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The Voyage of S/V Estelle
Cruising from Maritime Canada to Florida in our Bristol 41.1
We're suffering along with Newfoundland!
Jim Lea
03/20/2008, Salt Pond, Long Island, Bahamas.

Arriving back in the Bahamas, we heard on the news that Newfoundland was undergoing another blizzard. We arrived back in the Bahamas on Monday afternoon after a great two weeks in BC and Alberta. It was great to see our family, including little (or not so little) Ben as he is growing and changing quickly! And in Banff we enjoyed seeing Dave and Carol Morrison again. But it was also good to get back to Estelle, finding her safe and sound in Stella Maris Marina's excellent protection. And all our flights left on time and actually all arrived a bit early, so the trip back was fine. Back aboard, project number one was food, as we pretty well finished off everything before we left. But we did leave some fresh things in the refrigerator in green plastic bags that preserve fresh fruits and vegetables, and we were amazed to find them still fresh! But there wasn't enough for dinner, so we went up to the resort for dinner and had an excellent night of it. We're easing our way back into cruising. Our plans were to leave as soon as the weather permitted, but that was not to be until today (Thursday). The storm that hammered Newfoundland on Monday had a long and strong trailing cold front that was sweeping through the Bahamas bringing with it winds of 25-35 knots. But instead of 50 cm of snow, we had a few rain showers and temperatures plunging to the mid-70's. The winds were out of the east, going south-east, and at Stella Maris Marina, that meant that we could feel the boat tug at its lines in a gust, but little else in its total protection. On the exposed east side of the island, we watched, mesmerized as 15' waves pounded ashore sending spray flying 30-40' into the air. On Tuesday, we decided to rent a car for the day and headed to Cape Santa Maria Resort for lunch as our first stop. Then down to Salt Pond for groceries. After we had everything packed away, it was pretty much the end of the day, and still suffering jet lag, we had an early dinner(grilled fish with an olive tapenade, and sautéed egg plant and cous-cous) and bed early. On Wednesday, we didn't get started too early as we were still on BC time, and the winds were still blowing, so it was mid morning before we were off the boat. We filled the car with gas, watched some more waves and returned the car about noon. Being at the resort, where we returned the car, at noon, we stayed for lunch, conch chowder and some cracked conch. Very good and reasonably priced! Then in the afternoon we began to get serious as the weather sounded like we could leave today. Jeannie organized a laundry (there's a laundromat across the road) and I tackled my least favorite job, an oil change. With all the filters (4), it's a 2 hour job, half of which is getting ready and cleaning up. But I got it done, along with some other smaller jobs, filled the boat with water, and finished storing the last of our new supplies. In Vancouver, I got the part I need to repair the watermaker, but I am finding lots of reasons to put it off. It will be at least a four hour job, working in a very small space, so I'm not looking forward to it. Maybe next week, if we are stuck somewhere due to weather. But today we left the marina at 0830 at high tide. The marina approach, about 2.5 miles, is very shallow. There are channel markers, but I seriously doubt that there's really a channel. Heading out at high tide (and a full moon one at that) we saw less than 2' under our keel until we were out in the open water. Then down to Salt Pond (Salt Pond is the town on Thompson Bay) to finish our grocery shopping. We were shopping on the day before the supply boat comes in, so there were very few fresh supplies, like milk and fruit. So we'll finish the shopping this afternoon, then be ready to head out tomorrow. We'd like to head to the Jumentos, a remote and uninhabited group of cays just 50 miles north of Cuba, but it will be weather dependent. In this 50 mile string of cays, there is not one anchorage that gives good protection from the west, and there are westerlies forecast for Sunday, so we'll listen to the forecast tomorrow morning and decide.

