Sunday Pig Roast at Chat n Chill
15 January 2017 | Chat n Chill, Stocking Island, Exuma
A generous portion of freshly roasted pork, cole slaw, mac’n’cheese, peas n rice (which is black beans & rice), and carrots, all washed down with a cold Kalik, typical Bahamian fare served at Chat n Chill since it opened 18 years ago. New are the tame sting rays that beg for conch tidbits from the Conch Bar.
Wind, Wind and More Wind
13 January 2017 | Stocking Island, Exuma
It started last Sunday with gusts over 40 knots. Still blowing strong, ESE gusting 30+. It is getting very old, yet predicted for several more days. The good news is that the wind generator keeps our batteries topped up, and it is pleasantly cool. Yesterday we took a long hike up to the Monument and across to the windward beaches, where the surf is impressive.
A Georgetown Tradition
11 January 2017 | Georgetown, Exumas
Wednesdays is propane filling day with Clarence, who meets cruisers at the dock with his tank truck.
It's Not Always Sunshine in Paradise
11 January 2017 | Georgetown, Exumas
Gale force winds continue to batter us for the 4th day in a row, with more to come. Intrepid sailors that we are, we left Halekai at anchor in front of Chat n Chill this morning and dinghied across to town during a lull. I had an excellent haircut from Vanria, a native of Nassau who trained with Vidal Sasoon in Santa Monica. We took advantage of Vernon's wash/dry/fold service at The Corner Laundromat while we lunched on lobster salad paninis at the Driftwood Cafe during a downpour. It cleared up enough for a wet and wild ride back across the bay, just before the next shower.
Photo: Leaving the dinghy dock in placid Lake Victoria, about to enter the turbulent tunnel to the outer harbor.
The Calm Before the Storm
08 January 2017 | Stocking Island, Exumas
We battened down the hatches! The storm that brought snow and freezing temps up north arrived here early this morning, with 40+ knot winds continuing for the next couple of days. This photo was taken two days ago.
Risking Our Lives on Queen's Highway
05 January 2017
A big cold front is on its way this weekend (which means heavy wind, not cold) so we took advantage of the calm day to speed across the harbor to town per dinghy. We walked 1 1/2 miles north along Queens Highway—an impressive name for a two lane road with narrow shoulders—with speeding cars nipping at our heels. Our goal was the new Napa store and a hardware store.
On our way we stopped for lunch at Shirley’s Fish Fry on the waterfront, with a view of a rusting hulk of a barge. The food made up for what the view was lacking. A couple from s/v Tilt, who we met at happy hour on Sand Dollar Beach last evening, arrived per dinghy and joined us at our table. They’re from Michigan and it’s their 13th year wintering in Georgetown.
They warned us about walking along the road, given the crazy drivers. A Canadian couple had been killed while walking along the road a few years ago, they told us. I researched the story online when we got home: it happened at 10 pm.
While waiting outside for Burger to pay for two heavy containers of engine oil, I wondered how we’d lug them back to town in the heat. Just then a friendly woman drove up with her taxi to buy something at the store. She was more than happy to make a few unexpected bucks driving us back to the dinghy dock.
Our Holiday Feast
04 January 2017 | Gaviota Bay, Stocking Island
Roast turkey breast with German potato dumplings and gravy, red cabbage, Brussel sprouts, and cranberry orange walnut dressing. No dessert needed! Our planned Christmas dinner was postponed by the cruisers’ party in Warderick Wells, so we decided to have it yesterday instead.
New Year's Day in Paradise
01 January 2017 | Sand Dollar Beach, Stocking Island
I set the alarm for midnight last night so we did get to see the fireworks, set off at three different places around the harbor.
We started off the New Year with pancakes topped with yogurt and strawberries and maple syrup, delicious ... then we went ashore to walk off the calories. We hiked along a path through the dunes and along the beach on the windward side of Stocking Island. The surf was up due to the strong SE winds.
Later on Burger made his famous sour cherry torte with whipped cream for afternoon "Kaffeestunde." The diet can start tomorrow ...
Happy New Year to Our Friends Worldwide!
