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Diva Di's Cruising Adventures
Photo of Clyde helping with the ships'log
04/01/2008, Bimini

The previous photo was at the infinity pool at the Bimini Bay resort. The blue of the pool and the vanishing edge fade right into the blues hues of the ocean water. Very pretty.

04/08/2008 | Lee (Mame)
That's one regal looking feline!
Day 20
04/01/2008, Bimini

Day 20: Mon 31 Mar 08

The wind blew pretty hard all night, but we were protected by a 100 foot long motor yacht tied to the fuel dock upwind of us. There are still some noises that I hear in the night when the seas kick up a bit. I never heard them before, but I am starting to think it is the sound of waves smacking the hull from the side in a way they would not do at anchor.

Today might be the first day we settled into the "cruising life." It is proving to be, in the words of my friend Dennis, a very cerebral experience: I have a list of things I should be doing and I did a lot of thinking that maybe I'll start something one of these days . It was almost 1000 before I moseyed up to take a shower and shave. Then I brought the laptop PC back up to check email and post this blog. We decided to go to the pool and read, so a quick early lunch of leftovers was in order. Before we had gotten lunch fully together, John and Marilyn asked if we wanted to take the tram up to Bimini Bay and have lunch.

The tram ride covered the same road we had hiked the day before, except we took the tram an extra mile to the resort. It was interesting witnessing the exchanges between the very outgoing and friendly tram driver and all the locals on the way up. The tram's speed seemed to top out near 20 miles per hour, so there was a very unhurried pace to it all.

Bimini Bay turns out to be an incredible expanse of expensive boat slips, homes, townhouses, fancy restaurants and pool, with the wonderful beach, of course. The Bahamas has a long history of large, expensive projects being started and then being left to ruin in short order. I don't know why, and I hope this project truly benefits Bimini and its residents.

The prices were what you might expect from a resort of this caliber, but we ordered conservatively and enjoyed the view just the same. They shuttle people around in oversized golf carts as everything is quite spread out. Here more than anywhere on the island, all the employees went out of their way to be very friendly and helpful.

By the time we got back, a short nap was in order. Diane wound up going for a golf cart ride with the ten year old boy on the boat across the pier from us. It was a harrowing experience until she insisted that she do the driving. At least she remembered to drive on the left side of the road.

We skipped dinner due to the filling and somewhat late lunch. John and Marilyn invited us over at 1830 for a rum tasting and game night. We brought some games and they shared their purchase of the day: several flavors of rum (clear coconut, dark coconut, and pineapple), plus canned pineapple juice. There is a reason the fruity drinks have their reputation; you can have lots of alcohol and not realize it due to the sweetness of the fruit.

No one had too much, but it became a silly evening of story telling and trying half-heartedly to play the game. Their Halberg-Rassy 34 sloop is a gorgeous boat. Our main saloon and galley might have twice the volume of theirs, but their boat has lots more dedicated stowage space, which is as it should be for a cruising boat.

Another night of blissful sleep followed, dreaming of the time we can move forward with our cruise plans.

** posted to blog 1 Apr 1200 **

04/16/2008 | Jan
Di, is that a bottle of water in the photos? I'm proud of you! All the experiences...how priceless...something we land lovers will only dream about. Keep blogging. xxoo
Photo of Blue Water Marina, Bimini
03/31/2008

I can upload one photo per post, so here is one to give you an idea what the marina looks like.

Days 18 to 20
03/31/2008, Bimini

[photo: Diva Di at her first marina overnight]

Day 18: Sat 29 Mar 08

Up before the dawn, which comes late this time of year, Clyde and I enjoyed our early morning together. It turns out that the percolator must need a minimum amount of water in the pot to function. I'm guessing there needs to be a minimum hydrostatic pressure to allow the boiling water to lift up from the bottom through the tube and percolate through the coffee grinds. So, I wound up with boiling water, not coffee. I added a tea bag and still had a nice wake-up beverage.

With water costs at $0.50 a gallon (yikes!), the boat got but a very quick washing off of the salt. If we were to be underway again real soon, the wash-down could wait, but we might be stuck here for at least four days due to bad weather coming in. Are you getting the picture that weather dictates everything in the cruising life?