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In the depths of Winter
Jim Lea
03/15/2008, Banff, Alberta

Today we skiied Lake Louise, my 7th day of skiing in 8 days. Needless to say, my legs are aching. We were supposed to ski again tomorrow, but my legs were having none of it, so we'll take the day off. Then in the evening, we'll drive to Calgary and catch the red-eye to Toronto, then to Nassau Monday morning and back at Stella Maris by late afternoon, assuming all goes as planned.
We were in Vancouver for a couple of days staying with our son Andrew, his wife Meghn and our grand-son, Ben. Then we headed up to Whistler where we spent a week with A&M and Ben and our daughter Sarah joined us as it was her mid-term break from medical school. We had some great skiing with lots of fresh powder and skiing with friends living in Whistler who know all the great secret spots on the mountains. And Whistler-Blackcomb, with the largest terrain in North America has lots of secrets that can't be found without help. Then on Wednesday, Jeannie flew to Regina for a meeting, and on Thursday Sarah and I said goodby to Ben, Meghan and Andrew and flew to Calgary where we met up with Jeannie. We then drove out to Banff where we have been for three nights skiing and visiting our good friends Dave and Carol Morrison. I have known Dave since our days together at Dalhousie University in the late 1960's and its always great to see them. But we're now ready to head back to the boat and begin to think about sailing north again. We'll probably spend a couple of weeks more in the southern Bahamas then work our way northward to the Abacos from where we'll cross back to the US in mid-April. So now'it'll be a quick change back from the winter conditions here to the summer-like Bahamas!
Here's a picture of Lake Louise back bowls where we skiied today.

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Off to the snowy mountains!
Jim Lea
03/03/2008, Santa Maria Marina, Long Island, Bahamas.

This picture is of an abandoned Loyalist house dating back to the American Revolution when a number of the colonists who sided with the British left for the Bahamas.
We were up early and off the anchor in Georgetown and worked our way through the fleet heading for the Eastern entrance when we spotted Seabird with Bruce and Nancy Montgomery aboard. We have cruised with them both last year and this and so we stopped to chat with them for a few minutes before heading out. With winds outside the protection of Stocking Island blowing 20-25 knots, we tucked 2 reefs in the main and moroe-sailed out the entrance back into Exuma Sound. Our course was a bit closer to the wind than yesterday, so we were close on the wind and with a small amount of jib out, we ran down the shore of Great Exuma and out of the sound and onto the banks. And with the banks, we left the big swell behind and were left with just a 3' wind chop. But that was enough to send just about every wave across the foredeck. After a couple of hours it was time to tack over to lay Long Island, and as we did so, we sailed into a squall. But it was just rain and a bit more wind, so not a lot to worry about. As the squall cleared, Long Island's Bains Bluff, a large headland, came into view, marking out anchorage just to its north. Beating up to the Bluffs, the seas lessened as we got into the lee of the cliffs, and in the now comfortable seas, we decided to carry on to the marina just a couple of miles, and an easy sail, up the shore. When we arrived off the channel to the marina, we dropped our sails and began to motor in. Stella Maris Marina has excellent protection, but has a very shallow approach. Even though we were entering at high tide, we still listened to the depth alarm and watched the depth sounder as it showed less than 1' beneath our keel. But we made it in without any problem and with no one around to direct us, just chose the berth that we thought was best for us. This morning (Monday), no one showed any surprise at our appearance, and we used the day to get ready to leave the boat for 2 weeks, closing up all openings, including small vents (to prevent unwanted critters) and cleaning up, doing laundry, etc.
Tomorrow we're off to Vancouver and Banff for skiing and family visits! We'll be back on March 18th and off again. We'll look for a weather window to head south for a couple of weeks, then begin the trek north. We'll head back up via Eleuthera to the Abacos then back to the US in late April.

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The Light Show is Impressive
Jim Lea
03/01/2008, Georgetown, Exumas, Bahamas.

Well, today's sail was beautiful... for the first hour. We raised the anchor at 0730 hrs, very, very early for us, and sailed down in the lee of Great Guana Cay for 12 miles to Galliot Cut where we headed out into Exuma Sound. Last week with Florence and Eugene we sailed up the sound in absolutely flat water, and for 2 days! But that was an anomaly. Today we experienced what Exuma Sound usually has to offer... 6'-8' seas and a beat in 20 knots down the sound. We slogged it out for 33 miles and made Georgetown by 1630 hrs, exhausted and covered in salt! We sailed with a cat, Exit Strategy, and pushed our noses out just as the current changed at the cut, ensuring that we wouldn't have to bash through the standing waves referred to as "A Rage". But it was a slog down, and we just hunkered down and by sundown (time for a good G&T), we were anchored in Georgetown in company with 290 other cruisers! Anchored safely, we called a couple of boats we knew, "Sam the Skull" next to us and "Seabird" but got no reply. Later, we remembered that in Georgetown they have a protocol that uses VHF Channel 69 for hailing, nit the usual 16. No wonder the VHF was so quiet in a harbor with 290 boats! At dusk, we sat in the cockpit relaxing and were amazed at the light show from the anchor lights of 290 boats. It looked more like a cityscape than a remote Bahamas town! After steak on our newly refurbished and now working BBQ, we headed for bed. Tomorrow's sail will be a bit of a repeat of todays, a bit shorter, but with higher winds and again close hauled. We're sharpening up our heavy weather sailing!
The photo is of Blair Buchannan (Strathspey) on the guitar in our cockpit during coctail hour in Thompson Bay.

