February 13, 2012. We made it to the Exumas! Long day sailing from West Bay to Norman Cay. Successfully started up the watermaker after a bit of panic and operator error. So far so good...300 ppm TDS...not bad for a RO membrane that was pickled for 7 years! Wind was supposed to be NE,changing to easterly tomorrow, so today was the better day for sailing. Mother Nature got a jump on the prediction so we had upwind sailing to start, moderating to a more pleasant close reach. Water is turquoise, quiet anchorage with protection from the east, looks like a pleasant evening. Life is good!
February 14, 2012. Valentine's Day dinner at Norman's Cay Beach Club! Cheeseburger from Paradise, of course. Sadly though, we learned that, although Jimmy Buffett did enjoy a cheeseburger there, their burger didn't necessarily inspire the song. He has enjoyed many cheeseburgers in paradise in many locations. And, they are under new management, hence, the new name. McDuffs is still on the entrance sign though.
February 15, 2012. Beautiful sail to Warderick Wells. Bit of excitement as we followed a large French catamaran into the mooring field who proceeded to pick up our assigned mooring right in front of us. With a bit of dancing and and explaining that they needed to get a mooring assigned through the Exuma Land and Sea Park, we picked up the mooring (next time, remember to set up the bridle in advance!) and settled down to a nice lunch, desalting the boat and a glass of wine. Sunshades are awesome! We're not moving for several days!
February 16, 2012. We woke to another lovely day, sunny but a bit less wind. Time to set up the dinghy and head into shore to register. Darcy, the mooring coordinator, told us that the French cat left without paying for their mooring, so she sent the park warden out after them to collect. No messing with Darcy!
We're slowly getting the hang of living on the boat and the daily routine of running the generator, rinsing sandy, salty feet and showering on deck (love it!), going to bed earlier than usual (must be the fresh air and sun) and getting up whenever! Well, Jeri, at least. Ingo gets up every morning to listen to Chris Parker's weather at 6:30am. I'd rather just read his email!
After catching up on email and sending an assessment, we took the mandatory walk to Boo Boo Hill to check out the driftwood offerings to the souls lost in a local shipwreck many years ago. It's the highest hill around...and the only place to get cellphone reception. It sure was nice hearing Sarah's voice and comforting to know she's busy with work and school, but ok.
Had a lovely turkey tenderloin and brussel sprouts for dinner. Then went to bed with a bad feeling that the charger wasn't working properly. Time for mister-fixit again!
February 17, 2012. Ingo, up early, jumped right into checking out the charger and found that both the engine and generator are charging the batteries, which is wonderful news. However, he's not happy that the batteries not charging deeply enough. Oh, dear!
Spent the day exploring and snorkeling around Emerald Rock (not great). The drift dive at the pass between the north anchorage and the Emerald Rock area was wonderful. Nice light current to drift, great abundance of fish, hard coral and soft coral. Sadly, some of the hard coral is showing evidence of bleaching. Global warming? Finally saw my favorite...a parrot fish...and a small ray gliding across the bottom. Lovely to watch the soft coral fans and fingers waving in the current, especially in the glimmering sunlight.
Happy hour was enjoyed on Fiscal Stray (Tod and Anne), along with Elusive (Tomand Kate) and Karaya (Jane and Irv). Hope we cross paths again...great fun!
February 18, 2012. Can't stay in one place too long, so we dropped the mooring and headed on the long trek to Cambridge Cay, the southern part of the park. Just beautiful. Nice 10-mi sail down Exuma Sound. Again, we picked up a park mooring, which did not exist on our previous visit, and proceeded to do some exploring. We took a walk from Honeymoon Beach, across the island to the beach at Conch Cut. Thanks to cruiser volunteers, the park paths are well maintained. Although it was Sat. night, we passed on the long dinghy ride to the beach for happy hour. I think we both felt like party poopers when we saw every dinghy in the anchorage head out, but we rally we're pooped! (And had just returned from that area.). Also getting a bit more cautious as we age...don't like long dinghy rides at night after drinking and in unfamiliar waters.
February 19, 2012. Another wonderful day in paradise! Snorkeled the Sea Aquarium which is aptly named. It really is just like snorkeling in a tank filled with tropical fish, but without the tank. Close by is another snorkeling area with a dinghy tie-up...downed airplane is actually the mooring block. The plane is inverted with numerous corals growing on the fuselage and fish milling about. Beautiful coral heads close by too. Thank goodness for Ingo's patience waiting in the dinghy. He hasn't been able to find a mask that fits, especially with a beard, so his snorkeling experiences haven't been very enjoyable.
Also walked over to Bell Rock and 'hiked' up the hillside to the highest peak on Cambridge Cay...all of 75ft! Fantastic view, but still very poor cellphone connectivity. (Should be much better in Staniel since they have the closest Batelco tower.)
Back on the boat, we planned to enjoy a quiet dinner, when a mega yacht (must have been about 65 ft) picked up the mooring right in front of us. Between the music, two jet skis buzzing around, and awful, garrish purple and white deck lights and blue underwater lights that practically lit up the entire anchorage, the mood was definitely destroyed. Time to move on!