After morning boat chores, Diane took a book and went to the pool. It was a pretty nice pool by comparison to many of the other things here at this marina. I don't wish to say it is a junky place: the people are very nice, the wooden portions of the piers are brand new, and they do have Wi-Fi service for a nominal fee. Other than that, though, the bathrooms and showers suffer from lack of maintenance and most of the other gear in an around the marina is old and marginally functional. Of course, the rate is only $1 per foot of boat length, so that is incredibly cheap by US standards.

I joined Diane at the pool to begin reading a novel and not 20 minutes later our dock mate, Bob, invited us to walk to the beach just over the hill perhaps 10 minutes away. The water was incredible, but unlike many of the beaches we expect to be visiting soon, the beach itself was not very pristine. Bob said they had just done a big cleanup, so I'm glad we didn't see it beforehand.

Shortly after returning, we invited Bob to join us, John, and Marilyn for dinner aboard Diva Di to cook the lobsters we bought yesterday. I elected to cogitate about life with my eyes closed (a.k.a. taking a nap) while Diane read in the cockpit. I awoke to find less than 90 minutes until dinner, so I went to the marina office to get my Wi-Fi connection established. It was then I discovered two major issues with our one credit card: the automatic debit of our checking account had not occurred so we had been assessed both a late fee and finance charges. More importantly, Diane's account was closed due to recent high-risk activity and they would be sending us a new one in the mail. Oh, and just call them on the 800 number to discuss this.

Well, first, I have to figure out if we can do this via email because our phone rates are over $2 per minute and I am not going to be on hold for 20 minutes at that rate. Second, I don't know when the account was closed, but Diane made a lot of purchases in Key Largo on Thursday (today is Sat), so who knows what happened there. We even went to the trouble of informing our credit card companies that we would be traveling in FL and the Bahamas for this period, so why they closed the account remains a mystery at this time.

The weather forcing us to stay here a few days with a Wi-Fi connection and access to a phone will at least give us a chance to resolve this. If we had discovered this and were immediately leaving for one of the "out islands," there would be no way to take action for many more days.

Turing out attention to dinner and our guests, I must say that the grilled lobsters and accompaniments were quite good, and the sharing of stories was even better. That is one of the best things about cruising: the people you meet.

Day 19: Sun 30 Mar 08

We were able to use the local telephone at the marina to make a collect call to the credit card company. The nice representative explained our situation: the credit card number had been one of many compromised at a merchant on Islamorada (the most expensive restaurant we visited = go figure). Their policy is to take immediate action, which resulted in the situation we find ourselves in. The details are too much to share, but it appears all will be fine. The upside is that Diane no longer has a credit card .

Bob in the boat next to us asked us to go for a long walk north into town. I put on my brand new sneakers and we were off. I suppose we walked 4 miles until we turned west to the ocean side. The buildings we passed were almost all dilapidated by our standards. They use all sorts of materials for purposes they were not intended. Despite the glaring defects in roofs, windows, walls, etc., there did not seem to be many residences without a satellite dish. For all I know they watch American Idol (ugh!).

Almost all of the people we passed were very friendly. We usually initiated the greeting with a "Good morning; how are you?" and the reply was always polite. A few folks stopped in their vehicles (usually golf carts) to offer us a ride. We got the idea that some did it out of kindness and others seemed sure to have desired a suitable payment.

As far as we can tell, Bimini is not at all a tourist destination. There are many game fisherman that come in large, expensive sport fisherman boats, and a number of larger pleasure yachts (70 to 100 feet), but mostly it seems to be cruisers like us with boats from 34 to 44 feet who are here until the weather clears for moving on.

That there are any number of people trying to make a living with tourist type goods surprises me. It would be nice to purchase things here and there to help them out, but you don't have room for it aboard, and you need to budget your money to last the entire cruise.

Diane and I finally spent a relaxing hour or so at the pool reading. She gave me a "page=turner" to read and it has got my interest. We decided to dine alone tonight, so I grilled a flank steak with peppers and squash, and Diane made some Caribbean rice. It was very tasty.