31 December 2016 | Georgetown, Exumas
Here's what we've been up to the last few days ...
It was a fast ride down to Georgetown, in the company of a fleet of boats that came out of all the cuts between the Cays as we sailed south. Everyone had the same idea: move to GT ahead of the next cold front, expected for the New Year's weekend. Everyone was comparing fish stories on the radio. "We caught a yellowfin tuna!" "We caught a mahi mani!" Well, we caught one too, a big one, but he got away--taking the lure and hook along with him, when the lead line parted. Better luck next time.
As soon as we anchored off the town, we went ashore to get some errands done ahead of the norther. Time seems to stand still in GT, or maybe even go backwards. Everything is a bit dilapated, with few signs of renewal since our last visit three years ago. In fact it seems pretty much as it was our first trip here, 23 years ago when Halekai was brand new. It's our sixth time here since then.
After putting the laundry in a machine at The Corner Laundromat, Burger headed for the hardware store while I went to the BaTelCo store to top off the data chip. We met at the Exuma Market to buy a few things. Who did we find there but Maryann of s/v Straight from the Heart, one of my faithful volunteers from the SSCA Annapolis Gams I organized years ago. We recognized each other instantly and had a catch-up chat.
We then had an early supper at the Exuma Yacht Club restaurant: fish n chips and conch fritters washed down with Pink Radler, a mixture of grapefruit juice and Kalik beer. Very refreshing! "Radler" was invented by German racing bicyclists who mixed beer with soda (A "Radler" is a biker).
We moved Halekai across the way, first to Monument Beach (photo), then to Volleyball Beach at Stocking Island, and went ashore for lunch at Chat n Chill, still there after 18 years of multiple hurricanes. Service was very slow, but the food was good. While waiting we were kept amused by people-watching. Instead of the usual cruising crowd it was filled with young resort tourists brought over by water taxi. The taxis caused such a wake in the anchorage that we moved over to Sand Dollar Beach in the afternoon.
Sure enough the front arrived as forecast, and we're now bouncing around in 30 knot winds that keep it breezy and bug-free aboard. Not sure we want to venture off the boat today as it would be a wet dinghy ride. So Burger is attacking to To Do list, changing the engine impeller, while I write.
Instead of partying ashore tonight, we'll have a fancy New Year's Eve dinner of roast duck breast and gnocchis, and of course champagne, though we'll pop the cork well before midnight. In fact we probably won't make it beyond "Cruiser's Midnight," which is 9 pm. Somehow when it gets dark so early, by 6 pm, most cruisers are ready for bed by then.
Fixing, Fixing, Fixing
28 December 2016
Finally the generator is working again!
Leaving a boat in wet storage for two years--in the water, at our community dock--is an invitation to the boat gremlins to play havoc aboard. As every boater knows, things that worked just fine when you last used them suddenly malfunction after a period of disuse. Although Burger checked out all systems and carried out routine maintenance before we left, it seems that every day brings at least one new problem. Luckily he's up to the challenge, both with the needed skills and a well-equipped workshop (including lathe). We have tons of spare parts, but often not the very one that's needed.
I've learned to lay low while he's working, listening to him fume and complain with one ear, till, most of the time, he's successful. I am never surprised to hear him say, "Well look at that, I came up with a solution, and it's working now."
The strong winds have subsided, and the next weather system is expected by week's end, so it's time to make tracks south.
We left Warderick Wells for Big Major anchorage at Staniel Cay, arriving just as a local boat was making the rounds selling lobster. We splurged on two and dined in style, celebrating Burger's repair success with a bottle of pink bubbly. We were surrounded by about a dozen megayachts, as well as lots of sailboats and trawlers. After dark we sat in the cockpit admiring the light show: the megayachts were all lit up, several with Christmas decorations.
While topping off our tanks at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club fuel dock this morning, a young guy carrying an expensive bottle of Veuve Clcquot tied up near us and hopped out of a big launch. He stopped to chat. "I'm from one of those stupid boats," he said, referring to the anchored fleet of megayachts. "They don't drink beer anymore, just champagne. I buy it by the case. The last alcohol bill was over $5,000." A glimpse into the life of the rich ...
