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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.
U.S. to the Bahamas: Sunday AM
03/30/2013, North Atlantic Ocean

Well, the wind got a lot stronger sooner than we expected. When Donna got off watch at 5:00am the wind was up to 25 knots and we were flying along with too much sail up. We had rolled up our staysail early in the evening and partially rolled up our jib at 3:30am. Now we decided to drop the main. Donna thought we should wait for daylight but we needed to do it sooner. Besides, there was enough light from the moon to easily work and it would just be scarier if we could actually see what the ocean looked like. It took a while but came down easily. Under the mizzen and a reefed jib we were still doing 12 knots at times with an average around 10 knots. A good part of that speed was the current and surfing down the faces of waves.

This morning the ocean is amazingly beautiful. The waves are 10-12 feet and actually come above the stern before we ride up over them. You have to hold on every second when you are not lying down because of the motion of the boat but it's not too bad. Neither of us are sea sick but Donna is not getting much sleep so I don't think she is enjoying this part of the trip. However, we are getting closer to home every minute. We are now about 80 miles directly offshore from Charleston, SC. We should be in Beaufort, NC by tomorrow afternoon.

U.S. to the Bahamas: Saturday PM
03/30/2013, North Atlantic Ocean

We are still doing well. We are currently about 100 miles east of Jacksonville, FL. We haven't seen another sailboat all day. We've seen a couple of cargo ships, some flying fish, and Bill saw what he thinks were dolphins, but he wasn't sure. Other than a lot of water, we haven't seen much else! We are finally sailing again though. We spent some time trying different sail configurations and once the wind became steadier from the same direction we finally found one that worked for us. We have all our sails up now and are sailing very well. Neither of us have been sea sick at all. That is probably for two reasons. The first is that it hasn't really been very rough yet. The second is that we've been taking the anti-seasickness medication that we bought in the Bahamas. It's called Sturgeon and isn't available in the US. All the cruising sailors think it's the best. It's pretty exhausting sailing all day and night. We've both been taking naps when we aren't on watch. I am back on watch tonight at 8pm so I'm going to go take a nap now. Tomorrow the wind is supposed to get a lot stronger. Hope we are ready for that.

U.S. to the Bahamas: Saturday AM
Donna and Bill
03/30/2013, North Atlantic Ocean

All is still going well. We are about 60 miles off the Florida coast just south of Daytona Beach. We motorsailed through the night because there is no wind. It is supposed to pick up again today. We sure hope so because we don't have enough fuel to use our engine for the whole trip. Because we are in the middle of the Gulf Stream we're getting an extra two knots of speed from the current. We are on a three hour watch schedule. Either Bill or I are always up, making sure the boat stays on course and that there are no boats in our way. On my 11:00pm to 2:00am watch a Carnival cruise ship passed by but not too close. There was a cargo ship on my 5:00am to 8:00am watch. Other than that all has been quiet. If we were just going to go back to Florida to head north from there we would probably be there already. We've decided we wanted to try the ocean route this time so our destination is Beaufort, N.C. We may bail before that if the weather gets too bad but that is where we want to head in.

U.S. to the Bahamas: Friday PM
03/29/2013, North Atlantic Ocean

So far we've had a good trip. We are now officially out of the Bahamas. The wind has died down a bit and even though we have all our sails up we also have the engine on. We were fortunate enough to have seen three dolphins swimming with us and taking turns playing under the bow of the boat as we sailed along. We got some good pictures and video this time, so we will post that when we are back in the States. We've seen a boat headed in the same direction as us since this morning. A little while ago they finally called us on the radio and it turns out it's a couple that we spent a bit of time with in Green Turtle Cay. We've been ahead of them until now but they just passed us. We just watched the beautiful sunset over the ocean. Guess we will have a white light to follow with that other boat in front of us.

