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Moonraker
This blog chronicles the adventures of the sailing vessel Moonraker. We just finished the second year of our cruising life. We explored the US East Coast from Maine to Florida, the Bahamas, Haiti, PR, and the Virgin Islands.
The Octopuses Garden
Donna
02/12/2013, Highbourne Cay, Exumas, Bahamas

The water was getting choppy where we were anchored so we decided to move to the other side of the island, closer to the reef and a different direction of protection from the land. It was a bit difficult getting in because the wind was so strong and Bill was trying to cut through the shallow part. We were using our headsets again so he could hear I was having issues. We changed our course to go a bit out of our way, but through deeper water. It worked a lot better. As soon as we anchored we could tell it was much calmer over here. Unfortunately no Internet though. That is OK, having Internet detracts from all the other things we can be doing with our time. Bill decided that it was time to go snorkeling. I personally prefer to be on top of the water rather than in it, but I let Bill buy me a wet suit and snorkeling gear. We were going to spend the winter in the Bahamas after all. We put on all our gear and practiced by the boat first so I could refresh my memory on how to snorkel. It's been a couple of years. Once I was OK with it we got in the dinghy and, with our new dinghy anchor, anchored next to the reef. Wow!!! This area of reef is called the Octopuses Garden and it was incredible. Beautiful fish, coral and plants were all around us. Luckily the water was relatively calm so it was easy to float around and check out the sights. Over night the wind changed so it was not as calm today. When we swam around the boat yesterday Bill saw some issues with the bottom of the boat because the water was so clear. Most of the bottom was fine but two areas were completely covered with live barnacles. They needed to come off. He also saw a zinc was missing from the propeller shaft. The zinc protects the boat from damage to the underwater metal by electrolysis. A few years ago he bought a very expensive system to allow him to scuba dive around the boat to fix and maintain things under the water. Finally we were in the right spot to use it. It was perfect for what he had to do today. All the preparation was done and he was jumping in the water with all the gear on when the regulator got caught on the swim ladder and broke off. End of story, that was not going to work again until we can find a way to get it replaced. He managed to do what he had to do with just his mask and snorkel, but it was a whole lot harder. We decided to go and snorkel on the reef again but it was just too rough to be enjoyable. Bill took some cool pictures which we will post when we get Internet again. On our way back our neighbors in a catamaran waved us over and invited us on board. They were Canadians, as are so many cruisers we see out here. They were just on a two week charter though. We had a nice time talking to them. As we were leaving a giant ray went swimming by the boat. Luckily Bill had a camera and got a decent picture of it. Tomorrow we will head out again and go to Allan's Cay where there are apparently iguanas everywhere you look. We will see how they compare to the iguanas we saw in Ft. Lauderdale!

Sailing
02/13/2013 | Jane
w.o.w. :-)
What an Exciting Day!!
Donna
02/09/2013, Highbourne Cay, Exumas, Bahamas

We started the day with an invigorating sail out of Nassau. When we got to the Yellow Banks, an area known for submerged coral heads all around, we put the sailing on hold for a little while. The cruising guide said to not get this far until at least 11:00am so that the sun will be in the right position for spotting the coral heads so you don't hit them. Bill went forward to look and wasn't really sure what he was supposed to see. Then he saw one and it became obvious that the large piece of rock that was showing in the middle of the clear blue water was something that needed to be avoided. We were wearing our very expensive headsets so we could talk to each other. We had not used them at all since we left Annapolis this time. They worked great today though. I was at the wheel and following Bill's directions to steer around the coral heads. Once we got through that we put the sails back up and continued on our way to the Exumas.

We are now anchored at Highbourne Cay. There are lots of other boats here too. We are all hiding from the bad weather that is supposed to hit tonight. In front of our bow, at least right now, there is a beach with some elevation behind it, as you can see in the picture above. The idea is that the wind will be coming from that direction and the elevation will block some of it so it is not so rough on us. Behind us is open ocean. When we got here it was much calmer than it is right now. Regardless of that, we were excited to see that there is Internet to be had here. We had not expected that at all. We took advantage of it and added pictures to the last few posts that we weren't able to put pictures on. Go back and check them out. We should be here at least a couple of days and if the Internet holds I will post a new Photo Gallery of pictures we've taken in Bimini and the Berry Islands.