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Oh what a busy week!
Jim Lea
02/29/2008, Staniel Cay, Bahamas.

Where has the time gone!! After leaving Fernandez Bay last Wednesday (Feb 20), we headed back across Exuma Sound in another great sail and arrived at Dotham Cut just at peak current running in. Watching the speed on the GPS, we saw it rise from our 6.5 knots we averaged on the crossing and saw it climb to a new record of 10.6 knots as we squirted through the cut into the Banks calm waters. Rounding up to the anchorage at Black Point, we saw over 30 other boats anchored, but its a large anchorage, so we had no problem finding a spot. Black Point was our objective for two reasons; first because it is an easy cut and close to Staniel Cay where we were to meet the Rossiters and second, because it has a laundromat, which we needed desperately! So Thursday was laundry day, then across to anchor at Staniel, where we met Eugene and Florence on Saturday morning. Their arrival coincided with some of the most unusual weather of the winter... three days of very light (less than 5 knots) south-west winds! So with E&F aboard and settled in, we headed out the cut at Staniel and sailed north on the unusually calm Exumas Sound. Sailing up to Cambridge Cay, we turned in the cut at Cambridge Cay and coasted in to the anchorage in late afternoon. With the dinghy launched, we set off to take advantage of the quiet weather and went over to check out the coral at Rocky Dundas. Then, landing on Cambridge Cay, we took a new-to-us path that led to Honeymoon Beach, one of the most beautiful we have found yet. Both Rocky Dundas and Honeymoon Beach are usually not calm enough to enjoy in the usual weather, but today they were extraordinary! Back aboard, we had Sundowner Gin & Tonics all around and dinner of Butter Chicken. In the morning, we headed back out into the sound in the light south-westerly winds. Unable to resist the beautiful sailing, we sailed 25 miles north to Normans Cay where we headed in to the anchorage and found a spot and settled in. Ashore we explored the ruins of Carlos Lheder's drug operations of the 70's and 80's and the sunken DC-3 that missed his runway and landed in the water.
On Tuesday, we paid the price for our beautiful sails of the previous two days. It was time to start back south, and the wind was still out of the south, so we had a heavy day of it working our way back, but by days end, we were settled in to Pipe Creek, a snug anchorage where we would spend two nights and wait out a strong front that was due late Wednesday. Dinner for the evening was Butter Chicken and rice with both red and white wine. Wednesday dawned with the wind still fresh out of the west. But in the shelter of Pipe Creek we were able to go for some exploration around the area. I don't know why its called Pipe Creek, as it is really more of an area with a bunch of cuts and a bunch of cays and a maze of channels running through. Some cays are totally empty and others have buildings on them, but none matches Little Pipe Cay for elegance. With its heli-pad, staff quarters, main home and guest houses, it is very impressive... but empty! For safety sake when wht winds shifted, we put a second anchor out, and I had to dive on it to get it properly set, but it gave us the assurance that we wouldn't drift back onto a rock ledge when the wind swung to the north. So with drinks in hand, we watched the front come through. Fortunately, we dodged the rain and lightening, but watched it pass to the west of us just as the wind swung abruptly from west to north at 20-25 knots. And riding quietly on our second anchor, we were in the lee of Thomas Cay just a few yards off our bow. The only negative was we were unable to go to Sampson Cay for dinner. So Thursday morning we raised anchor and motored down for lunch. After lunch and an inspection tour of the marina and boats, we headed down to Staniel Cay where we anchored for the night and had dinner at the Yacht Club. Then this morning we zipped over to the airport to see Eugene and Florence off on Flamingo Air, a fun week! Tomorrow we head down the coast aiming for Stella Maris Marina on Long Island where we'll leave the boat while we travel to Western Canada for skiing and family visits!