Heading Back to the US
03/29/2013, Little Bahama Bank, Bahamas

We spent a couple of days in Great Sale Cay, relaxing and getting ready to go. The first evening there I was washing the dinner dishes and I looked over to something I saw move on the cabin floor. There was a bird! Inside20 the boat! I showed Bill and then I told the bird to leave. He did, but he didn't go far. We figured it was pretty windy and he was just looking for a way out of the wind. He sure found one. Bill is certain it's a Brown Headed Cowbird. When we looked him up in our bird book it confirmed he could be in the area but he seemed to be out of his habitat. He must have been blown out to sea from the mainland. He was around for the first two days so we kept the screens to the cockpit closed when we could. I think he came back in the boat a couple of times when we forgot. The first night there was only three boats, including us, in the anchorage and we went over to talk to both of them. It seems our bird friend had been spending time on each of our boats. The second night the number of boats increased to seventeen. We heard one on the radio mention the bird had paid them a visit. Everyone was staging for leaving the Bahamas. While anchored we finally managed to replace the shaft zinc that Bill had discovered was missing in the Exumas but that we couldn't find a replacement for until the Abacos. We had brought a spare but our local boat supply store in Annapolis had put the wrong size in the bin and Bill hadn't realized it until he tried to put it on the boat a few weeks ago. Bill dived under the boat to replace it and he checked our prop and bottom and said everything looked good. The anchorage was one of the few in the Abacos that has TV reception. We watched the network news but nothing else was worth watching. We also managed to watch a couple of movies. Perhaps ¬"How to Murder Your Wife¬" was not a good choice, or maybe it was! We also watched the Firefly movie after watching the whole series in the past few weeks. We were disappointed by the movie. The series was a lot more fun to watch. We had planned to leave this afternoon but the weather report said more wind in the morning so we rushed through the rest of our ¬"out to sea¬" chores and are now underway. We are on a starboard tack and heeling a lot. Guess I need to get used to it, Bill says we will be this way for four days. We will try to do daily updates to the blog but we can't be sure we will always be able to connect. If you don't hear from us, don't worry!

Lobster for Dinner!
03/26/2013, Great Sale Cay, Abacos, Bahamas

We spent two nights at Moraine Cay. It has to have been the roughest anchorage we've had since we headed south. On Sunday night, after we were already asleep, we were hit by a forty two knot gust. The boat felt like it was rolling and heeling over a ten foot wave. Talk about a rude awakening! I don't think that we stayed on the same plane for even a minute the whole time we were anchored there. On Monday we decided to dinghy to shore and take a walk. After we beached the dinghy we noticed a large power boat coming into the anchorage. It looked to us like he was anchoring way too close to our boat. Bill called them on the portable VHF we had with us and they were fine with moving a bit further away. When we got back to the beach after the walk the woman from the boat had kayaked over and we talked to her for a bit. She noticed that her husband and friends had gone to chase a fishing boat over and was hoping they had just bought some fresh fish. When we headed back to our boat we saw that the guy on the power boat was pointing us out to the fishermen. They came over to us and we negotiated buying some lobster they had just caught. We had not managed to have any lobster since we got to the Bahamas so it worked out great. They quoted us $10 for a large tail and about four smaller tails. We had tried to buy some on the dock in Rock Sound weeks before but they wanted $30 for about half that much. As it turns out when we got back to our boat for the money they threw in three more small tails and we gave them $15 plus the two Bahamian dollars we had left and would not be able to use again since we are leaving the country soon. We barbecued the lobster, as you can see in the picture above. They were delicious. We have four of the smaller tails in the freezer and some leftover for a stir-fry tonight!! When we woke up this morning we were really sick of moving up and down. Even though the wind was a bit rougher than we may have wanted, the promise of a calmer anchorage made us pull up the anchor and head out. It was a brisk day but we had a wonderful sail most of the way to Great Sale Cay. This will be our departure point for the U.S. We don't expect to leave until Friday or Saturday, maybe even later, depending on the weather. We thought there would be a lot of boats here but there are only two others so far. We have plenty to do to get ready to go but we are happy to report that this is a much better place to wait. Both of us, and the20 boat are happily sitting relatively still despite the strong wind.

03/27/2013 | ishuman
For lunch today I got a lobster roll from a food truck- in honor of your lobster dinner. I'm sure yours was better and I think it cost about the same.

