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Itchy feet is a terminal condition
Friday the 13th
Richard
04/13/2012, Staniel Cay

We tried to sail, we tried to troll for fish, we even drifted in the windless conditions as Oli and Mark tried to spear dinner. The only thing we tried that worked was starting the engines.

We left Highborn Cay after an uneventful evening. The wind stopped overnight. We still had grand ideas to head to Staniel Cay and see the famous swimming pigs. But with no forecasted wind for two days I decided to motor into Norman Cay for a day or two.

There is an island of mostly sand and a lonesome coconut tree just opposite our anchorage. It's smaller than my house, without the yard. It's the sort of island that you would imagine a shipwrecked cartoon character living on with circling sharks and a barrel of rum.

Only 200 meters away is a submerged aircraft. I was a cocaine plain. I imagined that was how the cartoon guy with the rum got here. It is a DC10....so what of his companions?

This island was once the domain of a drug lord but now is home to ample beauty and a bar with no beer. And a publican with no idea. Mark and I walked into the Norman Cay Club and said a big friendly "HI". The response..."I don't have enough drink for my guests little own you"... Said with a glass of white wine in his hand. No Hi, no sorry, no where are you from? "

OK then " I said. "I'll open a bar on my boat, I have beer". His response...."the Bahamas Army will prosecute you for that" So the island has no sarcasm either. I feel sorry for that cartoon guy on the island.

So here I sit with a bottle of $6 red.

Oli is excited to see his sister. He didn't dive the plane wreck, or check out the cartoon island or visit the pub.....he rehearsed. He is playing some fantastic music in anticipation of having his sister play with him. And he is good. Much better than what I remembered before we set sail. Mark too has improved 10 fold since we left. And me, I just want to sail....and play some sneaky Rolling Stones.

The night and my typing this blog was interrupted with fireworks. It looks like the party on the distant beach was a special occasion. It was a display that made New Ears Eve look some what ordinary. It wasn't so much the 30 minutes of fireworks, but the real stars above. They circle you here....much like the Oz outback. You can lay on your back and within minutes see shooting stars and satellites. The only light interruption is the anchor lights of about 6 other yachts.....but they also look like stars.

It's Friday the 13th, and the wind has returned with a promise of 15 knots from the east. We set sail after 48 hours of glass water. The wind hasn't lived up to its promise yet. We can see a storm cell to our north and the wind is from the the direction we are heading....south. Our radar can track the storm cells. We can actually avoid the worst of them if we stay vigilant. I suspect however that they are not going to tack into the southerly like we are. Staniel Cay is 35nm away but with this wind may as well be 300nm. But the promised winds kicked in and we are on course for a "beer'o'clock" arrival. 6 to 8 knots and very deep seas means for a rocky ride. The wind is gusting to 20 knots in an unpredictable manner. Those storm cells are dancing around us and with them changing wind directions.

We just lost another batten? The largest of them all. The way this sail was rigged has allot to be desired. I am going to have to put locking screws into the battens to stop losing another $150 to the sea. I now have to find another one....I said the "f#%k to the wind and made a Peet's Coffee....thanks for the coffee Sara.

So we arrived under full sail into the anchorage at Staniel Cay. The sun came out. We have free Internet from Ooroo so I may just post this blog....and hit town for a Friday the 13th night out. I'm clearly no superstitious like some sailers we have met.

Cat Country
Richard/perfect
04/10/2012, Highborne Cay, Exumas, Bahamas

And no, that title is not because we just farewelled a couple of felines. It's because the Catamaran is king in these waters and yet we don't see any.

But first the felines. Cuz Sara and her mate Julie were a delight to have on board. They can mix cocktails, are tantalizing conversationalists and are just generally great people on have around. My Cuz and I will I'm sure catch up again on this voyage.....somewhere in the Pacific I guess (with Jeff). Julie inspired Oli and Mark to paint......and me....too busy for such frivolous pursuits, read and played with Ooroo. So to all those knockers out there, I can keep busy on a boat....without painting.

The other boats around here are amazing super yachts, fishing boats or sailing monos. Yet we have had an amazing amount of sailing on the shallow banks of sometimes less than two meters of water. Its nice to cut a corners while the big boats head out deeper while burning huge amounts of fuel. One sailers way of bragging about how good his boat was, said he burnt 1000 gallons of fuel between The US and Eleuthera. "Your not a very green boat" said Sara...."we burnt 44 gallons since Northern Florida" said I. Without asking any questions of my eclectic crew he told us of his Ferrari, business dealings, who he knows, that he doesnt take his boat out on windy days, how he sent his wife packing so he could play with the boys and generally what a really really amazing guy he was.