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03/01/2008 | Fran
So great to see you're on the blog again! Began to worry. You're missing another snowstorm...what a shame.
By the light of the Eclipsed Moon
Jim Lea
02/20/2008, Fernandez Bay, Cat Island, Bahamas.

This morning we woke to a heavy downpour that lasted for about a half hour, unusually long for the Bahamas. But by 8:00 am the sun was out, things had dried and the temperature had soared to its customary 80F. For breakfast we had French Toast made with fresh coconut bread that we bought yesterday, and it was delicious... a touch of cinnamon and a splash of fresh orange juice in the batter, and maple syrup on top, and it can't be beaten! So good that we hoisted anchor and motored down to New Bight back to the bakery. We had ordered cornbread, but were going to get more coconut bread, but some other cruisers had beaten us to it. Back aboard, we hoisted anchor and sailed under jib alone around to Fernandez Bay Resort. I called ahead on the VHF to book a table for dinner for 4, since Tropicat Too decided to follow us over. In the tiny bay we anchored and took the bikes ashore for some exploring in this area of Cat Island. After a good bike ride on rough road (really just a trail), we found an incredible pink sand beach about 3 miles long, totally empty. After a good walk, some beachcombing and another bike ride, we were back aboard for a quick shower and change into our best clothes and back ashore for drinks before dinner. There were three other boats in for dinner, and a number of resort guests and drinks, from the honour bar, were accompanied with some nibbles. It was interesting talking to some of the guests, a family from Toronto in the process of buying property on Cat, and also we met the EU attaché in Washington down on vacation. Dinner didn't measure up to the atmosphere of the beautiful resort, but it was fun. Then back to the boat where we watched the total eclipse of the full moon above us. A very nice evening! Tomorrow we're off to The Exumas where we will meet Eugene and Florence Rossiter on Sunday! We're hoping for good weather!

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A rollicking sail across Exuma Sound
Jim Lea
02/18/2008, Old Bight, Cat Island, Bahamas.

On Sunday morning, we sailed off the anchor at Conception Island and headed for The Bight at the southern end of Cat Island. Our course was north-west, dead downwind, not a favorite point of sail, so we headed up off our course and reached westward into Exuma Sound in a 20 knot breeze. Gybing across to clear Hawks Nest Point, we watched the GPS record 9 knots, a tremendous speed for us. We were assisted by a 1.5 knot current at our backs. Because of the speed we were running at and the 6'-8' swell, we decided against fishing. The thought of stopping the boat and fighting a fish from the deck was more than we were prepared to do. But as we came up to Hawks Nest Point and in the lee of the point, we ran out the line, but no luck. At Hawks Nest Point, we could see the shoal area as a definite line, and it was eerie to be charging straight at shallow water with still no reading on the depth sounder. Finally it kicked in with a reading of 350', then seconds later it was 12'. The drop-off is incredibly steep and close to shore. But we tore on in and on our new course set out into The Bight. The Bight is a sort of bay about 8 miles from north to south and 3 miles deep. And across it the depths run from 12' to 6' near shore. In the south-east wind the waves were a short choppy 2'-3', but not too comfortable to anchor in off New Bight, the community at the northern end of the bay. So we decided to head for the south-east corner of the bay off the settlement of Old Bight. Here in the lee of the land we found a quiet anchorage with one other boat about a mile away. Just after the anchor was down, we were hailed by Tropi-Cat Too, a motor cat. We had met Richard and Meghan Rinker in Thompson Bay the previous week. They were anchored at New Bight and had seen us coming in and called to enquire about our anchorage. When I said it was great, they immediately headed up and anchored a short distance away from us. Ashore, we walked up to Old Bight, about 3/4 mile, and as it was Sunday, everything (the gas station) was closed. But we saw a car rental agency, so decided to check it out. Monday morning, we called Tropi-Cat and invited them to join us on our tour. By the time we were all organized and had the car it was late morning. In the car (right-hand drive for the Bahamas left-hand side driving) we headed south to Port Howe. All the charts and guides say that there is no harbour here, but coming across from Conception we chatted with a trimaran who was headed into Port Howe, so we wanted to see where he landed. And we found him anchored in calm (and shallow) water inside what to us seemed to be a solid line of reefs with white surf tumbling across. There was also a 40' motor boat and a large cat anchored further out, so there must be a way in. But not for us. Off again, after inspecting the ruins (lots in Cat Island) of an old plantation manor house, we stopped at Hawks Nest Marina for lunch where Jeannie had a huge wahoo sandwich and I had the best conch chowder I have ever tasted. After lunch (it was now mid-afternoon) we headed north through Old Bight, through New Bight and up to Fernandez Bay where there is a beautiful resort. Back at the boat, we recovered from our big day with sundowners in the cockpit and made Ground Beef Stroganoff for dinner, another excellent dinner that was nicely accompanied by a Chianti! This morning we still had the car (until noon) so we headed north to New Bight and up to The Hermitage, built by Father Jerome when he completed his work on all the churches here. His hermitage, built single handed, is a miniature copy of one in Europe and is an amazing piece of work. I will post pictures when I get a chance. Then a stop for fresh bread at a local bakery shop (just in the lady's kitchen) and a couple of groceries at the local grocery store, then drop the car off and back to the boat. After a late lunch, we did a couple of boat projects, a beach walk and ended the day with Sundowners on Tropi-Cat. Tomorrow off to Fernandez Bay.