06/18/2013 | Colby
that looks delicious!!
Rocking and Rolling
03/24/2013, Moraine Cay, Abacos, Bahamas

Yesterday afternoon we were able to go check out Green Turtle Cay. Everybody talks about going there but we weren't all that impressed. It's a nice town but not nearly as nice as Hope Town. We walked around the town and had lunch in a restaurant/bakery. We had delicious desserts and bought some fresh baked bread. We walked around the rest of the town and went through the museum. We also walked through the Loyalist park. It was set up to look like a British flag and had busts of all the original founders, as you can see in the picture. The Loyalists were people in America who were loyal to the British. After the Revolutionary War they relocated to the Bahamas. This morning we decided to take advantage of the good wind that would let us sail to our next destination, Moraine Cay. When we got out into the Sea of Abaco it was a bit scary. The wind was really strong and the water was rough. It only took us a little while to get our sails set up to the point where we were really comfortable and the boat was flying. We used only our two headsails and our mizzen sail but the boat sailed at six to eight20 knots the entire day. The wind is supposed to change to be in a direction that made it hard to find a good place to anchor. We are ultimately heading to Great Sale Cay to wait for the weather window we believe is coming this week to head back to the U.S. Bill found that Moraine Cay should have enough protection for us so that is where we are anchored. It is not very protected and we really are rocking and rolling now. We are expecting that the wind will20 change tonight and it will get better. We were pretty sure we would be alone here but very soon after we got here another sailboat pulled in and anchored not far from us. There are seven adults on that boat. I think they20 are going to be less comfortable than we will be tonight. Depending on the wind we will stay here tonight and maybe tomorrow night. Our plan is to move only when we can sail most of the way. Of course if it doesn't get much calmer here that might make us change our minds!

Hope Town to Green Turtle Cay
03/23/2013, Black Sound, Green Turtle Cay, Bahamas

We spent three days in Hope Town and could easily have stayed longer. We toured the lighthouse - see picture above, snorkeled in the ocean - which made us appreciate our snorkeling in the Exumas even more, walked all along the island and the beach, had a couple of restaurant meals, and had dinner on a friend's boat. We met even more really nice cruisers and spent some time talking to them in town and on their boats. We are nearing the end of our time in the Bahamas though so we had to think about moving closer to our departure port so when the weather was right we could go. With that in mind we looked at our situation yesterday and realized we were almost out of water, our holding tank was full, and most importantly, the weather was going to get bad over the next few days making the cut we had to get through to go north difficult. Time to leave.

Everything really does revolve around the weather. We knew what kind of wind was coming and from what direction. Every day Bill analyzes the weather report and looks at the various places we can go, and those places we want to go, and decides where we should head next. We knew we had to go past the Whale Cut yesterday because it was very passable and wouldn't be if we waited. We wanted to check out Green Turtle Cay which is another popular destination. It also was a good place for the wind that was coming, especially since we would likely be on a mooring.

These popular towns are often centered around a relatively small inner harbor. There isn't much room inside them so locals set moorings at reasonable distances from each other and charge a daily price to use them. If you go into the harbor and there are no moorings you need to go back out to the open water around the harbor and anchor in much less protection. We were lucky in Hope Town because our friend Muffin had grabbed a mooring for us when she knew we were heading over. To reserve a mooring people tie different things on the mooring ball and you are supposed to know that means it's taken. When we got into Black Sound in Green Turtle Cay we saw that almost all the moorings were taken. There was one open that had a bottle tied to it, but we weren't sure that wasn't how they all were. We took it and were settling ourselves when the boat next to us told us the people on that mooring were just out making water. You generally don't want to use your watermaker in these little harbors - the water is always cleaner outside. We let the mooring go and headed further into the harbor. We were lucky, there was one more mooring left. We took it and when we were settled we went and asked the boat next to us, a boat we had listened to on the VHF for the past few weeks, if they knew anything about the moorings. They pointed us in the right direction for information. We found just enough to know that no one was using the mooring and it was strong enough for our boat. Good! This was where we were staying for the next two days at least. We went back to the other boat to drop off our boat card and they invited us on for Happy Hour. We had a great time talking to them and when we went to get back in our dinghy I missed getting completely in for the first time ever. I just dunked my foot and my leg. I don't think I had too much wine, I just miscalculated. Sometimes it is just not that easy getting on to or off of boats, or docks for that matter, and into the little dinghy!

Today it is raining. We are having a lazy morning and are hoping to have it clear up so we can go check out the town of New Plymouth and Green Turtle Cay.