While the monos just wait for high tide....we sail, while the fishing boats wait for first light , we sail and while the big boats talk shit in Marina bars we talk it everywhere. OK so I'm bias. I see all the benefits of all these great boats and sailers....but when you only have under 2 meters of water....it's a Cats domain.

We had a blow that took most by surprise. Oli and I were on shore as distant lightening and onerous clouds grew somewhat closer. We had a northern wind and so a cold front (warm as it appeared) was on us. We headed back as it became clear that is random storm cell would hit us. We had heard about them. Wet with salt water from the dingy ride in choppy seas we soon became wet with fresh water as the surge opened up on us. The rain was stinging our faces. Oli and Mark rain danced on the bow while I stated the engines as a precaution to slipping anchor or to avoid other vessels that may become missiles in the wind. During the worst of it we could see a luxury yacht do an about turn into the surge and head seaward. Fishing vessels tied up on the dock wildly bucked against the short intense onslaught. Our nose was into it and stayed that way. We had the better ride of anyone in the immediate area. The escaping yacht latter confirmed the wind at 65 knots. That's an 12 out of 12 on the Beauford Scale. Basically a mini hurricane that started as quickly as it ended. The anchor was hard to lift the next day.....thankfully, like us it dug in.

And then all we were seeing the girls being whisked off in a water taxi to fly back to colder climes. What to do now but sail? We left the very fabulous and friendly Harbour Island. A place were the main transportation a golf carts. Walking too the beach with the eski a cart would pull over and say jump on. Heading back to the boat with supplies...the same thing happens. After one bar session a cart whisked by....Oli jumped on board and with the parting word "spontaneity" was off to who knows where. But it was expensive is USA terms. Normal in Oz terms. Still when you are use to $4 margaritas and then they triple it's a shock.

So only 6 hrs ago the water taxi left, we motor sailed back via Devils Backbone and for the last 5 hrs have been averaging a nice 6 knots...no fuel is being burnt. The Northern Exhumers a only two hrs away....but with fading light and time on our hands we will anchor behind Findley Cay for a spot of diving and fishing.

Tomorrow we put away our Far Bahamas charts and pull out the Exhumers ones. We have two weeks before Charlotte and Dakota arrive.....I wish it was sooner so we can explore Cat country together.

Easter Sunday ends with us sailing onto an anchor in the middle of nowhere. One low Cay a mile off and then nothing.

Monday 9th and General repairs continue. I remounted the SSB antenna and stated with determination to learn it true power. Only to be frustrated by the fact that it doesn't know that we installed the expensive antennas and even more expensive tuner. The radio only picks up one out of a zillion channels. Mark and I are slowly retracing the wiring to see what the deal is. We have time.

We are doing watches today for an hour on and off so that we can avoid the minefield of coral heads littering the shallows. The sun is side on and the clouds sparse. What is not on the GPS is clearly visible for a few hundred meters. Cruising at a light 3-4 knots makes for no stress sailing.

We anchored for the night (still only about 3pm) at Ship Chanel Cay next to Little Ships Cay.....confusing for a navigator....or dyslexic. There were two other vessels in sight. but they were far enough away that a skinny dip and clean up was in order.

Oli and Mark went spearing while I walked the Cay. Surprised I was..., after exploring an old ruin then rounded the corner of a coral path to find reggae music and 50 odd tourists swimming with sharks. Three Lemon Sharks and the odd sting ray patrolled the water. Jet boats had delivered the tourists from Nassau for the day. Within 30 minutes they were gone leaving me to have a peaceful swim with the sharks.

Oli and Mark picked me up shortly after that sporting only one fish. Lion Fish are beautiful and dangerous with poison dorsal fins. They are also a pest having found there way here from the pacific. So we are encouraged to eat them. So right now we have Lion Fish ceviche marinating in the fridge.

It's April 10 now and we are heading into the heart of the Bahamas. I'm starting to feel like this blog may become boring.....Mark speared a large something that is now a red curry, we land on in a beach at Leaf Cay, to be invaded by iguanas....50 of them thinking we are tourist there to feed them, we sailed onto anchorages with no diesel being used, we steal some Internet from an exclusive island resort.....we send our message to the world....but only because this Cat can get close enough to the beach to access the world. I love my Cat.



Devils Backbone
Richard
04/05/2012, Harbour Island, Eleuthera.

