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The Voyage of S/V Estelle
Cruising from Maritime Canada to Florida in our Bristol 41.1
Flash! Flash! A Star Sighting
Jim Lea
01/10/2008, Rock Sound, Eleuthera, Bahamas.

This morning we heard reports (from a usually reliable source) that Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta (?) Jones were sighted snorkeling at Warderick Wells! Big news around here, I guess, so I'll pass it on. Last night we were alone in Alabaster Bay, the first time ever in the Bahamas that we were alone in an anchorage. And all day yesterday we saw only one sail on he horizon. Then today we passed one catamaran heading the other way. This is definitely not on the beaten path! Yesterday (Wednesday) we took our time getting going. We're slipping easily back into cruising life. We went to bed at 8:30pm and were sound asleep at 6:30am next morning when the alarm went off. And if I hadn't needed to get up to listen to Chris, we would have slept on. But we were underway by 8:30 am, a later start, as we were timing our arrival at Current Cut, a narrow opening through which much of the tidal water for Eleuthera Bight flows. At peak it runs over six knots, meaning that if we were fighting it, we would go nowhere. But we timed it nicely, a not insignificant feat given that there is very limited tidal data available here. And it had the usual (none) Bahamas navigation marks, so that we used what the charts call "VPR" or Visual Pilot Rules, meaning just read the water! This one is particularly tricky as you have to take a 90 degree turn when you least think you should, aiming at some very jagged rocks until you are just about on them, when you veer away into what you hope is clear water. But we were able to follow our track from last spring when we came up north on this route heading home. So, safely through, we headed down Eleuthera's western shore. As the day wore on, we found ourselves more close-hauled (tight to the wind) so that we had to tack into our anchorage in Alabaster Bay. But just before sunset, we coasted in and dropped anchor in 10 feet of water, watching the anchor disappear into the sand through the gin-clear (where did that expression come from??) water. For dinner, Stone Crab with Bahamian Cole Slaw and Plantain. Ashore, the apparently abandoned Alabaster Bay Resort looked neatly maintained, but closed up, another sad Bahamian dream gone bad on a beautiful beach in the tropics. This morning (Thursday) we hoisted our main at anchor and sailed out of the anchorage at (again) 8:30 am, heading down the remaining 30 miles to Rock Sound at the southern end of Eleuthera. Starting out we romped down at 7.5-8.0 knots, but after a couple of squalls, the wind clocked and lightened, leaving us close hauled and pulling out reefs. Then back up it came, so the reef went back in. But in the beautiful turquoise waters with the warm breeze pushing us down the coast, it was difficult to complain! By early afternoon we were furling sails at the mouth of Rock Sound and motoring in to the anchorage off the town where we shared the harbor, about the size of Charlottetown Harbour, with 3 other boats. Ashore, we quickly found the bakery for fresh bread and Coconut Tart. A few more stops and the sunset warned us it was time to head back to the boat. And A nice evening with dinner under the stars closed another Bahamas night.

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Happy New Year!!
Jim Lea
01/07/2008, Lynard Cay,Abacos, Bahamas.

Our Christmas trip home was fun but we were also glad to be back. For the holidays we had our grand-son, Ben (and his parents) and Sarah at home, and lots of visits to and from friends, so we were busy. But we were glad to leave the weather... 4 storms in 10 days at home, leaving the snow waist-deep everywhere. We got back to the Bahamas on Friday and spent 2 nights at the marina. On Saturday, we spent the day cleaning up the boat, doing laundry and re-stocking with food. Then yesterday (Sunday) we headed out in light easterlies and a nice mid-70's and sunny weather. As we sailed down the Sea of Abacos, we passed North Bar Channel where the open ocean swell came straight through and sent us rolling merrily. But 1/2 mile past, the swell had nearly disappeared. Coasting down, we anchored in the lee of Lynard Cay in company with five other boats. After a short walk across the cay to the beach and looking at the swells breaking on the shore, we headed back to the boat and watched the sun set as we sat in the cockpit. After dark, we star-gazed in the clear sky and darkness of our isolated anchorage. We saw stars we have never before seen, including the Little Dipper! Down below, we had Crack Conch with a great cole slaw. For dessert, we were too full for our bread pudding, so had a bit of fruit and cheese. We also dug deep into our stores to locate a Greg Norman Chardonnay! This morning, we got up planning to run 60 miles across North Providence Channel, one of the deepest bodies of water in the world! Waters in the Bahamas are either really shallow or really deep, no in-between! But the wind was both higher than forecast and more southerly, meaning we would be beating into 20 knots of wind with 8'-10' swells, so we decided to stay put. Chris says tomorrow will have winds aft of the beam and smaller seas, so we'll wait. We watched two boats exit the cut, pitching in the swell coming through the cut with their bows disappearing into white water, and that confirmed our decision. So we'll have a walk on the beach, take the dinghy across to Little Harbour and see Pete's Pub, and read! Another tough day! And tomorrow, weather permitting, off to Eleuthera!