After dinner, I added a few extra dock lines to accommodate the big blow we expect for the next few days. We are on the leeward side of the dock, which is good. The wind will blow our boat off the dock and the lines will keep us in place. Our neighbor to the east will be riding against the fenders all the time.

John and Marilyn came over for a dice game and some conversation after dark. By the time they left, the wind was approaching the "howling" phase. At least there are no bugs and the air temperature is cool to sleep. It was certainly quite warm today during the long walk, but nighttime is when you need comfortable temperatures to sleep well.

Itinerary
03/29/2008

[Photo is a condominium of boat slips in Marathon, FL.]

An ad hoc posting: My dear friend, Kate, suggested I post more photos and geographical info about where we are going. I will attempt to do that, but there are challenges with the phot postings that may limit that aspect.

We expect to be weathered in here at Bimini for at least 4 days, then go east to the Berry Islands. Adter that, we will go to Nassau to reprovision, then south to the Exumas. From everyone I speak to, the Exumas is where the real beauty begins.

We expect to go as far south as Georgetown, then crusie back north, perhaps visiting Eleuthera, then to the Abacos for about a month. Many Punta Gorda friends will be in the Abacos in May, so perhaps we will meet up with some of them.

I am having problems using my comcast email account to send messages (receiving seems to work OK). I will strive to get that resolved as I can.

We are doing great and are very grateful for God's blessings and the many friends who care about us. We hope you are enjoying this cruise vicariously.

Best,
Duane

03/30/2008 | W & K
We are enjoying reading about your trip and look forward to following your adventures over the coming weeks.
Days 12 to 17
03/29/2008

We weighed anchor near 0800 and cruised past the condo slips waving to our friends. Once in the Hawk Channel (the Atlantic side of the keys) the winds and seas were light and we had a very comfortable ride at about 4 kts under headsail alone. I am pretty certain I saw my first shark (actually two) on the surface. They were close enough to the boat that with binoculars I could clearly see their shark-looking bodies and fins; they looked to be perhaps 6 feet long.

Turning north, we cut under the Channel Five bridge (another high span where you swear you are going to hit). It wasn't long before we arrived at Matecumbe Harbor, a narrow channel between shoals where my friend, John, lives on his boat. He is young, retired from his primary career, supposedly cruising, but right now doing a stint as the Sailing Director at the Boy Scouts of America's High Adventure facility that specializes in offering sailing and SCUBA experience. Having gone to what used to be the only high adventure location, Philmont Ranch in N.M., back in the early 70s, I must say this is high class.

We were able to get settled in before the expected high winds arrived. The two main and very unfortunate problems with being here at this time are the lack of protection from northerly winds, which we are having, and the power lines directly between us and the southern shoreline. To drag anchor here in a strong northerly would be very bad, indeed.

So, we set our very beefy primary anchor on its beefy chain and then used the dinghy to set our secondary anchor about 40 degrees apart. This way, both anchors were sharing the strain and if one failed for any reason, the other would likely hold or at least give you ample time to correct the situation. I also set the cockpit GPS alarm to sound if we moved more than 70 feet from our current location. Because our boat swings a lot at anchor, using a smaller radius would give false alarms all night.

We visited John ashore and on his boat at the dock; all very nice. At 1830 I dinghied over to his boat just as he was overseeing the departure of three sailboats loaded with a captain, mate, scouting leadership, and young scouts (mid teens). All went well, and presumably they were off to a very nearby safe anchorage, considering the wind forecast.

I brought John aboard Diva Di for about 20 minutes for a little wine before we were to take him across the street for dinner at a modest keys-style diner. Once all three of us were ashore, John's cell phone rang and it was another emergency: this time involving a scout's forgotten medication. He needed to locate the medicine and get it out there in the pitch darkness on a chase boat. Twelve hours of work, plus 24-hour on-call. Fortunately, he enjoys his work so far.