We had a smooth sail down to the Galliot Cut anchorage. Finally we had internet thanks to a BaTelCo tower, after a week off the grid. Lots of email to read, many from cruiser friends we keep in touch with around the world. I eagerly read holiday letters while Burger relaxed in the cockpit, keeping us on course.
"Let's go snorkeling, maybe we can find a conch for dinner," said Burger as soon as the anchor was down in 8 feet of clear water. "I'd like a cup of coffee first," I replied. Oh dear. I couldn't get the propane burner to work. Instead of snorkeling, Burger has spent the rest of the afternoon trying to fix the solenoid that controls the propane switch. The constant break-down of equipment is starting to tax his patience. I'm lying low ...
Tweve Days to Christmas, Part II
28 December 2016
Finally the wind subsided and we were good to go. Exiting through the Whale Cay Channel was a non-event. We then sailed south through the Sea of Abaco to Marsh Harbor. It's the third largest settlement of the Bahamas, but not much more than a small town with several watering holes popular with snowbird sailors. It hadn't seemed to have changed much from our last visit, around 15 years ago.
We dropped the anchor among the other sailboats in the harbor, went ashore and walked to Maxwell's, probably the largest supermarket we'll see till we return home. They even sold bed pillows, which we decided we needed as ours were getting lumpy and saggy.
On the walk back to the dinghy dock we bought fresh conch salad for supper, made while we watched (including extracting the meat from a live conch). We returned to Halekai just in time to watch the sun set.
A second day on the move brought us through a maze of shallow, shifting sand banks--how did we ever navigate such difficult waters with only paper charts, pre-GPS? The consequences are far worse than the mere nuisance of paper maps instead of GPS in the car. We sailed to the southern tip of the Abacos, where we found shelter off a beach for the night, anchored next to a catamaran that had the same itinerary. We donned our masks and fins and while Burger cleaned out the debris clogging the centerboard slot, I swam laps around the boat.
Next morning we both motored out the narrow cut between rocks and crashing breakers, a wet and wild but thankfully short ride, but then it was smooth sailing all the way south to Eleuthera. Once again we found a sheltered anchorage for the night off a sandy beach, right around the corner from Current Cut.
Day three took us due east near slack tide through swift running Current Cut (it flows six knots at its peak), with the rising sun blinding us but thankfully the digital chart was right on the mark and saw us safely through. Then south across the shallow Bay of Eleuthera to Rock Sound at the other end of the long skinny island. We anchored among the other boats in the large, protected bay, and hurried ashore, tying up at the cruiser-friendly Wild Orchids restaurant. A short walk brought us to the Market Place for some fresh provisions just 20 minutes before closing (5 pm).
Having made use of the Wild Orchids' dinghy dock and dumpster, we stopped on the way back for a sundowner at their waterfront bar. Burger ordered us two Margueritas. Uh oh! We should have asked the price. The cruising guide said there was Thursday night happy hour, but there was none. Each drink cost $12! While we sipped the liquid gold, a float plane landed and glided up to the restaurant. We chatted with the young Canadian couple who disembarked as we were getting into our dinghy: they had flown the small plane, in stages, all the way down from Calgary!
Day four was a quick sail across the deep Tongue of the Ocean to the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park at Warderick Wells in the Exumas. The Park, founded in the 1950's, is a 22 mile long environmentally protected area where no fishing is allowed It serves as a nursery for fish, conch and shellfish for the entire Bahamas. Last time we were here, the lobster and grouper had no fear of us when we snorkeled around the coral heads, like deer who know when it's not hunting season. How does the wildlife communicate with one another?
We counted ourselves very fortunate to nab one of the last of 22 moorings in the protected slot of water between the two small islands at Park Headquarters, but it was near the entrance, just around the corner from the ocean cut. The ocean swell hooked around and made it a bit rolly but bearable.
Burger was in the dinghy tying us up to the mooring ball when a large motoryacht, probably 100 feet long and flagged in the Cayman Islands, attempted to moor right next to us. We watched in amusement as the crew tried to reach the ball from their high bow with a much too short boat hook. Burger went to their rescue (an opportunity to "pay it forward"), then instructed them how to properly tie not one, but two lines to the ball. It was probably the first time they did it, since yachts that size typically tie up marinas or anchor out. We hoped they might offer to share their wifi password as thanks (they had very expensive satellite internet) but alas, no such luck.