February 5, 2012 The last message ended with our return from a wonderful weekend in Key West, with the goal of heading to the Bahamas in a day or two. It's now the next weekend, six days later, and we finally dropped the dock lines from John and Barbara's dock in Ft. Lauderdale! The weather gods have been teasing us with rapidly changing condition, making it difficult to plan more than a day or two out. Today was the day to bite the bullet with winds 10-13k out of the ESE and 2-4 foot waves, and move south to Biscayne Bay. And what a lovely sail it was...close reach and light cloud-cover...just perfect. So we're now anchored on the west shore of Key Biscayne, weather a bit chilly, but keeping our fingers crossed that the weather window will hold to cross the Gulf Stream tomorrow and enter the Bahamas at Bimini.
During the week in Ft. Lauderdale, or Ft. La-di-da, as one cruiser referred to it, we spent several days on boat chores, fixing this and that. In other words, typical stuff when living on board. Ingo re-bedded a leaking prism, fixed a hinge on a hatch, tightened the stuffing box, and once again, worked on the head. Jeri cleaned and waxed the transom, repaired the dodger and other miscellaneous canvas, and polished stainless. Don't we know how to have fun!!! Ok, we did take several walks to the beach for lunch, dined in several lovely restaurants (Casablanca Cafe, Coconuts for the best heirloom tomato salad and stone crab claws (twice!), the Chart House for mud pie). Also found a fabulous bakery called Gran Forno for awesome ciabatta bread and quiche. Of course, there were also many trips to West Marine, their brand new flagship store, and a great hardware store, Macdonalds (no golden arches!) We really appreciated being able to borrow a car from John and Barbara.
February 6, 2012 Still in Key Biscayne due to squally weather. Made Mahi-Mahi with peppers and feta for dinner last night. Tonight, seafood Alfredo pasta. Love the seafood we bought in West Palm at Cod and Capers. Checked out Key Biscayne Yacht Club. Restaurant closed on Monday and need letter faxed from yacht club to prove we are members in good standing...oh well...At least we had the lovely Miami skyline to view.
February 7, 2012 Left Biscayne Bay with heavy cloud cover and a squall in the distance, but the promise of better things to come during the passage across the Gulf Stream and even a rainbow.
February 7, 2012 Crossed Gulf Stream to South Bimini.
February 8, 2012 Arrived in South Bimini yesterday after a reasonable crossing from Key Biscayne. Waves and wind were slightly off in the beginning so we pounded directly into the easterly seas, motor-sailing for an hour or so. And then, just as predicted by the weather guru, Chris Parker, wind moved more southerly along with the waves, so we could actually sail for a bit. We arrived in South Bimini a little early and had to wait outside the entrance of the marina for the rising tide to have enough water to enter. We are now snugly tied up at the very comfortable resort marina, Bimini Sands Marina, had a wonderful lobster dinner at Makey's Sand Bar (indoors but a sand floor!), and then retired into air-conditioned splendor (no-see-ums are voracious in the evening here). Discovered Kaliks for $3 normally and $1.50 during happy hour on Wed. and Fri. afternoons. (Eat your heart out, John!).
This afternoon we took the ferry across to North Bimini to explore Alicetown with the hope of buying a cheap cellphone and SIM card for cheaper Bahama rates. After a leisurely lunch at the Big Game Club (lovely resort specializing in deep sea fishing, Hemingway stayed and fished here, recently renovated), we headed to Batelco only to find that their cellphones were cost prohibitive. With the help of the technician at Batelco, we jumped on a tram. The driver was actually finished for the day but agreed to take us to Trev Inn in Porgey Town at the north end of the island. The tram got about a half a block away and ran out of gas. So, instead of achieving our goal for the day, we helped the grumbling driver push the sizable tram off the narrow street and headed back to the marina empty-handed. So it goes in the islands! Luckily, we were back in time to have happy hour with new friends Tom and Barbara from Watts Up?, a Gemini 105 from Toronto area. (Very cool composting head!)
If the weather holds, we will most likely head to Russell Beacon tomorrow, anchor overnight and then on to West Bay on Providence Isl. We plan to anchor there and then head to either Highbourne Cay or somewhere else down the Exumas chain. Maybe stay in Warderick Wells Land and Sea Park for a few days...good Internet spot!
All is well. Ingo is setting up transponder now, so we can let friends and family know where we are. Although you can't use very much text, it does have a great link to Google Earth to show our position.
Life is good!
February 9, 2012 Famous last words! We decided to stay and explore Bimini a bit and try again to get the phone sorted out. Why rush since we've never been here before, right mon!?