Diane wisely inquired about the fresh catch, so we enjoyed delicious dolphin (not the dolphin mammal) sandwiches at the restaurant across the street. Having missed the opportunity to treat John for dinner, we wanted to give him a gift certificate to the restaurant. The owner had no pre-printed certificates, so she proceeded to hand write one following a faded template she kept. The serial number she wrote was "3" if this helps paint the picture any better.

After completing it, she lamented that she didn't use a carbon paper, and she needed a copy for her records, so she proceeded to hand-print another replica of the one I was to give to John. I would have thought a simple notation that she had issued certificate number 3 with the date and amount would have sufficed, but I didn't try to alter her plan. This is the keys.

Getting back to the boat via dinghy directly into the building wind and choppy water left us both rather wet. I double-checked the anchor rodes and dinghy lines and felt as good as I was going to get about our not-so-good situation. The aforementioned anchor preparation sounds great, but when you are in the boat at night and the wind is howling (there's that 'howling' phrase again; see a pattern here?), there is no sleep for the captain. I tried sleeping in the cockpit where under the mostly full moon I could see the silhouettes of the power poles and would also be able to hear the GPS alarm better over the (all together now) 'howling' winds. That was fine for a few hours until it got way too cold, so below I went.

Diane awoke later and allowed me to get some fitful sleep. She is being great about all this, but she is thinking and occasionally saying, "are we having fun yet?" In truth, I am not regretful at all to be doing this, but I am certainly hoping that the balmy breezes, comfortable anchorages, and interesting things to do supplant the current situation before too long. As some of my friends say, though, "that's cruising for ya'."

I may have mentioned this before, but there is much to be learned from all this. Our middle class lives in America shield us from many challenges, and self-reliance can be easy to avoid. I have never liked it when I felt helpless, and so I have strived to be as self-reliant as I reasonably could. Getting out cruising forces the issue, unless you stick to a well-established path and take the luxury approach. I am not criticizing anyone who does that; it can be a very civilized and much more comfortable way to go, to be sure.

Day 13: Tue 25 Mar 08
In order to commiserate with some fellow "stuck" cruisers, I called the cell phone of John and Marilyn who are still in Boot Key Harbor. They have been more practiced and diligent about following not just the local weather, but that for their long-awaited crossing to the Bahamas. They informed me that it looks like another reasonable window will open up this Friday. That got Diane and me thinking that plan A needed adjustment.

After having called our friend, Dennis, who has a place in Key Largo, it looks like we will strive to get there by Wed afternoon, which will most likely mean bashing directly into the wind for a long day. At that point, we hope to be able to do some last-minute things and be ready to cross with John and Marilyn (and
their small flotilla of three boats).

Right now, we're readying to go ashore for more attempts at Internet connectivity and to meet our friends for lunch. It turns out (as I return to the log) that the Internet connection there is quite poor, but better than nothing.

Great surprise that Ed (a.k.a. snoozer) and one of his many buddies joined us and it was great. The place was pretty upscale for us, especially considering my attire and unshaven condition, but they are used to that in the keys, anyway.

Saying goodbye to John and snoozer was not as easy as I made it seem. We are eager to move on to the Bahamas portion of the cruise, but we hope to be able to spend much more time in the keys at other times in the near future. Both John and snoozer have been terrific friends in their willingness to give advice and help whenever needed. I hope they understand how much I appreciate them.

Back aboard Diva Di, I took a nap thanks to the large lunch and the lack of sleep last night. Afterwards, I took the larger dinghy engine off to put it on the stern pulpit railing and move the small engine onto the dinghy. Then the dinghy needed to be hoisted on the davits. Normally, this is a 30 minute task at most. Today, it took almost 2 hours.

The problem is that the bow lifting strap is no longer in place and that needs to be addressed before we cross the gulf stream. All the jury-rigged lines to secure the bow have proved to be unsuitable except for emergency purposes. That's a priority for Thursday.

Day 14: Wed 26 Mar 08

Getting the two anchors up proved less of a problem than anticipated, but I had quite a bit of mud on me before I was done. We sailed with the wind at our back for about 4five minutes, then back under the Channel Five bridge and turned to the NE. Of course, the wind was from the NE, so sailing was not possible. Using the engine for a steady 7 hours is not my idea of fun, but it was necessary.