After decorating the main salon for Christmas, we dinghied ashore to register for the mooring ($40/night) and brought homemade guacamole to the potluck happy hour on Whale Skeleton Beach. A sign said that the sperm whale had died as a result of ingested plastic, a somber plea to all to dispose of plastic trash properly.
Among the many cruisers on the beach were around 20 children running about and having a great time. Word has spread that Warderick Wells is the place to go with children for Christmas, so they're all congregated here.
The predicted front came through early and had us rocking and rolling on our mooring in the middle of the night. So in the morning we set off for the short trip around to the sheltered waters at nearby Emerald Rock.
Right after arriving there we noticed black smoke billowing out the aft dorado vents! As soon as Burger turned off the generator, the smoke subsided. It turns out the saltwater cooling pump malfunctioned and the generator overheated. causing the insulation material to melt. Always something! Thus began a two-day repair job to replace the pump with a spare that didn't fit (of course!) and needed modifying. In the meantime, the strong wind, gusting to 30 knots, kept the wind generator charging enough to keep fridge and freezer cold without having to run the engine.
Merry Christmas! After a special breakfast of marzipan stollen and other goodies, Burger resumed the repair effort while I made potato salad for the afternoon Christmas potluck at park headquarters. What a huge spread! The Park staff provided roast turkey, chicken and ham, augmented by all the sides brought by the cruisers. There must have been over 70 people there, including the 20+ children. The parents came prepared with grab bag gifts for all, and they played the white elephant gift exchange game that had everyone whooping with laughter. We made several new friends who we'll no doubt be seeing in other Exumas anchorages this winter.
Twelve Days to Christmas, Part I
28 December 2016
After weeks of "fixing to leave"--which means for Burger, fixing lots of things on the boat, and for me, lots of provisioning and stowage--we were finally ready to leave. It was a perfect weather window for the crossing, even a full moon. We left our dock at Tarpon Bay Yacht Club and motored down the St. Lucie River at low tide, so as to easily pass under two 65-foot highway bridges with our 63+-foot mast. We then anchored in a sheltered spot for the night, just in time for Burger to climb the mast and install the toplight and windvane before dark. Experience has taught us to take down the mast-top instruments for the many fixed highway bridges along the East Coast.
Early next morning the moon was setting behind us with the sun coming up on our bow, as we motored out the St. Lucie Inlet into the Atlantic. Pelicans and dolphins seemed to bid us farewell; later in the day, schools of flying fish skittered away from the hull. We soon reached the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, which tried hard to pull us northward as we counter-steered our way across to the turquoise waters of the Little Bahama Bank.
"Halekai, Halekai, this is the sailing vessel Royal Serf. Do you copy?" Thus began our acquaintance with Fred and Cindy, who had left Lake Worth at West Palm Beach that same morning. Fred could see Halekai on his AIS screen. He could also see that our courses would converge by late in the day. We met as predicted and sailed side by side in the moonlight till almost midnight, when we simultaneously reached Great Sale Cay, an uninhabited islet conveniently along our route that provided shelter for a good night's sleep. It was comforting to know we weren't all alone.
Next morning we both continued on across the 25 foot banks. Other boats appeared seemingly out of nowhere and we all proceeded toward the Abacos, reaching White Sound in Green Turtle Cay by late afternoon. After replenishing the diesel tank at the GTC Marina fuel dock, we anchored nearby in the cove. Fred and Cindy took a slip in the marina, but we prefer to drop the hook. It's easier to anchor than dealing with docking lines and fenders, more private, cooler, less buggy, and best of all, it's free!
