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Moonraker
This blog chronicles the adventures of the sailing vessel Moonraker. We are starting the second year of our cruising life heading north to Maine.
We Made It through the Storm
Donna
02/17/2013, Normans Cay, Exumas, Bahamas

Yesterday morning it was so calm that Bill decided to do some work he had been planning to do on the spreaders, half way up our main mast. Pulling him up there is easy with our anchor windlass. We just rig all the lines, including our inline safety and I push the button on the deck and he goes up. It worked out very well and is one less thing on our to-do list. We saw that the weather was going to come but we had a few hours before it did so we went for a dinghy ride over to Wax Cay, the next island over. I'll mention again that Cay is pronounced Key in the Bahamas but we have noticed that not everyone down here knows that either. A lot of people on the VHF radio say it wrong. We had a bit of a wild ride over to the island but once we got there we put the dinghy up on the beach and tied it off. Part of the island is a resort, but we stayed away from that side. We had a nice long walk in the other direction. Bill had read there was a cave on the island. We found it but it was full of water so there was no way we were going in there. It looked like there was a project underway to build some houses, and there was a great waterway and dock over there. We are sure no one uses it. There seems to be a lot of that going on in the Bahamas One of the biggest worries about the storm was not how comfortable we would be, or whether our anchor would hold. Captain Bill knows how to set the anchor, and ours is a particularly good type: a Rocna. The real worry is how everyone else anchors. Yesterday a boat next to us was a little close so Bill went over and told him he was concerned about their closeness once the storm hit. They were very understanding. They are Canadian, as are about 90% of the people we've met in the Exumas. Bill figures all the Americans are further south! They moved their boat, but because the current is so strong here, it got away from them and they smashed into another boat. We felt very bad about that. The other boat moved almost into the spot they had come out of, but they were a little further away, so we didn't worry as much. Then a catamaran came and anchored in a really bad spot for us. Apparently they don't know much about anchoring though because they didn't stay in that spot for long, they dragged pretty far. Eventually they figured that out and moved again. Once the storm started the other boat dragged too. It looked like it was going to be a long night. We were bouncing up and down and the wind was howling. Luckily no one hit us in the middle of the night and our boat held well. There is still some heavy wind and clouds this morning, but the worst of it seems to be over. Tomorrow we are heading to the Exumas Land and Sea Park, supposedly one of the most beautiful places in the Bahamas. We will spend a couple of days there before heading further south.

Sailing
Normans Cay - the Drug Lords Lair
Donna
02/15/2013, Normans Cay, Exumas, Bahamas

We left Allan's Cay early yesterday morning. Unfortunately we did end up meeting the young guys on the boat that sailed into anchor the night before. They had dropped their second anchor right on top of ours. They woke up suddenly when the mean old man in the boat next to them (Bill) yelled their boat name when he brought up their anchor along with ours. Luckily they responded quickly, and luckily they sleep in their underwear. One jumped into his dinghy and rowed right up to grab their anchor from Bill and we were on our way. We headed south for a couple of hours, motoring into the wind. It was rough but we are used to that now. Bill was concerned about the strong weather coming on Saturday so we were headed for the only place he could find that seemed to be protected from that direction. His hope was to get into The Pond at Norman's Cay where it is protected from all sides. We had to be there right at almost high tide because it's very difficult to get in, the water is very shallow. The approach was a bit scary since you have to go between two very big rocks without much space. We got in with no problem. It was beautiful in there. Almost right away we ran aground, and everywhere we turned we ran aground again. The only smart thing to do was to turn around and head out of there. If you can't get in at high tide there is no sense in going any further. Now we are anchored further south in Norman's Cay with a number of other boats. We aren't sure if all of them are staying through the weekend but we know we are. Norman's Cay is famous for being the home of a Columbian drug lord in the 1970's. He bought up all the real estate on the island and built a large airstrip for his drug operations. Of course the DEA wouldn't let that go on for too long. He was eventually arrested. Bill and I walked down the road to the airstrip which is still in use here. The only thing we saw on this end of the island is a restaurant that is currently being renovated. There was a four person airplane parked there and our timing was great. They were just about to take off down the airstrip. After we checked that out, we walked back down the road and found the drug lords' house that some cruisers we had met on the road had told us about. Everything here is open and falling apart. We went and checked it out. It must have been nice in its day. It certainly had a beautiful view! Today we will go snorkeling over the sunken airplane that is still in the harbor. It's the result of an accident during the drug smuggling days. It's not as intact as it used to be, but should still be interesting. We don't have very reliable Internet here, so no picture for this post now. It is sure to follow though so check back in a couple of days.

Sailing
Exumas’ Iguanas
Donna
02/13/2013, Allan's Cay, Exumas, Bahamas

We left for Allan's Cay this morning and it was a great trip until I did something stupid again. As we were looking for a place to anchor I could see that we were heading into shallow water. Bill was on the bow telling me to go forward and I didn't tell him we shouldn't go there until it was too late. Yep, we ran aground again! This time it didn't last long though. He came back to the wheel and put the boat in reverse, gave it some power, and off we came. Of course we had an audience. All the boats anchored around us, including our new Canadian friends from yesterday, were watching. We went back into the deeper water and this time anchored without any issues.

Allan's Cay is the only place in the world the Exuma Iguanas live. Apparently it is such a big deal that the cruise ships in Nassau, which is fairly far away, have an excursion that brings a couple of fast open power boats full of people to climb on the beach, take pictures of the iguanas. We waited for them to leave before we jumped in our dinghy and went to check them out. We got lots of good pictures but the one above is my favorite.

We met some nice people from Rochester, NY on the beach and went over to visit with them later. It's nice to see that the social part of our trip is coming back. We hope we don't get to meet the people on the boat that sailed into anchor while we watched from that other boat. They are anchored very close to us and are the only boat in the anchorage that has two anchors out. That means they won't move the same way we do if the wind changes direction tonight.

If you haven't noticed yet we were able to put some of our Bahamas photos up in our Photo Gallery. Go check them out. We also put a picture of the Octopuses Garden on our last update. It doesn't come close to being as exciting as it really was but you can see at least one fish in the photo.

Tomorrow we leave for Norman Cay. There are a couple of caves on that island, and Bill brought our caving gear, so maybe we will actually use it.



Sailing
02/19/2013 | Ian Shuman
I just looked at the rock face behind the iguana and for a second I thought it was plowed snow.
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

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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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