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Jim Lea
12/25/2007, Charlottetown

Well, in spite of the airlines, we made it home! We left Marsh Harbour on Friday morning (Dec 21) and flew into Palm Beach where we met our first delay, a two hour delay due to congestion in New York. That meant we landed one hour after our connecting flight to Halifax was due to leave. But luckily it was also delayed, so we arrived in Halifax just a few hours late, so not so bad after all. We spent the night in Sarah's condo. Saturday morning, we did some hurried shopping for a few gifts and mostly food. But in spite of the change in climate, we didn't do badly! By late afternoon we were on the road to Charlottetown, arriving tired but glad to be home at 7 pm. We were met by Parker (the cat) who sniffed us briefly, then ignored us, his usual greeting.
Sunday we were up and in action early, with job number one finding some winter clothes! We had packed everything away well, so I spent the first hour dragging storage cartons out of the attic. Then we headed off to church where we joined the choir, with lots of ribbing about my hair! I have not been able to get it cut since early October in the Chesapeake, so its as long as it has been since my university days.
In the afternoon we did more food shopping as we had only Sunday afternoon and Monday morning (Christmas Eve) to get everything done. Then off to a party down the street, then down to Church for a practice for Christmas eve, where I am playing. Then at 5:30 I headed down to Church where Bill (brother) and I were rehearsing for Christmas Eve. We were playing for the first service of the evening. It's a jazz sound, and we had Bill on Hammond B3, Brian Burke on drums and me on soprano saxophone. It had taken me a good (and nervous) two hours to find my Soprano (I never did find my Tenor), but it went well (well, close enough for jazz...).
For dinner, we cooked a recipe from the Globe and Mail by Lucy Waverman, on of my favorite sources. We had a mustard glazed standing rib roast... Excellent!
Christmas Eve was spent doing more errands which took twice as long as normal due to running into people and having to catch up on news. Great fun but not very efficient... oh well, Christmas. Our plan to get a Christmas tree was obviously in trouble, so we opted for a Norfolk Pine which we decorated and put on a table. And we never really did get out any outdoor decorations... at least not beyond the garage. Maybe tomorrow! By late afternoon I was ready for a nap, and then headed down for our "Big Gig". We did it two years ago, and I was not sure how it was recieved, but there was a big crowd and except for playing Silent Night in the key of G instead of C, (making it almost impossible to sing due to the low notes) all went well with lots of compliments. Then Jeannie, Sarah and I were in the choir for the second and traditional service of carols and lessons. And that was fun too. So by 9:30 we were at the Ashbys (friends) for a late dinner. Then home (exhausted) for "a long winters nap".
Today will hopefully be spent quietly, as we are resting up for a visit from our son Andrew, his wife Meghan and our four month old grandson Benjamin, arriving on Thursday.
Then back to the boat on January 4th!
The photo is of not what we're doing, but what we hope to be doing... iceboating. But right now the weather doesn't seem to be cooperating with mild temperatures. But if it does change, we'll drag out the DN iceboat for an exciting day of it.

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A great week with Sarah
Jim Lea
12/20/2007, Marsh Harbour, Abacos, Bahamas