Going offline cold turkey is quite the adjustment, being accustomed as we are to the instant gratification of the internet. We weren't completely shut off from the world though: we can email via shortwave radio modem and listen to NPR on satellite radio, and there's phone and data service wherever there's a cell tower. Nevertheless, imagine our delight upon finding a strong wifi signal that evening. GTC Marina is wise to leave their wifi open to those at anchor, since there are plenty of reasons for boaters to spend money there: fuel, restaurant, laundromat, gift shop, etc. It's quite lovely there, with shady benches overlooking the harbor, flowers everywhere, a pretty white sand beach, and a cozy lounge and bar. The bar was cheerfully decorated with dollar bills and yacht club burgees.
Next morning we gathered our passports and boat papers and dinghied ashore to clear in. Our new friends Fred and Cindy had already rented a golf cart and kindly gave us a ride to the Customs & Immigration office. Oops! We forgot about the $300 cruising permit fee and only had $200 between us. No credit cards accepted. The Customs lady was only there in the morning and was about to close the office for the day. Fred came to the rescue, with a brand new $100 bill. The generosity of strangers! It was a typical example of how cruisers are quick to help each other out. Pay it forward is the motto, and that we will.
Next we stopped at the BaTelCo office to buy a chip for our phone. What luck! The office is only open on Thursdays, and it was Thursday. While we waited on line, we chatted with a retired woman, a former sailboat cruiser from Colorado who, along with her husband, has made Green Turtle her full-time home. They live in one of the charming little cottages on the island and belong to a tight knit expat community and love it there.
Alas, the BaTelCo office was also cash-only, so Fred kindly opened his wallet for us again. Next we drove through the village of New Plymouth, first settled in 1786 by British Loyalists who fled the former colonies after the Revolutionary War. We treated Fred and Cindy to lunch at McIntosh's, where they thankfully did accept plastic. Scrumptious cracked conch and lobster wraps were washed down with Kalik, the local brew. We repaid our debt as soon as we returned to the marina.
Keeping the boat maintained keeps Burger on his toes--and sometimes upside down in the bilge. Despite having checked all systems before we left, he discovered an engine hose leaking oil (not any old hose, mind you, but a reinforced hose specific to our brand of engine), as well as a suddenly malfunctioning part for one of our two toilets. Neither problem was an emergency, but we didn't want to wait till our return home in April to fix them. So I put out a request on a FaceBook cruiser group that we belong to, how best to ship in the parts, which we know to be an expensive hassle with Customs. Ha! Within a few hours, a generous cruising couple in Florida responded, offering to bring us the parts if we could get them to them before they departed for the Bahamas in a few days. So we ordered the parts online and had them shipped to them pronto. How neat is that?!
The weather was unfavorable to leave, since our course led us out the notorious Whale Cay Cut just south of Green Turtle Cay. When strong wind opposes the fast flowing current, it kicks up a nasty "rage" condition which the cruising guide warns is suicidal to attempt. Not a problem, we're in no hurry. We stretched our legs hiking around the island, and splurged on prime ribs for dinner, the Saturday night special at the marina.
Our 47th anniversary! We awoke early to the sound of distant drums and Christmas carol practice. It was a quiet day of reminiscing while enjoying special treats and champagne, and a hike to the beach to check on the ocean surf (still high). We took advantage of the marina's laundromat--not a very anniversary- or Sunday-like activity, but we may be leaving tomorrow--while enjoying conch chowder for lunch. I put the final polish on our annual holiday letter and emailed it off to family and friends, the last chance to do so before we left.
A Dozen Months Equals a Year
27 March 2015 | Guadalupe, Ecuador
Nancy and Burger Zapf
We can't seem to get enough of this place. For the 12th time Burger spent nearly a month providing ENT medical and surgical care to the indigent peoples of southern Ecuador. Check out our latest report, above. And CLICK HERE FOR SOME GREAT PHOTOS!
Our return trip was an adventure: The late afternoon flight from Loja to Quito was canceled due to fog (the landing strip is in a valley surrounded by high mountains). So we took a 4-hour taxi trip to Cuenca, the nearest city with an airport. Ecuadorean taxi drivers are notorious, passing on blind curves and driving at breakneck speed in rain, fog and darkness. Not to mention the very real danger of a landslide around every bend. Luckily we made it to Cuenca safely where we spent the night and flew to Quito next morning. We were able to rebook on a later flight from Quito to Miami. It was good to get home to Florida sunshine!
