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HALEKAI Sailing Around the World
Nancy and Burger invite you to read about their cruising adventures afloat.
Our Favorite Stopover
photo: Papa with Melanie
11/12/2014, Wrightsville Beach, NC

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.

2014 IntraCoastal Waterway
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A Not So Peaceful Evening
11/10/2014, 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.

2014 IntraCoastal Waterway
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The Dreaded Wilkerson Bridge
photo: we don't like seeing less than 64'
11/09/2014, ICW MileMarker 126, North Carolina

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.

2014 IntraCoastal Waterway
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Halloween a Week Late
photo: Halekai's main salon
11/08/2014, In the Middle of Nowhere

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.

2014 IntraCoastal Waterway
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The Crazy Bull
11/07/2014, 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?

2014 IntraCoastal Waterway
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Staying Ahead of the Madding Crowd
11/06/2014, 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.

2014 IntraCoastal Waterway
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Yet Another Web-based Encounter
photo: Harry Truman aircraft carrier
11/05/2014, Portsmouth, Virginia

"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.

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The Marvels of Social Media
Photo: Portsmouth Town Dock
11/04/2014, Portsmouth, Virginia

"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.

2014 IntraCoastal Waterway
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Cruiser Camaraderie in Maine
08/09/2014, 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?"

CLICK HERE FOR MORE GAM PHOTOS

2014 IntraCoastal Waterway
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Switching Gears
Photo: Our RV in Mexico, 2004
05/25/2014, Herrington Harbour North, Maryland

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!

2014 IntraCoastal Waterway
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East Coast Cruising
Photo: Halekai in Georgetown, Bahamas
05/23/2014, Herrington Harbour North, Maryland

"So what do you plan to do next, now that you've sailed around the world?"

Cruising has been a major part of our lives for nearly forty years, ever since we crossed the Atlantic from Germany aboard our first sailboat, Phantasus, in 1975. The live-aboard lifestyle has become our way of life, whether afloat or aboard our RV. We love traveling to new places while having our home along with us. But we've fulfilled our dream to circumnavigate and have had our fill of ocean crossings. So what's next?

We're not ready to "swallow the anchor" yet. We plan to resume winter Bahamas cruising, which remains one of our favorite cruising areas of the world. We'll take the RV on trips north in the summer--so many routes to choose from and places to visit, the whole of North America! We look forward to more frequent visits with our family, especially now that we have four adorable grandkiddies to spoil!

2014 IntraCoastal Waterway
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The Joys of Freebie Dockage and Cruiser Camaraderie
photo: berthed at North Landing, Portsmouth
05/07/2014, From Great Bridge to Norfolk, VA

Much as we like anchoring in tranquil creeks along "the Ditch," it was a treat to tie up for free at the Great Bridge Battlefield Park transient dock in Virginia, and not have to launch the dinghy to get ashore. Kurt and Kathy of s/v Five & Dime who we met in Wrightsville Beach invited us along for Cinco de Mayo dinner at the local Mexican restaurant, El Toro Loco. Over giant margaritas we got acquainted with Bert and Prue of s/v Exuberant and Phil of s/v Cyan. How easy it is to make friends while cruising.

Next morning we all went through the Great Bridge Lock together, the only lock along the IntraCoastal Waterway. Our little flotilla stuck together through several bridge openings along the increasingly busy waters approaching Norfolk. A large ship held us up for almost an hour as a tug helped it slowly squeeze through a narrow bascule bridge. Hooray, it was our last bridge of the trip! We were happy to call it a day early in Portsmouth, where we once again took advantage of free dockage provided for transient cruisers.

After stretching our legs along the quaint streets of the Old Towne we had lunch at the German Biergarten. That evening we walked together with the crew of Five & Dime and Exuberant along with another couple who joined us, Annette and Anthony of s/v Magnolia, to the Art Deco style restored Commodore Dinner Theatre. For just $5 per ticket we saw the latest movie, "Captain America," on the big screen. Not my kind of movie but certainly entertaining and with an all-star cast. It was fun calling in food and drink orders from the table phones and dining in comfy chairs while Chris Evans watching save the world from destruction by bad guy Robert Redford.

