03/31/2012, Umm Nassau
Oli has been wondering around Ooroo singing "Funky Nassau". Until a few weeks ago he didn't even know where Nassau was.....nor did I.
So that's the big smoke around here. The capital that covers New Providence Island. The sometimes home of 007. Also home of crime and casinos.. We have been advised to be vigilant when it comes to locking up the boat and dingy and so will find a marina to be safe. We will be picking up Sara and her mate, Julie at 11ish tomorrow and so a dockside greeting may work better than a wet dingy ride. We plan on checking out Funky Nassau, the night spots, good coffee and provision Ooroo for a sail to Eleuthera..and Governors Harbour. Wind permitting.
Right now I'm sailing alone....racing the ETA on the GPS. Again we are doing 6knots while tacking into a SE wind. So much for the predicted southerly. At least we are not using motors....bragging rights are with us at the moment.
But not now....(7hours latter) We got to within 11nm of Nassau, our closest point in the tack and so turned on engines and are beelining it to port. The GPS is showing that we have 6582m of water below us. That's 600m higher than Mt Kilimanjaro....but straight below our keel. And we are in sight of skyscrapers. Amazing contrast. I'm not sure I'm ready for the big smoke.
Girls are coming on board....We cleaned the head by having hot showers in fresh water. I scrubbed the galley floor, made up the spare cabin and we all washed the deck. Now squeaky clean we may just be tempted by the Funky Nassau night life.
Arriving late we anchored right outside the Nassau Hilton...with two massive Cruise ships next to us....and security keeping and eye on the dock. So feeling safe the boys are off to town. I will stay put and play with my stollen Internet connection...thanks to the technology we have on board.
Tomorrow we find a real marina. Nighty night.
03/30/2012, Chub Cay
Three blokes on a boat once more. I dropped Jules of at Freetown airport for an emotional fair well after what was a full on month of prepping the boat and sailing the first passage. Hey Jules, that was a beat month.....especially the Sunday session when I fell off my bike....4 times. I'm missing you. We spent the last two days in a nice hotel in Lucaya Bay while the boys rocked and rolled at anchorage in 15 to 20 knot winds. Free diving for lobster kept them busy. Grand Bahama island doesn't appear very prosperous with same USA scourge of closed down restaurants and shopping centers. Lucaya is like a make believe village...a little fake but very colorful. The people are wonderful...but the opposing getto blasters on beaches and markets does get to you after a while.
After seeing Jules off Mark picked me up in the dingy. I arrived back at the boat all wet but ready to sail. The dingy doesn't like the chop very much and will be upgraded when we find a better one in the islands. windfinder.com is proving to be our best navigation source and we knew from that we had about 12 hrs of 20 knots to get us at least part way to the Berry Islands enroute to Nassau. These islands are supposed to be the best pick for beaches, bays and diving in the whole Bahamas.
I was lucky enough to get first watch and so tacked into the SE winds at speeds of over 10 knots. I tacked after 20nm into both current and waves that gave the sleeping boys a rough time. For another 10nm we cruised at 7knots. I had to make some adjustments to avoid a cruise ship that passed about 400m across our bow. I passed over to Mark at midnight and at sometime after that, as expected the wind died. When I woke at 6.30 this morning (Thursday 29th) the GPS showed only about another 10nm was added to the trip in the previous 6hrs. Frustrated with the sailing Oli was rewarded with another sunrise. With no wind we are motoring the final 20nm to the islands. ETA 10am.
"Easting" is all about edging as far east as possible into the prevailing winds. If we fall west we will end up with a terrible time of trying to sail to the likes of Dominica and Puerto Rico, and onto the Virgin Islands. That is why Cuba isnt on our agenda. Once that far east however we have the prevailing winds to take us right through the Caribbean. Bragging rights goes to the sailer who "Easts" with the least motoring and most comfort. Unfortunately with guests coming and going we have to make good our passages regardless of favorable winds. Once Charlotte boards that will no longer be a priority...we will play in the sand and sea and wait for the wind to take us onwards.
On our way into anchor at Petit Cay at the north most point of the Berry Island, we caught two barracuda (both released) and a Yellow Tail. Then when anchored Oli got the first Lobster and Mark the second...followed by Mark spearing a massive Hog Fish....and she is going on the BBQ whole....if she fits. More lobsters came latter.
This bay is all white sand and turquoise water. You can see fish on the bottom at 15m. We anchored in 2 meters just off the beach with only one other yacht in site. This island has the highest per capiter millionaires in the world. 700 residents all well healed and invisible - perfect.
No wind and so the water is glass. It looks like Ooroo is sitting right on the bottom. Too shallow to dive in. But it's 2 m deep. I had my first skinny dip, soap up and rinse. I may have to change into fresh boardies....one day.