Halekai at Home
25 December 2014 | Port Saint Lucie, Florida
Halekai is now berthed at her new home at the Tarpon Bay Yacht Club dock. We can see her from our "lanai" (screened-in veranda), where her dark green hull stands out from the crowd. She's riding high since we unloaded tons of stuff. Doesn't the wide band of red bottom paint make her look Christmassy?
Soon we'll have her mast stepped and the rigging replaced so she'll be ready for new adventures to the Bahamas, and--who knows--maybe to Cuba!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to our friends worldwide!
The Home Stretch
17 November 2014 | Stuart, Florida
Photo: the “triple bridge” at Stuart, FL (65’ fixed highway bridge, single bascule railroad bridge, double bascule highway bridge)
We left Southport after fueling at the marina and sailed offshore for two days and two nights, reentering the ICW at St. Augustine, Florida. How nice to avoid all those bridges and meandering waterways of South Carolina and Georgia! That night we anchored in the shelter of historic Fort Mantanzas, built to protect St. Augustine from invaders in 1742.
Next day we made it to Titusville shortly after dark, anchoring just south of the Cape Canaveral railroad bridge. The following night we decided to splurge with a transient slip at Loggerhead Marina in Vero Beach, where we washed the salt off the deck and bunkered diesel and water for the home stretch.
Exactly 14 days after leaving the Chesapeake, Halekai left the ICW at Stuart, Florida and passed under the “triple bridge” leading up the Port Saint Lucie River to her new home at Kitching Cove.
Our Favorite Stopover
12 November 2014 | Wrightsville Beach, NC
photo: Papa with Melanie
Sometimes you just luck out without any planning. We arrived at the Wrightsville Beach anchorage just in time to celebrate our daughter Melanie’s mother-in-law’s 65th birthday that night, together with the whole family. Son-in-law Trey picked us up from the dinghy dock and we had a great dinner at Osteria Ciccetti, with ice cream for dessert at Boombalatti’s next door. How nice that they live in Wilmington, so convenient to the ICW.
The second unplanned coincidence was that Melanie and the boys had the next day off from work and school, as it was Veteran’s Day. Burger babysat the boys—watching Star Wars with six year old Ivey while 2 1/2 year old Owen took his nap—so Melanie and I could escape for a mother/daughter visit and pedicure at our favorite nail salon. Did our laundry at Melanie’s and a grocery run at Harrison Teeter’s, pizza with the family before returning to the boat.
The weather forecast looks good for an offshore run, so we’re planning to head out at Southport today to shorten the trip. Will be a nice break from the tedium of steering down the channel and hoping the bridges have enough clearance for us.
A Not So Peaceful Evening
10 November 2014 | Swansboro, NC
After a long day of motoring past Moorehead City and down the channel along the coast, we were glad to reach Swansboro shortly before dark. We looked forward to a quiet evening aboard, but it was not to be.
Just as we prepared to watch the sunset with a glass of wine, our ears were assaulted by sudden loud music. A couple on a neglected-looking little sailboat anchored next to us decided to share their favorite tunes with the flotilla (we were six boats at anchor with several more berthed at docks nearby). Oblivious to the consternation they were causing all around them, they stood in the cockpit smootching and swaying to the music. Luckily the show didn’t last long, as their batteries couldn’t keep up with the volume. They cleverly disappeared belowdeck before any tomatoes began to fly.
But the peace didn’t last for long. Boom! Boom! Boom!! The Camp LeJeune Marines were conducting their firing exercises into the evening, and we were jolted in surprise each time the shots reverberated through the hull. The good news is that they’re not firing today, as we make our way onwards through Camp LeJeune toward Wrightsville Beach.
The Dreaded Wilkerson Bridge
09 November 2014 | ICW MileMarker 126, North Carolina
photo: we don't like seeing less than 64'
All the fixed bridges on the ICW along our route are built with a 65’ vertical clearance at MHW (mean high water) but one, the Wilkerson Bridge which is only 64’. We don’t know if the architects goofed or the bridge sank over the years, but it’s a problem for boats like us with tall masts. Ours is 63’, and after losing mast-top instruments once, Burger now climbs the mast to remove the tall spindly wind instrument and top light before we transit.