The sea conditions at the start were quite uncomfortable and made for slow going. Clyde was trying to stay in the bow cabin and seemed to be the most unhappy he had been so far, so Diane put him in his soft, padded carrier and brought him into the cockpit to sit next to her where the boat's motion was not too bad. He seemed fine after that.

Our arrival at Port Largo, where Dennis lives, was exciting. Once in the protection of the land, Diane went forward to secure the dock lines, but until she learns how to secure the fenders (large bumpers on the side) properly, that is still my task. So, I turned the helm over to her in the shallow, narrow channel and went to my task. All of a sudden I heard her make some excited remarks and looked up to see a large vessel coming out of the entrance, taking up the entire width. I came back to the helm and spun the boat around, hailed the captain on the VHF radio, and coordinated the passing maneuver. It wasn't dangerous, but just a little drama to liven the day.

Dennis met us at the dock and we tied Diva Di up alongside R's. We went ashore to sit under a chickee and sip a beverage while looking out over the beautiful water. He then took us on a short tour of the immediate area, pointing out the various shops where we could find the items we had told him we needed.

Diane was so tired, she went to the boat to take a short nap before dinner and refused to get up. She was perfectly content to have the guys do dinner on our own. We finally decided on Snook's where the bar menu proved to be more to our expectation than the high-priced entrees. Many locals lament that the inexpensive places with character are being replaced by expensive, upscale establishments.

The late evening aboard was very relaxing, being tied to a dock (well, tied to a boat which was tied to a dock). There was no concern of an anchor dragging and no wave action or swinging about. Diane had a restful 12 hours of sleep (seriously) and we both awoke raring to do our preparation.

Day 15: Thu 27 Mar 08

Today is the day for the final preparations. This being our first time and the predicted weather conditions being only average in desirability, we have a certain amount of anxiety. Dennis agrees that our friends John and Marilyn have the right idea to leave at 0300 and use the Molasses Reef cut out to deep water. The plan is to head about 090 degrees (due East) and let the swift current of the Gulf Stream carry us northward as we travel eastward. By leaving from so far south of our destination, Bimini, we never have to try to buck the current by heading into it. Instead, it will give us quite a speed boost and should make our geographically longer distance take the same or less time as leaving from farther north.

I am told that the fishing when you cross from the deep water to the Bahamas bank is great, so I hope to be trolling a lure given to me by a good friend, Dan. Let's hope I am luckier than we have been collectively in our few times fishing together.

Writing this at almost 1700, I can say that the day went well. We accomplished all our goals except one with the incredible help of Dennis' car and able assistance. The main thing for me was getting the dinghy lifting strap back in place and that appears to have been very successful with minor effort. The weather is perfect for a day on land and pretty good for our crossing tomorrow.

Dennis grilled beef kabobs with vegetables and we enjoyed a wonderful evening under his chickee. Diane excused herself extra early due to our early departure, so Dennis and I continued solving the problems of the world for a short time. A big hug goodbye and then to bed. Too bad I could not figure out how the alarm function worked on the watch I last wore about 7 years ago.

Day 16: Fri 28 Mar 08

It was somewhat of a worry that I would oversleep, but we awoke at 0240 and readied to cast off. I will admit to some jitters, being it was our first Gulf Stream crossing and the fact that we would be navigating across a dangerous reef in the dark. Almost at the reef, we were hailed by our friends John and Marilyn on Blue Goose, whose departure was delayed when another boat in their group of three developed some engine cooling problems. They got underway and hour late, and then the other two boats turned back because the problem had not truly been resolved. Blue Goose informed us we were now just two boats crossing and we were glad they decided to carry on. They are terrific people and the mutual support is always a comfort.

The sea state was not dangerous at all but not particularly comfortable. The north winds from the day before had left a swell from that direction and the wind waves from the latest easterlies produced a cross-sea. The boat pitched and rolled such that standing required holding on at all times. Bowing to safety, we had rigged our jacklines port and starboard, and we both wore our inflatable life jackets with integral harness, which we tethered to the pad-eyes I installed in the cockpit. You never want to lose someone overboard, but at night in open water it would be a disaster.

