 5 nm away. The route takes us from 10' to 450' to off soundings briefly, back to 20', and eventually up a narrow natural channel that is 12-15' deep with 2' shoals on both sides. Dottie said there way good trolling along this route, but either she lies or my jinx is back. We trailed both a soft smelly plastic fish and a flashy yellow/green skirt lure and got no action at all. We did have a great sail, however, as the sun broke through and it was delightful. We also found a beautiful anchorage. At the end of this long channel, the water just sort of peters out. Everything for miles around is shoal. In some ways it reminded me of the N end of Turneff where you could anchor in what looked like the middle of nowhere but be protected by the reef. We wandered around a bit, checking depths and anchored I a great spot well off from land. The water is once again gin clear and there are lots of starfish (but no conch). Speaking of starfish, at dollar harbor, Deb found a Jewish starfish, yup an honest to God star of David - six legs. I didn't have the camera so you will have to take our word for it, but we counted them several times. We will probably spend a couple days here, exploring by dinghy, and then wander about the rest of the Berry's until we return to Chub for Dottie & Larry at the end of the week. Weather is supposed to improve gradually as a trough between here and Florida dissipates. Right now (8:00 AM) the air is 80*, water 81* wind light, sky cloudy with breaks of sun. Not a bad way to start the day.

Staged to Cross Grand Bahama Banks
Deb
05/29/2009, Anchored East of Cat Cay

Friday May 29, 2009. We are staged to leave at 3 or 4 or 5 (who knows) in the morning as this crossing is very long. The Gulf Stream crossing was a breeze, thanks to Mark's careful planning. I apologize as I have been remiss in writing here. I also apologize to those people in NH we didn't get to see. We had time to see family and then I spent several days wiped out, and then there was the yard and house and on it goes. Hopefully I will have more time to enjoy people when we return. We are having a wonderful time. Finally we have time to snorkel and relax and we even caught a NICE FISH. I am spending lots of time quilting and doing Sudoku, but I still struggle with reading for any extended time. I am looking forward to Dottie and Larry joining us, probably a week from today and then David and Lisa will join us on June 25th for the run to Bocas. I am excited about the gardening and the house. I have to find a way to keep the finca's goats out of the plants and garden. Also, it will be mango season when we arrive. Hopefully Currie will come down in July as she loves them. Lucas ran a half Marathon, I am impressed, I can't imagine 11 miles. Shari's graduation was great and she has Kira back. We saw Kim and Zac while in NH, they are moving again. All are doing well. The strangest visit started with a call to Currie as I hadn't heard from her in a while and she tells me that she and Dan were in Miami. Long story short, she and Dan and his sister, Meg and her husband Micheal came down to the harbor and we had a great afternoon people and boat watching and hanging out. I just couldn't believe we ended up in Miami at the same time. It was amazing. I Find sailing much more comfortable now and the only time I was at all frightened was when Mark jumped overboard in the middle to the Gulf of Mexico to cut a crab trap free from the prop. I know so much more about the boat and sailing I can't believe it. This is worth doing, worth all the five years of planning and whatever your dream, you should live it, even for a while, it is worth everything. I promise to write more blogs for everyone, especially our Sea Orphans. And yes Lucas, Mark does wear a sarong, it is much cooler and more comfortable. So does that make him Samoan Mark? Love to all.

05/30/2009 | SeaOrphan1
Gross. Coconut Mark's only been retired for 8 months...put some damn pants on! Just kidding! Glad you're having fun. Be safe.

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