Next thing we heard was groaning coming from Tom...a small plastic fitting broke on his water heater and Barbara was threatening to abandon ship instead of spending her vacation without hot water. Not an easy part to find in a spartan island like Bimini. What luck! Ingo came to the rescue by finding the exact piece in his plumbing stash...their hero! In return, they kindly lent us their collapsible bikes to do our cellphone errand. I'm sold...boat bikes are now on my Christmas list. We had a nice ride, got the phone and got connected ($0.80/min from 7am to 7pm;$0.64/min from 7pm to 7am vs. AT&T at $1.99/min on their Int'l plan). And, 'da boat done come' so we got fresh limes for happy hour, this time on Ladyhawke. We said good-bye and wished them well on their trip to the Berry's and then the Abacos. They left in the middle of the night; Ladyhawke left about 9am for points south.
February 10, 2012. Passage across Great Bahama Bank. Raining cats and dogs at onset. Seas 1-2 ft, wind10-15 but on the nose out of SE. However, a huge pod of dolphins greeted us, and on stayed to play for quite a while, swimming back and forth in front of the bow. Just thrilling! After several hours of motoring, up went the sails as the wind continued to clock around for a beautiful close to beam reach across the banks. And, after a lovely afternoon, lobsters for dinner. It took a few tries in the broiler to make sure they were done, but definitely worth it. Awesome garlic butter with the Penzey's Mural seasoning. Thanks Tricia!
February 11, 2012. Ugly night on the Bank! Lots of hobby-horsing, snubber line broke, stern swim ladder hitting the transom, bow roller creaking, Ingo coughing...not much sleep for either of us. Torrential downpour during the night too (that Jeri somehow slept through.) Woke to light winds out of NW, as predicted, so we're off to NW Channel light and crossing the Tongue of the Ocean to West Bay at the west end of New Providence Island. Maybe even lobster bisque for lunch. Bottom line...no more nights spent on the bank, better to sail through the night and keep on going.
February 12, 2012. Yep, the lobster bisque for yesterday's lunch was a hit. Cooked off the flavor from the lobster shells, added remains of garlic butter, milk, white cooking wine, bit of Alfredo sauce and left-over lobster. Voila! The lobster bisque connoisseur said, "Fabulous!"
Again, as predicted, the winds built to 18-23 out of the NW so we had a boisterous ride downwind to West Bay yesterday afternoon, hoping the wind would continue to clock since West Bay is open to the west. Imagine that! Although not the best destination choice for those conditions, we found some protection behind Lyford Cay. During the night, the wind kept blowing but the rolling was much less than the night prior. Ingo was able to eliminate many of the boat noises...strapped down boom so the gooseneck didn't screech and fixed the banging on the transom. (He also replaced the clam cleat on the main sheet that had broken during an accidental gybe that afternoon.) Most people would probably say it was horrible, but considering our perspective from the previous night on the Bank, we slept well!
This morning, the decision to stay put was an easy one. Winds out of the N at 20-25 but quite chilly. Ingo even snuggled under the afghan in the afternoon! Even better protection as the winds continue to clock. Good day to relax. Ingo is downloading grib files for weather and signed us up for data plans for our phones through AT&T. We just couldn't disconnect ourselves from email when not in wifi range. Very sad!
Indeed, life is good! Greetings to all from Florida!
After a fun few days fun-filled days with Sarah and her boyfriend Brian in Orlando in early Jan. (obligatory visit to Universal Studios and the Harry Potter theme park, we returned to Riviera Beach to drop Ladyhawke in the water and get her ready to leave for points south. What a massive effort to
clean inside and out, provision, polish fuel tanks, change oil and filters, etc, etc, etc. Ingo had his head in the head several times trying to rebuild
it...not a fun job in a very tight place! The last time we made this trip, about 11 years ago, we took several weeks, if not months, getting ready. This
time, we did it in a few days! Being a little older, the focus is a bit
different too. No home schooling preparations, no chicken nuggets, no mac &
cheese, more like how much wine can we stow and make sure we have supplies to make Caesar salad (although romaine might be an issue in the Bahamas...with cabbage?) Creature comforts seem to be more important this time too!
Having said that, we had fun running around West Palm Beach, stayed one night at the Marriott Singer Island Resort to pamper ourselves...it's gorgeous! Love those Marriott reward points! We also took a few days to visit Aunt Lucy on the Gulf Coast to reassure ourselves that her move back home from assisted living is good. Fortunately, she has wonderful home care and good friends involved.
So, we finally dropped the dock lines on Jan 23 for the first leg of our
journey, a day's motor/sail to Ft. Lauderdale. Friends, John and Barbara, offered us the use of their dock behind their fabulous home...what gracious hosts and what a wonderful place to leave the boat to explore Ft. Lauderdale and also to spend a few days in Key West for Jeri's birthday! Definitely a very fun place with lots of things to do and see. The weather has been great...sunny, high 70s/low 80s, checked out the touristy activities (Conch train, sunset at Mallory Square, margarita at Margaritaville, photos at southernmost point in continental US) and walked from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf. And, of course, did the Duval Crawl (bar hopping down Duval St, watching the interesting "local color"!). Jeri's birthday dinner was at Pisces...excellent!.
Now it's back to Ft. Lauderdale for last minute prep to cross over to the Bahamas and some serious weather watching.
Hope all is well and please keep in touch. We miss you all and would love to
keep up with news in your lives.