We approach each bridge slowly to read the height boards with our binoculars, and it’s a bit of an adrenaline rush if the numbers are less than 65’. We usually fit under with at least a foot to spare (our VHF antenna whips back and forth angrily if it’s particularly close), but sometimes winds and tides conspire against us and the boards show less than 64. Then we have to anchor and wait, hoping the water level will lower with the tide soon. At the Wilkerson Bridge, we have a foot less height to worry about.
But, good news, this time the water was low and we motored under with only the antenna boinging.
Halloween a Week Late
08 November 2014 | In the Middle of Nowhere
photo: Halekai's main salon
It was a chilly but bright blue sky day as we motored 14 miles across the choppy Albermarle Sound of North Carolina and entered the Alligator River by late afternoon. Duck blinds dotted the landscape, reminding us of the story we once heard of a yacht hit by a hunter's buckshot. But didn't see any hunters huddled in the cold.
The wind died conveniently just as we edged our way through the shoals at Tuckahoe Point and dropped the hook in a 9' pocket for the night. Jagged black stumps and dead trees hung with moss stuck out of the water ominously not far from us, creating a spooky Halloween atmosphere. We were in the middle of nowhere, with no cell or radio connection, an eerie feeling. Then another yacht approached and anchored near us, the magnet effect (if we were there, it must be deep enough for them), so we weren't quite so alone.
We watched from the cockpit as the sun set and the full moon rose over the marshes. Just after dark a bright light appeared in the distance, a tug boat pulling a barge that soon passed by us. We had a cozy dinner, watched a movie, and slept soundly that night.
The Crazy Bull
07 November 2014 | Great Falls Bridge, Virginia
The delay caused by the aircraft carrier, the bascule bridge opening restrictions and the Great Falls Lock saw us just 12 miles further along the Ditch by late afternoon, so we tied up at the Great Falls, Virginia free dock. We walked to the local supermarket for a few groceries, browsed the several consignment shops, then had an early dinner at El Torro Loco, the Mexican restaurant where we had celebrated Cinco de Mayo together with a group of cruisers on our way north. We told our waiter this (I think he was the owner), and to our surprise, he pointed to the table where we had sat and said he remembered us! “The pony-tailed waitress served you that night,” he added. “I have a bad memory for names, but a good one for details.” Amazing! Or were we such unusual, boisterous bunch?
Staying Ahead of the Madding Crowd
06 November 2014 | Virginia Cut
How easy it is to make friends on the water, and yet, some folks evidently need help. For years we’ve been successful at avoiding the many organized rallies and races that have sprung up all over the world. Crowds of boats pay big bucks to cling together on the same itinerary, trying not to collide while crisscrossing each other’s paths en route and clogging the best anchorages and marinas at their destinations. Their money goes to the organizers of skipper meetings, weather briefings, parties and t-shirts. We took part in the Marion to Bermuda Race over twenty years ago when Halekai was first launched. We found it to be a big waste of money and vowed: never again.
Just the day before we passed through Norfolk Harbor, not one but two rallies with a total of 111 boats left together for the Caribbean. AND twenty boats departed the same day on the first annual ICW Snowbird Rally! Each boat paid $750 for the privilege of being led down the well-buoyed path, stopping to party along the way. Luckily the internet allows us to keep track of them on their website. They chose the Dismal Swamp route from Norfolk so we didn’t encounter them on our first stretch south along the Virginia Cut.
Yet Another Web-based Encounter
05 November 2014 | Portsmouth, Virginia
photo: Harry Truman aircraft carrier
“Ahoy there, Halekai,” a businessman in a suit and tie called from the dock, just as we were preparing to leave next morning. “I saw you tie up yesterday from my seventh floor office window, and I googled you. Love your blog! Have you found a buyer for your boat yet?” Just the night before we had been talking with Sean and Krissy, who have a website and blog, about the slightly creepy feeling of sharing one’s life openly on the internet. Here was an example.