We are now in Marsh Harbour at the Conch Inn and Marina where we're leaving the boat while we head home for Christmas.
Sarah arrived last Saturday by air. We were moored in Hope Town as it is a nicer anchorage. We took a small (passengers only) ferry across to Hope Town, did some shopping then went to the airport to meet her. At the airport we were told the flight was late, so walked outside to wait, only to see Sarah walking across the tarmac. The flight was early, not late!
Back in Hope Town, we settled in and had a late dinner then to bed.
On Sunday the wind would't go down, so we just stayed in Hope Town and biked aound for the day. Sunday night we dinghied ashoe to the Hope Town Inn for dinner. It is a beautiful small resort that straddles the cay between the harbour and the eastern (Atlantic) shore. Dinner was excellent.
Finally on Wednesday the wind decided to go down, so we headed out, sailing south towards the lower end ot the Sea of Abacos (created between the island of Abacos and the off-lying (is that a real word???) cays. We had planned to go snorkling, but the swell was still to large coming through a cut just opposite the reef we wanted to snorkel. So we headed for a small cove in the lee of Tiloo Cay where we anchored. Sarah and I took the "Lookee Bucket", a bucket with a clear plastic bottom through which we can see the anchor. In grass, we set the Fortress anchor in addition to the Bruce, since the Fortress holds better in those conditions. Ad all held well, as we found out in the morning, when we hoisted up an unmarked high voltage cable we had snagged. But we got safely untangled and were off for a great 20 mile sail to Great Guana Cay. On Great Guana we had hoped to find another good restaurant, but found it closed, so made due with a trip to Nippers Bar. Shuffeling menus and clearing out the freezer for our trip home, we had cracked conch with cole slaw and fried plantains for dinner.
Thursday morning we headed out and sailed the short 5 miles to Man-O-War Cay. Passing through its narrow entrance between rock shoals, we picked up a moring and went ashore for ice cream and some Christmas shopping. But it was just a short visit as we had to be in Marsh Harbour that night to catch our flights to PEI in the morning. So after a quick tour and lunch, we dropped the mooring and started out for Marsh Harbor. But one quick stop, anchoring behind Garden Cay for a quick swim. Then in mid-afternoon, we were ready to furl the sails to motor into the Conch Inn & Marina where we will leave the boat during our Christmas visit to PEI.
Since we had emptied the refrigerator, we felt justified in having dinner at Curley Tails, the Inn's restaurant, where we had excellent fish. And after dinner, we took the picture above, then to bed. Tomorrow, back to winter!!!

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Beating the Maintenance List
Jim Lea
12/13/2007, Hope Town,Abacos, Bahamas.

We're still here in Hope Town, and will probably remain so until Sarah arrives, Saturday afternoon. Yesterday was a big day in the maintenance department. I re-wired the satellite radio (not the simple job I had expected) so that it is hardwired into the boat's 12 volt system. Then I checked the oil, and it appears that it's just some I spilled when I changed the oil filter last time. And I forgot to mention that my SCUBA BCD (Buoyancy Control Device) wouldn't inflate. So today, with my trusty Gerber (multi-tool) I took it apart, found the frozen valve and got it working, so now all set! Now I'm down to the watermaker. Christmas is in full swing down here with reggae carols blaring and the tackiest decorations I have ever seen. They go in for inflatable Santas and reindeer a lot, and in the wind they are blowing all over the place. Even the lighthouse overlooking the harbour has Christmas lights on it! In the morning after I fixed the radio, we took the bikes ashore and biked down to the southern end of the cay for lunch. Yesterday was the peak for the winds associated with Olga. We are just on the fringe, so we saw only 20-25 knots, while in the southern Bahamas winds were forecast at 40 knots. Then from today winds will lay down for a few days. We looked out the cut at the southern end of the cay and it was truly awesome! No small boat (like ours) could ever hope to survive a passage through! For lunch, we went to a small bar & restaurant on the beach and watched the surf. Luckily they had good wind screens, otherwise it would not have been possible to eat there. Then back to town for coconut ice cream to control the heat! A couple of stops for supplies, a trip to the top of the lighthouse (with its 4' thick walls) overlooking the harbour and the day was over. The wind is forecast to lighten up tomorrow and Friday for a break, as TS Olga moves away and dissipates, but then a cold front will see it pick up again! But that's winter in th Bahamas.

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Cruising: Fixing your boat in exotic places!
Jim Lea
12/12/2007, Hope Town,Abacos, Bahamas.