CLICK FOR PHOTOS

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Adios, Cheap Spanish Wine
Photo: At anchor in New Zealand
05/05/2014

"If you could do it over again, would you have done anything differently on your trip around the world?"

On the whole we had a wonderful time with few regrets. It was truly a lifelong dream come true. But ...

We listened to bad advice and stayed in budget motels for our month-long driving tour of New Zealand's South Island, instead of renting a campervan. The South Island is all about the great outdoors, and camping would have brought us nearer to nature. February was high season and it was tiresome seeking places to stay each night. How often did we hear, "You're in luck, we have just one vacancy left, if you don't mind taking the handicap room."

A second regret was going to cold, rainy Germany a few years ago, instead of spending the time traveling around sunny Australia while Halekai was in Bundaberg. We never did get to visit our son-in-law's relatives in Sydney, nor did we tour the wine country of South Australia.

But by far the biggest mistake we made was not filling every nook and cranny with cheap Spanish wine! Since leaving Spanish waters we've nearly exhausted the wine cellar. Good wine cost only a couple of dollars a bottle.

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What Do Little Boys Like to Do on Boats?
photo: Melanie, Ivey and Owen with Burger
04/29/2014, Wrightsville Beach, NC

1. Take a dinghy ride. 2. Climb the boarding ladder. 3. Spin the steering wheel. 4. Climb up and down the companionway ladder. 5. Repeat again and again.

CLICK FOR MORE CUTE PHOTOS!


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Do We Have Cute Grandsons or What?!
04/27/2014, Myrtle Beach SC

It's been a whole year since we last saw our grandsons Owen (2) and Ivey (almost 6). Melanie and Trey and the boys met us in Myrtle Beach, SC on Saturday. Over lunch and mini-golf ("let's go putt-putt") and ice cream cones we all got caught up.

CLICK FOR SOME GREAT PHOTOS!

2014 IntraCoastal Waterway
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Time for a Break
04/26/2014, Myrtle Beach SC

The fuel and water tanks were getting low, the laundry bag was full, and the fridge was nearly empty. We'd been spending long 12 hour days at the wheel and anchoring in creeks every night since leaving St. Augustine on Easter Sunday, and we needed a break. So we pulled into Osprey Marina in Myrtle Beach, just off the ICW.

What a nice place! We were welcomed warmly, filled our diesel tanks at the lowest prices we've seen in a year (even a 10% BoatUS discount), and given a courtesy golf cart to drive around the marina to the office/laundry room. The transient rate was only $1/foot and they gave us a goody bag filled with freebies.

The marina is a bit off the beaten track, so an enterprising pizzeria has a low-cost chauffeur service to the restaurant a few miles away, with time for shopping at the supermarket next door. So with a quick overnight stop, all our needs were met.

2014 IntraCoastal Waterway
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Slave Drivers and Gator Hunters in the Night
photo: early morning snowbird parade
04/24/2014, Georgia marshes

April being a bit early for the northbound snowbird migration, we haven't seen many other boats, which is mostly a good thing. Few powerboats causing wake or asking for slow passes, no congestion at bridges, and quiet, uncrowded anchorages. But ...

A couple of nights ago in Georgia we were anchored all by our lonesome in a creek off the channel, surrounded by marshland and miles from anywhere. We set our anchor light and locked ourselves in, feeling a bit vulnerable. After dinner we watched the movie, "12 Years a Slave," which takes place in Georgia, giving us the shivers of what life was once like right here where we were. (It was one of those cheap DVD copies we'd bought in Georgetown, and--oh no!-- it cut off abruptly just before the ending!)

Spooked by images of ruthless slave drivers swirling in our heads, we woke to the sound of two motorboats approaching in the middle of the night. They slowed down right near us and we could hear men's voices. We peeked out and saw that they were shining bright white lights on their bows. Pretty scary!