24hrs latter, swimming, cleaning and a few running repairs and we are off. Leaving our first pristine bay of what shall be one of hundreds when we return. Oli, Mark and I agree that it is the clearest water any of us have ever seen. Thats saying something when you consider the places we have collectively visited.
Once again tacking into the SE at 7-8 knots.
FISH....was the call only 10 mins ago. Oli had a big one on and so the drill is to pull in the jib and turn into the wind. The fish dragged Oli right down the port hull. Before he gained control and dragged it back to me waiting on the swim deck with a gaff. Oli won....just. We hauled in a meter long Barracuda....which bit me when we released her. We are avoiding eating Barracuda due to Ciguatera. A disease none of us want to get that is prevalent in large fish that feed off smaller reef fish. You can be violently ill for a week and then have symptoms that can last for a year or more... Google it....not nice.
That was the third fish we caught since we left the bay only two hours ago. The first, a 3kg tuna like fish, just came off the BBQ (our first BBQ at sea). The second was another Yellow Tail..we ate that already. Filleted and served raw with pickled ginger, wasabi and soy. Very nice.
We are following the crescent shaped Berry Island chain...destination Chub Cay. We will overnight there and head to Nassau tomorrow for a Saturday night in the big smoke.
Now approaching Chubby (??) with the sun setting (19.30), we had several more fish hooked...all lost due to the size of the things. One I tried to land leap skywards several times before shaking me off. We will be eating well wherever we go. Mark cooked up the last of the Lobster ....as toasted sandwiches. Sacrilege...you may say. Mark says we will have so much lobster that we will be continually finding other unique ways to cook them. I'm thinking Lobster Roast with Yorkshire Pudding for Sunday....with Champaign Gravy.
We started to clean Charlottes room for Sara's stay. I installed some LED mood lights. It's been the tool room for so long that we needed to get it femanised (sorry Dakota) for such important guests.
Anchored in darkness at 20.30...the boys are washing in the dark water (Oli stinks).
We are thinking.....shall we motor in and see if this Friday night in Chubby has night life? Oli smells ok now so we go.
We went. Found an air conditioned bar....didn't like it but was directed to the 'local'. And met a local with 26 kids, another with 9...they know a guy who had 270....all different mothers. He is also a fisherman so maybe he exaggerated. But at least we now know why they call it Chubby.
03/24/2012, Great Bahamas Island
We had a mad last day (Tuesday 20th) in St Augustine. Mark and Skip finalized engines, electrical and whatever else needed doing. Skip kindly donated his last day of labour to the cause....thanks to the Tennessee stud for everything. Oli swobbed decks all day.....brilliantly. It's so nice to get the remnants of the work we have been doing all washed away. I ran around town collecting the last of our required spares and had a quick fair well lunch to St Augustine with Jules.
We motored out of the lift bridge at 6.30pm, leaving Oli on he the dock with his surf board in hand and a smile on his face. He was off to a last fair well to his surfing buddy Jen. Mark and I anchored just 50m from the old Spanish Fort for the night and dined on a Jules curry. Oli was back on board by eleven.....still smiling.
The night was calm except for a depth alarm going off at 1am. We didn't have an issues with the shallow waters, just that the setting on the alarm was set too fine. It did impinge my sleep thou. It mad me think of all the little thing that could go wrong on the three day passage to the Bahamas....and the 12 month passage to Australia.
It's funny to think however that this will be one of our most challenging crossing until be hit the pacific. The winds are not favorable and most other island hops will be under 24hrs....many will be pleasant day sails.
Wed 20th - Mark, Oli and I got up with the sun at 7am. We weighed anchor and against the tide motored out of the river into the big wide world.
Within an hour we had our sails set for 200nm trip south down the Florida coast.
As an aside, we got our clearance papers to depart the USA for the Jacksonville ports authority. We paid $19 and showed the ships papers. No one wanted our passports. So here we a sailing out of the US without being stamped out....and we were told this is normal?
We expected 10 to 20 knots from the east, but got 25 from the south east....the exact direction we a heading. We had to reef the main within the first hour of sailing. The next two hours where a roller coaster ride. With speed over 10knots and we tacked every hour to avoid the beach to the west and a whale migratory no go zone to the east. Our SSB mount didn't like it and gave way within the first hour. We saved the antenna but......who makes this stuff. It's purpose was to carry an antennae on a boat.