On Monday, we decided to head out of Great Guana to move a bit further down the chain of Abacos Cays. Heading out, we cleared the point off Fishers Bay and sheeted in our reefed sails to point our bow down towards Hope Town about 12 miles away. With more south in the 20 knots of wind than we had hoped for, we were close hauled and still not able to point directly at our objective. But we were moving at full speed, so it was quite nice. While we weren't alone out there that day, we were the only boat going to windward. With the protection of both the offshore reefs and the fringing cays, the shallow Sea of Abacos never gets too rough. But the short steep waves were enough to cover the boat in salt. While that doesn't sound too terrible, the problem is that salt water never really dries, so that for days, everything remains wet, and salty until either a rain or a washdown cleans it off. After a few hours of tacking down the Sea of Abacos, we furled the sails and motored in to Hope Town's very protected anchorage. It is a shallow entry and of course we were entering at dead low tide, so the depth sounder alarm chirrped cheerfully at us all the way in. The lowest readout showed 6" beneath the keel. In the tiny harbour, there is no room to anchor, and picking up a mooring is the only option. So we picked up one from Lucky Strike (don't ask, I don't know!) and settled in. We quickly dinghied ashore and had a short walk around the pretty town. By comparison to the Southern Bahamas, fresh supplies are quite readily available here, so we don't have the shopping panic we often do when we see fresh supplies in a store. Yesterday (Tuesday) started with some more work on the watermaker, with a similar result... nothing. But at least the manufacturer has good on line help. I try something, email the results to the technicians, they suggest something and the cycle repeats itself. On Sunday, at Great Guana, I had mixed maintenance results... I did a watermaker test, but it was unsuccessful, so I give myself 50% on that one. I got 100% on replacing the zinc, 75% on cleaning the bottom (I ran out of air in my SCUBA tank) and 100% on the windlass switch. I found the leak in the dinghy, another seam, a manufacturing defect that Avon doesn't seem too interested in, 50%. So I average 75%, not bad! Yesterday I did another watermaker test, saw a tiny improvement but not enough to use. Then the 12 volt plug on the satellite radio broke, and I saw a small oil drop in the bilge, so the list is getting longer, not shorter. But, except for the watermaker, they're all small projects. We also spent a good part of the day shuttling back and forth to a nearby marina to do laundry. We took the boat in for fuel and water, made a few calls, a short walk, and it was SGT time! Dinner was Chorzio sausage in a penne pasta with olive oil and sweet peppers. And a nice Chianti! Weatherwise, we're watching Tropical Storm Olga, a late season storm that is slowly passing south of us, crossing Hispaniola then heading west. While it won't directly affect us, it is giving us strong winds that make it uncomfortable to move about. But its still sunny, warm and no snow, we're in a nice snug anchorage, so we're content.

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The laid back lifestyle of the Abacos
Jim Lea
12/09/2007, Great Guana Cay,Abacos, Bahamas.

Here is Dive Guana, where we are anchored in Fishers Bay, Great Guana Cay.
Yesterday (Saturday) we left Green Turtle Cay and headed out Whale Cay Cut and back in the Loggerhead Channel. It is a funny area in the Abacos Sea, where, for the purposes of any boat that draws more than 3', it is divided in two. A ref extends out from the shore of Abaco Island out to small Whale Cay, requiring boats that want to get around the reef to pass out one cut run down past Whale Cay and back in the other. Normally not a big problem, we had a mild passage, and motored out Whale passage and sailed back in Loggerhead and down to Fishers Bay i the lee of Great Guana Cay. We left yesterday because of the weather forecast for strong easterlies starting Sunday morning. These will make Whale Cut impassible with the seas rolling in against both the outgoing tide and in the relatively shallow water causing breaking seas completely across it. So to be sure we wouldn't get trapped on the other side, we headed out early. Compared to last spring when we came up through this area on our way home, it is very quiet with only a handful of cruising boats. Here in Fishers Bay, there are only 2 other boats with us. Safely anchored, project number one is to get rid our our garbage, so we load 3 big smelly bags in and head ashore looking for a dumster that we are told is ashore. Not finding it, we decide to go fo a walk and quickly find ourselves seated at the bar at Nippers, a famous (in the Abacos at least) beach bar. But we have been on board too long and need some exercise, so we go for a walk about 2 miles down the beach without passing another soul. Then back at Nippers, we go into the tiny gift shop and meet Nippers' owner who sees our boat's name and home port on my shirt. Asking about places to stay in Charlottetown, he says he is from Hamilton Ont. He moved here 20 years ago and after his daughter married a local, he decided to stay and start a business. After our shopping, we had a Kalik (Bahamian beer), and started our dumster search. We never did find oue, but found someone at a small marina who took it off our hands in exchange for a tip. Back in the (leaky) dinghy, we headed back to the boat. Seeing a dive shop, I took my SCUBA tank ashore to be refilled, then back aboard, I replaced a faulty switch on the windlass. Then, in the cockpit we had an SGT (Sundowner Gin & Tonic) and as the sun faded, I grilled the last of our Cero for dinner. Now, in spite of repairing the windlass, my maintenance list has gone from 2 to 4. The dinghy leak is still not located, the watermaker is waiting patiently and now the anode on the propeller shaft needs to be replaced and the bottom cleaned (hence getting the tank re-filled). Will it all get done today? I doubt it! We are on-line here from time to time, so we can catch up on news from home and afar. In fact, we had an email waiting from Elspeth Orme. Elspeth and her family cruised with us last winter down in the southern Bahamas, Sue and the girls flew home in the spring while Eric did a solo transatlantic passage bringing Tabitha their Rival 40 home. It was great to hear from her and catch up on the news of friends.