Then they sped off into the night as suddenly as they'd come (there were lit channel markers to guide them). What would they be doing out there that time of night, and why did they seek us out? Were they gator hunting and just came by to check us out?

2014 IntraCoastal Waterway
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Chugging Along up the ICW
04/22/2014, South Carolina

The weather gods are not favoring an outside run so we're chugging along the sheltered IntraCoastal Waterway, a trip we've made several times in years past. Navigating by Ipad, we can see the channel markers on the screen and can tell if we're veering off course. The nav program tells us the tides in advance of the 65' fixed bridges (our mast height is 63'), and the opening schedules of the bascule bridges. So much easier than in the past!

In Florida we motored past miles and miles of fancy waterfront mansions. In George and South Carolina it's miles and miles of marshland. Our 12-hour days are spent alternating at the wheel, while one of us does chores or cooks or surfs the internet (using Verizon MiFi).

Silly us, we anchored in a cove sheltered all around by mangroves one night, where we were attacked by vicious no-see-ums that came right though our screens. A week later we're still itching!

Another night we anchored in sight of the Cape Canaveral missile launch site. The next day we heard a USCG advisory on the radio: "Warning, hazard to navigation, partially submerged rocket booster in the vicinity of the ICW channel, near Cape Canaveral." Glad we're north of there!

We treated ourselves to a marina slip for Easter weekend in St. Augustine, which was full of tourists. It was wonderful to be chauffeured around for shopping and errands by old friends Elli and Charley, who we first met in Samoa in 1982. It's been 30 years since his harrowing rescue at sea in the middle of the South Pacific.

The weather has been chilly the last few days and we're in long pants, shirts and jackets, a new experience after a whole year in shorts and t-shirts.

CLICK FOR ICW PHOTOS

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What Was Your Worst Weather?
Photo: Bridge of Lions, St. Augustine FL
04/20/2014, St. Augustine, FL

"Have you ever been in a storm? What's the worst weather you experienced while underway?"

A week ago I would have answered that during our entire circumnavigation we never had any really bad weather, except for a winter storm while we were aboard in the marina in Marmaris, Turkey. You can avoid most bad weather by not being in the tropics during hurricane season and not sailing in winter in the north (or far south). And by staging your departure to a good weather window wherever you are.

Oops, now that we've come full circle and are motoring up the protected IntraCoastal Waterway, we let our guard down. As we approached a bascule bridge near Cocoa, FL a few days ago, we heard a boater on the radio request an opening by the bridge tender, only to be told that the bridge can't open if the wind is over 40 knots, and 60 was predicted. Huh?! We glanced behind us and sure enough, ominous dark clouds were heading our way.

I barely had time to close the hatches when, Wham! the squall hit us with a vengeance and the boat heeled over. Burger steered us just outside the channel and quickly dropped anchor. For at least half an hour we had 60+ kt wind, torrential rain and total white-out conditions. We sat below and watched our position on the Ipad screen, happy to see that we weren't dragging. If we had, we would have wound up in the mangroves, not the worst of scenarios.

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The Ancient Mariners: Our Role Models Up the Ante
04/15/2014, Stuart, FL

While still in Port St. Lucie I called our friend Ruth Weiss to wish her a happy 88th birthday. Turns out she and Herb (now 95) were at the boatyard in Stuart, visiting their new trawler, a 36' American Tug. We jumped in the car and drove over for a tour of The Ancient Mariners--it's beautiful! Love the name! Their dinghy is called The Rime. :) Their Halberg-Rassy Windpower is up for sale.

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We then all drove back to Halekai for lunch aboard, and a tour of our possible new home at Tarpon Bay. So we got to celebrate both our birthdays together this year.