Sailing
Spent the night in Nassau
Donna and Bill
02/09/2013, Nassau, Bahamas

We finally got to spend the day sailing! We left Soldier Cay and headed for Nassau. The weather report looked like we should let Bill's brother Guy get off the boat before he got stuck with us just sitting and doing nothing for four days. We had read and heard all kinds of bad things about Nassau. What we ended up doing, after a nice day of half sailing and half motor sailing, was to stop at a fuel dock to top off our tank and letting Guy out there. Our intention was to leave Nassau harbor and anchor outside it but we ended up anchoring on the east side of the harbor. The only problem was when all the boats for the cruise ship excursions go by and make a big wake, but they stopped over night. You need to call the Nassau harbormaster to request permission to enter the harbor. Bill did and permission was granted to pass through as planned. Once we anchored he called back and revised our plan to spend the night in Nassau. During the night we had our first taste of Bahamian rain. It was a bit strong, but not too long. Luckily the sun is shining again this morning. Today we are leaving for the Exumas. We will sail to Highborne Cay and probably spend the next few days there waiting to the nasty weather to blow through. When we say "nasty weather" we don't mean hurricane winds, freezing temperatures, and 2-3 feet of snow like some of you are experiencing now. We mean strong winds with the temperature in the 80's. We'll just have to anchor, relax, and maybe spend some time snorkeling.

Sailing
Hawksnest Cay
Donna
02/07/2013, Hawksnest Cay, Berry Islands, Bahamas

Unfortunately our track record for the Bahamas is not as good as the ICW at this point. Bill told me to be careful getting out of our anchorage this morning but I didn't listen very well. We went hard aground. To make it much worse a Norwegian cruise line was in and there were thirty kayakers witnessing my mistake. The only way to get the boat off the sand, in the falling tide, was for Bill to take the dinghy off the davits, bring the anchor down into it, and drop the anchor into deeper water. That is called kedging. It didn't look like it was going to work but ultimately it did. It certainly made for a stressful morning and hopefully for a more diligent helmsman.

Once we left Great Stirrup Cay we headed just an hour south to Hawksnest Cay. Bill read that there was a lake with an archway into the ocean. After we anchored in a very rolly spot we discovered that there was Internet to borrow. Unfortunately it's too uncomfortable to stay here for the night but we decided to take advantage and post the blog with a picture this time. If there is no picture you know we posted the blog via our SSB radio. Bill, Guy and I got in the dinghy and headed to the island. We walked completely around the island and picked up some shells and some good pictures. We found the lake, it wasn't much of a lake at low tide. The picture is of Bill and I in front of the archway. Guy found a couple of coconuts to bring back. He says there will be Pina coladas tonight! Bill and I took the dinghy back to the boat but Guy decided to snorkel back to the boat - naked!

Sailing
02/07/2013 | Mindy
Why am I not surprised that Guy would be snorkeling naked.
02/07/2013 | mike and sharon crothers
You will soon be on island time
First Anchorage in the Bahamas
Donna
02/06/2013, Great Stirrup Cay, Berry Islands, Bahamas

We left Bimini on Tuesday morning and were on our way. Our way was eighty eight miles across the Great Bahama Bank. We couldn't do it all in one day but you always have to come into an anchorage in daylight. Our options were to anchor in the shallower part of the ocean we were crossing, or to leave late enough in the day and go through the night. The wind was very calm so it wasn't going to be a sailboat ride either way. We all agreed to anchor for the night. We dropped the anchor right after sunset, thirty five miles from any land. It was a bit of a rolly night, but it could have been much worse. Today we headed back out right after breakfast. Two days of just seeing water all around us. This afternoon as we got close to our destination, Great Stirrup Cay (pronounced Key in the Bahamas), we saw a cruise ship anchored in front of the island. We are now in the Berry Islands. The water has been beautiful, we have seen a couple of flying fish, and a couple of power boats and fishing boats, but not much else. We are now anchored behind the island. Bill's brother Guy was quick to jump in the water and swim around but Bill and I decided to wait for that. We did take a dinghy ride and walked around the island. There is a lighthouse here but not one you can walk up. It doesn't seem to be a working lighthouse. Tomorrow we will head south again and continue exploring the Berry Islands. We are lucky that our Single Side Band radio is working to get email and posting to our blog. The only Internet here belongs to the Royal Caribbean Cruise Company and I don't think they are going to give us their passwords!