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Down the Abacos Chain
Jim Lea
12/07/2007, White Sound, Green Turtle Cay,Abacos, Bahamas.

Yesterday we decided it was time to leave Grand Cay. We did so reluctantly, as we really enjoyed it, and we could have found lots to keep us amused for a few more relaxing days, but weather is beginning to influence our thinking and to force us to do a bit of planning. The forecast calls for some quite strong winds starting on the weekend and persisting until mid next week. The problem it presents is getyting down to the Marsh Harbor area. To get from here to there requires passing through Whale Cut, heading out into deep water and then right back again. In normal conditions this isn't a problem (we did it last spring heading the other way), but in the forecast 20 knots of wind blowing against the outgoing tide, it will create a "rage" making passing through impossible. So we plan to be there for Saturday morning, before the winds pick up. In Grand Cay, we watched Sia Sinana, the catamaran next to us head out with spinnaker up, heading east, our course when we finally get organized, about 9:30 am. With the remnants of the previous night's strong westerlies (Sia Sinana measured 32 knots) we set sail and head east in a broad reach across the turquoise water. Depths in the area are anywhere from 5' to 12' and the sandy bottom and the odd fish, can be clearly seen all day. Following Sia Sinana into Fox Harbor, a small town we have not been in, we watch the anchor and chain pile up on the bottom, 12' below. Then when Jeannie backs down on it, a cloud of sand appears, quickly settling and revealing the anchor well dug into the sandy bottom. Ashore we wander up the town's one road to the store, buy some oil for the outboard, and after a stroll, head back to the boat. The Space Shuttle is scheduled to lift off at 4:31 pm and Jeannie is keen to see if it is visible from here. Back aboard, we scan the sky in the direction of Cape Canaveral, about 180 miles away. We can't see anything, but Sia Sinana thinks they see the vapor trail. It turns out they were wrong, the launch was delayed for a day. After drinks on Sia Sinana, we head back aboard for dinner. We are now finding we have too much food and are trying to eat it all, but not too successfully. I am not allowed to fish until the last one is gone. We had fish sandwiches for lunch yesterday, but we still have 2 meals worth left. We heard from our friends on Strathspey that they had a successful crossing including a nice fish as well. We hope to see them sometime soon. Today's destination, Green Turtle Cay, is a very pretty cay with a couple of marinas and the quaint and tidy town of New Plymouth. We don't need any new groceries, but are desperate to get rid of our accumulated garbage! It smells so bad that it is traveling in the dinghy behind us, trailing an odor behind. There are two items on my outstanding projects list. Our watermaker has an air leak in it somewhere. I have tried all the easily accessible clamps, with some improvement, but now have to begin to take some stuff apart to get at the remaining clamps, a good 3 hour project jammed in tight quarters. The other one is a leak in our dinghy. It has been leaking since we bought it, and a repair under warranty in Charleston worked for a few weeks, but now its leaking again, but I haven't been able to find the source. I'm not very happy with Avon. Its a beautiful dinghy, but the leak is really annoying, requiring me to pump it up twice a day. When cruising, the dinghy is like a family car back home, so you can imagine your frustration at having a flat tire twice a day! Grrrrrrrrr! This morning, after Chris' weather report, I called Strathspey, and they are now about 20 miles behind us, and heading for Green Turtle Cay to check in with Customs & Immigration. We finally are off again ourselves, at our seemingly normal 9:30 departure. Sia Sinana has already left, heading just a short distance for nearby Allans-Pensacola Cay. We head east in the night winds, and by noon are ready for a break, anchoring off the empty white sand beach of Powell Cay. It looks familiar to both of us as we approach, then we remember that we were here last spring. Anchored off, we have lunch in the cockpit, huddling together to try to stay out of the hot sun, hiding under the bimini for shade and keeping in the breeze. Ashore for a swim, then back aboard and the sails go up to push us the last 8 miles to Green Turtle Cay's entrance to White Sound, tonight's destination. Anchor down, Mary & Blair from Strathspey come over for rum punch and Dark & Stormy's to celebrate their arrival in the Bahamas!

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