We motored out of Nassau shortly after the late arrival of Cuz Sara (March 3rd). While risking embarrassing her, the reason she was late is because she arrived at the airport in San Francisco with an out of date passport.....the original being locked in a safety deposit box. What that tells me is this.....my Cuz must also have diamonds, hidden greenbacks and possibly a hot revolver....why else would you have a safety deposit box I ask? Julie her bestest girl friend arrived on time and a big smile on her face, having not had a decent break away for awhile. The weather was perfect. It's also spring break....hence we have a cooking teacher and an art teacher on board. Oli has already commented had he wished he had teaches like there girls.

Nassau was OK. We ended up at an anchorage the time there, just off from he Green Parrot bar and a mile walk from where the students of Sara and Julie are possibly partying. We saw more than 10 cruise ships come and go over the three days. That's possibly 20,000 potential future leaders of America. God help America.

No wind. We chose to motor just 20nm to and area near Sapphire Cay and Little Billy Cay. The water was crystal. We fixed a frying head sail, replaced a batten in the main and renewed the lazy jack lines.

We also kept a permanent line off the stern so that we could launch ourselves from the bow catching the line as Ooroo motored onwards. A glimpse of a dolphins off our bow and a 1.5m shark swan and could be seen clearly 5m below us was the only sea life spotted while motoring. With a setting sun the only fish we had caught or harvested was in fact a conch plucked from 5m of water by Oli. Marks observations at a fish fry in Nassau taught him the art of removing the meat. Sara and Julie prepared it as a lovely appetizer to our BBQ chicken and steak. Our first non-seafood meal on board in a week.

We are now on a SW heading to Gregory Town in North Eleuthera, with a light SE 8 knot wind. Sailing at 4-5 knots sets us up for a pleasant 7 hr sail today. We also have a beautiful 60cm red snapper. It's marinating now while the BBQ fires up. It's lunch time. We have been taking one fillet from the bigger fish and then BBQing the rest of the fish whole....minus the tail so she fits on the grill. The fillet may end up as dinner.

The bank that we are crossing is no deeper than 6m the entire way. We have navigated around various rocks and shallows using charts, the GPS and this iPad. The iPads Navionics Charts are so far the most detailed and simplest to use. We now has a straight run

Everyone is reading and the champagne is chilling. Time to check the charcoal and marinade.

Gregory Town is a Mediterranean style village with brightly colored houses in a spares environment. 3m cliffs greeted us, no beach but with cool beach houses. We anchored in Annie's Bight. A small, very small bay. All five of us motored the 50 m to shore for some R & R. One bar, no customers and a pool table Ollie 50, Dad 57....the international pool comp continued.

The dingy was swamped when we came back to her but with some muscle and a bucket we had her emptied and we where back on deck for sunset.

Mark crumbed and pan fried the last of the snapper.

The anchorage was tight with only 50m to the cliffs from the stern and maybe 100m from the bow. With 25m of chain out I was a little nervous. The wind was building. I set the anchor alarm to 20m and slept on deck. So not the best sleep I have ever had on a boat.

Our plan was to move only a few miles north today and then hitch or bus to Harbour Island on the eastern side of Eleuthera. But the wind was too good. I decided to sail right around the island instead. We headed off west with a 20-25 knot wind from the SE. We hit speeds of 10 knots and arrived at the channel between Current Island and Eleuthera within 2hrs. We furled the jib to pass rough the 100m channel under the main.

The current was with us and we hit 13 knots in the narrowest section, before once again letting out the jib for a goose neck run to St George's Cay in the north....still doing 9 knots. Sara and Julie are chatting away like it's an everyday occurrence...sailing at speed in the Bahamas.

We then hit the shallows before navigating through the St Georges Cay. We where blocked in transit by a barge that was unloading right in the middle of the channel. After an hour of waiting around we finally got underway on a challenging around North Eleuthera. The route is called devils backbone and with a jagged reef 50m on one side and pounding surf 50m on the other it is no wonder why. We motor sailed with only 1m of water below our keel at up to 8knots. We made it to Harbour Island, home of some of the world best beaches....a mix of cultures ranging from ratty sailers (us) the guys that own and operate those supper yachts and locals with big smiles.

It was my best sail so far. The highest winds, the quickest speed, the lowest water and the most diverse challengers.

Now anchored off a little marina with open Internet I can share this with you...before the salt has even dried on my skin.

Devils Backbone
Richard
04/05/2012, Harbour Island, Eleuthera.