2014 IntraCoastal Waterway
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More Southern Hospitality. Have We Found a New Home Base?
04/14/2014, Port St. Lucie, FL

It's April and time to join the northbound snowbird migration of boats. We spent our first night anchored at West Palm Beach, right across from the center of the city. Tired after a long day taking turns at the wheel, we didn't feel like launching the dinghy, so didn't take advantage of the free public dinghy dock for a walk ashore. Maybe next time. Onward next day to Port St. Lucie, at the entrance to the Okeechobee Canal.

When we met Julie and George of S/V Seaquel in Georgetown last month, they told us about their new home at Tarpon Bay Yacht Club, a waterfront condominium development with dockage in Port St. Lucie. We've been thinking about a new "home base" in Florida, now that we're back, and the description peaked our interest. Affordable (prices haven't recovered yet after the recession) 2 and 3 bedroom units in a well-maintained community with amenities, including dockage on a very sheltered cove at just $1/foot per month! There's even a community workshop. Golf courses and a Club Med (with guest day passes) are right near by.

Turns out there are several other cruisers living there, among them Gina Poland, a former cruiser we know from Annapolis. Gina sponsored us for the guest dock, then had to leave unexpectedly for a week. She most generously lent us her car in exchange for taking her to and from the airport (West Palm Beach 45 min drive). What a bonus, a guest dock and a car!

Over the next several days we looked at available condo units while getting to know the neighbors and the area, which is right near Stuart. We went to the weekly cocktail party and a pancake breakfast at the clubhouse, and made good use of the lovely heated pool. We felt we fit right in. Now we're seriously considering making an offer on one of the units for sale.

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A Whirlwind Week of Welcome
photo: sunset at Middle River anchorage
03/31/2014, Middle River, Fort Lauderdale

Next day our old friends Bev & Dave Feiges fetched us from the dinghy dock and took us out to lunch, on errands (West Marine, CostCo) and then dinner aboard M/V Cloverleaf at their marina. Wonderful!

During the following several days we had a whirlwind social life, meeting up with cruising friends Jon & Jill Danzig, Steve & Linda Leeds, Terry & Clint Boram, and Steve and Truus Sharp. I had lunch at the Mall with Judi Mkam of SSCA, who then came aboard for a visit. Fort Lauderdale, a major yachting center, was the perfect place to shop and do errands after a year abroad.

The following weekend Bev & Dave drove us to Boca Ratan for a "Welcome Home" party at the home of Herb & Ruth Weiss. Their beautiful oceanview condo was festooned with "Congratulations" balloons. Ruth served a delicious candlelight dinner for ten, among them our friends Katherine & Craig Briggs of S/V Sangaris, who we last saw in Greece. Dessert was melt-in-your-mouth chocolate cake lit with candles for my birthday. We felt very honored!

2014 IntraCoastal Waterway
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Only in South Florida!
photo: 17th St. Bridge, Fort Lauderdale
03/24/2014, Fort Lauderdale, FL

As we entered the entrance channel to Fort Lauderdale on a sunny Sunday morning in March, a small plane trailing a banner approached us. Maybe someone is sending us a "Welcome Home" message, I joked to Burger. But as it passed by I couldn't believe my eyes: "Trojan -- You can't wait to get it on!"

While waiting for the 17th Street Bridge to open we watched the Sunday show. Big and little speedboats whizzed by. Brawny tattooed shaven head men at the helm, bikini babes perched on the bow. "Let's make them wave," I said, as tourist boats filled with day-trippers passed us. One wave and a smile from us produced dozens in return.

After passing through the Las Olas Bridge we turned left and entered the Middle River, where we anchored among half a dozen boats in a quiet pocket surrounded by waterfront homes. We checked in by phone with Customs and prepared to take a well-earned nap.

But first ... "Halekai, Halekai, this is Key of D," the VHF crackled. It was Steve Sharp, who we last saw aboard his catamaran in New Zealand. "I saw you coming in on the AIS screen this morning. Congratulations, and welcome back!" Wow! We had a reunion with circumnavigators Steve and Truus aboard their boat, tied up right near where we anchored, a couple of days later. The small floating village of world cruisers ... And in typical cruiser hospitality, they lent us their car to do errands.