It's now 5pm and we have made it 35nm....great speed but the tacking is slowing us down. We a now about to spend our first night at sea. Winds are now 15knots and they will lighten over night. The tacking will continue. Both dolphins and turtles have paid us visits along the way
Oli is on the helm and loving it. Mark has a line out the back and a book in hand, Jules is so chilled out she may be dead.....for a first time sailer she is amazing. No sickness no complaints. I'm about to feed the crew.
I took the first watch from 8pm until 1am. The boat didn't go a under 6 knots. I tacked longer crossing the northern right whales zone. It's no issue to do this however weather reports also request we report injured whales.....so I didn't want to injure one of them or they, us.
Daytona was lit up like a cheap Christmas tree as we sailed past. So I tacked out to sea. We have all now learnt to tack Ooroo unassisted. My first night tack went like a dream but the second required a wake up call to Mark to assist in untangling the sheets from the mast winch. This is a design fault, but we are learning to work with it now.
While I slept through the first 5hrs of The 21st, Mark had the watch. The winds had dropped and was uneventful. Oli was on when I woke at 6.30. Still dark he was in his element and was taking Ooroo further from land.....the stars are better there.
We have now been sailing for 24hrs and am only 60nm....40 behind schedule. The wind is at 10 knots and the engines are now humming away.
One of my favorite sayings is "If you have a plan, something can go wrong". That worked for me over the past few years. In sailing it's more like "if you have a plan, change it, change it and change it again until it goes right".
Cape Canaveral is dead ahead. We can see the launching pads. Short of any rocket launches today it looks to be a light and sunny motor sail....south.
Now 10hrs latter as we rest the engines and as the sun sets we discussed the lack of boat traffic....even when we cruised 1nm into the restricted waters of the Kennedy Pace Centre we saw no dark security vessels. And then three huge cruise ships in convoy passed us within 500 meters. They weren't flagged nor brandishing any exotic ships names. It was Jules on the binoculars that saw written on the side was "Church of Scientology". Now folks, that's more than 6000 people heading our way. What was I saying about having plans?
Dolphins played on our bow at sunset. Oli got some nice shots.
It's now 1.30am Friday morning and what do I see...but two of the ships that passed us earlier. They are anchored about 20nm off shore. Secrete Scientology business I guess. Tapping into the power of the Gulf Stream. Time for a cuppa.
I woke at 7.30am to dad, dad, dad, dad. Its not a nice way to wake....panic was in Oli's voice. I'm thinking, collision, fire, whatever. It was Tuna. Sashimi quality. It was breakfast.
After the catch the wind changed further SE and we could sail again. Under sail we are doing 6knots. The engines only give us 4.
We expect the wind to change to the south but I'm not getting to excited....however we are now just 6 hours from our turn to the east and the Bahamas. Only 6 hrs behind the first schedule. Then we would love a southern breeze.
We sighted more dolphins and turtles. Pleasure craft of immense value started appearing as we approached Palm Beach. We sailed past divers, fishermen. Charter boats and major container ships.
Saturday 24th - Oli woke me at 3am for my watch. We are only three hours from our destination...West End, Grand Bahama Island. The crossing started at 6pm. We left the opulent Palm Beach behind with the setting sun and within 30 minutes hit the gulf stream. I had the helm and played with the forces of wind, current and engines to maintain our bearing. Marks watch was much the same starting from 9pm. We lost some wind then and motored on. The current quickly lessened. We had crossed he stream in hours. Oli stayed on deck with me so we could hoist full sails for my watch. We are now going 7knots with lights clearly visible at our destination. It's so good having Mark and Oli on board. Natural sailers. Oli for someone who has never sailed has taken to it so easily. Setting sails to perfection and remembering the small stuff.....he babies the sails and the engines. Two captains and two admirals in his blood is showing dividends. Mark is quick to recognize any issue and fixes it almost by reflex. I can learn lots here.
The wind was so good we arrived outside the Harbour and hour early. I have de-powered the sail and am letting Mark get and extra half hours kip before we enter on the rising sun. I even have time for a spell check. I bet I still get it very wrong.
It smells like camp fires. This is the first sense that we are indeed in a different country.
We pulled into customs at 7 and refueled Ooroo all before 8. Such an easy process. We are now flying the Bahamas flag next to the Aussie and Pom one. I'm finishing this blog on the beach 20m from Ooroo's berth. Jules, next to me is on the iPad doing office work in via Noosa. It certainly piled up after 84hrs on board. Oli and Mark have gone spear fishing in the dingy at an adjacent Cay. Very surreal.
03/19/2012, St Augustine
Tomorrow night or he following morning we depart the shores of Florida on a heading for Freetown in the Bahamas. The first in the journey back to Australia.