Sailing
02/07/2013 | Joan
I'm following you all the way. Such fun! when do you get to actually SAIL?
A Visit from Family
Donna
02/04/2013, Bimini, Bahamas

The past couple of days we have been dealing with our water issue. Bill tried two different ways to patch our leaking water tank and as far as we could see it was not any better than it was before the patch. We were going back and forth between whether we needed to go back to Ft. Lauderdale immediately or whether we could deal with living out of jugs of water for the next two months. We needed to decide what to do so we could let Bill's brother Guy know whether to come or not. We decided to try and see how it went and if it didn't work out we would sail back to Ft. Lauderdale with Guy.

In between dealing with the water we also walked around North Bimini and met a couple of cruisers. We went to the local Laundromat and did our laundry. There were a number of cruisers there too. We were successful in watching the Super Bowl on our TV even though we may have missed a couple of plays and a couple of commercials because of the degradation, but it wasn't too bad. I ended up washing all my dishes in the marina bathroom because we couldn't get any water to stay in the tank. I wasn't too thrilled about that.

Today Guy arrived. All this time the ferry boat and the water taxi have been going from the dock next to our marina past us and I never realized they were just going right across the water to the island on the other side. You can see Guy in the water taxi in the picture above. All that luggage in the back is not his, thank goodness! Guy is a very seasoned traveler, he travels very light. He did bring our new water pump to us though. We made water all afternoon with our watermaker so that we would have enough to test the pump and it works wonderfully. We managed to find someone who helped us get eleven one gallon jugs today and we now have them all filled with water so if the tank drains completely again, as we expect it will, we have water to drink, cook with, and wash with.

We took Guy out to see Bimini and we ended up going to visit on a boat in another marina. Bill and I were walking down the street today and a man walked up to us and asked if we were Americans. He was British and we talked for a while. He invited us to come visit him and his wife later so we took him up on it. They were a very interesting couple and we had drinks and talked for quite a while. Guy is definitely getting a taste of our cruising life! Tomorrow we are heading out over the Great Bahama Bank to head to the Berry Islands. We expect to anchor in the open water tomorrow night because it takes more than one day of daylight hours to get to an anchorage near land. It's supposed to be very calm for the next two days, we will see.

Sailing
Fixing Your Boat in Exotic Places
Donna
02/01/2013, Bimini, Bahamas

I'm pretty certain I mentioned earlier on this blog that the definition of Cruising is fixing your boat in exotic places. We finally feel like we have qualified! We know our water pump is dead, and we have a replacement coming, but today we found another worrisome problem. We discovered our water tank is leaking. Our tanks are under the floor boards in our main cabin. To get to them we need to lift the floor, including the center table, up and out of the way. That of course means moving everything around, but then living on a boat means we do that every day anyhow. Once Bill got one of the inspection panels open on the water tank he could see that it had been patched before. We needed to get all the water out of the tank and clean the debris from the bottom. We tried to get the water out with a couple of the hand pumps we had on board but it was slow work. Bill had seen a man on his sailboat at the next marina and we walked over to see if maybe he had a larger pump. He did and was happy to lend it to us. We stayed and talked to him and his wife for a bit and ended up agreeing to have dinner together to celebrate his birthday. When we got back to the boat the pump we borrowed worked great - it made it a lot easier to clear out the tank. Bill went to the little general store by our marina and bought some special epoxy to patch the tank and shoved his hand in the tank to use it. By tomorrow we will know if the patch works and if the tank will hold water again. We know that is on our list to replace when we get back to Annapolis in May.

