03/26/2012, Fort Lauderdale, FL
March 26, 2012
We departed Nassau on Friday, March 23 after a couple of days at the dock, exploring sections of the city we have not seen, and preparing for our departure (yes, that involved Piña Coladas and conch fritters). We pulled away from the dock at about 8:15. From the discussions along the dock the night before, we anticipated an armada. After requesting and receiving from Harbor Control permission to depart, we were off and heading north through the Northwest Providence Channel, to Northwest Rocks, the Bahama Banks, to the north of Bimini and then across the Gulf Stream to Florida. It was a trip of over 175 miles, which we made in about 24 hours (motor sailing because the winds were light). We were in the company of Living Well all the way (until they headed toward Miami after passing through the Gulf, while we headed to Fort Lauderdale). The other vessels departing at about the same time soon became dispersed and out of sight. The crossing was very gentle and uneventful - the way we like them. We had a line out in hopes of catching a Mahi Mahi or something else delectable. We hooked something that doubled the rod and took the line out despite the drag being set. We slowed down and Van tried to bring it in, but it did not want to come. So, we decided to drag it a while and tire it out before trying to bring it aboard. That was not the fish's plan, however, and it broke the 50# test line and took a goodly chunk of that as well as the lure. We decided that, whatever it was, we probably were not equipped for dealing with something that big. So, there you have our fish story.
We arrived off Fort Lauderdale about 8:30 on Saturday and were inside the breakwater by just before 9:00. We missed the 9:00 opening of the 17th Street Causeway Bridge, and so had to wait for the 9:30 opening. The number, size, and opulence of the boats (and houses) in this place is unbelievable. We do not know whether it is wealth or simply a display of wealth, but it is hard to imagine. Boats commonly exceed 120', and many are over 200' long. It appears the crews are the ones who spend time on them because, despite our arriving on a weekend, very few were occupied or off the docks.
We fueled Gratitude, took a slip at the City Marina at Las Olas Boulevard (just inside the A1A highway along the famous beaches - and yes, it is spring break), showered, and called Dave and Mary (Sanity II), who have a condo here in Sunny Isles. We spent a few hours exploring Fort Lauderdale, the New River, and having lunch with them. Then, the tired crew of Gratitude went to bed. (The Admiral slept soundly for over 12 hours; she was tired!)
Sunday morning we awoke, much refreshed. We had a leisurely breakfast aboard and then walked up Las Olas Boulevard to the First Presbyterian Church located near the heart of Old Fort Lauderdale on the New River. Very good service, huge choir, and welcoming people. (We were invited to lunch by a couple who just sold their sailboat because, at 86 (!), they found it too much to manage in high winds. We had to decline, because we had plans with Dave and Mary.) We caught the Sun Trolly back to the beaches and changed, grabbed our overnight bag, and called Dave and Mary who picked us up and took us on another tour and back to their condo for dinner and the night. They have a corner unit on the 18th floor with views to the north (including the ocean) and to the west (including to downtown Miami). They are right over the Intracoastal Waterway, so there always are boats coming and going and activities to watch. Dave made a wonderful shrimp gumbo and we enjoyed catching up with each others' lives since we separated in the Bahamas several weeks ago.
This morning (Monday), Dave and Mary chauffeured us to look at dinghies. We finally selected and acquired a Walker Bay 310 Genesis with some extra goodies that should make it quite suitable for our needs. It will be delivered tomorrow and, if all goes according to plan, we will be away from the docks at 12:00 and en route to Miami. When Dave asked us if we were going to name this dinghy, we said yes, it would be the New Attitude.
We had a great time visiting with them, but have to move along (not to mention the fact that their son, daughter-in-law, and two granddaughters will be moving from here to Minneapolis soon and they have to babysit for a few days while the parents house shop). After Miami, we will head to Rodriguez Key and then to Marathon for a few days. If all goes well, we may do some work on Gratitude to prepare for our departure toward home next month. (It is much easier to do some things on the water, where it is cool and there are places to play, than in the boat yard.)
03/26/2012, Compass Cay
This is out of order, but we wanted to post a photo from the Bubble Bath, which is a lovely spot.
March 22, 2012
We arrived in Nassau yesterday, having decided to try to catch the weather window forecast for Friday and Saturday that looks good for a crossing of the Gulf Stream to Florida. We still are in the company of Steve and Mary Ann on Living Well, and they have been most gracious and generous in giving dinghy rides!
We enjoyed a leisurely cruise up the Exuma chain, from Sampson Cay, to Cambridge Cay (March 16 to 17), thence to Hawksbill Cay (March 18-20), Shroud (March 20-21), and now Nassau. Cambridge Cay is in the Exuma Park and we had a wonderful snorkel day at the Sea Aquarium (located between several islands just north of Cambridge). It is not an "aquarium" in the man-made sense. Rather, it is a large coral head and islet around which a huge variety of fish, coral, and other creatures thrive - including lobster - can you spot it? Because this is in the park, we could only look but not take (or taste). We also snorkeled a small airplane wreck, hiked from Honeymoon Beach to the south end of Cambridge and snorkeled out to near the cut, where we saw Elkhorn Coral (and watched carefully as the incoming waves crested over the surrounding rocks), and we all went to Rachel's Bubble Bath, on the north end of Compass Cay (next post). In short, we took advantage of the wonderful water and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
At Hawksbill, we took a mooring (still in the Park) at the southern mooring field. (On the way south, we anchored in the northern anchorage). The southern field is beautiful and we walked the beaches, snorkeled the coral heads dotting the area, and explored a creek that meanders from the inside originating in a mangrove swamp. (Those are nursery habitats for a multitude of fish, turtles, sharks, etc.) While we were snorkeling around one big head, we saw a small turtle a distance away. Those creatures may be awkward and slow on land, but they are little rockets in the water.