That evening we had were treated to a celebration dinner by old friends Ruth and Herb Weiss of s/v Windpower, along with mutual cruiser friends Wally and Cecily, at the Galleria Mall, just across the street from the dinghy dock at George English Park. How convenient is that? It's great to be back!

2014 IntraCoastal Waterway
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The Home Stretch: Weather Before Wallet
Photo: anchored at Emerald Bay
03/22/2014, Crossing the Great Bahamas Bank

"Working, Working, Working on the Boat!" Who of our cruising friends remember that song by bluewater folksinger Eileen Quinn? It kept going through my head as we spent days scrubbing and polishing Halekai inside and out, all the while enjoying the lovely anchorages of Stocking Island. Now that she's all clean and shiny again we're even more proud of our beautiful "floating home"--which is the rough translation of Halekai, in Polynesian.

We left Georgetown last Monday with a good weather window for the week ahead. We day-hopped along the shallow Exumas Bank to Little Farmers Cay, to Staniel Cay, and then to Emerald Bay in the protected waters of the Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park. We snorkeled around Emerald Rock (in photo above) and coral heads teeming with colorful fish. It's amazing to see fish not scurry away, knowing that they're in a no-take marine reserve.

Then onward to Highbourne Cay, where there's an exclusive little marina resort. We dinghied ashore past a bunch of sharks with their fins slicing through the water off the entrance to the marina basin, begging for fish tidbits to the delight of the resort guests. After viewing the fancy $38 entrees on the restaurant menu, we bought cleaned conch from a local fisherman for $2 each and had gourmet conch salad aboard.

Last night we took shelter off Rose Island, just across from Nassau. Annoying jet skiers from a large motoryacht buzzed noisily around us but thankfully disappeared before sundowner time. This morning we sailed past the huge pink Atlantis resort complex and several cruise ships, and this afternoon we passed between Andros and the Berry Islands.

We're now on the shallow Great Bahamas Bank, a weird feeling sailing miles from land in only 10 to 15 feet of water. In the morning we'll cross the Gulf Stream and should arrive in Fort Lauderdale tomorrow afternoon. Oh no, we'll be clearing Customs & Immigration on Sunday, yet again! More overtime charges? But with the next norther on its way, waiting a day would mean risking west wind while crossing the notorious Stream, a most unpleasant prospect for the home stretch. Weather comes before wallet.

It'll be the first time Halekai has been back in the States since we left Fort Lauderdale in January 2005. Time for another celebration!

2014 Bahamas
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Bahamas: Return to Paradise
03/16/2014, Monument Beach, Stocking Island

"Now that you've sailed around the world, what places did you like the most?"

Julie and George of s/v Seaquel, some friends who had completed their circumnavigation before we left, told us that the Bahamas were their favorite cruising grounds. They've been spending their winters here ever since they circled the globe, and we just had a fun reunion with them aboard Seaquel in Georgetown.

We often thought of that conversation during our travels, which took us to more than 30 countries along the trade wind route.

The world and its peoples are so diverse that choosing favorites among them is like comparing apples and oranges. We have wonderful memories of the many places we've visited and the friends we've made along the way, and there's really nowhere in the world that we didn't enjoy in one way or another. The South Pacific, Turkey and Morocco were perhaps the most exotic, for different reasons.

But the beautiful aquamarine waters and white sandy beaches of the Bahamas are like nowhere else in the world. We love snorkeling the coral waters and hunting for lobster and conch. The climate is warm and balmy. The people are friendly, crime is almost non-existent, and it's nice to be where English is spoken. We have old friends who continue to winter here. There's an international airport in Georgetown making it easy to have guests.

CLICK FOR PHOTOS OF PARADISE!

Now that we've spent a month in the Exumas, our concern that things might have changed for the worse over the years has been put to rest. And how convenient for us that they are so close to the US East Coast, for our future winters afloat.

2014 Bahamas
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