The couple we were having dinner with had told us that they feed the sharks around 5pm every night on the dock near the restaurant. The restaurant is called The Big Game Club and they are well equipped to catch huge fish. The picture is of the head of a large Wahoo they had caught, and one of six sharks that were trying to get the food. It was definitely fun to watch.

We are trying to be creative on ways to live without running water until our pump comes on Monday. Hopefully we can put water back in the tank tomorrow and use the foot pump on the galley sink to wash the dishes that are piling up. We also are going to fill up some jugs we have right from the watermaker. Hopefully everything will work out OK and nothing else will seriously break before we get back to the US!

Sailing
A Rough Night
Donna
01/31/2013, Alice Town, Bimini Bahamas

We ended up leaving our anchorage last night at 11:00pm. We tried to nap from 7:30pm to 10:30pm. It worked great for Bill, but not so great for me. I didn't sleep. We were worried about getting out of the anchorage because there were boats close all around us and it would be dark. I was trying to get myself prepared at the wheel and before I knew it Bill had taken the anchor all the way up. Good thing I was paying some attention to Bill we did a sharp turn and headed out into the dark ocean.

It seems such a long time since we've had Moonraker on the ocean but it really was just September. The water wasn't so rough but the wind was strong and we just weren't used to it. We put the sails up and the boat was moving well, but it was not a smooth ride. Even though we had taken seasick medicine, Bill got sick. He went to bed. There is nothing worse than being seasick. During overnight sails we wear our life jacket harnesses and are always connected to the boat with a tether. Whoever is on watch also wears a device that sets off an alarm if we end up going overboard. I'm not sure how it happened but shortly after Bill had gone to sleep the alarm went off. Luckily it was just a false alarm. When we finally got to Bimini, at 9:30am, we were going to go right to a marina. That turned out to be a good choice since Bill was not feeling much better. The picture above is of Moonraker in the marina. As you can see, there aren't too many other boats here. Apparently it is off season! The picture doesn't do the color of the water justice. We will have to get some pictures where you can see how clear blue-green it really is.

Bill took care of going to Customs and Immigration so we could check in to the Bahamas. I wasn't allowed to leave the boat until he came back. The Captain only must check in. When he got back he went to wash his hands and the water pressure didn't work. When he opened the floor panel to see what was wrong he saw the bilge was full of water almost to the floor boards. We had turned the high water alarm off earlier because the sensor was getting splashed with all the bouncing we were doing. Big mistake, now our water pump is dead. We aren't so sure we can get it fixed here.

After a nap we decided to check out Bimini. Everyone here is very friendly and nice. Of course, it's not like any place we have cruised to so far. We went to the telephone company to buy a SIM card for our iPhone. There were a bunch of cruisers there doing the same thing. Now we have a Bahamian phone number to use while we are here. We walked around the other side of the island and walked past a place that said Barbara's Breads outside. It was next to a bunch of small houses and it didn't look like a store. Bill knocked on the door and Barbara answered, if was her home but she bakes bread and sells it, so we walked right into her kitchen with her and bought a loaf of official Bimini bread. It is delicious. She said we would be back, and we probably will.

We will most likely stay here in the marina through Monday. We want to watch the Super Bowl. We get the right channel here but it does have some degradation sometimes so we are looking for a different place to watch it. On Monday Bill's brother is flying in to spend a couple of days with us. Hopefully, if we can't find a new water pump here, Bill's brother can bring one for us.

I finally got a chance to put the rest of our Florida pictures up in the Photo Gallery. Please go check them out:

Sailing
02/01/2013 | Laura B
Hooray!! Congratulations on a successful passage! Very exciting!
A Lot of Work to Get Ready
Donna
01/30/2013, No Name Harbor, Key Biscayne, FL

We generally live pretty messy on our boat. You can't take a boat out to sea on a messy boat. Things fly around if they aren't put away properly. We talked to someone yesterday who told us they took their boat out to sea and the waves were so bad that he still hasn't found all the stuff that got moved around. We spent a lot of today making sure that isn't going to happen. We aren't supposed to have bad waves, but you never know. The boat looks pretty good now, except for maybe that the dinghy is all rolled up and laying on my berth. You shouldn't tow your dinghy, or leave it in the davits as you cross an ocean. Most people tie it upside down on their foredeck. We are a cutter rig, which means we have two forward sails, so there is no room for the dinghy up there. That is why we had to buy a fully inflatable dinghy, not the best choice for the Bahamas, but all our boat can handle.