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Turtles, turtles, ya,ya,ya!
Jim Lea
02/16/2008, Conception Island, Bahamas.

This morning we worked our way out of our anchorage at Hog Cay. We had worked our way in between the cay and a small reef just off it by 1/4 mile, but had to find the deepest point to pass through. But we made it with 6" to spare! Outside, we hoisted sail, shut down the engine and set off around Cape Santa Maria for Conception Island. In a south east breeze of 15 knots, we were pretty well close hauled (pointed as close as possible to the wind) and still bearing about 15 degrees off our course. But that's not too bad; we could just carry on and tack over once we were close (too complicated to explain), and make it in to Conception. There is a strong (2 knots) current flowing north-east between Long Island and Conception Island, and we could definitely feel it dragging us away from our objective. About noon, the wind rose to 18-20 k nots, and a merry sea set up (6'-8'), but we were making good progress to Conception, so were happy. We watched a small (40') motor boat in the Maritime lobster boat style pass us, and head off to Conception's anchorage, as our reel fired off its Zzzzzing! In the 6'-8' seas, we furled the jib, dropped the main and I began the fight. And 45 minutes later, with me exhausted and the largest mahi mahi I have ever seen alongside, I reached over with the gaff. One look at me was enough for him and he jumped clear of the water, snapped the 80 pound test line and was gone! We consoled ourselves by saying that we doubted we could have lifted him on deck anyway, and that there would have been too much food for our freezer and stuff like that as we just motored the last 3 miles to Conception. Once anchored in the lee of the island, we launched the dinghy for some exploring. Conception Island is a Land and Sea park, meaning no fishing allowed. But a lot of people seem to ignore the rules as there is no one to enforce them. There is a small creek that drains a large mangrove swamp that occupies most of the island's interior. This mangrove area has become a place where turtles (mostly Green Turtles, some leatherbacks) come to spend the years up to maturity. So in the dinghy you can see their heads poking up for air, or you can see their dark shapes scurrying out of your way beneath the surface. And they are really fast! But as a park, we were surprised when we entered the mangroves to see a 20' outboard with a woman with a net on the bow chasing the turtles! Even though we have seen people spearfishing for lobster, we never expected to see this! Not sure what to do, we cautiously approached them as we had to pass closely to get further in. And as we approached, the woman called over to tell us they were tagging turtles. We watched for a while, and it was not easy to catch them, but they did get three. With that they began to measure and tag them, and invited us aboard to watch. Working from the University of Florida, they have been studying them for over 30 years. We talked while they worked, measuring, weighing and photographing each one, and we learned a lot about the turtles strugle to survive. An endangered species, they are now extinct in the Bahamas except for this one area, where they no longer nest, but for some reason, come to spend their juvenile years. Finished measuring and tagging, we took them ashore in our dinghy and back into the mangroves where they fled quickly. A very interesting afternoon! For dinner, with no fresh fish, we roasted two cornish hens with sweet potatoes and salad. And with that we settled down to a rare calm evening on Conception. With the moon nearing full, the beach glowed bright in the dark of night

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