Yet it’s flattering to have a blog readership around the world, and one thing can lead to another. For instance: Our admirer continued, “The Harry Truman aircraft carrier is coming up river, and I came out to watch it.” Good to know! It would have been bad timing to enter the channel just then. Instead, we alerted our new cruising friends and, with the kids carrying their bowls of cheerios, we all hurried to the riverfront. We arrived just in time to watch the grey giant glide past, being pushed and pulled along by multiple tugboats. We then cast off and followed it down the channel, watching in awe as the tugs maneuvered it backwards into a shipyard slip.
The Marvels of Social Media
04 November 2014 | Portsmouth, Virginia
Photo: Portsmouth Town Dock
“Are there any other late starters out there, heading down the Chesapeake?” I inquired on a cruisers’ group page we follow on FaceBook. Several replies followed in short order, including one from a couple right in our marina. I knocked on their hull and introduced myself to Sean and Krissy from Wisconsin, who had just begun a four-year sailing adventure aboard S/V Paisley, together with their three children, ages 4,7 and 9.They were planning to leave early next morning, as were we.
Halekai had been hauled out and listed for sale at Herrington Harbour North for the past six months, but no buyers in sight. In the meantime we’ve changed our tune and have decided to keep her after all. It’s time to sail her south to her new home in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
On our way down the Bay we kept in touch with Paisley online, and rendezvoused two days later. We had learned about the free town dock in Portsmouth, Virginia on our trip north last spring, and were glad to acquaint Paisley with it. The Hospital Point anchorage was full and the kids needed shore leave. At dusk we waved a third boat, S/V Nemo, into the basin and helped them tie alongside. Judy and Don are a recently retired couple who just sold their home in Vermont to begin cruising full time. They were also grateful to find a free berth. That evening we had them over and got acquainted over a glass of wine. We exchanged boat cards so we can keep in touch and pass on cruising tips along the way.
Cruiser Camaraderie in Maine
09 August 2014 | Islesboro, Maine
Over 60 boats anchored off the DeGrasse's cottage on Islesboro, Maine for the 24th annual SSCA Gam last weekend. We've attended a couple of times in past years by boat, but this time we came by RV and took the ferry across to the island. We caught up with friends old and new from over a dozen boats, some we've known for years and some just met earlier this year. One couple we saw last in Peru, another in Sicily.
Then we moved our little home on wheels on to Mount Desert, hiking in the beautiful Acadia National Park. Lobster rolls and wild blueberries are as abundant and delicious as ever, and we've enjoyed mostly sunny days and cool nights. Maine is one of our favorite places.
A few days ago, while awaiting a bus in Bar Harbor, a couple recognized our Isleboro t-shirts and told us they were SSCA members from Annapolis who had gone to gams in the past. They asked, "Do you know Nancy and Burger Zapf, who organized the Annapolis gams back then?"
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25 May 2014 | Herrington Harbour North, Maryland
Photo: Our RV in Mexico, 2004
After day-hopping up the Chesapeake from Norfolk, we arrived at Herrington Harbour North on May 9th, thus coming full circle. We began our circumnavigation aboard Halekai from this same marina in October 2004.
Next day we set to work emptying Halekai of 21 years of accumulated stuff, lowering the waterline by an inch. Some of it is now in storage, some in consignment, and some in the dumpster. We then gave her a good scrubbing below and above deck. She was hauled out a week later and then the next stage of work began, cleaning and painting the bottom and polishing the hull. (Actually Burger did most of that, while I gave my aching back a rest. I could really use a massage!) Now she's all shiny and ready for sale.
It's time to switch gears and move onto our motorhome, a Phoenix Cruiser 23 that we bought in 2004, the same year we set off around the world. After a year of outdoor storage on a farm, we were amazed when the engine started right up! The solar panels on the roof did a good job keeping the batteries charged, despite the long, cold winter.
During off seasons we've taken our little home on wheels to Mexico and all around the U.S., including Alaska. While Halekai is looking for a new owner this summer we'll be heading northeast to New England. In the fall we'll drive the RV south. We'll move into our new "home base" condo at Tarpon Bay Yacht Club in Port St. Lucie, Florida, from where we'll start our next adventure. Stay tuned!