No Name Harbor was a nice anchorage. There isn't a lot of room to anchor here and we've been worried a little bit about leaving after dark, but we think it will be OK. The picture is the sunset tonight. Tomorrow's will be in the Bahamas we hope.

We are leaving at 10pm tonight and should be in the Bahamas by mid-morning tomorrow. Bill and I will start out sailing together and then follow a watch schedule for the rest of the night, three hours on and three hours off, then when we get close to being there finish up together. We are kind of nervous, but are hoping for a nice calm night.

Hopefully we can continue to update the blog easily enough in the Bahamas but we aren't sure about pictures yet. We'll have to see how it goes.

Sailing
01/31/2013 | SVAndante
Hope you had fair winds & following seas for your first crossing. Congratulations!!! ~ Russ & Alison
Miami!
Donna
01/29/2013, No Name Harbor, Key Biscayne, FL

We finally got to have breakfast with our friend Pam this morning. We brought our charts of the Bahamas with us to the restaurant and she confirmed that the weather looked promising and showed us the places we should go to and where we should stay. After breakfast we rushed back to the boat and got it ready to head to our departure port. Since we are going to start our Bahamas adventure in Bimini it makes sense to leave from the Miami area.

It's been so long since we actually moved the boat. We spent ten days in Ft. Lauderdale!! I guess I must have forgotten what to look for because as we went past a commercial dock I missed all the clues that a huge ship was being moved off the dock directly at us. Luckily the tugs that were moving it were under control, the ship never got close to us!

Because we are in Southern Florida there were a number of drawbridges we had to get through. We were too early for one so we decided to anchor instead of trying to keep the boat from getting to close to the bridge. Once we got through that bridge we had to rush to make the schedule for all the other bridges. Finally we got to a bridge that two other sailboats were waiting at. Bill looked through the binoculars and saw that one of the boats was our slip neighbor from our marina in Annapolis! He had left a week or so before us and we had been wondering how far he had gotten. We were sure it was further than us! Once we got through the bridge we chatted on the radio for a bit. He was travelling with another boat and they told us that the railroad bridge would be closed for another 45 minutes. Bill found a good place for the three boats to anchor and we got to catch up with John some more. Another small world story!!
The picture above is Miami. We went by a lot of tall buildings, hotels and condos today. When we finally went under our last bridge in Florida Bill decided it would be a good idea to actually sail so that when we leave for the Bahamas, which we plan to do Wednesday night at 10pm, we would not have to sail for the first time in the dark. I forgot how wonderful, and how quiet, sailing is. We had a great sail until we got to the turning point for our anchorage for the night.

So now we are anchored in No Name Harbor in Key Biscayne. It is one of the places people go to leave for the Bahamas from. There are about twenty boats in here but we managed to find a place to anchor. We saw a couple of boats from the Annapolis area. Someone called out to help us find a spot to anchor and told us to come and visit once we got settled. We did and had a great time! Tomorrow we will get the boat all ready and hopefully be able to start updating the blog from the Bahamas!

Sailing

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Who: Bill & Donna Shuman
Port: Annapolis, MD
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Our Boat

Moonraker is a 1986 Bayfield 40 designed by the famous Ted Gozzard and built in Ontario, Canada. The rig is a cutter/ketch. Here are some of her specs:

LOA: 45 ft. 6 in.
LWL: 30 ft. 6 in.
Beam: 12 ft.
Draft: 4 ft. 11 in.
Displacement: 21,000 lbs.
Ballast: 8,200 lbs.
Sail Area: 1,009 sq. ft.


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