Shroud Cay was just a short (5 mile) sail to the north and we took moorings in the central field. (On the way down, we anchored at the south end to try to avoid a more northerly wind. This time, the wind was from the east and forecast to intensify, so we wanted to be in the lee of the land.) We went ashore and found the fresh water well that has been used for centuries by spongers and fishermen. The well is large and the water quite good! We also dinghied through the northern creek to the out (Exuma Sound) side and Steve and Van climbed up to Camp Driftwood (where a hermit was said to have lived). The driftwood is all gone, but the views are quite nice. Looking down on the interior of the island (which actually is a cluster of cays) reminds one of a view across the plains of Africa - low scrubby growth, interspersed by a meandering waterway, hot, and sunny. The view to the outside reminded us all why we had not ventured out to the Sound - it was rough.
Although we had talked about continuing our slow passage north (possibly to Norman's Cay, Highborne Cay, and Allen's Cay - where the iguanas live), because the forecast for Friday and Saturday is for light winds with a southerly component, which is what one wants to cross the Gulf Stream, and because another front and increasing winds from the north (what one does not want) are forecast for an extended period, we decided to make the jump to Nassau and be in position to make the crossing. It is about 40 miles from the mooring field in Shroud to the marina in Nassau, so we dropped the mooring lines, said farewell to Gaia, and headed north. The winds were from the east at 22-24, as forecast, with gusts to 25-26. On Gratitude, we set the jib and the mizzen sail and enjoyed a broad reach at an average of 7.5 knots, often over 8. Although a somewhat "cork screwy" path, the ride was not uncomfortable and we made good time to Nassau. We called the Nassau Harbor Club and reserved the last two slips and then cleared in through Nassau Harbor Control for our two days here.
While we do not need much in the way of food, we do need some fresh fruits and vegetables, so we will hit the supermarket this morning. Mary Ann has promised to show Lauren the Bahamian fabric store in town, and we will do a walkabout and enjoy other shops and treats. We intend to have lunch at one of the "fish shacks" at the foot of the bridge to Paradise Island, and Lauren wants to have a final Piña Colada before we depart the Bahamas on Friday morning. That likely will be used to wash down some conch fritters, another local treat.
03/14/2012, Sampson Cay West Side
We took a walk on the island and found this lovely view.
03/14/2012, Sampson Cay
Here are the docks insde the marina.
03/14/2012, Sampson Cay
March 14, 2012
We have move to Sampson Cay, now at anchor on the west side after having spent the night on the inside at the dock. We needed to take on water, fully charge the batteries, and take some walks. Being dinghy-less has its definite draw-backs.
We came here from Black Point, where we stayed at anchor for several nights after our arrival from George Town. Black Point is a real community, with actual Bahamians living and working there. Granted, much of the work is related to tourism, so we visitors do have a definite impact, but it is a working community and a pleasant change from tourism-a go-go. While in Black Point, we (Gratitude and Living Well) attended the Baptist Church on Sunday. We stayed for the whole service (Sunday School and Church is a full half-day affair) and departed right behind all the local folks who welcomed the visitors (us as well as a couple of boats from Germany) warmly. As is the custom, the ladies were dressed in their finest, hats and all. The Pastor, as is the custom at least in that church, was barefoot.
After church, we had some refreshments at one of the local restaurants and then back to the boats. It has been blowing hard since we left George Town, so there is not a lot of moving about being done. We have gone ashore with Steve to walk now and again. As the third boat of our little flotilla arriving in George Town, and dependent on others for dinghy rides, we anchored near them, not our customary locations. Turns out we were in the pathway to the "government dock" and all local traffic - at high speed - and the supply boats came right by us (see photo). It was not the most comfortable, but too windy to move about much.
On Monday the 12th, the weather dawned fair and clear (in contrast to the dark and stormy days before), so we all pulled anchors and set sail for Sampson Cay. There were four boats - Gratitude, Living Well, Gaia, and Double Diamond. The latter is a catamaran. While the mono-hulls were content to put up jibs only (and made good time at 5-6 knots the short distance to be covered), Double Diamond went full rig and raced back and forth at over 8 knots for photo ops.
As mentioned, we pulled into the marina and the other folks anchored out. They all came ashore and we walked and had a wonderful lunch in the restaurant. We topped off water and plugged in to shore current to top up the batteries. The crew of Gratitude stayed ashore and had drinks on the veranda watching the sunset. This morning, we had a brief, but welcome, shower that rinsed off some of the salt. While we were waiting to settle up, Van noticed some folks at the fish cleaning station so wandered over to see what they had caught. They were the first mate and chef aboard a mega-yacht at the dock. They had taken their charter party fishing (in the 22' tender) and caught 7 Mahi Mahi and a good size Wahoo. The chef (wife of the couple) asked if I would like to buy some because they had more than enough. I said yes and said I needed to check with Lauren to see how much. Whereupon, she cut off a big piece of filet and said "the sharks got it". I asked how much and she offered her cheek for a kiss. After I complied, I asked her husband if he wanted one, but he deferred. I put the Wahoo in the freezer and Lauren suggested taking some raspberry jam back, which I did with explicit instructions it was for the crew. Whereupon, I received an equal size piece of Mahi Mahi!
We settled our bill and pulled away from the dock without a problem. (We had to spring the bow out into the wind because we were on the dock closest to shore and did not want to risk running aground.) Once on the outside of the inlet to the marina, we motored to the location of Living Well and dropped the hook. Now, we will swim and snorkel the rocks nearby and enjoy the remains of the day.