We motored out of Nassau shortly after the late arrival of Cuz Sara (March 3rd). While risking embarrassing her, the reason she was late is because she arrived at the airport in San Francisco with an out of date passport.....the original being locked in a safety deposit box. What that tells me is this.....my Cuz must also have diamonds, hidden greenbacks and possibly a hot revolver....why else would you have a safety deposit box I ask? Julie her bestest girl friend arrived on time and a big smile on her face, having not had a decent break away for awhile. The weather was perfect. It's also spring break....hence we have a cooking teacher and an art teacher on board. Oli has already commented had he wished he had teaches like there girls.

Nassau was OK. We ended up at an anchorage the time there, just off from he Green Parrot bar and a mile walk from where the students of Sara and Julie are possibly partying. We saw more than 10 cruise ships come and go over the three days. That's possibly 20,000 potential future leaders of America. God help America.

No wind. We chose to motor just 20nm to and area near Sapphire Cay and Little Billy Cay. The water was crystal. We fixed a frying head sail, replaced a batten in the main and renewed the lazy jack lines.

We also kept a permanent line off the stern so that we could launch ourselves from the bow catching the line as Ooroo motored onwards. A glimpse of a dolphins off our bow and a 1.5m shark swan and could be seen clearly 5m below us was the only sea life spotted while motoring. With a setting sun the only fish we had caught or harvested was in fact a conch plucked from 5m of water by Oli. Marks observations at a fish fry in Nassau taught him the art of removing the meat. Sara and Julie prepared it as a lovely appetizer to our BBQ chicken and steak. Our first non-seafood meal on board in a week.

We are now on a SW heading to Gregory Town in North Eleuthera, with a light SE 8 knot wind. Sailing at 4-5 knots sets us up for a pleasant 7 hr sail today. We also have a beautiful 60cm red snapper. It's marinating now while the BBQ fires up. It's lunch time. We have been taking one fillet from the bigger fish and then BBQing the rest of the fish whole....minus the tail so she fits on the grill. The fillet may end up as dinner.

The bank that we are crossing is no deeper than 6m the entire way. We have navigated around various rocks and shallows using charts, the GPS and this iPad. The iPads Navionics Charts are so far the most detailed and simplest to use. We now has a straight run

Everyone is reading and the champagne is chilling. Time to check the charcoal and marinade.

Gregory Town is a Mediterranean style village with brightly colored houses in a spares environment. 3m cliffs greeted us, no beach but with cool beach houses. We anchored in Annie's Bight. A small, very small bay. All five of us motored the 50 m to shore for some R & R. One bar, no customers and a pool table Ollie 50, Dad 57....the international pool comp continued.

The dingy was swamped when we came back to her but with some muscle and a bucket we had her emptied and we where back on deck for sunset.

Mark crumbed and pan fried the last of the snapper.

The anchorage was tight with only 50m to the cliffs from the stern and maybe 100m from the bow. With 25m of chain out I was a little nervous. The wind was building. I set the anchor alarm to 20m and slept on deck. So not the best sleep I have ever had on a boat.

Our plan was to move only a few miles north today and then hitch or bus to Harbour Island on the eastern side of Eleuthera. But the wind was too good. I decided to sail right around the island instead. We headed off west with a 20-25 knot wind from the SE. We hit speeds of 10 knots and arrived at the channel between Current Island and Eleuthera within 2hrs. We furled the jib to pass rough the 100m channel under the main.

The current was with us and we hit 13 knots in the narrowest section, before once again letting out the jib for a goose neck run to St George's Cay in the north....still doing 9 knots. Sara and Julie are chatting away like it's an everyday occurrence...sailing at speed in the Bahamas.

We then hit the shallows before navigating through the St Georges Cay. We where blocked in transit by a barge that was unloading right in the middle of the channel. After an hour of waiting around we finally got underway on a challenging around North Eleuthera. The route is called devils backbone and with a jagged reef 50m on one side and pounding surf 50m on the other it is no wonder why. We motor sailed with only 1m of water below our keel at up to 8knots. We made it to Harbour Island, home of some of the world best beaches....a mix of cultures ranging from ratty sailers (us) the guys that own and operate those supper yachts and locals with big smiles.

It was my best sail so far. The highest winds, the quickest speed, the lowest water and the most diverse challengers.

Now anchored off a little marina with open Internet I can share this with you...before the salt has even dried on my skin.

Funky Nassau
Richard
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.

The Art of Easting
Richard in perfect weather
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.

FISH...gotta go.

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.





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