After the sun rose high enough, we could see the intense blue color that everyone talks about but cannot adequately be described until you see it. We saw flying fish getting out of our way and even a pod of dolphin playing in Blue Goose's bow wave. There were also a dozen large ships plying their lanes, but we never got closer than about 500 yards.

I had hopes of being able to use the headsail to both boost our speed and stabilize the boat from all the rolling, but the wind direction was too close to our heading to use it. Had there not been the current of the Gulf Stream, we would have been headed about 070 degrees magnetic to reach Bimini. Because the Gulf Stream moved us north quite a bit (a free ride and much appreciated), we needed to head (point the boat) about 080 magnetic.

Those 10 degrees meant we could not use our sail. Oh, well, that's cruising. It is likely the rare time one can cross with mostly wind power, so we were prepared for the constant drone of the engine for the entire time. That didn't make it pleasant, however.

Based upon the weather predictions, I had assumed that the conditions would get better each hour we crossed, and that proved true. By the time we were two-thirds across (of about 75 nm), the seas were fairly flat and boat motion was comfortable. Clyde did not like being in his carrier in the cockpit with us, so we let him go down below after it got calmer and he was happier in his spot in the V-berth.

Approaching Bimini was interesting. The depths are well over 2,000 feet until just a few miles off Bimini's shore, then they rise up to several hundred feet in short order, then up to extremely shallow quickly, as well. I elected not to troll the fishing line after all because we were eager to get in and settled before 1700, when we assumed most things would close - like customs and immigration.

It is prudent to stay at a marina here when the wind pipes up and our nice weather window is closing today. More bad weather (mostly just high winds) is expected to last through much of next week. Our arrival at the marina provided a nice show for those already there. I consider myself a good handler of my boat, but the current and winds made me look very amateurish. When I abandoned the attempt to back in, then the approach left all the dock lines on the wrong side of the boat. Fortunately, the assistance at the dock was terrific and he helped make all well. Our friends apparently had an even worse time of it, but nothing got scratched.

We were given quite a few forms, all asking for 90 per cent of the same information, but you do not question; you just do it. It's like being a husband. Amazingly, after the 30 minutes filling out the forms, I was able to get to the customs and immigration office before they closed. After forking over the requisite $300 US cash fee, we were good to go. We lowered our yellow quarantine flag and flew the Bahamas flag off our spreader halyard.

We invited our cruising buddies, J & M over for dinner: grilled chicken breasts, spinach tortellini, fresh green beans, and a terrific salad and dessert by Marilyn. I put up the fluorescent cockpit light and wrapped it in my light blue shirt for "mood lighting." Cruisers quickly learn to jury-rig and make-do with existing materials rather than purchase or carry all sorts of individual items, when practical.

Sleep came early for us who had been up since 0230, and a restful one it was. The breeze was just enough to be comfortable, yet no howling or rocking around in an exposed anchorage.

Day 17: Sat 29 Mar 08

Up before the dawn, which comes late this time of year, Clyde and I enjoyed our early morning together. It turns out that the percolator must need a minimum amount of water in the pot to function. I'm guessing there needs to be a minimum hydrostatic pressure to allow the boiling water to lift up from the bottom through the tube and percolate through the coffee grinds. So, I wound up with boiling water, not coffee. I added a tea bag and still had a nice wake-up beverage.

With water costs at $0.50 a gallon (yikes!), the boat got but a very quick washing off of the salt. If we were to be underway again real soon, the wash-down could wait, but we might be stuck here for at least four days due to bad weather coming in. Are you getting the picture that weather dictates everything in the cruising life?

03/30/2008 | Kate
Sent your blog to many of our fellow auxiliarists, you have been the "talk of the town". We are all enjoying the read, and some have been writting comments, go to the bottom of this blog, below the picture of your sail boat to see all the comments. It was nice to see a picture of Clyde! Hope you and Diane are still enjoying your adventure, be safe and update this blog whenever you can, we look forward to it! Thanks

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Diva Di Crew
Who: Duane, Diane and Clyde the cat
Port: Punta Gorda, FL
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