We plan on sailing 200nm south from St Augustine before changing our heading east for another 80nm to the Bahamas. The trip could take us two days. The weather and win look fine. The sail south is expected to be in 10 to 15 knot winds. It will be very pleasant indeed. The trip east will hopefully be at on angle of 50 to 60 degrees into the wind. We know Ooroo handles that well. However we will have the gulf stream to cross. To expedite this crossing we will probably run the engines. It apparently is not a very nice place to be if the winds turn to the North. The Current runs at about 3knots north. And so it will be trying to push us back up here if we don't navigate our course well.
Jules flys home from Freetown (Grand Bahamas) on the 28th and so will have great week with us in the Bahamas....she will be missed by us all. We will then sail south to Nassau (New Providence Is) to pick up cousin Sara on the 2nd. The female influence is so needed on board. After a week of spring break action, we head further south for two weeks of wonderful sailing to George Town (Great Exuma Is) to pick up Charlotte and Dakota on the 22nd. Then we still head south east. We are not sure were Dakota will depart the good ship Ooroo after spending a month with us. We suspect it will be Dominica republic, Puerto Rico or maybe will get to the Virgin Islands. That will be his little surprise.
We have had delays and so anything can happen. But with the weather looking like it is right now, I can't but feel confident that between now and Charlotte coming on board, all will be peasant and well deserved sailing. So good.
03/16/2012, St Augustine FL
10 knots from the east, no cloud and a beautiful 26 Celsius. We took Ooroo for a trial sail in the wide open seas.
Skip came along and notices instantly the starboard engine wasn't pumping water. We shut that down to fix the pump another day. The good thing with Cats is that we have two engines.
Yesterday our very expensive inverter also shat itself. The second brand new piece of equipment to not work. That means a wait til Monday or Tuesday to have the new one arrive.
Anyway....we sailed, dolphins escorted us down the river, we passed through the lift bridge and navigated out of the mouth. That alone is an hour and a half trip.
The sails went up, we calibrated our auto pilot we relaxed with a the 10 knots pushing us along at 6 knots. We tested Ooroo at all angles to the wind. To our surprise, fully loaded she sailed extremely well at up to 40 degrees into the wind. I was always told the Fontaines are fast boats except when loaded.
We have a years supply of various food items, 70 steaks, 100 chicken thighs, snags, mince and bacon (just in case Mark isn't the fisherman we actually expect he is). We have full tanks of water and diesel plus 150 litters extra of each, and of course beer and wine.....and she still sailed beautifully.
Jules relaxes on deck and I played with the new toy under the watchful guidance of Skip while Oli and Mark kept jumping overboard.....and then catching a stern line to pull themselves back in. Imagine doing that in pacific 1000nm from land. It will happen.
Oli and Mark swam ashore in St Augustine as we passed the old Spanish Fort to pick up there bikes left rather drunkenly the night before. Skip and I sailed all the way back down the river and onto the dock. I wasn't ever shown how to sail onto a dock..the wind just blow us right on while Skip tied off. Who needs an engine.
So delays and progress all in the same day. Fun and sun - what a sail. Thanks Skip and crew.
03/15/2012, St Augustine FL
We are into the third day of absolutely beautiful sailing weather and yet we wait for the last few items to be shipped and installed before we take Ooroo down the coast of Florida to West Palm Beach and make the crossing of the infamous Gulf Stream to the Bahamas with Mark and Jules on board.
It's Thursday and the weather should hold until Monday. Our plan is to move Ooroo to the outside of the Bridge of Lions, lift bridge on Friday. Anchor overnight and depart very early Saturday morning. Today we get our customs clearance, yesterday we purchased $1000 of provisions and the day before that we topped up fuel and water. Ooroo will never again be heavier than she is right now.
I have had a chance to explore some of Florida with Jules. Jules arrived into Miami on the 5th and we spent a wonderful 3 days in the Art Deco, South Beach area. The wind made beach going unpleasant so we wined and dined non stop. We then drove down to Key West, a town that rivals St Augustine in appeal and equals the West Coast Hwy1 coastal drive. Long bridges, turquoise water and glaringly white beaches verses the rugged cliffs, wild oceans and winding roads of the West. This is a great country for driving. We slowley headed back to northern Florida via the austintacious Palm Beach, the contrsting down trodded West Palm Beach to the Cape Canaveral Space Centre. Then we got mixed up in the traffic created by 10,000 Harley Davidsons converging on Daytona for Bike Week. Needless to say we kept driving through Daytona ending up at a cheap and cheerful beachside motel before heading back to St Augustine to do the finishing touches on Ooroo.
Meanwhile, my lovely daughter turned 18. I have now managed to miss both my kids 18ths due to travel but will more than make up for that with some on board celebrations. Oli will also have his 21st on board in July. As if we need a reason to party