Doing the Abacos
03/19/2013, Hope Town, Elbow Cay, Bahamas

We spent a couple of days in Marsh Harbor. We did our domestic chores since it was our best shot for a Laundromat and supermarket in the Abacos. Marsh Harbor is a relatively big town, and by that I mean they have a road where two real cars can pass each other. We also saw something we have not seen since we've been in the Bahamas, a traffic light! Not to mention a KFC...

We took a long walk in town and had a quick breakfast and a nice lunch on shore. We have noticed that you should never go to a restaurant in the Bahamas when you are hungry to eat right now. It is better to go when you are a little hungry but not starving. Quick service is not their stronghold! We had taken a dinghy ride around the anchorage the night before so I knew there was a castle on shore that some doctor had built. I could see it from the dinghy. We decided to go looking for it on land. When we found it we were very disappointed. It looks much better from a distance - trust me on that one! It is a nice town though.

There is a cruisers net every morning at 8:15 am on channel 68 on the VHF radio. Different cruisers announce the weather and commercial establishments give their specials and some reason you should go to their business. Cruisers also announce their arrival and departure from this part of the Abacos. We heard on the net that a sailboat we had become friends with at the Exuma Land and Sea Park had just arrived in Hope Town, our next stop. We also knew that neighbors of ours from Annapolis, Will and Muffin, spend their entire winter on their boat in Hope Town. They are very well established in the community here. As a matter of fact, Will runs the cruisers net on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We called them after the net and told them we were on our way. It's not very far, just an hour and a half. Muffin found a mooring for us and when we got there she helped us pick it up. Will stopped by to say hi later and I mentioned I had heard on the radio he was taking the small power boat he has use of to Man of War Cay later today. He invited us to come with him. We jumped at the chance since we weren't sure we would get there by our boat. It was a fun ride over there. It's a nice little town.

When we got back we took a walk around Hope Town. It is a beautiful little town. It seems more tourist oriented than any other town we have seen in the Bahamas. The houses are all beautiful and colorful, especially the one in the picture above. On the way back we stopped at Will and Muffin's boat and caught up some more. Muffin has been making all kinds of cool things with the things she finds on the beaches around here. I am very impressed!

Tomorrow we will go out for breakfast and tour the lighthouse. Hopefully it will be nice and warm and we can go snorkeling!

At least we have good Internet in the Abacos! I am catching up with my pictures. Please check out my new album in the Photo Gallery!

Shark, Dolphin, Whale!
03/16/2013, Marsh Harbour, Great Abaco Island, Bahamas

When we were leaving the anchorage this morning I looked over the side of the boat and saw a couple of fins in the water. I showed it to Bill just as I realized it was a shark! We were moving too fast to really see much of him, and we didn't have the camera ready.

It was a very low wind day so we decided to experiment with our whisker pole. We turned off the engine and just drifted for a while as Bill figured out the best way to use it. The pole holds out our jib sail when there isn't quite enough wind for it to fill on its own and to keep it from collapsing when sailing directly downwind . It's not that easy to use but we are trying to get more comfortable with it. It was the perfect weather for it though. Hardly any wind at all.

Once our experimenting was over we motored down the Sea of Abaco toward Marsh Harbour. There were lots of boats coming the other way. Everyone has been waiting for the weather to change so they can move around again, some are heading back to the U.S. There is one section that is very shallow so you have to head out into the ocean for a bit to get around it. While we were coming back in Bill found a dolphin swimming next to our boat. He finally had his camera and a playful dolphin at the same time. The dolphin liked swimming just in front of our boat under the bow sprit. You can see in the picture above that we were moving along with him. He was swimming underwater in our bow wake.

Unfortunately the Whale part of the title isn't because we saw a whale, I wish we had. No, the cut we had to go out to get around the shallows is called Whale Cay Cut. It's known for being rough sometimes. Luckily today it was no problem. We will have to go through it again in a week or so when we head back north. Hopefully it will be just as easy the next time.

We arrived in Marsh Harbour at dinner time and were lucky to find a good place to anchor. There are a lot of boats here. We haven't gotten to town yet but we will check it out tomorrow.


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Who: Bill & Donna Shuman
Port: Annapolis, MD
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Where in the World is Moonraker
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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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